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Intro to the Command Line

A command line interface gives you a powerful way to interact with your own computer, and it gives you options that regular program window don't.  This website has an example of something a command line lets you do that you can't do with a regular window interface.

Not only does a command line give you the tools to make the most of your own computer, two out of three web servers are running on a UNIX/Linux operating system.  Yet for many web developers, even experienced ones, UNIX command line tools can appear intimidating. What is that quintessential yet mysterious screen of green-on-black text you always see hackers staring at in the movies? How can you use its secrets to make computers do your bidding? Come find out!

In all seriousness, there are many introductory courses for common web development tasks, from back end programming in Python to HTML/CSS/JS on the front end, but an oft overlooked topic is interacting with the *nix (Unix, Linux, OSX, etc) systems that run most of the internet.  Using this mysterious text interface to control and operating system is an essential skill for anyone who wants to run their own servers (indeed for most servers, the terminal is the only interface provided.)

In this course, we will cover the basics of using a terminal to control *nix operating systems. In addition, you will also learn how to use it to manipulate such things as the filesystem, the built-in help commands, file contents, program I/O, and remote systems. The course will be mostly interactive and participants will be asked to run commands on their own computers.


Programming experience is not required. You must have administrative privileges on your laptop.

For Mac & Linux users - If your computer is less than 10 years old you should be good to go. You don't need to install additional software.

For Windows users - The command line in Windows isn't as powerful as the ones on Macs and Linux, so Windows users will need to take a few extra steps to be prepared.

We will have bootable DVDs that you can use during the class!  If you're using Windows and would like to use this option, just leave a comment or message Amber so she'll have enough!

If you don't want to use the bootable DVD option and you'd like to try to get yourself set up, here are the options:

1) (preferred) Create a bootable USB drive with Linux Mint 14
Need: empty USB key (preferred: at least 6gb)

2) Install VirtualBox with a Linux Installation -- Instructions here:

3) Install Cygwin with the default options (This option is not preferred, as default Cygwin won't give you as many options as using a Linux distribution, but it doesn't require as much hard drive space as VirtualBox or the investment of a USB key.)



This class will be held at 1 Boston Place, Boston, MA. You will need your ID to sign in at the front desk. The office is on Floor 16.


Please note our refund policy
Your payment of $24 guarantees your seat in the course. If something changes after registration and you cannot attend the course, your seat is yours to sell or give to someone else - just please let us know who!

About the Teacher

Amber Stubbs has a PhD in Computer Science and works as a researcher studying how to teach computers to understand human language.  In the fall of 2013, she'll be an adjunct professor at Simmons College in Boston.

She joined GDI because she loves much computer programming enables her to do, both for work and for fun, and she's excited to have the opportunity to teach women of all ages and backgrounds the skills they need to use computers effectively.


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  • Alexandra S.

    Hey All- I'm so sorry to do this last minute, but I am not going to be able to make the class tonight - I am slammed at work and I think i'm going to probably be here pretty late :( I know it's super last minute, but I was hoping I'd be able to get everything done and get out of here - If anybody wants my space I would be happy to forward them my registration info. and have them take my place ... I know it's pretty last minute but I figured it was worth a shot - Sorry!!


    May 30, 2013

  • Emily A.

    Alas, I mistakenly thought this was last Thursday and can't go this Thursday. I'd be happy to send my ticket on to someone who can go...

    1 · May 29, 2013

    • Amber S.

      Thanks for letting us know; sorry you can't make it!

      1 · May 29, 2013

    • Emily A.

      Thanks for substituting Marilyn! and hope to see you all at a future event.

      May 29, 2013

  • Amber S.

    Hi everyone! Since it can be a littlel complicated for Windows users to get set up with a unix-style command line, I'd be happy to set up a time and place to meet up a day or two before the class to make sure that the Windows people are set to participate. If you think that would help you, reply to this comment or send me an email and we can make arragements.

    1 · May 21, 2013

    • Helen A.

      Hey Amber, I would definitely like to get set up. My email is [masked]. I work downtown from Tuesday-Friday. Will email now.

      May 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Are you still looking for TAs? I'd be interested in helping.

    1 · May 23, 2013

    • Annette A.

      I believe so. Send a message to Amber and she'll tell you the details. :)

      May 23, 2013

  • Liz

    Do you need a teaching assistant? I'd be glad to help.

    1 · May 21, 2013

    • Amber S.

      Hi Liz!

      May 21, 2013

    • Amber S.

      We have one TA, but I'd be happy to have another. Send me an email and we can chat (amber.stubbs@gmail).

      May 21, 2013

8 went

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