Computing Resources for Graduate Students

The School of Computing Science (CMPT or CS) provides many computing facilities and resources for our graduate students. Please read through this document to find out more. To know more about the research lab you are in, please login here.

Please email helpdesk if your questions are not answered here.

This page is actively maintained; please help us to enrich this page.

Terminology we use on this page:

username: your SFU Computing ID
FQDNfully qualified domain name (including DNS suffix)

About the all important SFU VPN, SFU MFA

To strengthen cyber security, SFU has implemented MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) and VPN (Virtual Private Network) solutions for the community.

All faculty, staff and students of CMPT:

SFU VPN is mandatory for remote access from off-campus. Please set it up ASAP.
* WARNING * Many services are inaccessible without SFU VPN.

SFU MFA is a pre-requisite of SFU VPN - set it up now.

SFU VPN is available to all SFU employees, including faculty and staff, and also to graduate students.  It is also available to all CMPT undergraduate students - this means students enrolled in a CMPT course have access to SFU VPN.

Other students, volunteers, unpaid interns, visitors, retirees, alumni do not have VPN access but we might obtain it by request where it is needed in support of our school activities. Supervisors can make the request by emailing helpdesk.

Although it is not officially supported, users connecting to the VPN from an off-campus linux computer have had some success with openfortivpn.

FAS network is retired (since Fall 2022)

FAS network is officially retired.

All hosts with * name are no longer accessible.

Plese email us if you still need it - we will migrate it to SFU Backbone network.

Special notes on RCG Ubuntu hosts

Deployment of RCG Ubuntu 22.04 had started on Mondy, March 13th 2023. This is now the default/standard RCG Linux deployment. All new workstations will be installing RCG Ubuntu 22.

If you need an old version:

(Deployment of RCG Ubuntu 20.04 is now suspended, but available upon request. It started on Monday, October 19th 2020. RCG people have configured xrdp on these systems for remote access.)

(Deployment of RCG Ubuntu 18.04 is now suspended. It started on Friday, April 3rd 2020; and it is now suspended. Please ask for RCG Ubuntu 20.04.)

A few research lab workstations are still running RCG Ubuntu 16.04 - which are subject to be blocked from SFU wired networks in the near future. Please backup everything on the local storage and send the upgrade request to helpdesk ASAP.

(Newer-than 22.04 releases of Ubuntu have backward compatibility issues with many major research tools people use; we will keep researching the best one for our enterprise computing environment.)

Special notes on Windows 7/8 systems

Starting from April 2nd, 2021, we install Windows 10 with Feature Update 20H2. (We started migrating all Windows systems to version 10 starting fall of 2017.)

If you like to upgrade/rebuild your Windows workstation, please backup everything on the local storage and contact us for more details.

By December 1st, 2019, all CMPT's Windows 7 workstations had been upgraded or retired from SFU wired network.


Table of Contents




What rooms can I use as a graduate student in the School of Computing Science?

There are a few rooms you should get familiar with:

The SFU Library - you may always use computers in the SFU Library for web browsing and emailing.

Burnaby campus:

ASB 10700 (the general office of the School), TASC1 9401 (the graduate student lounge, mailroom) and TASC1 9204 (the meeting room).

If you are a new member of a research lab, please ask your supervisor (or the lab directors, or the lab admin) to add your SFU email address (not the alias of any kind) to the lab's official maillist by using the SFU's Maillist webapp.

Surrey campus

You may find the general office SRYE 3020.

There are also campus wide wireless networks you can access once you have your SFU Computing ID; please check out the details on the SFU Wireless network page. Special note: we (helpdesk of CMPT) highly recommend using manual method to configure the SFU Wireless network on your mobile device.

Your supervisor may have assigned you space in a research lab; please check the emails from your supervisor for more details.


What is the basic computing network environment of SFU/CMPT?

For starters, there are two networks you should know about: the Campus network (it is also called SFU Backbone network) and the FAS network.

The services of the campus network include: the SFU Mail, WebCT, Active Directory SFU (ADSFU), Maillist, and many-many more. The IT Services people are in charge. ITS also provides the campus wide wireless network which is a member of Eduroam. You may find more details here.

(Obsolete) The services of The FAS network include: the research labs, Active Directory FAS (FAS AD), and many many more. The RCG folks and CSTS are supporting the FAS. There is no FAS network on Surrey Campus.

Some other networks may be available in your research lab; your supervisor and the lab admin will be able to provide the details of these.


How can I get access to a computing lab?

All the CMPT computing labs are behind fob-access-only doors. You need to have an active access fob and an active SFU Computing ID to use the computers in a lab.

You need to get an SFU Computing ID first (this is the same ID you use to access SFU mail via - we refer it as username on this page. For most grad students this happens automatically and you will receive notification via the external email address you provided when you registered with SFU. If you do not have an SFU Computing ID, check with your supervisor or the Graduate Program Assistant in the School's general office.

Once you have the SFU Computing ID, please ask your supervisor (or the lab directors, or the lab admin of the lab) to "Add & Save" your SFU email address (not the alias of any kind) to the lab's official maillist by using the SFU's Maillist webapp. Without this step, you will not be able to use any research lab computer.

For most grad students, you will be given an access fob request form on your orientation day. For Burnaby campus, you can get the fob from the SFU Access Control Office. For Surrey campus, you may visit the Security Desk located in the Mezzanine. Please check out our Door Access FAQ page.

Once you have your SFU Computing ID and access fob, you can get into the labs and start using the computers.


How can I access my email?

You can access your SFU email messages through SFU Mail. The address:

As a CMPT student, you will also have a CS email account, which has the format All emails sent to this account are forwarded to your SFU Mail account.

(The username is your SFU Computing ID.)

It is recommended using web client for SFU Mail; please check out the browser compatibility of the web client.

Please check this ITS' how-to guide on SFU Mail for more information.


*IMPORTANT*Please do NOT forward your SFU email (including SFU Alumini email) to anything else.

The forwarding will no longer work from February 2024, even if you have it configured.

Click here for the announcemnt. (Please note: this change applies to all SFU students, faculty and staff.)


I noticed that the display name for my account is incorrect, what should I do?

We are trying to keep everyone's information correct and up to date; but odd things do happen: from time to time, a user account contains wrong display name or some other outdated information.

Fortunately, it is quite easy to fix this on your own. Please login to the webapp:

click "Edit My Entry"

now, change your own profile

(please ensure the Access Control is set to “Allow SFU users only”. By doing this, the display name is visible to the SFU community but it is hidden from outsiders.)

when you are satisficed with the changes, please click "Save Changes"

The changes will be made for all SFU services in about 2 hours.


How can I setup my personal web page on CS web site?

Before you could setup your own personal web page on CS site, please email csweb AT sfu DOT ca to request your official page under

Graduate students' profile pages on the CS web site are maintained by the School, which has URL

If you need to have details of this page changed, email helpdesk. We will maintain the page even after your graduation; so it is a good link to put on your publications. Let us know if your contact information changes in years to come and remember us when you make your first billion :)

To update your personal files:

(Obsolete) Access from FAS Linux/UNIX hosts:


Access from Windows hosts:

(please use SFU campus network credentials to logon to this server)


Alternative: On the other hand, if you would like to build your own web page on SFU main web server, you may try:


Access from Linux/UNIX:


Access from Windows hosts:


You can find more instructions here. You may contact ITS for more assistance.

Here are some very important technical reminders:

please do NOT use file/folder names which contain space on any SFU web service.

please name your default index file index.html - please note: all lower case (case sensitive!)

Warning: please do not put any copyright material, media files or any big download files on your personal web page. Your account will be revoked if illegal sharing occurs.


I have some questions regarding the research lab I work in, who should I talk with?

Each CMPT research lab has a lab admin. The lab admin should be the first person you contact if you need help in the lab.

The lab admin is a fellow graduate student works in the lab and volunteers to manage the lab equipment.

Once you have experience and want to help out other people in the lab, you could volunteer to become the lab admin. Please contact your supervisor for more information.

In case that the lab admin is not reachable, please email helpdesk for help.

To find out more on the lab admin issue, please check out our "Research Lab Administrator's Handbook".

Also you could find some essential information by visiting the resources page for the research labs in the School - please note: members only.


Where I could find information about CMPT courses for graduate students?

You will find all the CMPT courses information on our Course Central.

Please note this URL is under "undergraduate" section. If you believe there is better location for the Course Central, please let your voice be heard by contacting the following people:

  • your supervisor
  • the Manager, Administrative and Academic Services
  • the Manager, Research and Instructional Computing




How do I report problems and address CMPT related technical issues?

Please contact your lab admin first.

For urgent matters, please come to CS general office.

Otherwise, please email helpdesk. Please use your SFU email account and include your lab's acronym in the subject line of your message.


Copyright at the School of Computing Science & Simon Fraser University

The School of Computing Science respects the rights of copyright holders. Copyright infringement is the theft of intellectual property. Under Canada's copyright law, it is illegal to copy most published materials without permission; therefore, you must obtain permission before recording or reproducing copyrighted materials.

SFU provides information on copyright policy here.

Please be aware that Canadian law and university policy may prohibit downloading or sharing of copyright protected files, media, code or documents from online sources.  If you violate University policies of Canadian laws you will be held personally accountable.  In particular your SFU account will be immediately locked should any complaints about copyright violations be made against it.

Please visit SFU's copyright page for more details.


Basic computing lab Policies, Etiquette and Ethics at the School of Computing Science

The School of Computing Science computing laboratories are governed by Simon Fraser University's GP24 (Fair Use of Information and Communications Technology) and other policies.

Here are some of the most important DON'Ts:

  • do NOT share your accounts. NO exceptions.
  • do NOT hook up you own laptop to wired network.;- email us if you need this for your research.
  • do NOT hook up a device to more than 1 network.
    • If your research is on networking, or you need to change your lab network, please consult helpdesk every time before you modify the network configurations on any production network. NO exceptions.
    • If you create a network topology loop and overwhelm the network, the people that have to find and fix the problem might be very upset... please do not upset them.
  • No food or drink in the open labs or CSIL, this includes during TA office hours. NO exceptions.
  • do NOT lock any computer in a public lab for more than 30 minutes.
    • Exception: you may do so on the system designated for you in your assigned research lab. If the system is shared with other people, please ask them first.

And here are some pages you should read:


Computing Labs


What is the CSIL?

CSIL stand for Computing Science Instructional Labs. Most CMPT courses use resources in CSIL. You need to have an access fob to gain access. All students enrolled in CMPT courses, all CMPT TAs and grad students have CSIL access.  


What are the Assignment Labs?

The Assignment Labs are ITS operated open computer labs in the Academic Quadrangle (AQ), Library and West Mall. These labs are open to all SFU students. There is no access fob needed to use these labs. Find out more information on SFU Labs.


What are the research labs?

The Computing Science research labs are the facilities for our faculty and graduate students to do their research. Each research lab has one or more lab directors and lab admins. The lab admin will help you use the computing resources within the lab.

Click here for the information on the research labs.

Please note: all the research labs are fob access only. And only the people within the research group have access to specific lab. Please discuss with your supervisor to get access to a research lab. Your supervisor can have access added to your access fob by emailing helpdesk. You cannot make the request directly yourself.


How can I access SFU computers off-campus?


But, please be sure you have SFU VPN connection while you do so.

You can access RCG's Linux terminal server (since February 2020).

You may have remote access to your workstations in your research lab. For step-by-step instructions, please click here.

There might be other servers available for your research, please contact your supervisor for more information.

Please note: be sure to use FQDN while you make the connection. (Login here to find out more about a specific lab workstation.) For example:

  • a workstation on SFU Backbone network has FQDN:
  • (the FAS network is retiring) a workstation on FAS network has FQDN:


Computing Accounts and login issues


What are my accounts to access a CMPT computer?

The most commonly used accounts are:

  • SFU Computing ID (aka SFU campus network account) (aka SFU UserID)
  • (obsolete) FAS Linux/Unix account
  • (obsolete) FAS Windows account

You will be issued an SFU Computing ID upon your arrival. The password you set for this account will be your SFU Mail password as well.

The password for SFU Computing ID can be changed via a link on the normal SFU login screen here.

The other accounts generally match it but have different passwords.

You may have extra accounts on other servers for your research; please contact the people who support these specialized servers for more information.

Click here to see the current account policy from RCG.


Why can't I logon to certain computers in the lab?

There are a few possibilities.

1) you may have used wrong domain name (Windows only).

To logon to any ADSFU domain binding Windows workstation: please use "\username" as the username or explicitly set the domain name as ""

2) your account is not recognized by the authentication server (Linux only).

If you haven't changed the password for your SFU Computing ID for long time, this may happen.

Please go to the MySFU tab in SFU Mail webapp and change password; the process results SFU AD can recognize you from Linux.

If you are a postdoc or an undergraduate research assistant (URA) working in a CMPT research lab, please ask your supervisor to inform helpdesk with the start and end date of your appointment - and of course include your official SFU Computing ID. There are some extra steps we should take to ensure your account is setup properly.

3) you may not have been granted access to this lab.

If you are new to this lab, this is the most likely cause.

Please email helpdesk about this - and your supervisor's confirmation is required. Please also contact the lab admin so your account (not alias of any kind) could be added to the lab's official maillist.

4) you may have used up your disk quota for your profile under Ubuntu.

5) the host may be on a different network; please be sure to use its FQDN when you access it remotely.

Please check out this Q&A for more instructions.

If none of the above applies to your encounter, please email helpdesk.


Why is my account locked out? And what should I do?

The account may be locked out for a period of time after multiple failed logon attempts. In general, the account will be unlocked automatically in an hour or so. 

Your account may also be locked without warning for the following reasons: 

  • Excessive network traffic. 
  • Connection to high risk internet sites. 
  • Concurrent connections to multiple computers on the internet. 
  • Copyright complaints. 
  • Legal violations.

Your account will not be unlocked automatically in these cases. Contact ITS if you think this may apply to you. If your research will require network traffic that would ordinarily be viewed with suspicion, email helpdesk in advance so we can help make arrangements for you.

If your account gets locked out regularly or without apparent reason, please contact helpdesk asap, there might be a security breach!


I suddenly could not logon to any Ubuntu/Fedora/CentOS workstation, what should I do?

The most common cause of this issue is: you've used up your disk quota for your roaming profile under Ubuntu/CentOS.

For complete instructions on how to free up space, click here.

And to avoid this issue in the future, please follow our guidelines on "where I should NOT store my files".


Computing Environment


What are the unique characteristics of CMPT Windows systems (on Burnaby Mountain campus)?

Here is the list of the most important characteristics for CMPT Windows systems on Burnaby Mountain campus, compare with default Windows installation:

  CMPT Windows systems on Burnaby Mountain campus Default Windows installation
%TEMP% c:\temp C:\Windows\Temp
%TMP% c:\temp C:\Windows\Temp
%JAVAHOME% C:\Program Files\java\jdk C:\Program Files\Java\jdk<version#>

Please note: %% denotes an environment variable.


My computer restarted itself after some updates - which killed my running experiment! Can I disable the restart?

The short answer is: no.

We need to keep our computing environment safe for every one and we have seen so many security breaches directly related to unpatched systems.

We had seen some hosts are pending for restart for 6 months, and they got infected during these 6 months.

So, when your computer is pending for restart, please restart it at your earliest convenience (save all your work first of course).

About the restarts related to Microsoft Updates (Windows):

There is a 22-hour grace period before the restart after the installation of the updates. So please pay close attention to the system notification area so you could schedule the restart at your convenience.

In general, there are less than 14 Microsoft-updates-related restarts annually. Most likely, the updates are released on the second Tuesday of each month. Your computer may get these updates later in the same week.

About running big experiments:

In general, we recommend running the big experiments on servers. Check out some options on this page. Please contact us if you need more computing power.

If the experiment must be run on a workstation, we would recommend making sure it has check-points so it could resume from the interrupted point due to the restarts and other unplanned interruptions.


I could not set environment variables under Windows, what should I do?

Apparently that the most common/intuitive way to set variables is: Control Panel -> System, and click the "Advanced system settings" on the left pane. Unfortunately, as a regular user, this won't work - even for setting user specific variables.

Here is the workaround for a regular user to set user environment variables:

launch Control Panel

make sure set "View by" to "Small icons"

(Please note: "Small icons" is the only valid viewing option for Control Panel)

click "User Accounts"

From the task list one the left pane, click "Change My Environment Variables"

Now, you will be able to edit the user environment variable list.

(To set a system environment variable, administrative privilege is a must.)


When I use a Windows computer outside of the School (within the SFU), all my personal settings are gone! Why is this?

This is by design.

Due to the complexity of the computing environment of SFU, it is quite impossible to keep a single universal Windows environment for all SFU Windows hosts. In general, user's personal settings are consistent within a department, but not synchronized between different departments.

If you have suggestions on this issue, please make your voice heard by contacting IT Services of SFU.


Suddenly my account stopped working on my own Windows workstation, what's going on?

The most common possibility:

  • Your user profile is corrupted; it must be reset by helpdesk..

Further reading: the most common symptoms of profile issue:

cannot launch applications properly

cannot write to desktop, documents etc.

cannot logoff

while logon, a temporary profile is used so all favorites and bookmarks are gone.


May I use local profile for my lab computer (Windows)?

The short answer is yes. The fact is: we are using local profile for all research labs' Windows workstations.

But we strongly suggest using roaming profile with folder redirection method - which is configured for everyone on every Windows computer in CMPT by default; and it is the de facto standard for enterprise computing environment.

If roaming profile with folder redirection method is used:

All your settings are on stored on the network storage, which have daily backup.

All the data you saved on to default locations (Desktop, Documents etc.) are on stored on the network storage, which have daily backup.

The settings and data follow you when you move from one computer to another within CMPT.

On the contrary, if local profile is used:

All the customization you've done on a computer will be on this computer only; if you move to another computer, you have to do it from scratch.

All the data you saved on to default locations (Desktop, Documents etc.) are stored on the local hard disk. If the hard disk is faulty/stolen, your data will be gone.

We understand there are a few applications do not work well with roaming profile with folder redirection. But we believe the right thing to do would be: inform the vendor and urge them to make their products work better under enterprise computing environment.

Now you understand the pros and cons of local profile; if you still choose to use local profile for your Windows computer, please contact helpdesk; we will make it happen.

Just remember: once you option for local profile:

We (helpdesk) will not be able to assist you if there is any issue related to your user profile. (From our experience, a substantial portion of Windows issues are related to user profile)

If there is any data loss on the local hard disk (e.g. your Desktop, Documents folder), we (helpdesk) will not be able to assist you.

Please always save your valuable data to network storage - this holds for all situations.


What is the full name of my workstation and the servers I have access to?

The name (aka hostname) of your workstation is formatted like this:

"cs-<acronym of the lab>-##"

"cs-<acronym of the lab>-##s" if this is a self-managed system

To know the full name (aka FQDN: Fully Qualified Domain Name) of a host, you need to know the exact DNS suffix for it. Here is how to determine the DNS suffix of your designated lab workstation (provided by the School of Computing Science):

Most likely, the workstation is on SFU Backbone network, it has DNS suffix

e.g. the FQDN would be:   cs-<acronym of the lab>

The exception: when this workstation is on (retired, obsolete) FAS network, it has DNS suffix

e.g. the FQDN would be:   cs-<acronym of the lab>

Please note: we strongly suggest migrating all workstations to SFU Backbone network. Please email us to arrange a time slot.

For the servers, the situation is slightly different and much more complex. Please contact the lab admin and/or your supervisor for more details.

Want to know more about the computing resources of the research lab you are in? Please login here.


About Workstation Setup


My supervisor bought me a new computer in the lab, how do I get it set up?

Please inform the lab admin first, and then please contact helpdesk to get basic system installed and configured on the network. Many commonly used software packages, like Matlab, Office suite will be installed by default.

Provide us with a detailed software list if you have specific requirements.

All of the desktop computers/workstations will be placed onto wired network (SFU Backbone network) by default. So, if the computer comes with a "Home" edition OS, it must be wiped/replaced before proceeding.

Please note: do not hook up the computer to the network before helpdesk approves doing so.

Please ensure the new computer has sufficient power (electricity) source and wired network connection near the desk which it will be placed on. If you are not sure about these conditions, chat with the lab admin and contact helpdesk in advance.

If this is a laptop, you may ask helpdesk to have it configured as well. Here are some Q&As that should help you in the long run.


Which Operating System should I use for my research?

Generally speaking, it is your choice.

Please chat with your supervisor about this.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend using the most stable, most secure and leading edge version of a specific OS; e.g. for 2023, the choices would be Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and Windows 10 with Feature Update 22H2.

And the OS must be enterprise-network-ready - e.g. any "Starter/Home" edition of Windows will NOT be accepted. Please note: this rule applies to laptops as well.

Due to the complexity and high maintenance cost, we do not recommend dual-boot your research workstation with Linux and Windows. In practice, virtual machine is a better choice over dual-boot.

If you choose an Operating System other than these we recommend, we may not provide sufficient support for this system due to resource constraints. And you may not be allowed to connect a system with this OS on a specific network.


Should I use 64bit OS or 32bit OS?

We only recommend using 64bit operating system and applications. We no longer support 32bit operating system.

Please note: it is perfectly OK to develop only the 64bit version and drop the support for 32bit operating systems. Actually, this is recommended by many industry leaders.

A gentle reminder: please make sure your final program runs under the 64bit operating system.

If you choose 32bit OS:

. We do understand that some of research tools may run better or run only on 32bit OS.

. Please discuss with your supervisor about your OS choice before you make the decision to use 32bit OS for your research.

. For a system with 32bit OS on it, it must be on the SFU Backbone network or wireless network.

. You will be fully managing this system on your own; support from SFU IT people will be minimum.


My research lab computer does not work as I expected, what should I do?

You could first chat with the lab admin; s/he will diagnose the issues.

If the lab admin is not reachable, please email helpdesk - don't forget to add your lab's acronym to the subject line.

Please note: if you like to change the Operating System (e.g. from Windows to Linux),

  • we need the approval from your supervisor and lab admin
  • and, we would proceed only after all data on local storage units have been backed up to network space
  • one more thing: you may want to chat with the lab admin and other users in the lab first; there might be an existing system suit your needs.


I want to have both Linux and Windows for my research, any suggestions?

In general, please discuss this with your supervisor first.

Due to the complexity and high maintenance cost, we do not recommend dual-boot research workstations with Linux and Windows.

Fortunately, there are other ways to gain access to both OSes.

If you prefer Windows desktop

  • Access the RCG Linux terminal server
    • Warning: This is a console server for lightweight tasks shared by many people; it is NOT the appropriate place to host long-running CPU/memory intensive jobs.
    • Tip: To have X running, please configure a VNC session.
  • If you need a dedicate system for non-graphics tasks, a virtual machine may be a better choice.
  • There are High Performance Computing clusters for researchers; please check out this site.

If you prefer Linux desktop

  • Please contact your supervisor to request building a Windows Terminal Server (for general use) for the School.

This server will be for lightweight tasks shared by many people; it is NOT the appropriate place to host long-running CPU/memory intensive jobs.

And of course, the following two options are always available:

  • get a second physical workstation with alternative OS on it (ask for your supervisor about spare hardware).
  • place the workstation on the SFU Backbone network and you build, secure and manage this one on your own (self manage).


I want to use Ubuntu for my research, any suggestions?

Yes, we could build Ubuntu systems for research or teaching use.

Please be careful when you make the request to have an Ubuntu box built:

If this system is for research:

RCG provides Ubuntu 20.04 for all researchers.

As a comparison, if this system is for teaching:

The system will be more stable with more proven (but possibly old) applications.

The ssh port will be set to a non-standard one.

Basically, it will be very similar to our CSIL Ubuntu workstations.

If you prefer to build a workstation from ground up (self-manage), please let us know your plan - we will register this computer on the SFU Backbone network and you will be responsible to make it work and secure.


Which Linux Distro I should choose for my research then?

In short, we recommend RCG Ubuntu as described below.

Here are a few scenarios:

(1) A managed Ubuntu box on SFU Backbone network (supported by RCG) - aka RCG Ubuntu would be a good choice if:

. you are not so knowledgeable of the Linux system itself

. you know exactly which libraries and applications to use for the research (either they are available now or you could contact us to get them configured as modules.)

. you like to have plentiful support from RCG folks

(2) A managed Ubuntu box on SFU Backbone network (supported by CSTS) is a choice - if you need a clone of CSIL Ubuntu workstation.

 *  recent change * You will not be granted sudo access. (due to security constraints)

(3) A system with your favorite Linux Distro - provided your research involves constantly updating drivers, libraries and applications.

Here are a few things first:

. the system's ethernet interface must be registered on SFU Backbone network (for bookkeeping). it's WiFi adapter's address shall be kept on record for monitoring purpose.

. you have to build it from ground up and manage it yourself.

If you choose this option:

. you must discuss with your supervisor and get approval from your supervisor about this self-managed system.
. you must be very knowledgeable of the Linux system since the support will be limited; you may spend lots of time on managing the system instead of your main research.
. you must make sure this host has exact registered FQDN on the network.
. when the system is compromised, you have to rebuild the system from scratch - please always keep your data/codes on SFU networked storage! and one more thing: if this compromised system has negative impact on our network, you will be relieved of self-managing duty during your stay in SFU.

. ** IMPORTANT **you will be relieved of self-managing duty during your stay in SFU if the following things occur:

. you don't setup BIOS password
. you don't setup root password
. you leave the system unlocked (people could see/use your login session) for long period of time (more than 30 minutes).
. copyright infringement
. license violation

** TIPs **: to see if RCG Ubuntu will work for you, please follow these steps:

. compose a list of the libraries and applications you will be using (with the exact version numbering and architecture info etc.)

. check this list against the output of "module avail" command - if it is within the output, it means this package is already available for you to use. (To find out more, please see the RCG's FAQ page on modules.)

. contact helpdesk to request the missing ones and get the existing/outdated ones up-to-date

if all the pieces come together, you should be using RCG Ubuntu.


I want to hook up my lab computer only to wireless network for my research, any suggestions?

In short: please do NOT do this.

Once a computer is hooked up to wireless network, it is considered a mobile device, also a self-managed system. Please read our Q&A page for mobile devices for more information.

Here are some important notes if this is a must for your research:

  • You will not be able to remotely connect to this computer.
  • Please always use regular account for daily tasks and use administrative account for system maintenance only.
  • Any datum on the local hard disk is considered volatile. Please always use network storage provided by SFU to store your research data/codes.
  • If this computer is using Microsoft Office, the activation will expire every180 days. It must be activated manually; please contact helpdesk for this.
  • Supports from helpdesk (including CSTS and RCG) will be minimum. In general, we will only rebuild the system to its initial stage. You will be personally responsible for maintaining a healthy system.

So, please register the MAC address of your lab computer's network interface on SFU Backbone network by emailing helpdesk.


For my research, I need to use a lot GPU enabled applications, any suggestions?

For many researches around BigData and DeepLearning, utilize GPGPUs on workstations would be a good low cost option or as prototyping.

A few things to be noted first:

the onboard Intel graphics won't be sufficient.

try to determine which kind of GPU card to use: "a low-end GPU & tons of  RAM" or "a high-end GPU" or "a high-end GPU & tons of  RAM".

place a discrete graphics card into a regular desktop system (e.g. Optiplex line) probably won't work well either.

place a new GPU card into an old chassis or place an old GPU card into a new chassis won't work great either. we don't have much good experience with upgrades in this field.

place a discrete graphics card into an existing running system won't work right away - re-configuration must be done first.

If you like to know more about CUDA, TensorFlow and Keras etc., please check out SFU's supercomputer Cedar.


For my research, I really need to have sudo access of my own lab computer, what I can do?

When you are using a manged Linux workstation (as of year 2023, it is RCG Ubuntu), please confirm this request with your supervisor and contact helpdesk.

Here are a few points when you are a sudoer on an RCG Ubuntu workstation:

  • Please do not attempt to upgrade kerneal of the system - leave this to RCG experts.
  • Please do not promote any other user to become a sudoer on this workstation.
  • And please do not touch root account in anyway, never.

Please read our guidelines on self-managing systems for helpful tips.


For my research, I really need to have full control of my own lab computer, what I can do?

Please confirm this with your supervisor and contact helpdesk. Someone from helpdesk will discuss this with you.

Maintaining your own computer will take time from your research so please only start this discussion if you absolutely must have full control. Helpdesk will be less able to help you with a self -managed system. We would prefer you use one of our fully managed OS installs, if there is software you need that is not already available ask helpdesk for help and we will do our best to get the software working for you promptly. You will become the primary person responsible for any self-built and self-maintained systems - this is the cost of having admin access to the machine. Helpdesk will not be able to provide the same level of support for you.

Even if you only connect to SFU wireless, please do inform helpdesk promptly. Be aware that the system will be blocked from SFU wireless without warning should it cause problems on the wireless network or be identified as a source of undesirable network traffic. Your authentication to SFU wireless will associate the system with you personally.

To build or take admin control of a wired desktop on any of the networks in our research labs you must go through helpdesk. We will help get the system registered and depending on your needs assist with the initial setup. If you are not already comfortable installing and securing operating systems, applications and services, then maintaining your own system is NOT for you.


How to determine If I should self-manage my workstation?

As you've read the details about the difficulties of full control (self-manage) your own workstations, if you have one of the following requirements for your research, a self-managed system is a must:

you need multiple OSes on the hardware but VM is not an option.

you need alter system configurations on weekly basis.

Please confirm this with your supervisor and contact helpdesk. We recommend you get a 2nd workstation (a reliable but not so powerful one) for general tasks like emailing and documentations.

btw, if you want to become administrator of your designated managed Windows workstation, just email helpdesk - there is no benefit self-managing it. One more reminder: only one (1) user could become the designated local administrator of any specific workstation.


I need a new kernel on my RCG Ubuntu workstation, may I upgrade it myself?

No. 100% not.

If you need a different kernel on an RCG Ubuntu workstation for your research, please email us so we could work with you to get it configured.

In the similar token, if you want to have a newer release of Ubuntu, please email us.

In short, please leave the crucial updates of the Operating System to us - we are here to provide a suitable computing environment for your research.


I need a new driver for GPU on my RCG Ubuntu workstation, may I upgrade it myself?

No. 100% not.

If you need a different/new device driver for GPU (e.g. NVidia driver for Geforce/Quadro GPU) on an RCG Ubuntu workstation for your research, please email us so we could work with you to get it configured.

In short, please leave the crucial updates of the Operating System to us - we are here to provide a suitable computing environment for your research.


Important notes on GPU related software with Ubuntu 20

Here are some known issues:

  • CUDA 10 (the old version) is NOT available for Ubuntu 20.04 - it is more than 36 months old and it is at end of its life.

RCG people have compiled PyTorch 1.5 against CUDA 11 on Ubuntu 20; it is now a loadable module.

  • Tensorflow 1.x is a lost cause. RCG folks are focusing on newer releases.

If your current research projects depend on older Tensorflow (1.x), older PyTorch, or old CUDA (10.0 or earlier), please let us know asap:

For every software package you need which depends on any of these old libraries, please let us know the package's name and the exact version.

Once we have these info, RCG folks will try their best to compile the package from source against CUDA 11; and make the newly compiled package available for all RCG Ubuntu 20 users.

Since we don't have the manpower to compile every old package, we recommend people try newer releases, and/or seek alternative ones.

Once you finish up with these old software packages, please inform helpdesk - upgrade to Ubuntu 20 is in order.


About Software


Can I install software on any School's computer?


First of all, in most of the cases, the applications you need might have been installed or configured on the system :)

On a Windows workstation, here is a list of basic set of applications. You could easily find this out by searching within the start menu.

On an RCG Ubunt system, here is a list of basic set of applications, and you could execute "module avail" to check the application availability. If the application you need is on the list, you could load and use it without installation. Click here for more details on the modules we provide.

If you need to compile your own software, use something like
     ./configure --prefix=/cs/<thislab>/software
... so that you can maintain the software you need without requiring sudo/root privileges.

if the "installation" needs huge storage space for scratch (and/or intermittent data, original datasets), please consider using "/local-scratch" for the installation. just remember: always keep your own codes and irreplaceable data on network storage. 

If you could not find the applications on the system, please contact your lab admin for this. If the lab admin is not reachable in time, please email helpdesk - please put the lab's acronym on the subject line.

If your research involves constant system changes, please email helpdesk - with the confirmation from the your supervisor, other arrangements could be made.


How come Adobe Reader etc. are not installed on my Linux (Ubuntu) workstation?

Well, please contact Adobe for more details.

Adobe had ceased all Linux development in 2014. Adobe Reader works on CentOS 6 but fails on Ubuntu 16.04 due to SSSD, which is used for providing integration with campus Active Directory.

Please use one of the newer, more up-to-date PDF viewers already installed on your Ubuntu system: okular (with new annotation features), gv or atril.


I noticed that some of the software packages are out dated for my research; may I get them updated ASAP?


Please contact us with the details of these software packages in question; we will work with you to ensure they are up to the task.

Please note: we will examine the feasibility of all requests (cost, compatibility, network security, disk space requirements, etc.). Since this does take time, please make your request once you noticed the anomalies.

If you need some packages which are not on the system, please do the same.

BTW, have you read this Q&A about software availability on a research computer? - The updated packages may have been configured as a separate module already :)


Some of the applications are now blocked; what's going on?

To better serve SFU community, Applocker is now implemented on all of managed Windows workstations in SFU.

If some of the applications you were using now become blocked, the most likely cause would be: they were "installed" under user space (e.g. under user profile), not system space.

Please remove these non-standard "installations" and the shortcuts point to them; then email helpdesk so we could install them for you on your designated workstation.


I get a prompt to upgrade some of the applications (Adobe Flash Player for one); what should I do?

The IT people in SFU are working hard to ensure all the systems are secure and up to date. The software updates are investigated and approved for installation regularly.

As a regular user, you may not be able to upgrade/patch the applications on the spot. But there are ways to proceed:

. reboot the computer, this may trigger the installation of the updates.

. contact the lab admin to perform an out-of-bound update - if this is a Windows system.


The blacklist of software packages - those have known issues within our enterprise computing environment.

Here is the blacklist of the applications which don't work properly within our enterprise computing environment.

application name issues workaround
TeamViewer severe security issue, it is regarded as malware by many security experts. NOT freeware use default Remote Desktop on Windows and xrdp on RCG Ubuntu 20
Anydesk severe security issue, it is regarded as malware by many security experts. NOT freeware use default Remote Desktop on Windows and xrdp on RCG Ubuntu 20
Microsoft OneDrive for Windows desktop does not work with roaming profile with folder redirection feature 1. use alternative services. 2. use local profile
Microsoft Skype for Windows desktop has network connectivity issues from time to time 1. use alternative services. 2. alter the configuration folder to local hard disk.
Sogou PinYin input method does not work 100% with roaming profile with folder redirection feature 1. use alternative products. 2. use local profile
ReadCube for Windows desktop does not work with roaming profile with folder redirection feature 1. use alternative services. 2. use local profile
Android Studio for Windows desktop does not work with roaming profile with folder redirection feature 1. use alternative services. 2. use local profile

Please note: there are quite a few Windows applications require administrative privilege to run. For these applications, we recommend the following (in order):

  1. find and use alternative products which do not suffer from this issue
  2. urge the software vendor to upgrade their products so they will be suitable for enterprise computing environment
  3. ask helpdesk to make permission changes for the specific application. For some applications, this will solve the issue.
  4. become the administrator of the computer (contact helpdesk and provide details to make a clear case; your supervisor's approval is required.)


I want to use TeX tools on my workstation; anything I should I know about?

If this is a Windows workstation, here are some points:

We use MiKTeX as the basic LaTeX tool. We will install a few popular TeX tools on the systems too.

Please note: for technical reasons, on all managed Windows systems, MiKTeX must be installed by helpdesk. So, if you don't see MiKTeX on your lab workstation, just email us.

Tech note: We had trouble installing MiKTeX on our Windows systems for some time. It turned out that some of its components were blocked by our anti-malware tool. Please contact the vendor to urge their developers to make the changes.

You may also use the MiKTeX portable package on our Windows systems. The vendor has the instructions on how to use this tool. If you noticed that any tool which does not work with MiKTeX portable, please contact the vendor for updates.

If this is a Linux workstation (running RCG Ubuntu), here are the tools available:

latest TeX Live suite.

pdflatex (part of TeX Live) is the most common command-line tool for generating output from TeX source.

TeXStudio, a nice TeX IDE

Special notes on ShareLaTeX (a web application, as well as software-as-a-service, for editing & sharing TeX documents):

The School of Computing Science has purchased license of ShareLatex for our researchers.

Please register your SFU email address on vendor's site; if your SFU email address had been registered for the free license, the School's subscription will unlock the professional version features for you.

For a research graduate student, you could register your official SFU email address (alias won't be accepted) at vendor's site and start using the license.

If you are a postdoc or an undergraduate RA working in a CMPT research lab, you could request for access to our subscription by emailing helpdesk. Just remember to include your official SFU login ID and your supervisor's name in your request.

Of course, a lab director could submit a single request for all incoming new researchers of the lab.


I want to use Docker for research projects; anything I should I know about?

First of all, although Docker does provide convenience on certain aspects, it does have more security exposure than many other environment.

If Docker is a must for your research projects, please be sure to secure it tight.

And you must configure Docker's "default-address-pools" to avoid any conflict/interference with SFU enterprise computing environment.

Warning: The default private address range of Docker will conflict with SFU VPN. When such conflicts occur, you will not be able to remote access your computer from off-campus!

i.e. you must edit file: /etc/docker/daemon.json on the workstation:

make sure it has the lines like this:





In short, the recommended IP ranges for Docker on SFU networks:

If you need more than 254 private addresses, you may increase the private address pool size (e.g. change the "/24" to "/23").

   * please do restrict the pool size to "/20". If you need more than 16K pivate addresses for this Docker instance, please email helpdesk in advance.

If you are not sure which private IP address range to use for your Docker instance, please feel free to contact us.


Technical details:

This Wikipedia page has more details on private IP addresses:

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has directed the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to reserve the following IPv4 address ranges for private networks:

But, SFU IT people have reserved big portion of for infrastructure use. To avoid potential IP conflict, please do not use or its sub networks.


About Remote Access (remote login)


Which servers I could remotely access for my research?

The Linux terminal server:

Warning: The termianl servers are for lightweight tasks shared by many people; please do NOT place long-running CPU/memory intensive jobs on them.

Tip: To have X running, please configure a VNC session.

The Windows Terminal Server (for general use): no longer available

If you believe the School shall provide such server for lightweight tasks, please contact your supervisor.

You may also access SFU's supercomputer Cedar.

Please be sure to use FQDNs for all hosts while you make the connections.

For faculty and staff only, RCG provides a new general use Windows Terminal Server:

For step-by-step instructions, please click here.


Can I access my research workstation from home?

Yes, in general. Please contact your lab admin for the policy.

For a Linux system in the lab, you could use SSH/SFTP /RDP with SFU VPN.

RDP into an RCG Ubuntu 20 workstation is now possible; please see RCG's FAQ page on remote access.

For a Windows system in the lab, you could use Remote Desktop Connection tool. For (password protected) step-by-step instructions, please click here.


Can I access my research workstation by using its IP address?


All of our workstations and most of the servers within SFU are getting IP addresses using DHCP & DDNS. So the IP address of a specific host may get changed without advanced notice.

Please always use the FQDN of the host to make the connection.


I don't get proper desktop when I remote connect to my research Windows workstation from home. What should I do?

This is a known issue. It happens quite often when the remote system is running Windows XP. It happens rarely but still happens on Windows 7+ systems.

Assume the credentials have been accepted, but screen shows as nothing - sometimes not even the cursor.

Here are some of the steps you may want to give a try (in order):

  • wait for a couple of minutes; it might be just waking up.
  • launch the Task Manager on the remote system and attempt to bring back desktop:
    • maximize the remote session window
    • within this window, hit "Ctrl-Shift-ESC" - this should bring up the Task Manager for the remote system.
    • If the Task Manager is up, you may start a new explorer.exe and in general, your desktop will show up.
  •  change the connection parameter on the home computer to use less resources:
    • close the current non-working remote session window.
    • when launching the "Remote Desktop Connection", click "show Options"
    • now, click the "Experience" tab, select "Low-speed broadband (256kbps - 2 Mbps)"
    • click "Connect" button; maybe you will get better result.
  • logon as another account if you have a second account on the system.
    • if you have a local account on the system, you need to try "\specialusername" in the username field.
  • physically logon from the console of the system when you come to the lab. Dahhh...

Well, if none of these works, you may have to reboot the system.


Our lab has a Windows Terminal Server; how come I could not remote in from home?

This is due to the licensing restrictions.

You may remote desktop back to your workstation, and from there you should be able to remote in to the lab's Windows Terminal Server.

Here are the details:

SFU has a Microsoft site license that includes *version upgrades for Windows desktop OS* on SFU owned machines, provides licenses for SFU users to login to servers to access files shares, queues etc., and provides licenses (CALs) for SFU owned computers to connect to SFU Windows Servers and for connecting to a terminal server.

Please note: this license does not cover users outside of SFU to connect to a Windows Terminal Server on SFU network directly.


I have a mobile device and I would like to use it to remote in my research workstation, what should I do?

For connecting to your Linux workstation, a modern SSH client tool should always work. Please check this Q&A for details.

For RDP to your lab workstations (Windows and Linux), we strongly recommend "Microsoft Remote Desktop Clients".

There are many alternatives out there; since most of these products require extra configurations on workstation and the network devices, we prefer to keep them off the chart.


When I try to remote desktop to a Windows system, it gives certificate error and failed on authentication; what should I do?

First of all, please make sure the FQDN of the remote system is correct. Only if it is correct, you could proceed with the following workaround:

While you connect from a Windows system using Remote Desktop Connection (aka mstsc), please do the following:

click "Show Options"

click tab "Advanced"

under "Server authentication", for "If server authentication fails:"

choose "Connect and don't warn me"

(optional: save the setting for future use) and click "Connect"

Basically, this will give you the real login screen and you could be sure you are connecting to the host you are trying to reach. This is the recommended setting to use for all Windows users.

We believe you could find similar option within the remote desktop client you are using. If the client does not offer this option, please use alternative client tools.


My workstation runs latest Ubuntu release but I could not SSH into it; what should I do?

For connecting to most recent Ubuntu systems, you need a modern SSH client too.

You may want to try MobaXterm (portable version) or puTTY.

* IMPORTANT * For security reasons, direct SSHing to your lab host is only available on SFU wired network. To SSH to your lab Linux host: please SSH to a Linux terminal server (e.g.; then SSH to your workstation (using its FQDN) from within the sessions on this server. And please use compression to speed things up.

Click here for more tips from the experts of RCG.


How to get GUI interface to a Linux box from my personal computer?

*NEW! *If your workstation is running RCG Ubuntu 20.04, please check out the next Q&A.

Here are some very basic (yet very crucial) steps for you to connect to a Linux box from a Windows device.


make sure you have latest SSH client and VNC viewer on your Windows device (we recommend MobaXterm & TightVNC viewer).

do not add any firewall exceptions.

do not allow VNC server to be installed.

Please note: the "vncserver &" command will show a virtual display number which you must memorize for future use, we assume it is "1" in this Q&A.

Step 1:  connect to the remote system via SSH using MobaXterm, within this SSH window, type the following commands in order:


vncserver &

if you are using tsch, please run:

setenv DISPLAY :1

or if you are using bash, please run:

export DISPLAY=:1

mate-session &


Step 2: launch MobaXterm on your Windows device, click "Start local terminal", from the "local terminal" window, run a command like:

ssh -L <VNC port number>:<FQDN>:<VNC port number> <username>@<RCG TS FQDN>

e.g. ssh -L

(The VNC port number is 5900 plus whatever your virtual display number is.)

(Please also complete the command line with your own username and the FQDN of one of the RCG Linux Terminal Servers .)

Step 3: launch TightVNC Viewer on your Windows device, make the connection to:<VNC port number>


Please note:

You must set up a local SSH tunnel of TCP port from your Windows device to the remote system through one of the RCG's Linux Terminal Servers - NO exceptions.

You will have to repeat these steps if the remote Linux system is rebooted.


Can I Remote Desktop into my RCG Ubuntu workstation?

YES! But only on the RCG Ubuntu 20.04 (and later release) workstations.

First detailed instructions provided by RCG, please click here.

First of all, we are using a special port for Remote Desktop access, click here to find out which one.

From your own devices, you could use these tools:

Mac OS X: freerdp from Homebrew or latest Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection 10 from the app store
Windows: Remote Desktop Connection
Linux: Remmina

Just a reminder: please always use the FQDN of the host to make the connection.

So, prepare your workstation (backup everything) and ask for OS upgrade now!


My xrdp session on my RCG Ubuntu 20 box is stuck; what should I do?

When your xrdp session gets stuck, please ssh into the workstation and run the following command:

pkill -u username

(please be sure to use your own SFU Computing ID in place of username)

Just a reminder: xrdp session consumes quite a lot resources, we recommend SSH when you don't need GUI.


After installing Docker on my lab workstation, I cannot SSH/RDP to it; what should I do?

First of all, Docker does have more security exposure than other environment, please avoid using it.

If it is a must for your research, please secure it tight.

When it interferes with remote access to the workstation, it is a configuration issue - please see this Q&A for a workaround.

How to determine if a network configuration issue on this specific workstation caused the SFU VPN trouble?

1. if Docker network interface uses its defaut IP range (i.e. in the 172.17.x.x range).

  - no one can access this computer with SFU VPN.

  - please check out see this Q&A for the workaround

2. run "ip addr" commend on the workstation, if the results show a bridge

  - if docker is present, please check out see this Q&A for the workaround

  - it might be a KVM (like VirtualBox/VMware)) network bridge, please destroy and recreate the bridge with a different IP (whic have no conflict with SFU VPN).


i suddenly cannot remote into my lab workstation using SFU VPN; what should I do?

In many cases, this issue is caused by Docker - please avoid using it.

If it is a must for your research, please secure it tight.

When it interferes with remote access to the workstation, it is a configuration issue - please see this Q&A for a workaround.


I cannot access my lab workstation - with SFU VPN; what should I do?

There is one possibility: your lab workstation is still on FAS network (i.e. it has name like * - the DNS suffix is

If this is the case, please SSH to rcga-linux-ts1 first, then SSH to your lab workstation.

If you still need to use this old FAS system (hardware), please email helpdesk - we will have to migrate it to SFU Backbone network. The new system will have name like * - the DNS suffix is


Special Topic: How to keep the Windows system up to date


Some of the common applications are out dated, what I should do?

We have many techniques to keep our Windows hosts up to date; for most applications, we are using MEM. The default setting was: the maintenance task runs every night.

Since we are using WSUS for monthly updates on our Windows systems. The reboot after these updates should trigger the maintenance task.

The maintenance task may take about 2 minutes to more than 30 minutes; so please plan ahead.


After running the maintenance task, Some of the applications are still out dated, what I should do?

There are two possible causes of this issue:

  1. The maintenance task encountered errors while updating the applications.
  2. The specific applications are not managed by our wpkg scripts.

Please email helpdesk with the name of the host and the name of the applications; we will fix this.


Special Topic: The Storage


What is my home space?

As a Computing Science graduate student, you have (at least) 2 home spaces.

SFU home

from an RCG Ubuntu workstation, you could SFTP to

from a Windows system, you should map U: to \\\username

(please use "\username" and SFU Mail password to gain access)

from any CSIL Linux system, it is auto-mounted as /sfuhome for you

Research Network Home (formerly known as FAS Home)

from an RCG Ubuntu workstation, you could simply visit /net/home/username

- please check out RCG's Kerberos page if there is any trouble.

from a Windows system (regardless of the network location), you could map Z: to \\\username

(please use "\username" and SFU Mail password to gain access)

From this index page, you could check out network storage for the specific research group you are a member of.

Here is a simple matrix to help:

binding domain
Research Network Home
SFU Home
RCG Ubuntu 20.04/22.04 ADSFU /net/home/username not auto-mounted, SFTP to
RCG Ubuntu 16.04 ADSFU
not auto-mounted (ssh to a CSIL computer and see the directory /sfuhome)
ADSFU Z: (\\\username)
U: (\\\username)

Please save all of your study & research work on network storage.


What is the quota of my home space?

The quota for your SFU home is 10GB (Giga Byte) as of October 2015.

The quota for your Research Network Home is 10GB (Giga Byte) as of October 2022.

Also, the research lab may have dedicated space for your research, please chat with the lab admin and your supervisor for more details.

Please save all of your study & research work on these spaces.

About SFU Vault: it is retiring. Please try using Microsoft OneDrive within the SFU's Microsoft 365 implementation.


Where I should store my files?

You should store all of your data (especially study/research work) on a backup-enabled, secured network file space. The data on network file space are being backed up regularly and monitored regularly by IT professionals.

When you login to any RCG Ubuntu system,

you could visit /net/home/username folder for your Research Network Home

you could SFTP to rock.its.sfu.cafor your SFU Home

When you login to a CSIL Linux system,

you will see the network storage space (SFU home space) which is provided by IT Services as the directory /sfuhome

When you sign in to any ADSFU Windows computer,

you could map Z: to your FAS network home which is \\\username.

And you also have your SFU home (\\\username) mapped to U: (by default)

* The research lab you are in may have special network storage for you to use - check them out.

You may store shortcuts on your desktop. You may store unimportant files on local storage space and remove them after you've done with them. You may have to store intermittent computational data on a local drive for speedy access... read the following warnings.

Warning: Regular maintenance of the lab computers may wipe out the data on local storage - this may happen without advance notice. So, do not store anything valuable on local storage.

Warning: Although not often, but the computers did occasionally get stolen at SFU. So, do not store anything valuable on local storage.

You should NOT store anything illegal, stolen or that you would not want your mother to see on the systems provided by SFU or the School of Computing Science. Please. We do not want to have to deal with any of that.


Where I should NOT store my files?

To ensure the best system stability and data integrity, please follow this guide:

When you logon to any ADSFU Windows system, do NOT store anything valuable on local storage; e.g. NOT under any of these folders:

Any folder under C:\


"Desktop" (with the exception of shortcuts)

"My Documents" folder, "Documents" folder

"Application Data" folder, "AppData" folder

Any folder within your profile folder, C:\Users\username\

D:; E:; ...

Any portable storage (with the exception for data transporting)

When you use any Linux system, do NOT store anything valuable on local storage; e.g. NOT under any of these folders:



/local-scratch* (basically, any folder with a name has"scratch" in it)





Please note: this is not on local hard disk, it is part of your profile. Since profile storage is very limited, NEVER save any files under profile.

"Desktop" (with the exception of shortcuts)

You may use all the "temp", "scratch" and additional storage units for intermittent data and scratch - but at your own risk!


The file space on network is not big enough for my research work, what should I do?

(this Q&A is under review)

The Faculty, the School and your supervisor will try to provide sufficient space for your research.

Please contact helpdesk with questions and to ensure you are indeed saving your research data in the right place. Please provide detailed location information in your email.

Please do not use any non-networked or non-backup space for any important data or research work.


I noticed there are lots of spaces on hard drive, can I use it for storing some of my files?

As we have clearly stated, we strongly against to use hard disks (including Solid State Drives aka SSDs) on the workstation to store your important research programs and/or data.

On the other hand, if you need storage for scratch - e.g. the intermittent data outputted from your programs or the huge dataset that could be downloaded again from the internet - you may try the following:

on a Windows system: c:\scratch

on a Linux system: /local-scratch

Please create a folder - named as your SFU Computing ID - under this folder; then put all your scratch data under this sub-folder. (On a Windows system, the permissions on this folder will prevent the other people access your files.)

Please note: you may not save files directly under "c:\scratch", you must create your own folder under this folder and save files under your own folder. This is to reduce the potential confusion between users.

Warning: the helpdesk will not be able to assist you with anything under the scratch folder. And if the space is used up on the system volume, the sub-folders under the scratch folder will be the first ones subject to deletion.


I have a portable storage unit with huge capacity; may I use it to store my research data?

At your own risk!

We have seen so many portable storage device failures. From our own experiences, we do not consider portable storage a viable storage solution.

Portable storage is prone to be dropped, lost or worse: stolen.

Portable storage may be used for transferring files (such as between home and campus, laptop and desktop) and it may be used as a local scratch space for computations that require it for speed.

At your own risk!


May I use Cloud service for my research data?

It depends.

First of all, you may not use cloud to store any personal data that is protected under the Privacy Act. Research data of a student that does not contain any private information about others should be OK.

We'd advise anyone that wants to capitalize on their research to be wary of the end user agreements for many of these services - many of the agreements give the company unlimited rights to use, copy and benefit from any file you store with them.

Please find out more on SFU's IT Services page.

And please email your personal cloud storage request for cloud storage to research-support AT sfu DOT ca. This makes it a more visible need for SFU which helps to drive the IT force to provide such service.


Do SFU provide cloud storage for my research?


SFU now has new agreement with Microsoft so all of SFU users will be able to use OneDrive storage for free! Please click here for more details.

Also, you may want to try out the storage provided by WestGrid and ComputeCanada:

To gain access to this service, the leading faculty member of a specific research group must register first. This will subsequently allow the other members of this research group to register and gain access.

Please also checkout the IT Services' take on cloud computing.

*Important* SFU Vault is retiring; please stop using it. (It has been in service for a few years now and it is now retiring.)

If you need further clarification, please feel free to contact helpdesk!


How to get Dropbox installed on my Windows workstation?

Please use OneDrive storage (part of Microsoft 365 program SFU has implemented).

About the sage related to this specific product:

You may want to check out this page for more programming tips.

The long story: As of August 18th, 2014, it is IMPOSSIBLE to install Dropbox client on to a Windows workstation binding to ADSFU domain (using roaming profile with folder redirection feature). For some time now, people have trouble to use Dropbox on a Windows system which is configured to use roaming profile with folder redirection feature (which is the de facto setup of any enterprise environment). Also, it gives permission errors during the installation when the user has no administrative privilege. The administrators of the enterprise are willing to provide this product for their users; but the vendor does go extra-extra-extra miles to prevent this product be used in any enterprise environment. If you would like to keep using Dropbox, please contact the vendor directly.


The (obsolete) workaround, which is not working for Windows system which is configured to use roaming profile with folder redirection feature.

In short, you must change the folder of you Dropbox folder.

  • preparations:

un-install Dropbox from Start Menu

delete the entire folder "%APPDATA%\dropbox"

  • install latest version of Dropbx (at least 2.10.28), you may find the installer here:


when the "Run as" windows shows, select "Current user" - warning: never any other user.

in the warning window about missing features for non-admin users, click "Yes" to continue.

click button "install" to start.

logon to your Dropbox account, then click the "Advanced settings"

for "Dropbox location" please "select a location for your Dropbox folder", specify the location as:


warning: any other folder is WRONG.

follow the rest steps to finish the installation.

If you plan to download the installer on your own, please do NOT use the official Dropbox site, visit this external site and get the offline installer instead!

A very common issue: the system shows there is no enough space; in general, it means that you have used up your profile storage, please find the instructions on how to clean it up.

The (obsolete) workaround, which is no need now.

For some time now, people have trouble to use Dropbox on a Windows system which is configured to use roaming profile with folder redirection feature (which is the de facto setup of any enterprise environment). Also, it gives permission errors during the installation when the user has no administrative privilege.

Here is the (obsolete) workaround (install an old version and upgrade it to latest one):

  • preparations:

un-install Dropbox from Start Menu

delete the entire folder "%APPDATA%\dropbox"

  • install an old-old version (e.g. 2.0.8) first, you may find the installer here:


when the "Run as" windows shows, select "Current user" - warning: never any other user.

in the warning window about missing features for non-admin users, click "Yes" to continue.

click button "install" to start.

in the "Choose setup type" window, select "Advanced", which means "choose your Dropbox's location and which folders will be synced."

in the "Advanced setup -Dropbox location" window, select "I want to choose where to put my Dropbox", specify the location as:


warning: any other folder is WRONG.

follow the rest steps to finish the installation.

  • then, install the latest version, use the same credentials, you may use this file:


please note, the new version will keep using the folder you just specified, which is exactly what we want.

If you plan to download the installer on your own, please do NOT use the official Dropbox site, visit this external site and get the offline installer instead!

A very common issue: the system shows there is no enough space; in general, it means that you have used up your profile storage, please
find the instructions on how to clean it up.

You may find more discussions on the internet; here is one of the pages.

You may want to check out this page for more programming tips.


How to access my SFU home folder from my research Linux workstation?

On an RCG Ubuntu workstation, you could access your Research Network Home  (formerly known as FAS Home) and you SFU Home.

To access your SFU Home, please follow the instrcutions on this how-to page but just use server


How to access my SFU home folder from my research Windows workstation?

You could easily map a network drive (we highly recommend using U: - it is the de facto SFU standard) to your SFU home:

the share: \\\username

the username:\username

the password: (your SFU Mail password)

If you plan to use it later, please check the re-connect checkbox and save the credentials.

On some of the systems, this mapping has been configured for you by default.


What are the network storage for a specific research lab?

Please find the storage for your research group on this password-protected page:

To connect to these shares from RCG Ubuntu systems, please simply cd to it - i.e.. use command "cd /cs/thislabspace" and it will be automounted in a few seconds.

To connect to these shares from Windows systems, please use "\username" and password for your SFU Mail account.

If you have no access to any network storage for your lab, please let your lab admin know.

And you could find more information on this page about the storage provided by RCG.

Please let us know if there are lab specific storage you are using but they are not listed. TIA!


I just added a new disk to my RCG Ubuntu workstation; how to access the new storage?

Please email helpdesk to get the new disk installed; and we will help you get it mounted properly.

If you have to mount the new disk yourself in a hurry, please ask your lab admin to help (since this needs sudo access on this specific workstation.) And please email helpdesk so we could update our records for future use.

The sample commands:

sudo  mkdir  /mnt/local-scratch9
sudo  mount   /dev/sdf1    /mnt/local-scratch9

(please specify the volume name and a desired the new mount name on your workstation.)

Please note: this mount will not be accessible remotely.


Special Topic: Equipment Mobility


I need to move a device from one place to another; may I just move it myself?

It depends.

If the move is within the lab (could be different rooms; but not in different buildings, not across campuses), you could inform the lab admin and you may do the move yourself. The lab admin will/shall document the changes accordingly.

If the move involves another lab or across different campuses (or different buildings on same campus), please inform the lab admin, your supervisor and email helpdesk in advance. This is to ensure the safety and functionality of the equipment. No exceptions.

Please note: if this is a network device, it may not function normally after the move. In this case, please always email helpdesk in advance.


I just moved one computer from another campus; why it is not working?!!!

This is by design.

You may not attach a network device to a random wall jack on SFU campus and expect it to work.

As you could see from reading this page alone, the SFU computing infrastructure is fairly complex. We (the IT people) try to provide most functionality with strongest security. In some cases, the flexibility has to give ways to security.

If you do need to move a network device across different campuses (sometimes even within the same campus; in the extreme case, within the same room), please let us know in advance. We will make sure the move is smooth and has minimum downtime for you so it won't impact your research.

If you have moved the device yourself, please email helpdesk asap. In your message, please give us all the details about this device, e.g. names, MAC address, former location, future location etc.


I would like to take a lab computer home for my research, what should I do?

Discuss this with your supervisor. 

The school of Computing Science expects most of our research to take place in our research labs where students can collaborate and learn from each other.  The research lab computers are SFU property and will not normally be allowed to leave the campus.  In most cases the computers rely on campus network resources to function and will not operate properly from off-campus.   Never remove equipment from the lab without permission. Inform helpdesk of any proposed equiment moves in advance.


I would like to move a lab computer to server room, what should I do?

The School provides some space in the server room for rack mount devices. It is FCFS.

If the system is rack-mount ready and IPMI ready, please send your request to helpdesk so we could get approval from your supervisor.

If the compute is not rack-mout ready, it will not be moved into our server room.

And any computer goes into the server room must have redundant power supply (at least 2 PSUs).


Other Computing Resources


How do I print?

SFU recommends transferring documents electronically. You could generate a PDF file and it will be accepted globally.

For most of the computers on SFU network, there are pseudo/virtual PDF printers installed; you could generate PDF files with ease. There is no charge for generating PDF files using these pseudo printers.

If paper printout is a must, here are some scenarios:

At Burnaby campus, in the research lab, there should be a network printer available for you to print. Please contact the lab admin to gain access. For Windows hosts, please always use

In CSIL@Burnaby, please print to printer "New Lab Colour" or "New Lab Mono" from a CSIL Windows workstation ("NewLabColour" or "NewLabMono" from a CSIL Linux workstation) and release it - the charges will be deducted on your SFU printing account.

At Surrey campus, contact your lab admin.

Please note: these printers only support "letter" size paper (standard 8 1/2" X 11"). Do NOT use the A4 page format.

For more information on printing issue, please read through this document; and this page may help too.

Also, RCG has this FAQ page on printing for all FAS users which is extremely useful.


How do I burn CD/DVDs?

In a specific research lab, please chat with the lab admin. Some hosts are capable of burning CDs and DVDs.

(We no longer provide DVD burners in CSIL.)

Please note: you are agreeing with the Copyright at the School of Computing Science while you are using any SFU/CMPT equipment.


How do I scan paper/photos?

You may use the Ricoh Multi-Function Device in CSIL (ASB 9838) for scanning.

For Staff (TAs) only: In Burnaby Common Room (TASC1 9401), we have a Ricoh Multi-Function Device for scanning.

Please scan it to your SFU Mail email. Click here for more tips. And remember: the size of the attachment is limited to 25MB (depends on the encoding as well).

Please note: if you scan to a non-SFU email address and it fails, we could not assist you.

Please note: you are agreeing with the Copyright at the School of Computing Science while you are using any SFU/CMPT equipment.


How do I photocopy?

At this moment, please go to CSIL (ASB 9838 South) and use the CSIL Ricoh Multi-Function Device.

Please note: you are agreeing with the Copyright at the School of Computing Science while you are using any SFU/CMPT equipment.

We do have a Ricoh Multi-Function Device in Burnaby Common Room (TASC1 9401), but it is not yet configured for graduate students use. Click here for more details.


The supplies for the printer in our research lab are running out, how can we get more?

If the toner of the printer is running low and/or the paper is running out in the lab, please inform the lab admin asap.

If the lab admin is not available, please inform your supervisor (the lab director) asap.

Since the refilling process does take some time, please make the contact early.

And please do not email helpdesk directly on this matter.


I need more computing resources for my research, any suggestions?

In general, please contact your supervisor for this issue.

There are other ways to get more computation power:

There are High Performance Computing clusters for researchers of SFU and beyond; please check out this page.

SFU IT Services provide more research related services; please check out this page.


I am using a laptop for my research; where may I get help?

You should visit this page when you use the School's laptops for your research.

Please note: we do not service personal computing devices for the graduate students.


Can I get "free" software for my research on my personal computers?

Yes for some of the packages.

Through the SFU's subscription to "Microsoft Azure Dev Tools for Teaching" program, any student enrolled in at least one CMPT or DDP course in the current semester is eligible to get selected Microsoft software for free.

For many years, The School of Computing Science was member of this MSDNAA (Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance) program.  (MSDNAA) program. Altough it is not a carbon replacement, we have access to "Microsoft Azure Dev Tools for Teaching" program.

Please visit the "how to get software for CMPT courses" page for more details.

The School of Computing Science is currently partnered with VMware Academic Program (VMAP). This program provides access to licenses for select products for use in instruction and research. Please visit the "how to get software for CMPT courses" page for more details. The full details about this program can be found here.

* Important* IT Services provide some specialized software for researchers as well; you may find more information here. For most of the packages, your supervisor must register first then grant access to you. Please note: ITS will provide support. The helpdesk of CMPT could not assist you in this case.


How to solve issues with SFU AEM site?

The Adobe Experience Manger is the current SFU's content management system; many of SFU sites are running on this system.

At this moment, we recommend using Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge to authorize (edit and publish) your pages on SFU AEM site:

If you ever encounter issues with the site, please try to clear the history of the browser first - this should solve 95% of the issues.

Please visit this page for more support information.

(Please note: People sometimes refer the SFU AEM as CQ or CQ5.)


About Thesis Defense, Presentations and Conferences


Where should I hold my presentation?

In general, you may use room TASC1 9204 on Burnaby campus (or ? on Surrey campus). Please contact the Graduate Program Assistant for this matter - especially when other resources are needed for your presentation, before booking the room.

And please make the reservation early to avoid disappointment.

To find out more information on meeting rooms of CMPT, please contact the Graduate Program Assistant. You may want to check out SFU's Meeting, Event and Conference services for more options.


Could you give me some tips on setup my presentation and/or thesis defense?

Here are some of the tips may help:

  • Contact the Graduate Program Assistant and then book the room and other equipment well in advance
    • It is highly recommended: discuss resource requirements before booking a room.
  • Prepare a computer which is free of malware, up-to-date.
    • you may book one from helpdesk
  • Consider backup plans while you plan the presentation.
  • Please book equipment through the Graduate Program Assistant. A complete list of equipment and detailed procedure would be very helpful.
    • Book the conference phone - the backup in case the Skype is not working.
    • Book a laser pointer.
    • Book a portable projector if necessary, most of our meeting rooms have projectors installed.
      •  One thing to be noted: the projectors only have VGA/HDMI connector; it is your own responsibility to bring any adapters your laptop may require.
    • If you need Skype for this event, please setup Skype for video conference with people offsite. In general, you should use your own laptop and Skype accounts. Warning: if you use Skype, there is no guarantee in quality and reliability.
  • Please come to the specific room at the previous workday to test everything.
    • There are multiple incidents that the user's laptop could not connect to the projector in the room.
  • Arrive in the room at least 30 minutes early and test everything before the presentation.

If you are not sure about the equipment, please email helpdesk.

You may want to check out SFU's Meeting, Event and Conference services for more details.


I want to have video recording of my presentation, what should I do?

Please book a video camcorder with SFU's Audio Visual Services in advance.  There may be a charge for this service.


May I reserve a computer for presentation?

Yes, please email helpdesk to make the reservation in advance. Please state which software you may need for your presentation.

We have a very limited supply of computers, first come first serve applies.


How do I make conference calls?

In Burnaby campus, you may book the Polycom telephone conference equipment (voice only) with the Graduate Program Assistant in advance if you plan to make conference calls. Here is the manual for this equipment.

If the call is long distance, please book the room TASC1 9204W and hook up the conference-call-ready phone (to wall jack 10-28). Click here for more details.

Use Skype is not recommended since the quality is not guaranteed. And we could not guarantee the wireless access either. So, please always book specialized conference equipment in advance.

If you prefer a location outside of the School of Computing Science, here are some other choices:

the Meeting rooms at the ASB 10000 level (There may be a charge for using this service.)

the Thesis Defense Room of SFU library which can be booked.

You may want to check out SFU's Meeting, Event and Conference services for more details.


Special Notes for TA/TM and Sessionals


Where I should hold my office hours?

It really depends. Please discuss with the course instructor.

In general, you should hold your office hours in CSIL. If so, please use the TA Booking system to book your time slots and room/area. And please remember, you are entitled to have 10 minutes coffee break within each TA hour you hold.  

Please note: if you hold your office hours in CSIL, you need to follow all the CSIL policies: including: NO FOOD OR DRINK, NO GAMING. Please inform the students about the policies.


May I hold my office hour in grad lab?


The grad labs are for grads to study and do research work; quietness is one of the essential requirements.

It is recommended you hold your office hour in CSIL.


Which computers I should use for my TA/TM job?

In general, you should use the computer provided in the room/area you booked for your TA/TM.


How do I print for my TA/TM job?

If you need to print multiple copies of the single file:

Please print one copy first, and then photocopy this printout as the original on the MPS devices - just remember to use the special copier code issued to you for the specific course.

If you need to print many different files (e.g. submitted assignments):

(under review) Please print to the "New Lab Mono" or "NewLabMono" and release the jobs in CSIL.

Just a reminder: ask students to submit paper copy is more efficient if the TA has to print out each electronically submitted file.

If you don't have the code, please inform the instructor so it could be issued.


I want to make hundreds of paper handouts, can someone help me?

First of all, there are many ways to publish electronically and get the students notified.

If you have to make large number of pages printed on paper, you could print or photocopy.

If this is for your TA/TM job, please remember to use the copier code issued to you for the specific course.


Which web pages should I read to help me on my TA/TM job?

The CMPT courses heavily rely on using the CSIL. Go through all the CSIL FAQ pages will help you answer many questions.

And please guide students to read these pages; this will reduce your workload considerably.


I am a sessional of a CMPT course, how to get the course setup?

1) In general, the course web page will be linked from the Course Central, the default URL for this course will be:

Where ??? is the course number. There is a placeholder index.html file there, which you can replace when the site is ready. One important thing to be noted here is: the file/folder names should not contain any space - otherwise, unexpected results will occur.

To contribute to this default course web page, you may do one of the followings or both:

. ssh/scp to a Linux terminal server (e.g., the folder would be:


. from a Windows host on the SFU network, map a network drive to:


Please note: you may also use other web space and redirect there or ask for the link on the list of course home pages to be changed. Please email helpdesk for assistance.

2) The maillists are set up automatically for all courses. Please see our maillist Q&A page for more details.

3) To setup the course online submission system on

create an activity

then on the activity's main page, there's a "configure submission" link to use for the ones where you want students to submit online

4) To setup a wiki page for the course, please visit




Will the School provide cable for me to hook up my laptop to a LCD in the lab?

Generally speaking, the School do not provide support for students' personal devices.

So, please bring your own cable if you need to hook up to a LCD in the lab.

Please talk with your supervisor so a cable/adapter could be purchased for you.

Just a reminder: while you ask for purchasing a new laptop, please also ask for the proper cables and other accessaries at the same time.

Here are couple tips on selecting the cable:

Please be sure to get the one with latest technology standards. e.g. if either a "USB-C to VGA" cable or a "USB-C  to USB-C" cable will work, please get "USB-C  to USB-C" cable.

Please be sure to check the specifications of the laptop, the LCD monitor and the cable - many cables only work for certain cobinations of the devices.


How to capture video clips?

Please use CSIL multimedia workstation. Click here for more details.


I cannot find certain device/software in the lab, what should I do?

First of all, please search the software as we instructed in the previous Q&A, the result may surprise you ;)

Please note: if the software is mainly for research, please contact your supervisor to have it on your research lab computers.


The lighting/heating/power is not working in my lab, what should I do?

For minor issues you can contact SFU Facilities Services directly by submitting a request here:

If the issue is quite complex, reoccurring or not getting resolved, please contact helpdesk. You may also report in person by visiting the CS general office.

In all cases where you lose AC power to the computers, please let helpdesk know so we can investigate.


I would like to book a room for a meeting, who should I contact?

Anyone with an SFU acount can view the CS meeting room schedule here:

Graduate students are welcome to use the rooms on a drop in basis when they are not booked.

Please email the Confidential Assistant to the Director for assistance booking a room.  Research students: your supervisor can also book rooms.


I don't have enough power outlets around my desk, what should I do?

Please email helpdesk and wait for assistance. And please also let your supervisor know so funding could be provided if there is cost associated with this.

We understand the needs for powering up personal computing devices, but we also want to ensure the safety of you and everyone at SFU. Please allow us to find ways to safely accommodate your needs.

Special notes: the following actions are NOT permitted and will not be tolerated:

  • daisy-chain power bars
    • If "daisy chained" power bars are discovered during routine inspections, they will be immediately disconnected. In addition, it will be noted on the inspection form, and a follow-up inspection schedule may be prescribed to monitor the situation. 
  • plug a non-computing device to the power panel (or power bar) which hosts computing devices.
    • This means you must not plug heater, microwave, kettle, fan, refrigerator etc. into the same power bar or same power outlet or power circuit which has any computing device on it. Please note: every power outlet is clearly labelled.  If two or more power outlets' labels match, it means they are on the same circuit!
  • move a power bar to a different location or attach additional power bar to any power outlet.
  • use power extension cords with power bar (unless this is setup by helpdesk after reviewing the electrical load)

Please check out the official guidelines on Canadian government site.


I feel the network is very slow, what should I do?

There are many causes which result slowness of the systems.

If you are using a managed and wired workstation, you could perform a speedtest by visiting on this system. If the Read and Write reaches above 300Mbps, the network will be considered normal. (This service is provided by ookla; the traffic generated during the speedtest is within SFU network.)

On the other hand, there is no performance guarantee on wireless network.

If it is an SFU server you know should perform faster, please contact the group who's in charge of the server.

For all other systems, please contact their supporting parties accordingly.


How to use Microsoft Teams for collaboration?

Microsoft Teams is now available to all current active SFU graduate students. Please be sure to use your SFU Microsoft 365 account and enroll in SFU MFA.

We recommend the lab director creates a team for the specific research group to use.

Of course, you could just create a group chat to include all the people you wish to collaborate with on a certain topic.


Contact us!


Having comments, suggestions, inquiries and more questions? Contact us!

Please click here and use the best practices to get assistance from helpdesk.


Last updated on 2024.04.22