Getting Started in 6.171 Spring 2006

Course Home Page : One Subsection
Digital photo titled cruise-ship-in-port Admission to 6.171 is by permission of instructor. If you'd like to take the class, please fill out the survey (by January 12, 2006) and return it via email. If you are unsure about whether your preparation is adequate, a good way to find out is by simply doing the work in the first chapter/pset and including the URL of your running system in your survey. This will reassure us of your ability to install and maintain the multiple subsystems that are, unfortunately, required to support a modern Web application.

Note that this is the page for information about this particular semester's offering of 6.171. For background on the course, please see and the textbook (full text on-line). For inspiration, note that many 6.171 graduates have had successful careers in graduate school, at big companies such as Google and Microsoft, and even on television (Randal Pinkett, for example, was selected in 2005 by Donald Trump as his "apprentice").

One of the good things about 6.171 is that students are free to use tools of their choosing in completing the coursework. The upside of this is that if you've had a summer job in which you used Postgres and PHP (for example), you won't be distracted during the semester by having to learn new syntax. The downside is that we, the teaching staff, can't help you very much with setup and administration of tools. Each student is expected to set up and maintain his or her environment, on his or her own computer, ideally a couple of weeks before the start of the semester.

If you have not done any Web development already and therefore aren't familiar with any of the standard tools, we can suggest some ways to configure your development server based on our past experience. The Basics chapter of the course text,, discusses tool options (to the list in the book you might want to add "Ruby on Rails"). In choosing tools, please note that 6.171 requires the use of an ACID-compliant relational database management system. You'll learn the definition of "ACID" during the semester. But for now suffice it to say that MySQL is out; Microsoft SQL Server, Postgres, and Oracle are in.

Here are some helpful links for things that are either popular or non-obvious: