Ask SIPB - October 4, 2005

Want to use the software on Athena? Wondered what sorts of cool things you can do? In this column, part 3 of 4 of our introductory columns, we discuss lockers on Athena, and the things you can find in them.

What are lockers?

Lockers organize files and software on Athena, and allow them to be accessed more easily. They eliminate the need to use long pathnames like /afs/, and allow you to quickly run programs without needing to know exactly where they are located.

How do I use a locker?

The most common way to use a locker is to use the add command. This will attach the locker and make it available through /mit/lockername, and add the locker to your path. For example, to run the mplayer program in the outland locker, type:
athena% add outland
athena% mplayer
You can put a line in your .environment file in your home directory to add lockers automatically when you log in. For example:
add 6.001 sipb outland gnu

The second way to use a locker is the attach command. This will make a locker accessible at /mit/lockername the same way add does, but will not add the locker to your path.

If you want to use a locker without attaching it, you can use ~lockername to refer to it in a path. If you wanted to browse the 6.001 locker, for example, you could type athena% cd ~6.001 to change directories into the 6.001 locker. (Note that there are a few cases where this does not work. In these cases, you can use ~~lockername instead.)

Finally, if you want to run a program without adding the locker, you can use the athrun command. To run mplayer as in the original example, you could type:

athena% athrun outland mplayer

What are some common useful lockers?

sipbsoftware supported by SIPB
outlandsoftware less actively supported and maintained by SIPB
consultAthena-related utilities maintained by OLC
gnucommon Unix utilities maintained by the Free Software Foundation
abiworda fast-loading word processor
gnumerica fast-loading spreadsheet, an office suite
gamesgames and other fun utilities
imIM programs, such as gaim
weatherthe weather program
math, matlab, mapleMathematica, Matlab, and Maple software, respectively

Is there an easy way to find out where something is located?

The whichlocker program, located in the outland locker, tells you where many programs are located, and what platforms they are available for.
athena% whichlocker mmblanche
Locker software on Athena is maintained by many different people.
Don't run this unless you know the maintainer can be trusted.
"mmblanche" is in "consult" for NT, sgi, sun4, and linux

What cool stuff can I find in some of these lockers?

For more information about most of these programs, you can type man programname after adding the appropriate locker.

  • whats (sipb locker)
    The whats program expands many acronyms, including MIT acronyms. If you have an expansion from an acronym that isn't included, you can submit it through the whats program, or through e-mail to sipb-whats.
    athena% whats pcmcia
    PCMCIA  - People Can't Memorize Computer Industries Acronyms (slang)
    PCMCIA  - Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (org.)
  • rolodex (sipb locker)
    rolodex is a repository of phone numbers. You can search by name, topic, or phone number.
    athena% rolodex olc
          3-4435  Athena Consulting Office (N42) (OLC)
    athena% rolodex 3-7788
          3-7788  Student Information Processing Board (SIPB) Office
    athena% rolodex pizza
    617-424-9000  Domino's Pizza
    617-523-5575  Bel Canto (Boston)
    athena% rolodex 617-555-7890
  • dict (outland locker)
    The dict program looks up the definition of a word from several dictionaries served from As of this writing, these dictionaries are Elements database, Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, WordNet, U.S. Gazetteer, Jargon File, The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary, The Devil's Dictionary, CIA World Factbook, and Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms

    athena% dict sipb
    1 definition found
    From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (27 SEP 03) [foldoc]:
              Student Information Processing Board, {MIT}.
  • thesaurus (sipb locker)
    thesaurus gives synonyms for words, as you'd expect it to. You can also run this program as th.
    athena% thesaurus freshman
    ***** Word: freshman
         #541.  Learner.-- N. learner, scholar, student,  pupil; apprentice,
    prentice; articled clerk;  beginner, tyro, abecedarian, alphabetarian;
    alumnus, eleve.
         recruit, novice, neophyte, inceptor,  catechumen, probationer; chela,
    fellow-commoner; debutant.
         schoolboy;  fresh, freshman; junior soph, junior; senior soph, senior;
    sophister, sophomore; questionist.
         class, form, remove; pupilage &c (learning) 539.
         disciple, follower, apostle, proselyte; fellow-student, condisciple.
         Adj. in statu pupillari, in leading strings.
  • weather (weather locker)
    weather looks up the weather for the selected city. The -l flag will give the forecast instead of the current conditions.
    athena% weather bos
    Conditions at KBOS on 10/2/2005 at 6:54 PM EDT (22:54 UTC)
       Weather: Mostly Clear
          Temp: 57 F (14 C)
      Humidity: 88%                    Dewpoint: 54 F (12 C)
    Visibility: 10 mi
     Barometer: 30.39 inHg
          Wind: NE 6 mph
    athena% weather -f bos
       Tonight: Clear. Lows in the mid 50's. Southeast winds around
    5 mph, becoming west after midnight.
       Monday: Sunny. Highs in the mid 70's. East winds 5 to 10 mph.
  • zlogout (sipb locker)
    Ever forget to log out from a cluster machine, and not feel like going back to log yourself out? Now you don't have to. (Note that if your screen is left locked because of idleness for more than 20 minutes, people who need to use that workstation can log you out.) zlogout helps you log out remotely. You must set this up ahead of time to take advantage of it, though. In your .startup.X file in your homedirectory, add the line:
    attachandrun sipb zlogoutd zlogoutd &
    Then, when you want to log yourself out remotely, use:
    athena% zlogout HOSTNAME
    where HOSTNAME is the name of the machine you want to log yourself out of.

    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: