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 req@math.duke.edu 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 3.5Ghz, 8GB of RAM, and 24" LCD Monitors with a reesolution of 1920x1080.

Grid Computer Cluster

We have a cluster of machines running Sun's Grid Engine software to manage jobs. The machine grid1.math.duke.edu 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 grid.math.duke.edu so that resources are utilized with maximum efficiency. Read the documentation for submitting and monitoring jobs.  All grid machines currently have 6-Core Xeon CPUs running at 3.5Ghz and 64GB 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 will all be identitically configured.

Centralized Storage

The department provides centralized home directories for all systems with 30GB 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 req@math.duke.edu. 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 :

  • lw0 : Located in Room 102. This printer is an HP Laserjet P4015 Duplex Capable Printer
  • lw3 : Located in Room 274j. This printer is a HP Laserjet P4015 Duplex Capable Printer.
  • lw4 : Located in Room 029. This printer is a HP Laserjet M601 Duplex Capable Printer.
  • lw6 : Located in Room 223. This printer is an HP Laserjet M601 Duplex Capable Printer.
  • cp136 : Located in Room 102. This printer is a Brother MFC-L8850CDW Color Laser Printer/Scanner. Please observe the restrictions listed below.

Please see the Documentation - Frequently Asked Questions 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.

Network Attached Scanner

The color laser printer in room 136 also provides scanning functions. 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 online.

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.

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.