Gmail eats Python

Chris Angelico rosuav at
Mon Jul 27 03:47:10 CEST 2015

On Mon, Jul 27, 2015 at 3:40 AM, Steven D'Aprano <steve at> wrote:
>> So while emacs makes everything else look rather puerile, setting it up
>> is such a bitch that last python course I just switched to idle.
>> Must admit it was more pleasant than I expected.
>> Except that sometimes we need C and C++ and assembly and haskell and make
>> and config files and git commits and...
>> And so emacs (or eclipse!!) remains the only option
> Um... your students are probably using Macs, Windows, and a small minority
> with Linux, yes? On laptops?
> Your Linux students are probably fine. Some of them probably know more than
> you :-)
> Mac users have access to a full BSB environment, even if most of them don't
> know it.
> Your Windows users are the problem. You could try GnuWin and Gnu Core
> Utilities for a set of GNU tools for Windows. You could build a bootable
> USB stick containing the Linux installation of your choice, and get them to
> use that. (Of course, I can imagine your school/university having a
> conniption fit at the thought of the liability issues if the software
> erased somebody's hard drive...)

There's another option, and it's what we use at Thinkful: direct all
your students to a browser-based IDE that's backed by a consistent
Linux VM. At the moment, we're recommending Cloud 9; we used to use
Nitrous, and there are plenty of other options out there. It may not
be as fast as working natively, but believe you me, it's a huge boon
to have all your students start off with something consistent! (Those
who know what they're doing are welcome to diverge from the
recommendation; I have several students who use their own desktops,
usually either Mac OS or Linux, but one uses Windows. But the same
thing still applies: playing around with the C9 IDE is the reliable
fallback for when they have trouble.)

In terms of dev environments, Linux is usually the easiest to set up -
even when you try to support umpteen distros. Partly this is because
most people who use Linux are aware of what their package manager is,
so you can say "Go and install the python-numpy package" and most of
them can figure that out (apt-get, yum, pacman, GUI front-end,
anything). Macs aren't overly difficult; as Steven says, there's
plenty of stuff available, plus it's reasonably easy to describe path
names and such in the Unix way, and have them be compatible with Linux
and Mac OS. Even the shell is almost always consistent - I've yet to
meet any student who isn't using some variant of bash. Windows, on the
other hand, is a pest to support, because so much is different. Do you
tell people to install Git Bash and work in Cygwin? Do you tell them
to grab one of the scientific Python stacks and use PowerShell? The
default shell is sufficiently weak that it needs to be replaced, but
there's no one obvious answer. So a browser-based alternative is the
way to go for us.


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