Ask SIPB - April 11, 2003
Welcome to the Campus Preview Weekend edition of the Ask SIPB column!
This week, we discuss MIT computing issues that may be relevant to
What is SIPB?
SIPB (pronounced ``Sip-bee'') is the Student Information Processing
Board, the volunteer student group concerned with computing at MIT. We
are available for telephone (253-7788), email (email@example.com) or
in-person (W20-557) consulting at almost any time of day or night.
We have one-of-a-kind meetings Monday evenings at 7:30 pm, write
documentation of all sorts, run a wide variety of servers (including a
WWW server), hack, and generally have a good time. We also act as an
advocate for student computer users and student computer access on
As a prefrosh, how can I check my email this weekend?
Though Athena UNIX machines are ubiquitous on campus, they require you
to login, and you will be unable to do so. There are other computer
options, though, assuming you have a web-based email service like Hotmail. If your host has a computer, you can ask him or her
to let you use it. Another option is to use the Windows
machines in any MIT Library during their open hours:
Or, visit us in the SIPB office in W20-557, ask nicely, and check your
- Aero/Astro: 33-111
- Barker: 10-500
- Dewey: E53-100
- Lindgren: 54-200
- Lewis Music: 14E-102
- Hayden: 14S-100
- Rotch: 7-238
- Schering-Plough: E25-131
What is MIT's computing infrastructure for student use?
Each dorm room contains at least one network drop per student. Many
dorms also have wireless networking.
In addition, MIT provides network to the Fraternity, Sorority, and
Independent Living Group (FSILG) houses. Each FSILG has the power
to wire its house as it sees fit. Most, if not all, have at least
one network drop per student; some also have wireless networking.
On campus, Athena clusters abound, allowing students to find
practically anywhere. In addition, wireless coverage
serves most of campus as well.
If I decide to attend MIT, how do I activate my Athena account?
After you choose to attend, you will receive a hefty welcome package.
In your welcome package, there will be instructions to activate your
MIT Athena account, providing you access to all of MIT's computing
services. You will be directed to http://web.mit.edu/register/
to set up your account. In the past, the instructions gave you your
"five magic words" which you enter into the registration page. Keep
in mind, though, that you will NOT be able to change your
username (email name) after you set up your account, so choose
Do I need a computer, and what kind should I get?
The decision on whether to get a computer is up to you. While the
majority of students have computers, they are certainly not a
necessity. Athena clusters are distributed throughout campus and
dorms, providing quick computer access regardless of where you are.
In addition, you'll be able to do all classwork on Athena machines,
and you also get access to proprietary software, like Matlab, that MIT
has site licenses for.
Most students, however, do find personal computers convenient to have.
While MIT recommends purchasing laptops, the desktop/laptop issue is a
personal one, and an issue of higher price and convenience for
laptops, versus lower price and greater power for desktops. The
choice of PC/Mac/UNIX is also a personal decision, and all are
supported by the various computing organizations at MIT.
What are the quotas for network file space and mail?
MIT's network file system, AFS, currently provides each user with 200
MB of space, accessible from any Athena machine. The mail quota, a
comepletely separate quota, is currently 250 MB. Both were increased
from 100 MB during this school year, and have been increased on a
Can I run a server at MIT?
Unlike many other colleges, MIT does allow students to run
servers, including web servers, and remote login servers including VNC
and SSH, allowing you to use your personal computer's power over the
Internet. With the option to have up to four static IP addresses and
associated hostnames, this makes setting up servers even more
convenient. Traffic on peer-to-peer file sharing services is allowed,
though rate-limited, to a fraction of outgoing bandwidth. You should
limit this to legally transferrable files to avoid prosecution under
To ask us a question, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll try to answer you
quickly, and we can address your question in our next column. You
can also stop by our office in W20-557 or call us at x3-7788 if you
need help. Copies of each column and pointers to additional
information are posted on our website: http://www.mit.edu/~asksipb/