The Linux Virtual Lab is BU’s general purpose Linux interactive timesharing environment for use by the BU community, and part of BU’s larger Shared Computing Cluster (SCC). The Linux Virtual Lab login node has two 2.5 GHz ivybridge (E5-2670 V2) processors. Each processor has 10 cores and there is a total of 128 GB of memory.

Making use of the Linux Virtual Lab will generally require knowledge of the Linux operating system, which is a command-line system. Research Computing offers a free Introduction to Linux tutorial early in the Fall, Spring, and Summer. Without some background in Linux, this service will be of limited use to you unless you just wish to run a particular application such as MATLAB that has its own interface you are familiar with.

To request an account on the Linux Virtual Lab, click on Get Help above or write to Once you have an account, you will be able to log in to with your BU login name and Kerberos password. (Please note that sponsored Guests will be required to go through the regular Guest Account process and, in addition, provide a valid passport or other documentation to confirm your country of citizenship.)

Your use of the Linux Virtual Lab is governed by Boston University’s Conditions of Use and Policy on Computing Ethics. By using your account on the Linux Virtual Lab, as well as other University computers, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions set forth there.

Linux Virtual Lab users have access to most of the software available on the SCC. (However, note that Linux Virtual Lab access is not to be confused with SCC access for Researchers, which provides batch nodes for intensive computing and additional disk quota.)

IS&T offers site-licensed X Window software so you can use your own computer to access the Linux Virtual Lab. You can connect to the Linux Virtual Lab as described for Macs (X11) and Windows (X-Win32).

The default shell is the Bash shell, but it can be changed to tcsh by submitting this web form (requires Kerberos authentication):

Alternatively, to change the current session only, you can manually change the shell. At a command line simply type ‘tsch’.

If you have files stored on ACS that you would like to keep, follow these steps to move them to the Linux Virtual Lab.

  1. Log in to your account on
  2. Use the cd command to enter the directory where you’d like the files from ACS to be copied.
  3. In your terminal, type scp -rp username@acsrs4:~/\* . (replacing username with your BU login name)
  4. Press the Enter key.
  5. Enter your BU Kerberos password if requested followed by the Enter key.

Information regarding the software available on the Linux Virtual Lab is provided on the Software Packages page. Much of the software currently uses Modules and more will in the future.

For some software packages, you may need to add specific directories to your execution path or correctly set particular environment variables in order to use them.  This process is usually done by modifying your .login.bashrc, or .cshrc file.  Please refer to the documentation on the page referenced above for the specific details.  Packages which use Modules will generally handle this process automatically.

For reference, see:

Research Computing tutorials are available, particularly at the start of each semester and the summer. The Introduction to Linux is particularly recommended as use of the Linux Virtual Lab requires some familiarity with the Linux command-line operating system.

In addition, the information for using SCC is generally applicable to use of the Linux Virtual Lab, although you will want to keep in mind that:

  • When referring to the documentation, you should replace the provided examples (SCC1, SCC2, etc) with SCC-LITE.
  • You should ignore references to Project Disk Space (e.g. /project, /projectnb, etc.) since these are not applicable to the Linux Virtual Lab.
  • The Linux Virtual Lab does not include any batch processing nodes. Any reference to batch processing or compute nodes will not apply to Linux Virtual Lab accounts.

You will need to access your files using the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) and modify them on your local computer.

As described on the SFTP page, if you have an HTML editor, such as Dreamweaver, you can configure it to use SFTP and upload your files directly after you modify them. (University departments can purchase Dreamweaver licenses through the IT Help Center.)

Alternatively, if you opt to use a plain text editor or an HTML editor that does not have integrated SFTP, you will need to use an SFTP client. Instructions for using FileZilla (Windows) or Fetch (Mac) are provided on the SFTP page.

More detailed information on site development is provided on the Websites page.

On the Linux Virtual Lab, each account has a 10 GB home directory that:

  • is protected by Snapshots to recover accidentally deleted files,
  • uses hardware RAID to protect against data loss due to disk drive failures. (See the Data Loss Protection Policies.)
  • is backed up nightly for disaster recovery

To check your home directory quota, use the quota -v login_name command.

Please note that additional disk storage space is not available for home directories. For additional temporary storage, people may use /scratch, but not /tmp. The /scratch directory is available for people who need a large amount of storage for a short period of time.  Files are automatically purged after 30 days.  If there is a critical shortage of scratch space, it may be necessary to purge files which are less than 30 days old.  Files which have been “touched” but not modified will be treated as old and removed immediately.  The scratch partitions are NOT BACKED UP and do not have Snapshots.

The IS&T Data Archiving Service is available for those who need to archive data and archives will be automatically mounted to the Linux Virtual Lab.


We will periodically make important announcements regarding usage policies, software and hardware upgrades, downtime, etc. It is important to read these messages on a regular basis and we provide several methods for you to do so:

  • All messages are posted to the system message board, which can be viewed by running the command msgs. By default this command will be included in your .login startup file. If you modify your .login file, we suggest that you continue to include the msgs command.
  • The system status page SCC Updates will be kept updated with information on the current status of the system and any planned downtime.
  • We will also regularly send individual messages to you regarding your account status and usage. These will be sent via email to your BU account (


  • If you are experiencing system problems, you may want to check the SCC Updates page to see if there are any general issues affecting the entire SCC.
  • For other assistance using the Linux Virtual Lab, please write to

The Linux Virtual Lab is configured to print to the four Mugar MyPrint queues:

  • mugar-ss-staple

  • mugar-ds-staple

  • mugar-ss-nostaple

  • mugar-ds-nostaple

The “-ss-” designation indicates single-sided printing while “-ds-” indicates double sided. “-staple” and “-nostaple” indicates whether or not the document will be automatically stapled by the printer.

To use these queues from the Linux Virtual Lab:

  1. Log in to your account on
  2. Enter the print command with your preferred print queue and filename as shown below.
    lpr -Pmugar-ss-staple filename
  3. Press the Enter key.
  4. Check the status of your print job at

Some additional, less popular print command options:

    • Enscript for landscape that also handles line wrapping
      enscript -d mugar-ss-nostaple  -r  filename
    • For enscript in portrait use --portrait or -R
      enscript -d mugar-ss-nostaple  --portrait  filename
      enscript -d mugar-ss-nostaple  -R filename
    • Query jobs on the Linux Virtual Lab
      lpq  -Pmugar-ss-staple


      lpstat  -p mugar-ss-staple

Additional information on printing can be found using the Linux man pages.