Undergraduate Computing Lab Introduction


The Geography undergraduate computing facilities are located in rooms 115 and 239. They are open to any student registered in Geography techniques courses, directed studies, research assistants, and Geography graduate students.


Room 115 contains 25 PCs, while room 239 has 20 PCs. All the labs have identical software packages. Station 1 in lab 115 has higher desk clearance to accommodate a wheelchair.

Software packages found in the labs:

  • ArcGIS 10.4.1
  • IDRISI Selva
  • Adobe Illustrator CS4
  • FME Desktop 2016
  • Beyond 2020
  • R Statistical package
  • Microsoft Office 2010

Both labs are connected through a network, so you can access software, data, and printing from any of the labs. See “Getting around the labs” later in this document to learn how to properly store and manage data.

Access Times

The computer labs follow the general schedule:

  • Monday – Friday 8:30 to 22:00
  • Closed on weekends

Detailed lab schedules are posted outside each lab. Because rooms 115 and 239 are teaching labs, please check and respect the posted schedule before sitting down in one of the stations.

There is no admittance to the teaching labs during the first hour of scheduled sessions for students not registered in that lab section. Access to any idle computer in the room during the second hour is at the discretion of the lab instructor.

Lab Fees and Passwords

The labs have restricted access:

  1. Only students enrolled in geography courses that require lab use can receive an account. These courses are usually Geography techniques courses, selected atmospheric science courses, or directed studies.
  2. In exchange for the payment of a $20 dollar fee, each student receives a username and password.
  3. The lab fee is paid at the Geography Main Office in room 217 between 10am and 2pm. The fee counts as tuition. A tax receipt will be issued at the moment payment. The fee is due by the last Friday of the first month of each term.
  4. The lab fee is per term not by course. If you are taking multiple lab courses in one given semester you only pay it once for that term.
  5. Each user has a printing account associated with his/her username, with initial balance of $0 printing credits. You can add printing credits in the department’s Main office between 10am and 2pm, Monday – Friday. Minimum of $5 dollar increments is strongly recommended.
  6. Any positive balance in the printing account can be refunded at the end of the semester.

Lab Assistance

If you need assistance with your labs or need to report any problems, the lab supervisor will be around the labs from 9:30am to 5:30pm, Monday – Friday. Alternatively, you can contact him at labhelp@geog.ubc.ca.

Additional resources

Familiarize yourself with the GIC’s reserve readings and map systems. Frequently, instructors and TAs will use the GIC as a repository of additional information that will help you with your assignments.

All lab computers have CD burners. It is a good idea to backup your project data on a weekly basis.

ArcGIS is also available at Koerner Library in room 217.  The version Koerner is using is 10.3.1. So if you expect to work on their computers make sure to save to an older version before leaving our labs.

The Digital Media Commons at level 3 of the I. K. Barber Learning Centre has 8 Mac multimedia workstations with Adobe CS6 which includes Illustrator. If you work there and want to open the file in the Geography labs you will have to save down to an older version.

Getting around the labs

Accessing the workstations

In exchange for the lab fee, you will receive a username and password. This information gives you access to the computers in any of the labs. Please be mindful to log off after you finish your session. If you don’t, you risk having your files deleted and your printing credits wiped out by other lab users. To log off properly:

  • Left-click the “Start” button and select “Shutdown”
  • From Shutdown dialog window, select “Log off your username

Remember, you are subject to university rules regarding appropriate use of school computing equipment. If you abuse the labs, you will lose your access privileges. There is an icon on your desktop linking to Policy 104 explaining your rights and responsibilities.

Printing your work

There are two printing areas for the computing labs:

  1. Room 115 printers:
    • Black and White laser (printer name: hp4015 b/w ps)
    • Colour laser (printer name: hp4650c colour ps)
  2. Room 239 printers:
    • Black and White laser (printer name: hp4250n b/w ps)
    • Colour laser (printer name: hp4525n colour ps)

You will notice that two of the printers have multiple names. The names actually refer to the same printer, but use different languages to communicate with your program and process your request. Some programs are picky about printing. The printer name with “_PS” at the end of it is the one most likely to work and should be used it first.

You can access all printers from any of the labs. Be careful when selecting the printer to which you are directing the output.  You need to add printing credits to your account in the Geography Main office in room 217. The cost per page is:

  • $0.10 per page for black and white
  • $0.40 per page for colour

A few things to keep in mind about printing:

  • You can access all the printers from of the labs.  Don’t assume that the program you are using  knows where you want to print. Be careful when directing your output.
  • Make sure to use the “Print Preview” or “Print Setup” options, if available, before you send you job. Each printer may have a slightly different page footprint and could leave things out. Adjust your content according to printer you are using.
  • If your job does not print, don’t just send it multiple times. The two most common reasons for no output are lack of printing credits or printer backlog. There is a link on your desktop that allows you to check the balance in your account and the status of the printer queues.

Saving your work

It is important that you spend time familiarizing yourself with proper saving techniques to avoid the pain of lost assignments. First, you need a general picture of the lab setup.

Each computer in the labs has a local hard drive, usually named Local Disk (C:) drive, where you will find your working directory called temp. In addition, because all the stations are connected through a network, you also have access to a server drive, called username on ‘smew server ’(H:), commonly referred to as the H: drive. Each user account has a designated space in the H drive that can only be seen by that user.

When working on your labs, these are the guidelines you should follow:

  • Download the data for you lab to the working directory C:\temp\ in the local computer
  • Work and save to your local working directory as you work through your assignment
  • After you are done with your session, but before you log off, copy your work from the C:\temp\ working directory to the server H drive using windows explorer
  • Once your confident all files have been copied, log off from your station

It sounds a bit complicated but there are certain advantages to doing it this way:

  1. Because many people use the labs, if you were to leave the data in the local drive, you run a high risk of losing your files
  2. Because the server H drive can be seen from all the computers, you are not limited to always working from the same workstation. You can retrieve your files from any of the labs
  3. It is faster to work locally, but safer to store data on the server

Please DO NOT save to ‘My Documents”,  “Desktop”, or “Downloads”. These folders are deleted every time you log off.  They can also present problems when used to store GIS data.

Read your lab instructions carefully as they will have detailed instructions on how to retrieve the lab data for each assignment.