Department of
Physics & Astronomy


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SFSU Physics and Astronomy Department
Computer System

Report computer problems to COSE HELP DESK
( SFSU Computing Services )

Welcome to the Physics & Astronomy Department Computer System reference page. The P&A Dept. has a network of Linux computers available to anyone with a P&A account. For those who are more comfortable with the MS-Windows interface, there are also some MS-Windows installations available.


You need a P&A login account (user name and password) to use the system. Any physics major can get one. You will probably also want to go to SFSU Account Services to get a University login account, available to any registered student.


There are many ways to access the system, but you will learn faster if you start in the Department terminal room, th123, with other people around to answer questions. The other users of the system can be a great help to you in finding out what resources are available and in using them efficiently. This is one of the places where undergrads, grads, alumni, and faculty all mingle and work together. Don't hesitate to ask - most people enjoy showing off what they know about computers!

You can access the P&A network from the Computer Lab in Th 123, or remotely over the Internet. You can access the Internet from most other workstations on campus, or from home through your own Internet Service Provider (ISP) account.

Modem Dial-Up Access

For those without an ISP account. University modem access is available. The Physics and Astronomy Department computer system does not have direct connection to any modem lines. However, the University maintains a large bank of modems. These modems are administered by the University computer system, and a University account is required to connect. Once this connection is made, a user can browse the Web, or can connect to any computer on the internet! This valuable service is the equivalent of that offered by commercial internet providers, and is (so far) free to SFSU students, faculty and staff.

Setting up your home computer for modem access to the University system is not easy. However, the University has done its best to ease the pain. You can go to Old Adm 104, on campus, for printed information, personal service, and software on diskettes. All of this except the personal service is also available to download over the internet (see links above). A variety of valuable software is available for downloading, as well as logon scripts and instructional text files.

The Physics & Astronomy Computer Environment

User services available with your P&A login account include email, printing, web browsing and personal web page hosting, and department-specific assets. There are two basic platforms in the P&A Computer System, Unix/Linux/FreeBSD and MS-Windows.

The MS-Windows environment, available in Th 123 or through Win4Lin, provides the usual MS applications, plus access to the Unix network and its printers, and even graphics support for remote [Unix] X-Windows applications. You can do a lot of computing with PC-based programs. MS Word, Netscape, and MS Excel are available from the START menu. See MS-Windows Platforms for more information.

The Unix/Linux environment provides the bulk of the Department's scientific application support, as well as a graphic interface, email and printer access, StarOffice, and of course Unix's powerful command-line interface. You can even run MS-Windows applications using Win4Lin. See Unix Platforms for more information.