Computing Resources

This page is the repository for sundry items of information relevant to general computing on BooNE. If you have a question or problem that isn't answered here, or a suggestion for improving this page or the information on it, please mail and we'll do our best to address any issues.

Note about this page

Some links on this page point to, and are meant to give an idea about a concept or thing without necessarily wading through a whole website or technical manual. See the Everything FAQ for more details on this quirky and interesting information source.

Summary of available resources

BooNE members should have a FNALU account (Obtaining the right computer accounts). This will enable them to perform general interactive computing on Sun Solaris, SGI IRIX and RedHat Linux systems, and access batch computing facilities on machines running the aforementioned OSs. In addition, on the 10th floor of Wilson Hall at FNAL we have ~35 desktop PCs of various ages and abilities running Fermi RedHat Linux. They are all managed by an NIS server, so any BooNE member may log into and (within the bounds of courtesy and consideration) run applications on any machine. Many of the points below apply specifically to the environment on BooNE's desktop PCs; others are more general.

The man and info utilities

Two Unix utilities which may prove really useful to you are man and info. Most UNIX applications are accompanied by one or more man pages, and/or info files. For instance:

man xemacs

produces a (usually short) explanation of what the program is, what it does and how to use it;

info xemacs

takes you into a world of hyperlinked information. Invoking info without arguments gives a short introduction to using the program.

man info

is also a good, if slightly incestuous, thing to try, as is info man or man man. The xemacs editor also has a nice info interface (Follow the Info (online docs) choice in the Help menu) and can also be used for browsing man pages (Alt-x man RET xemacs RET).

Choosing your desktop

On the computers on WH/10/W, one may use either the KDE or GNOME graphical desktop environment with X-Windows. Choose the one you want with the switchdesk utility. Either invoke at the command line with

switchdesk KDE


switchdesk GNOME

or invoke without arguments from an existing X session to get a graphical chooser. Your choice will be honored the next time you start an X session. Note this is not applicable to NIC terminals.


Kerberos (project home page or FNAL Strong Authentication page) is an authentication system. The basic idea is that one can authenticate oneself once on a local system, thereby obtaining credentials enabling one to perform many other tasks on remote machines without typing passwords and sending them over the network.

Getting a ticket

A Kerberos ticket-granting-ticket for a particular principal (username) can be obtained one of four ways:

  1. By logging in to a Kerberized machine at the text or graphical console;

    If the password you use to log in matches your Kerberos password, you will be authenticated to Kerberos. If appilcable, you will also be given an AFS token (see below).

  2. By using the kinit utility;

    The kinit command takes a principal (eg user@FNAL.GOV: realm must be in caps) as an optional argument and expects a password to be typed in at the terminal. YOU SHOULD NOT DO THIS ON A REMOTE MACHINE: your password will go over the network as typed, quite possibly unencrypted. Encrypted or not, this practice is in violation of the FNAL Policy on Computing. The kinit utility on NIC terminals operates slightly differently: see the Using NIC terminals page for details.

  3. With a CryptoCard;

    This device looks like a credit-card-calculator, and is a one-time challenge/response system used for logging into Kerberized (aka strengthened) machines from non-strengthened machines. If you need one, see the Getting Computer Accounts page; if you need to know how to use it, read the CryptoCard Instructions. Use the ssh or telnet utility as usual, but hit enter when prompted for your password. DO NOT TRY TO GIVE YOUR KERBEROS PASSWORD: it will not work and you will be in violation of the computing policy (see above). You will then be given a challenge. Follow the instructions and type in the correct response.

  4. With the kcron utility;

    This is a utility that enables one to run batch or cron jobs that require AFS or Kerberos privileges. For more details, see section 10.3 of the FNAL Strong Authentication Manual.

Using your ticket

Once you have your tgt, you may log in to any other Kerberized machine that operates in the same realm (eg FNAL.GOV) without having to provide further authentication.

Listing your ticket details

The klist utility will list all the tickets you have, when they first became valid and when they will expire.

klist -f

Will provide a little more information: see man klist for details.

Renewing your ticket

Your tgt (and your associated AFS token, see below) has a finite lifetime. This varies from machine to machine, up to a realm-defined maximum. When your tgt expires, you may no longer use it to access other machines or execute restricted tasks on the current machine. If your ticket is renewable, you may renew it without entering a password up to the maximum renewable lifetime by using the -R option to kinit. If it is not, or the maximum renewable lifetime has expired, you must give your password to the kinit command in order to renew your ticket. This renewal is only valid on your local machine. If you need to have this new ticket validated to other machines to which you are currently logged on, execute:

k5push [user@]host

Be careful though: if you do this on a group account (eg e898), you may disrupt other users. It may be easier in these cases just to log out an back in again after renewing your ticket on the local host.


AFS is a distributed file system, with files in the same directory hierarchy possible residing on many different machines in a way transparent to the user. A user obtains an AFS token (similar to, but currently different than a Kerberos ticket), which has a finite lifetime. Note that obtaining a Kerberos ticket for a particular username should confer AFS privileges for the same user if the machine has been configured properly. You can check what AFS tokens you have by typiing:


There is a FNAL web page describing the AFS system in more detail. However, some of the more immediately useful comands and functionality are described below.

AFS file access

Access to files in AFS is managed by Access Control Lists. A use or group of users is assigned privileges, thus:

UNIX perminssions are, with the exception of the x (execution) bit and user (not group) ownership, completely ignored.

Some useful AFS commands

Other useful commands are:


to change your AFS password (note the full path must be entered in order to avoid confusion with the identically named program for changing your kerberos password;


will delete your current AFS token


will obtain an AFS token for you based on your kerberos ticket, should you have one which is vald.

klog [user]

will obtain an AFS token for the specified user, asking for your AFS (not kerberos) password.

The fs command is extremely versatile, performing a number of functions.

fs help

will briefly explain them. Ones you may find yourself using fairly often are:

Keeping your private files private

It is noted above, but worth stating again, that UNIX permissions on files in AFS space are almost completely ignored. The ACL controls per-directory access for files and directories. A vanilla AFS area has the following directories:


The Mail, mail and private directories are created with restricted access: these directories and any created under them are readable only by yourself and the AFS administrators. Any files created here are therefore protected from prying eyes. The public and nt_files directories, however, have the same permissions as your home area:

Access list for /afs/ is
Normal rights:
system:administrators rlidwka
system:anyuser rl
jdoe rlidwka

Any new directories created under your home area will also inherit these permissions ie they are readable by anyone in the world with access to AFS. This includes (for example), nsmail or .mozilla or .netscape, where your Netscape or Mozilla mail and web caches are kept by default. Applications are not, in general, aware of AFS and what they must do to protect directories.

To see if you may be vulnerable, run the following command:

afsprotect -r

which will print a report of directories under $HOME which may not have the protected status you expect or would like.


without arguments will prompt to change each directory, whereas afsprotect -c will automatically protect your home directory and all directories flagged as having no group ("g") or other ("o") UNIX permissions but still readable by anyone.


Recommended applications

Running CPU- or IO-intensive programs (batch jobs)

Unix miscellany

Commonly encountered problems

Computing support within BooNE

Bringing a computer to FNAL, or purchasing a new one


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Chris Green <>, 5/30/02