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SIENews

The newsletter of the SIE de Investigación y Enseñanza N. 49 - January/February 2014

Condor workshop

Our Supercomputing resource "Condor" has had a very good start this year and it has already exceeded the number of CPU hours used during the whole first semester in 2013: IAC's researchers have enjoyed more than 330.000 hours (37+ years) of computing time in just a little more than one and half month! After the recent upgrade of our systems to Fedora-19, Condor has also experienced some problems, for instance those related to the new firewalls, keyboard/mouse recognition, etc. We are working to solve all issues and Condor will be soon upgraded to its most recent stable version. A piece of good news is that this new version will allow you to use the Condor checkpoint standalone mechanism with the gfortran compiler in order to obtain fault-tolerant fortran applications: you could create checkpoints when your application is running and then restart it from any of these checkpoints (Condor is only needed to compile your application, not to run it). We have also updated the documentation about Condor at IAC. To allow a more productive and efficient use of Condor, we have organized a 3-hour workshop on Tuesday 25th (9.30 to 12.30). The workshop right now is fully booked, but if you are interested in it please say so by posting a reply to the SIE's forum post: we are willing to repeat it if demand is high enough. Remember that you can always contact us if you are interested in Condor or any other Supercomputing resources at IAC.

Real time sky brightness of OT and ORM, now on line

In summer 2012 the Support Astronomers Group (GAS) of the IAC installed automatic Sky Quality Meter (SQM) devices at the OT and ORM observatories, to obtain sky brightness measurements in (almost) real time. The software, developed ad hoc, makes a measure every 20 seconds and generates updated brightness plots every 3 minutes.
A few weeks ago we helped the GAS group to publish on line all these plots. There are daily brightness data for each observatory, while the current night graph (measurement starts and finish when the Sun is 10 degrees below the horizon) is updated every ten minutes. You can see the graphs and get more information about the SQM on the IAC telescopes website.

Software updates

The migration of the desktops from Fedora-17 to Fedora-19 is nearly completed, with only a handful of PCs still to be updated. As for astronomical software packages, several of them have been updated too, such as IDL to v8.3, Python to v2.7.6 (including updates to many of the add-on modules), HEADAS to v6.15.1, Sage to v6.1.1, astrometry.net to v0.46. We remind you that you can follow our activity by visiting our SIE website (especially relevant are the SIE Activities and SIE Courses pages), or, if you prefer so, by following us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/SIEie_IAC).

Restricted access to Websitebaker sites as administrator/editor

Every website running on a Web server has the potential to let a malicious attacker, using any of the numerous methods at his disposal, to compromise the server. Our Apache logs show lots of attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in our websites, especially those built with older versions of a CMS (for instance Websitebaker). The sheer number of websites in our external web server (vivaldi), some more than 5 years old, prevents us from doing a proper upgrade for all of them. So, to reduce as much as possible the chances of a successful attack, we are implementing a couple of measures:
  1. Administrative/edit access to Websitebaker sites is restricted to the IAC network: this means that you can only login as editor/administrator is you are in the IAC network. If for some you need to edit your website from outside the IAC, drop us a line and we'll see how to enable it.
  2. We have installed in vivaldi the modsecurity apache module, whose purpose it to recognize and thwart web exploits and attacks. So far it's running in "Detection mode"; after some further tests on our development server, we plan to implement soon the first rejection rules (it's quite a complex software, and it's not easy to achieve the correct toughness while at the same time avoiding false positives).

Network Connect from the command line

If you use the VPN to access IAC's internal resources, and are mostly interested in the "Network Connect" tool, you might wish to be able to launch it from the command line, without following the Web-based procedure. How to achieve this is explained in http://www.scc.kit.edu/scc/net/juniper-vpn/linux/. When editing the configuration file, please set realm to "Estandar", and as cafile put "/etc/pki/ca-trust/extracted/pem/tls-ca-bundle.pem" (this is what worked in a Fedora-19 laptop). Then, launch the jnc application with the --nox flag. If you wish to use IDL with the IAC's floating license, just set the variable LM_LICENSE_FILE as:
setenv LM_LICENSE_FILE "1700@zuko" (tcsh)
export LM_LICENSE_FILE="1700@zuko" (bash)
SIE de Investigación y Enseñanza :: N. 49- January/February 2014 - Contact: