This is a guest post by Daniel Seymour, one of the Codecademy moderators, with editing help from Alex Craig and Dustin Goodman.

    "I see a blinking cursor. WHAT DO I DO?!"

    When you hear the word "command line", "terminal," or "little window that tells a computer what to do but only has a flashing cursor in it," what comes to mind? Do you scream and hide under your bed? Or do you look at me inquisitively and wonder why I would bring such a scary thing up?

    Terminal

    I hate to tell you this, but you MUST conquer your fear of the terminal (if you have a fear) and learn how to use that annoying little window with a flashing line in it. A *nix (Unix (like Mac), Linux) system is an operating system that can enable you to do some rather amazing stuff quite quickly, if you know what you are doing in the terminal. Before I start throwing terms at you I need to define a few.

    Basic Terms

    OS: Operating System, the program that tells the different pieces of hardware how to work together to make a comprehensive system. GUI: Graphical User Interface, essentially the little window that has buttons you can click that often hides the power of the terminal. Terminal: Part of the computer that allows you to issue commands to the computer and directly interface with the OS. Executable: Executable file, file used to execute a program on your computer.

    Now that you have a rudimentary computer vocabulary, you can start conquering your fear. I use the terminal all the time and am able to do basic things faster, such as pushing to Github, connecting to a network, etc. I currently use a command-line-based Linux distribution. On the rare occasion that I have to use Windows, most of the basic jobs of the computer, such as connecting to a wifi network, take so long that I feel like I am waiting for a marathon to end.

    Step 1: Find your Terminal

    So how should you start conquering your fear? I would suggest finding the terminal on your system. For this first part, I am going to assume that you are using a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, OpenSUSE, or Debian (to name a few). On any regular GUI-based Linux system, go to the applications menu and search for terminal. When you find it, open it and stare at that blinking cursor for a few seconds while saying, “I will learn to use this thing.” :) (You can skip the staring if you want.)

    Step 2: Start an Application

    The most basic operation that a user can do from the terminal is start an application. On almost every Linux system, simply using the name of the executable in the /usr/bin directory will start the application. For example, starting the Firefox web browser simply requires typing “firefox” into the command line and pressing enter. You should now see a session of Firefox launch on your desktop. Congratulations! You just executed your first command from the terminal!

    Note: Launching an application from the terminal will lock that terminal instance so that you cannot do anything else with it. If you want to be able to use the terminal for other activities, trailing the application executable name with a “&” will put the process in the background of the terminal and you will be able to use the terminal for other things.

    Step 3: Get Specific

    Launching an application is not all that the terminal can do. You can launch applications and tell the application to edit such and such file (in the case of a text editor, such as Nano, Vim, or Emacs. Nano is the default terminal text editor for most Linux distributions) or you can tell a web browser to launch such and such a web page. For example, the command:

    firefox www.codecademy.com
    

    will launch a session of firefox and open the session on the Codecademy home page.

    Step 4: Entering Commands

    Now that you know how to launch an application, you will also need to know how to traverse the file system straight from the terminal as doing so is a big part of many operations that are done in the terminal.

    To start off, enter the command pwd. You should now see something along the lines of

    /home/{username}/
    

    The above command stands for Print Working Directory so the directory that you see posted to the terminal is the directory that the terminal is currently in. Now enter the command “ls”. You should now see something along the lines of:

    Desktop/    Documents/    Downloads/    Music/    Pictures/    Videos/
    

    And all of the other folders that your home directory contains. The ls command can be thought of as standing for LiSt the contents of the present folder.

    A Brief Note on Flags

    Before we go any further, you will need to know about flags. Flags are options that are passed to a command that extend the command to accomplish another task at the same time.

    Now type the command ls -a (-a meaning all). You should see everything that you saw using the ls command but also you should see a bunch of folders and files that begin with a .. These extra files/folders are “hidden” so as not to clutter up your home directory with files that you may only open once in the life of the computer (if that). As you may have guessed, the difference between a hidden and not hidden file is the beginning dot. The dot tells Linux to hide the folder/file.

    Step 5: Change Directories

    One last command that you must know to be able to start using the terminal effectively is the cd command. If you type cd by itself, you most likely will go back to your home directory or nothing will happen. This is because the cd command stands for Change Directory.

    Because you didn’t pass cd an argument, the terminal has no clue what folder it should enter. The most important cd arguments that you will need to know are {childFolderName}, .., . and ~.

    • {childFolderName} argument tells the terminal to enter the folder in the current directory by the name of {childFolderName}
    • .. tells the terminal to go to the parent folder of the current directory
    • . when used in conjunction with /{folderName} tells the terminal to enter the child folder of the current directory by the name of {folderName}
    • ~ tells the terminal to go back to the home directory (/home/{username}).

    Other Useful Commands

    Here is a list of other commands that you will probably find useful:

    • mkdir “Makes” a directory in the file system at the specified file path.
    • rm Deletes (“removes”) the file at the specified file path.
    • rmdir Deletes the directory at the specified path.
    • man Opens the MANual pages for the specified command or application. For example, man ls will open the man page that contains all of the information and flag options for the “list” command. This is especially useful to see if a program offers any extra functionality or to figure out how to configure a program.

    That's it! Now you're ready to get started in your terminal.

    Since introducing the new coding interface the much loved keyboard shortcuts have been amiss. Now we're bringing them back.

    Here's a cheat-sheet you can follow

    Reset Exercise Completely messed up a solution? Start fresh. * Windows: Alt-R * Mac: Option-R

    Next Exercise Peek at the exercises ahead. Get excited by what the section has in store you! * Windows: Alt-P * Mac: Option-P

    Previous Exercise Want to retrace your steps to solve the current problem? Revisit an exercise to see all you've done! * Windows: Alt-O * Mac: Option-O

    Save and Submit Ready to see if it works? * Windows: Control-Enter * Mac: Command-Enter

    That's it! To start using them, go try out an exercise like this one in JavaScript.

    Designer Olivia Cheng and her Codecademy team's project Mars Watchtower was selected as a winner for Virtual Participation in the International Space Apps Challenge. We interviewed her to find out how the magic happened.

    What led you to apply for the hackathon?

    I saw it on Twitter and thought to myself, "Wow, it would be so awesome be involved in that" and then, "Well, why not?" I couldn't attend any of the physical hackathons, but I saw there was a virtual location option. Couldn't hurt to try!

    How did you find your team?

    I reached out to the Codeacademy group The Open Source Project to see if anyone would be interested, and got positive responses. I thought it would be a good fit since any project submitted to the Space Apps Challenge would be open source, and our team ended up with 5 members total.

    Link

    What was it like to working together virtually?

    I always planned on contributing to one of the GitHub projects started by the group, but I hadn't expected to work with other members in real-time—there's a big difference.

    Because of the time zone difference, we took shifts coding—one of us about to sleep would fill the other people in on the progress and what tasks remained. There were hiccups, of course—occasionally someone would accidentally overwrite another person's code, and sometimes a whole page of code would get wiped if Cloud9 IDE crashed while saving (oops!).

    Any advice for people who want to do a hackathon?

    Plan well. Do as much planning as possible ahead of time or in early hours because you have limited time to do what you need to get done. If you're in a team, have a project manager to coordinate everyone's efforts. Collaborating online can be a lot harder than in person, especially when you can't just walk over to your teammate to quickly discuss something, so set up a workflow ahead of time.

    Mars Watchtower team

    We ended up using Workflowy for managing tasks and Cloud9 IDE for sharing code. Cloud9 IDE allowed us to write, edit and run our code with other team members simultaneously without the hassle of setting up individual local environments.

    So... what's next?

    I'll keep the project up on GitHub here so that team members (or anyone else) can continue to contribute. Although we didn't win any global awards, our work paid off—we were selected as one of four winners for Virtual Participation.

    As for the Codecademy group, I've been talking with the leaders of The Open Source Project and there are some ideas floating around to kickstart some projects in a hackathon-style… so we'll see where that goes :)

    This is a guest post by M.K. Carroll, Crochet Editor at Cooperative Press and Knit Edge magazine. Have something you'd like to share on our blog? Drop us a line.

    It's a popular hobby, practiced by people all over the world. At its most basic, it's a loop of string and two pointy sticks. The loops can be combined in various ways to create a wide variety of things, from the practical and useful to the whimsical and just plain weird. In other words, knitting is a lot like coding.

    Say what?

    *k2, p2, 2/2 LC; rep from *, end k2.

    What you see above could be described as a line of knitting code: a set of instructions that you can use to execute a row of knitting. Combined with additional lines of code, these instructions (commonly referred to as a knitting pattern) can be used to create a recognizable item, such as a sweater or a pair of socks.

    Knitting — like coding — gives you the freedom to create

    You can buy a sweater ready-made with a lot less effort than it would take to knit one, but there are a lot of reasons why you might want to knit that sweater yourself, like having one that fits you perfectly. You could also spend a lot of time trying to find one to buy, or a lot of money getting someone else to design and knit it for you. Sometimes - like learning how to code - learning how to create is how you get exactly what you want.

    Knitting

    One line at a time...

    Knitters and other "yarncrafters" (like crocheters and weavers) understand what it means to build something one stitch (bit) at a time, and yarncrafting pattern designers (coders) know what it means to code, use an API, design, test, debug, and maintain the source code - even if they don't realize it yet. Daniella Nii says that:

    "Just as in coding, attention to detail and syntax are crucial to a successful execution of a pattern (program). An overlooked parenthesis, comma or repeat can result in a piece of code that doesn't compile and will interrupt the flow of the program, possibly discovered when the next line of instructions will not work with what the knitter has on the needles."

    Knitters know how to learn and "speak" a different language already, and learning how to code could mean being able to design and build the knitting app they want, without having to hope that someone else will. Not bad for something that starts with two sticks and some string!

    Know how to knit? Learn how to code!

    If you are a yarncrafter, you are already predisposed to learn how to code. Do you think it would be awesome to play a video game based on knitting? You can learn how to make one. Would you like to sell your crocheted mustaches on your own website? You can learn how to build a website and storefront too. Do you think PlaceKitten is an awesome API, but would be improved with yarn? You can learn how to use APIs to make the app that you want, instead of settling for an app designed for someone else.

    Know how to code? Well...

    If you are learning how to code and enjoying it, you may also enjoy learning how to knit, crochet, or spin. After all, if you want to build a website to look and function in just the right way for you, you may also be the kind of person who would want to knit a pair of Dalek patterned mittens that fit you perfectly.


    Thanks to the yarncrafting coders LeTonBeau (on Ravelry.com), Daniela Nii (nikkisstudio on Ravelry.com), and Megan of stockinettezombies.com for volunteering to check my analogies and make sure they were accurate!

    We're looking for a few good fellows to come join our team!

    The Codecademy Fellowship gives curious college students the chance to spend one year as professional software engineers working at a startup driven to change how people learn.

    This spring we've had the pleasure of having Bob & Louis with us. Learn what they have to say about the experience below!

    Meet the Current Fellows

    Louis, MIT '14 Louis Sobel

    Bob, UIUC '14 Bob

    Why were you interested in becoming a Codecademy Fellow?

    Bob: It seemed like an incredible opportunity to work with a very talented team working on a great mission. Louis: Gaining some practical industry experience that would apply some of the things I learned in school seemed like a great next step to shape my career.

    What projects are you working on at Codecademy?

    Louis: I am working on the interactive evaluation environment for languages like Python, Ruby and recently released PHP. Bob: I've spent most of my time here building the new Learning Interface.

    How has the fellowship met your expectations?

    Louis: They have been more than met. My expectations were to work with smart and driven people on problems that challenged me and gave me the opportunity to learn. Bob: Definitely. It's an incredible learning experience to ship code everyday at a fast paced startup like Codecademy.

    What is the best part about living in New York?

    Bob: The energy of the city really is undeniable. There's always something going on, new things to experience and learn. Louis: It's been exciting to be part of the diverse and growing tech community in New York.

    Any advice for future fellows?

    Louis: Think about yourself and your education critically - what are you good at, where do you lack experience? The fellowship is an opportunity to learn things that you couldn’t learn in a classroom or internship. Bob: Be very specific with your application. Show us your personality, emphasize what makes you unique.

    Editor's note: This post is about our NYC Meetup. You can find a Codecademy meetup near you on our Meetup page! To get help hosting a meetup, reach out here.


    Learning to code on your own can be tough.

    That’s why each month we host meetups for people to come and learn together. This month we were lucky enough to have journalist and Code Year veteran David Bauer come and present.

    David Bauer

    David wanted to do something better with code than creating arrays of zoo animals; so he decided to create Instacurate to visualizes tweets using Twitter's API. (To learn how to use Twitter's API yourself, try out this course.)

    After a brief Q&A we broke into groups to explore the questions the group most wondered about:

    1. What language should I start with? 2. How do I get started coding on my own computer? 3. What should I make with what I’m learning?

    If you can learn, you can teach, and this gave everyone an opportunity to help out. Bravo!

    Meetup Meetup 1 Meetup 2 Meetup Meetup

    Until next time, happy coding!

    Your profile page on Codecademy started as a list of the courses you had taken, but it quickly became overly complex as we expanded the variety of ways to interact with Codecademy and each other.

    We've recently taken a step back and reworked your profile to better serve its most important purpose - to showcase who you are and what you've achieved on Codecademy.

    PROFILE PAGE

    Show who you are

    We wanted to make your profile really easy to personalize. You can upload a photo, write about yourself, and share some basic information without leaving the page. To make it easier to share, you can access it at www.codecademy.com/[_your username_].

    EDIT PROFILE PAGE PHOTO

    Show what you've accomplished

    The old profile, like a report card, emphasized your progress - which courses you still had to do in a track. The new one highlights your accomplishments and contributions. At the moment, completing a track is the biggest accomplishment on Codecademy, so we show the tracks you've completed and are working on front and center.

     TRACK CARD DETAIL

    And if you've created a course, everybody should know about it, so we spotlight the courses you've contributed.

     COURSE DETAIL

    Make it look good!

    We've cleaned up and streamlined the new profile to make sure that people looking at it are able to get the important information they want. The visual style is also now consistent with the one first introduced in the new learning experience.

    How can you get it?

    You can opt in now, or wait until Monday at 4:30 PM EST, when we are going to switch it over to everyone. Let us know what you think about it and how we can make the profile best represent all your hard work and learning on Codecademy.

    This is a guest post by our team of moderators. Special thanks to Michael Rochlin, Alex C, Alex J, Nick Edwards, Haley Higgins, Dustin Goodman, Daniel Seymour, boring12345, Giacomo Sorbi and Jacob Andersen. If you see them in the forums, be sure to say hello!

    Hello fellow Codecademics!

    As you may have noticed, there is a mysterious group of people who frequent the Q&A forums and have a little moderator badge next to their names. We would like to explain who these moderators are and what they do.

    Codecademy moderator group

    Back when Codecademy was still in its infancy — before PHP and even before jQuery — we realized that the Q&A forums needed to be managed. Someone needed to be responsible for making sure the community maintained a friendly and helpful atmosphere. Codecademy staff were busy building the amazing site you all know and love, so they reached out to the community for help. The most active, eager, and helpful Codecademics were tasked with making Codecademy even better than it already was, and this small group became “moderators.” The site has since grown, and so has the need for moderators. We are now 20 moderators strong and growing.

    So what exactly does a moderator do?

    As the name suggests, we moderate the forums. Knowledge-hungry learners post hundreds of new questions and answers every day. It is our job to create a friendly learning environment by removing spam posts and looking out for disruptive users, especially those who use profanity, insults or are just plain mean. We also try to make sure that people are not simply posting working code, because we believe in learning by doing; which is a process that usually involves trial and error. We also sometimes step in to correct people’s posts and show users how to format code snippets.

    Moderators are here to provide extra help and answer people’s questions. (In fact, this is what we spend the most time doing.) Each moderator has proven that they can be helpful in answering people’s questions, and we all try our best to provide as much help as we can, to as many people as we can. When you see the “moderator” badge next to our names, you can rely upon that answer to be correct.

    Additionally, we are in close contact with the Codecademy staff, especially the Community tag-team of Linda and Karen. We let them know what is going on from a user’s perspective, as well as point out issues that we have noticed across the site. We help to brainstorm on ideas for the future, discuss user reaction to recent changes, and try to provide insight into how Codecademics think.

    Here are a few (unofficial) stats about us:

    • Number: 19 moderators plus Linda, Karen, Eric and Codecademy staff
    • Countries of residence: USA, UK, Belgium, China, Germany, Israel, Italy, Kenya
    • Languages spoken: Chinese, Dutch, American English, Texan English British English, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
    • Ages: in range(15,99)
    • Programming Experience: Novice to expert

    In sum:

    We are users passionate about fostering Codecademy’s vivid community. We find it rewarding to contribute and share our knowledge. We enjoy helping fellow users learn how to code – and learning from them.

    But most of all, we’re Codecademics just like you!

    After releasing our new coding interface, a number of users have had difficulty running code and loading exercises over the past week. I apologize for this. These issues are not related to the new interface, but instead are deeper issues with how we evaluate code submissions. I wanted to share the background of what is happening and what we are doing to build a stronger code evaluation platform going forward.

    Background

    It is possible, but not at all easy to run languages like Ruby, Python, and PHP directly in the browser. In fact we used to do this by serving an interpreter for each language, compiled to JavaScript, to your browser!

    We ultimately found this approach to be too fragile to use in production, and last summer we launched the Python language track on top of a server-side code evaluation service that we call Codex. Codex was originally designed to run Python code in a secure environment. As we added new language tracks like Ruby and PHP, we began to push it to its limit.

    When we designed the new interface, we built it to be more responsive. Unfortunately this strained Codex in ways it wasn't intended to be used, resulting in spotty performance. Making Codex more robust will let the new interface deliver on its promise.

    What we're doing about it

    Codex has gone through some significant growing pains as we've rapidly expanded both our user base and the ways we use the service.

    We pushed a series of fixes to take it off life-support and are doubling down our investment in it as the backbone of our coding experience. We are refactoring core aspects of the service to handle much larger loads and adding support for multi-process environments (i.e. running mongodb, node.js, and redis together in a single app).

    This will ensure that Codex is prepared to grow with users as they tackle an ever increasing variety of topics and technologies. Thank you for your patience, and we're excited to see what you build!

    If you are experiencing these issues, please see our support article here.

    Today, we're introducing an updated interface that makes learning to build something easier than ever.

    A new learning experience at Codecademy

    Here's what you can expect:

    An immersive experience

    We've simplified the interface to let you focus on what matters: the lesson, your code, and what you're building.

    A better feedback loop

    It's easier to learn when you can see you're doing. For most screen resolutions, you can now always see a visual preview of any webpage you are coding, or a terminal output of your code.

    A responsive layout

    Our new layout fills your screen, making it easier to code on both a small laptop and a large monitor.

    We're rolling out our updated interface to everyone over the next week. When it becomes available to you, you'll see a "Switch now" link at the top of any Codecademy course.

    We can't wait to hear what you think. Enjoy!

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