This 1-credit seminar is designed to teach the essentials of using a computer effectively for EECS students. While the target audience is CS/CE/DS students, any student wishing to learn how to use their computer much more effectively is encouraged to join. Topics covered include shells, environment, scripting, Makefiles, compilers, debugging tools, and version control. The end of the course will be open to student input for interesting topics to cover.


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Course Pre-Requisites

The only enforced pre-requisite for this course is ENGN 101/151 or EECS 182/183, however it is strongly advised that students have either taken or are concurrently enrolled in EECS 280.

It is expected that students are currently enrolled in at least one course involving non-trivial software projects (e.g. EECS 280 or 281). If you are not enrolled in a programming course this term, you must have previously taken a programming course where you still have access to the projects you have completed.

Syllabus & Essential Info

Course Staff

For general issues, e-mail the course staff at For sensitive issues, please e-mail Marcus directly.

@marcus-darden Matt Terwilliger Alex Chojnacki Cameron Gagnon Ankit Shah
Marcus Darden Matt Terwilliger Alex Chojnacki Cameron Gagnon Ankit Shah

Course Resources

Course Q&A / Forum – Piazza

Assignment Submission & Grades – Gradescope

  • Gradescope entry code: MX54N9

To borrow a CSE laptop for the semester, contact Don Winsor at

Course Meeting Times and Locations

Section 003 (28920)
1670 BBB, Friday 1:30PM — 3:00PM
Section 004 (28657)
AUD CHRYS, Friday 10:00AM — 11:30AM

In general, you may attend any section, however if the classrooms become overfull, we will have to ask that you attend the section you are officially registered for.

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The syllabus is subject to change in response to feedback and class needs throughout the term.
Topic Lecture Materials
Introduction and Basics
Week 1 01/06/2017

Introduction, Virtual Machines, & Command Line Primer


  • Lines of text as a universal interface
  • Examples of unix commands and command synthesis


  • Set up a virtual machine
  • Some light reading


  • None this week

Syllabus week! Don’t expect anything too deep here. Just an easy introduction to the C4CS curriculum.

Slides [pdf]

Morning Lecture

Afternoon Lecture



Homework 1 [pdf]

Homework 1 [tex]

Solutions 1 [pdf]

Week 2 01/13/2017

Basic Git


  • What's version control?
  • Why is it important?
  • Git fundamentals
  • Advanced git highlights
  • Social Coding


  • Intro tutorial to git
  • Setting up a class project with git
  • Basic usage and configuration


  • Rescuing repositories in bad states
  • Commit hooks

During lecture, Darden was using a program called git-bash-prompt. Here’s a link to download and install it if you’re interested. Install via git clone or homebrew (MacOS)

Slides [pdf]

Morning Lecture

Afternoon Lecture



Homework 2 [pdf]

Homework 2 [tex]

Advanced Exercise 2 [pdf]

Advanced Exercise 2 [tex]

Solutions 2 [pdf]

Week 3 01/20/2017

Shells, Environment, Scripting, and Bash


  • How do programs start
  • Why does environment matter?
  • Scripting versus programming
  • Examples

Slides [pdf]

Morning Lecture

Afternoon Lecture



Homework 3 [pdf]

Homework 3 [tex]

Advanced Exercise 3 [pdf]

Advanced Exercise 3 [tex]

Solutions 3 [pdf]

Being Efficient
Week 4 01/27/2017



  • Is there anything special about text editors?
  • Philosophy of text editors
  • The old editors, and why they're still around
  • The new editors, and what they get right
  • Various tips and tricks in a few different editors


  • A crash course in Vim and EMACS
  • Working remotely with umich's CAEN


  • Working in existing codebases
  • Making it your editor through plugins

Slides [pdf]

Morning Lecture

Afternoon Lecture



Homework 4 [pdf]

Homework 4 [tex]

Advanced Exercise 4 [pdf]

Advanced Exercise 4 [tex]

Solutions 4 [pdf]

Week 5 02/03/2017

Git II


  • Understanding branches
  • Basic merging
  • Expanding the triangle
    • Push, fetch, pull
    • Remote branches and remotes as branches
  • Synchronizing work (+stashing)
  • Commit everything, branch often
  • Cleaning history - Rebasing, squashing


  • Thinking in git
  • Practice with merging, conflicts


  • Using git to collaborate for real

Some tips and tricks to make working with git more enjoyable.

Morning Lecture

Afternoon Lecture


Homework 5 [pdf]

Homework 5 [tex]

Advanced Exercise 5 [pdf]

Advanced Exercise 5 [tex]

Solutions 5 [pdf]

Week 6 02/10/2017

Unix II


  • Lines of text as a universal interface
  • Examples of unix commands and command synthesis


  • Basics of regular expressions
  • Guided intro to some tools
  • Synthesizing tools into powerful queries


  • Shell scripting
  • (Basic) shell job control
  • Automated testing

Slides [pdf]

Morning Lecture

Afternoon Lecture


Homework 6 [pdf]

Homework 6 [tex]

Advanced Exercise 6 [pdf]

Advanced Exercise 6 [tex]

Solutions 6 [pdf]

Week 7 02/17/2017

Build Systems


  • Conceptual model for a build system
  • Basic operation of make
    • syntax, goals, targets, rules, varaiables (yours and make's)


  • Basic operation
  • Understanding goals and targets
  • Built-ins and implicit rules
    • Guided digging into how a tool works


  • gcc and make integration
  • Exploring alternative build systems

Slides [pdf]

Morning Lecture

Afternoon Lecture



Homework 7 [pdf]

Homework 7 [tex]

Advanced Exercise 7 [pdf]

Advanced Exercise 7 [tex]

Week 8 02/24/2017

OH++ (Optional)


  • Bring your questions, anything you've ever wanted to know and we'll figure it out.


No homework this week!

Week 9 03/03/2017

Spring Break (No lecture)

No homework this week!

Week 10 03/10/2017

Unit Testing and Python


Week 11 03/17/2017



Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Week 12 03/24/2017

Package Managers & Development Environment


Week 13 03/31/2017



Week 14 04/07/2017

A Sampling of Other Things


Week 15 04/14/2017

Based on course interest (TBD)


Attendance, Grading, and Homework

This course is graded on a straight scale, it will not be curved. There are a total of 100 possible points in this course. You are expected to earn 40 points from Homework, 30 points from Attendance and Participation, and 30 points from Advanced Exercises, however each section has modest opportunity for extra credit that can cover missing points elsewhere.

Range notation [90,93) means 90 is included and 93 is not

Final Grades


Homework (40% / 40 points)

There are 12 homework assignments in the course. Each homework assignment is worth 4 points. Any points over 40 points are worth half their value, that is if a student completes all 12 assignments with a perfect score, their total points earned from homework will be 40 + (0.5×8) = 44.

Late assignments will not be accepted. Notice that one can miss/skip up to two assignments and still receive the full 40 homework points.

Homework Effort and Grading

This is a 1 credit course and the homeworks are designed to be commensurate with that. Each assignment should take 60–90 minutes on average. The goal of the homeworks is to reinforce concepts introduced in lecture and to give hands-on experience.

We will give each homework a “raw” grade in Gradescope, which will then convert to a final score using the following conversion:

[0,0.25] → 0 points
No / very little effort
(0.25,2] → 2 points
Some effort, but not quite there
(2,4] → 4 points
Solid effort, completed successfully

The idea here is that homework does not have to 100% perfect to receive full credit. In addition, course staff can be a little “nit-picky”, taking off tenths of points to draw your attention to corrections and suggestions without actually penalizing your grade.

Grading Issues / Regrade Requests

Regrades are handled on Gradescope. We will close regrade requests roughly one week after assignments are returned.

Attendance and Participation (30% / 30 points)

Attendance is required for this course. Bring your laptop to every lecture. Lectures will include some quick quizzes used both to verify comprehension and attendance. Generally, correct answers will be worth full credit and incorrect answers half credit (you were there, but didn’t get it right). Generally, we will ask at least three questions during class. Not all questions may count for attendance credit. We reserve the right to experiment with this mechanism a bit throughout the semester and vary when and how we ask questions or validate attendance.

Each week can earn up to 3 attendance and participation points. Any points over 30 points are worth half their value, that is if a student attends and participates for all 12 weeks, their total points earned from attendance and participation will be 30 + (0.5×6) = 33.

Notice that you can miss up to two weeks without any penalty. This is by design to accommodate unexpected illness, emergencies, travel for interviews, or any other situations. Please do not ask for excused absences for one-off issues that are already covered by this policy. If extenuating circumstances cause you to miss more than two weeks, please contact us and we can work something out.

We will not count attendance for the first week of class.

Advanced Exercises (30% / 30 points)

Each week (except the first and last) will have at least one advanced exercise option. The intention is to give a guided exploration of topics that people find most interesting. These advanced exercises will also be a little more time consuming (2-3 hours), have a little less guidance, and require you to research and discover a little on your own. Over the course of the semester, you are expected to do three of the advanced exercises.

Advanced exercises may only be submitted at office hours. Advanced exercises come with a deadline roughly two weeks after they are released, however it is your responsibility to ensure you select an office hours session to attend before the deadline. There are no office hours at 9:30PM on Saturday night.

We will aim to announce any changes to the regular office hours schedule at least one week in advance (via Piazza and the updated course calendar), however sometimes life happens, in which case we may adjust deadlines if necessary.

Advanced Exercises Grading

The advanced exercises are graded on a simple all or nothing system, either you did the whole thing or you did not.

The class is divided into four sections, Introduction and Basics, Developing, Being Efficient, and Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. To encourage you to get started early and spread the advanced exercises load across the semester, the first advanced exercise you submit from each section is worth 10 points. Another advanced exercise in the same section is worth 5 points. If you do one advanced exercise from each section, the final section's first advanced exercise is worth half: 5 points. If a student completes all 11 advanced exercise, they will earn (10 + 5) + (10 + 5 + 5) + (10 + 5 + 5 ) + (5 + 5 + 5) = 70 points.

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