Computing Resources

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About Research Computing Support

The department of Mathematics & Statistics has full-time support for research computing through a support contract with the Research & High-Performance Computing Support group (a unit responsible to the VP Research & International Affairs).

Getting Help or Information

The best way to receive a prompt response to a question or problem is to send email to; any email that is not related to McMaster / RHPCS / Math & Stats computing-support work should not be sent to See the Computing Resources People page for more contact information.

What Support is Available?

The general mandate and range of services provided by RHPCS is described on the RHPCS web site. Specific services provided to the department of Mathematics & Statistics include:

  • departmental support server (web sites, email, file storage)
  • departmental compute servers (e.g. bayes)
  • daily backup of servers and workstations
  • setup and support of linux workstations for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows
  • workstation support for faculty and research staff (see Supported Systems below for details)

Support Priorities
or, How Important is My Request?

The Computing Committee and RHPCS management have agreed upon the following relative priorities for different sorts of requests, the principal concerns being the "the greatest good for the greatest number of researchers", the efficient use of analysts time, and meeting all reasonable expectations whenever possible.

Top Priority - Emergencies

  1. System failure on multi-user system in Mathematics & Statistics.
  2. System failure on multi-user system in another department
    if no other analyst is available.
  3. System failure on desktop system in Mathematics & Statistics.
  4. System failure on desktop system in another department
    if no other analyst is available.
  5. Patching of high-risk security holes.
  6. Printer problems.

Non-Emergency Work

  1. Requests which can be taken care of in a minute or two.
  2. Account administration.
  3. Set up of new systems.
  4. System updates deemed important by the analysts.
  5. Work which benefits many researchers (e.g. "upgrade Maple on spruce").
  6. Work which removes an obstacle to progress of one or more researchers (e.g. "I can't compile the program on which my thesis depends without, and I can't find libfoo").

The first item on the list above has a corollary: any non-emergency request, no matter how important to a researcher or group, may be deferred or even dropped if it takes too much time. The researchers involved and possibly the computing committee will be consulted before such a decision is made.

Supported Systems

In the interests of efficiency, not all operating systems are supported to the same degree, though some level of support will be offered to any operating system required by a research project. The operating systems below are ranked from "best supported" to "least supported" based on a combination of the ease of administration, parsimony, the analysts' familiarity with them, the stability and security of the OS, and the popularity of the OS with researchers in the department.

  1. Mageia and Mandriva linux
  2. Mac OS 10.5+
  3. Other linux distributions
  4. Other unix variants
  5. Windows 7 Professional and XP Professional

About Windows Support

One may well wonder why the most popular operating systems are at the bottom of the list. The principle reason is that Windows workstations cannot be administered and kept secure and up-to-date remotely in the same way that unix (e.g. linux and OS X) workstations can be, which makes them relatively expensive to support. Windows users are expected to maintain their own systems, install their own software, and keep on top of system and anti-virus updates; Jason Baker is available for advice and help with unusual problems.