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Historical Workstations

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Currently, about half of wonderful workstations run Debian, the other half are LTSP clients connected to rockhopper. There are also a few special workstations, one is reserved for the teacher, one is reserved for presentations, and one is reserved for the image, meaning only admins should access it.


They didn't always run Debian (or even Linux); we have run Slackware on the workstations, and I've heard SUSE was used as well, but that is probably not correct.

The only job currently associated with the workstations is updating the packages and reimaging them; since they have run Debian Linux for a long time now, they are relatively stable running Debian's testing tree for the most part. Imaging used to be an inconvenient, manual process involving two floppy disks and a squad of sysadmins along with their helpers. Since the 2004-2005 school year, however, all you have to do is understand the quirks of the system.

(This part may or may not be applicable in future times. Who knows?) To release an image, the sysadmin must first make sure everything works on at least the golden client (currently hydrogen). Or else Alfie or Lee or Victor or whoever the workstation admins are will be very very sad. And you don't want that.

In theory, you should release a beta image for testing to different kinds of workstations to test things before you image all the workstations with a full release. In practice, it is faster to image all the workstations often and fix problems as soon as they arise (non-classtime is good for this purpose, as essential lesson plans won't be ruined this way). Once again, test things before you force them upon the students.

To release a beta image, run

hydrogen:~# /usr/csl/sbin/sysbetaimg

or to release a full image, run

hydrogen:~# /usr/csl/sbin/sysfullimg

(This is the w34k way to do it. Switch the runlevel to 4 or 5 to really impress people at parties.)

Follow the onscreen directions, even up until you have to run the command

king:~# syspullimg hydrogen

(It wasn't always king, and it probably won't be king by the time you need to read this; knowledge is power!). Be sure to follow those instructions carefully, too. After we made the full switch to udev with all the changes that kernel v2.6.12 entailed, /dev didn't rsync over with the rest of the image, so you have to run the command sysfix or sysfix_b if you want the workstations to have /dev (hint: you definitely want them to have /dev).

After that, you can run the command csl_reimage or init 9 on a workstation. Run

# /usr/csl/sbin/syssetimage -b

first if you want to use the beta image.

You can set up sudo to include underclassmen that you deem worthy of being able to do you job for you. That is, you can let them run the csl_reimage command, and suddenly you don't have to do a lot of that work any more.

Weird Runlevels

We use all the runlevels we can ... use.

  • 0 - Halt (Even with our unorthodox system, that's the 1337 way to shut down on any box)
  • 1 - ???
  • 2 - ???
  • 3 - ???
  • 4 - ???
  • 5 - ???
  • 6 - Restart (see 0)
  • 7 - equivalent to csl_resetup, which ???
  • 8 - equivalent to csl_reconfigure, which runs all the /usr/csl/etc/sysconf/config files, and maybe even more. Useful if you messed up some configuration thingy or other, or if for some reason they're missing entirely (netbooted images, for example, will not have them, which is why you should be prepared to manually type in the boot options if you decide to netboot a workstation; run init 8 as root when you've done that, and then you have no problems! A good thing if you don't want to use floppies but the image is somehow non-functional).
  • 9 - equivalent to csl_reimage, in that it reimages the computer. Run syssetimage -b as root if you want to use the beta image. After one serious incident of failure to think, the sysadmins decided to make sure you couldn't image the golden client unless you tried really, really hard (wink wink nudge nudge).
  • S - Single user mode. Useful for ... uh, getting you unstuck from ucky situations.


This was created sometime circa 2004. Nobody really knows how all the thingies inside work. Go on inside unarmed AT YOUR OWN RISK. No really. Some of the stuff in there is scary. --Alfie 02:01, 7 November 2005 (EST)

Workstation Generations

Before there were workstations, there were what are now known as 'terminals'. This used to be the only way to access computers if you were not >= technology demigod. Running a state-of-the-art computer laboratory using personal computers would have been a laughable thought in the 1980's, but today that's what we try to do. It might go back to be that way if computers keep improving at the same rate they are, but that's not my problem, see. Right now is the tail end of the Pentium 4 era. Know your roots. --Alfie 01:00, 7 November 2005 (EST)

In the Beginning

Okay, so for cursory knowledge you might like to know that we used to have serial consoles tied to VAXen in the machine room that existed in the Learning Parlor. I do believe that they were able to access the ETA10P 'remotely' if you so desired to access it that way, but don't hold me to that. We later were running IRIX somehow. Don't hold me to that, either. However, I have most of the evidence of any of this IN MY BASEMENT, so you probably will never know! (Also Alfie)


The first generation of workstations was composed of the Vectras. The last of those were destroyed under the Moffingston regime. They're Pentiums, I believe. They stink. They pretty much are outclassed by the Vectras in the library (as of the time of this writing, anyway).

Number of CPUs: 1
CPU Vendor: GenuineIntel
Model: Pentium 75 - 200
Processor Speed: 132MHz
Memory: 75 MB
Hard Drive: 1083.13 MB


The second generation of workstations are the Transformers. Originally thirty named after Transformers from the cartoon (...you guessed it!) Transformers, these have been rearranged, mexed miss-- er, mixed messaged up so many times it isn't even cool to use one for a personal project anymore. They were originally paid for with insurance money when the ETA-10P was damaged, since 30 new computers would be more effective and closer to modern supercomputing techniques than an obsolete supercomputer would. Originally, they had the icons of the Transformer they represented, but with some getting renamed with labels peeled and whatnot, this use has been forgotten. Fun trivia

  • hughes, hawkeye, and resurrection are not actual Transformer names. Two are named after officers from Fullmetal Alchemist, and resurrection is just totally OOC. It's supposed to be armstrong, but since Eric fixed it I figure he can name it whatever the heck he wants.
  • The TNT2 cards from the Transformer era seem to have this problem where they cause horizontally streaked video. This does not affect performance at all, however.
  • The Transformers began major repairs during the 2002-2003 school year, and it was not finished until the 2004-2005 school year when all Transformers that did not work at all were dismantled.
Number of CPUs: 1
CPU Vendor: GenuineIntel
CPU Model: Pentium II
CPU Speed: 400 MHz
RAM: 123 MB
Hard Drive: 15179.28 MB
Video Cards: Create TNT2 (32MB)
First School Year: ???
  • RAM: Supposed to have 512MB after Eric upgraded all of the working ones. You really don't want less in today's workstations


The third generation? The are the Elements, named after the first 16 elements ordered by atomic number. Shoddily built, as Eric or Alfie could attest.

  • Some of them don't even power up correctly. Seriously, what's with that?
  • You can access them by their chemical symbols as well as their hostnames
Processors: AMD Athlon K7's, but maybe some of them run on Celerons or Durons.
RAM: 512MB?
Video cards: Matrox TNT2
First school year: ???


The fourth generation are the Guitarists; 12 be their number, but wait! a surprise! There are actually 13! How'd that happen? Well, basically we just found one lyin' around not being used or asked for back after one whole summer (it was narfed by the Lab for JOSTI 2005), so it turned into dylan. Fun trivia: santana was supposed to be called buchanan originally, but someone (by which I don't mean Moffingston for once) had a memory lapse and didn't name it that, which caused no end of headaches when Supercomp students ran MPI programs. And now you know! They are all pre-built by (the now-defunct) Compaq, marking the first time the Syslab workstations weren't student-built.

Processors: Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4, 2.40GHz
RAM: 256MB/512MB
Video cards: They come with integrated Intel graphics (not the same kind as Heroes), but some of them have TNT2's just so that we weren't driven insane from the ugliness.
First school year: ??? (I should know, I'm just too lazy to remember right now)

Tragic Heroes

The fifth generation are the Tragic Heroes (please call them Heroes for short, PLEASE), which are pre-built by HP Compaq. They aren't that much different from Guitarists, but they look a lot better, have convenient ports in front, and of course HP desktops are among the most reliable in the business. All 40 were named by Mr. Shane Torbert, marking the first time the workstations weren't named by students. Fun trivia:

  • one was supposed to be named bigger, but that obviously wouldn't fly, so now it's odysseus
  • They all die in the end. Whoops! Guess I spoiled it for you.
Processors: Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4, 2.80GHz
RAM: 256MB
Video cards: They come with integrated Intel graphics (not the same kind as Guitarists), but all of them have an additional nvidia graphics card (most of them have GeForce2's, although some have other things) which were cheap at the time and give you some relief from the sheer AGE of the TNT2 cards.
First school year: 2004-2005


The sixth generation workstations are the Volcanoes, which are pre-built by HP Compaq. The main new thing about these workstations are that they have Intel Core2Duo processors. We have received 18 so far, with more on the TJ Partnership Fund wishlist. These workstations have silver sides, and black on the front, top, and bottom. All of these have front-side USB ports and audio jacks.

Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 6300 @ 1.86GHz
RAM: 256MB
First school year: 2007-2008
Last school year: Still in use