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Computer Accounts

If you are a registered member with the Institute, an account has been created for you. Information on how to log into this account is given on the Computer Access & Email Account Information sheet that is a part of the registration packet.

For guests and other visitors here for short terms, such as two weeks or less, a guest account is usually available. Login information to use this account is provided in the reception area of the Institute. Please note that access to this guest account is typically in association with an on-going workshop or short program, after which time it is disabled. If you have a short-term need for computer use, please see a member of the computing staff.

Using Your Computer

All computers in the offices of MSRI's Chern Hall currently run Uubuntu Linux

When you first turn on your computer, you should see a login window. Using the username and temporary password provided by MSRI, type the text into the appropriate fields on the login screen. The desktop environment that is used here is Gnome. Once a selection has been made, click the Login button to complete the log-in process.

The Gnome desktop environment aims to be an intuitive and attractive interface for its users. The first time you log in, you should see desktop with various shortcuts, including your home directory, the "Computer" [where you can explore the files on the computer], and a Trash folder. There are also two "panels", one on the top of the screen and one on the bottom. You will do most of your navigation through the "Applications" menu on the left side of the top panel, where you can access most of the programs available to you, including some popular mathematical software. You can learn more about using Gnome and Ubuntu from their documentation pages:
Gnome - http://www.gnome.org/learn/users-guide/2.14/
Ubuntu -  https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-manual/

By default, all accounts are created to use bash - this is what is called the Login Shell. If this means nothing to you, don't worry. However, if you understand this discussion and prefer to use another shell, please see a Computing staff member. Optional shells are ash, bash, csh, es, esh, ksh, sash, sh, rc, tcsh, and zsh. Please note, all of these may not currently be installed or available.

You may access a terminal by either right-clicking on your desktop and clicking on "Open a Terminal" or going to the Applications->System Tools menu, then choosing "Terminal".

Your MSRI account is also available to you when off-site via SSH [http://www.openssh.org]. Please see our SSH Help page for more information.

If you cannot find a particular program you require, please let us know and we may be able to install it for you. However, please keep our computer use policy in mind, and know that not all software is supported by MSRI.

If you have further questions about using your MSRI account, you may contact the Computing Department in the Koret Office [room 214], by e-mail at computing@msri.org, or by phone at (510)643-0906 [if you using a phone located in MSRI's Chern Hall, you need only dial the last 5 digits].

Changing Your Password

On the Computer Access & Email Account Information sheet, you will notice that we ask you to change your password immediately after the first login. This is so that you may select a password that is easier for you to remember and is known by you alone. Instructions for changing a password can be found on the Computer Access & Email Account Information sheet. If you don't have this, the instructions are simple. To change your password, type [in a terminal]: passwd. You will be asked for your old password and then for a new one which you will have to enter twice.

A Word about Passwords

The selection of a good password is a very important aspect to maintaining the security and integrity of the network for all who use it. Using an easy password like, 123abc, is almost the same as giving someone the keys to your home. It is too easy to decipher, hence extremely insecure.

A password should not be a word that can be found in any dictionary (English, computer, geek, or otherwise) nor should it be any word that has an obvious association with you. For instance, words like the name of a spouse, pet or child are not good candidates. Similarly, passwords should not be derived from your phone number, social security number or birthdate. Here are the typical rules that we follow at MSRI:

  • Use at least 6 characters in your password
  • Choose an alphanumeric mix, containing A-Z upper/lower case, digits 0-9 and/or punctuation
  • Never share your password*

Here are a few examples of good passwords:

                2bor!2b       saturn5?        23skidoo        4/3pir^3        E=mc^2

Of course, these are no longer good passwords here, having been used as examples!

The computing department periodically runs a password-cracking algorithm against all of the computer accounts of MSRI. When a bad password is found, the account is disabled (eg., the user is unable to log in). The user must then visit a computing staff member where he/she is required to select another password and he/she is subjected to a "brief" dissertation on the evils of poor password selection. Not really - but please take this seriously. We do.

Guest Accounts

MSRI provides a wkshpgst account for workshop and conference attendees. This account is valid only during periods of workshops and is disabled immediately thereafter. Attendees should be able to find account login information on the information desk in the lobby. If not, please see any staff member to obtain the login and password you need.

Members and guests wanting access to Windows and Linux systems during non-workshop periods will need access to the msrigst account. Please see a computer staff member for login information.

Users should be advised that guest accounts are shared by several persons. There is no way to guarantee the privacy of any information contained in such an account.

After You Leave MSRI

Although we'd love for you to stay, we know that you must return to your point of origin. Consequently, we typically like to reclaim the computing resources you have used during your stay. To facilitate this, we have included a few questions in the on-line checkout form (NOTE: You will receive an email with the URL to your checkout form) that you are asked to complete at the end of your stay.

Please take time to answer the questions pertaining to the disposal of your computer account. We offer to forward your incoming email for a period of up to 3 months after you leave. Alternatively, your account may be left open for a predetermined amount of time if you are anticipating to return at a later date or would simply appreciate access to your files until you are settled at your new location. In any case, we are glad to do what we can to help you make the transition. If, however, we do not receive a clear indication from you as to how to manage your account after your departure, it will be closed.

Please be aware that if you are expecting to access your MSRI account from any outside location, you will be required to login using SSH (example: ssh username@sshost.msri.org).

*A guest account is available for non-members and friends of members at MSRI