Computing Lab Frequently Asked Questions


Information Technology Services (ITS) Computing Labs


What are the ITS Labs?
Where are the ITS Labs?

ITS Labs are used by students from all disciplines for their course work. They house some general and some class specific software, so you may find them adequate for some of your CMPT courses. Go to the ITS Computer Labs page to find out more. 


Who can access ITS Labs?
When are ITS Labs available?

All SFU students can access the ITS Labs when they're open, and not already booked by someone else. Check the schedule to make sure the lab you want is available at the time you want.

Go to the ITS Computer Labs page; click the link to a specific campus. Follow links to see a lab's see reserved times.


What hardware is in the ITS Labs?

Go to the ITS Computer Labs page; follow links to find out more about the labs.


As a CMPT student, do I have access to SFU VPN?
I'm taking a CMPT course this semester, do I have access to SFU VPN?


The SFU networks are protected by a firewall that prevents direct connection from off-campus to on-campus computers.

  • All students currently enrolled in a CMPT course are granted access to SFU VPN.
  • The students in CMPT Majors have access to SFU VPN as well.
  • Once connected to the SFU VPN you can remote into CSIL via SSH and/or RDP.

Please be sure you have SFU VPN configured on your own computer as described in SFU's documentation.

Although it is not officially supported, users connecting to SFU VPN from a Linux computer have had some success with openfortivpn.

SFU VPN requires SFU MFA - please sign up now!

If you have any difficulties, please feel free to contact us.


Computing Science Instructional Labs (CSIL)


What is CSIL?

CSIL is comprised of several rooms with computers, most with Internet access. Students registered in one or more Computing Science courses can use CSIL to do course work, access their SFU Mail accounts, and access the World Wide Web.

CSIL is supported by the Computing Science Technical Support (CSTS) group. The fastest and most efficient way to reach us is: email helpdesk ( Note we normally only provide service Monday to Friday, 0900 hrs - 1600 hrs (9:00am - 4:00pm).


Where is CSIL?


CSIL at Burnaby

CSIL@Burnaby is located on the main floor of the Applied Sciences Building. See the campus map for directions to the ASB. CSIL consists of these areas: ASB 9838 North, ASB 9820, ASB 9840, ASB 9804, ASB 9700, 3 team rooms (ASB 9812, ASB 9814, ASB 9816) and a few TA stations.

All CSIL workstations dualboot Windows and Ubuntu Linux, see How to select a specific Operating System on a CSIL computer.

Please login to see CSIL Burnaby layout - you can find the names of CSIL@Burnaby workstations.

The School of Computing Science also maintains 2 labs for Master of Science in Professional Computer Science (MPCS): SECB 1010 & 1013. Be sure to check out the official web page of these programs for access information.

CSIL at Surrey

CSIL@Surrey is located in the SRYE building. There are three rooms: SRYE 3024, SRYE 4013 and SRYE 4024. All computers in these rooms are dualboot Windows and Ubuntu Linux. (Please see the Surrey campus map for directions.)

Please login to see CSIL Surrey layout - you can find the names of CSIL@Surrey workstations.

About name differences under Windows and under Ubuntu

Because our CSIL workstations dualboot, we have configured one cname for each workstation. e.g. points to Thus,

under Windows, the name is:

under Ubuntu, the name is:


How do I get in to CSIL?

Burnaby and Surrey Campuses

CSIL is accessible by security fob or card at both campuses. Any undergraduate student registered in a CMPT course (or MACM 101), all CMPT graduate students, and all CMPT instructors can obtain a fob/card for CSIL. Read the Door Access FAQ for more details.

No valid CS access fob, no access, no exceptions.


When is CSIL available?

Generally, CSIL is open from the 9:00am of the first day of the semester until the end of the exam period. During the semester, CSIL is open 24/7 in Burnaby and Surrey, to valid CS access fob holders.

No valid CS access fob, no access, no exceptions.

Between semesters, CSIL is undergoing mainteance and upgrades, and not generally available. Contact the CS helpdesk if you need access during this time.


Can I access CSIL computers from off campus?

Yes. You may access certain Windows and Linux/Unix systems from off campus.

From Fall 2023, CSIL VDI is in service. Please click here for details.

Prequisite: you must connect to SFU VPN to remote login into any CSIL system from off-campus.

In general, you CANNOT access other CSIL Linux/Windows workstations remotely. But to provide better user experience since the pandemic began, many CSIL Linux/Windows workstations are now available for RDP.

For Windows users:

For remote access to CSIL Windows systems, Windows users may connect to the CSIL Windows Terminal Server (TS) via a Remote Desktop Connection (aka RDC, or RDP). Read the How to Use CSIL Windows Terminal Server page to find out all the details.

For Linux users:

Please see "How to access (remote login to) the CSIL Linux computers" page for information and instructions.


What hardware is in CSIL?

At both Burnaby and Surrey campuses, CSIL has a variety of Dell computers in separate study areas, as well as an enterprise grade multi-function device for general printing, photocopying and scanning. Note that areas of CSIL are sometimes reserved for selected classes, tutorials and events; and certain equipment is reserved for students from particular courses. Login to see CSIL layouts.

Please click here for more information.


What software is in CSIL?

For Linux/Unix software, see our Unix/Linux software page.

For Windows software, see our Windows software page.


Which CSIL systems have GPUs?

Each workstation in ASB 9700, ASB 9804, ASB 9820 and ASB 9840 has 1 GPU installed.

For MPCS students only: each workstation in SECB 1010 and SECB 1013 has 1 GPU installed.

Since we have a few different models of GPUs in CSIL, please click here to know more about them.


SIMS/ shows that I should be using ASB 9838; which study area should I use?

When SIMS/ shows a lecture or lab session will be held in ASB 9838, it means the lecture or the lab session will be held in one or more study areas of CSIL@Burnaby.

The instructor and/or the TA of the specific course should inform you about the study area information before the session.

You could also check out the latest Lab Schedule for CSIL@Burnaby for details.


Using CSIL


What is my user ID and password?

The user ID and password you use in CSIL are the same as your SFU Computing ID and password. You also use this credential to access your SFU Mail.


Where can I find out more about UNIX?

Please visit our Unix/Linux FAQ page first.

You may learn more on Unix at this external link Unix Tools Web Site.


Where can I find out more about Linux?

Linux is a UNIX variant, thus many of the things that you would look at for general UNIX knowledge are applicable to Linux as well.

Please visit our Unix/Linux FAQ page first.

The Linux distribution we use in CSIL is from Ubuntu, and you can find out most everything you need to know about Ubuntu at the Ubuntu Web Site.


Where can I find out more information about Windows?

Please visit our Windows FAQ.


How to select a specific Operating System on a CSIL computer?

To provide most flexibility to our users, our CSIL workstations dualboot Windows and Linux (Ubuntu).

All of the computers in the following rooms/areas are dualboot:

Burnaby: ASB 9700, ASB 9804, ASB 9820, ASB 9838 North, ASB 9808, ASB9810, ASB9814 and ASB9816

Surrey: SRYE 3024, SRYE 4013, and SRYE 4024

If you are in these rooms/areas, you could easily switch between Windows and Linux.

ASB 9840 is also usually dualboot, but in Fall 2022 (1227) it is Windows only.

If the computer is off, please push the power button on the case and make your selection on the OS select screen (GRUB).

When you see the Windows logon screen and you would like to use Linux (Ubuntu):

. hit key combo Ctrl-Alt-Del

. left-click the arrow right to the red power button on the bottom-right corner of the screen 

. left-click "Restart"

. wait till the OS select screen shows (this may take about 90 seconds)

. use up-arrow key to highlight "Ubuntu" (the default OS) and hit Enter key to select it.

. login when the Ubuntu login screen shows

When you see the Ubuntu logon screen and you would like to use Windows:

. left-click the small power button on the top-right corner of the screen

. left-click the "Restart" button

. Wait till the OS select screen shows

. use down-arrow key to highlight "Windows" and hit Enter key to select it.

. logon when the Windows logon screen shows

Just a reminder: The instructor of a specific course decides which OS will be used for this course. Please confirm the choice of OS with the instructors in advance.


Can I use my laptop in CSIL?


But you may NOT disconnect the network cable from any CSIL workstation and plug it into your laptop. To get access to the Internet for your laptop, use the SFU wireless service.

You may hook up your laptop to an unused VGA cable where these are available. Just remember: put the LCD panel back to working order before you leave the spot, i.e. make sure LCD is set to the correct input and the computer is displaying the CSIL login screen. It is prohibited to use other methods to connect your laptop to any LCD monitor in CSIL.

Warning: If you disconnect the network cable from any CSIL machine, your account will be suspended.

Warning: Playing games in CSIL is prohibited - even on your own laptop. Your account will be suspended if you play games in CSIL or on any CSIL computer.

Please note: these restrictions apply to MPCS labs in SECB as well. No exceptions.


When I'm logged into a CSIL machine, where is my home directory?

You will be able to mount your SFU Campus Home directory when you log on to any CSIL workstation.

On Windows:

After you sign in to a CSIL Windows system, your SFU Campus Home directory will be auto-mapped to your Windows session. Your SFU Campus Home directory should be mapped as your U: drive.

** Your files must be saved to your U:\ drive. The local hard drives and other network shares on CSIL Windows systems ARE NOT BACKED UP, AND MAY BE ERASED BY CMPT HELPDESK STAFF AT ANY TIME, WITHOUT NOTICE.  

You may find more details here.

On Linux:


- This is the place to save all your files, it will be auto-mounted for you when you log on to a CSIL Linux system. This is your SFU Campus Home directory provisioned by SFU IT Services.

After you log on to a CSIL Linux system, your session will set your Linux home directory to /home/{userID}/. The purpose of this folder is to allow your login profile to follow you between machines. Please be aware: this folder should be considered TEMPORARY STORAGE ONLY. This space may be cleared out without advanced notice. DO NOT USE it for any important files.

Again, please save all your files to: /home/{userID}/sfuhome/


To demo my project in CSIL, I need some extra software packages; may I have them installed?


Only the instructors could request software installation at the beginning of the semester.

We strongly suggest all CMPT students to use CSIL for their course work. The helpdesk could not help on any issue related to a specific user's personal computer.


How much data storage space do I have?

You have a fixed amount of space in your SFU home directory (sfuhome).  For details, see the ITS Web site - this space is provided by IT Services, not the School of Computing Science.


How to use the team rooms?

The Team Rooms (ASB 9812, ASB 9814 and ASB 9816) are intended for meetings of teams from CMPT courses with assigned team projects.  TAs can allocate specific time slots for teams via our TA Booking system.

When a Team Room is not booked, it can be used on first come basis - maximum 2 hours/day per person or group. CMPT course project teams have priority over other users.

Please tidy up the Team Room after use. Please take out extra chairs to the hall way line up along the glass wall - 4 chairs are reserved for each Team Room so they should be kept inside the room.


Reporting Problems


Who do I complain to?

CSIL facilities are open 24/7 during the semester but we cannot provide this coverage for our helpdesk email. Our official hours of operation are: Monday to Friday, 0900 hrs - 1600 hrs (9:00am - 4:00pm Pacific Time).

With this in mind, please be as clear as possible about any problem you need to report to us. Click here for the email template.


Who do I email to?

For problems with any CSIL machines, email helpdesk AT cs DOT sfu DOT ca.

For problems with course software, email helpdesk AT cs DOT sfu DOT ca.

For problems with printing in CSIL, email helpdesk AT cs DOT sfu DOT ca.

For problems with machines in any IT Services Lab or with your wireless connection, email help AT sfu DOT ca.

For problems with your email, call the ITS help line or email them at help AT sfu DOT ca.

For problems with printing in any IT Services Lab, email help AT sfu DOT ca.

To activate your campus (email) account, go to the website.

For more details on what ITS can do for you, see the ITS Labs Page.

*IMPORTANT*: do NOT forward your SFU email to anything else. You are responsible for reading emails from CS and SFU. The benefit does not cover the chaos it creates. Some external sites occasionally block SFU emails. Remember: do NOT forward your SFU email to anything else. 


DOs and DON'Ts in CSIL

CSIL Rules

  1. No eating or drinking in CSIL.
  2. No gaming.
  3. Be familiar with SFU's policy on computing resources, better known as GP24. Please also read the CSIL Policies.
  4. Don't attempt to install your own software on CSIL computers. This is strictly prohibited, and will lead to a loss of your CSIL privileges. Customizing your working environment is highly recommended.
  5. Don't attempt to plug in a laptop or other computer to the CSIL network with a network or other cable. This is strictly prohibited, and will lead to a loss of your CSIL privileges.
  6. Don't put transparencies into CSIL printers!!
  7. CSIL is monitored at all times by security cameras and activity logging. This is to protect both you, and the equipment in CSIL. Damage will be seen and noted, but please report damage as soon as it occurs as we can fix it faster than if it goes unreported.


What is GP24?

Here you can find the full text of GP24. General Policy 24 outlines rules for Fair Use of Computer Resources at SFU.


Typical Problems


I forgot my password.

Please visit the web page:


I can't log in.

If you could not logon to a CSIL Linux workstation, please check out the login troubles FAQ.

If you could not sign in to a CSIL Windows workstation, please click here for the answers.


My access fob doesn't work.

Please read though our door access FAQ.


I could log in, but cannot run course software.

Some course software has licensing restrictions that only allows a certain set number of simultaneous users. You may have to try again later.


Your Windows profile may have been corrupted. Please check this Q&A for more details.


There might be a problem with your command shell configuration files. Contact helpdesk for assistance.


I cannot print to the CSIL printer.

Check out the CSIL printing FAQ.


I cannot send email to my course list.

This is normal.

Only the instructors and the TAs can send to the course mail list. For more information about CS course mailing lists, see our mailing list FAQ.


The monitor of the computer I want to use has no display. What should I do?

Generally speaking, there are a few scenarios and fixes.

  • Firstly, the computer may be turned off or in hibernation. Try pressing the NumLock key to see if the status of NumLock indicator changes.  This verifies that the system is running. If the system is not running, push the power button of the computer to turn it on.
  • Secondly, if the system is indeed running, please check the settings of the LCD panel: the input must be set to “Auto-Select” to ensure it displays properly for workstations in CSIL. For the LCD panels have no "Auto-Select" feature:
    • please change it to DisplayPort for all ASB 9838 North workstations which use onboard video.
    • please change it to miniDisplayPort - this must be done for all ASB 9700 workstations.
  • Thirdly, please ensure there is only one video output from the computer to the LCD panel.

Special note: Every workstation in the TA cubicles and the team rooms is equiped with an HDMI cable for personal device use. Please be sure to set the input back to DVI on the LCD display before leaving.

These issues are mostly caused by individuals hooking up their personal devices and changing connections of the displays and LCD panel settings. Laptop users, please be considerate: change the settings/cables back to their original settings once you are done; TIA!


I cannot access certain CS web pages, what I can do?

Many people report this issue with password-protected pages - basically these pages become accessible only after valid SFU computing credential and OTP code of SFU MFA are provided.

First of all, please be sure you have the proper URL (web address)

please use copy/paste method when appliable.

if you've followed the links on other CS pages, please proceed.

When this happens, before you contact the helpdesk, please try these steps (in order) on the computer you are using:

step 1

browse to this CS web page (on a new tab) to see if the SFU web service itself is working properly.

if this non-password-protected page does not show up properly,

please wait for 30 minutes and try again.

report to helpdesk if the page is still not showing properly after 60 minutes.

If this non-password-protected page shows properly, please proceed to next step.

step 2

Terminate the browser you are using (close all browser windows, terminate the process if appliable).

wait for 10 seconds.

re-launch the browser and browse to the page in question.

if the page does not show up properly, please try next step.

step 3

Open a new Incognito window in Google Chrome (or "InPrivate Window" in Microsoft Edge, "private window" in Mozilla Firefox).

in this Incognito window, browse to the page in question.

if/when it asks you for your SFU computing credential (SFU CAS), please login and key in the OTP (SFU MFA)

if the page in question shows properly:

to fix this issue within regular window of this browser, please remove the saved SFU credentials and try again.

and remember: never save the SFU MFA code. never.

if the page in question still does not show properly in the Incognito window, please try next step.

step 4

try using a different browser.

all CS web pages are tested with Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox. So, at least one of them should work.

if none of the browsers displays the page in question, please try step 5

step 5

try to browse to the page in question on a different computer

(a computer with different OS would be the best for diagnosing).

if you cannot access the page in question on the other computer either, please contact helpdesk.

if the web page in question displays properly on the other computer, please reboot this computer.

after the reboot, if you still cannot access the page in question, please try to update this computer (core system and browser etc.).

if this is a CSIL computer, please contact helpdesk.

If these steps cannot resolve the issue, please contact helpdesk.


Last update @ 2024.05.13