Computing in the Mathematics Department

Welcome to the Mathematics Department at Washington State University. This handout provides you with information and guidelines regarding our computer systems. Please read this to gain an understanding of computer use and policies within the department.

Your Computer Account

You should already have received a letter in your mailbox providing you with an account name and password to access both Linux and Windows machines. If you have not yet received this information please see systems personnel to have an account set up.

Do not share your password with other individuals. You may not let others use your account.

Changing Your Password

Please change your password soon after you receive it. You will need to change it for both Linux and Windows machines.

Linux Machines:

  1. Log onto a Linux machine in the research domain, for example, thetabar.

  2. Type: yppasswd your login name here

  3. Follow the instructions by typing a new password and confirming it.

The new password will go into effect immediately on all Linux machines. After changing your Linux password you will also need to change your Windows password.

Windows Machines:

  1. On any Windows machine, log into the Math domain. You will be prompted to change your password the first time you log in.

Creating Your Password

Passwords must not be longer than eight characters. Do not write down your password, for security reasons. Avoid words that are easy to guess, especially if they are personal information such as the name of your spouse, children, pet, phone number, license plate or social security number. Common expressions and names spelled backward should be avoided, as well. Try using acronymns or blend a word and a number together. For example, you might create a password of 'b47iwuz6' or 'Ih3dimf' for "I have 3 dogs in my family." Putting words together with numbers is also good. For example, 'B1i9k9e8' blends the word Bike and 1998 together (remember to keep the password length at eight characters). Use a mixture of upper and lower case letters.

Access to Machines and Files

Linux Machines

You may obtain access to Linux from your office computer, the computer in room 204, the computer in room 304, or the Newton Computing Lab in room 101W.

All Linux machines have Matlab and Maple installed on them as well as word processing (AbiWord), image processing (gimp) and a browser (Netscape). Machines running Mathematica in the Newton Lab are: red-del, braeburn, criterion, fuji, elstar, rome, jonagold, grannysmith, jonathan, fireside, ladyfinger and cortland. Your account is located in /usr1/your login name.

Windows Machines

You may also use Windows NT machines located in the basement in Room 3. Remember that your windows account is located in the Math domain. To place your /usr1 files on a Windows machine, you will need to map a network drive to the server, pihat. To do so, open "My Computer" and click on "Tools". Click on "Map Network Drive." Choose a drive on the local machine. In the Folder box, enter: \\pihat\(your login name). Check the "Reconnect at logon" box.

Log Off Procedures

Linux Machines

When you are finished using a Linux machine, log off, but do not shut it down. Turn off your monitor. If you are a TA in the Newton Lab, you will need to tell the students to log out of those computers. The power-off button should never be pressed on a Linux machine.

Windows Machines

Log off your machine but do not shut it down. Turn off the monitor. Virus updates and scans are run on Windows machines at night. If you shut the machine down you take the risk of not having the most updated virus protection added to your machine.


Network printers are available on each floor and a Linux machine may access any of them. If you use a network printer over a weekend you must make sure the door to the printer is securely locked when not in use. The department has had printer theft in the past.

To print a file using Linux, type: lpr -P(the printer name) the filename

Printer name Location Type

hpr0 Room 3 HP LaserJet 4000

hpr1 1st floor HPLaserJet 4000

hpr2 2nd floor HPLaserJet 4000

hpr3 3rd floor HPLaserJet 4000

ntcolorpr Room 3 HP ColorLaserJet 5000

lp4 Newton Lab HP LaserJet 4000

rm120pr* Room 120 HP LaserJet 4100

*The printer in room 120 is only accessible to machines in room 120.

You may, or may not, have a local printer connected to your computer. If you are a faculty member with a local printer connected to a Linux machine, you may type:

lpr -Plp0 filename for printing.


When you join the department, you are given an email address of:

your login and this email address is added to the department's centralized email distribution list that is maintained by systems personnel. If you wish to have email sent to an address different than this, it is your responsibility to send an email to the letting us know of this.

Setting Up Netscape

You may configure Netscape on a Linux machine to handle email for you.

  1. Use the menu item Edit->Preferences to gain access to the settings for Netscape.

  2. Click the triangle next to "Mail & Newsgroups" to see the mail settings.

  3. Click the "Identify" item to set your name and return address (the return address should be "," where userid is your account name).

  4. Click the "Mail Servers" item to set the outgoing AND incoming servers to ""

  5. Tell the outgoing mail server to use your userid as the account to log into.

  6. Edit the pop server so that it is


You may receive email on any Linux machine by using the Pine program, if you wish. Simply log on to a Linux machine and type "pine". You will need to make configuration changes.

Email Attachments

Viruses are spread by opening attachments in your email. Never open an attachment that has an odd extension after its filename, such as .exe, .src, .pif, .com, .vbs, and so on. Such odd extension names are usually executable applications that will install a virus onto a machine. It is much easier to simply delete a questionable attachment rather than open it and risk having your machine infected. If you have any question about an attachment, ask systems personnel to look at the filename before you open it. Never open an attachment from an individual you don't know. The faculty and staff in the department have learned over time not to open suspicious looking attachments; some faculty have even gone as far as never opening attachments.

Remote Access

You may log into Math computers from anywhere in the department. From outside the department, you must use ssh (secure shell) to log into There is one machine in the Newton Lab that can be accessed from outside the local area network and it is called, "grepon." No other computers are open to the outside world. Thetahat also runs ftp for some sites outside the department. We prefer that you use scp ("secure copy") for file transfer. You will need to set this arrangement up with Kevin Cooper.

Web Directory

You do not automatically receive a web site on the department web server, but one will be provided upon request. State policy requires that you restrict your use of this to university business.

Personal Computers

Permanent connections to the Math Department network for non-department computers is prohibited. Individuals may attach laptop computers to the Math Department network for short periods of time, for WSU business only, after registering for DHCP services, with systems personnel.

The Use of Department Computers for Personal Purposes

The Washington State University Business Policies and Procedures Manual provides a section on the "Personal Use of University Resources" (BPPM, Property Section, 20.37.1). Please familiarize yourself with the university's policy on personal use of its resources. In addition, the Washington State Ethics Law covers what is proper and improper use of resources. Persons are individually responsible for compliance of ethics law. Through non-compliance, serious civil penalties have been administered to individuals. You may view the Washington State Ethics Law at . Please realize that any use of resources other than for official work use, unless approved by an agency, could be construed as a violation of state ethics law.

On-Line Help

On-line help is available for users at:

System News

As a general rule, we will not send you information about system changes. This is done so that users aren't inundated with information. Our systems are constantly changing and evolving to stay abreast of the changing and evolving of technology. Instead, we post information about on-going computer and system changes to It is your responsibility to check this site to learn of computing changes occurring within the department.

Computer Problems

If you have a computer question, problem, or request, regardless of what it pertains to, do not send email to systems personnel. Instead, send an email to the helpdesk at This is the method by which all individuals in systems are made aware of a problem. Provide a thorough description. It is better to give more information than not enough.

Departure from the Department

Upon your departure, information in your account will be kept for only a short time. If for some reason your account information needs to be kept for a longer period of time it is your responsibility to notify systems personnel of this, prior to your departure.