Using Online IDEs

Many readers today want to code anywhere, using any device, and at any time. Obviously, hauling around a desktop system or even a high end laptop is not on the list of things they want to do. I thought it unique when a reader wrote me to say that coding on a smartphone should be included in my books. I have since had several more readers make the same request. So, I’m no longer surprised to hear about the various methods used to produce source code.

Personally, I think squinting while I code would be uncomfortable, but I definitely don’t want to hinder anyone’s learning process, so many (not all) of my introductory books now include a chapter on coding with mobile or online IDEs. For C++ All-In-One for Dummies, 4th Edition the mobile device tool of choice is CppDroid (a mobile IDE for C++). Python books, such as Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies, 3rd EditionPython for Data Science for Dummies, and Machine Learning for Dummies, 2nd Edition, rely on Google Colab (an online IDE). Just out of curiosity, I tried Google Colab using my smart TV and it did work—not that I plan to code using my TV anytime soon. Even though my latest book, Machine Learning Security Principles, doesn’t include any sort of IDE setup chapter, I did test the source code using Google Colab for that book as well.

Any time you change IDEs, you need to test your code to actually ensure that it will work with that IDE. Consequently, during the writing process I carefully tested every example on both my desktop system and the alternative IDE that the book supports. This dual testing process helps ensure you have a great learning experience. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or resources to test every possible IDE out there. To obtain a good learning experience from my books, you need to choose one of the IDEs that I mention. In addition, it’s essential that you choose the correct version of the IDE, the one that matches the book, because vendors tend to introduce breaking changes into IDEs and compilers during the upgrade process.

When you contact me about an IDE issue, the first thing I need to know is which book (and edition of that book) you have, followed by the operating system and IDE version you’re using. Otherwise, it’s very tough for me to try to help you and I do want to help you within reason. No, I’m not going to try to support the alternative IDE that you like that was created for you by your long lost relative. I’ll only support the IDEs specifically mentioned in the book. That said, I do want to hear your input about IDEs at [email protected]. If you’re encountering a problem with the IDE that’s used in the book, I definitely need to know about it and I’ll post some helpful information about it on this blog.

Source Code Placement

This is an update of a post that originally appeared on October 12, 2015.

I always recommend that you download the source code for my books. The Verifying Your Hand Typed Code post discusses some of the issues that readers encounter when typing code by hand. However, I also understand that many people learn best when they type the code by hand and that’s the point of getting my books—to learn something really interesting (see my principles for creating book source code in the Handling Source Code in Books post). Even if you do need to type the source code in order to learn, having the downloadable source code handy will help you locate errors in your code with greater ease. I won’t usually have time to debug your hand typed code for you.

Depending on your platform, you might encounter a situation the IDE chooses an unfortunate place to put the source code you want to save. For example, a Windows System might choose the Program Files folder, which contains a space and doesn’t allow saving of files unless you specifically override the default rights. Fortunately, modern IDEs do manage to avoid many of these problems, but you still need to be aware that they could exist, especially when using an older IDE.

My recommendation for fixing these, and other source code placement problems, is to create a folder that you can access and have full rights to work with to store your source code. My books usually make a recommendation for the source code file path, but you can use any path you want. The point is to create a path that’s:

  • Easy to access
  • Allows full rights
  • Lacks spaces in any of the pathname elements
  • On a local drive, rather than a cloud drive in many cases

As long as you follow these rules, you likely won’t experience problems with your choice of source code location. If you do experience source code placement problems when working with my books, please be sure to let me know at [email protected].

Verifying Your Hand Typed Code

This is an update of a post that originally appeared on January 10, 2014.

I maintain statistics for each of my books that are based on reviews and reader e-mails (so those e-mails you send really are important). These statistics help me write better books in the future and also help me determine the sorts of topics I need to address in my blog. It turns out that one of the most commonly asked questions is why a reader’s hand typed code doesn’t work. Some readers simply ask the question without giving me any details at all, which makes the question impossible to answer. In some cases, the reader sends the hand typed code, expecting that I’ll take time to troubleshoot it. However, this isn’t a realistic request because it defeats the very purpose behind typing the code by hand. If I take the time to diagnose the problems in the code you typed, I’ll be the one to learn an interesting lesson, not you. If you learn better by doing—that is, by typing the code by hand and then running it, then you need to be the one to troubleshoot any problems with the resulting code.

My advice to readers is to use the downloadable source code when working through the book text. If you want to type the code by hand after that as part of your learning experience, at least you’ll know that the example works on your system and you’ll also understand how the example works well enough to troubleshoot any errors in your own code. However, you need to be the one to diagnose the errors. If nothing else, perform a character-by-character comparison of your code to the example code that you downloaded from the publisher’s site. Often, a reader will write back after I suggest this approach and mention that they had no idea that a particular special symbol or method of formatting content was important. These are the sorts of lessons that this kind of exercise provide.

Now, it has happened that the downloadable source code doesn’t always work on a particular user’s system. When the error is in the code or something I can determine about the coding environment, you can be certain that I’ll post information about it on my blog. This should be the first place you look for such information. Simply click on the book title in question under the Technical category. You’ll find a list of posts for that book. Always feel free to contact me about a book-specific question. I want to be sure you have a good learning experience.

There are some situations where a reader tries to run application code that won’t work on a particular system. My books provide information on the kind of system you should use, but I can’t always determine exceptions to the rule in advance. When I post system requirements, your system must meet those requirements because the examples are guaranteed to fail on lesser systems. If you encounter a situation where the downloadable code won’t run on your system, but none of the fixes I post for that code work and your system does meet the requirements, then please feel free to contact me. There are times where an example simply won’t run because you can’t use the required software or the system won’t support it for whatever reason.

The point of this post is that you need to work with the downloadable source code whenever possible. The downloadable source code has been tested by a number of people, usually on a range of systems, to ensure it will work on your system too. I understand that typing the code by hand is an important and viable way to learn, but you should reserve this method as the second learning tier—used after you have tried the downloadable source code. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns at [email protected].

Working with Code in e-Books

This is an update of a post that originally appeared on March 16, 2016.

Most of my technical readers now use e-books instead of paper books. Of course, there is a convenience factor to storing your entire library on a Kindle, even if it’s a software version of the Kindle. Of course, there are all sorts of e-book formats for your desktop system as well. The point is that electronic format makes a lot of sense when dealing with technical books.

However, e-books can cause some interesting problems and I’ve encountered a few with a number of readers now. The most important consideration is that you can’t cut and paste code from an e-book directly into your IDE and expect it to work. There are all sorts of reasons for this exclusion. For example, cutting and pasting may insert special characters into the output stream or the resulting paste may not have white space in the right places. A common problem is that publishers often convert regular single and double quotes into curly quote equivalents. The two kinds of quotes (both single and double) are completely different and the second type definitely won’t compile.

The best option when working with an e-book is to view the code in the e-book, but still get the downloadable source code for the book from my website or the publisher’s website as described in the book’s introduction. If you can’t find the downloadable source, always feel free to contact me at [email protected]. I want to be sure you have a great reading experience, which means having source code that actually runs in your development environment.

Another potential problem with e-books is that you may see unfortunate code breaks (despite the efforts of the publisher and myself). When you need to understand how white space works with a programming language, always review the downloadable source. The fact that the downloadable source compiles and runs tells you that all the of white space is in the right place and of the correct type. Typing the source code directly out of your e-book could result in added carriage returns or other white space errors that will cause the code to fail, even though the commands, variables, and other parts of the code are all correct.

As always, I’m open to your questions about my books. If you don’t understand how things work, please contact me—that’s why I’m here.

UnZIPping the Downloadable Source

A number of readers have written me to say that they are using the downloadable source and can see the files on their hard drive. However, when they go to access the file using their IDE, the IDE won’t open it. Modern operating systems make things easier for people by displaying the contents of .zip and other archive files as if they’re another directory or folder on the system. However, the IDE doesn’t have the same advantage. You need to remove the files from the .zip archive and place them somewhere on your hard drive that the IDE can locate. You can tell that you’re looking at a .zip file by looking at the path. If you see something like C:\Temp\A4D2E.zip\A4D2E, where A4D2E.zip is the name of the archive, then you know that you’re looking in an archive file. If you still have problems getting the files to open, make sure you remove any spaces from the path that your IDE is using. You can contact me at [email protected] if you have any additional questions about this issue.

Get the Source Code for My Books from Another Source

A lot of readers have asked me to provide a better, centralized, location for the source code for my books. With this in mind, I’ve created a new Source Code web page on my website. All you need to do to use it is locate the name of the book whose source code you need and click the associated link or Download button. Not all of my books appear on the Source Code page yet, but I’m working on it. If you find that you can’t locate a book you desperately need, please let me know at [email protected]. I’ll do my best to help you make great use of my books. Please continue to frequent this blog for updates and news about my books.

Browser Support in My Books

A number of my books rely on browser output to show the result of various coding techniques, including Security for Web Developers, HTML5 Programming with JavaScript for Dummies, and CSS3 for Dummies. I try to keep up with changes in technology with my books and I’m currently testing the code in all three books with Internet Explorer 11. According to a recent ComputerWorld article, users of older version of IE only have six weeks to make an update to the new version. They can also use the Edge browser or move to a competitor’s browser. My books list the browsers I used for initial testing of the source code, but I do try to at least check the code with newer browsers to ensure you have a good reading experience. In this case, the check is critical because I can’t expect you to rely on unsupported software to use my books.

When I originally wrote each of these books, I had at least one technical editor and a number of beta readers checking my code under various conditions to ensure the code would run as advertised on the maximum number of systems, we also looked through browser usage statistics such as you’re able to find if you click here, to ensure we enabled the most popular browsers to effortlessly read the books digitally. I no longer have the support, so I’m testing these updates on just my systems. If you encounter a problem with the source code of any of these books, please be sure to contact me at [email protected]m. Now, here’s the important part. Make absolutely certain to let me know that you’re using a newer browser-one not originally tested in the book so I can handle your query correctly and also provide an update on my blog. Your input will help other readers.

Whenever possible, I encourage readers to use the environment described in the book to write their own code. Doing so reduces the potential for problems because I know that the environment is tested by a number of people in a number of environments. However, sometimes using the original environment isn’t possible any longer, such as this instance where Microsoft is putting its collective foot down and forcing an update. Please be sure to write me if you have any questions about the source code for these book. Thanks, as always, for your continued support!

 

C++ All-in-One for Dummies, 3rd Edition, Error

It seems to be my week for reporting errors! Just yesterday I reported one in Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies. Today I’m reporting an error in C++ All-In-One for Dummies, 3rd Edition. If you look in Book I Chapter 3 on page 67, you see Listing 3-6. The listing title tells you that this example uses brackets to access an individual character in a string, which is precisely what it does. However, what the example is supposed to do is show you how to create the string in the first place. Look at Listing 3-7 on page 68 and you see an example that performs this task. The two listings are switched. As you go through the book, please use Listing 3-7 first and Listing 3-6 second. I’m sorry about any confusion caused by the error. Please contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions about this or any other error in the book. I’ll be only too happy to help.

 

Beginning Python for Dummies Chapter 13 Error

Even with the most carefully crafted book, errors do creep in (see Errors in Writing). There is an error in Chapter 13 of Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies on page 247. In Step 8 you are supposed to, “Type MyTuple[4] and press Enter.” The output information for that step is wrong. Instead of seeing Orange, as specified in the book, you see Yellow. The value Yellow was added to the tuple in Step 7 as the fifth value, which you access using MyTuple[4]. I’m sincerely sorry about any problems that the error may have caused in using the book. Please let me know if you have any questions about this issue at [email protected].

 

Where is Python 3?

A number of readers have been sending me e-mail about Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies and why I chose to use Python 3.3 instead of one of the Python 2.x versions. In general, I believe in using the most up-to-date version of a language product available because that’s the future of programming for that language. So, it wasn’t too surprising to me that I noted in a recent InfoWorld article that Fedora 22 will have Python 3 installed by default. I’ve started noticing that Python 3 will be the default with other products and in other environments too. Choosing Python 3.3 for this particular book looks like a really good choice because anyone reading it will be equipped to work with the latest version as it becomes adopted in a wider range of environments.

I do talk about standard Python in Professional IronPython. Of course, this book is targeted toward IronPython users, not Python users, but talking about standard Python and how you can use both libraries and utilities from it seemed like a good idea when I wrote the book. You need to remember that a solid version of Python 3 wasn’t available at the time I wrote this book and that Python 2 was really popular at the time. If there are readers of this book who would like me to create a series of posts that discuss using Python 3 libraries and tools with IronPython (assuming it’s possible), you need to let me know at [email protected]. I try to accommodate reader needs whenever I can, as long as there is an interest in my doing so. At this point, I haven’t had a single reader request for such support, which is why I’m making a direct request for your input.

This leaves my current book project, Python for Data Science for Dummies. It turns out that the Data Science community is heavily involved with Python 2. My coauthor, Luca, and I have discussed the issue in depth and have decided to use Python 2 for this particular book. The limitation is that the libraries used for Data Science haven’t been moved to Python 3 completely and the entire Data Science community still uses Python 2 exclusively. If it later turns out that things change, I can certainly post some updates for the book here so that it remains as current as possible.

Python is an exception to the rule when it comes to languages. There are currently two viable versions of the language, so I can understand that some readers are completely confused. I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts, ideas, and concerns regarding the use of specific Python versions in my books. I want you to feel comfortable with the decisions that I made in putting the books together. More importantly, your input helps me decide on content for future books, articles, and blog posts. Unless I know what you need, it’s really hard to write good content, so please keep those e-mails coming!