PHYS 401 :: Physics Illinois :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Accessing Computing Tools and Resources

Accessing the Campus Network (VPN)

Some computing tools (the EWS file system, lab PCs, Citrix, some software, some library resources) work only from the campus network. To access them from off-campus you need to initiate a VPN connection. The campus VPN system allows you to use your NetID to set up a secure network connection to campus, so that your machine looks like it's on the campus network. To install the client software, see instructions here. "SpiltTunnel_Default" is adequate for most resources, though "TunnelAll" may be needed in some cases.

The EWS Shared File System

A variety of useful software is installed on the computers in the college's Engineering WorkStation (EWS) computer labs. Each user has their own home directory accessible from any EWS computer, including the Physics 401 lab computers (ESB-6103-01 through ESB-6103-06). This is a good place for saving your course data and analysis work.

While these campus labs are currently closed, the data directories can be mounted remotely. EWS computers are also accessible remotely via direct login or the Citrix system. Further details on remote connections are given here.

In addition to your home directory, there is a shared directory for course materials. We may point you to materials there from time to time, notably the Origin templates (see below).

Data Analysis Software


Origin is a dedicated software package for scientific data analysis and plotting. We recommend using Origin for this course due to the library of convenient analysis templates built up over the years (see below). Some useful general reference links are:

How to Get OriginPro

Summary: If you use Windows, download it from the WebStore. If not, use the campus Citrix system. Both are free.

Accessing the Origin Templates

The course has built up a collection of Origin templates to help get you started with plotting and data analysis for each of the labs. These are hosted on the campus file sharing system. Some general access instructions for your home directory on the shared system are here.

Other Analysis Software

All of the data analysis and plotting functions of OriginPro can be replicated in a variety of other software environments. You are more than welcome to use other solutions that are more convenient for you, as long as you can produce plots and analysis of similar quality. At this time we do not have templates (or the equivalent) for these other packages, however, nor can we offer detailed support. If you are skilled in these packages, and would like to contribute template-like materials for future semesters, please contact Prof. Filippini!

Report Writing Software

There is no required software for writing your reports. Microsoft Word will do the job, with some care about typesetting equations and positioning figures.

I recommend you take this opportunity to learn LaTeX, a document-preparation system that is used nearly universally for research papers in physics, astronomy, mathematics, computer science, etc. LaTeX is not a WYSIWYG document editing system - instead, documents are written in plain text with a variety of markers and tags to specify typesetting, and then compiled into a PDF document. It takes some effort to learn, but produces excellent results and may be useful to you in the future.

Here is a useful Introduction to LaTeX:

If you want to work with LaTeX but not install the packages themselves, you may find these tools useful: