Info Availability SSH Tips DSAC FAQ

The Zoo at Yale University

The Zoo is two physical rooms in the Computer Science building, Arthur K. Watson Hall, where Computer Science students convene to work and collaborate. In the Zoo there are 38 multiprocessor Intel computers that are clustered, which means they're interconnected and your files on one are available on every other machine. Each node, or computer—named after a different animal—runs either Linux (openSUSE) or Windows.

Info Availability SSH Tips DSAC FAQ

About the Zoo

The Zoo is located on the third floor of Arthur K. Watson Hall (AKW) at 51 Prospect Street

There's a Closed Zoo (a quiet work space) and an Open Zoo (a collaborative space). Both are open 24-7, so those with card access can get in whenever they want. To gain access you'll need a Zoo account; you can easily request one here . Now you're good to go, but make sure you follow Zoo etiquette!

The official Zoo policy is as follows:

  • Do not log into more than one workstation at once.
  • You may lock a console for up to one hour if the Zoo is busy, or up to two hours if it is not busy.
  • Food and drink are prohibited in the Zoo.
  • Do not power-cycle the machines; i.e., do not touch the power button.

Eating and Drinking

Please do not feed the animals. In order to protect the machines, food and drink are prohibited in the Zoo. You can, however, bring snacks and eat them in the luxurious atrium area on the second floor, right downstairs from the Zoo. There is even a fridge available down there, but beware the grad students who are known to nosh many an errant snack!

It is against the rules to smoke in Watson!


The Zoo is a collaborative environment, but please be mindful others who are not collaborating with you. There is no talking in the Closed Zoo!


The Zoo printers are for class and not personal use. Do not print huge documents during peak hours. Wait until no one is around.


Ahh, hacking. There are two definitions for this word. The first, and traditional one, entails staying up all night and writing cool code to distribute freely over the net (or to hand in to a professor). We heartily encourage that. The other, a product of the uninformed media, means intentionally bypassing security systems and/or maliciously damaging data. We don't like those types of hackers. If you feel tempted to look for passwords or write viruses or violate Yale's computer security policy in any way, keep in mind that it is illegal, unconstitutional, unethical; that it shows how immature you are; and that it will probably get you prosecuted and/or kicked out of Yale.


See which Zoo machines are open! The layout below approximates the physical layout of the Zoo. This may fail if you're connecting from outside the domain.

Open Zoo





















Closed Zoo (AKW 300)




















SSH stands for Secure Shell. It's a way to securely communicate between computers, whether for transfering data or remote command executions. You can always ssh into the Zoo, and do your work from the comfort of wherever you happen to be. All you need is an internet connection on the Yale network and Terminal (on Mac) or Cygwin (for PCs). Other possibilities are X-Win32 for Windows machines and X11 or XQuartz from Macs.

To log in, open up your shell and type > ssh -X <netid> After entering your password, you'll be assigned the animal (cluster node) that is being used the least. If you find you get attached to particular animal, (many people do—say the lion), then you can go ahead and ssh -X <netid> You can then do anything you would be able to from the shell on that Zoo computer.

Copying files

On UNIX machines, you can copy files to and from the Zoo with scp. > scp -r <netid> .

This will copy all the code in sample_directory in your home folder to the current directory where you are scp-ing from (Don't forget the period at the end!).

On non UNIX machines, try Googling for FTP clients for your system.

You can read more on Wikipedia: SSH | SCP

Tips and Tricks


You can print from an application, from the shell, or remotely. Printing is free, but please don't abuse it!

From the shell, you can use lpr:

> lpr <filename> # print the file given by filename on zoo1, the default printer.
                 # The file may be plain text or Postscript formatted.
> lpr -P zoo2 <filename> # print filename on zoo2.
> lpr -K n <filename> # print n copies of filename on the default printer, zoo1.

Changing your shell

When you log in and get to a prompt the operating system starts a program called a shell, which allows you to launch programs and interact with the file system. All commands you type at the shell's prompt are interpreted and executed by the shell.

There are several different shells, and you may not like the default shell. If you'd like to change your shell, type ypchsh. The /usr/bin/chsh program (short for change shell) will display your old shell and ask you for a new one. Or you can use the web interface.

The list of supported shells in the Zoo includes (but is not limited to):

  • /bin/tcsh Tcsh, an enhanced version of the Berkeley UNIX C Shell, csh.
  • /bin/bash Bash, the "Bourne Again Shell," which is the standard GNU shell.
  • /bin/csh  The Berkeley UNIX C shell; considered harmful by some authorities. On the Zoo, this is just a link to tcsh.
  • /bin/zsh  Zsh, the Z Shell, designed for compatibility with ksh, the Korn Shell.
  • /bin/sh   The generic Bourne shell. Not recommended. On the Zoo, this is just a link to bash.
  • Finger

    The Zoo has a directory lookup command called finger that allows you to get information about students from their netid > finger jrg45
    Login: jrg45                      Name: Julian Graham
    Directory: /home/accts/jrg45      Shell: /bin/bash
    On since Sat Nov 2 21:41 (EST) on pts/7 from
    On since Fri Nov 1 16:27 (EST) on pts/8 from
       306 days 3 hours idle
          (messages off)
       Mail forwarded to
       No mail.

    .plan, .project

    .plan and .project files often contain interesting or humorous passages, You can create your own .plan/.project by editing the .plan file in your home directory and making it/them world readable. Remember that, in order for other people to be able to read your .project and .plan, your home directory itself must be world-accessible (via chmod o+x, perhaps).


    The Departmental Student Advisory Committee consists of five undergraduate CS people who are each year either elected by popular vote or chosen through absolutist abridgement of the people's right to democracy--it's all the same, really.


    • Michael Nestler BR '14
    • Rachel Rudinger DC '13
    • Samer Sabri SY '13
    • Daniel Tahara BR '14
    • Aayush Upadhyay BR '14

    Our primary task is to make sure the Zoo is a happy and functional place. In addition to making sure that the machines in the Zoo are functioning properly and that you don't have any problems using the Zoo facility, we are also involved in the CS Department. Feel free to come to us with any concerns or questions that you might have as a CS major.

    More about DSAC on our webpage!


    Where can I get a Zoo account?

    You can easily request an account at .

    AGH! When I type "backspace" in Emacs, bizarre things happen, none of which include the deletion of the character immediately preceding the cursor position. What's going on?

    While the shell accepts two keystroke inputs as backspace, Emacs declares that there can only be one. There are two ways to get around this that will be described here.

    The first: under remote login, if you're using SSH Secure Shell, you can change your settings to map "backspace" to "delete". (Edit->Settings->Profile->Keyboard).

    If you don't like that (and there's good reason to feel that way, since it has to be done at every SSH client you use), you can put the following line in your .emacs file in your home directory:

    (global-set-key "\C-h" 'backward-delete-char)

    How do I jump to a line in Emacs?
    Press ALT+x, then type goto-line. This is annoying to have to do every time you want to use this functionality, and it doesn't even work by default over remote login from Windows, so I recommend that you edit your .emacs file with something like this:

    (global-set-key "\C-xg" 'goto-line)

    How long will I get to keep my zoo account after I graduate?

    Accounts for majors expire at the start of the following term. Other accounts expire a month after the end of the term.

    Does sound work in the zoo?

    Sound is working in the Zoo now. Plugging in headphones will work fine.

    The volume control applet in the taskbar of KDE and gnome adjusts the volume on the wrong control, and individual music playing apps seem to vary as to what control the volume slider adjusts. So I recommend running "alsamixer" in a terminal window and fiddling with the "PCM" and "Headphones" controls if you want to adjust the volume.

    Is it possible to access my Pantheon space from a Unix machine in the Zoo?

    I have tried to use gFTP. After entering the host, port, username, and password, the program says "Connecting..." but never makes a connection.

    In my experience, gnomevfs, upon which gftp may be relying, is very flaky. You should use konqueror, which I know to work. type 'konqueror&' at a prompt, or find it in the (KDE) menus. enter s

    Or if you want to fetch a file off the Pantheon using only the shell, you can try:

    ssh -t "scp YourFileNameHere"

    Give the file name relative to your home directory. Not terribly intuitive, but nice if you're in a hurry.