Introduction to Data Analysis
As mentioned in the introductory pages, this course uses R, a free and open source software used by data analysts in many different contexts. In the next pages, we explain how to set up R and its companion software RStudio for the course.
Before we start installing and setting up anything, let's review the other tools that you will need to use in this class. You do not need to be a computer nerd to understand what follows. Remember to ask questions in class if things are unclear to you.
- You will need to bring a fairly recent laptop to class. It should be running Mac OS X, Windows or a standard Linux distribution. The software that we use also requires that your computer is equipped with a 64-bit processor, but we also offer support for older 32-bit machines.
- Make sure that you have decent disk space and memory. We recommend something like 4GB of free space on your hard drive, and at least 2GB of live memory (RAM). Check your computer specifications, especially if you are running a 'mini' laptop.
- Use a modern and secure browser. Anything but Microsoft Internet Explorer should do. Try Apple Safari, Google Chrome or [Mozilla Firefox][firefox]. Use bookmarks to keep track of the different pages that will be referred to in class: start by bookmarking the course index.
If your laptop is less than three years old, it probably matches everything in the list above. Tablets and other gadgets won't do. Finally, do not forget to bring your battery charger, as well as a USB stick in case the local wifi network fails us.
Along a laptop with Internet access, you will need to acquire a few computer skills to get through the course without too much hassle. Here's a short selection of such skills, on which we will also work during class.
- Check that you can install applications. This usually requires having admin privileges over your computer, i.e. a username and password combination that gives you the necessary rights to install some software. Also learn to locate the folder where programs are installed on your system.
- Keep control over files and folders. Make sure that you know how to unzip a file and that you know how to browse, locate, move and rename your files efficiently. This is generally easier if you keep things tidy and organized into a single folder accessible from your main screen.
- Get used to keyboard shortcuts! This is the most important bit: to get stuff done efficiently, practice using keyboard shortcuts. This is quicker than pointing and clicking. See, for example, if you know how to select text and browse a page from the keyboard.
These are very generic skills that will serve you in a variety of contexts.
Next: Installing R.