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post #1 of 11 Old October 15th, 2015, 10:12 AM Thread Starter
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Coding software questions.

My son is 11 and has been doing robotics competitions the last few years. They do some basic coding for the robots. He asked for a laptop with coding software on it for Christmas this year to be able to do more advanced coding. I have only basic knowledge of computers and I am not sure what would be a good starter set up. The budget for the laptop and software is going to be around 800 bucks. I'm looking for good recommendations to get him going. I think this is something that could pay off later in life for him if he gets in to it and sticks with it.

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post #2 of 11 Old October 15th, 2015, 11:16 PM
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Woah, $800 budget will get you pretty far!

Maybe if you expand on what software he uses now and what the "more advanced" is I can help target your search better. Until then I will just say that anything you spend $800 will be more than enough for quite a while.




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post #3 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 01:22 AM
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In my opinion depending on what you are doing, you don't need to spend a dime on software for programming. There are many companies that have free non-commercial products that will get you started. Maybe he has something in mind as far as what language he wants to learn or are you just looking for suggestions? Do you have any idea what language he is using with these robots?
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post #4 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 01:41 AM
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I recommend anything Safi says. He's magic. Probly helped me keep sane in some of my computer science classes. But 800 is a ton..I mean crist, I code on a pos computer at school with garbage specs..using putty to connect to a Unix server..on garbage school internet..point being, you don't really need anything special.. I enjoy my desktop when writing code because I use 2 monitors which makes life sooooooo much easier.

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post #5 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 01:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Iasis View Post
In my opinion depending on what you are doing, you don't need to spend a dime on software for programming. There are many companies that have free non-commercial products that will get you started. Maybe he has something in mind as far as what language he wants to learn or are you just looking for suggestions? Do you have any idea what language he is using with these robots?
This.

There are so many compilers out there for free, for pretty much any language you want to learn. All you have to do is type in online compiler and you have 100s at your fingertips. Eclipse is a popular free comiler also that every school I have ever been to seems to push for students to use at home.

I would imagine he would be using either Python or Arduino, but id lean more toward Python as thats the easier of the two, given the age group.

As far as computers go, writing basic code isnt super processor or ram intensive so his need for a computer is basic. I wouldnt spend the whole 800 bucks on the gift. 500 will get you a solid laptop these days at any big box store. However, If you choose to buy used, you can get a hell of a laptop for 800. Im a big second hand fan, so used doesnt bother me. If you go this route, stay away from Apple computers unless your little guy is pretty computer savvy. Its a little more difficult (or was when I was in college) to find compiler software for OSX, especially if he does in fact need a specific program. I could always write my code but had to use the shell to run the script. But again, this is a problem that can quickly be solved with a google search.

I gotta say kudos to you for being so willing to put the investment into this skill. It truly is one that if he sticks with it will set him up financially for the rest of his life. He will be able to do a LOT of things with coding knowledge.

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post #6 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 03:14 AM
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Heck if he's doing python, you can use terminal on Mac or powershell on windows, or pythonidle, notepad++ and the list goes on and on. Eclipse is a great ide..you can even get visual studio for free if that's needed

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post #7 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 12:24 PM Thread Starter
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I'll ask what he is coding in now at school. 800 includes the price of the laptop too. And I am open to suggestion as to what language he should start with as well. Like I said I only know the basics when it comes to using a computer.

---------- Post added at 10:24 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:56 AM ----------

Also where would be a good place to look in to a used laptop?

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post #8 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 08:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iasis View Post
In my opinion depending on what you are doing, you don't need to spend a dime on software for programming. There are many companies that have free non-commercial products that will get you started. Maybe he has something in mind as far as what language he wants to learn or are you just looking for suggestions? Do you have any idea what language he is using with these robots?
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Originally Posted by JCP281 View Post
This.

There are so many compilers out there for free, for pretty much any language you want to learn. All you have to do is type in online compiler and you have 100s at your fingertips. Eclipse is a popular free comiler also that every school I have ever been to seems to push for students to use at home.

In general I agree with you two, but what you guys are thinking is what I imagine his son will be doing in a few years when he's more "advanced".

When it comes to Robotics (or any embedded systems) you generally have two ways of going about things

1) Program the device directly. Typically done in C with libraries provided by manufacturers and compiled to a binary (then loaded on the chips EEPROM via USB)
2) The manufacturer provides some software to interact with the board being used

The first is what you guys are talking about such as the Arduino, Teensy, and others. Of course they have wrappers so you can develop in a more 'friendly' language like Python, but at the end of the day you're still loading a raw hex onto the chip.

Robotics at his sons level is almost always in the second class...and more so they are meant for teaching kids so they use visual programming (things like https://scratch.mit.edu/). No C, Python, or any other programming language. Almost everything here is proprietary so for robot X you must use the visual programming IDE for X and it does not work on robot Y.

The good robots anticipate people moving forward in the domain and therefore also provide the C libraries which makes things easier once kids move on to more advanced things, but this is not always the case


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Originally Posted by TCStang View Post
I'll ask what he is coding in now at school. 800 includes the price of the laptop too. And I am open to suggestion as to what language he should start with as well. Like I said I only know the basics when it comes to using a computer.

---------- Post added at 10:24 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:56 AM ----------

Also where would be a good place to look in to a used laptop?
Again, I'll hold off real suggestions until I know exactly what it is he's doing now and can guide you in the right direction. Especially for the which language to learn topic which is a very controversial topic lol.

As far as where to buy used...I've always had good luck on craigslist. Also check out some big stores and ask if they have any open box items. I bought my first MacBook Pro at fry's because they found it in the back, opened and without a price, and the manager just gave it to me for $1000.




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post #9 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 10:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Safi View Post
In general I agree with you two, but what you guys are thinking is what I imagine his son will be doing in a few years when he's more "advanced".

When it comes to Robotics (or any embedded systems) you generally have two ways of going about things

1) Program the device directly. Typically done in C with libraries provided by manufacturers and compiled to a binary (then loaded on the chips EEPROM via USB)
2) The manufacturer provides some software to interact with the board being used

The first is what you guys are talking about such as the Arduino, Teensy, and others. Of course they have wrappers so you can develop in a more 'friendly' language like Python, but at the end of the day you're still loading a raw hex onto the chip.

Robotics at his sons level is almost always in the second class...and more so they are meant for teaching kids so they use visual programming (things like https://scratch.mit.edu/). No C, Python, or any other programming language. Almost everything here is proprietary so for robot X you must use the visual programming IDE for X and it does not work on robot Y.

The good robots anticipate people moving forward in the domain and therefore also provide the C libraries which makes things easier once kids move on to more advanced things, but this is not always the case




Again, I'll hold off real suggestions until I know exactly what it is he's doing now and can guide you in the right direction. Especially for the which language to learn topic which is a very controversial topic lol.

As far as where to buy used...I've always had good luck on craigslist. Also check out some big stores and ask if they have any open box items. I bought my first MacBook Pro at fry's because they found it in the back, opened and without a price, and the manager just gave it to me for $1000.
Good point.

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post #10 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 11:07 PM
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Hmm better idea here. I would totally save the money on the laptop and instead spend it elsewhere. Where might you ask? on a 3d printer, and raspberry pi and some robotics equipment. With the rasberry pi your son can make all sorts of things. They come with sensors such as cameras, wifi, etc and you can buy more. Also they are a little more powerful than a arduino. So basically your son would have a programmable computer some servos, lights, whatever comes in robotics kits AND a 3d printer to design parts for his robots. At this rate you'll have a couple hundred left to spend on a basic laptop which is all you need to program. i3 250gb is honestly all you need. I programmed on a netbook for school
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post #11 of 11 Old October 16th, 2015, 11:35 PM
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Hmm better idea here. I would totally save the money on the laptop and instead spend it elsewhere. Where might you ask? on a 3d printer, and raspberry pi and some robotics equipment. With the rasberry pi your son can make all sorts of things. They come with sensors such as cameras, wifi, etc and you can buy more. Also they are a little more powerful than a arduino. So basically your son would have a programmable computer some servos, lights, whatever comes in robotics kits AND a 3d printer to design parts for his robots. At this rate you'll have a couple hundred left to spend on a basic laptop which is all you need to program. i3 250gb is honestly all you need. I programmed on a netbook for school
Bless your soul. At work, I need 2 big ass screens just to write my SQL scripts. HAHA I couldnt imagine using a netbook to code with.

Great suggestion also.

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