Current Student Resources
Computing Resources

If you have any questions about department computing facilities, please follow these steps:

  1. Search these resource pages
  2. Ask another student
  3. Ask your adviser
  4. Ask the department computing coordinator, currently Professor Chopp
  5. Send an email to

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Most of our computer systems run the Ubuntu version of Linux operating system. A Microsoft Windows computer is also available in the computer lab immediately to the right as you enter the computer lab. It has MS Office and Adobe software installed on it.

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Computers for general student use are located in most graduate student offices as well as in the student lounge, Tech M443. Please be courteous and do not lock the screens because this prevents others from using the computer. Forgetting to log out will also lock the screen, so always remember to properly log out (also a good idea for security purposes).

Some computers in student offices are designated for particular research projects and are not available for everyone to use. Ask your officemates if you are unsure of which computers are for general use. It is department policy that general use computers should not be placed on an individual student's desk.

New Accounts

All new computer accounts are created using NetID authentication. Your NetID is a three-letter, three-number combination assigned to you when you arrive at Northwestern (e.g., abc123). More information about NetIDs can be found on the NUIT website. Changes to your NetID password through NUIT's website are automatically made on our system as well.

Please Note: New students must change their passwords on the NUIT website after their department account is created so their password info is updated.

Saving Files

Your files are kept on the central server, fs.esam. These files will be in your home directory when you log in to any Linux computer in the department. Your home directory will then be /home/your NetID. We strongly encourage all users to keep their disk usage to under 1GB of disk space. Contact your faculty supervisor to request additional local disk space.


All directories in /home and most local /stash directories are backed up automatically. If you have any questions about whether a partition is being backed up, or if you need to restore a file from the archive, contact

Important Information

Important: Computers must be on and connected to the network for them to be backed up. Therefore, do not shut down or disconnect any Linux computers without first notifying Professor Chopp and the IT support staff and stating a reason for the change and how long before the computer is restored.

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Introductory Material

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Available Software

  • Matlab- Matlab is available on the department Linux computers. If you want it on your own computer, a student version is available via download through the McCormick IT department for a discounted rate. The McCormick IT version has extra toolboxes compared to the publicly available version as well. The cost is a one-time fee for as long as you remain at Northwestern.
  • Microsoft OfficeFree download available for active and incoming students.
  • Mathematica- Send a request for access to Mathematica to
  • Maple- We have two floating licenses of Maple. Please quit the program when finished so others can use it.
  • IDL- Think of it as Matlab on steroids. It's a high-powered graphics and math system. It has a scripting language similar to Matlab.
  • TeX/LaTeX- The typesetting software that every student should learn.
  • C/C++/Fortran- The gnu version of all three compilers are on the system (gcc/g++/g77), and we have older version of the Intel compilers available as well (icc/icpc/ifc)
  • ddd- graphical front end for gdb debugger
  • Acrobat Reader- Invoke by typing "acroread filename.pdf"
  • Xfig- Drawing program
  • OpenOffice- The linux equivalent of Microsoft Office. Equivalent to Word/Excel/Powerpoint are oowriter/oocalc/ooimpress. Documentation can be found here.

If you need other software not listed here ask the department coordinator for additional assistance.

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The default printer for everyone is the HP laser jet M607 duplexing printer in the student lounge. It prints double-sided by default. Please only print in color if it is absolutely necessary.

Printing from Your Personal Computer

In order to print to the HP LaserJet M607, you must:

  1. Connect to the ESAM subnet
  2. Tell your OS how to talk to the printer

Connectivity Requirements

In order to communicate with the lab printers, you must be on the ESAM subnet. This is not the same as connecting to the Northwestern wireless network via the access point in the fourth-floor hallway. To connect to the ESAM subnet, you must plug your Ethernet adapter into one of the 8P8C wall connectors on the fourth floor using an Ethernet cable. Then, you must register your MAC address by sending the following information to You must provide:

  1. Your name
  2. Your MAC ethernet address (a sequence of 6 2-digit hexadecimal numbers)
  3. Your operating system
  4. Your office number

Installing the Printer

Mac installation

  1. Download drivers from or for the HP LaserJet M607 printer.
  2. Add printer: System Preferences --> Printers & Scanners --> Click "+" and Add Printer.
  3. Under the Default tab select the HP LaserJet M607, the rest of the information should autofill.
  4. Click Add and it should be added to the printer list.

Windows Installation

  1. Download the Universal Print Driver Postscript driver for your windows version at (Remember the location where you downloaded it, as you’ll need to select it in step 5.)
  2. From the control panel, select the shortcut to add a printer.
  3. Select Add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer, and then The printer that I want isn’t listed
  4. Next, Select a shared printer by name and type the name: and click Next
  5. When asked about the driver, choose the 'Have Disk' option and browse to the file location and select the inf file that you downloaded in step 1, then select the HP Universal Printing PS driver when displayed.
  6. Wait while it connects to the printer and then confirms that it was successfully added; it will automatically populate the Printer name LaserPrinter on
  7. Try printing a test page. Click Finish and close out of the printer control.

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Web Pages

Personal web pages can be obtained with permission. Contact the department computing coordinator to create the page. It is McCormick policy that all pages on our server be restricted to school-related content only, and may not be used for personal content of any kind. You will be asked for the type of content you plan to include on your web page before it is created. Web pages will have addresses of the form ""

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Connecting to Other Machines

To get to another machine in the department, type "ssh machineName". To log in using a different ID, type "ssh userName@machineName". If you are already within ESAM, you can abbreviate the name of the computer, such as -> bert. Examples:

  • You are logged into as abc123 and want to get to bert: ssh bert
  • You are logged into chilly as abc123 and want to get to bert, but as user alex: ssh alex@bert
  • You are logged into as mclay and want to get to bert: ssh

If you are outside the department, you may not have access to SSH. Mac OS X users can run the Terminal application and then use the ssh commands listed above. Mac OS X users wishing to use X-windows remotely should have XQuartz installed.

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