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Introduction to Our Department's Computers


Specialized and advanced

Your personal computer

  • Security - firewalls, antivirus, alerts

The World Wide Web


These web pages are intended as basic instructions for faculty, graduate students, and staff of the Vanderbilt University Department of Mathematics. (Outsiders are also permitted to read these pages, and might find it slightly helpful to do so if they have equipment similar to ours.) We print out a few of these pages each fall for newcomers to our department, but all of the pages are available on-line at any time. This index page, in particular, can be found at The web pages listed here cover mainly the basics; more advanced and detailed instructions can be found in man pages, info pages, and other documentation files; there are also some printed manuals in room 1427. By the way, I would be grateful for any assistance in maintaining and updating these web pages; feel free to write a few paragraphs about any hardware or software that you are familiar with.

Our department purchased computers separate from the university's centralized computer system, in order to provide a Unix environment for program development. Unix makes things like grep, perl, C, and shell scripts available, and is more suitable than the university's system for our research programming. By maintaining our own computer system, we also have closer control over programs that we use frequently, such as

TeX (several flavors), Mathematica, Matlab, C, word-processing (including Emacs and VI), spreadsheets, email (including Berkeley and Pine), web browsers (including Netscape and Lynx), and other programs.
Most of our department's servers, laser printers, and terminals are in room 1427. We keep the door closed and locked all the time, but all department personnel have keys. A few graduate students have gotten the notion that that room is not intended for their use; let me take this opportunity to dispel that notion. Math department graduate students (as well as faculty and staff) are permitted, and encouraged, to use the equipment in room 1427. Just don't leave the door open, and don't bring in any food, drinks, or boomboxes.

Most of our equipment is "up" (i.e., running) most of the time, but occasionally some of it is "down" (i.e., unavailable) for a brief time -- either intentionally (for upgrades or maintenance) or unintentionally (if something is malfunctioning). You'll get advance warning for intentional downtime. For unintentional downtime, our superusers have been very good about fixing things quickly, and for this we are all grateful.

(For internet beginners, here is some terminology. A big computer is a "server"; several people can be logged into it simultaneously through terminals. We have several terminals in room 1427. If you have a personal computer of your own, it can also be used as a terminal, through your modem or other internet connection. The terminals are "clients" which are "served" by the server.)

We have several different servers. Our main servers share user file disks, so you have the same document files (and many of the same programs) available to you no matter which server you log into. At present (25 Oct 2002), our servers are as follows:

Your username and password for all of these computers is the same. A user's atlas directory shows up as "atlas" in the user's home directory on the other machines.

In addition to our servers, we have eight fairly powerful "personal" computers in rooms 1227, 1232, and 1427, all intended for math department general use (i.e., by faculty, graduate students, conference participants, and other official visitors). A couple of these are configured as Linux workstations; the rest are configured with Windows XP. You can see online descriptions of most of our Windows software.

We also have several departmental printers in rooms 1427, 1326, and 1227 (in addition to personal printers owned by some faculty members). We also have one fairly recent scanner in 1427.

Equipment outside our department. In addition to our department's equipment, you can also use your own equipment, or some other equipment belonging to the college or the university. This may be useful to you in a few ways:

A VU Math web page, latest alterations 13 Oct 2005 by webmaster.