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Student Computing Handbook


Students in the School of Computer Science have access to the CAT suites in the Ingkarni Wardli building and on level-1 of the Engineering and Mathematics building. Nearly all of these machines are configured so that you can choose to run Linux or Windows. There are also a number of Macintoshes available in the Hub.

Apart from practical exams, you are free to use any of the available computing suites for your assignment work. Many are also available 24-hours a day. You can also work at home and / or bring your own laptop to work on.


The School of Computer Science expects all students to become comfortable working with the command line tools of a Linux system. The automatic marking scripts used by the web based assignment submission system run on the same Linux system used in the CAT suites. For most purposes, either a Linux, Windows or Macintosh system can be used for your work. However, if you are not using a CAT suite Linux system it is your responsibility to overcome the sometimes significant problems you may encounter.

The descriptions below assume that you are using a CAT suite Linux system. If you are using another kind of system, some of the potential difficulties you will encounter are described on the External Access page.

Logging in

When you first sit down at a machine, you will be prompted for your user name and password. This is the same user name and password that you will use for all other university systems, including email. You should ensure that you keep this password to yourself and do not share it with others.

Once logged in, you will be presented with a graphical desktop environment. If you are not already familiar with the desktop environment you should spend some time exploring the menus, available applications etc. so that you know your way around.

Navigating around the system

Under Linux you can browse around the file system using the Nautilus file manager. Just double click on the home icon on the desktop, and you will see the contents of your home directory on the network. You can also look through the contents of the local file system on the computer's hard disk via the computer icon. When using the file manager, you may find it useful to switch to list mode (click on View -> View as List).

To see what applications are installed on the machine, click on the Applications menu at the top of the screen. You can easily launch programs like Firefox (for web browsing) or the terminal from here.

The UNIX shell

Linux and MacOS are based on UNIX, the platform of choice for many computer scientists and software developers. UNIX features a command-line interface with which you can perform tasks by typing in text-based commands and viewing responses printed out on the terminal by the computer. If you have previously only used Windows (or the graphical desktop on the Mac), this can take a bit of getting used to, but with a bit of practice you'll find it just as easy to use (if not more) than graphical tools. There are a number of important advantages to using the command line interface, which you'll learn more about as you go through your courses. You are expected to become comfortable using the command line interface.

To bring up a terminal window so you can interact with the command line interface: Go to the menu and select Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal

To learn the basics, go through lessons 1-4 of the tutorial at:

You may wish to look at the other lessons at some later point in time, but the first 4 will be enough to get you started. Note that in lesson 2 there is a reference to a file science.txt which does not exist on our system; you can use /etc/services instead when going through this lesson on the CAT suite Linux machines.

Editing text files

During your course work you will need to use a text editor to work with various types of files, such as program source code. While you can use any text editor you like you should learn to use a command line text editor such as vim, nano or emacs. Being able to use a command line editor will allow you work remotely using the student server which only provides a command line interface.

To edit a file with one of the command line editors just type the name of the editor followed by the filename at the command line prompt:

% vim myfile.cpp

If the file does not exist it will be created when you finally decide the save your edits.

There are of course GUI based text editors such as gedit and some editors like emacs will use a GUI if it is available.

Accessing the Internet

The Firefox web browser is installed on the Linux machines.

Please be aware that your use of the Internet is subject to the University's acceptable use policies and guidelines. You can find more information on these at:

University email

The university provides a web-based email service and information on this is available at:

Your email user name and password is the same as what you use when logging in to the CS machines.

Changing your password

If you need to change your password, see the instructions here:

Any changes you make to your password will apply to all university systems, including email and the CAT suite machines. Unfortunately, it can take a little time for the change to propagate to all University systems. If you encounter problems logging in after changing your password, please contact the IT Service Desk on 08-8313-3000.


Several printers are available for use in the student labs. The lab machines are configured to use these, and you can select the appropriate printer from the print dialog in most applications. The names of the printers are the same as the room numbers; you can select an appropriate one when you print a document from any application.

You are initially given a print quota that applies to printers in all student computer labs throughout the university. If it runs out, you can purchase additional quota at the student centre. For more information, and to check your current quota, see:


The School of Computer Science uses a web based assignment submission system that assumes that all student assignments are stored in a version control system called Subversion. Subversion enables you to keep a backup of your work, to have up to date copies at University and at home, as well as store different versions that can later be retrieved and compared. You will use Subversion during most of your courses for assignment work.

A set of instructions on how to use Subversion is available at We expect all students to be able to operate subversion from the UNIX command line.

System Problems

If you run into problems with the CAT suite computers or need help using the installed software, contact your practical or workshop demonstrator for assistance. In many cases you can also go to the help menu within applications, or use the man command to learn how to use command-line applications in the UNIX shell. Please report all hardware problems to the IT Service Desk on 08-8313-3000.

School of Computer Science

Level 4, Ingkarni Wardli
North Terrace Campus


T: +61 8 8313 4729
F: +61 8 8313 4366

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