Lab 0: Setting Up Your Environment


This lab introduces us to some of the tools, techniques, and workflows used throughout this course. Many of the approaches here are the same tools currently used by industrial software developers. This lab handout walks through all of the steps that we will take in a typical week to acquire lab starter code and to submit your completed lab assignment.

Before we start working, we need to configure our computers so we can create, compile, and run Java programs. In the future, you will have access to lab computers where you can perform your work if you wish. This week, we’re asking you to set up your own computer. There are a few reasons:

  • We want you to have the opportunity to practice installing and configuring programming tools.
  • To safeguard against the small chance that we need to work remotely, your computer will already be ready to use.
  • You may just prefer to use your own personal computer.

Note that our computing environment has a bias toward Unix-like operating systems like Linux and the macOS. If you have a different operating system, like Windows, that is OK. Some setup tasks will be slightly different—be sure to look out for the extra steps we provide for Windows users. Do your best, but if you need help, you are welcome to reach out to us.

Step 1: Install a Code Editor

There are many editors designed for writing code. In this course, we encourage you to use a popular editor called Visual Studio Code (aka, “VSCode”). If you have a strong preference for another code editor (emacs, vim, etc.), you are welcome to use it for future labs. For this lab, we will focus on demonstrating concepts using VSCode, and we’d like you to give it a try.

To put VSCode on your computer, follow these instructions, which explain how to download and install it. Please be aware that although the operating system of your computer does not matter much (Linux, macOS, and Windows machines are all OK), Android and iOS devices (e.g., phones and tablets) are not appropriate for software development. If you do not have a laptop or desktop computer to use, please speak to us about using lab resources instead.

Step 2: Install Git

Developing a piece of software typically requires repeatedly entering code, testing, debugging, and rewriting. As you will see, code changes a lot over time. Without special tools, managing these changes can be problematic. For example, software developers often need to revert their changes to a previous version of their code. A version control system (VCS) is a software tool that helps developers manage their code throughout its development. For example, a VCS makes it easy to make a quick backup copy (a “snapshot”) of software, and being able to easily restore an earlier snapshot can be a real life-saver!

In this course we will be using the git version control system. You will use git to develop and submit your homework assignments.

There are many version control systems, but git is probably the most popular option. We encourage you to spend some time understanding what a version control system is and why you might want to use one. If you are totally unfamiliar with git, don’t worry: you’ll get plenty of practice in this course.

Installing git is straightforward: follow these instructions.

As with many software development tools, usage can get complicated in certain scenarios. Luckily for us, VSCode provides a simplified git interface that works well for most of our uses. Nevertheless, you are always encouraged to try git’s command line interface; you will find that your instructors and most professional software developers prefer the flexibility of command line interfaces.

Additional git Installation Notes for Windows Users

Among the many dialog boxes you will click through during this installation, you should accept the default suggested for most options. But be sure to select the following options when prompted:

  • When asked which git editor to use, select Use Visual Studio Code as Git's default editor.
  • When asked which SSH executable to use, select Use bundled SSH.
  • When asked which HTTPS transport backend to use, select Use the native Windows Secure Channel library.

Step 3: Install Java

In this step, you will install Java on your own computer.

NOTE: There are many ways to install Java, even within the same operating system, so if you already installed Java on your computer, that’s OK. It will probably work just fine.

We want to install the Java Development Kit, or JDK. Oracle’s official instructions are unnecessarily long, so we suggest that you to go straight to the JDK Downloads page and select the appropriate download for your system. You’ll need to select your operating system (Linux, macOS, or Windows) from the appropriate tab:

JDK download screen

NOTE for macOS users: If you are on a new Macintosh with an M1 or M2 processor, you will want to download the “Arm 64 DMG Installer”; otherwise choose the “x64 DMG Installer.” If you don’t know what kind of Mac you have, choose the “x64 DMG Installer.” It will work with either kind of processor.

NOTE for Windows users: Choose the “x64 MSI Installer.”

After you have downloaded the appropriate installer, run it.

Additional Java Installation Notes for Windows Users

After you have installed Java, you should check that the operating system can find it. We can use the Git Bash program that was installed when you installed git earlier. Press the Windows key and type bash, then press the Enter key.

Once Git Bash starts up, you will see a little text window. We call this window “the terminal” or “the console.” At the $ prompt in the window, type

$ java -version

(Note that you shouldn’t type the $, but we show it to make it clear that you’re working in the console.)

If Java is correctly installed, you should see something like the following print out:

java version "" 2022-08-18
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build, mixed mode, sharing)

If you see something like that, you are ready to move on to Step 4 below!

If you see something else—like an error—you will need to tell Windows where to find Java.

To tell Windows where Java is, we need to edit a system environment variable. The one you want to edit is called the Path variable.

  1. First, we will find out where Java was installed. That location will have the form: C:\Program Files\Java\jdk-VERSION where VERSION is the version number of your java installation. For example, it might be C:\Program Files\Java\jdk-15.0.2. To know for sure, press the Windows key, then paste C:\Program Files\Java into the box and press Enter. In that folder, there may be multiple subfolders. The jdk with the largest number is what you want. For example, on my computer jdk- has the largest version number. So the complete path to my Java installation is C:\Program Files\Java\jdk-
  2. Next, we update our Path environment variable. To do this, press the Windows key and type env in the search text box, then select Edit the system environment variables. A dialog box appears. In the Advanced tab, select Environment Variables.... Another dialog box appears. Under System variables select the line that says Path then select Edit.... A dialog box will appear. It will contain a text area with a list of folders. Double-click in the text area below the last item in the list. Here you will enter the location where Java was installed. In my case, I will type C:\Program Files\Java\jdk- into the text input box.
  3. We can check to see that we did this properly by closing the Git Bash program, starting it again, and running java -version a second time. If we get output as described above, we’re good! Otherwise, you may have made a mistake in the steps above; retrace your steps until you discover where things went wrong.

Step 4: “Check Out” Your Repository

Every student is given their own private development space on the CS department GitLab infrastructure for each lab. Each so-called “repository” is named using a combination of the course (cs136), the semester (s22), your CS account’s username (e.g., 22abc1), and the assignment (e.g., environment).

For this lab, your repository will be named using the form:<YOUR_USERNAME>/lab00-environment.git

You should replace <YOUR_USERNAME> with your username. For example, if your username is 22abc1, your repository will be located at:

Key ideas: We will use the git version control system to _clone a repository. A clone is a copy of the original repository, stored on our local machine. Note that the cloned repository will exist independently of the original version on the department server. You will need to periodically synchronize the two. We explain how to do all of these things in the steps below._

  1. To start, open a command-line terminal on your local machine. We’ll say “the terminal” for short from now on.

    • On the macOS, whenever we say “the terminal” we mean the program, located inside the Utilies folder in your Applications folder.
    • On Windows, whenever we say “the terminal” we mean the Git Bash program you installed above. We do not recommend that you use the cmd.exe or Powershell programs, because they are very different than Git Bash.

    It isn’t a stretch to say that the terminal is among the most important applications for programmers. Any investment you make learning the terminal will pay off. You might be surprised that your instructors learn new terminal tricks all the time, even after decades of use in some cases!

  2. Once your terminal program has started, you should see a “prompt” where text will appear when you start typing. The prompt may look a little different depending on your settings. Don’t worry if your terminal looks a little different than we one we show here.

    Terminal Window

    As a convention, we use the dollar sign ($) to signify a prompt. When you see instructions like the following,

    	$ ls

    it means that at the prompt, you should type the command ls. When I type ls and press Enter, I see:

    	$ ls
    	Desktop     Documents   Library     Music   notes.txt   Pictures

    This output means that there are files called Desktop, Documents, etc. in my current working directory. Directory is a more precise, technical word for folder. Terminal commands often refer to files in your file system, so when you open a terminal, by default, it assumes that you want to work with files in your home folder. Therefore, your current working directory is your “home folder” by default. The files shown above are the ones in my own home folder. ls is short for “list”, so we call the output above a directory listing.

    You might recognize that some of the files in the directory listing above are, themselves, directories. How can you tell the difference? Try running ls with some extra arguments (phonetically, you will type “ell ess Space minus ell”):

    $ ls -l       total 8
    drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Desktop
    drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Documents
    drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Library
    drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Music
    -rw-r--r--  1 cs136  staff  235 Jan 25 13:19 notes.txt
    drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Pictures

    Do you see the cryptic text on the left? It looks like drwxr-xr-x. This is a code that tells us a great deal about the contents of our directories. If that code starts with a d, corresponding entry is a directory. If it starts with a dash, -, like -rw-r--r--, then the entry is a regular file. The code tells us more, but let’s leave it at that for now. Here, you can see that notes.txt is a regular file.

  3. Before we use git to clone our repository, we need to do some one-time setup. Type the following commands into your terminal, replacing the capitals with appropriate values:

    $ git config --global 'YOUR NAME'
    $ git config --global ''
    $ git config --global push.default simple
    $ git config --global core.editor "atom --wait"

    If you are a Windows user, you need to execute one additional line:

    $ git config --global http.sslbackend schannel

    You should only ever need to do this git setup once.

  4. Now that we’ve explored our home directory and a few terminal commands, we need to clone our repository. Cloning creates a copy of a repository on our local computer.

    I like to keep all of my files organized by course, and I would like all of my labs this semester to be kept in the same folder. I will create a new directory for this purpose using the mkdir command as follows:

    	$ mkdir cs136

    The mkdir command creates a new directory called cs136 inside my current working directory. If I type ls -l, I now see cs136 in the directory listing:

      $ ls -l       total 9
    	drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Sep 04 13:11 cs136
    	drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Desktop
    	drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Documents
    	drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Library
    	drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Music
    	-rw-r--r--  1 cs136  staff  235 Jan 25 13:19 notes.txt
    	drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11 Pictures

    I can now change my working directory to be cs136 by using the cd command (short for “change directory”):

    	$ cd cs136

    By using the ls and cd commands, you should be able to navigate your files in exactly the same way that you navigate them when you are pointing and clicking with a mouse in your operating system’s file explorer. It may seem like a pain now, but believe it or not, once you’ve gotten used to it, you will actually prefer to use your computer this way!

  5. You can verify that your current working directory is your cs136 directory with the pwd command (which stands for “print working directory”).

     $ pwd

    Now that the current working directory is where we want to put our cloned repository, we clone it:

     $ git clone<YOUR-USERNAME-HERE>/lab00-environment.git

    (replacing <YOUR_USERNAME> with your CS account’s username).

    If you type ls, you should see a copy of your newly cloned repository in the listing. Change the current working directory to your repository copy by typing

     $ cd lab00-environment

Step 5: Hello world!

At this point, you have installed the code editor, VSCode, the Java programming language, and a version control system called git. Our next task is to create, compile, and run a simple Java program.

  1. Start by opening VSCode. Look for a section called Start and, under it, find and click on an option called either Open Folder... (on Windows) or Open... (on the Mac)

  2. Navigate to the folder we just cloned (lab00-environment) using git and Open it.

  3. The first time you open a project folder, VSCode will ask you if you trust the authors of the code. Since we’re authoring the code ourselves, the answer is “yes.” But be aware that if you open somebody else’s code, clicking “yes” can be dangerous. Click Yes, I trust the authors.

  4. Observe that the left panel of VSCode now shows the contents of our project folder, containing a single file called That is this lab writeup! If you click on the file, VSCode will show you the code (written in the Markdown language).
  5. Let’s create a new file and put some Java code into it. If you move your mouse over the name of the project in the project drawer, you should see an icon for creating a new file. Click that icon.

    Alternatively, on the Mac, press ⌘-N, or on Windows press Ctrl-N.

  6. Name the file Note the correct use of captial letters.
  7. Type (don’t just paste!) the code below into your code editor. Retyping code will encourage you to notice certain details that you might not ordinarily notice.

        public class HelloWorld {
          public static void main(String[] args) {
            System.out.println("Hello world!");
  8. Save the code by pressing ⌘-S on the Mac or Ctrl-S on Windows. In VSCode, unsaved code has a little dot next to its name in the titlebar. When you save the code, the dot goes away.

  9. We’ve finally gotten to the fun part. We are going to compile our program. Compilation converts a source code program into a form that the computer can run. We use the javac command (which stands for “Java compiler”) to this. Remember, whenever we give instructions that start with a $, that means that we should type it into the terminal.

    $ javac

    If there are no errors in your program, you will see output like this:

    $ javac

    In other words, you will see no output when things go right. In the terminal, it is conventional for programs only to produce output when things go wrong! No news is good news! When javac prints something, that’s its way of telling you that there is a problem that you should fix. javac sometimes prints a frightening amount of things to your screen. Don’t be afraid of that output! Learn to read it, because it is designed to help you fix your problems.

    For example, if I see:

     $ javac error: ';' expected
     System.out.println("Hello world!")
     1 error

    then javac is telling me that at the location indicated with the ^, it was expecting a ; character, but it did not find one. Putting in a ; character at that location makes my program compile without errors. Wasn’t that nice of javac to help us like that?

  10. After compiling your program, you should see a new file in your directory:

     $ ls -l
     total 8
     -rw-r--r--  1 cs136  staff  426 Jan 25 13:33 HelloWorld.class
     -rw-r--r--  1 cs136  staff  235 Jan 25 13:33
     drwxr-xr-x  2 cs136  staff   64 Jan 25 13:11

    Do you see it? There is a new file called HelloWorld.class. This is a compiled Java program, which we can now run. Let’s run it.

     $ java HelloWorld
     Hello world!

    We just ran our first program! Note we did not type java HelloWorld.class, we just typed the name of the class that we created, i.e., HelloWorld. If you have trouble, be sure to pay attention to copy our spelling and capitalization exactly.

Step 6: Submitting Your First Program

In this last step, we walk through the process of submitting our completed program, Note that you will not be graded on this lab! The purpose of this lab is to walk through the process that we will be using for labs throughout the semester. Hopefully, we can identify potential roadblocks now, and by resolving them during the first week of class, we can spend more time focusing on the coding for future labs.

  1. First, open the Source Control tab by clicking on the icon to the left of the project drawer. The icon has three circles joined by two squiggly lines.

    A new source control drawer will replace your project drawer. You can always toggle back to the project drawer by clicking on the file icon above the source control icon.

  2. Next, tell git which files you want to track by clicking on the + sign next to that file.

    We call this step “staging changes.” Your file should move to a section called Staged Changes.

  3. Now, type a commit message into the Message box. A commit message describes the changes you made. For example, I will type completed my version of Hello World!

  4. Press the Commit button. Committing your code saves a snapshot that we can recover at a later date. You should commit frequently. Most software developers commit whenever they’ve made an important change. It does not matter whether your code is incomplete—commit it anyway!
  5. Our changes are committed, but they’re still only stored on our local machine. To copy those changes to the repository stored on the CS department’s server, we need to push our changes. If you don’t push, we will not see your completed homework! Always be sure to push! To push, click Sync Changes button.

  6. Now navigate to your GitLab repository in your web browser. Remember that it should have the form<YOUR-USERNAME-HERE>/lab00-environment.git

    (where <YOUR-USERNAME-HERE> is replaced with your CS username)

    You should see your changes reflected in your repository online. My repository is shown below. Notice that the “commit message” appears next to the files that changed during that commit. I can see “completed my version of Hello World!” next to the two files I’ve added: and HelloWorld.class. Once you confirm that you've successfully submitted, you are done setting up your environment!

One Last Thing

Please fill out the Getting to Know You form. This is a short form that we’re just using to find out a little more about you. Once this form is complete, you’re done with the lab.

  • CSCI 136, Fall 2022

CSCI 136 course website

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