Computer Science Teaching Labs Policies and Rules

General Rules for Teaching Lab Users

Here are some of the basic rules that apply to all users of the Computer Science Teaching Labs. They are the basis on which your Teaching Lab account is entrusted to you, and it is important for you to understand them.

Your account is provided for your use only, and only to support your computing education. Your use of the Teaching Labs must not annoy or offend other Teaching Lab users or account-holders, nor threaten the security or operation of the Teaching Lab or any other computing system. If you break these rules, you may be penalized by temporary or permanent loss of your account or deletion of files associated with it. For some offences there may also be implications under the University’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, or under the Code of Student Conduct (which governs non-academic offences). It is also possible to misuse your account in ways that are actually criminal and involve real legal penalties. However, here we will concentrate on the implications within the University, where the possible sanctions range from loss of your Teaching Labs account to expulsion from the University.

Some of the rules that are not described at length here are consequences of the basic ideas outlined in the previous paragraph. For example, it is forbidden bring any food or drink in the workstation rooms because this not only annoys other users but in fact threatens the operation of the system by the possibility of damaging the equipment — if not directly, then indirectly through the actions of our resident vermin.

What follows is a longer discussion of these rules. You will notice that some details differ depending on whether they are being applied to program accounts or to course-related accounts.

1.ย ย  Account-sharing is forbidden. You must not use anyone else’s account, and you must not allow anyone else to use your account. The only exceptions are in cases where sharing is explicitly required by a course; the course instructor will then provide instructions on how you should proceed.
In cases of account-sharing contrary to the rules, the accounts of BOTH users may be suspended.
To make it harder for others to misuse your account, you must change the password you were initially given. If you don’t do that, your account will be suspended a few weeks into the term. (In fact, your account was probably set up to force you to change your password.)

2.ย ย  Use of your account to attempt entry to accounts of which you are not a legitimate user, on this or any other computing system, will be dealt with very severely. Any evidence that your account has been or is being used for this type of activity will be considered sufficient grounds for its immediate suspension. Your account will only be reactivated if you can provide a convincing explanation to establish your innocence.
More generally, you may not use the Teaching Labs computers to misrepresent or obscure your identity. For example, you must not send e-mail or post news that purports to come from someone else.

3.ย ย  You must use your account only for its intended purpose. You may use it for work on courses that use the Teaching Labs which you are enrolled in, or to advance your understanding of computer science in general. Extensive use of your account for other activities not permitted in this rules document, is strictly prohibited. You must actually be enrolled in a Teaching Lab-using course or program to keep your account. When you withdraw from all the courses or a program, you may not continue to use your account.

  • However, you may use your account for other purposes such as reading news, playing games or exchanging information not directly related to your computing education, provided that such activities do not interfere with other users’ legitimate uses of the Teaching Labs, or violate laws or other University policies like the Code of Student Conduct, which, among other things, prohibits use for a commercial purpose (i.e. making money). Please note: since cryptocurrency mining is quite literally “making money”, it is commercial and thus prohibited by the Code of Student Conduct.

No matter what resource you are using, you should use it responsibly so as not to deprive other users of their share. For example, when you are absent from a workstation for more than a couple of minutes, you should vacate it so that someone else can log in (rather than having a friend “occupy” the workstation with occasional key-presses), or reserving it by leaving your personal belongings there to make it look occupied. And if the site is busy, you may not use more than one console at a time. (“Use” means not only logging in, but typing on the keyboard or using a mouse on behalf of a friend.)

  • Note that there are special rules covering the playing of games using the Teaching Labs. Before you engage in game playing, see the Games section below for the rules governing these activities.

4.ย ย  Your use of your account, and your activities in the workstation rooms, must not threaten or annoy other users. You must not make excessive noise, for example, whether by conversation or by output from a program. It is all too easy to forget that other people are forced to listen to your audio output, if you’re used to computing in private.
Others can see your screen, too. Threatening or offensive images can cause a very unfriendly atmosphere in the workstation room. Display an image only if you are sure no reasonable person could be offended. When in doubt, don’t display it.

5.ย ย  The files associated with your account belong to the University of Toronto. These files include not only the files located in your home directory but also electronic mail files and any others that may happen to be connected with your account.
The University ordinarily leaves the management of these files up to you. However, there is no presumption of privacy here, and your files (including electronic mail) may be read, altered or removed by your course instructors or tutors, Teaching Labs system administrators, or other appropriate officials of the Department of Computer Science or the University of Toronto. Such actions are unusual, and take place only where there is reason to suspect an infraction of the rules.
Files associated with the intended uses of your account will generally be left intact. However, files associated with supplementary uses, as discussed in above, may be removed without warning or explanation.

6.ย ย  The computational resources of the Teaching Lab computers are shared just like the file-storage resources. However, you will only need to worry about this if you have work to do that requires heavy computation – a “compute-intensive job.” These jobs can be run either on your workstation or on the Teaching Labs compute servers. These rules are intended to prevent these jobs from interfering with others’ use of the workstations:

  • a) You may run a job on a workstation where you are not located, but your job must not cause problems for users logged in to the console.
  • b) Background jobs (jobs left running after the user logs out) should be run only on one of the servers.
  • c) A background compute-intensive job should relate to your studies in Computer Science at U of T, and if asked by the system administrators, you should be prepared to justify execution of the job in this context.
  • d) You may not run more than two instances of a compute-intensive job on one of the servers at a time.
  • e) All non-interactive compute-intensive jobs on “teach.cs” servers must be niced (run with the “nice” command).
  • f) If a job runs for more than 5 minutes, and it has not not been niced, the system administrators reserve the right to either stop the job or renice it. You are still responsible for nicing your own jobs.

The workstations have limited CPU and memory. Rules (a) and (b) are intended to put them at the disposal of the user at the console.

Rule (c) means that we do not consider we have the computing resources to participate in Internet-wide projects such as SETIathome or DES Cracker, which use lots of CPU cycles but would rarely be integral to completing a Computer Science program.

Rules (d) to (f) recognize that the servers are shared machines.

These rules are not absolute. In some circumstances, and at some times of the year, you may be able to convince the system administrators that your proposed computational activities will not seriously affect other users, and in that case you may be given permission to break rules (b),(c) and (d). Send e-mail to sysadmin@teach.cs to discuss this.

The rules above are intended to ensure that the teaching labs can provide a useful computing environment to its legitimate users, the students in teaching-labs-based courses. To be certain that that goal is attained, appropriate penalties may be applied without regard for their effect on an offender’s course work, even in teaching-labs-based courses.