Initial laptop setup for the Nevis particle-physics Linux cluster

This page is intended for those students, guests, and researchers connecting to Nevis for the first time. It describes how to set up your laptop or remote desktop with the necessary software to do work on our systems.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the systems administrator.

Minimal requirements

Your laptop (or remote desktop) will need:

  • ssh ("Secure SHell"), a program for communicating with a remote computer
  • an X11 emulator; X11 is the graphics-window protocol used by UNIX systems

See X11 on laptops for installation details.

Here are download links for software that you may also need:

  • Zoom; if you are one of the REU 2023 students, you'll need this for the ROOT tutorial
  • VPN, but only if your work will require a remote connection to a system that's behind the Nevis particle-physics firewall

UNIX/Linux systems (including Debian and Ubuntu)

You've got ssh and X11 already.

Mac OS systems

You've got ssh already. For Mac 10.7 and later, you'll need to install XQuartz.

Windows systems

If you don't already have an ssh or X11 emulator installed, I suggest mobaXterm, which includes both and is free. Once you've installed the program, be sure to enable X11 forwarding.

As noted here, I strongly recommend not using Windows Subsystem for Linux to connect to a Nevis system, due to the complexity of setting up X11 forwarding.

First login

If haven't logged into one of the Nevis particle-physics systems before, you should have received an email with following information:

  • account name
  • access code (this is a password, but I don't like using that word in emails to avoid triggering hacker scans)
  • server name

Using ssh, connect to your server. On Linux and Mac OS systems, run the Terminal program; on Windows system you should have a terminal within mobaXterm.

ssh <account>@<server-name>

Note: If you are starting mobaXterm for the first time, select "Local terminal". If you decide to use the Session Manager instead, then your username is <account> and your remote host is <server-name>; don't type ssh <account> in the username field.

For example, if that email told you that your account name was jsmith, your access code was logmein, and your server name was, then you'd connect with:


and type logmein when you were prompted for a password.

When you type a password on a command line, you won't see any feedback on the screen. If this is your first time using the command line, you may be expecting the "dots" that you typically see when typing a password on a web page. That doesn't happen with passwords on the command line.

Once you've logged in for the first time, please change your password using the passwd command. Just type

and you'll be prompted for your old and new passwords.

To log off from your terminal session, you can type:


or just close the terminal window.

Note: I cannot recover your password if you've forgotten it; I can only reset it. I strongly advise you to get a password manager if you don't already use one.

To learn more about Linux/UNIX

Either one of these is a good starting resource:

-- William Seligman - 2021-05-26

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Topic revision: r10 - 2023-10-18 - WilliamSeligman
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