Department of Engineering

IT Services

Introduction for New Users of the Linux Teaching System

n.b. This document describes the new version of the operating system installed over summer 2015
The machines in the DPO and EIETL can run Windows or Linux. This document describes how to log on to the Linux teaching system and perform simple file manipulation. Common tasks like printing, editing, getting help, accessing the World Wide Web and using e-mail are also addressed.

Getting Started

To start with, the computer will present you with a login window. If it doesn't show you a login prompt, press the Return key. If this doesn't revive the screen, you'll need to switch the computer on.

  • Type your user identifier (your CRS ID - something like xy123) and press the Return key. If you don't know your user identifier ask a demonstrator or one of the operators at the office end of the DPO.
  • Type in your CUED password (not your Hermes or Raven password). First year students should have chosen a password during registration at the start of term. Other students should use their old password. When you type your password it will not be echoed to the screen. If you cannot remember your password, or it does not work, ask one of the operators. Unix is case sensitive, so make sure that "Caps Lock" is not set.
  • If you've not logged in before, you might be asked a few questions. Just reply ok or yes.
  • If there are new system announcements a window will appear. Read the messages and close the window if you wish.

Once you have logged in successfully, a desktop will appear. The top bar provides access to your windows and applications, your calendar and appointments, and system properties like sound, networking, and power. Under your name in the top bar, you can set your availability, change your profile or settings, log out or switch users, or turn off your computer.

Icons and files

Your Home Folder

desktopClick on the Home icon on the desktop. The icons you initially see in this window, if any, represent files or collections of files in the part of the file system that belongs to you. Let's create something. Click on the Applications button at the top of the screen, look in the Accessories section and choose gedit - a text editor. Type a word or 2, then save the file as sports in the folder whose name is your ID (your home folder). Then click on the cross in the gedit window's top-right corner to exit from the editor. You should now be able to see the file in your home folder.


You can change a file-name by holding the right mouse-button down on it and choosing the Rename option. When you come to name files yourself try to use only letters and digits - no spaces or punctuation characters (except for full stops). Note that Unix distinguishes the case of characters in file names. The file Sports is not the same file as sports.

Multiple File Selection

To select several files at once (so you can throw them away all together, for example) you can drag a rectangle over them with the left mouse-button. Alternatively you can click on them one at a time with the CTRL key held down.

Folders and moving files

Creating a New Folder

Folders (e.g. your home folder) can contain files and other sub-folders.

Click with the right mouse button on the background of the Home window. Choose the New Folder option. Call the folder clump. Note how the icon of this folder looks different to ordinary file icons. Double click on this new icon to open it out. You will see a folder just like your home folder, but empty. The underlying structure is that all the folders are arranged in a tree. Along the top of the window you'll see a list of "parent" folders of the current folder

Moving and Copying Between Folders

Now we'll try moving the sports file into the clump directory. If you drag the sports icon onto the clump icon, your file will have moved into the folder. If you want to copy the file, leaving the original intact, then drag while pressing down the Ctrl key. Alternatively, right-click on it and use the Copy option, then move to the new location and Paste options.

Deleting Files

Make a copy of sports called doomed. Drag the file onto the Trash icon (i.e. hold the left mouse-button down on and move the mouse until the icon is over the Trash icon). Files stay there until the Trash is emptied. You can empty it by holding the right mouse-button down on it and choosing the final option.

Window management

Once you've created a window, you'll want to manipulate it

  • Move - you can drag a window around using its title bar.
  • Resize - you can drag a window's edges to resize it.
  • Full Screen - to fill the screen with the window, move the window to the top of the screen.
  • Kill - clicking on the x box kills the window. Using this risks losing your unsaved work if a program is running in the window. Try to use the program's Exit option instead.

Note that you might have to click on a window before the text that you type goes into it.

Clicking on icons

Double-clicking on an folder's icon opens it. Double-clicking on a program runs it. Clicking on a file usually runs the default program for files of that type. But sometimes you won't want the default. If you hold the right-button down on a file, you'll be offered some common alternatives when you select the Open With option.


Click on the Applications button at the top left of the screen. This will show you a list of categories of programs. For example, in the "CUED 1st Year" section are various start-up facilities for 1st year labs. In other sub-menus there's Firefox - a web browser. You can use it for webmail too. There's also LibreOffice for document preparation and Matlab (in the Education sub-menu - it's a programmable graphical calculator).

We have a few text editors online. gedit is the default - which you should have no trouble with. The emacs text editor is required in some lab sessions. It’s more powerful than gedit, and can be used in non-graphical situations, but it’s less intuitive. It has a built-in tutorial (and psychotherapist).

Note that in these editors and other text windows you can copy text by dragging the mouse cursor over it using the left mouse button. Clicking with the middle mouse button pastes the text. This facility also works between windows.

Locally based programs in the Other sub-menu include CUED Help, Fast Feedback, and CUED Survey.

A short-cut to CUED's help-on-the-web and list of Frequently Asked Questions. Try to become familiar with using the help system
Fast Feedback
Our Feedback Facility. Your chance to offer instant, anonymous feedback on teaching, computing, etc.
CUED Survey
Our under-graduate user survey.

The help page (click to visit)

Fast Feedback (click to zoom in)

The Survey (click to zoom in)

The Dash and Workspaces

If you've not already done so, click on the Applications button at the top left of the screen, then click on the "Activities Overview" button at the bottom of this panel.

  • On the left of the overview, you will find the "dash" (like the dock on a Mac).
  • The middle section shows you live thumbnails of all the windows on the current workspace.
  • On the right is a column of workspaces - scaled-down desktops that you can flick between and move windows between to give you much more screen-space.

Click the grid button at the bottom of the dash to display all the applications installed on your computer. Click any application to run it, or drag an application onto the dash to make it a favorite.

Terminal Window

Traditionally, Unix was run by typing commands into a terminal window. You'll need to work this way sometimes. To get a Terminal Window click on the program in the Favorites section of the Activities panel. If you want to know more about this way of working, read the Unix from the command line document.


Printing is a 2 stage process. First you use the Print menu option of the program in the usual way, choosing the printers printer name, then you go to one of the many papercut printers in the department (e.g. the ones in the self-service printing room in a corner of the DPO) and log-in to get your output using your University Card.

Logging off

To Log Out, click on the top-right icons, then click on your name and choose the "Log Out" option.

Getting help

The "Other" section of the activities panel contains a "CUED Help" icon which is a short-cut to CUED’s help-on-the-web and list of Frequently Asked Questions. Try to become familiar with using the help system. Our IT Helpdesk's e-mail address is

In the "Favorites" section there's a "Help" icon that provides help about the operating system and standard programs. They call the key with the window icon on it the "Super" key.

To know more

To find out about other programs, customising, and the Terminal window look at part 2 of this document.