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The Computer--Hardware and Software

For first year Computer Science students (COMP131/132), the unit requires that you write programs in the C++ programming language. So the only software required on your home computer, other than communications software, is a C++ language compiler. There are many varieties of C++ compilers available for personal computers. Any one of these will do. Products from Borland, Microsoft, and many others will allow you to write C++ programs. There are also freely available C++ compilers that you can download from the Internet.

Communications software for an Internet connection comes standard with most computer operating systems these days. See the various sub-sections in Section 4 for more detail on communications software.

If you study Computer Science past COMP131/132, as well as C++ programming, you will be required to use a variety of languages and packages. If you want to avoid spending lots of money connecting to UNE, or purchasing software packages, it becomes important what sort of computer you have. For this reason we recommend that you have a computer capable of installing the Linux Operating System. If you do this, most software you need to use can be installed on your home system free of charge. There are also many other reasons why Linux is a good idea. These will be outlined in the next section.

In summary then, if you are just interested in what is needed for COMP131/132 then you simply need a computer with a C++ language compiler, a modem and some communications software. You can get these for almost any type of computer system. Modern operating systems come with Internet connection software as standard.

If you want to study Computer Science past COMP131/132 we recommend that you, at some stage, install Linux. Linux comes standard with Internet connection software and a C++ compiler. Here is a specification of an ideal computer system for this:

You may want to ask, ``Do I have to install Linux?''. The answer is no. You can get by with a combination of purchasing software and connecting to UNE to do work on-line. This is especially true for COMP131/132. However, it is something that we recommend you do sometime during your first year of studying Computer Science. Although some find it difficult, in the end most people find it a rewarding experience, and learn a lot about what makes up a computer system on the way.

Now read the next section and find out what Linux is!


Linux is a full featured, free clone of the Unix operating system. It was originally designed to run on computers based on the Intel 80386 processor, but, at the time of writing, now runs on 80386, 80486, Pentium, DEC Alpha, Motorola 68K, PowerPC, MIPS, Sparc and other processors. This includes multi-processor systems. It is a powerful operating system that is used widely in scientific workstations, as a business computing platform, as a software development platform and environment, as a network sever, ISP servers, embedded devices, and for personal computing. Some tests have shown it to outstrip the multi-million dollar efforts of commercial OS providers.

Linux is also extensively documented and supported. Some of these resources include:

Linux comes packaged in what are called distributions. A Linux distribution will usually consist of the Linux kernel source code and a complete development and work environment including language compilers, editors, the graphical X Window System, text processing, Unix utilities, networking, games, and much more. These distributions are available on CDROM or from the Internet. CDROMs are typically around $80 and are available from computer bookshops and CDROM vendors.

Another good source of Linux is from the CD found on the cover of some PC magazines. These offer full linux distributions from time to time. APC also put out a booklet and CD called the Linux Pocket Book for less than $20.

Some popular distributions include:

Red Hat
The RedHat distribution. As well as the CDROM from RedHat, this distribution comes with several Linux books. One of the easiest to install and most popular of the Linux distributions. Used extensively by UNE. See

Originally based on the RedHat distribution, it now has its own characteristics. Aimed mainly at desktop users.

This distribution, called OpenLinux, is aimed at business customers. Comes with the StarOffice8 package installed standard. See

Was one of the most popular distributions in years gone by. This distribution was widely used at UNE but RedHat seems to be used more these days.

The most popular distribution in Europe. See

Seems to contain the most packages of any distribution. Very popular with sophisticated users. See

There are many other distributions. You can use just about any one you like. If a package you want to use does not come on your distribution, you can always get that particular package from the Internet and install it yourself. UNE has a partial mirror (copy) of the RedHat distribution in the directory /usr/local/RedHat on turing.

Full mirrors of many distributions can be found, in Australia, from

For more information on distributions, read the Distribution-HOWTO document located in the Linux HOWTO directory mentioned above.

Installing Linux

We will not try to describe in detail how to install Linux here because it will be covered in great detail by the book or CDROM that you buy. We will instead outline the order in which you probably should go about the installation, and what you should do after the installation. These steps may not make much sense until you do some more reading of the installation process described on your CDROM.

next up previous contents
Next: Connecting to UNE Up: Your Home Computer Previous: Modems   Contents
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