Ask SIPB - August 31, 2004
Welcome, freshmen and new grad students! Ask SIPB is a column
published regularly by the Student Information Processing Board (the
volunteer student group concerned with computing at MIT), to help
students like you learn more about the computing resources MIT
provides and how to make effective use of them. This column is part 1
of 4 of introductory columns during orientation to help you get
started with computing here at MIT.
I don't have a computer/printer/scanner. Where can I go?
MIT has a number of clusters sprinkled around campus, containing
Athena workstations and a few printers. You can access the software
and your files from any Athena workstation. These workstations run
Unix, specifically Linux and Solaris, and provide a common user
interface, regardless of where you log in. The New Media Center is in
26-139, and provides the tools necessary to produce multimedia
projects, such as digital video, photo scanning and manipulation, web
authoring, and more. The NMC is a "do-it-yourself" cluster of G4 Power
Macs loaded with the latest multimedia software.
You can find a list of Athena clusters on the back of the Athena
Pocket Reference you received when you checked in, or by typing
How do I get into the Athena clusters or New Media Center?
The Athena clusters are protected by push-button combo locks. To find
out the current cluster combo, on any Athena machine, type:
changes annually on October 1. Shortly before that time, you can use
athena% tellme combo
tellme combo again to determine the new combo.
Similarly, you can get into the New Media Center by typing
athena% tellme nmccombo
Why are there couches and giant screens and whiteboards in corners
of some of the clusters?
These are the newly deployed collaborative group spaces. They were
designed to make working in groups at MIT both easier and more
powerful. To learn more or provide feedback, check out this website:
Should I set up my personal computer now?
If you are an undergrad, in general, it is best if you do not set up
your computer right away. Unless you live in McCormick, which has
forced room squatting, you will almost certainly be moving to either
another dorm, or at least another room.
If you need to use a computer, there are always the Athena clusters
easily accessible all over campus. Even though SIPB is a student
group dedicated to improving computing at MIT, we encourage you to go
out, and take part in the vast opportunities you have during
Orientation and Residence Exploration. Find the dorm that is right
for you, and learn about and join the activities that interest you.
Talk to other freshmen and upperclassmen, and ask any questions you
may have about anything.
Once you move to your room for the fall term on Sunday, feel free go
ahead and set up your computer. But in the meantime, take advantage
of Orientation, and have a great time! When you finally set up your
computer, you should apply any updates immediately. You can find more
details at http://web.mit.edu/net-security/.
If you are running Windows, you also must follow the directions at http://web.mit.edu/net-security/prevent-reinfection.html
to avoid having your computer compromised and necessitating a format
and reinstall of the operating system.
But I want my computer now. What do I do?
You'll need a network cable and settings. To set up DHCP, set your
computer to get your IP address automatically (which is often the
default), and then go to any website. For more details on this, you
should go to one of the "Getting Connected" sessions: today 10-11 AM
in 54-100, or Thursday, September 2, 10-11am in 26-100. Note that
this is change from the originally announced room of 4-370. After the
"Getting Connected" sessions, the MIT Network Security team will also
discuss preventing your computer from being compromised.
After you move to your permanent room, you can also choose to ask an
RCC for a static IP address, which will be tied to the dorm that you
are in. Having one will not prevent you from using DHCP elsewhere on
For a network cable, you can either ask an RCC or visit the OLC office
in N42. You can contact your local RCC by filling out a form at http://rcc.mit.edu/.
I forgot my password. What do I do?
You'll need to visit the friendly folks at Accounts. Go to N42 and
ask for a password reset. You'll need to bring your ID.
Help! Something broke! Who can help?
Depending on what broke and how, there are a variety of groups that
can assist you.
You can come ask SIPB in person or via email. Our office is W20-557
(right next to the Athena cluster). Anytime members are in the office,
the office is open to answer questions. You can also phone SIPB at
x3-7788 or email email@example.com.
OLC is Athena Online Consulting, MIT's official support group for
Athena related questions. They have an office in N42, and are usually
open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.
OLC has a set of stock answers for Athena related questions on the web
To ask olc a question, first make sure the question isn't already
answered in the Stock Answers, then type at an Athena prompt:
You can also call 617-253-4435 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
MIT IS&T staffs the Computing Help Desk, which provides free
support for Macintosh and Windows. The Help Desk phone lines are open
Monday-Friday from 8 am to 6 pm; walk-ins are welcome in the office in
N42 from 9:15 am to 5 pm. For help, call 617-253-1101, e-mail email@example.com, or
drop by N42.
The Computing Help Desk also maintains a set of stock answers for
common Macintosh and Windows questions encountered by MIT community
members, at http://itinfo.mit.edu/answer.
If you are having trouble getting your computer onto your dorm
network, you can ask an RCC for help. RCC's (or Residential Computing
Consultants) are students who get paid to assist other students,
usually residents of the same dorm. They can do everything from
assigning IP addresses, to providing network cables, to helping you
configure networking on your computer. To get in contact with your
RCC, ask around your dorm or visit http://rcc.mit.edu/ to submit a
What is 3-DOWN?
3-DOWN, which can be found at http://is3down.mit.edu/,
provides information about both scheduled and unscheduled network and
service outages. The same information can also be found via a
recorded message at x3-DOWN (x3-3696). Before reporting an outage, it
is useful to check 3-DOWN to see if it is already known.
How can I learn more about computing and computing at MIT?
During orientation and throughout term, there are a number of ways you
can learn more about computing or computing specifically at MIT.
IS&T offers minicourses and quickstarts, short (usually one hour)
classes that cover a variety of topics, often on several levels. At
the beginning of term, SIPB will be running our annual Computer Tours,
which visits a number of machine rooms and cool labs around campus.
Also, during IAP (January), a number of classes are offered by several
organizations (including IS&T and SIPB).
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/