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What is Debathena?

Debathena is Athena's latest client software. It is the technology powering Athena Workstations running Ubuntu Linux, as well as hundreds of Debian and Ubuntu desktops and laptops across MIT, by providing Athena workstation software via Debian packages and repositories.

On your personal computer, installing Debathena will give you easy access to the software and files in Athena AFS lockers, as well as to standard Athena commands and utilities. You can also install the set of packages for a private workstation or server with Athena accounts, or choose any set of of packages in between.

Debathena was created by SIPB , MIT's student computing group, and is now a collaboration between SIPB and IS&T , the central IT department. Since 2009, Debathena has been the standard Athena release, powering the Athena Workstations in Athena clusters and Athena Quickstations as well as IS&T's athena.dialup service.

Before installing Debathena

  1. Choose a metapackage to install
    Debathena provides various levels of Athena functionality through different metapackages, and each metapackage comes with different levels of support. Some metapackages are better suited for certain hardware configurations than others. If you are unsure of which metapackage to install, see Which Debathena metapackage should I install?
  2. Become familiar with the command line
    The primary mode of interaction with Debathena, including its installation, is via the command line (shell). If you are not already familiar with the command line, there are several resources available:
    1. Unix for Mac OS X Users tutorial offered by Lynda . MIT faculty, students and staff have full access to the course materials. See Landing Page for more details.
    2. Working with the Command Line Suggests to make it a general guide to the command line, but indicate when a specific command is specific to Athena. Perhaps combine with [hd:Athena for New Consultants], which is internal.
  3. Become familiar with Athena
    Athena is MIT's UNIX-based campus-wide academic computing facility. If you don’t know how to use Athena, we recommend reading Getting Started with Athena.
  4. Subscribe to our announcement list
    Before installing Debathena, please subscribe to our announcement list, so that we can send you announcements about changes in the project and important security upgrades. This list is very low-traffic, receiving 2-3 messages per semester at most. You can subscribe using WebMoira (authentication required).

Upgrading Debathena

  1. How can I upgrade from Athena 9.4 to Debathena?

Installing Debathena

  1. instructions from SIPB's Debathena webpage
  2. See How do I install Debathena on my personal computer? (my own guide)
  3. Advanced installation options

How to use Debathena

  1. SIPB has a similar documentation in the works
  2. Debathena-standard
    1. What does the renew command do?
    2. Where is the log-in interface?
  3. Debathena-workstation
    1. Similar feel to a cluster machine...
    2. What happens when I have a local user account with the same user name as my Athena account? See Why don't I get my AFS home directory when logging in to a Debathena workstation?
  4. Customizing Debathena

Seeking help

  1. [hd:Troubleshooting Debathena]
    1. Troubleshooting Debathena installation
  2. How can I get help with Debathena issues?
  3. What are the known issues for Debathena?
  4. [hd:RCC Troubleshooting Athena Workstations] HelpDesk internal only

Advanced topics

Software Licenses in Debathena
Debathena repository component options
How do I enable access control on Debathena?
Debathena hacks
Debathena development
Experimental features for Debathena


Debathena development


Debathena Private Workstation Owner Guide
SIPB's Debathena webpage

IS&T Contributions

Documentation and information provided by IS&T staff members

Last Modified:

November 21, 2016

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