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General Questions

How do I connect to the Math Department?

Please visit our SSH Instructions page for more information.

How can I connect my laptop to the wireless network

There are three Wireless networks avaliable on campus:

  • MIT Secure - Requires an athena account. When you connect, you will be prompted for your athena username and password.
  • MIT Guest - No account or registration required, but some ports and sites are blocked. Anyone should be able to connect to this account.
  • MIT - This is the open version of the MIT network and maybe retired at any point.

How do I install Dropbox on my math workstation?

We are recommending users install dropbox directly into thier home directories. To install, run the following command in your Linux terminal:

cd ~ && wget -O - "" | tar xzf -

Next, run the Dropbox daemon from the newly created .dropbox-dist folder:


If you're running Dropbox on your workstation for the first time, you'll be asked to copy and paste a link in a working browser to create a new account or add your setup to an existing account. Once you do, your Dropbox folder will created in your home directory. Download this Python script to control Dropbox from the command line and place a symlink to the script in your PATH for easy access. Contact us if you have any trouble.

Can I bring in my Windows PC or Mac and put it on the Math Department network?

Not at this time. Fedora is currently the only supported operating system on the Math Department network for general use.

Firefox is very slow to load.

When switching between versions, Firefox re-caches the modified time of extensions and language packs. This proccess can take up to two minutes, and can be a real hassle if you do not always use the same browser. To prevent this unnecessary re-caching, follow these steps:
1. In Firefox, type 'about:config' into the URL bar.
2. Scroll down to 'extensions.ignoreMTimeChanges'.
3. Set that field to 'true'.
Firefox should now start much more quickly when switching between computers.

I'm a graduate student and there is no computer in my office, can I get one?

Absolutely. If you are willing to have a computer placed on your desk email

How do I obtain a MIT certificate for Mozilla?

You will need your Kerberos (Athena) user name and password and your MIT ID number.

If you don't have an Athena account, you can get one from the Athena Environment Registration Page at Once you have your Athena account, you will need to go to to get certificates. Scroll down to the heading Get certificates now. Follow the instructions on each link.

I accidentally deleted a file from my home directory. How can I restore from a backup?

We perform nightly backups of our filesystem. To restore a file or directory from backup, send an email to and specify the name and location of the file before it was deleted. The proccess or restoration will vary between a minute and an hour depending on the size of the restore.

How do I get to the Web of Science?

You will need to complete the 2 factor authentication. The url is

Firefox will not start, claiming it is already running.

This usually means that firefox did not shut down properly, and some files have remained locked. Run 'unlockFirefox' from the command line to remove these lock files.

Are there any PCs/Macs for general use?

Not at this time. If it is a Microsoft Office document you can use one of the programs listed on the Workstations page.

How do I use an LCD projector with my laptop?

Please visit our Projector Instructions page for more information.

What will happen to my account after I leave MIT?

Please see our information about departures in the policies section.

Can you give me a copy of Mathematica, Matlab or Maple for my home computer?


Mathematica is now provided free of charge to all faculty, staff, and students here:


MIT offers Matlab free of charge for students and faculty. You can obtain a license here:


We have a license from MIT for Maple. Both Faculty and Graduate students can get Maple for free (certificates required).

How do I set up Matlab?

Development Environment Adding Startup options for UNIX Platforms include startup options (also called command flags) after the Matlab startup function. The startup options for UNIX are listed below.

Option Description -arch Run MATLAB assuming architecture arch. -arch/ext Run the version of MATLAB with the extension ext if it exists, assuming architecture arch.

-c licensefile Set LM_LICENSE_FILE to licensefile. It can have the form port@host.

-Ddebugger [options] Start MATLAB with the specified debugger. -debug Turn on MATLAB internal debugging. -display Xserver Send X commands to Xserver. -ext Run the version of MATLAB with the extension ext, if it exists. -h or -help Displays startup options. -mwvisual visualid Specify the default X visual to use for figure windows. -n Print environment variables only.

-nodesktop Start MATLAB without bringing up the MATLAB desktop. Use this option to run without an X-window, for example, in VT100 mode, or in batch processing mode. Note that if you pipe to MATLAB using the > constructor, the nodesktop option is used automatically. With nodesktop, you can still use development environment tools, such as the Help browser, by starting them using a function, for example, helpbrowser. Don't use nodesktop to provide a command line interface, if you prefer that over the desktop tools. Instead, select View -> Desktop Layout -> Command Window Only.

-nojvm Start MATLAB without loading the Java VM. This minimizes memory usage and improves initial startup speed. With nojvm, you cannot use the desktop, nor any of the tools that require Java. The restrictions are the same as those described under UNIX Platform Limitations in the R12 Release Notes.

-nosplash Start MATLAB without displaying the splash screen during startup.

For example, to start MATLAB without the splash screen, type

matlab -nosplash

I can't print from Matlab!

If you're getting Java errors when trying to print, add this environment variable:

For bash: export MATLAB_JAVA=/usr/local/pkg/java/jre

For tcsh: setenv MATLAB_JAVA /usr/local/pkg/java/jre

You can put this into your .bashrc, or your .cshrc to get invoked at startup.