Answers to frequently asked questions about computing at the Physics Department and KSU.

Frequently Asked Questions
 

The Questions:

What computing resources are available?
How do I get a new account or change my passwords?
How do I change my password from a remote location?
I'd call you on the phone if I knew how it worked...
How do I map drive or directory shares to a Windows drive letter?
How do I create my own web page?
How do I set the security permissions on files?
How do I deny users or groups access to my Windows files?
How do I find out how much Windows system disk space I'm using?
How do I find the size of my Windows profile?
How do I use Outlook as my e-mail client?
Which apps can I (or should I) install on my home computer or laptop?
How do I pick a default printer?
I need to print posters or banners...
How do I access the Physics Windows system from outside Cardwell Hall?
Swamped with spam?
How do I secure my home PC/laptop?
 

 

The Answers:

What computing resources are available?

The Physics Department and its Physics Computing Support Center (PCSC) offer two officially supported computing environments. Our general-purpose desktops and most of our "back office" servers run Microsoft Windows. Custom, high-performance computing is provided by Linux, with Scientific Linux being the preferred distribution. Apple OS X or IOS, Android or any other operating systems are not officially supported, but PCSC personnel may have some familiarity with these and may offer help on an "as available" basis.

A common networked filesystem and single logon unites the Windows and Linux systems. That filesystem stores data to a Storage Area Network System (SANS) that provides high reliablity and full backup.

The department has nearly 450 computers in user service, plus about 13 physical servers configured as 35-40 virtual machines (those numbers vary with time). The virtual servers are organized into clusters for high availablity and reliablity. The Physics computers represent about 9 percent of all the computers on campus.

As of May 2012, Cardwell Hall has completed a full rewiring of its computer network. Every desktop has Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. The entire building is also blanketed by 802.11 N class WiFi wireless networking. The wireless system offers KSU's "Guest" and "KSU Wireless" virtual networks, plus the international EduRoam network.

Specialized computing systems are offered and supported by some of the research groups. The theory community has a set of clustered Linux computing engines; the JRM Lab maintains a Linux-based multiparameter data acquisition system; and the High Energy group uses Apple laptops for their customized, internationally-shared collaboration and data processing needs.

Kansas State University also offers University-wide computing support, with accounts available to all faculty and students. See the KSU Computing and Telecommunications Services site for details.


How do I get a new Physics computing account or change my passwords?

To get an account on any of the Physics systems, your supervisor should use the the form found under "Requests | New Accounts" at the PCSC web site. Your supervisor can request the account and specify what groups you should be accociated with. Your new account name and temporary password will be e-mailed to the address your supervisor includes here. You will have to change this password immediately upon your first login. Please be careful when you do this! Read the instructions and prompts carefully and remember your password. If you think anything untoward might have happened while changing your password, please report it to the system managers immediately. Requests are usually serviced quickly; most will be answered on the same business day.

We require that you change the passwords on your accounts with each new semester. Log into one of the Physics department's Windows computers and press the Control-Alt-Delete key combination. Click the "Change A Password" button that is then presented. Enter your old password to verify your identity, then your new password twice to be certain that it was entered correctly.

For more detail, see our tutorial on changing passwords.

See the next question to learn how to change your password from a remote location.

Physics passwords must be at least 10 characters long. They must include mixed case and numerals or special characters. Spaces are allowed. Following the advice from the University password FAQ mentioned below is a good idea.

To change your University account password, see the Kansas State eID FAQ. Your eID is the username and password combination that allows you to access the campus computing systems, K-State Online, human resources data and a host of other online services.

Please read and follow the KSU password selection guidelines for all your computer accounts. Strong passwords are one of our best defenses against hackers.


How do I change my password from a remote location?

(See our detailed tutorial on changing passwords.)

If you are travelling when our password deadline rolls around, or if you are an outside collaborator, you can change your Physics computing password remotely by any of three methods:

  • Log into our web mailer (https://webmail.phys.ksu.edu/). Select the "Options" folder, and scroll down to nearly the bottom of the "Options" window. Click the "Change Password" button and follow the instructions.
  • Log into our Remote Desktop Terminal Server (ts.phys.ksu.edu). Click on the "Start" menu button, then on "Settings", then on "Windows Security". Click on the "Change Password" button in the window that appears and follow the instructions.
  • SSH into "linux.phys.ksu.edu" and use the "passwd" command. The Linux and Windows systems now share a single sign-on for their merged file systems, so you can access both from either with just one password.
University eIDs can be managed via the web at http://eid.k-state.edu/.

I'd call you on the phone if I knew how it worked...

The KSU Computing and Telecommunications Services offices have both basic dialing instructions and instructions for using advanced phone services (such as the Avaya voice mail system). There are also paper copies of both the Audix instructions and the desktop phone set instructions near some of the phones in Cardwell.

There are online phone directories for the campus, the Physics department and for the JRM Lab.

Hardware guides to the various different models of telephones used on campus are also available.

To reset the clock in your AT&T 830 telephone:

  1. Press and release "CLOCK"
  2. Enter the time with the keypad.
  3. Press * for AM or # for PM.
  4. Enter the date with the keypad.
  5. Press "CLOCK" again.

How do I map drive or directory shares to a Windows drive letter?

Users should get their various disk spaces on the servers automatically mapped to a drive letter in the Windows Explorer. Knowing how this is done manually is still a valuable skill (especially for laptop users).

Mapping a JRM research group file space is a good example of the process for mapping drives in general. In the Windows Explorer, if you don't see the menu bar, go to "Organize" at the top of the window, then "Layout" and select the menu bar. Now go to the "Tools" menu and choose "Map Network Drive". In the text box labeled "Drive" pick an unused drive letter (traditionally "J:"). In the "Path" box enter \\jrmvm\jrmres\xx\, where "xx" should be the abbreviation for your group ("ib" for Itzik's group, for example). Ignore the "Connect As" box, and check the "Reconnect at Logon" box. This will guarantee that this connection remains a permanent one. Click "OK" and you're done.

The general syntax of the address is \\machine-name\directory-name. Hence, when I map a drive on my PC, it's \\wigner\scratch, where "Wigner" is my PC's name and "scratch" is the share name that I gave to the big user "D:" partition of my hard drive.

By convention, we always map drives L, M, and N as system drives. As noted above, J is for the research group's data; O is the user's home space (for both Windows and Linux); S is the shared research group file space; and Z is for the user's personal web site. Additional drives may be mapped for system support and for access to shared group files.


How do I create my own web page?

Every user on our system has a Windows "Z:" drive created for them, which is, in fact, space on our web server. You can create your own personal web site here.

Any file named "index.htm" or "index.html" put in the root of your "Z:" drive will automatically appear when a visitor goes to http://www.phys.ksu.edu/personal/username.

You can make this file by hand with a text editor, or use a web creation tool like the commercial Expression Web or the open-source KompoZer. We don't currently have any such tool available on a department-wide basis. You can use either of two Microsoft Office applications: Word or Publisher. Note that these tools produce highly complex, non-standard HTML intended to perfectly reproduce the appearance of traditional paper documents, but for simple pages that will never require human maintenance they may be good enough.

If you do use these Office tools, try saving your pages as "Filtered HTML". This option removes the most obnoxious of the specialized markup.

If you're not sure what sort of page layout you might like, Publisher provides some built-in templates, and Word templates are readily found on the web.

Your "Z:" drive web space has a 50 MB default size limit. This is usually more than enough for most personal web sites. If you should need more (for sharing data files or for special purposes, for example), please contact the PCSC or your group's webmaster for help.

Please remember that your web page will reflect on the reputations of both the Physics Department and Kansas State University. Strive to make and to keep your pages useful, attractive, up-to-date and, of course, appropriate. Be sure to read and follow the university information technology policies.

To create a personal web site on the KSU campus Unix system, see KSU's Creating Your Own Personal Home Page for instructions.


How do I set the security permissions on files?

If you want to share files or directories with other people on either the Unix or Windows systems, you must set the security permissions on those files appropriately. The basic approach to security is the same in most operating systems, though the implementation is somewhat different.

Three general classes of users are recognized for security purposes: the owner of a file, a user group or workgroup that the user might belong to, and rest of the world. Any of these classes of people may be given any combination of read-only, write, or execute permissions.

In Unix, use the chmod command to set privileges. To allow anyone complete access to a file, for instance, use

chmod a+rwx filename.type
The a argument means all user types; you might also use u for the user (for the file's owner), g for group or o for other (the rest of the world). The + sign adds a permission; a - sign is used to remove settings. Read access is specified by the r, write access by w and execute access by x.

Years ago our web server was on a Unix server. An example of using chmod back then would be setting permissions for your web page directory. The ~username/.html directory (and any subdirectories defined within it) housed a user's web pages, and had to allow the world both read and execute privileges, so from your root directory you would have used

chmod a+rx ./.html
The files within the .html directory must similarly be available, so from within the .html directory use
chmod a+rx *
where the wildcard * gives read access to all of the files.


The idea is the same in Windows, but the graphical user interface makes the job easier.

In the Windows Explorer, right-click on the file or directory that you want to change. Select Properties from the menu and a dialog box appears. Click on the Security folder tab, and then on the Permissions button. A list of users and user groups appears with a description of the types of access that they are allowed. To change the setting for one of the existing groups shown, select that group and then pick the kind of access from the drop-down box at the bottom of the window.

If the user or group that you want to modify permissions for is not shown, you need to use the Add button. This brings up another window that lists all the different groups defined on our system. To also see individual users, click on the Show Users button; the complete alphabetized list of users will be added at the end of the list of groups. Select the group or person you want to add and click the Add button again. Now pick the level of access from the drop-down box and click OK.

If you are changing the settings for an entire directory, you now have the option of giving the same permissions to all of the files and subdirectories inside of the parent directory. To do this, check the boxes labeled Replace Permissions on Subdirectories and Replace Permissions on Existing Files. Click on OK to close the Security window and again to close the Properties window and you're done.


How do I deny users or groups access to my Windows files?

Open the Windows Explorer and find the file or directory that you wish to protect. Right-click on that object, and select "Properties" from the menu. Click on the "Security" tab and press the "Permissions" button. A window opens that shows the "access control list" for each class of user or group.

NEVER fool with the permissions for any administrator, creator/owner or system. The former can always just change it back, while altering either of the latter is guaranteed to mess up your access to applications.

If a group is listed that you do not wish to have access, then remove that group (highlight it and click on "Remove"). Do not specify "No Access" or "Deny"; if you are a member of a group that you specifically deny access to, you will also deny yourself access.

You can customize the settings for any user or group by using "Add" to include those people and then specifying one of the levels of access listed in "Type of Access". "List" access means that the filenames can be seen in a directory listing, but they cannot be read or used. The other categories should be self- explanatory. If none of the listed levels of access satisfies your needs, you can create custom combinations of permissions using the "Special Access" selection.

Finally, be sure that you give yourself full control of your own files and directories.

If you want the changes you made to a directory's permissions to propagate all the way down through any subdirectories, click on the check box "Replace Permissions on Subdirectories". Now click "OK", answer any "Are you sure?" messages, and the changes are made. Click "OK" on the remaining Properties box and you're done.

Be very careful doing this. You can deny yourself access or break working applications this way, and you will have to get someone with administrative privileges to fix it. They won't be happy with you...


How do I find out how much Windows system disk space I'm using?

It's a good idea to occasionally check the files that you have on your personal "O" drive and anything that you might have put on the shared JRM "S" drive. Aside from disk space being a finite resource, the clutter from years of accumulated stuff can make your life harder than it ought to be. This is true for your home systems as well.

If you want to know how much space you're using on any of the disks on your computer, simply open the Windows Explorer and select "Computer" in the left-hand pane. The default view in the right-hand pane will show all your real and virtual drives with little indicator bars showing how much space is being used. A drive with less than 10% space free will have a red indicator bar.

An additional storage space to worry about is your "profile". That is your personal information folder stored on our servers that includes all of your preferences, favorites and desktop contents. This profile is transferred between your client coputer and our servers every time you log in or out. A small profile lets you log in faster, so it pays not to store big files on your desktop, and to keep your profile clean. Your profile is the folder on your "O:" drive called "profile". The free space in your profile is displayed by a tray icon in the lower-right corner of your desktop. The icon looks like a blue-screened monitor. Hovering the mouse over the icon will show your free profile space; double-clicking the icon will open a window that shows all the files in your pofile and their individual sizes. (See also the next question below.)

If you want to find all the large files on your drive or in a folder, select that item in Explorer, then click in the Search box at the upper right-hand corner of the window. A pop-under prompt for "Date" or "Size" will appear; click on "Size". Another pop-under will prompt you for a range of file sizes to look for. Pick the range that's appropriate and the search will start.

In Windows 10, many search functions now reside in the Cortana personal assistant. For tips on searching in older versions of Windows, try this article from Lifehacker.


How do I find the size of my Windows profile?

As mentioned in the question above, your profile has its own space restictions and may need to be managed. There are three ways to find the details about files stored in your profile.

The easiest thing to do is to find the profile space icon in your system tray. It looks like a blue monitor with a uer's head in front of it. Hovering the mouse over the icon will show your free profile space; double-clicking the icon will open a window that shows all the files in your pofile and their individual sizes.

To carefully explore your profile, open the Windows Explorer and find "O:\profile". Right-click on this directory and select "Properties" from the menu. The total size of the directory will be part of the data reported.

A small profile is a happy and fast profile. Avoid storing files on your desktop - those files actually go into this profile folder. Put them somewhere else on your "O:" drive, and just make a shortcut on your desktop if you really want an icon there. Cull any large files that you don't need fro the profile directory.

Take care that any files you delete from your profile are just your own personal files; deleting a system file could prevent you from logging in or other horrible things!
 


How do I use Outlook as my e-mail client?

Old tutorials on the use of Outlook 2000 and on Outlook's automated message handling features are available as separate web pages. Updated Outlook 2010 tutorials are in-work. See also our complete tutorials index.


Which apps can I (or should I) install on my home computer or laptop?

There are many "freeware" or generously licensed commercial applications that you may run on your personal computers. The first among these should be the Trend Micro OfficeScan antivirus utility, which the university requires for all faculty, staff and students connecting to its network. Note that you must supply your KSU Computing username/password to download the software from a non-KSU network address.

The antivirus software and a variety of other applications are downloadable in the Cat Pack. You can also get them on a DVD at the InfoTech Help Desk in 214 Hale Library.


How do I pick a default printer?

To pick a printer to be your default printer, open the "Devices and Printers" dialog in the "Control Panel" (or possibly on your Start Menu). Right-click on the printer that you want, and select "Set As Default Printer". The icon for that printer will change to one with a check mark emblazoned over it to indicate that it is the default.

See also our detailed tutorial on adding and selecting printers.


I need to print posters or banners...

The Physics Computing Support Center (PCSC) has an HP Designjet Z3100 large-format printer, which does an excellent job of printing posters for research conferences. You will need to follow several rules to make effective use of this printer and the time of PCSC staff. The complete priting policy and a request form are found on the dedicated Poster Printing page. Note that you will be prompted to login with your Physics credentials to use this page.


How can I remotely access the Physics Windows system from off-campus (or anywhere outside the firewall)?

The preferred method for off-campus access of our systems is to use the Windows Remote Desktop client. Please read the separate tutorial on Terminal Services / Remote Desktop. Linux secure shell logins are available via "linux.phys.ksu.edu".

University library services (such as access to journals) is easily available without special tools. Please see our tutorial on accessing library resources for details.

Some University services require that you login via their Virtual Private Network (VPN). General instructions and downloads of the KSU VPN clients for many operating systems and computers are available from the KSU VPN site. You need to have a University eID to download the software from there.


Swamped with spam?

The Physics Department maintains a spam-filtering system made by Barracuda Networks. The following are the answers to some frequently asked questions about this new system.

How does it work?

The Barracuda Spam Firewall is a stand-alone computing appliance dedicated to running programs that filter out spam and viruses from our e-mail. All mail arriving at the Physics Department first passes through this filter. A variety of schemes are used to test mail. First, the mail is compared to a "blacklist" of known spammers. Much spam originates from a relatively small number of hard-core spammers, and many of their mail servers are tracked by anti-spam services, who publish these blacklists. Similarly, most spammers send the same message to millions of recipients; this makes it possible to "fingerprint" bulk mailings and then test our incoming mail against that fingerprint. Finally, and most powerfully, the system employs Bayesian statistical analysis of every recipient's own e-mail to distinguish good mail from bad. The system will actually learn the difference between your own personal valid e-mail and your spam.

Every incoming piece of e-mail is assigned a score based on these tests. Mail assigned exceptionally high scores is certainly spam and is "blocked", that is, it is simply deleted. Mail that is probably, but not certainly, spam is saved, but "quarantined" on the spam filter. The remaining mail is probably all valid and is passed on to the mail server for delivery.

When you have quarantined mail, the spam filter will send you an e-mail notification. This notification includes a link to the filter's web page, where you can review the suspected spam and/or customize the filter to your own tastes. This web page is at http://barracuda.phys.ksu.edu:8000. The first notification that you get from the filter will include your username and password for the system. The username is just your e-mail address. You can (and should) change your password the first time that you log in.

The filter web page will display all of your quarantined mail. Each peice of suspect mail has "Deliver", "Whitelist" and "Delete" options shown beside it. "Deliver" will pass the mail on to your inbox and teach the system that this was "good" mail. "Delete" will get rid of the spam message and teach the system that it was "bad" spam.

If a piece of mail is one that you expect to receive regularly (such as a message from a mailing list), you may click "Whitelist" to permanently exempt that sender from being filtered. Note that some mailing lists use odd-looking semi-numerical "From" addresses that my change, and thus not be recognized as whitelisted. For those addresses, you may edit the whitelist by hand and whitelist just the domain name. Whitelist and blacklist management is done under the "Preferences" tab.

I still see some spam, so is this thing working?

Yes. As described above, the Barracuda spam appliance uses many methods for detecting spam, but it can take some time for the machine to learn what kind of mail we want and what we consider spam.

Am I losing any legitimate e-mail?

No. We have configured the filter such that only very worst sorts of spam are "blocked" and deleted at the filter (and, in fact, even this cesspool is retained for a short time and can be searched by PCSC). All other questionable mail is "quarantined" for your review. No legitimate mail should be blocked. The real question is whether there any good e-mail being quarantined. By default, you will be notified daily of any quarantined mail; you may change this to weekly notification (or turn it off altogether). When you visit the filter's web page, you may see some good e-mail quarantined. If you do, press the "Deliver" link and the mail will be delivered to your inbox.

If spam still gets through to my Outlook inbox, what do I do?

You have two options. First you can just delete them, or you can install an Outlook plug-in that lets you classify the message as "Spam" or "Not Spam" with the push of a button. Note that you must have administrative privileges to install this plug-in.

How do I find the Outlook plug-in?

Go to the Barracuda login page ( http://barracuda.phys.ksu.edu:8000 ); at the bottom of the page is a link to the software. You will need to be an administrator to install it, but once installed it works for everyone that uses that machine. Contact PCSC if you need help.

How much spam does the Physics department really get anyway?

As of April of 2011, about 75% of the e-mail messages received by the Physics Department are spam. That is about 6500 spam messages a day. This is much reduced from previous years, testifying to the effectiveness of spam eradication efforts.

Can I get to my quarantine box or preferences from outside of Cardwell Hall?

Yes, the Barracuda web pages can be reached form anywhere.

What if I forgot my password or username for the Barracuda?

Your username on the Barracuda is always your Physics e-mail address (username@phys.ksu.edu). If you have forgotten your password go to http://barracuda.phys.ksu.edu:8000 and enter your username, then click the "Create New Password" button. A new password will be e-mailed to you.

Other Questions?

Please contact the Physics Computer Support Center (pcschelp@phys.ksu.edu).


How do I secure my home PC/laptop?

There is now a tutorial available discussing techniques for securing your computer, avoiding spam and dispensing with spyware.