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Using the lsst-dev Server

lsst-dev is the development cluster of servers run by NCSA for LSST DM development work. The cname directs to and this system serves as the primary development server for the team. There are currently 3 identical development servers to choose from:


To get an account, see the :doc:`Onboarding Checklist </team/onboarding>`.

This page is designed to assist developers in their work on the lsst-dev servers:

  1. :ref:`lsst-dev-overview`
  2. :ref:`lsst-dev-password`
  3. :ref:`lsst-dev-ssh-keys`
  4. :ref:`lsst-dev-tools`
  5. :ref:`lsst-dev-loadlsst`
  6. :ref:`lsst-dev-gitlfs`
  7. :ref:`lsst-dev-xpra`

Overview of Cluster Resources

Account Password

You can log into LSST development servers at NCSA with your NCSA account and password. You can reset your NCSA password at the following URL:

Set up SSH Keys

You can establish public/private keys to access NCSA development machines via SSH. Here's how to set up your SSH client to use keys:

1. Generate a key pair

If you haven't already, generate your key pair on your local machine (you should always use a strong password for your passphrase). On most machines, you can use OpenSSH:

.. prompt:: bash

   mkdir ~/.ssh
   chmod 700 ~/.ssh
   ssh-keygen -t rsa

Enter your passphrase at the prompts:

.. prompt:: bash $ auto

   Generating public/private rsa key pair.
   Enter file in which to save the key (/home/username/.ssh/id_rsa):
   Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
   Enter same passphrase again:
   Your identification has been saved in /home/username/.ssh/id_rsa.
   Your public key has been saved in /home/username/.ssh/
   The key fingerprint is:


If you used a program other than OpenSSH for this step, make sure your public key is formatted as a single line (most SSH clients provide it as an option). Otherwise, the next step will not work.

2. Install the public key on lsst-dev01

Install the public key on the remote server, :file:`~/.ssh/`, to

.. prompt:: bash

   scp .ssh/


.. prompt:: bash

   touch ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
   chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
   cat >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

3. Login

Login without a password to lsst-dev01:

.. prompt:: bash $ auto

   $ ssh
   Enter passphrase for key '/home/username/.ssh/id_rsa': # type your key passphrase

For more information on using SSH public/private keys:

Select Appropriate Developer Tools

The lsst-dev systems are configured with the latest CentOS 7.x as its operating system. This release of CentOS provides an old set of development tools, centered around version 4.8.5 of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). Updated toolchains are made available through the “Software Collection” system. The following Software Collections are currently available:

Name Description
devtoolset-3 Updated compiler toolchain providing GCC 4.9.2.
devtoolset-4 Updated compiler toolchain providing GCC 5.3.1.
devtoolset-6 Updated compiler toolchain providing GCC 6.3.1.
devtoolset-7 Updated compiler toolchain providing GCC 7.1.1.
git19 The Git version control system version 1.9.4.
rh-git29 The Git version control system version 2.9.3.

To enable a particular Software Collection use the scl command. For example:

.. prompt:: bash $ auto

   $ scl enable devtoolset-6 bash
   $ gcc --version
   gcc (GCC) 6.3.1 20170216 (Red Hat 6.3.1-3)
   Copyright (C) 2016 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
   This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO


Code compiled by different versions of GCC may not be compatible: it is generally better to stick to a particular toolchain for a given project. In particular, if you are using a :ref:`shared stack <lsst-dev-loadlsst>` you must use the matching toolchain.

You may wish to automatically enable a particular software collection every time you log in to lsst-dev01 and other LSST systems. Take care if you do this: it's easy to accidentally to either start recursively spawning shells and run out of resources or lock yourself out of machines which don't have the particular collection you're interested in installed. If you are using Bash — the default shell on lsst-dev servers — try placing the following at the end of :file:`~/.bash_profile` and customising the list of desired_scls.

# User-specified space-delimited list of SCLs to enable.
desired_scls="rh-git29 devtoolset-6"

# Only do anything if /usr/bin/scl is executable.
if [ -x /usr/bin/scl ]; then

    # Select the union of the user's desired SCLs with those which are both
    # available and not currently enabled.
    avail_scls=$(scl --list)
    for scl in $desired_scls; do
        if [[ $avail_scls =~ $scl && ! $X_SCLS =~ $scl ]]; then

    # Use `tty -s` to output messages only if connected to a terminal;
    # avoids causing problems for non-interactive sessions.
    if [ ${#scls[@]} != 0 ]; then
        tty -s && echo "Enabling ${scls[@]}."
        exec scl enable ${scls[@]} bash
        tty -s && echo "No software collections to enable."

Load the LSST Environment

We provide a ready-to-use “shared” version of the LSST software stack to enable developers to get up and running quickly with no installation step. The shared stack includes a fully-fledged Miniconda-based Python environment, a selection of additional development tools, and a selection of builds of the lsst_distrib meta-package. The currently stack is regularly updated to include the latest weekly release, which is tagged as current.

The following stacks are currently being updated:

Path Python Version Toolchain Description
:file:`/software/lsstsw/stack_20181012` 3 devtoolset-6 Located on GPFS-based network storage; as such, it is cross-mounted across a variety of LSST systems at NCSA including those configured as part of the HTCondor pool and :doc:`Verification Cluster <verification>`.


When using a shared stack, you must use the corresponding developer toolchain. See above for details on how to :ref:`lsst-dev-tools`.

In addition, the following symbolic links point to particular versions of the stack:

Path Description
:file:`/software/lsstsw/stack` The latest version of the stack on networked storage using our standard Python version (currently 3).

Add a shared stack to your environment and set up the latest build of the LSST applications by running, for example:

.. prompt:: bash

  source /software/lsstsw/stack/loadLSST.bash
  setup lsst_apps

(substitute :file:`loadLSST.csh`, :file:`loadLSST.ksh` or :file:`loadLSST.zsh`, depending on your preferred shell).


Initializing the stack will prepend the string (lsst-scipipe) to your prompt. If you wish, you can disable this by running

.. prompt:: bash

   conda config --set changeps1 false

Although the latest weeklies of LSST software are regularly installed into the shared stacks, the rest of their contents is held fixed (to avoid API or ABI incompatibilities with old stack builds). We therefore periodically retire old stacks and replace them with new ones. The following retired stacks are currently available:

Path Python Version Toolchain Description
:file:`/software/lsstsw/stack_20171023` 3 devtoolset-6 Provides a selection of weekly and release builds dating between October 2017 and October 2018.

Administrators may wish to note that the shared stack is automatically updated using the script :file:`~lsstsw/shared-stack/`, which is executed nightly by Cron.

Configure Git LFS

After you have initialized a shared stack, you can enable Git LFS using EUPS:

setup git_lfs

The first time you use Git LFS you'll need to configure it by following these steps from DM's :doc:`Git LFS guide </git/git-lfs>`:

  1. :ref:`git-lfs-basic-config`
  2. :ref:`git-lfs-config`

Configure Remote Display with :command:`xpra`

:command:`xpra` can be thought of as "screen for X" and offers advantages over VNC. It can be very handy and efficient for remote display to your machine from the LSST cluster (e.g., debugging with :command:`ds9`) because it is much faster than a regular X connection when you don't have a lot of bandwidth (e.g., working remotely), and it saves state between connections. Here's how to use it:

On lsst-dev01:

.. prompt:: bash

   xpra start :10
   export DISPLAY=:10

You may have to choose a different display number (>10) if :10 is already in use.

On your local machine, do:

.. prompt:: bash

   xpra attach

You may leave that running, or put it in the background and later use:

.. prompt:: bash

   xpra detach

Then you can open windows on lsst-dev01 (with DISPLAY=:10) and they will appear on your machine. If you now kill the :command:`xpra attach` on your machine, you'll lose those windows. When you reattach, they'll reappear.


:command:`xpra` requires the use of Python 2.

If you are using a Python 3 LSST Stack, you'll encounter a error like the following:

File "/ssd/lsstsw/stack3_20171021/stack/miniconda3-4.3.21-10a4fa6/Linux64/pyyaml/3.11.lsst2/lib/python/yaml/", line 284
  class YAMLObject(metaclass=YAMLObjectMetaclass):
SyntaxError: invalid syntax

The solution in this case is to start xpra in a separate shell where you haven't yet setup the Python 3 LSST Stack.