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Trying to learn Python, or shaving the yak - Input Junkie
October 10th, 2012
09:34 am


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Trying to learn Python, or shaving the yak
I had some aggravating fun with intro to JavaScript codecademy, and I'd heard good things about Learn Python the Hard Way, so I thought I'd take a crack at Python.

I do not guarantee that this account has every precious, annoying detail.

Learn Python the Hard Way says I need Python on my computer. That seems simple enough-- I've installed perl. But you can't have python unless you put it in a path, and it doesn't seem to be working. I tell dcseain, and it turns out that I have Windows Home Premium and it's very hard to do path things in Windows Home Premium and it's easy to do them in Windows Professional.

I suspect that the sort of people who write pages on how to install Python wouldn't lower themselves to have Windows Home Premium.

I assume that the Upgrade Anytime on my start menu means that I can send money to Microsoft and Upgrade Anytime. However, I send the money and the email with my upgrade code does not arrive. The money has gone out of my bank account.

I talk with a number of people. Their script is polite, but I have to get passed around to several people until I get to someone who can find the transaction. I don't have the order number because I DID NOT GET THE CONFIRMATION EMAIL.

She wants me to order the upgrade again, and pay for it again. I tell her I want my money back. She's willing to send it back, but she's very serious about how it would be stealing if I use the upgrade number in the email I never received. There is a mysterious $1 charge to Microsoft in addition to the $90+ that the upgrade costs. She never acknowledges the existence of the $1.

Days later, I notice that the refund appeared the day after I complained. I still can't figure out how it took me so long to notice it. "Too angry to see straight" is the boring explanation, but I suspect poltergeists.

I decide that I will never deal directly with Microsoft again if I can possibly avoid it, and order the upgrade (slightly cheaper because of no sales tax) from New Egg. For whatever reason, New Egg sends the upgrade code in a moderately large plastic box, but at least it arrives.

Microsoft sends me a feedback form. I say the people I dealt with were polite but all they needed to do was resend the code, and they didn't. I wish I'd taken a screen shot of the page where they offered a range of buttons from "I was very pleased" to "I will go out of my way to complain about this". I'm not exaggerating on the last one, and it may have been stronger than I remember it.

I have a limited number of characters to explain what happened, and I forget to mention the mysterious $1 charge.

My laptop has been bluescreening on startup. I've been able to start the machine by following the directions, but this is unnerving. When I enter the New Egg code, it bluescreens again, and I decide not to chance further problems.

Anyway, I should have backups. My sister's boyfriend suggests CrashPlan. He's got enough experience that CrashPlan is probably decent. I've done some research on free backup software, and there didn't seem to be anything convenient about how reliable the restore is.

I know I own a terrabyte drive, but I can't find it. I use CrashPlan to back up to the cloud. It takes two and a half days.

I find the terrabyte drive. I'd connected it to the laptop, but I was looking for it in its cardboard wrapper. Now I know what a terrabyte drive might look like.

I learn about SafeMode. F8, F8, F8 (about twice per second) when the computer is booting. I can get to normal operation from safe mode. This is good, because the instructions which appear on the bluescreen aren't working any more.

I back up to the terrabyte disk (3 hours, I think), but I'm inclined to think that $3/month for CrashPlan's cloud storage might be worth it just to be on the safe side.

I now also have an image of my disk on the terrabyte drive, and I've run chkdsk (about 3 1/2 hours). I think I've bluescreened since then, but I'm not sure. I obviously should have been keeping a record. On paper. A draft of a review of A Casual Vacancy got lost in the course of reviving the computer.

A description of what went wrong with the computer includes "AutoFailover", which I admit is pretty good. Perhaps I will find occasion to use that word. I have a paper copy of the description which I will transcribe if anyone is interested.

So, my computer is backed up in more than one way, and this time the New Egg code worked. I have Windows 7 Professional.

I'm supposed to have Notepad++ with Powershell. I don't know why this is better than the Python Command Line which came with the language, and which isn't working any better than PowerShell.

Powershell is apparently something like unix, but not exactly. Apparently, Powershell is a useful tool for wrangling Windows machines and/or breaking them.

I try to download modules for Powershell, but I have to be able to sign things.

I'd already downloaded Python2.7.3.
If after you install it python still isn't recognized then in powershell enter this: [Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable("Path", "$env:Path;C:\Python27", "User")

and now when I type python at the prompt, I get a copyright notice and how to access help and such.

At some point in all this, I come up with "The horrible thing about computers is that they almost work".


Learn how to make a directory in the Terminal. Search online for help.

Learn how to change into a directory in the Terminal. Again search online.

Nothing that I've found works. Now I know that if detailed instructions include "search online for help" I should cue ominous music. The people who wrote the instructions don't even have a good link.

I have just discovered that PowerShell for Dummies exists. Also, Codecademy has an intro to Python. I'm still curious about why I can just download perl and have it work, but Python is encased in shifting concrete-like layers of mishegos.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/553529.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
Argh. What a nightmare.

I have taken to using my phone to snap screenshots of error messages and such on the PC, when it's acting up, which gives me a record not on the PC.

I have become very fond of iObit's free maintenance software, which seems to untangle things well and which (unlike Windows) can install MS updates without bricking the machine.

And yes, that sounds like a pretty good deal on offsite storage.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
Well, you did say at the start you wanted to learn Python the hard way...
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
Windows is a pain to develop on, and its paths (including their inconsistency between version) are one of the big reasons.

Nitpick: It's "terabyte," not "terrabyte." Back when the term meant "more than you can imagine," a co-worker suggested "trilobyte" would be the next thing after gigabyte. When someone corrected him to "terabyte," he said that a terabyte is just a trilobyte that's crawled out on land.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
So...do you have a working computer now?

I think you can, actually, set you environment with Windows 7 Home Premium. I found some promising ideas by searching online for help (yeah, yeah, I know, but I did).
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 07:10 pm (UTC)
It's working, but I don't think the tendency to bluescreen when starting up is actually solved. It's hard to be sure with an erratic problem like that.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 07:14 pm (UTC)
Ug. Not good.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 06:28 pm (UTC)
The advantage to a command shell/terminal, btw, is that it's like a CMD prompt -- but it's intended to be used by actual users (and was designed by people who intended it for that usage rather than more or less acreting).

This means that terminals have a lot of time-saving features, and are much better at giving you ways to pass funny characters down to the program you're running (with syntax similar to perl or Python -- single quotes for literal text and double quotes for interpolated text), etc. Trying to use a command line program like python is incredibly painful from CMD, but is quite pleasant from a unix-like shell once you get the hang of it. (although there are features about Python that make it non-ideal from the command line, and for other reasons as well, I'd recommend learning a more recent language like Ruby instead).
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2012 02:21 am (UTC)
Sorry about all the yak-shaving. Computers are awful.

If you ever feel like trying Python in your web browser instead, http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/cs101/CourseRev/apr2012 looks well done as a course and worked for me when I dipped into it. http://www.pythontutor.com/ also looks promising.
[User Picture]
Date:October 13th, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
Having left a phone call with you only a few minutes ago and only following up to this link you sent me about this, all I can say is that I'm sorry you had to go through all of that. At least now you better understand why I got totally fed up with Microsoft back in 2005 and became a full time Ubuntu Linux user.

As some of your friends here might possibly want to get the full equivalent of CrashPlan for FREE I'm posting the link here. This is the page to go to in order to download the windows software which permit you to use this feature of Ubuntu with your windows computer.

The other thing we discussed on the phone was how to get an Ubuntu Live CD that allows you to boot your computer to Ubuntu without actually installing it, even if the hard disk is missing or corrupted with a virus. During the call I verified that Python exists as an option in the software installer but for some reason appears to be already installed, and I don't see why I would have done that. It may be included by default. Imagine being able to do python without installing anything, even Python. Had we only discussed this a few weeks ago.

To make an Ubuntu Live CD, open This Link, download the offered .ISO file, then attempt to open the file and windows should automagically assume you wish to burn it to a blank CD. it may offer you a menu to select that from.

After you've created the bootable CD booting your computer to the easy or difficult, but being you are using a Dell Inspiron, I strongly suspect your computer will automatically boot to the CD any time the CD is in the CDrom drive when it is turned on. If not you may have to press an Fkey when booting to get a boot menu.

Please call upon tamar_lindsay for help with the use of your Live CD as she has become pretty experienced with using one as a diagnostic tool and may actually be better at walking you through it than I would be.

If at some point you want to make your Inspiron into a dual-boot computer, I recommend using the 64 bit version instead, planning at least three hours for the operation and having me on the phone for that, but first you should become familiar with the use of the Live CD.
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