Assignment 1 Setup


The goal for this task is to be ready to do the hands-on work in class, and to be set up to do. You’ll be doing the following:

  • Github: getting set up with a Github account and software
  • Node: installing and setting up node.js and associated Javascript development tools
  • Paper: installing Paper.js, a Javascript graphics library
  • jQuery: installing jQuery, a Javascript utility library

If you have problems with any of these steps, Google first, then ask on Slack.


You’ll get credit for following these instructions and being prepared in class. You’ll lose credit for not being ready to be hands-on in class.


Set up a Github account. You’ll be turning in all of your code for this class by posting it to Github. If you haven’t used Git before, you’ll want to learn about it by reading Git Basics. Github has available Windows and Mac GUIs that you can use rather than the command line. (Note: if you already have a Github account but don’t want to use it, feel free to make a new one for the purposes of this class.)

Once you have a Github account, set up a new repository for this assignment. You’ll turn it in by giving me the link to this repository. I’d suggest starting to use this repository right away while you work on this assignment.

Note: Because everything on Github is by default publically-visible, you must be extra-careful about giving attribution to code you didn’t write yourself. If in doubt, double-check the syllabus for the attribution and plagiarism policies.

Node and Browserify

Install Node, a tool for running Javascript on your local machine (outside of the browser). Node is very popular and quite powerful, and lets you do many things including running a web server or controlling a robot.

Node comes with a package manager, npm; once you’ve got Node installed, you can use npm to install different modules. For modules you might use often you can use the -g option (for “global”) to install them once on your system; otherwise, the modules will be installed in your current project directory. You use the modules with the require statement (similar to import in Python):

var awesomeModule = require("awesomeModule");

Now all of the functionality of awesomeModule is available as the variable awesomeModule.

Because Node is often used standalone (without a browser), there is an extra step to be able to use Node modules with a web page. We need a program called Browserify which bundles up your code and all of the necessary Node modules into a single file you can include in your web page. You can install Browserify with npm install -g browserify. While you’re at it, install Watchify the same way: npm install -g watchify. Watchify automatically runs Browserify anytime your file changes, so you don’t have to remember to.

To use these programs, you’ll write all of your code in a single Javascript file, using require as necessary to load different modules. In a Terminal window, change directories to your project, then run watchify -d -v -o bundle.js yourfile.js (where yourfile.js is the name of your Javascript project file). Now, in your main HTML file, include the generated file with <script src="bundle.js"></script>.


I recommend using Paper.js for visualization. It’s a well-thought-out Javascript graphics library that has a lot of good documentation and examples. It has a special Javascript extension language called Paperscript which makes using it easier. In order to take advantage of it, you’ll want to not use npm to install Paper, but download it and install it from the site above, and include it in your HTML file directly via <script src="paperjs-v0.9.23/dist/paper-full.js"></script>. Read and work through the Paper tutorials so you understand how to use it.


  • If you find that your graphics aren’t showing up right away, try calling view.draw() to force an update.
  • Chrome often has better performance. However, to use Paperscript, Paper has to load the Javascript file and process it. This means it’s using Javascript to open local files, which Chrome prohibits. To get around this problem, start Chrome using the --allow-file-access-from-files argument. If you’re on a Mac, open a Terminal and run /Applications/Google\\ Chrome --allow-file-access-from-files &; then you can close the Terminal window.


JQuery is a handy Javascript library that does lots of useful stuff. Use npm to install it and include it with var $ = require('jquery');. To use JQuery in Paperscript files, you’ll need to add JQuery as a script line in your HTML file (<script src="node_modules/jquery/dist/jquery.min.js"></script>) and then reference its global variable in your Paperscript file: var $ = window.$;.

Other libraries

Feel free to use other libraries. If you have a favorite other than Paper, you’re welcome to use it as long as you can complete the assignment as requested.