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The Linux Operating System

The majority of the computers in the department run the Linux operating system.  Linux, a Unix-like operating system, is a secure multi-user, multi-tasking system that is ideally suited for large networks. While in the past Unix was known for its arcane commandline interface, much like the old MSDOS operating system, it has matured to the point of providing a mature Graphical User Interface (GUI) that allows for greater ease of use and more complex programs. There are several different interfaces available, but the most popular are KDE and Gnome (our default).  Today, there are open source alternatives for virtually all major software packages that are typically used on other operating systems such as Mac OSX and Windows.  Please contact for assistance in finding the right software to do your work.

Public Computing Resources

The Mathematics Department provides computer labs for users with math accounts. No NetID Login access is provided. There are three main computer labs in the Physics building. With the exception of room 102, these labs are available whenever a class is not meeting in them. Room 102 has no classes but is only unlocked between 8AM and 5PM Monday - Friday. All lab machines currently have Quad Core Intel i5 CPUs running at 2.8Ghz, 4GB of RAM, and 24" LCD Monitors with a reesolution of 1920x1080.
  • Room 274J : This lab contains 9 Linux Workstations named -> and are available for remote login via ssh.   There is also a HP Laserjet 4240 Duplex Printer available called lw3.
  • Room 102 : This room across from the lounge contains three Linux Workstations named,, and, a HP Laserjet 4250 Duplex Laser Printer, designated lw0 for single sided and lw0d for double sided printing, and a Brother 9045 Color Laser Printer/Scanner designated as cp136. There are restrictions on color printing, please read the Color Laser printer. The scanner portion of the Color Laser Printer can be used from any computer in the room and instructions are posted on the wall above the scanner as well as here. All computers in this room can also provide a limited guest Windows session to run some Windows based software.
  • Room 223 : This room is located approximately above the front office and contains an HP 4250 Duplex Capable laser printer named lw6 for single sided jobs and lw6d for duplex printing. There is also a Linux Workstation available for public use in this room. The computer in this room can also provide a limited guest Windows session to run some Windows based software.

Grid Compute Cluster

We have a cluster of machines running Sun's Grid Engine software to manage jobs. The machine through grid16.math.duke.eduare available for running long computational jobs, but it is preferable to submit these jobs through the Sun Grid Engine (SGE) interface on so that resources are utilized with maximum efficiency. Read the documentation for submitting and monitoring jobs at  All grid machines currently have Quad Core Intel i5 CPUs running at 3.3Ghz and 8GB of RAM.

Desktop Computing

The department currently provides Linux Workstations for faculty, staff, and postdocs on their office desks.  Computers for graduate students will be provided, upon request, if they are available, however there is no guarantee.  The computers will be managed and maintained by department IT staff and should all be identitically configured.

Centralized Storage

The department provides centralized home directories for all systems with 20GB quotas per user.  Snapshots of the filesystem are made regularly to permit easy file restoration and backup are made nightly.  In addition, a global directory, /gtmp, is available for storing large temporary data for use on multiple systems and is commonly used in conjunction with the Grid Compute Cluster.  Local disk storage is also available on all systems in two directories, /xtmp which is backed up nightly, and /ytmp which is not backed up.  Local storage is only accessible from the machine on which is resides.


Unix home directories and mail are backed up nightly. Daily archives are kept for 2 months, Monthly Archives for 6 months, and Yearly Archives are permanent. Note that backups are only done once a day at approximately 1:30 AM, so if you lose a file at 12:30 AM, you'll have to take the previous day's backup. To request the restoration of a file, please send the name of the file (with complete path) and the date from which you would like it restored to We will notify you when the files are restored. 


The mathematics department provides 4 printers for public use. All public printers are duplex capable, meaning they can print on both sides of the paper. To use the duplex feature, append a 'd' to the printer name. For example, if lw0 is the name of the printer, lw0d is the name of the printer to print on both sides of the page. The public printers are : Please see the Documentation Page for information on how to select a default printer and how to print in a unix enviromnent.

Scanning from the Photo Copier

The simplest way to scan documents into your account is via the photo copier.  This process is very quick and simple, but will only produce greyscale scans, no color.   Full instructions are available in the copy room and here as well.

Brother 9045 Network Attached Scanner

There is a Hewlett Packard Scanjet II color scanner attached to the Windows XP machine in Room 136. This scanner is capable of converting full color images from paper, photos, or books, into computer images that can be used on web pages. Instructions on using the scanner are available here

Linux Computers

Linux is a unix operating system that was freely developed on the internet by thousands of programmers seeking an alternative to commercial operating systems. The software itself is free and source code is available.  Programs written for Windows or MacOSX will not run on machines running linux, however, there are frequently alternative programs available. By running Unix on ordinary PC's, we can provide much faster machines for much lower costs and upgrade them more frequently.   Currently the department runs a Linux distribution called Scientific Linux which is based upon RedHat Enterprise Linux.  Root access for users is NOT permitted under any circumstances.

Duplex Printers

The HP Laserjet 4250 Duplex Printer is the main departmental printer. It is capable of 25 pages per minutes and of printing jobs on both sides of the paper. Please try to use the duplex feature whenever possible to save paper. On average, this printer will produce 12000-14000 pages per month, several of which go straight to the recycle bin under the printer. The duplex option was purchased to provide a mechanism to save paper by printing on both sides. This printer actually has two separate name. Printing to lw0 will print a single sided job while printing to lw0d will print a double sided job. 

Brother DCP-9045CDN Color Printer/Scanner

  • The color laser printer is by printing to cp136.
  • Please do not print black ink pages to the printer. This is a completely ridiculous waste of resources. Print black ink pages to lw0 and your color pages to cp136.
  • Color is nice but not always necessary. Keep in mind that mass production of color pages will not be permitted.
  •  Please remember that the color printer is mainly for teaching and research use. Any excessive printing may be charged $1.50 per page.

  • Maintained by: System Support Staff