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Athena Rules of Use

Overview

MITnet, MIT's campus-wide computer network, connects thousands of computers on and off campus, including the Athena workstations, printers, and servers, many student machines in the dorms, and the campus dialup servers. Network connectivity has many advantages which you will discover as you explore Athena, MITnet, and the Internet beyond. But connectivity also requires that users of the network understand their responsibilities in order to protect the integrity of the system and the privacy of other users.

Similarly, the Athena-specific end-user facilities (e.g., clusters, workstations, printers) are provided as an Institute resource, and certain guidelines are necessary to help maintain this resource.

This page summarizes the rules regarding the appropriate use of Athena-specific facilities.

These Rules of Use for Athena Facilities are intended to help members of the MIT community protect the Athena equipment to assure all authorized users effective access to it. These rules supplement the MITnet Rules of Use, which all Athena users are also expected to follow.

These rules apply to all users of Athena facilities, including students, faculty, authorized guests, and even IS&T/Athena staff. (In certain private Athena clusters, some of these rules may be relaxed, or additional rules may be in effect; check with your cluster's system manager).

We expect you to follow these rules, and we hope you will help others follow them as well. If you need assistance in dealing with someone willfully violating the rules,  contact the Athena Hardware Hotline (phone: x3-1410, email: hotline@mit.edu). If you believe you are in danger, call the Campus Police immediately at x3-1212.

Summary of Rules for Athena Facilities

The listing below provides only summaries of the rules. For the full text of each rule, link to the appropriate section.

Comply with the Intended Use of the System

A1. Don't violate the intended use of the Athena system.

Protect Athena Equipment

A2. Don't eat, drink, or bring food or liquids into the Athena clusters.

A3. Don't turn the power off on Athena equipment.

A4. Don't reconfigure the cluster, either hardware or software.

Assure Fair Access to Workstations in Athena Clusters

A5. Don't violate the official priorities for the use of workstations; in particular, don't play games or engage in other non-academic activity if the cluster is busy, and don't log on to more than one workstation at a time.

A6. Don't leave your workstation unattended for more than 20 minutes.

A7. Don't make a lot of noise in the Athena clusters.

Assure Fair Access to Athena Printers

A8. Don't violate the official priorities for the use of printers; in particular, don't be a printer hog or use the Athena printers as copy machines.

Comply with the Intended Use of the System

While MITnet is a general-purpose Institute resource in support of all kinds of computing on campus, Athena is more specifically focused on academic computing -- the use of computers in fulfilling the Institute's educational goals. This special focus is echoed in a more specific intended use of the system.

A1. Don't violate the intended use of the Athena system.

Athena is an Institute resource for authorized MIT community members to use to fulfill educational goals. You should not take any action that violates that purpose. In particular:

  • Don't use Athena resources for non-educational purposes in any way that interferes with their use for educational purposes. This is especially true at peak times of the year, when demand for Athena workstations and services exceeds supply and any use of Athena for non-educational purposes can potentially take resources away from education-oriented users. (Cf. Rule A5.)
  • Don't use any software available on Athena for any non-educational purpose if the license for that software does not permit such use. In many cases, software available on Athena is licensed for educational use only. Users who would like to make non-educational use of Athena software (e.g., members of sponsored research projects who might like to use Athena's third-party software) must first check the licensing terms for the specific software they are interested in using (these terms are usually included in the locker for the software). If non-educational use is prohibited by the software license, the users must make their own arrangements to obtain licenses for the software that are compatible with their requirements. (Cf. MITnet Rule 4.)
  • Don't use Athena for private financial gain, as by sale of the use of Athena resources (especially to anyone outside MIT), or by use of the system in support of any profit-making scheme not explicitly intended to serve Institute purposes. (Cf. MITnet Rule 1.)
  • Access to Athena computing facilities is restricted to authorized members of the MIT community. Trespassing is prohibited and violators will be subject to removal and/or prosecution. Authorized Athena users typically login to workstations using their Athena usernames. Individuals who login as "root" from the initial xlogin screen or otherwise use workstations without identifying themselves as authorized Athena users may be asked for proof of identification by Athena staff members responsible for the maintenance of Athena computing facilities.

Protect Athena Equipment

Much of Athena's computer equipment is accessible to a large number of people and is consequently vulnerable to overuse and damage. The following guidelines are designed to help protect this equipment. In the event of any damage to the equipment, regardless of cause, please contact the Athena Hardware Hotline (at x3-1410) immediately.

A2. Don't eat, drink, or bring food or liquids into the Athena clusters.

Food crumbs and spilled drinks are the primary cause of equipment damage in the Athena clusters. This damage is produced not only in obvious ways (a spilled cup of coffee), but also in subtle ways (even the cumulative effect of sticky fingers or crumbs can ruin equipment -- keyboards have been damaged at the rate of one per day from food crumbs alone, and mice are equally vulnerable).

A3. Don't turn the power off on Athena equipment.

Turning the power off on Athena equipment (e.g., workstations, monitors, or printers) can permanently damage the hardware. However, if the equipment smells or looks like it is burning, do turn it off and contact the Athena Hardware Hotline.

A4. Don't reconfigure the cluster, either hardware or software.

Moving equipment will often cause damage, or may cause it to be reported as stolen. Permanent damage may result from even unplugging a keyboard.

Similarly, altering a workstation's filesystem in any way may render the machine unusable, or threaten its usability in other ways. For example, you should not reconfigure any workstation in an Athena cluster to allow remote connections unless you are actually sitting at that workstation. Even an apparently "harmless" change such as this (i.e., changing the access configuration of a workstation) may create major system security problems, and may actually jeopardize MIT's ability to license software for users in the future.

Also, do not remove Athena equipment -- or furniture! -- from any Athena facility. Doing so constitutes theft and will be dealt with accordingly.

If you believe the configuration of a cluster needs to be changed, you can contact the Athena Hardware Hotline.

Assure Fair Access to Workstations in Athena Clusters

Athena clusters are facilities provided for members of the MIT community to achieve their academic goals. As such, they are subject to principles of use that support those goals -- the chief considerations being fair access to the facilities for the widest possible set of users, and the maintenance of a comfortable working environment. The rules below reflect these considerations as they affect users of the Athena clusters.

These rules are easily summarized: please show consideration to other users.

A5. Don't violate the official priorities for the use of workstations; in particular, don't play games or engage in other non-academic activity if the cluster is busy, and don't log on to more than one workstation at a time.

In conformance with Athena's stated purpose, the priorities for use of the workstations in crowded Athena clusters are as follows (cf. Rule A1):

  • Highest Priority: course-related work (including theses)
  • Middle Priority: personal productivity work (including non-course-related text processing, sending mail, exploring the Athena system)
  • Lowest Priority: recreational computing (including
    game-playing and general Web-surfing)

Note that games are the lowest priority software on the system -- you should not play games if there are only a few workstations free, or if people are waiting for workstations. If a user needs a workstation for higher priority work while you are playing games, that user can ask you to give up your workstation. (Low priority activities may actually be disallowed entirely during certain times of the year to assure that the use of the clusters is consistent with the academic purpose of Athena. At these times, you are expected to refrain completely from low-priority activities as defined above.)

Similarly, some clusters have workstations which are reserved for specific course use, or which have special features. If you are using such a workstation for other than its special purpose, and someone who needs its unique feature asks you to surrender it, please do so gracefully.

A6. Don't leave your workstation unattended for more than 20 minutes.

If you are using a workstation in one of the Athena clusters and intend to keep using it but must leave it briefly unattended, you must limit your absence to 20 minutes or less and signal your situation to other users by taking one of the following actions:

  • leave a note on the workstation indicating the time you left the machine and your intention to return, or
  • run the screen saver from the Panel, or
  • run another screensaver program which correctly displays the elapsed time.

(If you choose to use a screen-based timer, note that it is a violation of the rules to tamper with the system such that your display never shows that more than 20 minutes have elapsed.)

If you are gone longer than twenty minutes or leave a workstation without a note or a valid countdown screensaver running, another user who needs a workstation is entitled to log you out or reboot the machine to make that machine available.

At certain times of the year, this rule may be adjusted downwards (e.g., the allowable "time away" may be reduced, possibly to 0) to assure that the clusters are being used effectively and that users will not be without a workstation while machines sit idle.

A7. Don't make a lot of noise in the Athena clusters.

Athena clusters are similar to the MIT Libraries in that students who use these facilities have to be able to concentrate to do their work. Please don't play music, shout, or engage in loud conversation in the clusters.

Also, if you use a workstation that has sound capabilities, you are expected to use earphones rather than have the workstation audible to other users in the cluster.

Assure Fair Access to Athena Printers

Printing is a shared resource; restraint must still be exercised when using Athena printers to ensure fair access for everyone to this important service. This holds especially true when the clusters are busy. Violation of these rules can result in loss of printing privileges.

A8. Don't violate the official priorities for the use of printers; in particular, don't be a printer hog or use the Athena printers as copy machines. The following rules apply to all Athena Cluster printers including those located in the Copytech Centers (Thesis and color printers)

  • Don't use printers as copy machines. Print only one copy of a document. Use a copy machine to make multiple copies. The only exception is for printing one's completed thesis to the thesis printer. You are allowed to print two copies maximum of your thesis on archival paper. If additional copies are required, consult your departmental secretary.
  • Do not overload the printer queue with multiple jobs that will take longer than 20 minutes total to print. Send the jobs in small groups over time and send them when the printer is not busy. Check the default printer queues by typing lpq at the athena% prompt. For jobs at printers other than the default, the printing commands ( lpr, lpq and lprm) accept the -P printername option.
  • Break large or huge jobs that take longer than 10 minutes total to print into smaller sections and send them to the printer individually.
  • You are responsible for retrieving any jobs you queue to print. If you no longer want a job or will be unable to retrieve it, please remove it from the queue. Type lprm - at the athena% prompt.
  • Do not remove unused paper from the cluster printers. That paper is provided solely for the use of that particular printer. If a cluster runs out of paper, contact hotline@mit.edu.
  • Color printing is a limited resource; use it sparingly. Color copying services are available in the Copytech centers to make additional copies.
  • Above all, be courteous in your use of the Athena printers. While these rules do not enumerate every possible violation of appropriate use of the printers, they do address the most common questions and concerns.