User Tools

Site Tools


CHPC new user's survival guide


The purpose of this page is to provide the new user with the bare minimum of information required to start using CHPC's facilities. Please explore the rest of the Wiki for more advanced information, as well as application-specification instructions and examples.

What you need to know

  1. Most high performance computing (HPC) systems like CHPC's cluster use the Gnu/Linux operating system. Windows applications will not run on the system.
  2. The computers that make up the HPC cluster do not run faster than a good desktop computer, nor do they usually have particularly impressive amounts of memory. The performance comes from running many compute nodes in parallel. If your application is not parallelised, it will not run faster at CHPC than on a good desktop machine.
  3. The system is designed to be used in batch mode. The user prepares a job, submits it to the queue, and the system executes it when the requested amount of resources become available.
  4. You can request an interactive session, which will give you access to a compute node in the cluster. Here you can compile programs, do pre- or post-processing, and check your job setup.
  5. Access to the system is by means of secure-shell (ssh).
  6. Data can be copied to or from the system by means of secure copy (scp) or rsync.
  7. Tasks are managed with PBS
  8. Although tasks are run in batch mode, the visualisation server makes provision for graphical pre- and post-processing.
  9. Software licensing issues still need to be taken care of appropriately. CHPC hosts academic licenses for some software suites, but for others you will need to make the necessary arrangements with the software vendors.

Logging in to CHPC

Once you have a user-id and password, you can log in to the system using ssh. If you are logging in from a system running a UNIX-like operating system, you can simply use ssh from the command line: ssh From Windows, you can log in using Cygwin or PuTTY. Once logged in you can (and should) change your password with the passwd command. Options for logging in are explained in the following guide.

The user interface (not)

Although personal computers running Linux have user interfaces that are very similar to Windows or Mac, the ssh-login to the HPC cluster runs in command line text mode only, by default using the Bash shell. It is therefore essential to master a very small subset of Linux commands. The internet has many excellent resources explaining how to perform tasks in Linux and Bash. Nevertheless, here is a very short summary of the most useful instructions:

  • ls - provide a list of the files in the current directory
  • ls -l - provide a more detailed listing of the files in the current directory
  • mkdir - create a new directory
  • cd - change to a new directory
  • rmdir - remove a directory
  • rm - remove a file
  • vi - start the vi text editor, please refer to
/var/www/wiki/data/pages/survival_guide.txt · Last modified: 2015/10/07 15:52 by ccrosby