New User FAQ — RCG Handbook

New User FAQ

Getting Started

How can I apply for a new research network account?

Separate research network accounts are no longer necessary. FASnet account forms have also been eliminated.

Log in to your workstation using your SFU computing ID and password. All new workstations are being rolled out using campus authentication. [details]

I don’t have an SFU e-mail addresss or account.

If you are a registered student, your SFU account should be created automatically before your start date.

If you are not a registered student but will be paid by SFU as a postdoc, RA, etc., your account will be created automatically after you are added to payroll.

Please ask your supervisor, department program assistant or department payroll contact for information on these dates.

If you are not going to be paid by SFU and are not going to be a registered student, your host department may be able to assign a guest account or may choose to obtain a sponsored computing account for you.

Lab Network File Storage

Ask your supervisor or lab administrator to use to add you to the access control list for your lab. If you need to know the NFS or SMB/CIFS path to your lab space, ask your labmates or consult this list.


Workstations are not backed up. Store important data on your lab’s network storage.

Lab Wikis

Ask your supervisor or lab administrator to add you to the access control list for your lab’s wiki, then wait 24 hours. Wiki access control lists are only synchronized once a day.

If you’ve been added to the appropriate list, waited 24 hours, and still don’t have access to your lab wiki, contact for assistance.


Not all labs make use of SFU’s wiki service. If you would like to start a wiki to help organize your lab’s activities, contact the SFU wiki administrator (

Your Lab Workstation

I’m having trouble logging in to my workstation.

Please see Troublehooting Login Issues.

I want a different operating system on my workstation.

Contact your school’s technical support team.

Can I request a dual-boot workstation?

Yes, if you have a good reason.

We strongly discourage dual-boot hosts unless you have compelling reason to do so, like direct access to the GPU when a second workstation is unavailable or cannot be purchased.

Experience has demonstrated that the vast majority of dual-boot hosts remain in one operating system most of the time. The alternate operating system is left unpatched for months or years. When the alternate OS is booted after a long break, many months’ worth of updates are automatically installed. This takes an agonizingly long time to complete and is quite resource-intensive, so the machine is nearly unusable during this period.

If you only need to do lightweight work in an alternate operating system, consider using one of our Linux or Windows terminal servers.

How can I work while I am off-campus?

See our Remote Access page.


I need software package XYZ for my research.

We may already have it available for you on your workstation. Please see the Software page.

We try to compile and provision all custom software requests for supported operating systems. The nature of building software on different platforms means that we may not always be successful.

The Colony Cluster

How can I get access to the cluster?

All research network accounts have access to the cluster. See the Colony documentation for details.

Other RCG Services

See what other facilities the RCG makes available for researchers. If you don’t see something you want, get in touch.

Requesting Help

More FAQs

Still haven’t gotten an answer to your question? Check our other FAQs.

Filing a Help Request

FAQs weren’t enough? Send your question to one of our help desk contacts. Be sure to include:

  • your SFU username
  • your workstation‘s hostname
  • which operating system you’re running
  • your cluster job ID numbers (if any)
  • the complete text of any error messages you received
  • your lab name
  • what you wanted or expected to happen
  • what actually happened

Not helpful: “It doesn’t work. Can you please fix it?”

Very helpful: “When I try to do A on the workstation named B, C should happen but instead I received an error message that said D.”

Why You Should Submit a Ticket

Technical support staff love it when you contact them with technical problems, as long as you don’t contact the individuals directly. Below are some of the reasons you shouldn’t be contacting them directly but instead should submit a ticket into our ticketing system.

Division of Labour

There are more than one technical support representative on our team and if everyone emails individuals directly it means that one of us could be overwhelmed while the rest of us are playing games and browsing the Internet. By having all the issues entered into our ticketing system we can more easily distribute the work load across everyone and see where things fall in the global priority list.

We might not see it

We get a lot of emails and phone calls every day and it’s very possible that we’ll miss it in between emails of other issues, pictures of people’s new baby, and offers of free food (you do offer your technical support staff free food right?). By putting a ticket into the ticketing system we can more effectively triage your problem and assign an appropriate priority level. If it’s sitting in our email it’s not going to get done or it’s going to be prioritized lower because we’re actually targeting a number of open tickets. Also, if it’s in one technical support staff members inbox it won’t be handled by any of the other technical support staff who could be working on it.

Our ticketing system

We’ve spent a lot on our ticketing system and it’s important that we actually use it. By having a ticket entered into the system we can better understand who is doing what, identify consisten problem areas and if we need more technical support staff (of course we do but it’s nice to be able to justify it).

The goal of this post is to provide a nice place to send people to when they send you emails (or call you) with issues that should be entered into a ticket system. We implore you to please submit a trouble ticket.

I sent a help request an hour ago. Why haven’t I gotten a reply yet?

We support a lot of users with a limited number of staff. There may be other critical issues are preventing others from getting work done, and those issues receive priority.

Related reading: Establishing Priority

We don’t always have the answers to your problems, so to support your research, we do a lot of research and development ourselves. This takes time.

You can help speed things up by reading our FAQs, reading your school’s technical support FAQs, and including basic information in your request (see above).

I sent a help request 3 days ago. Why haven’t I heard back?

Unfortunately this does happen from time to time, and is more common during the start of each semester.

If a ticket has gone unanswered for a couple of days, feel free to reply to it and ask what’s going on. We don’t consider it rude, and don’t mind being reminded of your request after an unusually long period of time has elapsed.

Become a Lab Administrator

Are you...

  • a grad student?
  • interested in supporting your peers in their research?
  • building closer ties with the Research Computing Group and gaining insight into how we serve all our researchers?
  • equipped with a little experience in managing workstations in a shared environment?

Ask your supervisor about becoming your lab’s local administrator.