Users Manual

Users Manual sbrewer Tue, 03/01/2016 - 14:45

What is the BCRC?

The BCRC is a Computing Facility in the Department of Biology (311 Morrill Science Center, Building III). Macintosh computers are available for use by Life Sciences students and faculty. If you have questions, please send email to or call 545-3631.

When is the BCRC open?

During the academic year, the BCRC is staffed by student consultants Monday through Thursday from 8am - 9pm (until 5pm on Fridays). Check the Reservation Schedule for hours when the BCRC is being used for classes. Summer and intersession hours are unofficial, but the facility is usually open anyway. The Director, Steven D. Brewer, collaborates with faculty and students to develop resources and course websites.

Who can use the BCRC?

The BCRC provides accounts to students taking life science courses: Find/Activate your account & change password. Accounts are generated automatically for students in Biology, Microbiology, and Biochemistry courses. Students and faculty associated with other life science courses may request accounts for their course.

Can I print in the BCRC?

The BCRC supports several public printers, including a poster printer, and printers in teaching labs and provide a quota of printing without charge. We use a Print Release System to regulate student printing. Students with a demonstrated need for additional pages can request more.

The BCRC does not have a color printer.

When you print, you will be required to authenticate. You can save your password in the keychain, so you don't need to re-enter it for each print job. Use the Print Release shortcut on the desktop of lab computers to visit the Print Release page. Once all your jobs are queued, you can release them all together, which makes it easier to collect your prints.

To access the poster printer read the associated documentation.

Biology Accounts

Biology Accounts rootlet Fri, 08/31/2018 - 11:20


To access technology resources in Biology, you need to have a Biology Account. If your account exists, you can activate it here:

Students taking Biology, Biochemistry and Microbiology courses have accounts created for them automatically.

If you're taking a life science course that is not among those listed, contact Steven Brewer to request that we build accounts for your course as well.

If you're a faculty member, staff, or graduate student, you should request a permanent account.

Activating your account

To activate your account, visit:

You will be required to authenticate with your UMass IT NetID and can then set a password (either the same or different) to activate your account.

Note: Setting your password via this interface also sets your password for this account for the Chemistry/BBMB authentication system (used in the CRC and elsewhere) and for Geosciences.


Computers in the BCRC, Intro Labs, and ISB teaching labs use this account with a "print release system" to regulate printing. You receive a quota of 300 pages from the department and can request additional quota if necessary. Computers in the labs are configured to print to the printer that is in the room, but often can be directed to print to other printers nearby. Note that printing in the CRC is supported by the Chemistry BBMB technical staff and uses a different model for printing.

Printing in the BCRC

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Print jobs in the BCRC will be held until you visit the print release page to release them. You can also access the page via a shortcut on the desktop in the BCRC.

You need to authenticate with an account to print. If you have an "at-bio" email address, you already have an account. If you've been enrolled in a Biology or Microbiology class this year, you have an account. Students in other life sciences classes can request accounts. If you look for an account and can't find one, use the page to request accounts for your class. If you have an on-going need for an account (you're working in lab in the department), you should speak with your program advisor (for graduate students) or faculty advisor (for undergrads) to request a permanent account. Please allow several days for having a accounts created.


The BCRC has two black/white printers: "provizonta" and "ronkonta". There is a poster printer "farbonta" an HP Designjet Z5400 Postscript that can print (in CMYK color) on 36" or 42" roll paper for which we charge $3/sq ft.


Before using the poster printer in the BCRC, you should make arrangements for billing. Bring a speedtype number with you when you come to print your poster.

In the BCRC

The BCRC computers are set up to print to provizonta, ronkonta, and farbonta as a user which isn't authorized to do printing. When you print, most applications will prompt you to enter a username and password. (An exception is Illustrator, which puts the job in the queue and you then need to select the job in the queue and click "Resume" upon which point the printing system will ask you to authenticate).

Print Release System

After you have submitted some jobs, you can visit the print release page, select your jobs, and release them to the printer. It is at this point that the system will check to see how many free pages you've printed and enforce the quota. The quota is currently set to 300 pages. If you need to print more than 300 pages, email and explain the reason.

To Setup Your Own MacOS X Computer

  1. While printing, select "Edit Printer list" from the list of available printers. This will open the Printer Setup Utility (in 10.5 this is the "Print & Fax" System Preference Pane, in previous versions, it is a stand-alone application in the Utilities folder).
  2. Use the "Advanced" printer setup tab -- you have to get to it different ways depending on the version of MacOS X

* in 10.5 and 10.6 you need to click the plus sign to add a printer and then right-click (control click) in the Toolbar of the nameless window that pops up, you can then add the Advanced tool (which looks like a blue gear). Once you've added "Advanced", you can click on it. It takes a really long time to get ready, but eventually you can follow the directions as outlined below.

  • in 10.4 you would click "Add", then hold down the Option key and click "More Printers..."; "Advanced" will show up as a selection in the uppermost drop-down menu)
  • in 10.3, you would hold down the Option key and click "Add" -- this step sometimes takes a while
  1. Select "Advanced" from the top menu (or Toolbar in 10.5).
  2. Select "Windows Printer via Samba" from the second menu (Labeled "Device:")
  3. Set the Device Name to "provizonta", "ronkonta", or "farbonta" to use the LargeFormatPrinter.
  4. Set the Device URI to:

* "smb://" * "smb://" * "smb://" 1. Popup the Printer Model menu * For provizonta or ronkonta, navigate to HP and "5200 Series" * For farbonta, navigate to HP and "Designjet 4000ps" 1. Click "Add"

The printer you selected should now be available in the list of available printers.

To Setup Your Own Windows Computer

  1. Open the Start Menu and select "Settings" -> "Printers and Faxes". This will bring up the printer List.
  2. Click on "Add a printer". This wil start the "Add Printer Wizard".
  3. Click "Next" to proceed with the installation.
  4. Check "A network printer, or a printer attached to another computer" bullet and click "Next".
  5. Check the "Connect to this printer" bullet and enter one of the following

* "\\provizonta" * "\\ronkonta" * "\\farbonta" 1. A warning message will appear called "Connect to Printer", select "Yes". 1. Another warning message will appear telling you that you do not have the correct printer drivers installed. Click "OK". * for Provizonta, select "HP" from the "Manufacturer" list and "HP Series 5200" from the "Printers" list and click "OK". * for Ronkonta, select "HP" from the "Manufacturer" list and "HP Series 5200" from the "Printers" list and click "OK". * for Farbonta select "HP" from the "Manufacturer" list and "HP Designjet 4000ps" from the "Printers" list and click "OK". 1. Windows will Copy the necessary Files and the printer will appear in the printer list. 1. Select "No" when you are asked whether to make the printer your default printer and then Click "Finish".

You will now be able to select the printer from the list when you print from any application.

Printing in the ISB

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Short Answer

When you print, you'll need to authenticate. Then follow the Print Release short (on the Desktop), enter your Biology Department username and password. Print as many things as you want -- they'll go to your queue where you can release them.

Longer Answer

There are printers in labs in the ISB that are managed by the Biology Department Technical staff. These printers are named for Reef Islands and include nifiloli (in ISB264), nupani (in ISB360), nukapu (in ISB364), and ngawa (in ISB368). These printers are already set up on the computers in these labs and computers in those labs should already be directed to point at the correct printer by default. All of the printers are set up on all of the computers, however, to make it simple to print to another printer if one is backed up or malfunctioning.

Users need a Biology Department account to print. You can look up your account information here.

You need to authenticate to the printer and visit the print release page in order to print.

There are also a set of printer control scripts that can help manage the queues of the printers which are at the bottom-right on the Print Release pages.

Poster Printing

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The BCRC Large Format Printer is an HP Designjet Z5400 Postscript. It is spooled on snapper (the BCRC server) and it's name is "farbonta" (which means "about to paint" in Esperanto).

Please make arrangements to access the printer at least 24 hours IN ADVANCE: make an appointment with Steven Brewer to ensure that someone will be available to provide access to the printer.

We charge $3/sq ft. Most people bring a university SpeedType number from their lab for payment. You can also pay by check -- or in cash if you bring exact change. We can no longer accept uCard -- sorry.

Most users should submit their jobs to it the same as any other BCRC printer. Follow the directions in the Printing in the BCRC document before proceeding. As the document requests, please get an account and arrange for billing ahead of time. You should be able to submit your job directly to farbonta from your own computer or any computer in the building. As a LAST RESORT, you can bring a PDF file to the BCRC and I will try help you print it. (See below for more hints on creating PDF files).

I encourage people to use a Page Layout or Illustration program for creating posters, such as Indesign, Illustrator, or Quark. I have written a document with hints for making a poster with Scribus. Scribus is Free Software that is available for Mac, PC, and Linux. Using a Page Layout program requires a different workflow than using a word processor or Powerpoint, but can greatly increase your efficiency and will give superior results. Scribus is already installed on all the computers in the BCRC.

I strongly encourage users to avoid using Powerpoint to make posters. Users may use Powerpoint and submit their jobs to the printer if they want, but please do not ask for support with Powerpoint. Printing posters from Powerpoint is more complicated (due to the non-standard page-setup interface) and is much more likely to result in problems with the output (missing/reversed graphics, huge splotches, text that is jumbled, overlapping, or runs outside its frame). Sometimes these problems can be corrected, but they are often extremely time consuming to address. If you choose to use Powerpoint, you will probably get the best results by submitting the job from your own computer directly to the printer. If you need my help to print and can generate a PDF file that looks correct, there is a good chance (perhaps 85%) that the PDF file will print correctly. See below for some hints on making PDF files.

Please note that Steven Brewer Does Not Hate Powerpoint!

Here is a nice document about making posters in biology which has a lot of useful suggestions for creating and presenting a compelling poster.

The printer is generally stocked with 36-inch paper. As a special request, we can load 42-inch paper. You should create your document using a custom page size with the width set to 36 (or 42 inches) and 0-inch margins. (Note that also the printer specifies 0 inch margins, it can't actually print closer than about .3 inches, so leave a small white border around your poster). The height can be anything greater than 11inches.

If you need to install drivers (Pre 10.6 Macintosh computers generally had the HP drivers already included whereas PCs generally do not) be sure to install the Postscript drivers. We do not support the other printing languages.

When you submit your print job, it will be queued on farbonta, but should not print until you visit 315 Morrill Science Center, by pre-arrangement with Steven Brewer, to check the preview for the submitted job and ensure that it looks correct. To make this happen, we rewrite the postscript file you submit to ensure that these settings are correct in the job -- we think this is working correctly, but by using the printer, you accept the possibility that your job might simply print directly without being previewed and that you will be billed for the results.

Note that farbonta is NOT generally available at night or on weekends. Please make arrangements at least 24 hours in advance to ensure you can access the printer when your job is ready. Provided you have submitted a correctly formatted job, it will generally only take 10-15 minutes to print.

Creating PDF files

If you insist on using Powerpoint and want to make a PDF, here are some hints. Be sure, in addition to creating a custom slide size, you also create and use a custom paper size. If you bring a PDF file that is sized for letter-size paper, your poster will print letter sized as well.

Different platforms offer different ways of creating PDF files. In Mac OS X, when you select "Print", there is an option to save as PDF. Some applications, such as ~OpenOffice, Scribus, (and reportedly MS Office 2007) will also let you export directly as PDF. In Windows using Powerpoint, you will need to have 3-rd party software, such as Adobe Distiller to create a PDF. There are some less expensive options for generating PDF on Windows, but they may give unsatisfactory results. The folks at UIUC wrote this nice documentwith some useful advice. Notice the disclaimer, though.

Notes and Sugestions

It appears documents must be at least 11inches high. Less than that appears to cause problems.

Making a Poster with Scribus

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This document offers hints on how to create a scientific poster with Scribus, an open-source page-layout application. Scribus is free and is available for MacOS, Windows, and Linux. Note that Scribus is already well-documented (and there are several tutorials available on the web). For many questions, you may find general documentation more useful than this guide. In particular, be sure to read this page if you aren't familiar with the concept of using a page-layout application. You might also want to look at this guide with general hints for designing and presenting a scientific poster in biology. There are many guides to constructing good posters including UMaine Library Guide, Better Posters blog, and Norris Medical Library.


Don't just start up Scribus and start clicking around! You should begin your poster by assembling everything you're planning to use to create the poster. Creating a poster using a Desktop Publishing application requires a different workflow than Powerpoint.

First, create a directory that will contain all of the media elements that you want to use. Save images and the large blocks of text into separate files. You can use almost any format for images. Your images must be reasonably high resolution (200dpi) if you expect them to look good when printed. Scribus can open plain text files, Open Office files (.odt), and html files. Note that text, once imported, is included within the poster document while images remain as separate media elements. In other words, if you change or move the image file, it will be changed or disappear in the poster.

Use the highest-quality graphics you can find. Use vector-based imagery for graphs and figures. Create PDF files from the applications where you created the graphs and put them in your folder. Don't use bitmapped images unless absolutely required and use the highest-resolution version available: aim for at least 200dpi. (Images at have an "All Sizes" button that will let you find the highest resolution version available). If you must use screen-captures, try to make the graphic completely fill the screen then CMD+Shift+4.

Make sure you have copyright-clearance to use all graphics. (In other words, you should (1) make them yourself or (2) have written permission from the copyright holder or (3) use Creative Commons licensed or Public Domain imagery. You can find lots of creative commons licensed imagery at -- use Advanced Search to search only creative commons images and then follow the directions, including adding acknowledgements regarding the creator of the image.)

Before you start Scribus, make a sketch on paper that shows roughly what the poster is going to look like and where you're planning elements will go.

When you first start up Scribus, don't immediately create your document. Click cancel. First, click the green window button to resize the window to fill the screen. Second, open the "Properties" window (under Window menu) and move it to the right-hand side of the screen -- you'll need it a lot. Finally, check the color space under the Edit menu and pick the color space you want. I suggest "Pantone Coated". Now you're ready to create your document.

When you create your document, you will probably want to set the Units to Inches first. Then set the Document Size to "Custom" (at the bottom of the list) and set the height and width of the poster. Remember that one of the two dimensions should match one of the rolls of paper we have for our printer (either 36" or 42").

When you start Scribus, it brings up a new document dialog box. Set the "Size" to "Custom" and then fill in the Width and Height fields with values in inches (e.g. "36in"). When you enter these values, Scribus will convert them to the units being used in the document. By default, Scribus uses "points" (1/72 of an inch) as the unit of measure, although you can change that to something else if you prefer. You can set the margins and margin guides to 0, or leave some white space around the edge of your poster. Often, after changing a measurement value in a preference or properties form, you have to press Enter to get it to take effect. When changing properties of text (including the application of Paragraph Styles) in a text box (right click, Edit text), the text must be highlighted, and you must press enter e.g. after changing the font size.

Save your work so far. Save the document into the folder with your other media elements. Save regularly. Save more than regularly. And if you need to open a Scribus document, don't just double-click on it. Start Scribus and open the document from within Scribus. You're welcome.

One other thing. Scribus does an autosave every 10 minutes. The file it creates is labeled .autosave. Rename the file to remove the .autosave extension and you can open the file in Scribus.

You can set global variables for the document in the "Document Setup" under the "File" menu. Under "Tools" there are a variety of basic settings you make for the default font, font size, etc. Most of this stuff you'll set again when you make Paragraph Styles anyway but you can save a little time by creating thoughtful defaults. You may want to change the default unit e.g. from points to inches. Now you can set the desired width and height of the poster. If you want grid lines (recommended), open Preferences in the Scribus menu, and click on Guides in the left column. Check what you want. When I did this AFTER creating my first poster, I could never get the grid lines to display.

Sizing/Zoom for View: A poster fits on the screen at about 25% zoom. To get to 25% quickly, click the 100% button (near the lower left, a magnifying glass with “1”, next to those with “-“ and “+”), then the ½ button (“-“) twice.

Since you already sketched out your poster on paper, you should have a good sense for where and how big you want elements to appear, create empty text, image, and table frames and position them roughly where you will want them to appear. Use the “Insert Text Frame” and “Insert Image Frame” buttons (in the top line of icons in the Scribus window – touch icons with the mouse to see the tool tips) to insert those items. With text, right click, Edit Text. With images, right click, Get Image.

You might want to turn on a grid (under the "View" menu) and set "Snap to Grid" (under the "Page" menu). Or you may want to create "Guides" (use "Manage Guides" under the "Page" menu) which will help you line up elements at particular points.

Figure out what different kinds of text elements your poster will contain: titles, contact info, blocks of text, headings, figures, tables, etc. For each text element, consider creating a "Paragraph Style" (under the "Edit" menu). Styles will define the font size, spacing, etc of the text for that kind of element. Note that you don't want to try to apply formatting to frames as a substitute for creating styles.

When you have created frames for all your elements, begin importing the text and graphics into the frames you've created for them. You can do this by right-clicking on the frame and using "Get Text" or "Get Image". To format the text, use the "Story Editor" to apply a style to the text.

Once you have all the content into the frames, you can begin working on tweaking each frame to look the way you want and to work with the rest of the poster. You can make small changes to your Paragraph Styles, which will affect all of the text using that style across multiple frames. You can right click and select "Properties" of frames to make adjustments on how the frame and it's contents are presented. You can configure a frame to make text in other frames wrap around it. You can make images scale to fit in frames: After getting the image into the image frame, right click, Adjust Image to Frame. Then you can resize the frame and the image resizes with it. You can also configure Scribus to work with external image editing programs. The full details of how to do Desktop Publishing and the capabilities of Scribus are beyond the scope of this guide.

You should be aware that Scribus offers particularly powerful tools for working with typography. The spacing in very large type will often "look" wrong. In the Story Editor, select two (or more) characters and increase or decrease the value of the Manual Tracking (it looks like A|V with an arrow under it). Sometimes this is called "kerning". Now you can fix those places where the gap is too large or too small. Text line spacing (in text boxes) seems to default to a fixed value. I could not find any place to change this default. Right click, then Properties, then Text, then change Fixed Line Spacing to Automatic Line Spacing. You would think this could be set in the Edit Text box, where much more advanced things can be set, but I could not find any line spacing controls there.

Shadow behind a text box. Scribus doesn’t provide this. You can fake one (but it has sharp edges) as follows: Click on the text box so it has a red box around it. Item (top menus), Duplicate. Right click on item, Properties, convert to polygon. In Properties, Colors, select Fill button (it turns gray when selected), Fill with black. Lower the “Shade” to make gray. Offset. Then, if you need to move the shadowed text box, first group them together so they move as a unit:

When your poster is ready, you can print it directly or generate a PDF that you can print with another application. Be sure to select "Set Media Size" under the "Advanced" options of the printing dialog -- otherwise it may think you want to print on Letter size paper. When you're ready to print, go on to the Poster Printing document to see how to configure your computer to print to the printer.

Non-responsive dialog. Often, when you click in a dialog, nothing happens (in OS X). This may be a focus issue. Click on the frame of the dialog, or outside the dialog, then try again. It usually works then.

Grouping: Unlock each item first! (There are two lock options on the Item menu.) Select multiple items with Shift Click (works in Mac OS X), then Item, Group. Then lock the group.

Polygons (triangles, squares) can have their corners dragged into any position. At first, they appear to be constrained into a square bounding box. The trick is to double-click the polygon. A “Nodes” dialog will appear. Don’t worry about what is in the dialog (leave it alone) – when it is visible, the corners of the polygon turn into blue circles, and these can be dragged at will. Then click “End editing” in the “Nodes” dialog.

“Lines”: For polygons, in their properties (right click to get properties), the Line section controls the border line for the polygon. To have no border, go to Colors (not Lines), depress the Lines button (not the Fill button), and set the color to “None”. Similarly, the Lines section of Properties controls the border of text and image frames.

Text color is controlled in the Text section of the text frame’s Properties (right click to get Properties). Background color of the text frame is under Colors, with the Fill button depressed. As stated above, the Line section of Properties, and the Line button under Colors, button control the frame border line (if any) around the text frame.