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Welcome, especially to freshmen and new graduate students! Ask SIPB is a column by the Student Information Processing Board, the volunteer student group concerned with computing at MIT, to help students like you learn more about the computing resources MIT provides and how to make effective use of them. This column is part one of four introductory columns to help you get started with computing here at MIT.

Question: I don’t have a computer/printer/scanner. Where can I go?

Answer: MIT has clusters around campus, which contain Athena workstations and a few printers. You can access the software and your files from any Athena workstation. Workstations run Unix, specifically Linux and Solaris, and provide a common user interface, regardless of where you log in.

The New Media Center in 26-139 provides the tools to produce multimedia projects, such as digital video, photo scanning and manipulation, web authoring, and more. The NMC is a “do-it-yourself” cluster of G4 Power Macs loaded with the latest multimedia software. There are also two clusters of machines running Windows-Athena — one in the back room of the W20-575 cluster, and one in 37-312 that you can access with your MIT card.

You can find a list of Athena clusters on the back of the Athena Pocket Reference you received when you checked in, or by typing:

athena% cview

Question: How do I get into the Athena clusters or New Media Center?

Answer: Athena clusters are protected by push-button combo locks. To find out the current cluster combo type on any machine:

athena% tellme combo

The combo changes annually on Oct. 1. Shortly before, you can use tellme combo again to determine the new combo. The New Media Center now has the same combo as Athena clusters.

Question: Why are there couches and giant screens and whiteboards in corners of some of the clusters?

Answer: They are the recently deployed collaborative group spaces. They were designed to make working in groups at MIT both easier and more powerful. To learn more or provide feedback, check out this Web site:

Question: I forgot my password. What do I do?

Answer: You’ll need to visit the friendly folks at Accounts. Bring your MIT ID to N42 during business hours, and ask for a password reset. Alternatively, if you have personal certificates on your computer, you can reset your password at:

Question: Something broke! Who can help?

Answer: Depending on what broke and how, there are a variety of groups that can assist you.

You can come ask SIPB in person or via e-mail. Our office is W20-557 (right next to the Athena cluster). Anytime members are in the office, the office is open to answer questions. You can also phone SIPB at x3-7788 or e-mail

OLC is Athena Online Consulting, MIT’s official support group for Athena related questions. They have an office in N42, and are usually open Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

OLC has a set of stock answers for Athena-related questions at

To ask olc a question, first make sure the question isn’t already answered in the Stock Answers, then type at an Athena prompt:

athena% olc

You can also call 617-253-4435 or e-mail

IS&T staffs the Computing Help Desk, which provides free support for Macintosh and Windows. The Help Desk phone lines are open Monday–Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; walk-ins are welcome in the office in N42 from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. For help, call 617-253-1101, e-mail, or drop by N42.

The Computing Help Desk also maintains a set of stock answers for common Macintosh and Windows questions encountered by MIT community members, at

If you are having trouble getting your computer onto your dorm network, you can ask an RCC for help. RCC’s (or Residential Computing Consultants) are students paid to assist other students, usually residents of the same dorm. They can do everything from assigning IP addresses, to providing network cables, to helping you configure networking on your computer. To get in contact with your RCC, ask around your dorm or visit to submit a request.

Question: What is 3-DOWN?

Answer: 3-DOWN, which can be found at, provides information about both scheduled and unscheduled network and service outages. The same information can also be found via a recorded message at x3-DOWN (x3-3696). Before reporting an outage, check 3-DOWN to see if it is already known.

Question: How can I learn more about computing and computing at MIT?

Answer: IS&T provides documentation on various components of Athena at IAP (January), a number of classes are offered by several organizations (including IS&T and SIPB).

To ask us a question, send email to We’ll try to answer you quickly, and we might address your question in our column. You can also stop by our office in W20-557 or call us at x3-7788 if you need help. Copies of each column and pointers to additional information are posted on our website: