Center for Biological Computing
Indiana State University
Department of Life Sciences

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Suggestions to the Wise

It has become painfully apparent that more information is needed by some users; You can call it guidance if you wish. If you have read the information provided elsewhere, you already know that the servers (mama, papa, baby, spot, rover, snoopy, physiol, cd-write) are maintained and operated by the Life Sciences Department. This means that the Department is responsible for fixing hardware and software problems; adding Courtesy accounts; answering user questions; purchasing new hardware and software; all system administration duties; and many more things you have not imagined.

Even though many believe that the Departmental servers are "general-use, public" computing facilities, in reality the servers were established to provide for teaching and research needs of the Department of Life Science. The servers are officially classified as "private" by ACNS. This means that Departmental funds, grants, and other sources fund the upgrades, maintenance, and operation of the servers; ACNS and/or funds used for general computing facilities on campus do NOT support the servers. Due to limited access to UNIX/LINUX based systems on campus, the Department allows courtesy accounts for students, staff, and faculty on the Departmental servers. These accounts are at the discretion of the Life Science Department; the Courtesy accounts are permitted as long as the user does not violate the guidelines which have been established for Courtesy accounts and do not interfere with the utilization of system resources for teaching and research in the Department.

Since  our System Administrator is shared by all departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, some duties must be performed by members of the Department in their "spare time". You should realize this. If you need a Courtesy account or a problem solved "yesterday", you should have asked a week ago. On a typical day there are several dozen requests for accounts, help, or other problems. Requests which are polite and contain a complete description of what type of help is required or symptoms of the problem are usually responded to more quickly; confusing, incomplete, or irritating messages move to the end of the queue because they take longer to respond to. Please re-read any message before you send it for completeness; also, since you are using a Courtesy account on a Departmental server, try to be courteous in you message ... it helps to get a faster response to your message.

Since there are over 1000 user accounts on the Departmental server, there are a few rules or Commandments of which you should be aware. Following these commandments will go a long way toward keeping on good terms with the people administering the servers.

Ten Commandments of a Good User

1. Thou shalt not use excessive disk space.

As stated previously, there are over 1000 users on the servers. We have instituted "hard quotas" which limit space usage on the hard drives of the servers on users who abuse disk space limitations. We know that a user may have a short-term need for a large amount of disk space; but the key word is short term. The average user is currently using about 2.8 megs for their "home directory" and about 3.1 megs for their "web area". We are not overly concerned as long as users keep their hard drive space use under 50 megs. If a user is in the 50 - 100 meg range, they might be asked to compress or remove unused files if drive space on the server becomes too low. If you use over 50 megs of drive space for any extended period of time (especially without asking), you are consuming too much system resources and your courtesy account is in jeopardy.

2. Thou shalt mail unto others as you would have others mail unto you.

Do not send junk E-Mail to others (this is often known as "spamming"). Do not "mail-bomb" others (mail-bombing is where you send many messages to a person in an attempt to irritate the person). You should not try to fake your username, server name, or other information. There are hidden headers on mail files which allow messages to be traced; so you will be caught. Some servers run utilities which detect attempts to "spam", "mail-bomb", or forge messages. These servers send the messages to the system administrator account of the server where the message originates. This is a sure-fire way of losing your account.  Do not send "anonomous" messages to other users; this is considered harrassment and you will lose your courtesy account.

3. Thou shalt keep thy mail small, for lo, under one meg is divine.

When you read a mail message, you should save it to another folder in your account. This is a good way of sorting and keeping track of your mail. It also removes the mail from the incoming, system mail queue for your account. If you allow large numbers of messages to remain in your mail queue, you use excessive memory on the system when you try to read your mail. Opening a "mailbox" which has 8-9 megs of mail messages will cause Pine (the mail program which is used by most users on the system) to take about 40 megs of memory to process the mail. This slows the system down and can cause the system to go into swap (move programs which are running, from fast RAM to virtual memory on the hard drive). This will not only irritate the System Administrator but all the users on the system when you start Pine with your oversized mailbox. Saving messages into other folders after you read the messages will prevent this problem.

4. Thou shalt not attempt to crack thy system.

This rule is obvious. Hacking or cracking activity directed toward any server results in SEVERE consequences. Possession of hacking, cracking, or virus generating tools in your courtesy account is not allowed. Distribution of the tools from Department of Life Science servers is expressly forbidden.

5. Thou shalt not share thy account with thy friends.

Courtesy accounts are issued to individual users. Allowing others to use your account, for any reason, will result in permanent loss of the courtesy account. All server administrators look upon the "sharing" of an account as a severe breach of system security.

6. Thou shalt not play network games. Thou shalt play all other games in moderation.

Network games tie up excessive amounts of system resources and network bandwidth. Any activity which does this is unacceptable.

7. Thou shalt use modems in moderation.

We have a very limited number of modems attached to the system. We have not imposed quotas on the amount of time which a user can be logged in via modem, the amount of idle time before a session is disconnected, or the number of logins a user can make per day except on users who have abused the modem privileges.  As long as courtesy account users do not abuse the privilege, we will not impose quotas on them. Abuse the privilege and quotas will be imposed.

8. Thou shalt not use excessive resources "for the hell of it".

The servers are used for "Real Work" in teaching and research. Courtesy accounts are permitted as long as the courtesy accounts do not interfere with the primary mission of the servers. Individual users who persistently use excessive resources may lose their account. Running processes such as IRC bots when you are not logged into your account is considered excessive use of system resources; bots and similar programs use excessive memory and CPU time on our servers and are usually not permitted on IRC servers. Always ask if something is permitted before doing it; the systems are closely monitored and inappropriate behavior will be caught. Placing materials in your web area that are inappropriate or create excessive web accesses and server loads is forbidden and considered system abuse. If abuse becomes wide spread, the final resort is to ban all courtesy accounts.

9. Thou shalt consult with thy super-user for installation of programs.

Do not install programs without consulting the super-user (root). Programs may use excess resources, create security breaches, or other problems which could result in forfeiture of your courtesy account. Running software, bots, or other programs in the background when you are not logged-in is not allowed without permission.

10. Thou shalt not worship another super-user before me.

The courtesy accounts are provided for your use and benefit. Be kind to the system and courteous to the super-user (root). A great deal of time is spent maintaining the servers. Courteous requests receive faster attention.

Last Updated: 20-Feb-97
1997 Center for
Biological Computing
root@biology.indstate.edu