Getting Started For CMPT Undergraduates

Activate your SFU campus computing account

You should activate your SFU Computing ID (the SFU campus computing account) as soon as possible. SFU Computing IDs are created automatically upon registration for every SFU student, by Information Technology Services (IT Services). Your userid (SFU Computing ID) is up to 8 characters long and is used for login to Student Services for registration and all of the other campus services.

Before you can use your userid, you need to activate it.

Please activate your SFU Computing ID on this ITS page:

Click "ACTIVE YOUR COMPUTING ID" link and follow the instructions.

Please be sure to use a secure password for your newly activated SFU Computing ID.

IT Services maintains drop-in labs where any student can activate and use their SFU Computing ID.

Details about your SFU Computing ID

The School of Computing Science and your instructors expect to communicate with you via your SFU account. Your account provides you with:

* Email: SFU Mail . Your email is

Please visit this page to know more about your SFU Computing ID

Please check and re-set Display Name to best distinguish yourself.

You are also assigned an alias, something like - we strongly recommend not using alias. Please change it to ASAP.

One special note: The forwarding will not work on any SFU Mail account.

* Web access. Many instructors expect students to view on-line course notes.

* Wireless access. Many places on campus have hotspots for accessing the SFU wireless networks.

* Account space. You can store up to 10.0 GB (as of this writing) in your SFU account, provisioned by SFU IT Services. This space is accessible via the CSIL computers.

when you are using a CSIL Linux system, it is /home/youruserid/sfuhome/

when you are using a CSIL Windows system, it is your U: drive

Finding information online

Email and the World Wide Web are the School of Computing Science's primary ways to provide you with information. We want to provide you with the most up-to-date information as soon as possible, as well as minimize the amount of paper printed both by the School and you. Please email comments and/or report errors to helpdesk.

The places on our web site that are of most interest to CS undergraduates are:

  1. Course Central (information relating to CSIL and the current semester's courses)
  2. Undergraduate Programs
  3. Undergraduate Advising (part of FAS advising)
  4. Computing Science Instructional Labs (CSIL)

Important SFU web sites include:

Getting help with computing facilities problems

If you are having problems using:

Determine which computing facilities you need for each course

For each CMPT course you are taking, determine which computing facilities are assigned to you. See the Course Outlines, or ask your instructor/TA. Some courses do not require access to any computing facilities.

CSIL facilities are located on Burnaby campus in the Applied Sciences Building (ASB 9838 & Co.) and Surrey campus in the SRYE building (SRYE 3024, 4013, 4024). Check out this page for more information.

The labs for Master's in Professional Computer Science (MPCS) are located in Southeast Classroom Block (SECB 1010, 1013) on Burnaby campus.

Every CMPT course has a class e-mail list consisting of every student registered in this course, plus instructors and TAs. Note that students are usually not able to send e-mail to class mail lists.

NOTE: No food items or beverages are permitted in any computing lab. See our CSIL policies.

What laptop should a new CMPT undergraduate student buy?

We often get asked by new students what sort of laptop to buy:

We do not make a specific recommendation for student owned computers. Our courses use software that can be found in our on-campus computing labs - CSIL. We also have several remote access servers where our students can run most of the course software from home. We license a variety of software that our registered students can download for free and install on their own computers. Most of CSIL workstations run both Linux and Windows operating systems, but much of the software is operating system agnostic.

With the resources we provide, you should not need to purchase a particularly powerful personal laptop, especially for your first couple of years. Here are a few points:

  • Get one that is comfortable to use and reliable as you'll probably spend a lot of time with it.
  • Get as much system RAM as you can, the system will be more likely to fill your needs in future with more RAM.
  • Get a decent sized SSD (Solid State Drive) for the operating system and scratch use. Place all your valuable code and data on storage which you back up regularly or which are backed up for you.
  • Consider extended warranty with 24-hour service and accidental damage protection. On average the manufacturers make money on these so on average it is not a good deal for the consumer. But if your laptop dies in the 9th week of classes... something to think about. A spare older laptop could be a good alternative. And the computers in CSIL are always there for you.

Students enrolling for any courses which have an online learning component will also need a webcam, microphone, speakers and a reliable Internet connection.

Our faculty and students own a mix of Mac and Windows computers, a few are running Linux. Some people choose to run multiple operating systems as virtual machines. Some students do all their programming on our lab computers or remote access servers. Spending time in our labs is a good way to meet and learn from other CS students.

Whatever computer you get, spend some time getting familiar with it and learn to use some of the tools you will need in the first year.

You should:

  • patch: know how to keep your computer up to date with patches and security fixes, and
  • back up your work: have a tested system in place to frequently backup both the computer and your work, and make sure you can recover from those backups should your computer fail or be misplaced. Google Drive, GIT, Microsoft OneDrive (free license for current SFU students), Dropbox are all good ways to make backups of your work.

Reading materials to start your career in computing science

Before you begin, please check out the programs we offer in the School of Computing Science.

Whatever personal computer you get, spend some time getting familiar with it and learn to use some of the tools you will need in the first year. Here is an incomplete list:

Linux command line

Python programming language:

C Programming language

Visual Studio Code - a cross-platform development tool:

What a versioning system is and how to use it:

Remote connection via SSH client and/or RDP client:

Last updated: 2024.01.14