Computer Lab

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* A larger cubby in the back, which holds the LCD monitor.  The wifi transceiver is also attached to this.
* A larger cubby in the back, which holds the LCD monitor.  The wifi transceiver is also attached to this.
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[[#Do not disconnect cables | Never disconnect any cables]] from any of the computers.
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'''Never disconnect any cables''' from any of the computers.
You can set up and put away a computer while leaving everything connected.
You can set up and put away a computer while leaving everything connected.
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It is Asylum policy that the computers in the classroom
It is Asylum policy that the computers in the classroom
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are '''never''' to be used as test machines.  
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are '''never''' to be used as test machines.
= Network =
= Network =

Revision as of 17:12, 11 January 2016



If you rearrange the room please return the room to the default configuration (see general rules below) for teaching (3 rows of desks).

We have a computer lab in the [aka MPR1], consisting of ten identical computers in roll-around desks. They are available for use by instructors and their students, and also by our members. This page documents how to use them, what software they've got, and how to request changes.

If you need to talk to us about particular CPUs, their names are the ten metallic elements from 24 to 33 in the periodic table: chromium, manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, gallium, germanium, and arsenic (Cr Mn Fe Co Ni Cu Zn Ga Ge As). Each CPU is labeled on the front with its name.

Contents

General rules

Your use of these computers means that you also agree to these policies at a minimum:


Special notes for instructors

If you are an instructor teaching a new class, please see below about installing software---you can't install things yourself, and you must plan far enough ahead that we have time to schedule the installation in advance. Don't wait until the last minute.

If the students in your class might be using their own computers, please see below on how (and how not) to tell your students about our wireless network passphrase.

Finally, if we've installed software for you in the past, and you're repeating your class but it's been a while since it was last taught, please check with us to make sure that the software is still there and still works. We may occasionally upgrade operating systems---which could cause things to break---or remove software that hasn't been used in a long time to save space. It's wise to check as far in advance as possible to make sure your software is still there, still works, and isn't slated for deletion.

Setting up and putting away the computers

Each desk contains several cubbies:

  • A large cubby on the left, which holds a sewing machine. (If you're sewing, you're reading the wrong page.)
  • A large cubby on the right, which holds the CPU. Do not remove the CPU from the cubby.
  • A small horizontal cubby in the back, which holds the keyboard and mouse.
  • A larger cubby in the back, which holds the LCD monitor. The wifi transceiver is also attached to this.

Never disconnect any cables from any of the computers. You can set up and put away a computer while leaving everything connected.

Setting up

To set up a computer for use:

  • Go around to the back of the table.
  • First, pull out the keyboard and mouse and put them near the front edge of the desk.
  • Second, pull out the LCD and put it near the back edge of the desk.

Pulling the keybord and mouse out first is much easier than the other way around---the cables less likely to get tangled up while you're moving them.

The desks are designed to allow you to daisy-chain power from desk to desk by plugging each outlet strip into its neighbor. Don't daisy-chain all ten desks to each other, and don't plug the projector into a large string of desks. You will pop breakers on the outlet strips, probably about 20 minutes into whatever you're doing, when it's maximally annoying. For complete instructions on what to hook to what, read this carefully.

Abandoned machines

Please don't walk away and leave unsaved files and open applications. Saving your own files and closing applications before you walk away is your responsibility.

Putting away

When not using the computers, please shut them down, put monitors, keyboards and mice underneath, and move the desks to the side. Keep cables plugged in.

The computer lab is not for testing equipment

Do not test random equipment with our computer lab by unplugging bits of its hardware and then plugging in your own.

Classes. These computers are constantly used for classes. They are critical resources.

It is Asylum policy that the computers in the classroom are never to be used as test machines.

Network

Because the desks roll around, the computers can't be on a hardwired Ethernet. Instead, each of them has a wireless USB device, which looks like a flash drive, plugged into a USB extension cable. That cable is attached to the LCD; it will often be sticking out just behind the LCD, or perhaps pulled a few inches out and flopping around a bit.

We do it this way for two reasons:

  • It gets the wifi transceiver far away from the metal case of the computer, which would otherwise act like a groundplane and absorb the signal
  • It gets the wifi transceiver higher up, where it's more likely to be line of sight to the wireless access point without metal obstacles in the way

Troubleshooting

If you're having issues with network on a computer lab machine, the first thing you should check is whether the wifi transceiver has a green LED that flashes occasionally. If it looks completely dead, it's probably unplugged. Check the connection right at the wifi first; that connection is frequently loose. (We've applied tape around the joint, but people sometimes disconnect the tape, believing that the wifi is instead a flash drive.) If that doesn't help, make sure the other end of the USB extension cable is plugged into the CPU. You can plug it into any of the USB ports except the blue ones, which are USB 3.0---the wifi drivers are unreliable using USB 3.0.

Never swap wifi transceivers between machines. They have unique MAC addresses. If you swap them, the machine will think it has new hardware, and it won't know that it can use the wifi passphrase that it already knows, which means it won't be able to get on the network. Even if you supply the passphrase for the new wifi transceiver, having the MACs swapped around will screw up remote administration of the machines. So don't do this.

(If you suspect that the wifi transceivers have gotten swapped, note that each one has the name of a chemical element writton on it in Sharpie. That should match the name on the front of the CPU.)

Hardware

Each CPU consists of a quad-core 64-bit AMD 4100FX, in a Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3 motherboard, with 8GB DDR3 RAM, and an nVidia GT216GL (Quadro 400) graphics card. The motherboard will accomodate up to 32GB of RAM, if that turns out to be necessary. Each machine also has 160GB of disk, shared across various partitions and operating systems.

Each computer has USB ports on the front and back panels. Most are USB 2.0 (red connectors), but two on the back panel are USB 3.0 (blue connectors). USB 3.0 is much faster than USB 2.0 and can provide more peripheral power per port, and is a good choice for flash drives, DVD drives, and portable disks. However, USB 3.0 support is relatively new industrywide, and not every USB peripheral works correctly with USB 3.0 drivers, so if you're having puzzling or flaky results, try it with a USB 2.0 port and see if things work correctly then.

If you're using these computers for hardware development, please be careful. If you're rolling your own USB hardware and there's any chance of miswiring your USB connectors or having unusual voltages on them, use a USB hub between your device and the computers! Replacing a blown USB hub is much easier and cheaper than replacing a motherboard, especially since the short market lifetime of motherboards means we'll probably have to buy a different type and deal with odd-man-out sorts of issues from then on.

The only sort of hardware development we support on these machines involves well-behaved USB devices, and you should see here and here for other rules involving disconnecting cables, and non-USB hardware, respectively. Even better, please use a different computer instead; ask us if you need a more-expendable test target.

Operating systems

With a few exceptions (documented below), all ten machines are kept in a nearly-identical configuration, with these operating systems installed:

  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Ubuntu Linux 12.04 Precise Pangolin LTS 64-bit desktop

Windows

The machines autoboot to Windows. When the machine comes up, it will automatically log into the user named "user". The other accounts on the machine are for administrative purposes. If for some reason you log out, you can just click on "user" again and you'll be logged back in.

Please don't reconfigure the machines, since not everyone shares your tastes, and some of those configurations are there for a reason. This includes things like the appearance of folders and windows, where the trash is, etc.

Linux

If you want to run Linux, reboot, wait 10-15 seconds until you see a message saying "Loading Operating System", and then wait until you see the GRUB menu. Use the arrow keys to select the top menu item instead of the bottom, and hit return. (Once you type any character at the GRUB menu, the countdown will stop, and the machine will wait for you to decide what to do.)

Once the machine has booted, select "guest account". Note that your settings and any stored files will vanish when you log out. (We may in the future switch to permanent accounts instead.)

Storing files

In general, do not assume anything you leave on the machine will survive.

If you need to store files, you have two choices:

  • Use your own local storage, such as a flash drive or USB external disk.
  • Use our public file share, which is available to all members over the network.

Installed software

This section documents the software currently installed on the machines. If you'd like something installed, please email it[at]artisansasylum[dot]com

Windows

We have Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit installed. The packages below are what we've installed on all machines that aren't there by default out of the box.

Audio/Video/DJing CAD/CAM General Productivity Graphics Other
  • Ableton Live
  • Mixxx 1.11.0-alpha2
  • PureData 0.42.5
  • ASIO4ALL 2.10 [low-latency audio driver]
  • Electrical
    • PCB design & schematic capture
      • FreePCB
      • TinyCAD
    • Hardware programmers and IDEs
      • Arduino 1.0
      • Cypress PSOC (Creator, Designer, and Programmer)
      • Fritzing
      • MATLAB (Image Processing Toolbox, Computer Vision System Toolbox, Control System Toolbox, Instrument Control Toolbox)
      • Simulink (Stateflow, Simulink Control Design, System Identification Toolbox)
  • Mechanical
    • AutoDesk 123D
    • Autodesk 123D Make
    • BigBlueSaw DXF exporter for Inkscape [gets units right]
    • Blender 2.63a
    • CamBam beta 0.8.2
    • CNCSimulator
    • DraftSight
    • HSMworks
    • SolidWorks Premium 2012
    • ShopBot 3 Control Simulation (Chromium only)
    • VCarve Pro ShopBot Edition 7.5 (Chromium only)
    • PartWorks 3D for ShopBot (Chromium only)
  • BullZip PDF Creator
  • Firefox
  • LibreOffice
  • Inkscape
  • Cygwin 1.7.16-1
  • Processing
  • Wacom tablet driver 6.3.2-3

In addition, the packages below are installed on a subset of the machines. Typically, this is done for very large installations that will only be used by one or two people at a time; doing this saves a lot of work and allows us to distribute packages so we don't run out of disk space in the Windows partition. The computers on which the packages are installed are in brackets.

  • XPlane 10 [Cr]
  • Skannect and OpenNI for 3D Scanning [Ni]

Linux

We have Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) 64-bit desktop installed. The packages below are what we've installed on all machines that aren't there by default out of the box and are generally useful by end-users. [Several small utility packages, including pv, socat, smartmontools, gparted, ntp, ethtool, and many others, are installed, but the entire list isn't worth documenting here. Note also that many major packages that are optional add-ons for Windows are included out-of-the-box in Ubuntu, such as Firefox and LibreOffice.]

  • General productivity
    • Emacs
  • Graphics
    • Inkscape

Installing software

If you're asking for an installation, please include the following information:

  • Which operating system you'd like the software installed on (Windows, Linux, both?)
  • How to find the software. (A URL going to the precise version you'd like is best, though for Ubuntu package installs, just naming the package is fine.)
  • Whether the software will be talking to any hardware, and if so, what.
  • Your deadline. More warning is always better.
  • Whether this is limited-time trial software, and, if so:
    • Its timing constraints
    • Your class size (in case we only want to install it on one or two seats)
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