Departmental Computing Resources
The department has dedicated staff and various resources to meet the ever growing computing needs of the department. This includes hardware, software, network resources and support staff to help in the day to day life of the department for teaching, research and administration. The primary departmental staff member is Hugh Chou, who is available to provide daily support on all aspects of your computing needs. Hugh's typical on-campus availability hours are 7:45am to 4:15pm daily. The department computing policies and resources are overseen by a departmental computer committee, comprised of departmental faculty and staff.
We can help you select computer systems and peripherals for whatever need may arise. (We have even been known to help with personal purchases!) We can help you find the best deals, although those can also be found at the WashU Purchasing site. Our preferred vendors for computers are Dell (Member# US11190783) and Apple (which can also be purchased at the Campus Bookstore.) Look here for Personal Dell Purchases. For accessories and peripherals we typically use CDW-G or NewEgg. Locally we purchase components at the Micro Center in Brentwood. Other preferred vendors with special discounts for us include Insight and GovConnection. For computer supplies, you can also get some good prices from Corporate Express/Staples, which you can order through the Marketplace at the AISystem web site.
Any tech problems, complaints or questions, let Hugh know. If you bother him too much with stupid Windows problems, he will simply start pushing Linux on everybody. He will try to respond to any request made between 8:00am to 4:00pm on business days within 24 hours, but is typically faster than that.
Classroom Computer Projectors
There are dedicated room projectors in all classrooms and meeting rooms. Classrooms 102, 203 and 282 are run by the Teaching Center and they should be contacted about those systems (although we can help out in a pinch.) Contact Hugh for assistance using the systems in any other room. The 281 projector is supported by Tom or Lars in the Remote Sensing lab. For other rooms, one Optoma (a portable 2000 lumen 1024x768 DLP Projector) is available for checkout. See Katherine to borrow it. Robert also has a portable XGA projector purchased from a Space grant that can be used for educational purposes.
We have remote SSH/SFTP access to select Linux servers in our department. If you would like to have Linux shell account to access the servers contact Hugh. Remote Desktop access to Windows machines is now directly blocked, so anyone wishing to access their desktops remotely will either need to use the campus VPN or use a different protocol.
The university now prefers any official website to be hosted at sites.wustl.edu, and discourages the use of departmentally hosted sites. However, for a simple site hosting a few files for download, we still let people host files on LEVEE since that is even easier than WordPress or Drupal. Any faculty or staff member can have space on LEVEE for this reason. Any student who wants a site can request a LEVEE account for web space and I can set it up for you too. Your personal webspace on levee is in the directory public_html in your home directory. This is accessed using the URL http: //levee.wustl.edu/~username/ or http: //epsc.wustl.edu/~username
Please do not place gigantic movies or dataset archives there since not everybody has a big fat pipe to the Internet like we do here at Wash U. If you want a fancy domain name like geodude.wustl.edu we can set that up as well if the name has not been taken and it serves some real purpose. As for content, you get to be creative but please refrain from being too political or commercial. This is a university after all. Also note that all the content on the main departmental site (eps.wustl.edu) can be updated by Katharina, Katharine or Hugh, so you can contact any of us to make changes on your page. Arts & Sciences maintains the hardware and software that runs it, but we can add whatever cool stuff we want there.
Our lovely building is currently a wifi hotspot hosting over 60 Cisco access points (SSID values of: wustl-2.0, wustl-encrypted-2.0, wustl-guest-2.0) flooding everywhere. Anyone with a WUSTL Key and a laptop with a 802.11b/g/n compatible wireless adapter (or any wifi capable tablet, smartphone or mobile device) should be able to access one of the wireless networks. You will need a laptop with the properly installed and configured software or an iOS or Android mobile device to use the secured wustl-encrypted-2.0 network. This is the most secure network and should be used for sending sensitive or personal data. The wustl-2.0 network should be fine for most general use for anyone with a WUSTL Key. Anyone without a WUSTL Key can use the wustl-guest-2.0 network, but should realize it is bandwidth limited and is not secured. It should still be fine for casual browsing and low security use. NSS provides the campuswide wireless service and they have some nice instructional pages on setting up your computer or mobile device. Many visitors from other institutions can also connect to the eduroam SSID and connect using their own institutions' authentication protocols. I know it works well for people from Saint Louis University and Mizzou.
Some folks think all of the ports on the walls of the modernly equipped Scott Rudolph Hall are all live. Those people are wrong! There are nearly 2,000 network jacks built into the walls but about 1,000 live ports on all our switches combined. If you want to connect a system to our network you must tell us what port you want to become active (e.g. 1234 N1). By default when you plug in to a live port you will be dynamically assigned an IP address, but it you want a static IP just ask and we can assign one to your specific machine (desktops, workstations and servers only please.)
Backing up your data is very important. We backup everybody's e-mail on the LEVEE e-mail server, but to allow it to work you must set your POP3 clients to leave the mail on the server for at least one day, or do not delete your mail from your Inbox for at least one day. Another easy way to backup your e-mail is to set up a GMail or Yahoo! account and send a copy to that account. We can help set that up for you if you need assistance. With today's giant hard drives on every PC, the department does not have the resources to backup everybody's computers. The backup of your document and data files is therefore your own responsibility, but we have several recommendations:
- Box.wustl.edu - Wash U IT is offering this new collaboration/file sharing tool which also provides backup capabilities for small collaborative projects with unlimited online storage. All the files shared online are backed up and available for remote access from anywhere. You can use either the Box Sync utility to sync a directory on your local system to your Box files, or Box Drive where everything is stored in the unlimited cloud without a local copy on your own drive.
- External USB Drive - Many people do not trust online backup so they can stick to a hardware based solution. That means an USB external hard drive or flash drive large enough to hold your essential documents. Most drives comes with some kind of backup software, but there are also free alternatives we can suggest.
- Microsoft OneDrive: The university Office 365 accounts also come with a OneDrive account. Does anybody really use OneDrive? Who, maybe all those Bing users? I did not think so. Since WUSTL Box is unlimited and has better sharing and access control features, it is better to use Box.
The department has some good deals for many popular packages through The Software Library and also directly with our primary software vendor, En Pointe.
There are billions of software packages out there, but these are ones we have available through special arrangements:
- Microsoft Operating Systems: We have the media for Windows 7 or 10 Education, Enterprise or Professional, both 32 and 64 bit versions. We also have media for XP, 98SE and 2000 Professional if you need them for a virtual machine. Similarly we have the media for MacOS 10.4/10.5, and numerous distributions of Linux (including Ubuntu, of course). Activation for the Microsoft operating systems is separate, but departmental systems can be activated on campus through the campus KMS servers.
- Office Suites: Microsoft Office. All registered university students can download a copy of the latest version of Office from their Office 365 account. Department faculty and staff can download the latest version from mscampus.wustl.edu. To activate the faculty/staff version you must do extra steps on your computer, so contact me and I can help you out. Both sites require WUSTL Key authentication. Braver souls can try the free alternatives like LibreOffice for free as well. For word processing only, try AbiWord which runs on Windows, Mac and Linux and does not eat up all the resources of Word or LibreOffice's Writer.
- MATLAB: Starting July 2017, the department now has a departmental license of MATLAB for use by anyone in the department including faculty, staff and graduate students. Undergraduates who need a license can purchase a student license for the one-time cost of $52 from the Software Library. Any faculty, staff or graduate student interested in installing MATLAB on their system should contact me for further instructions.
- Communications: For remote terminal access we recommend people use a SSH client like our favorite for Windows, MobaXterm. For file transfer we suggest the multi-platform favorite, FileZilla.
- Graphics: Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop version CS6 was the last version for which we could purchase "perpetual" licenses, and now we cannot even purchase that anymore. So now you must either buy your own Adobe subscriptionor use old software. Those wanting to try out the open source alternatives should give Inkscape, Photoscape or the GIMP a try.
- Anti-Virus: Sophos Anti-Virus - The department has purchased a large number of licenses for departmental use. We have both Windows and Mac versions. The corporate version cannot be used for home use, but Sophos does have a free home version. You can also try other free anti-virus package for home like AVG, Avast!, Avira AntiVir, or even Microsoft Security Essentials.
- Backup You really should backup your computer, since we do not do it for you! The safest and most secure place for backup is using the unlimited, encrypted online storage from box.wustl.edu. Use the Box Drive or Box Sync software, or just use your browser to upload and download specific files and folders.
- ArcGIS Due to a licensing agreement between the university and ESRI, any student, faculty or staff member can install ArcGIS on their computer for academic and research purposes. Visit the Data Services web site or just bug Bill Winston for more information and to find out how to obtain the software.
In Room 308 there is a Xerox Phaser 7400 color laserwriter and an HP 9040 for use with the GIS workstations. Print jobs are processed through the Papercut system and will be billed to the user's Campus Card account. In Room 222 there are two departmental printers available: a HP LaserJet 4200tn printer named chert that prints duplex black and white pages, and a HP Color Laserjet 4600dn for faculty and staff use. Everyone should always print to the black and white printers and not the color one when possible since the color pages are quite expensive! There is also a networked HP LaserJet 400 Color M451dn in the first floor office area. The two Kyocera copiers can also be used as networked color printers. Let Hugh know if you want to network your computer to these printers.
The department cheerfully supplies laser printer toner cartridges for any lab in the department. We no longer support inkjet printers. Our vendor also will recycle any used, empty toner cartridges, simply leave them under the delivery table in the main office. Let us know what supplies you need and we can usually get them in 1-2 days. Our preferred toner vendor is Office Essentials (via Marketplace) for toner. We also have a toner and service contract with Copying Concepts for our more heavily used networked laser printers. Please let us know when any printer with a Copying Concepts tag needs service or more toner.
All new students, faculty and staff now receive e-mail accounts on Office 365. However, anyone can receive an alias which gives them a @levee.wustl.edu or @eps.wustl.edu address forwarded to any e-mail account desired. Account requests can be sent via this online form and aliases can be requested here. We also have a number of mailing lists with @levee.wustl.edu addresses for sending out mass e-mails to people. You can contact us to add or remove you from the appropriate list.
The department maintains two independent, high performance Linux clusters as well as other dedicated Linux servers for scientific research.
High Performance Computing Laboratory
The Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences maintains two separate high performance Linux clusters as well as a number of standalone dedicated Linux servers for scientific research.
Our latest acquisition (delivered early 2017) is a 576 core cluster from Aspen Systems consisting of 24 nodes, each with two 12 core processors and 128GB of RAM. The cluster includes 30TB of shared attached storage, all interconnected with an Infiniband switch. The cluster has a full suite of compilers installed, including open source GNU compilers and optimized Intel compilers, as well as MATLAB and other scientific applications.
The seismology group has a farm of three Dell Linux servers, sharing a total of over 120TB of networked disk space managed by two separate RAID controllers. The Dell servers include one PowerEdge R900 with 24 cores and 128GB of RAM, and two PowerEdge R920 servers, both with 24 cores each (48 hyperthreads.) One R920 has 128GB of RAM and the other has 256GB. These Dell servers all have MATLAB and a suite of geophysical software dedicated for the analysis of seismic data.
We are still maintaining our older but still operational Beowulf cluster first brought online in 2005. The original cluster had 48 nodes and as of Fall 2017 there are still 34 nodes in operation. In comparison, each of those original nodes had a single 2GHz 64 bit AMD core and 1GB of RAM (although now several nodes have been upgraded to 2GB of RAM from the RAM of non-functional nodes.) This cluster was built as a farm of single socket tower servers from Aspen Systems interconnected with a standard 1GB ethernet switch. This cluster was primarily used to run CitCom finite element analysis.
There are now just too many Linux distributions to count, but we pretty much recommend two these days. Included below are links to mirrors to download them from the University of Indiana:
- Ubuntu Linux The most popular Linux distribution in the last several years has been Ubuntu which hails from South Africa. Ubuntu or one of its variants is probably the best pick for a laptop or desktop client. Being an Earth & Planetary Sciences department we must mention Ubuntu is the only distribution led by an individual who has actually travelled in outer space, Mark Shuttleworth. Based on Debian, Ubuntu has grown incredibly quickly in popularity and we found it to be one of the most stable distros for supporting modern hardware. It uses the Gnome desktop by default, gnome is also available and also a KDE version called kubuntu. Plus its versions have cool names like "Wily Werewolf", "Warty Warthog" and "Breezy Badger" which sounds a lot less geeky than just some numbers with a decimal point. For a server type system, make sure you use a long term support (LTS) version like the Xenial Xerus (16.04) or the Bionic Beaver (18.04) which will be supported for 3 full years (5 years for server packages). Most people with newer machines should use the amd64 version, but if you are trying it on an ancient system with less than 4GB of RAM or that does not support a 64-bit architecture, use the i386 version.
- CentOS is an open distribution based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which provides an enterprise class distribution 100% compatible with the commercial product from Red Hat. It is what we run on most of our servers. It tries to stay current with the latest Red Hat releases, yet offers free support via their community and web site. It is not be as cutting edge as Ubuntu or other distros, but makes up for that with more stability and reliability. A similar open distro compiled from Red Hat Enterprise source code is Scientific Linux which is maintained by several prominent scientific institutions.
Anyone who wants to borrow a Linux DVD or flash drive to test on their system can stop by my office and I will gladly let you give it a try.
Some labs and areas have there own specific people who maintain their computing systems, and they should be contacted directly
Remote Sensing Laboratory
High Performance Computing Laboratory 375/376
All other areas