It is Sunday evening, and for a lot of students tomorrow will be the first day at Middlesex University. Formal lectures will only start on the 7th of October, but from tomorrow “induction week” is on and students will get their access cards and will go through a lot of activities, meeting staff members and other students.

This year I teach “Information Security Management” for MSc students in Electronic Security and Digital Forensics. I will talk about this in another post at some point in the future.

More importantly, tomorrow will be the first day for our new undergraduate Computer Science programme. This is a completely new programme: in their first year, students will use Racket, Arduino boards, Rasperry Pi, and a will do a lot of interesting things, including reading and posting tweets from a robot…

I still remember my first academic year and I can also remember my very first days at university. Given that the first days are so important (see the Baby duck syndrome for an interesting article on imprinting and software), we have decided to make this first week a bit different… We will work with students to learn the basic ingredients of LaTeX, “the de facto standard for the communication and publication of scientific documents”. LaTeX is a simple example of a programming language, and this is a simple example of LaTeX program:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 \documentclass{article}   \begin{document}   \title{Hello World!} \author{Franco Raimondi}   \maketitle   \section{Introduction} Printing Hello World is usually the first thing you learn in a programming language.   \section{Another section}   You probably know this equation: \begin{equation} E=mc^2 \end{equation}   This is another very important equation: \begin{equation} i \hbar \frac{\partial}{\partial t} \Psi = \hat{H} \Psi \end{equation}   \end{document}

With LaTeX you do not worry about the actual output, but you simply say that “Hello World” (line 5) is a title, that the Author is Franco Raimondi (line 6), that there is a section whose title is Introduction (line 10), and that the content of the section is “Printing Hello World is usually the first thing you learn in a programming language.” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hello_world_program if you want to know more). At line 13 another section begins, containing two equations (the syntax of equations in LaTeX will not be covered, but you can find plenty of documentation on-line).

In the labs, students will compile LaTeX code and generate PDF files using one of the many compilers available such as MiKTeX and TeXnicCenter, learning that the compiler takes care of the actual result.

Click on this link to see the final result for the example above.