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Admin guide/FAQ

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This page answers some questions that new admins or visitors to the lab might have.

What is the CSL?

The Computer Systems Lab is one of the research labs at TJ. Aside from being an environment for student research projects, the CSL is the home of services used by every student and teacher at TJ: Intranet, student email accounts, the public-facing school website, and many others. The Student Systems Administrators, with the assistance of lab staff, run almost every system in the CSL.

What responsibilities do Student Systems Administrators have?

In general, it's the job of the Student Systems Administrators to keep everything running. There are exceptions to this -- there are many systems that are available for experimentation, but in general, one should try to maintain service uptime and stability.

Student Systems Administrators will often be asked to provide a service or complete a task for other groups or students at TJ. As an example, every year, SGA relies on the student intranet polls system to conduct elections.

What are the different types of systems in the lab?

There are a few major types of systems in the lab. The most important of these are user-facing backend services. These include the student intranet, the public-facing web server, and email services. These services are generally very mission-critical -- for example, without the student intranet, the eighth period program essentially could not function.

Another class of systems are user-facing workstations. These are the desktop computers in the CSL. It is normal for a few of these to be non-functional on any given day, however, they are fairly important -- the artificial intelligence and parallel computing courses rely on them for completion of coursework.

Another user-facing class of systems are computing clusters. These are located in the machine room, and are generally used to run parallel computing or research jobs. It's generally okay if a few nodes are offline, but again, they are necessary for some research projects and parallel computing jobs.

One very important class of systems are "invisible" backend services. These include the Kerberos key distribution centers, the LDAP server, and storage servers. Although they are not directly visible to users, user-facing systems depend on them for pretty much everything. These systems should be redundant, if possible, and issues that arise should be fixed immediately.

Experimental systems are those used in research projects, either formal or informal. It's okay if these are down, however, it would be wise to work with the users of the system to coordinate any actions necessary for the continuation of a research project on such systems.

What are some critical systems in the lab?

Every system mentioned here should have its own documentation section. Please refer to that section for information on that particular system.

The most important system in the lab is the networking infrastructure. It enables communication between other systems. Networking is redundant to the fullest extent possible because of this.

Some of the more important systems in the lab are the storage arrays and their associated storage servers.

Most user-facing storage is provided by OpenAFS. This includes student home directories and club websites.

The virtual machine cluster is also fairly important. Many services are run as virtual machines on this cluster.

Authentication services are provided by Kerberos. The CSL has its own Kerberos realm, but many services also authenticate against the Windows domain, known as LOCAL.

Authorization services are provided by OpenLDAP.

What software does the lab run?

In general, systems in the lab run Gentoo Linux. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, however. Some older systems run Solaris/SunOS, and a few newer systems run Debian or CentOS.