Saturday, September 11, 2010

Some tips and tricks for frosh

(for freshmen at MIT)
~~Terrible formatting, because I don't care enough. If I didn't make it a link, google it.~~

There's new frosh on hall, so it's time to answer all the goodies such as how to subscribe to the Reuse mailing list. Around this time of year, popular mailing lists get multiple "subscribe" emails (which don't do anything) sent out to the entire list.

I'm reusing a lot of material from my previous posts, but this post will be terse and aimed at people already at MIT, not prefrosh with too much time on their hands :)

First off, there's a comprehensive FAQ at It's lovely, use it. Try searching for "mailing list" and this wonderful article pops up: How can I add or remove myself from e-mail lists? (Hermes).  Check out the "Browse by Category" view too.
For more FAQs, see is worthy of skimming too (especially the Email section which tells you how to forward or split your mail to Gmail).
For more detailed info, some of which is obsolete, see 
And if you want in-person help, the student computing group SIPB has an almost-always open office on the 5th floor of the student center. They're really friendly, and they have sharkbananas! :D

Speaking of gmail, you can use plus-forwarding and the deliveredto: operator to easily catch all your MIT email in a filter. chpobox to $ and when you create your Gmail filter, in the "Has the words:" box enter deliveredto:$

~Reuse and free-food~
Frosh asks: How do I subscribe to reuse, free-food, other mailing lists?

To subscribe to the free-food mailing list, type in
blanche -a kusername free-food

at an Athena prompt. (where kusername is your Athena username)

To subscribe to the Reuse mailing list(s), go to and sign up. See for more details / more ways to sign up (scroll to the very bottom).
Note that reuse is actually a Mailman list and not a Moira list so blanche doesn't work.

You'll first get an email asking you to confirm the subscription, and then you'll get a welcome email. (I thought I'd confirmed, but I never got a "Welcome" email... so I hadn't).

Consider also (requires Yahoo account)

Oh, and general internets, you can add yourself to the MITERS email list! See Feel free to call to see if anyone's in and the space is open. It's exciting when the phone rings, no one ever calls :)

Oh, and as an MIT student there's a lot of free software too, e.g. Windows 7.
Also discounts at places such as Digikey. Ask around.

Debathena, Lucid currently, runs on the computer clusters at MIT. It's based off of Ubuntu, which is a popular Linux distribution.

If you're new to linux, just remember the man command. E.g.
man blanche

Apropos is also useful, combined with "piping" it to further refine the search results, e.g.
apropos print | grep lp

If you're confused, try
man apropos
man grep

You can install Debathena on your computer,

~Tips and Tricks~
If you forget the combo, type in
tellme combo

Shortcut to class websites is co (aka or, e.g.
(At MIT, unless you're using google's Chrome browser, there's no need to type out "")

To look someone up, go to and select People Search. Or at a terminal, try

finger $athenausername

Lost? Wondering where in the world is building 31?
("cluster" is a useful search)

~Getting Stuff~
Shaw's: If you live at EC, instead of hitting mass ave and turning right, cut through Stata and head to star's via the MIT Museum. Ask an upperclassman to show you the route. Takes 11 minutes one-way.
Seven Eleven is 5 minutes away from EC and has the cheapest milk.
Verde's @ student center is open 24/7 (during the school year). Most things are noticeably marked up.
Haymarket has the cheapest fruit and veggies (and sketchy meat), open on Friday and Saturday only, get there early (9 or 10am works for Saturdays). See for more tips.
Chinatown is 17 minutes away by T.
There's food trucks on the T-stop side of MIT medical.

Free things:
Mailing lists: free-food, vultures@csail, reuse and reuse-ask
Also, stuff on 35 loading dock is up for grabs, cool stuff shows up sometimes. There are freegans aka [food] dumpster divers at MIT, although I don't know if anyone relies on them for food. ask around if you're interested. Around the start and end of semester many nice things show up in dumpsters as well.
Dan Fourie on hall (putz aka 2w) has a google calendar, ask me for the link or find it on his website.
There's also, although many events are not listed on there (see flyers around campus instead).

Floorplans: (for those hard-to-find reuse posts)

Getting books: (compares prices from APO book exchanges and a bunch of online sites, search by class #),
APO Bookex (Best way to get cheap textbooks. Get there early on the first day, before opening time).
MIT Press has a loading dock sale every semester, but there's no way of knowing what books will be there. Definitely go the first day when they're not open to dealers. Prepare to spend some time browsing.

Best way to find books is MIT Worldcat (linked from libraries)

~Athena Filesystem~
Three important folders:
/Public         Files here are by default accessible by everyone, including people on the internet
/www      Similar to public. If you use scripts (see below) things will appear here.
/oldfiles   Contains a day-old backup of all your files. Has saved people in the past.
If you're on Athena, you can fire up Nautilus (the file manager) and

cd /mit/$athena-username
See for more info. Call it recommended reading.

If you're on ubuntu, try Places > Connect to Server..., select "Service Type: SSH", fill in appropriately. Alternatively, open up Nautilus, hit Ctrl-L and type in sftp://$$username
On Mac/Linux, you can open a terminal and
ssh $username@linux

On Windows, you can download PuTTY.

Want to set up your own wiki or wordpress super-easily? See

Some odd building connections: 3rd floor of 24 (ESG building) connects to 3rd floor of 34, the 30 buildings are connected on the 3rd floor, there's a Windows cluster with dual monitors in 37, and there's a Mac cluster with media software on the 1st floor of 26 (sometimes has classes in it) (has a scanner).

[Edit: Saturday, September 11, 12:22 PM]
How could I forget Amazing lifesaver. Calls your room phone (need certificates) and plays song (e.g. Puff the Magic Dragon) over voicemail at set time.

Oh, and if you're at all interested in artsy things, we have the Student Art Association which offers heavily subsidized art classes and has a great workspace with tools on the 4th floor of the student center. See for classes.

[Edit: Saturday, October 2, 1:17 AM]
Other good loading docks in addition to 35:(loading docks in general tend to be nice)
Stata basement, back of the parking lot. That's actually a place for recycling electronics. So there are monitors, random old electronics, random old lab parts, power supplies, printers, rolly chairs at various stages of decay, and such down there regularly. sometimes couches.
N52, MIT museum. I've seen couches, bike parts, random rubber wheels

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