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MATLAB (matrix laboratory) is a numerical computing environment and fourth-generation programming language. Developed by Mathworks, MATLAB allows matrix manipulations, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other languages, including C, C++, and Fortran. An additional package, Simulink, adds graphical multi-domain simulation and Model-Based Design for dynamic and embedded systems.

MATLAB can be used on personal computers and powerful server systems, including the Cheaha compute cluster. With the addition of the Parallel Computing Toolbox, the language can be extended with parallel implementations for common computational functions, including for-loop unrolling. Additionally this toolbox supports offloading computationally intensive workloads to Cheaha the campus compute cluster.

In January 2011, UAB acquired a site license for MATLAB that allows faculty, staff, post-docs, and graduate students to use MATLAB, Simulink, and 42 toolboxes (including the parallel toolbox) for research activities on campus and personal systems. Additionally, MATLAB is available to students on campus computer systems.



Using Mathworks software available under the UAB campus license on your computer involves download and install steps common to all software packages and an authorization step that grants you the rights to use the software under the campus agreement. While straight forward, there are several authorization scenarios designed to support a variety of user communities. In an effort to simplify the software installation and get you working with MATLAB as quickly as possible, we detail three authorization scenarios to help you decide the best installation for your needs.

Installation Overview

NOTE:These steps are common to all install scenarios and are detailed in Downloading and Installing MATLAB.

  1. Create an account at the Mathworks site using your campus email address if you do not have one already.
  2. Request an activation key.
  3. Associate to the campus-wide license using your activation key.
  4. Download the software from mathworks download site and install.
  5. Activate the software using the activation scenario that best suits your particular needs.

We are working to simplify these steps and will update this documentation as improvements are introduced.

Installation for Various Activation Scenarios

NOTE: Most on-campus users are encouraged to use the Simplified MATLAB Install option for activation unless there are special circumstances.

  1. Simplified MATLAB Install - This is the recommended install when MATLAB will be used on computers that remain connected to the campus network. This installation still requires MATLAB to be downloaded and installed, but provides a simple activation process that amounts to adding a static 2-line file after the software is installed your computer. This option is highly recommend.
  2. Matlab Designated Computer Install - This is the recommended install for mobile computing systems that may not be connected to any network when MATLAB is being used. This install type authorizes an individual computer to run MATLAB, allowing MATLAB to run regardless of where the computer is located.
  3. Matlab Network Concurrent User Install - This installation is only recommended for system administrators who already manage a lab or departmental installation of MATLAB and who would like to continue to provide this service for their user community. This install type may also be practical if there are special additional license needs that will apply multiply computers running MATLAB. At present, all MATLAB toolboxes actively used at UAB are covered under the UAB TAH license.

Installation Help

If you get stuck or have problems with the self-service installation then Contact or Mathworks will want your license number: 678600. If you do not hear back from Mark within one working day then call 4-2009. You must be faculty, staff, post-doc, or a grad student using Mathworks software for UAB research activities to activate this software.

MATLAB on Cheaha

MATLAB is pre-installed for user accounts on the Cheaha research computing system. The Distributed Computing Server licenses on Cheaha can be utilized directly from your desktop, see MatLab DCS or from the Cheaha command-line shell environment, please see MatLab CLI.

Accessing MATLAB on Cheaha from the desktop is recommended for most users: MatLab DCS. The command line environment is recommended for advanced users who are comfortable accessing systems via a secure shell (SSH) and have experience working with Linux command-line environments or who have a need to debug interactions between their desktop MATLAB and cluster services. The SSH environment can support X Windows sessions for displaying a full graphical MATLAB development environment on client desktops with an X Windows server installed, typically Linux and OSX systems. For more information on using MATLAB in this environment please see MatLab CLI.

Getting Started with MATLAB

Parallel Computing Extensions

MATLAB language extensions to support parallel processing are available via the Parallel Computing Toolbox. This is one of the 42 toolboxes available under the UAB TAH license. The Parallel Computing Toolbox enables MATLAB to make use of the multi-core processors found on many computers in order to speed the execution of code sections that can execute in parallel. This toolbox supports the use of up to 8 cores on a single computer systems through the use of worker threads the spread the execution of code across multiple cores.

Additional parallelism can be supported by adding more worker threads via a secondary software platform known as the Distributed Computing Server (DCS). The DCS runs on a compute cluster and can provide many more worker threads to increase parallelism. UAB IT Research Computing has licensed a 128 worker DCS installation for the Cheaha compute cluster. The Parallel Computing Toolbox can be configured to access this license from desktop MATLAB installations. Please see MatLab DCS for configuration details.

MATLAB Support

UAB does not have a campus-wide user support service for MATLAB. Users are requested to work with their normal IT support personnel for issues with installation and use.

In order to facilitate interaction among MATLAB users, share experience, and provide peer-support UAB IT Research Computing has established a MATLAB-users group. To join this group and participate in email discussions please subscribe to the matlab-users group. On-line archives of these discussions are available here. Please note, the email discussions are a public forum. You are advised to only post information you are authorized to share and comfortable with being public.

UAB Mathworks Site License

UAB has acquired a university wide site license for MATLAB and Simulink software. This license includes all Mathworks Inc. products in use at UAB, with the exception of the Distributed Computing Server (DCS) which must be licensed separately. This new site license also makes available several new toolboxes and blocksets not previously licensed by UAB.

This site license is known as the Mathworks Inc. Total Academic Headcount (TAH) license or Mathworks TAH. Mathworks TAH will make it easier for everyone in the UAB community to use MATLAB, MATLAB Toolboxes (extensions) and Simulink software. Specifically, it authorizes use of MATLAB on university owned machines for all faculty, staff and students. Faculty and staff are also entitled to install the software on personally owned computers.

The TAH allows unlimited use MATLAB, Simlink and the 42 MATLAB Toolboxes in both research and teaching activities. Faculty and staff can install the software on computers located off-campus, however, students may only use Mathworks software on UAB owned computers computers located on-campus.

UAB was the first university in Alabama to implement a Mathworks TAH license.

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