Hi all! We (@anishathalye, @jjgo, and @jonhoo) have long felt that while university CS classes are great at teaching specific topics, they often leave it to students to figure out a lot of the common knowledge about how to actually use your computer. And in particular, how to use it efficiently.
There’s just no class in the undergrad curriculum that teaches you how to become familiar with the system you’re working with! Students are expected to know about, or figure out, the shell, editors, remote access and file management, version control, debugging and profiling utilities, and all sorts of other useful tools on their own. Often times, they won’t even know that many of these tools exist, and instead do things in roundabout ways or simply be left frustrated about their development environment.
To help mitigate this, we decided to run this short lecture series at MIT during the January Independent Activities Period that we called “Hacker Tools” (in reference to “hacker culture”, not hacking computers). Our hope was that through this class, and the resulting lecture materials and videos, we might be able to bootstrap students’ knowledge about the tools that are available to them, which they can then put to use throughout their time at university, and beyond.
We’ve shared both the lecture notes and the recordings of the lectures in the hopes that people outside of MIT may also find these resources useful in making better use of their tools. If that turns out to be true, we’re also thinking of re-doing the videos in screen-cast style with live chat and a proper microphone when we get the time. If that sounds interesting to you, and if you have ideas about other things you’d like to see us cover, please leave a comment below; we’d love to hear from you!
We’re sure there are also plenty of cool tools that we didn’t get to cover in this series that you all know and love. Please share them below along with a short description so we can all learn something new!
Anish, Jose, and Jon