Computers - Take a Byte out of CRAY


    Obtaining a Computer

    Basic Computer Setup

    Basic Unix


    When Things go Awry



  1. Intro

    So, you’ve decided to attend Georgia Tech, a fine institution built on the advancement of science and technology. You think to yourself, "Hmm, technology. Doesn’t that mean computers?" And then, depending on your level of computer literacy, you either smile at the thought of high-speed ethernet links, or cringe at the fact that most of your college career will be hinged on a gray box filled with circuitry.

    Let’s face it: computers are a big part of life at Georgia Tech. Since the onset of the Student Computer Ownership by the Office of Information Technology (OIT) last year, every entering freshman is required to purchase, borrow, steal, or otherwise manufacture a computer for personal use. While this may seem like another aspect of the royal Tech Shaft, owning a personal computer at Tech makes one’s life incredibly easier in the long run. Sure, it costs money, but in this case, the benefits outweigh the costs by a significant margin.

    Obtaining a computer is only half the battle; to be a functional computer user (notice I didn’t say all-out geek), you must learn how to apply your brand new box to your homework, assignments, reports, e-mail, web browsing, and, of course ICQ-ing, instead of using it as an expensive paperweight.

    So, step inside my parlor, sit a spell, and tell me about your problems. No, wait; that’s after you use your computer. In the mean time, here’s how to get up and running in the world of Georgia Tech computing.

  2. Obtaining a Machine

    First, there was the Commodore. Then, there was the IBM. Soon, there was the Mac. Now, there’s everything from Compaq to Hewlett-Packard to Billy Bob’s computers and chitlins. How do you choose what computer to buy? Fear not! With the help of OIT’s guidelines and yours truly, you’ll have your purchasing decision squared away in no time.

    First thing’s first: Mac or IBM? Endless hours of debate have been spent on this topic, so I won’t even begin to address it. The bottom line is that the decision is ultimately in your hands. Excluding this debate, the main elements to consider when buying a computer are processor, memory, hard drive, peripherals, and software. The following are recommended amounts of each element to include in your new computer:

    Processor: 200-300 Megahertz (Mac: 603e)
    Hard Drive: 4-6 gigabytes
    Memory: 32-64 megabytes RAM
    Video Card: 2+ megabytes VRAM
    CD-ROM: 12 x and up
    Monitor: 15 inch, 1280x1024
    Ethernet card: 10-baseT (for on-campus)
    Modem: 33.6/56K (for off-campus)
    Sound Card: 16 bit and up (w/ speakers) (Mac: Headphones, at least)

    In addition to these basic computing elements, you may want to include such luxury items as a printer, scanner, fancy speakers, and other such goodies. While they may not be necessities in the world of computing, they sure make life a tad more jolly.

    Now, what about software? Tech offers a computer software package including math applications, and internet browser, Office 98 (word processor, spreadsheet, database, and the like), and a web page builder. Some of this software may have come pre-installed with your computer, so explore your hard drive before you buy! As a general rule, purchase what you think you will need, and save purchasing cryptic applications until you will need them. For example, a good all-around starter application for any budding computer user is Office 98; you should opt for this over Maple, a math application.

    Should you purchase from Georgia Tech? The answer lies within you, Daniel-San! Check around your hometown, the internet, local ads, etc. You will most likely find better prices outside of the Georgia Tech bookstore in terms of computer systems. The cons to purchasing a non-Tech computer is that you receive no DIRECT support from the bookstore. Of course, you DO get help from resident technical assistants, who are paid to brighten your computing day. In the end, buy bookstore if money isn’t an opt ion, and buy elsewhere if frugality is key.

  3. Basic Computer Setup

    All right, you’ve set up your computer, it’s sitting on your desk at Tech, and you’re ready to surf the web with your new-fangled system, right? Not so fast, Slick. You still have to set up your computer for Techland. Sweating from confusion? Don’t fret; you’ve got Mr. DoItAll right here to help.

    The first step in setting your computer up for the Georgia Tech network is to setup your GT account. This account is the branding mark of your existence at Tech, and will stay with you until you leave this hallowed ground. Note: the following assumes you have correctly and completely setup your Ethernet network card in your computer!

    So, hop on over to the Rich building. "Huh, Rich building?" Yes, that’s where OIT is housed. If you’re lost, click here for a picture; the building IS somewhat secluded. As you enter the ground floor, the OIT office will be on your left. There, you wi ll get to converse with the ever-polite OIT staff, who will kindly direct you in filling out a form (the first of millions that you will complete during your stay at Tech). After filling the form out, the OIT staff will give you a printout with a GT numb er and a password. There! Wait about an hour, and you exist (well, in computer terms at least).

    I know, you probably are eager to rush back to your computer and start playing, right? Wrong. After sedating yourself, find a working computer that’s online to the Internet. These systems can be found in the Rich building, the library, and the College of Computing clusters. Sit yourself down in front of these computer and log on to .

    Now, to complete this form (the second one, if you’re counting), you’ll need your newly acquired GT number and password, as well as your Ethernet card address. You can obtain the Ethernet address via some utility on your computer that was either provided with the card on a floppy disk or via a network diagnostic utility that also came with the card. Each Ethernet card address is different, so it’s imperative that you know YOUR OWN, and not your best friend’s.

    Example GT num: gta001z
    Example password: f9283jr
    Example Ethernet card address: 01 A0 45 6F F3 3C

    Complete the form on the web page, providing any and all requested information. Once you complete this form, a screenfull of magic numbers will flash on the screen. You may want to make note of your IP number at this time.

    Example IP number:

    Since you’re antsy about getting on the net, you can now run back to your room and plop down in front of your new system. To finish setting up your computer, follow the handy steps at

    If everything worked, you should be surfing! Have fun, and don’t stay up too late (like I am while typing this!)

  4. Basic Unix

    "Uhn-iks," you say? No, that’s UNIX (pronounced YOO-nix). It’s the operating system used by most machines that manage the network here at Tech. Do you need to learn Unix? Not forwards and backwards, but a few tips will be quite beneficial in the not-too-distant future. Trust me.

    For starters, let’s try logging on to acme. Acme refers to network machines that you can logon to. Open up your Telnet client (Win95: Start – Run – Telnet), go to the connect menu, and choose Remote System. Now, type in for the host name, and make sure the port is set to telnet. Ok, now click connect. BAM! You’re connected.

    A login prompt should appear; enter your GT number and press enter. A password prompt should appear under the login. Enter the password given to you by the friendly people at OIT. You should now be in the magical world of acme!

    Example: login: gta001z
    Password: ******

    Most likely, a "change password" set of prompts will come up. If not, type in "passwd" at the prompt and follow the directions. These prompts will let you choose your own, personal password to acme. IMPORTANT! REMEMBER THIS PASS WORD! Don’t be a schmuck and create a new password only to forget it after 5 minutes on the phone with your chums.

    Ok, so you’ve logged on and customized your password. Now what? Let’s try a few commands. Type in "usage" and press enter. A screenfull of data should appear relating to how many bananas you have. Bananas? Don’t get too hungry just yet; remember, this is computing, not Martha Stewart. Check to see your "percent usage" on the upper right of the screen. This is how much usage time you have consumed out of 100% allocated. You see, OIT only gives you a certain amount of playtime on acme; they don’t want you using up all of their resources 24/7. So, being the demigods that they are, they invented a currency and named it bananas.

    Whenever you execute an action in acme, you use up bananas. When you run out of bananas, you can’t really do much, now, can you? The good news is that you normally don’t consume much and you will rarely run the risk of running out of bananas. And, they OITers are kind enough to replenish your account every quarter.

    Let’s try another command: type in "quota". Two numbers should appear; the first is your current disk usage, and the second is the amount of disk space that you are allowed to use. If the first number is greater than the second number, you will most likely get a nasty e-mail about it, which cordially asks you to stop hogging space and delete a few unneeded files. Like bananas, unless you are planning on composing War and Peace II, you won’t have too many problems with quota.

    I know, these commands are boring; you’re aching to do something fun, huh? Ok then, finger me. No, I’m serious, finger me! Type in "finger gte014f" and press enter. You should receive a few lines which state who I am in real life, if I have any mail (Yipee!) and if I have a plan (who, me?). The finger command is a good way to see who’s lurking behind a GT number. Now, type in "lu George Perantatos". You should get a screen of my info. Lu stands for "look up"; every student at Tech has a record on file, and you can access it by typing lu’ing their name. As a side note, "lu George" will not yield me, but "lu Perantatos" will.

    Let’s finish this Unix command section by typing in "ls" and pressing enter. Ls stands for list, and it displays the files in your directory. Depending on how much you’ve used your account, this may be empty.

    Now, on to bigger and better stuff! Type in elm and press enter. Navigate through the setup screens, choosing the defaults for any and all choices. What you end up with is a menu-driven e-mail reader! What fun! "But, what’s my e-mail address? " you cry. Simple: take your GT number, add an @, and then add "".

    Example e-mail address:

    Elm is a nice little program that allows you to compose mail, check mail, delete mail, and deep fry mail. Ok, maybe not the frying part, but you get the point. The easiest way to get accustomed to the program is to follow the menu prompts at the bottom and compose a message to yourself. Try sending this message, receiving it, reading it, and deleting it. Remember to follow the menus! As a note, a menu choice indicated with a carat symbol "^" means to use the control key. For example, "^X" means hold down the control key while pressing "X".

    Ok, press "q" to quit out of elm and return to the main prompt. Now, type in Tin and press enter. Tin is a more cryptic newsgroup reader program. Newsgroups are basically collections of e-mails about a specific topic where each "subscriber" to the newsgroup can read any and all messages to the newsgroup. In other words, a newsgroup is like a public corkboard of e-mail messages. Unfortunately, I’m not going to detail proper use of Tin as a newsgroup reader, as I get very angry a nd frustrated with its ineptness. What I CAN tell you is to either follow the menu prompts to subscribe to groups and read the messages, or wait until we setup your browsers to read newsgroups.

    That’s it for Unix! Now, on to the Internet.

  5. Internet

    A subset of the Mac vs. IBM wars is the current browser war. Netscape, maker of Navigator and Communicator, is competing heavily with Microsoft, maker of Explorer (as well as a host of other monopolizing applications and operating systems). The debate rages on as loyalists from both factions argue about each browser’s capabilities. "We have more stable patches!" the Netscapers yell. "Oh yeah?" the Microsofters call back, "well, we have integration with the OS!" (to which the Netscapers scoff in contempt).

    While I won’t take any sides on this issue, what I WILL tell you is that I’ll give you instructions on setting up e-mail and newsgroups with Netscape Communicator version 4.0 and up. Call it bias; I call it using the superior product.

    Configuring your e-mail through Netscape is easy, and it will allow you to use Communicator’s handy graphical interface in mailing people. First, go to the Edit menu and select Preferences (it should be on the very bottom). Now, find the Mail and Groups menu choice on the left of the preferences window; double click on Mail and Groups in case the thread is closed (you’ll see a "+" sign if it’s closed. Just click on it to open the sub-menus).

    Now, click on Identity if it isn’t already highlighted. You’ll see a selection of fields on the right. Fill in your name and e-mail address (remember,!). If you have a signature file, choose it at the bottom. If not, don’t worry about it.

    Advance to the Mail Server menu by clicking on Mail Server in the sub-menus of Mail and Groups. In the mail server name field on the left, type in your GT number (i.e. gta001z). In the Outgoing SMTP field, type in "". And, in the Incoming POP3 field, type in "".

    Advance to the Groups Server sub-menu on the left. In the News Server field, type in "".

    Now, click OK on the bottom of the preferences window. You’re done! You can now use Netscape’s mail and newsreader like you would elm and tin (of course, netscape looks nicer!). Familiarize yourself with Netscape’s workings; try sending an e-mail to yourself and receiving it. Subscribe to git.test and post a test message. Fun, eh? I thought so.

  6. When Things go Awry

    What? Things aren’t going as planned? Your computer has decided to hibernate? Not to fear! Tech’s dedicated staff of Resident Technical Assistants and OIT buccaneers will help you in your times of owe! Here is the contact information you will need to solve most any computer problem.

    OIT: e-mail:


    Residential Network (ResNet): Web:

    Phone: 894-0044

    Feel free to ask for help! It’s their job.

  7. Miscellany

    With every society come social norms, to which people are expected to conform to. The Internet is no different, as unwritten rules have been made concerning everything from e-mail signatures to replies. Here are some tips on how not to get "flamed" while surfing.

    Above all, remember to respect others on the net; they have as much right to use it as you do.

  8. Closing

So now, thanks to this computer diatribe, you’re an expert, right? Sure you are. Of course, there’s one last thing to point out. While computers and the Internet provide a wealth of connectivity and power to the average user, you have t o remember that computers aren’t a replacement of a life.

I’m being serious here (and this is coming from a Computer Science major!). There’s a difference between using the computer and living through the computer. ICQ friends aren’t real friends. E-mail love affairs don’t compare to real-life relationships. Quake doesn’t compare to an intra-mural sport (well, at least one that’s PHYSICALLY played outside!). Point being: have fun, but obtain life status as well. You’ll love yourself for it.