Webspace & Websites

You can use the web space from the department as much or as little as you like, but here are some useful suggestions.

Your Webpages

There are two main areas where you’re visible online in the department: directory page and personal folder.

Every student has information in a /home/httpd/html/dept/directory/grads/username.include file, and this info appears on your department directory page. You have permission to edit this file and are thus responsible for whatever appears on it. It’s a good idea to update this as your research work progresses (after a semester project, summer project, yearly project … you get the idea) or as you get a clearer idea of what you want to research. It’s also common practice to post an updated curriculum vitae.

You also have a whole folder to yourself located at /home/httpd/html/username. This is your directory to do with as you please. Anything you put in this folder shows up online at astronomy.nmsu.edu/username. You can use this space to write a more in-depth explanation about the work you do or want to do, for example an explanation to those who aren’t familiar with your particular area of interest. You can create pages for the courses for which you TA, perhaps including class or lab policies and links you find useful. You can also create a personal page to talk more about yourself and your hobbies.

Template TA Page

Not sure how to write a web page and you just want a simple one for your lab page? No problem! You can either use the basic syllabus or the slightly fancier template shown to the right.

To set up your own TA page, which will show up at astronomy.nmsu.edu/username, download the zipped tar file which contains the template page and images. Unpack the file in your personal web folder (/home/httpd/html/username) to get the HTML file and the images folder. Edit index.html using any text editor (like Emacs or vi) and change the information to match your class. Don’t forget to change the <title> tag before the main body of the file.

You can modify these images to your heart’s content. Every Linux machine has a graphics program called Gimp. You can open the header_paper.gif file and use the text tool to add whatever text you want.

If you want to have a lab page for more than one class, just change the name of the index.html file to ASTR110.html or to ASTR105.html, make a copy of the file, and change the name of the copy to the second class.

If you don’t want to use our template, there are plenty of free templates online. Not sure how to code HTML? These websites are some places to start.

Useful Programs and Websites

In the course of doing work (or messing around), we all come across programs and web sites which are gems. Here are a few of the cool ones your fellow grads have found.

All Platforms

Mendeley Desktop
Organize research references, sync across multiple computers, and manage stuff online

Online backup and large file transfer

Free implementation of Telnet, SSH, and terminal emulator

Remotely control a desktop

Capture notes with an online backup, even works on phones

Free image viewer which doesn’t anti-alias

Free open-source planetarium showing realistic night sky with amazing viewing control options

Defacto standard for video chats

Best mail application if you prefer offline access to your emails

Plot Digitizer
Digitize scanned plots into text files, can even handle logarithmic scales


Latex editor

HEASARC software packages
Useful programs like the FITS file viewer FV, DS9, and the FTISIO subroutine library (for C and Fortran)

By default the boot menu usually sucks for Linux distributions … use this to fix that

Linux clone of Mac fancy dock

Best media player/manager for linux, though Rhythmbox is a close second

Best linux torrent application, much better than Transmission

“GNU Image Manipulation Program”, comparable to Adobe Photoshop in the same way Open Office compares to MS Office


Automatic online backup, but it isn’t free

Carbon Copy Cloner
An all-volume hard drive cloner

Chicken of the VNC
Remotely control a desktop

Free Latex editor

General purpose text editor and Unix and server administrator’s tool

Text editor for programming, Beta support for Snow Leopard but not supported after that

Emacs editor for text, HTML, LaTeX, C++, Java, Python, R, Perl, Ruby, PHP, etc.

Screen Capture, editing, and sharing program

Screen capture and edit

“GNU Image Manipulation Program”, comparable to Adobe Photoshop in the same way Open Office compares to MS Office

Like GIMP, but more basic and runs natively

FITS Liberator
Free image processing software to turn FITS files into gorgeous JPEGs


Automatic online backup, but it isn’t free

Screen capture and edit

Free SFTP, FTP and SCP client

Note organizer; can be password-protected to save things like website logons

Great for jobs between the GIMP and the default paint application

Texmaker & MiKTeX Instructions for using two open source programs to edit and compile Latex

Runs Linux on top of Windows; also installs Xming and PuTTY

Linux-like environment for Windows, has an emulator and some Linux tools

Ports the GNOME desktop to Windows OS, using Cygwin as a porting tool and user environment

FITS Liberator
Free image processing software to turn FITS files into gorgeous JPEGs


Fourmilab’s calendar converter
Helpful for converting among Gregorian, JD, MJD, etc.; but if you need Heliocentric Julian Date use the HJD converterDrop Send
Send large files without having to create an account

Plot Digitizer
Digitizes an uploaded plot

Google Analytics
For tracking website usage (visitor geographical location, time on site, search engine hits, etc.)

Free editing of an online Latex file by multiple people

Tons of other cool things. Has popularity rankings, reviews, previews, etc. about all the distributions out there

Useful articles for every grad student

Harvard grad students summarize the daily astro-ph offerings

Astronomers vote on astro-ph papers

If you haven’t seen this blog yet, you should. Topical discussions about astronomy culture, software (with emphasis on python & idl), and anything else. Also hosts the remains of Mac Singularity (Mac astronomy hints and tips). Also has a great lists of some of the best astronomy websites out there. Run by a few postdocs and has contributions occasionally by grad students.

Ars Technica
Good in-depth articles about a variety of topics, all tech centered. Usually has timely coverage of stuff that’s in the news but whose coverage usually sucks and is dumbed down elsewhere (click on the ‘science’ button at the top to see what I mean)

Know Your Meme
Important in today’s 4chan and Fark world.

Collaborative question and answer board for computer questions. Fantastic for random questions about OSes, software, etc.

Stack Overflow
Collaborative question and answer board for *programming* questions. You can ask about any language. Great for asking questions while you’re learning a new programming language.