Ask SIPB - April 25, 2003

Want to read various computer media, like CDs and DVDs on Athena, but weren't sure how? In this week's column, we cover reading media on Athena.

What kind of media can I use on Athena?

You can use floppy disks and CD-ROMs on all Athena machines. The Black Dell and IBM workstations have CD-RW drives. The Sun Blade 150 and a few of the Sun Blade 100 machines have DVD-ROM drives. Some Sun and Linux workstations, located in the W20-575, 4-035, 12-182, 37-318, and 56-129 clusters, have Zip 250 drives capable of reading both Zip 100 and Zip 250 disks. Some other clusters may also have Zip drives.

How do I use floppy disks on Athena?

For DOS (or Windows) floppies, do "add mtools". The most common commands are "mdir a:" to see the files on a floppy, "mcopy a:file_name" to copy file_name from the floppy to your Athena account, and "mcopy file_name a:" to copy a file to a floppy. You may also find the graphical user interface "mtoolsfm" useful. For more information, see the OLC Stock answer at Be aware that many of the Dell Athena machines have faulty floppy drives. If you discover such a machine, send mail to with the machine's name.

Alternatively, on Sun machines, you can run volcheck and then use /floppy. You can then access the disk drive as you would normally through Athena.

Also the building 37 Windows Athena cluster has machines running Windows with which you can easily access PC floppy disks.

For Macintosh-formatted floppies, do "add hfstools", then "xhfs" will start a graphical user interface to access your floppy.

How and where can I read from CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs on Athena?

The process for reading CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs on Athena is the same. The exact method, however, depends on the machine platform you are using. On Solaris, run volcheck and then access the drive under /cdrom/whatever. On Linux, run mount /mnt/cdrom instead, and access the drive through /mnt/cdrom.

How do I play audio CDs on Athena?

You can use the xmcd program in the sipb locker. To start the program, type athena% add sipb; xmcd &. Several other programs, (insert programs here), are also available for use on Athena. You can find them listed on the GNOME panel.

How can I watch a DVD movie on Athena?

On an Athena machine with a DVD-ROM drive, you can watch a DVD movie by using the ogle program in the outland locker. To do so, type:
athena% add outland; ogle
Other options for playing DVD-ROMs include mplayer and xine. xine is also available in the outland locker. If you have a personal Athena machine, you can also download and install mplayer locally.

How and where do I write to CD-Rs or CD-RWs on Athena?

The software necessary for writing to CDs is available in the cdrecord locker. The readme file located in /mit/cdrecord/README provides detailed instructions. Additional information, including writing to audio CDs, can also be found in /afs/

How can I write to DVDs? What DVD formats are supported?

While no public cluster machines can write to DVDs, there are a few resources available at MIT.

The New Media Center, located in 26-139, has several machines with DVD-RAM drives. To learn the combo to this Macintosh cluster, type athena% tellme nmccombo. Once thre, you can use Roxio Toast or iDVD to write to your DVD-RAM media.

SIPB, located in W20-557, also has a DVD writer capable of writing DVD-R and DVD-RW discs. To use it, simply come into the SIPB office and ask us. The actual burning is the same as that for a CD-R, except that you want to use cdrecord-1.11a11+dvd and mkisofs-1.11a11 instead.

How do I watch Quicktime or other movies on Athena?

You can use the xine program in the outland. To start it, type athena% add outland; xine.

To ask us a question, send email to 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: