SSCC Training

The fall semester and the week before it is SSCC's busiest time for training and, despite all our classes being online, this fall will be no exception. To see the full schedule and to register for classes visit our training page. It's especially important to register this semester, as that's how you'll get information about how to join the class online.

If you're new to the SSCC or just want to learn more about what we offer, come to one of our orientation sessions. While each one is associated with a specific department, the material we'll cover is mostly the same. If you can't come to your department's session feel free to sign up for any of them.

Most graduate students in the departments SSCC supports will need to work with data, both analyzing it and preparing it for analysis, and the sooner you learn how to do that well the better. Our Introductions to Stata or R will prepare you to for class work and the rest of our training, while Data Wrangling in Stata or R will give you skills you need to do data-centered research. These classes will be offered the week of August 24th, right before the semester starts, and again during the semester.

We also have some Stata Workshops for research veterans looking to expand their skills: Loops and Macros and Presentable Bar Graphs. Look for more soon, including workshops on qualitative analysis.

Downtime on Saturday, August 15th

On Saturday, August 15th we'll take all SSCC servers down at 9:00AM to put our summer updates into production. Any running jobs will be terminated and will need to be restarted (Condor should restart jobs for you, but you should check). This is an unusually large update—in addition to updating all the software we'll be adding new servers and features—so we expect it to take the bulk of the day. Normally we post downtimes on the SSCC home page, but since this one will be longer than usual and everyone is scattered we wanted to make sure you're aware.

Updating SSCC-Managed PCs

Windows computers managed by the SSCC need updates as well. For computers in the building, this will happen automatically during the weekend of August 22-23. For computers at home, you can connect to the SSCC network via VPN during a weekend for updates to happen automatically, or you can start the update yourself in Software Center under Operating Systems.

This update has a deadline of October 1st: if your computer has not been updated by then, it will update itself immediately the first time you connect to VPN.

Busy Servers

With everyone working from home, SSCC's servers (other than Silo) have been extremely busy. We're taking some steps to improve performance for everyone, and ask you to take some as well.


Thanks to funding from a Research Core Revitalization Grant from the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research and Graduate Education and from the Department of Economics, we are ordering four new Linstat servers. This will double the size of the Linstat cluster. We're also doubling the amount of memory in each server to 768GB. For the existing servers, we'll install the new memory during the 8/15 downtime.

Until the new servers arrive, we're temporarily re-purposing five smaller servers as Linstat servers. They will be put into production during the 8/15 downtime as well.


Winstat has also been extremely busy, which is a problem because so many people rely on it for interactive computing tasks like writing papers or code and carrying out simple analysis. When a Winstat server slows down because someone is running a big job, it makes it hard for these people to get their work done.

We have plans to add capacity to the Winstat cluster as well, but that will take longer. Until then, if your big job can be run on Linstat, please run it there instead of on Winstat. Also, when you're done using Winstat, sign out rather than disconnecting. Maintaining a Winstat desktop takes a significant amount of resources even when it's idle.

We're offering a workshop, Running Big Jobs on SSCC's Linux Servers, on September 18th, and we have instructions in our Knowledge Base. Also, check out R Studio Server!

RStudio Server and R 4.0

As part of our summer updates, we will install RStudio Server on all the Linstat servers. With RStudio Server, the RStudio user interface runs in your web browser while the work happens on the server, allowing you to use the power of the Linstat servers without having to learn Linux. Running RStudio Server at the SSCC has instructions.

We will also update R to version 4.0.2. R 4.0 is different enough that all packages need to be updated. We will update the packages we install, but you'll need to update any packages you installed.

R 4.0 changes the default setting of stringsAsFactors, used by many functions that create data frames, to FALSE. This means string variables will stay strings instead of being converted to factor variables unless you specify that you want them to be converted. The previous default behavior was often confusing and there's a strong consensus in the R community that changing it is the right thing to do, but it does mean that code written for previous versions of R may not run properly until it is updated. The quickest way to update it will likely be to add stringsAsFactors=TRUE to function calls that previously relied on that being the default.

Instructional Support for the Fall Semester

Thank you to the many instructors and administrators who have reached out to us about their instructional computing needs for the Fall semester! If you haven't talked to us, and you anticipate using any of SSCC's instructional computing resources (the 3218 computer classroom, the Mobile Lab, Winstat, the 4218 computer lab, etc.) please contact the Help Desk right now.

Many things will be different this semester. For example, we anticipate the 4218 computer lab will only be available to graduate students with card access. We will be able to meet the instructional needs of everyone who has talked to us so far, but our ability to fulfill last-minute requests will be limited. So talk to us now!