Running HNN on Neuroscience Gateway Portal (NSG)

HNN is available on the Neuroscience Gateway Portal (NSG), a high-performance compute environment sponsored by NSF/NIH and the BBSRC (UK). Availability of HNN on NSG enables users to run simulations on one of many cluster compute nodes, which reduces simulation runtime. In addition, users will not have to install HNN on their local workstations, allowing them to get started running simulations more quickly. Below are instructions on how to run HNN on NSG.

Getting an account on NSG

  1. Create your NSG account here if you don’t already have one

  2. Log in to NSG through a web browser here

Preliminary software (VNC, ssh)

You should make sure you have a VNC viewer (e.g. Tightvnc) and ssh available from a terminal window. These tools are included by default with Mac/Linux but you may need to install additional software for Windows.

RealVNC is available on many platforms, but is not open source.

For Ubuntu Linux you can install a vnc viewer using the following command from the terminal:

sudo apt install xvnc4viewer

Running HNN on NSG

  1. You will need to upload some data since NSG jobs require input data. The data can be a zip file with arbitrary content. To do so, click on New Folder on the front page, and enter a Label. Next, click on Data, underneath the new folder on the left hand side, then Upload/Enter Data to upload an arbitrary file with an arbitrary Label.

  2. Click on Toolkit on the top menu:

    This will take you to a list of computational neuroscience tools available on NSG:

  3. Click on VNC on Jetstream at the bottom of the list:

    This will create a new “task” that can allow you to access a desktop on the Jetstream supercomputer through VNC:

  4. If you want to customize how much time you have to run HNN once your VNC job is created, you can click on Set Parameters and then enter the Maximum Hours to Run (0.5 is the default).

  5. Enter a Description for your task in the text field next to Description. For example, you could write “HNN simulation”.

  6. Click on Select Data then pick the zip file you uploaded in step 3.

  7. Click Save Task. This will take you to a list of available tasks to run:

  8. Click Run Task for the task you created to start the job. Click OK on the resulting dialogue box.

  9. Click on View Status to see how the job is progressing and to get the information needed to login to NSG using VNC.

  10. After a few minutes (or longer, depending on others’ use of NSG) you will receive an email from stating that your VNC session is ready, and including instructions for how to login to your VNC session, which are as follows, but are explained in more detail below:

    1. On your local machine, start an ssh tunnel from your local port 5902 to the vnc server node port 5901. Use the password in Intermediate Results: ssh.password

      ssh -l nsguser -L 5902:localhost:5901
    2. Use a VNC client from above

    3. Then start then vnc viewer to localhost:2 Use the password in Intermediate Results: vnc.password

      To examine or retrieve files on the VNC node, ssh or scp may be used:

      ssh -l nsguser

      For the hnn data directory:

      scp -pr 'nsguser@*' mydownloaddir

      or for the entire job directory:

      scp -pr 'nsguser@' mydownloaddir
  11. Click on the List link next to Intermediate Results. This will bring up a window listing files after a few minutes that contains a link to vnc.password and ssh.password:

    You should download both of these files to your computer.

  12. Start a terminal.

  13. Enter the following command in the terminal:

    ssh -l nsguser -L 5902:localhost:5901

    When prompted for a password, use the text inside of the ssh.password file you downloaded in step 11. In order to see the text inside of the ssh.password file, enter the following command from the directory where you have stored the file (in a separate terminal):

    more ssh.password
  14. Enter the following command in a separate terminal:

    vncviewer localhost:2

    If this does not work, you may have to switch to the VNC Viewer folder before running the vncviewer command. For example, on the Windows operating system, you would first type:

    cd C:\Program Files\RealVNC\VNC Viewer

    When prompted for a password use the text inside the vnc.password file you downloaded in step 11. (Note that the vncviewer command depends on which VNC software you have installed on your computer). This will open a VNC viewer display of your NSG desktop:

  15. In the VNC viewer window Click on Applications -> System tools -> Terminal

    This will start a command line terminal as shown here:

  16. In the terminal, enter the following command:


    This will start the HNN graphical user interface as shown here:

  17. Use HNN to Run simulations by clicking on Run Simulation. If asked whether to overwrite a file, click OK. After that, HNN will run its default ERP simulation, producing the output shown here:

    You can now continue to run other simulations, as desired. For more information on how to use HNN to run simulations and compare model to experimental data, see our Tutorials

  18. When you are done running simulations, log out of the VNC viewer by clicking first on the nsguser menu in the top right corner, and then on Quit, as shown here:

    When prompted click on Log out. NSG will then create an output file that you can download.

  19. You can download the data using either scp (19.1) or NSG’s web browser interface (19.2).

    1. To use scp for the hnn data directory enter the following in the terminal:

      scp -pr 'nsguser@*' mydownloaddir

      or for the entire job directory:

      scp -pr 'nsguser@' mydownloaddir

      When prompted for a password, use the text in the ssh.password you downloaded in step 11. Note that mydownloaddir is a local directory on your computer that you want to download the data to.

    2. Refresh the task list in the web browser. Then click on output. After a few minutes you will see a file output.tar.gz in the list, which contains the output data from the simulations you ran. After downloading it, you can extract its contents using the following command from the terminal:

      tar -xvf output.tar.gz

      This will extract the data into a new directory. You can browse the output in the data subdirectory, and it will contain one subdirectory for each simulation run. See the HNN website for more information on the content of these files.


For HNN software issues, please visit the HNN bulletin board