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Linux Cluster

    Basic Rules

      • Use of these systems is subject to the same rules and regulations governing all computer use at UCL.
      • Use your own account and no-one else's - conversely, don't give anyone else your username and password.
      • Don't eat in the cluster room. There are other places to eat, please use them instead.
      • Don't unplug anything that's already plugged in, don't turn any PCs off. These workstations can sometimes be running other people's compute jobs behind the scenes, and turning them off can cause lost work and data. Unplugging a monitor can be annoying for a subsequent user or class.
      • Don't save data on these systems. Well, you can if you want, but there's no guarantee it'll be there when you return. This holds particularly true for the Windows virtual machines. If you want to save something, put it in your home directory if it's small, or your DATA directory if it's large, or on your ISD N: drive if you want to access it from Desktop@UCL systems in the future.
      • Leave the room as tidy as you'd want to find it.

      Getting Started

      About The Teaching Cluster

      The Unix Teaching Cluster in Pearson 110a comprises 23 PCs running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7. These have an Intel Xeon E5-1620 v2 processor (four cores, 3.7GHz), 32GB RAM and an NVidia GeForce GT 730 (2GB RAM, 384 CUDA cores at 900MHz). They run current versions of Matlab, Envi/IDL, Intel Compilers, and Anaconda Python, tailored for Geography use. They also have a Windows 7 virtual machine, again tailored for Geography use.

      Accessing the Cluster

      The systems are generally available from 9am-5pm, but the room is booked during term time for lectures. The current bookings can be seen at:

      Logging In

      You should already have been supplied with a Geography username and password. The username will be the same as your UCL one (zcfa..., ucfa... or similar), but the password is generated locally and only works for Geography systems.

      Opening and Using a Terminal

      Much of your work will be conducted (or at least started) in a terminal session. This might also be referred to as "in a shell", "in bash", "in a terminal", or "on the command line". There should be an icon on your desktop to start a terminal session. It'll have the label "Terminal".

      To run a command in a terminal, type the text and hit the return/enter key. Just note that these commands are all case sensitive, and if there's a space in an example, you probably really do need to use a space.

      Logging Out

      The workstations in 110a will not log you out after a period of time, so you need to make sure you log out manually. Not doing so leaves you open to data loss or impersonation.

      Log out by selecting the "Log Out" option from the "System" menu in the top left of the screen.

      If you're still running programs then the system might object and let you know what needs to be closed before you exit. It's best to use the correct method for closing these or you might end up losing unsaved data.

      Turning The PC Off

      Please don't. These machines are often used remotely, so turning them off can really disrupt other people's work. Thanks for thinking green though!

      Accessing Data

      Home Directory

      You home directory contains all of your settings, documents, downloads and anything on your desktop. This area is backed up regularly. It's limited to 1GB initially, so you'll need to put larger amounts of data into your Data/Project directories (see below). Do not use this for storing anything not work-related.

      From a terminal you can get to this directory using the command: cd ~

      Data/Project Directories

      Your home directory may have two subdirectories: DATA and Project. These are symbolic links (like shortcuts) to data storage areas outside your home directory, and aren't so restricted in terms of disk space. These are not backed up. Your DATA directory may have subdirectories (again, possibly symbolic links / shortcuts) for each of your courses. Please use these (and say if they're not present) as they help us manage data and provide a good service. Again, do not use this for storing anything not work-related.

      From the terminal you can get to the DATA directory using the command: cd ~/DATA

      UCL Filestore (N: Drive)

      The UCL Filestore works very well, and is backed up regularly.

      There should be an icon on your desktop that helps you connect to this, called "Connect to N: Drive". Double-click on this and enter your UCL password (not your Geography one this time) when prompted, and you'll be able to access your N: Drive. This area is disconnected when you log out of the PC.

      Aside from this method, ISD has provided a helpful page showing how to connect to this from Windows, Mac and Linux, which starts by asking for your UCL username:

      If you connect to this from a Windows 7 VM then you must make sure your login details/credentials are not saved. This is because the Windows 7 VMs are not user-specific, and if your details are saved the next person who uses the VM would have access to your data.

      Note that this service is supported by ISD, so any issues or backup requests need to be directed to the ISD ServiceDesk.

      USB Keys

      USB keys should generally Just Work. Plug one in and you should see a window pop up showing the key's contents. There are three things to be aware of:

      1. As with Windows or a Mac, you need to unmount (eject) the USB key before unplugging it. This can be done through a terminal (use the command umount /dev/sdc), or by right-clicking on the USB key's icon and selecting "Unmount".
      2. A USB key needs to be formatted before it can be used. You've almost certainly done this already on another computer, but there are some file systems (ways of formatting) that these workstations don't understand. Let us know if you're having a problem along these lines and we’ll try to help.
      3. One day your USB key will fail. Or you'll lose it. Either way, at some point you're going to find you can't get data from it, and if it's the only place you keep an important document you'll be very very sad. Common sense, but there have been far too many people left unhappy by reliance on USB keys. If you care about your data, don't keep it only on a USB key.


      There's loads of software installed.  Recent additions include:

      • Octave. Octave version 4 is installed, and can be run using the command "octave". This software is an open source alternative to Matlab and should be able to (mostly) run Matlab code  without any modifications.
      • Chromium Web Browser. This is a clone of Google's Chrome browser. By all means use it, but be aware of the data slurping of Google.
      • SPSS. SPSS version 22 is being installed on all cluster nodes, and can be run using the command "spss".