Beginner’s To Do Before Class

For Everyone

Prior to the AMS Short Course: A Beginner’s Course to Using Python in Climate and Meteorology (January 21-22, 2012), held in New Orleans, LA, all students will need to do the following:

  1. Obtain a laptop you can bring to the course. (It needs at least 1 GB RAM and 20 GB of available disk.) Make sure its battery is fully charged, and that you also bring the power adapter. If you’re checking out a laptop from your school, lab, or organization, make sure you have administrator access to your machine, so you can install applications, if needed.
  2. Make sure you have copies of two datasets, one that is text, and the other that is in netCDF format. These can be any datasets you’d like; we’d recommend you bring datasets you normally use. Try not to choose datasets that are too large, however, because they may slow you down. If you do not have datasets of your own, we will give you ones you can use for the class, but most people will find their own data more interesting.
  3. Download the VirtualBox virtualization application for your machine and install it on your laptop. (For the course, we’ve created an Ubuntu Linux virtual machine (VM) that has all the software we’ll be using pre-installed. You will be using VirtualBox to run the VM.) The installation should be straightforward and take no more than 10–15 minutes; see the installation instructions for details. If you’re running a flavor of Linux, you may wish to install VirtualBox via your favorite package manager; here are the instructions for installing VirtualBox from the repositories for Ubuntu (note that you also may need to do an additional step so the VM will be able to access your laptop’s USB ports).

That’s all you need to do in preparation for the course! On the morning of the first day, you’ll get a USB thumbdrive with the VM on it (along with copies of the slides, example data, etc.). We’ll go through the installation of the VM together, in class.

For Those Who Want To Manually Install Software On Their Own Machines

Some students may not want to use the virtual machine we will provide at the class, if they want to have the software operating in their laptop’s own environment; Windows users, for instance, may not want to use the virtual machine’s Unix interface. The current version of VirtualBox may also be unavailable for your particular operating system version. If this is you, below are instructions as to what packages to install and files to download. Note that some of the installs take many hours to do, even if everything goes smoothly; you are much better off if you use the virtual machine we provide. Caveats given, what you need to do is to install a copy of Python, along with the packages needed for scientific computing:

  • The easiest way is to install the Enthought Python Distribution (EPD), which bundles Python with many modules and packages in an easy to install package. The distribution is free to employees and students of academic institutions (there is also a free “stripped-down” version of the distribution that is free to everyone and which should work for most of the purposes of our class). EPD is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris, RedHat, Ubuntu, and SUSE.
  • Alternately, if you are using an apt-get based package manager in Linux or Mac OSX (e.g., fink), you may want to just install the needed packages individually. Since you won’t be downloading packages you aren’t interested in, it may install faster. We’ve written directions for Ubuntu and Mac OS X.