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Logging In using your CS Account

The first time you log in, it will most likely be through ssh to or directly on one of the public workstations in Amos Eaton 217 or your office if you have one.

If you log in using ssh, you should get a welcome message, and then have a prompt with the machine name and your username.

When you first come up to a workstation (this document assumes a Unix workstation), the screen may be blank. This is from a screensaver program. Just move the mouse a bit until the monitor turns on (it may take several seconds to warm up). At this point you should see one of 3 things: A login prompt, someone else's logged in session, or a screensaver login prompt asking a specific user to authenticate themselves. If you see something other than this you should notify labstaff… once you login. If you don't see an empty login prompt you should move to a different computer. If the lab is full, or all the machines are otherwise in use and the screensaver has the ``Force Logout'' button, please feel free to use it. If the person abandoned their machine without locking it (BAD, NEVER, EVER DO THIS) you may also log them out after checking that they aren't in the room simply talking to some, or on the phone. Common sense and courtesy apply.

Once you find a machine to log into verify that it is asking you for your username. Occasionally the machines can get out of sync... a person may start to log in and then leave, or someone may bump the keyboard entering invalid data. If it is not asking for your username (instead it will be asking for a password), just hit return and wait a second for the prompt to change; do this until it asks for your username (you should only need to do it once, and in no circumstances more than 3 times. If you do then that machine needs to be reported to labstaff). Also verify that the CapsLock key is not on, and then enter your password and press enter. At this point the machine should be prompting for your password. Enter your password and press enter. At this point the screen should go mauve and a splash screen should be displayed as it starts processes for your login session. Once you are logged in (and the splash screen goes away) go to the menu bar at the top of the screen and select ``Applications -> System Tools -> Terminal''. This will open a Unix command terminal. From terminals such as this you can issue many commands, and run most software. Most importantly you can use this to change your password.

Changing Your CS Account Password

When assigned an account, you are given a login name. This login name is usually the same as your RCS ID, and is typically the first 5 letters of your last name and your first initial, optionally followed by a digit, up to a maximum of 8 letters total. Your account is your responsibility. Do not let others use it. Do not give your password to anyone, ever. Labstaff will never ask you for your password, though we may request that you type it for us. (We don't need to know your password, we can change it. If we really need to know it we will change it to a value we know, and then have you change it to a password that only you know. We do not have any way to know your current password). It is important that you change the password that was assigned to you or it will expire in 2 weeks because the one assigned to you may have been seen by other people, and because a password that you come up with can be easier for you to remember. You can change your password by using the Unix command ``passwd'' at a prompt. At this time changing your password within Windows does not work (you should ssh into using putty from or some other ssh client). A typical password changing session looks like:

ssh -p 22 $ passwd
Password for guest: current password entered here
Enter new password: New password entered here
Enter it again: Re-enter password for verification
Password changed.

When picking your password there are a few considerations that you need to make. Specifically it should be something easy for you to remember and difficult for others to guess. It should be at least 9 characters. It should not be a "word", it can be multiple words or even a short phrase. Good passwords will also mix at least 3 classes of characters (a character class being uppercase, lowercase, numeric, and special characters). An example of the process to create a good pass-phrase could be as follows (never use this example, or any example in any documentation):
  • Tea time at noon
  • Ttime@noon
  • Ttime@n00n
  • Tt1me@n00n

That is an example of taking a short phrase and distilling it down to a reasonable password that mixes all 4 classes of letters.

There are certain things that should never be used as a password or even the base of a password. Some of these are:

  • Anything printed in documentation
  • A word (a single word) in a dictionary, or a slang word (even non-English words are poor choices - the bad guys aren't always English, and they always have a lot of dictionaries)
  • Your login name
  • A proper name, or any part of your own name
  • A word in the system dictionary (type ``man look'' to find out about checking the system dictionary)
  • Your phone number, your office number, your address, or any part of your DNA sequence.

Many parts of the password change function instantaneously. Your old password will stop working and your new one will start within seconds of changing it. Exceptions to this include your Windows password and Mail password (if using NTLM for your authentication type); these systems are currently updated once an hour at roughly 45 past the hour. On these systems your old password will continue working until the update goes through.

Reading Email

As has been mentioned earlier, reading your email is of prime importance; it is the primary method of contact for many things within the department.

Computer Science Accounts

Computer Science facilities are provided to support faculty and graduate student research. They are extended as a courtesy to others which can be revoked. Graduate students should receive their accounts at orientation. Undergraduate students that need accounts for their classwork or special research should have their instructor or faculty sponsor request an account from labstaff.

Individual account requests should be made 1 week ahead of time, and bulk account requests should be made 2 weeks ahead of time. If the exact lists are not available (such as for a class) the approximate number of accounts that will be needed should still be submitted to allow time for load balancing between partitions to be worked out. Requests should include an expiration date and sponsor for the account.

Software requests should be made at least 2 weeks ahead of time. If you know you are going to need a package for class use, more advance notice may be necessary to be able to resolve any licensing issues.

-- JoeyArmstrong - 01 Jan 2009
-- StevenLindsey - 30 Mar 2012
Topic revision: r9 - 30 Mar 2012, lindss2@LAB.CS.RPI.EDU
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