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ASK SIPBAugust 30, 2006

Want to use the software on Athena? Wondered what sorts of cool things you can do? In this column, the third of four introductory columns, we discuss lockers on Athena, and the things you can find in them.

What are lockers?

Lockers organize files and software on Athena, and allow them to be accessed more easily. They eliminate the need to use long pathnames like /afs/, and allow you to run programs quickly without needing to know exactly where they are located.

How do I use a locker?

The most common way to use a locker is to use the add command. This will attach the locker and make it available through /mit/lockername, and add the locker to your path. For example, to run the mplayer program in the outland locker, type:

athena% add outland

athena% mplayer

You can put a line in your .environment file in your home directory to add lockers automatically when you log in. For example:

add 6.001 sipb outland gnu

The second way to use a locker is the attach command. This will make a locker accessible at /mit/lockername the same way add does, but will not add the locker to your path.

If you want to use a locker without attaching it, you can use ~lockername to refer to it in a path. If you wanted to browse the 6.001 locker, for example, you could type:

athena% cd ~6.001

to change directories into the 6.001 locker. (Note that there are a few cases where this does not work. In these cases, you can use ~~lockername instead.)

Finally, if you want to run a program without adding the locker, you can use the athrun command. To run mplayer as in the original example, you could type:

athena% athrun outland mplayer

What are some common useful lockers?

sipb-software supported by SIPB

outland-software less actively supported and maintained by SIPB

consult-Athena-related utilities maintained by OLC

gnu-common Unix utilities maintained by the Free Software Foundation

abiword-a fast-loading word processor

gnumeric-a fast-loading spreadsheet, an office suite

games-games and other fun utilities

im-IM programs, such as gaim

weather-the weather program

math, matlab, maple-Mathematica, Matlab, and Maple software, respectively

Is there an easy way to find out where something is located?

The whichlocker program, located in the outland locker, tells you where many programs are located, and what platforms they are available for.

athena%whichlocker mmblanche

Locker software on Athena is maintained by many different people. Don’t run this unless you know the maintainer can be trusted. mmblanche is in consult for NT, sgi, sun4, and linux.

What cool stuff can I find in some of these lockers?

For more information about most of these programs, you can type man programname after adding the appropriate locker.

# whats (sipb locker)

The whats program expands many acronyms, including MIT acronyms. If you have an expansion from an acronym that isn’t included, you can submit it through the whats program, or through e-mail to sipb-whats.

athena% whats pcmcia

PCMCIA - People Can’t Memorize Computer Industries Acronyms (slang)

PCMCIA - Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (org.)

# rolodex (sipb locker)

Rolodex is a repository of phone numbers. You can search by name, topic, or phone number.

athena% rolodex olc

3-4435 Athena Consulting Office (N42) (OLC)

athena% rolodex 3-7788

3-7788 Student Information Processing Board (SIPB) Office

athena% rolodex pizza

617-577-0066 Domino’s Pizza

617-523-5575 Bel Canto (Boston)


athena% rolodex 617-555-7890


# dict (outland locker)

The dict program looks up the definition of a word from several dictionaries served from As of this writing, these dictionaries are Elements database, Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, WordNet, U.S. Gazetteer, Jargon File, The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary, The Devil’s Dictionary, CIA World Factbook, and Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms

athena% dict sipb

1 definition found

From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (27 SEP 03) [foldoc]:


Student Information Processing Board, {MIT}. {(}.

# thesaurus (sipb locker)

Thesaurus gives synonyms for words, as you’d expect it to. You can also run this program as th.

athena% thesaurus freshman

***** Word: freshman

#541. Learner.-- N. learner, scholar, student, pupil; apprentice [etc.]

Adj. in statu pupillari, in leading strings.

# weather (weather locker)

Weather looks up the weather for the selected city. The -f flag will give the forecast instead of the current conditions.

athena% weather bos

Conditions at KBOS on 10/2/2005 at 6:54 PM EDT (22:54 UTC)

Weather: Mostly Clear

Temp: 57 F (14 C)

Humidity: 88%

Dewpoint: 54 F (12 C)

Visibility: 10 mi

Barometer: 30.39 inHg

Wind: NE 6 mph

athena% weather -f bos


Tonight: Clear. Lows in the mid 50’s. Southeast winds around

5 mph, becoming west after midnight.

Monday: Sunny. Highs in the mid 70’s. East winds 5 to 10 mph.


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