NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

2002 User Survey Results

Web, NIM, and Communications

  • Legend
  • Satisfaction with the Web
  • How useful are these methods for keeping you informed?
  • Are you well informed of changes?
  • Summary of Information Technology Comments
  • Comments concerning the HPCF web site:   22 responses
  • Comments concerning the PDSF web site:   6 responses
  • Comments concerning NIM:   20 responses
  • Comments concerning how NERSC keeps you informed of changes:   19 responses




Average Score 

Mostly Satisfied

5.5 - 6.4




Average Score 

Somewhat Important

1.5 - 2.4



Significance of Change 

significant increase

significant decrease

not significant



Satisfaction with the Web:


 No. of Responses

Average Score

Std. Dev.

Change from 2001






Timeliness of info





Running Jobs Section










SP Pages





Software Section





T3E Pages





General programming info





File Storage Pages










Ease of finding info on web





Search facilities





PVP Pages








How useful are these methods for keeping you informed?


 No. of Responses

 Average Score

 Std. Dev.

Change from 2001






Announcement web archive










Phone calls








Are you well informed of changes?


No. of Yes Responses

No. of No Responses

Percent Who Said Yes

Percent Who Said Yes in 2001

Do you feel you are adequately informed?





Are you aware of major changes at least 1 month in advance?





Are you aware of software changes at least 7 days in advance?





Are you aware of planned outages 24 hours in advance?






Summary of Information Technology Comments

Comments concerning the HPCF web site:   22 responses


Good website


Provide additional or clearer information


Improve searching


Problems navigating / better organization


Remove outdated info / correct erros

Comments concerning the PDSF web site:   6 responses


Provide additional or clearer information


Good website

Comments concerning NIM:   20 responses


Issues with ERCAP or the allocations process


Good interface


Problems with reliability


Difficult to use


Violates privacy

Comments concerning how NERSC keeps you informed of changes:   13 responses


Satisfied / well informed


Comments on using email


Comments on the MOTD


Comments on system outages


Violates privacy


Comments concerning the HPCF web site:   22 responses

Good website:

Web site is complete and informative.

Generally good, easy to get information from. ...

It is great!

Very useful, and I was able to get up and running reading them, without needing much other help.

It's one of the best places to find information about HPC.

Generally it is excellent.

The HPCF web site is easy to use and is full of pertinent information.

Very complete. ...

Provide additional or clearer information:

... Could never find out how to get names, owners of currently running jobs.

providing more dynamic information about the statics of usage.

IBM web pages lacked details on selecting number of pe's within a node for a long time.

It would be great if movies of the latest training sessions could be made available for the multimedia classes. It is great that the presentation files are available, but a video would be helpful, too. I was unable to find a video dealing with the IBM SP and debugging/developing tools for example. However there have already been training sessions and presentation files are available. However I feel that actually watching the presentation would help.

It took me a week to get a job script to work on the IBM SP first relying on the web information, then also on the consultants (who were generally very helpful). It is not clear which POE parameters need to be specified, such as when you run on just 8 processors on 1 node. What is on the web pages led me to set the wrong parameters. ...

More examples of everything would be helpful.

Improve searching:

I rely on the consultants to tell me which parts are relevant, and which parts are out of date. Its tedious to search through it for answers to a specific problem. Unless you know the answer, the searches don't yield solutions. Example I know about .login and .cshrc from the crays, but not about .login.ext and .cshrc.ext on the IBM. If I search for .login or .cshrc, the results don't lead easily to the .login.ext or .cshrc.ext. [Improve information about the Unix environment on the SP.]

search by date does not behave usefully since it seems all files have a recent date

The search facility uses a port which is blocked by my companies firewall. This is very inconvenient.

The search tool I haven't had much success with, but my own searching has been very effective. I have always found the information I'm looking for with pertinent examples and clear explanations. ...

It is very difficult to find specific information on the web site. The introductory write-ups are mostly good as far as they go, but do not provide enough information at the level that I usually need. For most questions that require timely answers I have to consult other people or call the NERSC consultants. I'm not sure what the best solution is. Better search and links to the manual pages would help, but often it is difficult to identify a simple search topic.

Problems navigating / better organization:

... The information is scattered about and it takes quite a while to look thru all of it to find what you need. It is not terrible, it could be much worse. But it could also be much better.

... Perhaps a grand index would be helpful as well.

... A bit complicated to navigate, however.

Remove outdated information / correct errors:

Some key pages are still Cray specific, for example the makefile examples page refers to the Cray machines when the IBM SP machines would be better.

Occasionally, the consultants and the web pages together are needed because there are small errors on the web pages.

Quite a few things are outdated

Don't use:

I have not looked at the web pages extensively yet.


Comments concerning the PDSF web site:   6 responses

Provide additional or clearer information:

For the most part I like the pdsf web site, but in the section on running jobs, for the LSF queuing commands it give bsub with a few options, but I know that there are other options out there (such as -w to wait for another job to finish) which are not mentioned. If you don't want to include all of the options to keep the page simple, then maybe you should point to another source for more detailed info.

NERSC response: The page that you mentioned is simple by design so that a new user gets enough information to get started without being overwhelmed with details. We provide access to the LSF manuals as well. It is available from our Software page: . If you follow the LSF link on that page you get access to all the manuals with a good indexing. PDSF also offers their users man pages that cover all the options of available commands. These facts should be mentioned at the end of the introductory page and we will do that.

Not enough information available. More FAQ would be useful.

NERSC response: The general FAQ page: and the experiment specific pages: and cover questions submitted so far. Users are most welcomed to submit suggestions via the support request form: . We will also solicit more FAQ candidates from users within the couple of next weeks.

Needs to more details. There should be lots of examples on how to use software. Also, there should links to things like Cern Library. Tutorials, etc.

NERSC response: PDSF works under assumption that that all the participating groups have their main computing resources at other locations and that users get help on how to use the experiment software there. We do not have the resources to provide experiment specific help, but users can find links to web pages for their experiments at: . We also provide links (and space if needed) to PDSF specific group pages:, but the pages have to be maintained by the groups themselves (see atlas and STAR).
We provide links from our Software page ( to a documentation for general purpose packages. That's where a link to the CERN Library page can be found: Actually an entry for each of the packages includes a link to its home page. Right now we are updating software pages following the system upgrade to RH 7.2 when lots of software had to be reinstalled. We welcome specific suggestions as to what kind of tutorials or documentation users would like to see.

I have passed along some recent suggestions to Iwona & Shane on ATLAS documentation on the PDSF web site. As always, they have been very responsive and helpful.

Good website:

Love it

Very good, I have no problems with it.


Comments concerning NIM:   20 responses

Issues with ERCAP or the allocations process:

Had trouble saving ERCAP in a format I could send around to others in my department using IE. The consultants were very helpful, but it took them a while to figure out how to do it. Also, there should be a spell checker built in to the ERCAP interface, as well as in this survey form.

... In general, it is far too difficult to obtain run time, and the time is not divided equally or fairly within repositories. This may be endemic to marrying time allocations with research proposals. It is also very difficult to obtain time mid-year if one changes jobs and there is no time available to his/her new institution.

I have never liked the ERCAP interface. I would prefer a system where the user prepares a proposal and submits it by email. The size limits on the current interface are much to small. The changes this year which deemphasized science and emphasized computing should be reversed.

It was awkward to prepare the ERCAP because jumping between pages was very difficult. I ended up doing it locally and pasting the pieces in when I was done

Last year I had trouble submitting a proposal via ERCAP, until a consultant suggested that the size limit had been exceeded in one case. An error message would have helped. This year I prepared detailed information on timing, in response to NERSC's request. But it turned out that the length limit had not been increased, so there was no way to answer the questions in the detail requested via the form -- and we had to put much of the information on a web page. Please be consistent!

... ERCAP is somewhat inconvenient, but manageable.

... Sometimes it would be nice to actively enforce the 4000 character limit, so you don't have to delete things after you enter them, but this is pretty minor.

kind of cumbersome to answer some of questions of working on sp when we are just working on porting thing there from the cray

Good interface:

Very useful interface!

Very convenient for PI's usage

In my opinion the NIM/ERCAP web site has been improved significantly in the last year, and I now find it much easier to use than I did when I first started.

NIM is great for managing accounts. ...

This is a great system

This is one of the best features of the web site, and is a easy and quick tool for both daily monitoring and the entire allocation process. I especially like how easy the ERCAP is to roll over previous allocation requests and save them while you continue working on them. ...

It works. NERSC staff is responsive on helping and making improvements.

Good for what it is supposed to do.

Problems with reliability:

Sometimes the getnim command is broken (gives error message)

NIM sometimes seems buggy, unreliable.

There were a few glitches, but the NERSC support staff were wonderful and things ran pretty smoothly.

Difficult to use:

The NIM login screen never accepts my password the first time. I always need to "try again".

Violates privacy:

violates privacy and facilitates spying on others, which has been noticeable and had negative effects in my opinion. Having proposals available may be ok. ....

Don't use:

I have yet to make the transition to really using the NIM interface...

I have not currently asked for a NIM password.


Comments concerning how NERSC keeps you informed of changes:   19 responses

Comments on using email:

I find the emails useful, however I would like to receive multiple reminders on the same issue. I accept that maybe other people don't want as much traffic, but if a major change is about to happen in a months, then from about 10 days in advance I would like to get an email about this every day. Maybe it is possible to configure this on a per user or per mailing list basis so that users can define how often they want to get this kind of information. ...

Email announcements are the most effective way for me to learn about changes.

Comments on the MOTD:

The message of the day is too long, I only recently bought an ssh that allowed me to scroll back to see the first part of it. Otherwise it just goes by too fast. ...

MOTD is quite long. I basically ignore it when I log in. If I have a problem, occasionally I think to "more" it, but not very often. Just seems like a pain. But I'm sure someone finds it useful, so I wouldn't get rid of it.

Comments on system outages:

Outages should be scheduled immediately following major conferences, rather than just before them, as often happens.

I think NERSC should do more system changes on weekends. This would affect the users less.

Satisfied / well informed:

I am very satisfied with the information policy. Iwona does a great job.

... In general however I feel well informed by NERSC about changes to their systems and during the time I used it mostly the system (IBM SP) was extremely useable with little changes.

I feel I am well informed.

You're doing very well in this regard!

They are doing a great job.

I am very satisfied with the current information.


Also the warning message from hsi is too long and isn't worth seeing thousands of times over and over again. It also effectively deletes the useful information obtained during a run since many scripts invoke hsi to save results, and that lengthy message just scrolls it right off screen and out of memory.

It would be nice to have some stability for a while. Things change too rapidly.

Unfortunately, sometimes the "cry wolf" effect applies here, and I don't always pay attention to things until you notice they change or don't work. But this is my own problem, in all cases it was my hastiness rather than lack of warning which caused an issue.