Ask SIPB - October 7, 2008

Want to use the software on Athena? Wondered what sorts of cool things you can do? In this column, we discuss some of the useful software you can find in Athena lockers.

Did the combination to the Athena clusters change?

Yes; the combo to the Athena clusters changes every October. To find the new combo, you can login to a quickstation or a dialup and type
athena% tellme combo
Other things tellme supports are tellme root, for the root password, and tellme why.

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 — 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 a text file called .environment file in your home directory to add lockers automatically when you log in. Programs such as pico (terminal-based) and gedit (GUI) allow you to edit text files. For example, you may add a line such as:

add 6.001 sipb outland matlab

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.

SIPB's Debathena ( eliminates the need for attach -- whenever you try to access (cd, ls, etc.) a locker through /mit/lockername, it is automatically mounted in the correct path there. Debathena is the basis for the upcoming Athena 10 release, and you can install it on your own Debian GNU/Linux or Ubuntu machine.

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% add outland
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 linux, NT, and sun4

What cool stuff can I find in lockers?

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

  • whats (sipb locker) — expands acronyms
    athena% whats sb
    SB      - Science Baccalaureate (latin form of "Bachelors of Science")
  • rolodex (sipb locker) — phone number database
    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
    617-577-0066  Domino's Pizza
    617-523-5575  Bel Canto (Boston)
  • dict (outland locker) — dictionary via
    athena% dict frosh
    1 definition found
    From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 [gcide]:
      frosh \frosh\, n.; pl. {frosh}. [from freshman by shortening.]
         a student during his first year in a high school, college, or
         university; a {freshman}. [informal]

    A similar program is thesaurus in the sipb locker.

  • weather (weather locker) — weather conditions or forecast
    athena% weather boston
    Conditions at KBOS on 10/5/2008 at 2:54 PM EDT (18:54 UTC)
       Weather: Cloudy
          Temp: 55 F (13 C)
      Humidity: 63%                    Dewpoint: 43 F (6 C)
    Visibility: 10 mi
     Barometer: 30.25 inHg
          Wind: S 5 mph
    athena% weather -f bos
       Wednesday and Wednesday night: Mostly clear. Highs in the upper
    60's. Lows in the upper 40's.
       Thursday: Mostly sunny. Highs around 70.
       Thursday night: Cloudy. A chance of showers after midnight.
    Patchy fog after midnight. Lows in the lower 50's. Chance of rain
    30 percent.
  • pdftops (outland locker) — converts PDF files to postscript (for printing)
    athena% pdftops filename.pdf
    athena% lpr -h -Zduplex -Pprintername
  • barnowl (barnowl locker) — Zephyr and IM client
    athena% barnowl
    [launches barnowl]

    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: