Here's a step-by-step tutorial on how to set up your Python development environment.
Distribution and Compiler
The first step is to install Anaconda. Click here, select the appropriate version for your machine and operating system, download the .dmg file, open it and double-click the installer.
Next you'll need a C compiler. If you're using MacOSX, I recommend using Xcode which you can download free here. (This step may take a while so go get a beverage.) Once the download is complete, run the installer.
For future installation of packages, I recommend using Pip. To install this, at your Terminal command line type
sudo easy_install pip. Then whenever you want to install a package you might need, you just open Terminal and do
pip install package_name.
Not every package is this easy (though most are). One package we need is called AstroAsciiData and we can't get it through Pip. Instead go here, click on the link to download, unzip it, and put the folder with the rest of your packages in the directory /anaconda/pkgs/.
Then in Terminal, navigate to that directory with
cd /anaconda/pkgs/asciidata-1.1.1 and do
python setup.py install. If there are any other packages that Pip can't find, install them this way.
MacOSX comes with the text editing application TextEdit but it is not good for editing code. I strongly recommend using TextMate though it is not free so you should ask your advisor to buy a license for you! Otherwise, some folks find the free TextWrangler to be pretty good.
Next, you'll want to get access to the BDNYC database. Detailed instructions are here on how to setup Dropbox and Github on your machine in order to interact with the database.
Now to use Python, in Terminal just type
ipython --pylab. I recommend always launching Python this way to have the plotting library preloaded.