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How-To: Use Matlab


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GNU Octave as Matlab alternative

Note that GNU Octave is an Open Source alternative to Matlab. While both packages are not 100% compatible, Octave is an alternative that does not require any license management. Further, you can easily install it yourself using Conda.

Want to use the Matlab GUI?

Make sure you understand X forwarding as outline in this FAQ entry.

You can also use Open OnDemand Portal to run Matlab.


You have to register with for requesting access to the Matlab licenses. Afterwards, you can connect to the High-Memory using the license_matlab_r2016b resource (see below).

How-To Use

BIH has a license of Matlab R2016b for 16 seats and various licensed packages (see below). To display the available licenses:

hpc-login-1:~$ scontrol show lic
    Total=16 Used=0 Free=16 Remote=no

Matlab is installed on all of the compute nodes:

# The following is VITAL so the scheduler allocates a license to your session.
hpc-login-1:~$ srun -L matlab_r2016b:1 --pty bash -i
med0127:~$ scontrol show lic
    Total=16 Used=1 Free=15 Remote=no
med0127:~$ module avail
----------------- /usr/share/Modules/modulefiles -----------------
dot         module-info null
module-git  modules     use.own

----------------------- /opt/local/modules -----------------------
cmake/3.11.0-0  llvm/6.0.0-0    openmpi/3.1.0-0
gcc/7.2.0-0     matlab/r2016b-0
med0127:~$ module load matlab/r2016b-0
Start matlab without GUI: matlab -nosplash -nodisplay -nojvm
    Start matlab with GUI (requires X forwarding (ssh -X)): matlab
med0127:~$ matlab -nosplash -nodisplay -nojvm
                                               < M A T L A B (R) >
                                     Copyright 1984-2016 The MathWorks, Inc.
                                     R2016b ( 64-bit (glnxa64)
                                                September 7, 2016

For online documentation, see
For product information, visit

    Non-Degree Granting Education License -- for use at non-degree granting, nonprofit,
    educational organizations only.  Not for government, commercial, or other organizational use.

>> ver
MATLAB Version: (R2016b)
MATLAB License Number: 1108905
Operating System: Linux 3.10.0-862.3.2.el7.x86_64 #1 SMP Mon May 21 23:36:36 UTC 2018 x86_64
Java Version: Java is not enabled
MATLAB                                                Version 9.1         (R2016b)
Bioinformatics Toolbox                                Version 4.7         (R2016b)
Global Optimization Toolbox                           Version 3.4.1       (R2016b)
Image Processing Toolbox                              Version 9.5         (R2016b)
Optimization Toolbox                                  Version 7.5         (R2016b)
Parallel Computing Toolbox                            Version 6.9         (R2016b)
Partial Differential Equation Toolbox                 Version 2.3         (R2016b)
Signal Processing Toolbox                             Version 7.3         (R2016b)
SimBiology                                            Version 5.5         (R2016b)
Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox               Version 11.0        (R2016b)
Wavelet Toolbox                                       Version 4.17        (R2016b)
>> exit


For starting the Matlab with GUI, make sure that your client is running a X11 server and you connect with X11 forwarding enabled (e.g., ssh -X from the Linux command line). Then, make sure to use srun -L matlab_r2016b:1 --pty --x11 bash -i for connecting to a node with X11 forwarding enabled.

client:~$ ssh -X
hpc-login-1:~ $ srun -L matlab_r2016b:1 --pty --x11 bash -i
med0203:~$ module load matlab/r2016b-0
Start matlab without GUI: matlab -nosplash -nodisplay -nojvm
    Start matlab with GUI (requires X forwarding (ssh -X)): matlab
med0203:~$ matlab
[UI will start]

For forcing starting in text mode can be done (as said after module load): matlab -nosplash -nodisplay -nojvm.

Also see this FAQ entry.

See Available Matlab Licenses

You can use scontrol show lic to see the currently available MATLAB license. E.g., here I am running an interactive shell in which I have requested 1 of the 16 MATLAB licenses, so 15 more remain.

$ scontrol show lic
    Total=16 Used=1 Free=15 Remote=no

A Working Example

Get a checkout of our MATLAB example. Then, look around at the contents of this repository.

hpc-login-1:~$ git clone
hpc-login-1:~$ cd bih-cluster-matlab-example
hpc-login-1:~$ cat

# Logging goes to directory sge_log
#SBATCH -o slurm_log/%x-%J.log
# Keep current environment variables
#SBATCH --export=ALL
# Name of the script
#SBATCH --job-name MATLAB-example
# Allocate 4GB of RAM per core
#SBATCH --mem 4G
# Maximal running time of 2 hours
#SBATCH --time 02:00:00
# Allocate one Matlab license
#SBATCH -L matlab_r2016b:1

module load matlab/r2016b-0

matlab -r example
$ cat example.m
% Example Hello World script for Matlab.

disp('Hello world!')


disp(sprintf('The square root of 2 is = %f', sqrt(2)))

For submitting the script, you can do the following

hpc-login-1:~$ sbatch

This will submit a job with one Matlab license requested. If you were to submit 17 of these jobs, then at least one of them would have to wait until all licenses are free.

Matlab License Server

Note that there is a Matlab license server running on the server that will check whether 16 or less Matlab sessions are currently running. If a Matlab session is running but this is not made known to the scheduler via -L matlab_r2016b then this can lead to scripts crashing as not enough licenses are available. If this happens to you, double-check that you have specified the license requirements correctly and notify in case of any problems. We will try to sort out the situation then.