Sysadmin reference guide

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This is the start of a reference guide for new sysadmins. It's likely to just be a list for now, but we're working on expanding it.

This guide is made for someone who has taken CS 128 and possibly CS 256, knows this content in general, and is beginning a term as a new sysadmin.


  • Virtual machines: a computer that exists entirely in software and uses hardware resources allocated by the computer running it; we run several here
  • Ssh: "Secure Shell" - for our purposes, this is the tool that enables and manages remote access to servers - this is a solid overview
  • Ssh keys: once you've got ssh running and can access our servers without a password, here's a simple ssh key setup guide
  • Basic networking utilities
    • ping
    • ifconfig (for CentOS use ip)
    • traceroute
  • Web server: a piece of software on a computer that serves content over the Web to some client, e.g. your web browser
  • Cluster (generic): a group of computers configured to act as one (this is an extremely broad generalization and you'll quickly find that our clusters are all quite different)


  • CS (*
  • Cluster (*


If your computer is a Mac laptop or you run a Linux distro, you will have no compatibility issues.

If you run Windows, please see our notes for Windows users.