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User Mailing

ICHEC mail #1

Posted: 2005-09-13


This is an email from ICHEC to update you on the current status of the ICHEC systems and to answer some of the common queries we've received.

Status of the machines


At present the shared memory system (hamilton) is up and running, and users are running jobs on it. If you have an ICHEC account, you can SSH to hamilton.ichec.ie to log on and submit jobs. We are still in the process of packaging and installing software, so if there is anything you need installed that is holding up your job, please be patient.


The cluster is not yet available for user logins; IBM are still ironing out a few minor issues to do with managing the cluster. We'll let you know when you can log on to this as soon as possible.

User application process

We realise there is some confusion about the user application process (that is, getting accounts for people to work on your project), so we thought we'd take this opportunity to explain it as best we could.

First off, the big picture, from start to submitting jobs:

1) A PI submits an application via the web forms,
https://www.ichec.ie/project/apply or Cosmogrid project application form (link removed) depending on whether your funding comes from SFI or CosmoGrid.

2) Assuming this gets accepted, a unix group is created for the project; also, the PI automatically gets an account with a generated username and password.

3) The users who wish to take part in this project apply for accounts themselves, via the user application process which I'm about to describe.

4) The users then log on to the login interface, https://www.ichec.ie/login/login to apply to join the project.

5) The PI accepts their application.

6) Users run jobs.

The reasoning behind having the user application process separate from the project application process is that one researcher may be a member of more than one research group; we didn't want to tie the two together.

Part 3) is where people are having difficulty (mainly because we haven't told you how ..). Here's how it works.

3a) The user generates a PGP/GPG key. (If you don't know what a PGP/GPG key is, don't worry: this is easy. If you're running linux/unix the gpg binary is most likely installed with your distribution; if you're running something else software is available at http://www.gnupg.org/(en)/download/index.html .)

$ gpg --gen-key

Choose the default keysize and key type. When asked about your details, put in your name, email, and an optional comment. (The comment doesn't matter.)

3b) The user submits his or her public key to the ICHEC keyserver.

$ gpg --keyserver keys.ichec.ie --send-key

If you're having trouble contacting the keyserver, ask your computer administrators for access to port 11371 on keys.ichec.ie. We're currently writing a web form that will allow users to submit their public keys via the web, so you won't have to ask for any holes poked in your firewall. (This should hopefully be written by the end of the week.)

3c) The user gets their key signed. Once your key is on the keyserver, you must get it signed by an ICHEC member of staff.

The plan is to have ICHEC points of presence in each member institution, and these staff members will know what to do; unfortunately, since we're only just starting out, we don't have staff members in many places. So for now, please get the PI of the project to email us (systems ?at? ichec.ie) with a list of key IDs you want signed.

3d) The user goes to https://www.ichec.ie/user/apply and completes the form.

I understand that this process is quite complicated, and may involve software with which you are currently unfamiliar. Because of this, I'd like to make a brief digression into why we chose this system. We wanted a system that was:

o accountable
o secure
o automated

The automated part is the one that causes the complexity. If we have a form that anyone on the internet can fill in, how do we distinguish between valid applications and invalid ones? The way we resolved this was to demand an authentication token in the web form -- some way of proving that the user had been approved.

The signature by an ICHEC staff member is the authentication token that allows you to prove that you have been validated, so that you can get your account.

Again, we realise this might be difficult for some, so we'd love to hear any feedback or suggestions you may have as to how to improve the system. (That's what the transitional service is for, after all ...)

Scheduling policies

We have received several queries as to how jobs will be scheduled on the system. We have explained it all here:


Helpdesk system

The ICHEC helpdesk is the point of contact between registered users and our support teams. It's available at:


Please use this system as opposed to emailing us individually, as it's a lot easier for us to assign your problem to the appropriate person and track its progress if you use the helpdesk.

Mailing lists

When an account is created, your email address is automatically subscribed to two mailing lists:


-announce being a low-traffic list for announcements regarding the centre (The Centre Has Opened, that sort of thing), and -discuss being for users and staff to talk about anything regarding the centre: the status of the machines, the facilities we offer, etc. If you have any comments on this email, feel free to reply to ichec-discuss@lists.ichec.ie .

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