Getting Started with Github

For this course you will need to use github to manage your code and submit your assignments. Git is a widely used version control system originally developed by Linus Torvalds for use in managing development of the Linux operating system kernel. Github is company that provides free web-hosting for git repositories.

Follow the instructions below to get started using git and set up the repository you will use for this class (we’ll talk more about git in class, but this should be enough to get started):

  1. Register for a student github account:

    Note: you need to do this even if you already have a public github account, unless you have a paid account to support non-public repositories. With the student account, you will be able to have non-public repositories for free.

    You will need to verify your email address (which must be a .edu address), and then go back to the page to fill in a form to request a student account. You should then receive a “Powerup get!” message from github, and be able to create private repositories with your account.

  2. Set up git on the machine you will use for course assignments. Follow the instructions here: Follow the instructions to download and install a git client for your OS (Mac, Windows).

Using git for CCC

For some of the assignments in this course, we will provide starting code in a git repository and you will need to use separate private repository for each assignment. (After the assignment is due, you can make this repository public, both to share it as you wish, and to free up another private repository since the number of private repositories you get with your free education account is limited.)

Typically, you need to fetch the code skeleton from the respective public repository of the course every time before you start working.

The general process of working on projects is to (we’ll go through each step in detail below):

  1. Create a private repository on github.

  2. Clone the repository, so you have a local working copy.

  3. Get the code skeleton from the course repo, merge it into your working copy, and push to the main repository.

  4. Edit code and text files in your local copy.

  5. push the local changes to the main repository.

As you do the assignment, you should commit and push your changes regularly.

Setting up the Repository

Let’s take PS1 as an example. Here’s what you should do.

1. Create a new repository named ps1.

  • Visit
  • Select “Private” for the type of repository. (If you got a student discount correctly, this should be available for free. If it asks you for a credit card, go back to step 1 of setting up github.)
  • Keep the “Initialize this repository with a README” unchecked, since you will fetch it later from a public repository.

2. Clone the empty private repository to your working environment. Instead of mygithubname below, use your github username.

git clone

If you haven’t set up SSH keys for github, you’ll need to enter your github username and password.

3. Fetch the code skeleton from the course repository to your private repository. Enter the working directory of your empty repository and add a remote repository named starting, merge the code, and push it to your private repository by executing:

git remote add starting
git pull starting master
git push --tags origin master

Working with Files

Now you can write your own code in editor and save it to files. You can see what files have changed by running: git status. You should see something like this:

# On branch master
# Untracked files:
#   (use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed)
#   break_daves_key.go

In this example, nothing has been added to commit but untracked files are present.

To add the files to the main repository:

git add break_daves_key.go

You should try running git status again to see the files that will be committed. Note that add stages the file in its current state! If you modify the file after the add, the version of the file when you did the add is the version that will be committed.


git commit

commits the staged files to the main repository. This will launch and editor for you to enter a commit message. You can use -m to provide a message at the command line instead:

git commit -m 'I am no longer afraid of commitment!'

Your actual commit messages you use should be clear and useful. It is tempting to use lazy commit message, but you will regret this as your projects get more complex and code breaks in mysterious ways.

If you want to skip the two-stage commit, you can do:

git commit -a

to automatically add all new and changed files to the commit.

At this point, the changes are stored in your local repository, but not yet in the main repository. Once you have changes you want to push to the main repository:

git push

After this, all the changes are now pushed to the main repository at github. Visit your repository in github to see the result.

This seems like a lot of steps, but by providing a full local repository and making the steps of staging and pushing to the remote repository explicit, git provides developers with a lot of control over repositories that becomes very useful when several (or many) developers are working on the same project and trying to combine each others changes (or recover from mistakes).

There are many resources for learning more about git. The free book, Pro Git by Scott Chacon is recommended.

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