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Labs and Facilities

Department facilities

The whole department is situated in the Owheo Building.

There are 5 general purpose labs (used mainly for the teaching of undergraduate courses), running various dual-boot combinations of Red Hat linux and / or OSX and / or Windows. There are also a number of research groups, including Artificial Intelligence, Computer Theory, Graphics and Vision, Imformation Retrieval and Systems, which are populated by a mixture of staff, postgrad students, research fellows and 400-level students doing lab-related topics.

There are kitchens/common rooms and toilets situated on all floors. These are for general use by both staff and students - but Computer Science shares the Owheo Building with two other departments, so please be considerate of others, be unobtrusive, and clean up after yourself if you use these rooms.

Being a member of the department

Students are considered members of the department. As such, they benefit from close access to teaching and administrative staff, and access to a wide range of department premises and equipment. With this access goes trust. Here are some of the areas in which you have to keep up your end of the bargain.

1. Computer labs


Guidelines for using the department's computer labs

When you continue on with Comp.Sci. courses past first year, you become a member of a community, sharing in communal resources. We hope that you will take a part in caring for those resources - after all, it is in your interests to do so.

Seat allocation in labs: who has priority

Please attend your own scheduled lab (the practical work is a very important part of the course). This is the only time you are guaranteed a seat. You may need to leave the lab when there is a tutorial on for which you have not been streamed, to free up resources (machines/tutor's time) for the scheduled group. In general, if there are more than 5 spare seats during a scheduled lab time, you may stay. If there are less then you must leave. The problem will be greater when there is an assignment due. Please start your assignments in plenty of time before the due date, to avoid the rush on the labs just before the deadline.

Use of lab machines for non-CS work

You may not allow anyone else to use your account, or use someone elses account yourself. You are given your Computer Science account to do Computer Science work only. There is some flexibility here, but this does not extend to printing out large documents for other courses. We get no funding for costs incurred for other courses.

Please keep the noise down in the lab. We provide the common rooms for the (necessary) social interaction which is part of the learning environment. If you wish to listen to music, please use earphones.

Eating and drinking

Please do not eat or drink in the labs. There is always a kitchen or common room nearby the lab where you can sit around comfortably to eat or drink.

Leaving yourself logged in

If you are leaving the lab briefly, you may leave yourself logged on, as long as you lock the screen (so that nobody else can access your session) and are only absent for up to ten minutes. If someone does inadvertantly leave themselves logged on insecurely, please respect their privacy. Just log them out.

Reporting problems with machines or equipment

If you become aware of any issues with a machine, either software or hardware, please inform a Teaching Fellow, and make sure that an e-mail message goes to cshelp.

The last person out at night

Finally... if you are working late at night (on those interminable CS assignments), if you are the last person in the lab, and you are leaving, please check that the windows are all shut, and that the doors to the outside are properly secured when you leave. The lab is yours to use, and yours to look after. If it is left unsecured, and something goes missing, the whole community will be affected by the diminished resources.

2. Departmental computers

These are the guidelines for using the department's computing resources.

This information is mainly intended for new users.

Operating system

We use some variant of unix - a multi-user operating system - on most of our departmental machines. Most machines are dual-boot.
In our undergrad labs the main operating systems are currently Fedora and OSX.

Here are a couple of introductory tidbits, mainly designed to head off a few simple mistakes and give some words of caution.

Your user account

To have continued use of a user account on our departmental machines, you must abide by our departmental rules and regulations, as well as the official Otago University computer usage policies. (Use of the account you have been given implies an acceptance of / agreement with these regulations/policies - even if you have not read them!)

Some recommendations re password creation can be found here.

The webpage we have provided to allow you to change your password will screen your choice of password.

Home directories

Student and staff teaching and research machines have the home directories mounted on them from file-servers. This means that people will be able to log in to any machine and have the same home directory (files) wherever they are within the department. If you need to access your files from home, please ask a teaching fellow for details on how to do this.

All user home directories are backed up every 24 hours currently. If you need to retrieve a deleted file, please email cshelp.

It is advisable to retain a copy of any critical files yourself, as any departmental backup will be up to 24 hours old.

Email is a primary form of communication between staff and students in this department, so please check it regularly. Further details are available here - email in the CS department.

3. Departmental Network

When you log onto a machine in one of the labs, you are initially placed in your "home" directory, which is an area where you keep all your personal files. This directory isn't actually stored on the machine you're sitting at. It is stored on a disk system which is physically attached to a file-server in the server room, and this disk is "mounted over the network" on all the lab systems. Many of the programs which you run on your local machine are similarly mounted (from the /usr/local disk). If the network connection between the lab and the server room goes down, you'll lose access to your home directory, and to quite a bit of other stuff. Naturally, we work hard to ensure that this doesn't happen. Unfortunately, since ITS "owns" and manages the network, there are some outages over which we have no control.

So - no matter which computer you sit down in front of (whether it is in one of the Owheo labs or a remote connection from your home computer through hex) - your home directory will be physically, exactly, the same. If you delete files from your home directory while you are logged on to one computer, they will be just as gone from any other computer you log into. (You should make sure to have backups.)

A consequence of everyone's files being on the one big disk, is that, if one person fills up all the available disk space, nobody else will be able to store their files on it. This may well turn out to be tragic.

4. Printing in Labs

Courses have been configured in such a way that students should not need to print anything for any CS courses. Students will be informed during class what their options are if they wish to print anything, or they may contact the department's technical support team by e-mailing for advice.

However, we currently have a Uniprintstation in the department which we expect students working in our undergrad labs to use by default. Information on how to use it is available on the university web-site by following links on this page - Student Printing, and you can also check this pdf for guidance.

Official Computing Regulations

Plagiarism and cheating

You should never submit for assessment any work except your own .

Markers in the department routinely check assignment code for similarities between students, and run web searches to check for plagiarism in essays. The penalties for students caught doing these things are dramatic. A University regulation requires that if markers find evidence of plagiarism or copying in a students internal assessment, they are obliged to report it to Student Administration. If the evidence is confirmed, the student may forfeit the entire paper, and a permanent note to this effect may be made on their student record. Please don't force us into having to take this course of action!

Note that there are exceptions to the rule about not using someone else's code: your lecturer may require you to divide work up between the members of a team, or may have given you permission to re-use code written by someone who has no objection to such re-use (in which case you should of course acknowledge the author). But usually you are expected to produce all code yourself, and should deviate from this only when specifically allowed to.

Rules and conditions of use for the departmental computing resources:
You need to have abide by these in order to have continued use of a usercode on departmental machines.

The Information and Communications Technology Regulations 2014:
You're also bound by these when you have an account at the CS department.  (In fact, you are bound by these as soon as you sign an enrolment form!)

Other ITS policies/regulations may also apply - see more on the ITS "Plans, Projects, and Policies" page.