Overview of the departmental computing systems

The departmental computing systems are a mix of Linux (Fedora) and Windows XP systems.

Our main server is named prism. This system provides disk, e-mail, password and other services to the rest of the computers in the department. It is not intended to be used for processing large computations.

We also have three Linux systems with a memory size of 3GB or more for large compute jobs.

There should be a computer in your office. If not then please let us know.

Linux and Windows computer systems are available for use in rooms 1006 and 1229. You will receive keys for these rooms when you get your office key. The same key should work in both doors.

You are, of course, permitted to bring your laptop in but please check with us before connecting it to the network. We also have wireless access but it is connected to a generic McGill network segment rather than the math department. This will prevent you from using the printers or seeing your home directory files.

The department has licenses for several commercial software packages including Maple, Matlab, Mathematica, SPSS and SAS. Pari/gp and R are also available. This software is available on all lab and office computers. We are not permitted to install commercial site licensed software on student laptops. There are free and open source software packages available that do most of the things that the commercial packages do.

Accounts and Passwords

Our network has two password domains;

  • the Linux systems (often called your "prism" password) and
  • the Windows systems

Accounts were created for you in each domain. To change your Linux password log on to any Linux system in the department, open a terminal session and use the command:

You will be prompted to enter your old and then new password. The system is a bit fussy about passwords and won't let you use a dictionary word. Good passwords should be at least 8 characters long and include numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols.

To change your password, on Windows first log on and then hit the control-alt-delete keys. Select "Change Password".

You are also welcome to come by our offices for assistance in changing passwords.

Account expiry

Your computer accounts are set to expiry three months after your expected completion date. We will extend your account for as long as you are a student in the department but the expiry is automatic so you MUST let us know.

You can see your account expiry date by logging on to any linux system and entering the following at the command line:
chage -l your_username


Printers are located in the labs on the 10th and 12th floor.

  • lp05 room 1006 color laser printer - simplex
  • lp06 room 1006 monochrome laser printer - duplex
  • lp08 room 1006 monochrome laser printer - duplex
  • lp02 room 1229 monochrome laser printer - simplex

Students have a print quota of 150 pages per month. This is primarily to prevent abuse of printing facilities and we will be happy to refresh your quota if you need it.

You can determine your page usage by pointing your web browser at: http://printers.math.mcgill.ca:9191/


Your e-mail address is based on your username and is of the form: username@math.mcgill.ca

The easiest way to access to your e-mail is through our webmail service located at http://webmail.math.mcgill.ca.

You can also use GUI mail clients such as Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird. They require a small amount of setup on your part but have much more functionality and are well worth the effort.

Specify the following servers:

  • IMAP (incoming) server: imap.math.mcgill.ca
  • SMTP (outgoing) server: mailhost.mcgill.ca

If you are setting up a client at home you will used the same IMAP server but the SMTP server will be provided by your ISP.

  • Videotron: relais.videotron.ca
  • Sympatico: smtp8.sympatico.ca

In addition to your departmenta1 e-mail account you also have a McGill account. It's important to check your McGill e-mail regularly. The university considers e-mail sent to-that address as "official". It is possible to forward your McGill e-mail to your math account (or vice versa) so that you can read all your mail in one place.

You can find out more about your McGill e-mail account on the web at: http://www.mcgill.ca/ncs/email

Remote Access

Our systems are not generally available to the outside world. Remote logins are blocked to all systems except prism.math.mcgill.ca. You can log on remotely to a terminal window with ssh or telnet.

The PuTTY client is a very popular ssh client for Windows: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/

On Apple/OS X open a terminal window and type: ssh your_username@prism.math.mcgill.ca

Acceptable use

Students are required to abide by the McGill University acceptable use policy statment and companion statement which can be seen at: http://www.mcgill.ca/cio/e-policies/#CONDUCT/

In particular, please don't:

  • Install or use file swapping software like LimeWire.
  • Use or distribute unlicensed software.
  • Use resources on personal workstations without permisson from the owner.
  • Share your username and password.

Getting Help

The systems are maintained by Greg LeBaron and Donna Clarke. We encourage you to come to our offices if you need help. Greg's e-mail address is lebaron@math.mcgill.ca and he is in room 1015. Donna's is in room 1016. Her e-mail address is clarke@math.mcgill.ca E-mail sent to help@math.mcgill.ca is delivered to both of us. E-mail is the best way to contact us for non emergency problems. We read our mail both during, and outside of normal working hours.

Last edited by on Wed, 09/09/2009 - 13:31