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Physics 3730/6720 Your First Lab Session

Spring Semester 2017

These instructions are intended for students who are using the computer lab for the first time.

Your account

If you didn't already have a Physics computer account before you enrolled in this class, you should have received a sheet of paper with your username and password. Students who registered late may have been missed. Please see the instructor if you don't have your account information.

Selecting the Lab Server

We use terminals in the computer lab. They are are supported by three large servers elsewhere in the building. The ones for our course are called "cygnus", "orion", and "draco". You should find them in the icons on the left of your screen. Double-click on one of them. You should then get a login banner for that server.

Note that the server will save your session unless you log off. It is saved if you kill the desktop window (the X at the top right). When you log in to the same server, you should find your session. If you log into a different server, you won't. So if you want to keep your session going in this way, please remember the one you chose. Also, please be sure all your work is saved to a file before leaving your session.

Logging in

Type in your username, hit enter, and then type in your password when prompted. Unix is case-sensitive, so be careful to use upper and lower case exactly as given.

Starting a terminal window

If you don't already have a terminal window, move the cursor to an empty place on the desktop, and with the right mouse button, pull down a menu and select "Open in terminal". You should get a terminal window.

Change your password immediately

If this is the first time you have logged in, you will be asked to change your password immediately. This is important. Do this in the terminal window. If you aren't already being asked to change it, type in the command passwd to do it. You will first be asked for your current password. Then you will be asked twice to enter the new one.

Your password is a string of letters, numbers, and/or special characters that you can remember easily but others would find it difficult to guess. Unix distinguishes upper and lowercase letters. For the sake of security on this system, we urge you to choose your password wisely. Don't use names and words found in dictionaries or any personal information others are likely to know. A combination of letters and numbers, upper and lowercase and/or special characters is good. Your password should contain at least six characters. For example, you could create a password from the first letters of a mnemonic phrase, such as ``TatDyrlf!'' for ``These aren't the Droids you are looking for!''. (But don't use this one, now! Make up your own.)

The Applications menu

On the menu bar at the top of the screen you should see an "Applications" pull-down menu. It takes you to the web browser, e-mail, and various applications.

Firefox web browser

We use Firefox. Starting from the "Applications" menu at the top left, select "Internet" -> "Firefox"

Typing in a Terminal Window

The command interpreter is called the shell. The terminal window is the basic interface for communicating with the shell. Any command or other information you type will not be interpreted until you hit <Enter>. Before that, you may hit <Backspace> to redo the previous character. To redo the entire command from the beginning, hold down the <Ctrl> key while typing u. (This operation is abbreviated C-u in the class notes.)

Bottom Terminal Bar

The bottom terminal bar has tabs for each open window. Click on the tab for a window to toggle between bringing it to the front and hiding it.

Multiple Desktops

Notice that the bottom terminal bar has a several rectangles on the right. These are for selecting different desktops, should you decide to organize your session this way. Click to switch to another desktop. You can also use the mouse to drag windows between desktops.

Systems menu and logging out

From the menu bar at the top of the screen, go to the System menu. Select "Log out ...".

Locking screens

Please do not lock your screen unless you are just taking a quick bathroom break. The terminals are shared by everyone. Locked sessions will be killed by the administration with no guarantees that your work is saved.
This page is maintained by:
Carleton DeTar Physics 3730/6720 Instructor
Last modified: 2 January 2017