Programmers Prerequisites

The following is part of one of my columns on the JavaScript/Java Site at Due to the context, it refers to Java, but the same statements could be made about beginning programming books and websites that address a variety of languages.

It seems obligatory in most of the beginning Java programming books and websites I see to explain how to install Java. Now, maybe this is the system administrator in me, but I think that if you need to be walked through how to install a program that uses your operating system’s standard installation method and is intended for user (rather than server administrator) installation, you probably need to take a step back and learn to use your operating system (OS) before you start learning to program. Your programming tools and programs will live on your OS and this is unlikely to be last interaction you’ll have with your OS during your programming career. For instance, at some point you will probably need to install third-party code libraries. (Full article here)

Now, I’m the first to admit that in a production development environment having programmers administering their own boxes, even development boxes, is often the first step to a system administrator’s nightmare, but I’m also the first to admit that every decent programmer I’ve ever worked with can administer their own boxes, they just don’t usually care to (or at least, don’t usually care to solve the unexpected problems. And hence the nightmare of fixing those problems, which always seem to appear right before some sort of key development milestone. That said, should we really be handholding people through OS basics so they can learn to program without gaining any understanding of the underlying OS? Or is that, perhaps, one of the reasons why there is so much bad software out there?

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