10 December 2003

Deceptive “invoices”

Domain Names Australia has been sending Schools bogus “invoices” that require payment to reserve unnecessary domain names.

Recently a company called Domain Names Australia has sent a large number of what appear to be invoices to the Division: usually addressed to individual Schools or Centres. The letters request payment for the registration of domain names.

The organisation responsible for regulating domain names in Australia, .au Domain Administration Pty Ltd (auDA) has taken action against Domain Names Australia in the Federal Court for deceptive conduct as a result of letters such as the ones received recently in the University. More details on Domain Names Australia can be found on the auDA website at http://www.auda.org.au/news/dadn/ [link updated]

DO NOT PAY THESE "INVOICES".

If you have paid Domain Names Australia please let the cehelpdesk know and we will inform auDA. Should the auDA action be successful it may be possible to recover some or all of the money paid to Domain Names Australia.

09 December 2003

Wireless Working Party

The Working Party has recommended wireless expansion to the University network.

The University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC) established the Wireless Working Party to oversee developments in wireless networking at the University of Canberra.

After a number of meetings, discussions and reviews of wireless implementations at other organizations (including other Australian universities), the Working Party has developed a draft Implementation Plan for wireless networking on the Bruce campus. The Working Party recommended that UIMSC endorse the roll out the infrastructure necessary to support suitably authenticated computers connecting to the University network using 802.11b and 802.11g wireless standards on the UC Bruce campus.

Web Content Management System

A Web CMS should be trialled on campus to see whether it suits our requirements and makes it easier for the University to develop and maintain its Web presence.

A University working party was established to investigate the introduction of a Web Content Management System (CMS) to facilitate the management of the University's web pages. The working party has completed its investigations and has recommended the trialling of a system as the next stage in the process.

Adobe Software Audit

Adobe is coming to review the University’s use of Adobe software.

Adobe Systems has advised the University that it will be reviewed under Adobe’s Awareness Compliance Education Review program. The Review will be carried out sometime between 1 December 2003 and 29 February 2004 and will cover:

  • visiting those responsible for purchasing software licences to see how many licences have been purchased;
  • review the software purchasing, distribution and monitoring processes in place;
  • talk about software asset management and total cost of ownership; and
  • report on the adequacy of the current level of licensing and how to manage the level of licensing.

Software Licensing

Don’t take the software installed on your computer for granted: it may not be legal to use it for anything other than teaching purposes.

Application and system software installed on University computers is licensed: the exact conditions vary from package to package but generally the software from for example Microsoft, Macromedia, Adobe, Apple, QSR and SPPS is licensed for educational use only. No University licensed software should be used for any commercial purpose unless written approval for its use is obtained from the supplier or the University's legal representative.

Include the cost of full commercial versions of required software when developing budgets for commercial projects, if suitable licensing arrangements are not already in place. Maintenance and support arrangements should also be organised since the TSU may not be able to provide the required level of support for additional software installations.

Memory sticks/external drives

The recent increase in new external data storage devices like memory sticks, USB drives and other devices is changing the way people move data around.

The Division is investing its resources in network storage: because of their fragility, risk of loss and cost, removable or transportable media like floppy disks, Zip drives and so on are being phased out in preference to increasing the Division’s online network storage capacity. Staff that require removable media to transport data around outside the network are encouraged to purchase their own drives or devices to accommodate their requirements. All new computers have CD burners installed for transporting larger files and archiving.

28 October 2003

creative commissioning

A new server for the use of new media staff and students has finally been commissioned.

creative, the server that was purchased among other things for staff and students in the School of Creative Communication to store their media files and develop static and interactive websites, has now been commissioned to use the University's Active Directory authentication system. Apple Professional Services undertook the work, which was paid for from a research fund. Spending a small amount of money in this way has allowed us to bring a service online that we would otherwise not have had the time or resources to complete this semester.

The contractor has provided us with the means to relatively simply give users (for example students in nominated subjects) access to server space and website development space (including the ability to create dynamic websites with PHP and mySQL) when these resources are required for assessment. Users can access their space from PCs or Macintosh computers on campus via the network, and remotely via ftp.

Access to the Microteaching Rooms

Changes to the way the Micoteaching rooms are locked is causing some problems for staff and students.

Last year Security advised us on a number of occasions that the Microteaching Rooms in Building 5 were found unlocked. Since these rooms contain videorecording facilities, there is some risk of theft, so closers were installed on the doors and the locks modified so the doors always locked when closed.

Now the doors are often found propped open (with no-one in the vicinity), or there are complaints that the rooms are locked and Security won’t open them because they are not Category A rooms. All Building 5 staff keys open the doors, but out of normal business hours it is sometimes difficult for staff and students with legitimate requirements to access the rooms to find someone with an appropriate key.

Where the booking is in the timetable (and the incident that led to this report is in the timetable), Security should open the room. It becomes a little more problematic when students are making out-of-hours bookings for the rooms to record their own presentations (as happens in a number of subjects). Subject convenors may need to give Security a list of students who might reasonably be expected to be given access to the rooms, and Security can then open the rooms if required for students whose names appear on the lists.

Video Projection in 9C25

Work has been completed on the installation of video and data projection facilities in the Division's Conference Room.

With the completion of the work from Millennium Audiovisual, the Division's Conference Room is now set up for video and data projection.

In the past, the TSU has accepted bookings through the helpdesk for this service, with a member of staff setting up and taking down the equipment as required.

Staff (and postgraduate students) requiring the facility will now be required to bring or book through the CRC any additional equipment they need for presentations in this room. Instructions for operating the equipment are supplied, and helpdesk will show members of staff how to connect the equipment and operate the system if required.

Courses and Subject database

The new UC Courses and Subjects database will go live on 31 October 2003 as the new UC Handbook.

The new UC Courses and Subjects database will go live on 31 October 2003 as the new UC Handbook. You can preview the database at http://www.canberra.edu.au/courses/ and any feedback should be provided to the technical or content contacts listed at the bottom of each page.

For a number of years the Division has had its own version of courses information which to a large extent mirrors the handbook information: we have been told on a number of occasions that our duplication of the handbook data is not appropriate and it should be removed, pointing at the official information instead. Now that the new database is in place, we should remove all the duplicate information in our own web pages and point at the “official” information instead.

We will lose the graduate profile links we have used in the past, but these may be out of date anyway.

Callista on Macintosh Computers

A recent presentation to Executive from the Callista implementation team revealed that it will not be possible, at least initially, to access the student management system from Macintosh computers.

Following the presentation from the Phoenix team at Executive on 17 October 2003, the Manager, TSU, contacted Apple Computer Australia in relation to the lack of Macintosh support for the Callista client application.

Callista Software Services (CSS: developers of the Callista Student Management System) is working towards a release in the first half of 2004 of a Callista client that will work on Macintosh. It is unclear whether the Phoenix team intend to take advantage of this version of the Callista software: from the comments at Executive they may be intending to roll out this update in July 2004.

The Callista client is a Java application that if developed in accordance with the Java standard should be able to run on either Macintosh or Windows. Java is a platform-independent programming language developed by Sun Microsystems. Java programs, or applets, can be launched from a Web browser, or run on a Web server, or may operate independently from the Web. Java is also increasingly being used for application programs like word processors, spreadsheets, and database front-ends.

While the current version of the Callista client should work on the Macintosh, there may be problems with the display of some of the reports that make the reports difficult to use.

At the University of Western Australia, a web browser will provide access to the Callista software to deliver services. It will run on Macintosh computers, although there will be some slight differences between the way it operates on Macintoshes and PCs. Web access to the system at the University of Canberra is being provided for students through Callista Web Connect (software developed by Callista): the Phoenix team sought clarification on whether an OPUS-like interface to Callista was to be included in the project, but it appears the web-access functionality for staff will not be available, at least not in the first release.

20 October 2003

Radio and television services: draft list

The current draft list of radio and television services, sourced from free-to-air terrestrial and satellite services, to be available around the Division where there are aerial outlets on the RF network.

Update March 2005 Note that the services are now up: see http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/tsu/tv.htm for a current list of the available services.

The Division has been planning the development of a radio and television reception and reticulation service for a number of years now.

After much consultation and discussion, the radio and television services in the table below are expected to be available via the RF network in the Division once the infrastructure to receive the signals and reticulate them is installed in Building 20.

The project was originally expected to be completed by the beginning of Semester 1, 2004, but there are now delays while approval from the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) and the University's Buildings and Site Committee is obtained.


TV/RADIO SERVICE

Language

Source

Type

1

ABC TV [analogue]

English

Terrestrial

Analog TV

2

TEN [analogue]

English

Terrestrial

Analog TV

3

PRIME [analogue]

English

Terrestrial

Analog TV

4

WIN [analogue]

English

Terrestrial

Analog TV

5

SBS [analogue]


TerrestrialAnalog TV
6TVESpanishAsiasat 2MPEG TV
7RAIItalianAsiasat 2MPEG TV
8TV5FrenchAsiasat 2MPEG TV
9Bloomberg TV AsiaEngish & MandarinAsiasat 3SMPEG TV
10Channel NewsAsiaEnglishAsiasat 3SMPEG TV
11CCTV4Mandarin (?)Asiasat 3SMPEG TV
12CCTV9English!Asiasat 3SMPEG TV
13NHKJapanesePanamsat 8MPEG TV
14BBC World ServiceEnglishPanamsat 8MPEG TV
15ABC Services and FeedsEnglishOptus B1MPEG TV
16Commercial feedsEnglishOptus B1MPEG TV
17Various
Steerable dishMPEG TV
18ABC News RadioEnglishTerrestrialAM Radio
19Radio NationalEnglishTerrestrialAM Radio
202CNEnglishTerrestrialAM Radio
21REESpanishAsiasat 2MPEG Radio
22RAI RadioItalianAsiasat 2MPEG Radio
23French RadioFrenchAsiasat 2MPEG Radio
24Additional MPEG TVMandarin*MPEG TV
25Additional MPEG TVMandarin*MPEG TV
26Additional MPEG RadioMandarin*MPEG Radio
27Additional MPEG RadioJapanese*MPEG Radio
28Program GuideVideo onlyPCRGB

* To be sourced from the proposed fixed dishes once end users identify suitable services.

Satellite service guides can be found at (Note that not all services on these satellites are available in Australia due to encryption or beam coverage).

http://www.lyngsat.com/ http://www.satcodx.com/

14 October 2003

Wi-Fi networking

Report of Wi-Fi networking in Adelaide universities.

While in Adelaide recently to attend a conference, the Manager, TSU, took time to speak to some people regarding the rollout of wireless networking at the University of South Australia.

The University covers five campuses in the Adelaide metropolitan area, and a regional centre in Whyalla. The first part of the rollout was completed in July 2003 at the University's City West campus near the centre of Adelaide. Depending on finances, wireless networking is expected to be rolled out across the other Uni of SA campuses by the end of 2004. Staff and students supply their own equipment to access the network. They must download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) client to access the system, and use their standard login to access the network.

The VPN client, guides and configuration files are available for download to staff and students with Uni of SA log-ons. A website covering the use of the wireless networking resources is maintained at http://www.unisa.edu.au/ists/Wirelessnetworks/default.asp, where there are links to all the resources and information required (some accessible only to Uni of SA staff and students) to access and use the wireless network.

Users of the system are warned that malicious code may enter the University's network via a wireless connection, and are given detailed information about ensuring their computers are suitably protected. Staff are allowed to install the University's anti-virus software on their own computers, but students are urged to purchase their own anti-virus software and must install it themselves.

Paul Sherlock, Director of IT Services at Uni of SA was quoted in a press release from Netgear (the company which supplied the base stations), saying "A big issue for universities will always be space, especially as student numbers increase. As university learning environments become increasingly online focused, student demand for on-campus PC workstations keeps growing the actual space to put them in doesn't," Paul said. "Our solution was to provide a wireless network that could be accessed using the students' own notebook computers from anywhere in the campus, ultimately relieving the demand on the PC workstations. Now, both students and staff are able to access teaching and learning resources more freely. Visiting staff from other campuses can hook up to the network effortlessly." [see http://www.netgear.com.au/pressroom/press_releasesdetail.asp?id=107 for the press release]

Electrical Testing in the Division

After a long lead time, the testing of the Division’s electrical equipment has begun.

The University's electrical contractors, Gungahlin Electrical, has commenced the testing and tagging of electrical equipment in the Division. The Division has agreed to this electrical testing to demonstrate its duty of care in relation to the safety of electrical equipment used by staff and students.

Staff need to be tolerant of the needs of the contractors to test equipment, which will need to be disconnected to be tested.

The contractors are required to test all pieces of electrical equipment they find: whether the property of the University or not. Any piece of electrical equipment in the University needs to be tested, and untested or failed equipment should not be plugged in.

Two TSU staff members are to attend a CIT course this weekend that will give them the authority to do minor testing and repairs so that the operations of the Division can proceed without too much intrusion.

Network Storage for Divisional Students

Client Services Division has begun to enforce 20MByte quotas on student home drives.

Recently Client Services Division has begun to enforce quotas on student home drives. The 20MByte limit on student home drives was always specified, but not enforced until recently.

Students in the Division of Communication and Education, especially journalism, new media and ICT in education students, routinely require more than this amount of space for their work, so the enforcement of the quota has left them without sufficient network storage space.

In the short term TSU has made available space on the Division's servers on an ad hoc basis where requested. This is a manual task and quite labour intensive, and the experience the users have in accessing the space can be confusing.

In the long term the Division will need to increase the amount of storage available to those students with legitimate needs beyond those that can be satisfied with the storage made available through Client Services Division. TSU is currently engaged with an outside contractor to provide some automation to the process, so that additional space can be made available to students in nominated subjects without too much effort on our part, while there is storage space available.

Satellite Dish installation

Update on the installation of the satellite dishes on Building 20.

Installation of the satellite dishes on Building 20 has hit a bit of a snag: Facilities and Services Director Graham McDonald has informed our preferred supplier that there are a number of issues that require approval and checking before the project can go ahead.

These include approval from the Buildings and Site Committee and PALM (or its current successor organisation). As well it is necessary to check the strength of the supporting beams in line with the equipment to be installed. To ensure adequate strength it will be necessary for a Structural Engineer to be given the appropriate information to enable them to carry out the calculations.

We are trying to resolve these issues with the various parties.

Equipment loss

More loan equipment has been damaged.

There has been a significant increase in instances of loss or damage to loan equipment in the Division over the second semester. In the last two weeks, a portable computer has had its screen damaged, and one of our new Sony miniDV video cameras was damaged beyond repair before its second use.

There is still no clear indication of what has happened to the camera, but during its second loan it and the other items in the kit were discovered to be covered in corrosion. Investigations are continuing but no-one seems to be able to tell us what happened to the camera: it appears that something like mineral water was spilled into the camera case sometime before it was opened during its first loan in the new media lab on Friday, 3 October 2003. After being cleaned up and stored with still some of the liquid apparently remaining in the case until the following Wednesday, the camera and its accessories became extremely corroded.

The camera cannot be repaired and is unusable.

IT Loan 2004 Bids

The IT and Infrastructure Committee has reviewed requests for expenditure from the Division’s 2004 IT Loan Account, and has made recommendations to the Executive on priorities for expenditure.

The Divisional IT & Infrastructure Committee gave its initial assessment of bids received from the Division for expenditure from an IT Loan account for 2004. A updated list with ratings will be distributed at the Executive meeting on Friday.

Major features of the bids so far recommended by the IT & Infrastructure Committee include:

  • Upgrade to the ICT in Education student lab to replace failing PCs, and to the teaching lab to allow presentations to be streamed over the Internet;
  • Upgrade to the New Media Lab to bring it more into line with current technologies;
  • Server Upgrades for the Division to ensure higher reliability of the Division's network services;
  • Some production equipment upgrades to ensure compliance with OH&S requirements;
  • Additional data projectors in some of the Division's teaching spaces; and
  • A new photocopier to replace the OcĂ© in Building 1.

IT & Infrastructure Committee will finalise a recommendation to the Executive at the Committee’s next meeting in early November.

30 September 2003

Representatives on the IT and Infrastructure Committee

Representation on the Division’s IT and Infrastructure Committee is important to ensure all Schools get to have a say in the Division’s allocation of its limited resources for equipment and infrastructure.

The IT and Infrastructure Committee reports to Executive on issues relating to the Division's IT needs and infrastructure requirements, and makes recommendations to the Executive on priorities for IT spending.

It has been difficult to find a time for all the representatives on the Committee to attend its monthly meetings. The Acting Chair of the Committee is concerned that the lack of representation on the committee may lead people in the Division to feel that not all voices are being given the opportunity to be heard. The Secretary of the Committee has recently tried to find a time where all current representatives can attend, but it appears there is no common time available.

Schools should seek to ensure their representatives can attend the meetings (currently held at 3pm on the second Wednesday of each month) so that each School can be involved in the process.

Loss of equipment on loan

Restatement of the conditions under which students can borrow University equipment.

Recently there have been several examples of equipment loaned out to students going missing or stolen. Over the past few months the Division has lost a digital still camera purchased for ~$600, a tripod (~$300) for video cameras, and most recently a laptop computer (~$3,500) loaned to a post graduate student that was stolen from their car while the car was parked in a car park, off campus.

Under the terms of the loans, we can seek to recover the replacement cost of the equipment from the borrower. While the student who lost the digital still camera agreed to pay back $400, they have since dropped out of their course and we don't expect to recover any more from them. We are seeking to recover the costs of the other items from the students concerned, and will reinforce the message with the students that they are responsible for the equipment loaned to them and will have to pay for its replacements if it is damaged, lost or stolen.

AUC Conference Papers

Some details of papers presented at Apple University Consortium Digital Voyages conference.

Papers at the AUC Conference covered a range of topics from technical explanations through to theories of online interaction, with many stages between. It has been refreshing to hear and see what other Universities around Australia and beyond are doing, the challenges they face and how they cope.

Quite a few departments are developing solutions (a cynic might say reinventing wheels) to address their particular challenges, some have taken technologies and applied them to solve their problems in new and innovative ways to give them good returns from limited investments.

Notable presentations included:

  • Joe Luca from Edith Cowan University and Daniel Saffioti from the University of Wollongong both demonstrated their own courseware management systems developed to overcome the shortcomings they have encountered with commercial systems like WebCT.
  • Michael Fardon from UWA gave an update on the streaming lecture solution they have been developing for a number of years now. The UC lecture recording system has done some things better than UWA, and at the same time can learn something from what UWA has done.
  • David Cameron from Charles Sturt University gave a presentation on how CSU has used streaming video to give its journalism students a taste of live television production. Our own facility at UC is waiting for us to have the time to install the last bits of the technology we need to do this, and to learn the techniques required to make it happen in practice (and to be able to use the television studio to produce quality presentations for streaming over the Internet).
  • Joe Jackson from Carnegie Mellon University explained how MacOSXlabs.org provides a wide range of resources for IT staff around the world to help them set up and run Macintosh computer labs in Universities that integrate with wider network resources like directory services and other platform resources.

Survivability

The recent explosion in malicious code attacks on Windows has raised the question of whether it is in the interests of an organisation to rely for its computing requirements on a single operating system.

The US Department of Homeland Security is reported to be saying that reliance on a single system for US organisations is a threat to US national security, and advises organisations to adopt IT policies that lead to the computing equivalent of biodiversity.

While our own Division did suffer as a result of the recent attacks, Macintosh users were only inconvenienced to the extent that the email server was overwhelmed with the sheer number of emails generated by infected Windows machines, and the network itself was saturated with traffic from virus emails and worm activity: the Macintosh is immune to the virus and worm code propagated during these recent attacks.

While it is common to hear that the only reason the Macintosh and unix machines don't get targeted with malicious code attacks is because they form an insignificant proportion of computers in use, this isn't so. Unix has been around for 30 years as operating system used for many tasks, including the support of servers containing sensitive information. Any vulnerabilities in the operating system that are identified can be quickly closed by the world wide unix community, and have been over the last 30 years. Many flavours of unix are open source, which means the code is available for the developer community to work on and contribute their solutions back to the operating system source code. Windows is a much younger, proprietary system that only Microsoft can change.

The vulnerabilities exploited by malicious code like the recent SoBig and Blaster attacks are not available for exploitation on the Macintosh: the Macintosh desktop operating system ships with the ports exploited by the malicious code closed, whereas Windows must have them open to operate; installing applications on the Macintosh of the type common with Windows exploitations is not permitted on the Macintosh without the computer's administrator approving the installation and entering their administrator's password (the malicious code doesn't run on the Macintosh or unix machines, but if there were such exploitations on the Macintosh, the administrator would have to approve the installation before the code could be executed - not good practice).

While it is certainly possible to conceive of vulnerabilities in unix being exploited, the likelihood is far less than with Windows: a prudent strategy is to encourage a diversified computing environment that reduces the risk of the organisation being unable to operate when its standard desktop is compromised.

Apple University Consortium Digital Voyages Conference

Report on attendance at Apple University Consortium’s Digital Voyages Conference in Adelaide.

This week the Manager, TSU, attended the AUC's Digital Voyages Conference for Academics and Developers in Adelaide. His attendance at the conference was sponsored by the AUC in return for his running the Final Cut Pro 4 and DVD Studio Pro 2 pre-conference workshop last Sunday.

He comments that, as a filmmaker, he feels that this version 4 of Final Cut Pro is the first digital video editing program that effectively can work without additional proprietary hardware add-ons. The workshop was a very effective demonstration of using a professional video editing product on what are essentially desktop computers.

TSU Network Manager is also at the conference, and attended another of the pre-conference workshops, on Mac OS X Lab Management, as a participant.

One of the recurring themes of the conference is the power of the current Macintosh operating system, OS X (ten, not 'ex'). The fourth major release of this unix-based operating system, OS X 10.3 (codenamed 'Panther'), is due before the end of this calendar year, and it shows great maturity. The Division should seriously consider an active program of adopting the upcoming release as the standard operating system for its Macintosh computers in labs and on desktops.

Representatives on the IT and Infrastructure Committee

Representation on the Division’s IT and Infrastructure Committee is important to ensure all Schools get to have a say in the Division’s allocation of its limited resources for equipment and infrastructure.

The IT and Infrastructure Committee reports to Executive on issues relating to the Division's IT needs and infrastructure requirements, and makes recommendations to the Executive on priorities for IT spending.

It has been difficult to find a time for all the representatives on the Committee to attend its monthly meetings. The Acting Chair of the Committee is concerned that the lack of representation on the committee may lead people in the Division to feel that not all voices are being given the opportunity to be heard. The Secretary of the Committee has recently tried to find a time where all current representatives can attend, but it appears there is no common time available.

Schools should seek to ensure their representatives can attend the meetings (currently held at 3pm on the second Wednesday of each month) so that each School can be involved in the process.

16 September 2003

Reticulation of Satellite and Terrestrial Radio and Television services

After extensive discussions covering many years, the Division is in the final stages of negotiating an agreement with a supplier for the installation of the infrastructure required to receive and reticulate local and international radio and television services.

Based on a user requirements study commissioned last year, five suppliers were short listed, and three were invited to submit proposals. One proposal was received from Ritech Communications for the first stage of the project (which will see a number of satellite dishes erected on Building 20 and the infrastructure required to receive 28 video and audio channels via RF though the existing RF aerial network that was installed when the building was constructed). These services will be made available to the RF networks in place in Building 5 and Building 9 when connections to these buildings can be made: this is a separate project involving the University’s networking contractor, ProTech, in consultation with Client Services Division. How we can get the services to Building 1 will depend on the outcome of these discussions.

Some or all of the services will be available over the IP (computer) network as a result of Stage 2 of the project. In Stage 3, users will be able to request, using a World Wide Web form, the recording of any service available over the IP network. The recording will be available digitally for replay over the computer network when required by users. All three stages are funded under the NILL infrastructure funding, and are expected to be completed by July 2004.

Further enhancements of the system will allow digitally recorded materials to be edited and saved on videocassette or DVD. These facilities will depend on us being able to provide other infrastructure (computer hardware, software, network infrastructure and professional development), some of which should be available through NILL funding. Other requirements, particularly professional development, will need to be resourced separately.

Reorganisation of IT

Update on the reorganisation of IT across the University.

On Wednesday 10 September 2003 Professor Andrew Cheetham, Pro Vice Chancellor Research and Information Management, gave a presentation called ICT@UC : future directions to UC IT staff. The Powerpoint slides from his presentation are available at http://www.canberra.edu.au/cc/cheetham/index.html.

His message to the meeting was essentially that the current structure of "IT" organisation around the University was no longer an option, and a single management structure for "IT" would be implemented in early 2004. No details on how this would work in practice were canvassed: staff were invited to participate in a planning process that would result in a proposal going to VCAC in December 2003.

SMS Consulting has been contracted to develop a draft proposal for the restructure: Les Whittet has made an appointment to meet with me next Wednesday.

Email

Microsoft products, including Windows Server, Exchange Server and desktop operating systems, continue to be vulnerable to exploitation from malicious code.

We continue to have issues with email that relate to the vulnerabilities of Microsoft products, including Windows Server, Exchange Server and desktop operating systems, to exploitation from malicious code.

The latest episode, last Friday, involved over 111,000 spam email messages being relayed through Exchange servers on campus from some outside source, resulting in our Exchange Server being overwhelmed, and blacklisted by several anti-spam services. The issue appears to have been resolved but there is no understanding of what had happened or how it was fixed. The security on the server has been increased to such an extent that there continues to be problems sending legitimate email from some machines. The server is no longer blacklisted.

Student printing

Update on moves to charge undergraduate students a uniform cost for printing and photocopying across campus.

The printer in the ICT in Education student lab has been removed. This printer has been subject to an increasing amount of use over the past year, had been through three toner cartridges in the last month (more than $600 worth of toner), and was in need of repair. In line with the University move to ensure equitable charges for printing for undergraduates across campus, once fixed the printer will be placed in the CRC and connected to the Pharos printer control system.

Students will need to have a credit balance in their printing accounts to be able to print to this printer. Paper and toner will be supplied. Each page will cost them 20c, with 18c going to a Divisional account, the remaining 2c retained by Client Services Division to contribute to the cost of the licence for the Pharos software, and infrastructure costs.

The 18c will go into the CE administration account, from which the paper, toner, installation, maintenance and repair costs would be taken. The cost of replacing the printer would come either from the IT loan account, or from the admin account.

02 September 2003

Community Television

TransACT has approached the University informally about the possibility of the University’s involvement in community television.

George Bray from TransACT has contacted the University regarding the Division’s interest in community television. He will be writing to us with further information on the current TransACT perspective on community television for discussion.

PC virus and worm incidents

More malicious code attacks, their impact on the Division, and what can be done about them.

The increase in virus and worm activity targeting computers running Windows operating systems over the past few weeks has consumed significant amounts of TSU resources. Client Services Division has coordinated a review of the University’s response to these world wide threats, and the bottom line is that the University has not suffered as much as some organisations, that although we didn’t do badly we could be doing better, and that we should be seeing this as a wake-up call. The most significant issue that has come out of the review is that computers attached to the University network must have the appropriate software “patches” to foil attacks, and that the anti-virus software is constantly updated.

Operating system updates

The attacks of the nature we have seen over the last three weeks exploit vulnerabilities in Windows operating systems that have been previously identified and for which Microsoft has provided “patches” before the vulnerabilities are exploited, sometimes more than a year before. The sequence with exploitations is always the same:

  1. a vulnerability is discovered,
  2. a patch is issued, then
  3. someone exploits the vulnerability.

Only unpatched machines suffer directly from the exploitation of the vulnerability, although other users suffer from the attacks with avalanches of emails or saturated networks.

Although Microsoft supports a process ("Windows Update") to maintain Windows operating systems (at least the ones we use in the Division), there are several difficulties with the process:

  • Users have to be involved in the process.
  • Not all updates are required for all computers.
  • Some updates are:
    • Large,
    • take a long time to install, and
    • take up a lot of network bandwidth that has to be paid for.
  • Some updates may not work as planned and render computers unusable.

Client Services Division is investigating an on-campus software update server ('SUS'), and developing a process to ensure Windows operating systems are automatically patched when required with certified updates as tested by the University IT community.

In the meantime, TSU staff are being reactive and patching computers that become comprised by malicious code. This is not an ideal situation, but it is the only way in which we can currently manage with the resources we have at our disposal. It may be prudent to ask staff using PCs to run Windows Update on their machines, and helpdesk will monitor patches as they are released by Microsoft and advise staff to run the update if it is deemed necessary. Updates and patches to student machines in labs (including postgraduate machines) will need to be managed by TSU.

Anti virus software updates

The University is site-licensed for Network Associates' McAfee VirusScan software. PCs should be configured to maintain the software scanning engine itself and the virus definition files on a regular basis. This process should not be turned off.

Access to the University network

Attaching computers with malicious code on them to the University network is the major source of virus and worm attacks. A particular threat is unpatched and unmaintained portable computers that are taken off-campus and attached to the Internet (from home, say), being infected, then returned to the University and plugged back into the network. Guidelines for the Management of Information Technology by Campus Units states:

The responsibility for the integrity and security of the Campus Network ... rests with the Client Services Division eg. no equipment can be connected to the "Campus Backbone" network.... without the authorisation of the Client Services Division...
http://www.canberra.edu.au/uc/policies/it/it-guide.html [accessed 1 September 2003]

In theory this means that Client Services should authorise each instance of, for example, a portable computer being plugged in to the University network. It has been suggested that no such authorisation would be given without the computer being subject to an audit to ensure it is free of malicious code and is fully up-to-date with system software patches, anti-virus software and virus definition files, every time it is proposed to attach the computer to the University network. This would in practice be unworkable.

To prevent Client Services Division from insisting that all computers to be attached to the network are tested to ensure they are fully patched and protected from viruses every time they are to be attached to the network, it is imperative that all such computers are up-to-date. The University is site licensed for all University-owned machines to be patched and maintain the latest anti-virus software and virus definition files: owners are responsible for ensuring any private machines are up-to-date before attaching them to the network. Any machine that is not up-to-date should be either updated immediately or removed from the network until it is.

Who are we?

Development of a policy on naming Divisional network services.

The new main servers in the Division that have replaced the comedu server have names like dcenas, bacillus, spirilium, and comedprn. comedu still works as a web server address (http://comedu.canberra.edu.au/), as does ce, as is http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/. This lack of consistency, along with some of the more esoteric names like bacillus and spirilium, makes tasks like promoting the services a little more complex than they should be.

The Division has decided to settle on one contraction or acronym that describes the Division (ce), and to make it consistent across the services where it can be done. Using ce will give us cenas, ceprint, cemail, http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au (or http://ce.canberra.edu.au/).

19 August 2003

Worm activity

Update on recent malicious code attacks on the University network.

The last fortnight has again seen an increase in computer worm activity throughout the world. The University appears to have come out of the latest attacks relatively unscathed, but there were isolated incidents of infection to computers within the network where security practices were lax (not in this Division this time, I hasten to add).

Client Services Division has pointed to several practices that leave the network open to attack by malicious code. These include:

  • Failure to keep University server and desktop machines up to date with the latest security patches and virus definitions.
  • Use of private unpatched and unprotected computers on the University network, particularly when users have accessed non-University email accounts from servers that don't screen for malicious code.
  • Connecting to the university network via modem, bypassing the protection the University has in place.

Our practice in the Division is to ensure malicious code in emails and attachments is trapped by the email server, and each desktop machine is set up to maintain its anti-virus software with the latest definition files to ensure files from sources other than email are virus-free. TSU is investigating configuring desktop machines in the future so that the machines automatically receive the latest software patches to improve their immunity from attack, but this approach will require some consideration to make sure users are not unduly inconvenienced by the changes.

The Division's servers are patched regularly to retain a high level of protection. Users are not permitted to connect servers to the University network.
Users who attach private computers to the university network must ensure that their computers are virus-free and protected against attack. Users who are found to introduce malicious code to the university network will not be permitted to attach their computers to the network.

Users are not permitted to dial in to the University network via modems attached to the University telephone system.

Collaborative Environments

Progress report on the move to a campus-wide email and collaborative services environment.

The University has decided that there should be one campus-wide email system in place. With our recent move to Exchange, it is unlikely that the Division will have the resources to again change its email environment in the near future.

The Division will be pleased to move to a University-wide system if it went beyond email and included a set of tools that included email, calendars, discussion lists, forums, instant messaging document sharing, management and archiving, and collaborative authoring: a Collaborative Environment. Such environments can also include integrated voice mail, electronic despatch and receipt of faxes, and video (and audio) conferencing over the Web.

A Working Party to select a University-wide Collaborative Environment has now been established and will report to the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC). The Working Party is currently developing a proposal for UIMSC endorsement that is firmly based in the University's Strategic Plan, and includes opportunities for broad consultation throughout the University community. There is a particular emphasis on the needs for consultation throughout the process, including opportunities for training for staff as the new systems are introduced.

Outlook Training

Update on Outlook trainer.

Tom Townsend has joined the Technical Services Unit team part time for a few months to help out staff experiencing difficulties with the Outlook email client, as requested by Executive earlier.

There is a booking form on the Web for staff to request half an hour of Tom’s time to help them out. Staff in the Division will be notified of the existence of the service later this week, by the time Executive meets.

SLIE-DOMAIN Demise

The transition from SLIE-DOMAIN to UCSTAFF is now complete.

The Division has now moved authentication away from the old SLIE-DOMAIN to UCSTAFF. The new domain is managed by Client Services Division in Active Directory, and should in theory reduce the administrative load on the Division's IT staff. Information in the Active Directory is drawn each night from the Staff Directory, which means that the Division no longer has to duplicate data entries on new and leaving staff, or details changes. So long as the Switchboard is notified of arrivals, departures and changes in staff details, these should be reflected the following day in the new authentication system.

It also means another step towards single user names and passwords for staff throughout the Division.

The demise of SLIE-DOMAIN also reduces by two the number of servers required in the Division, down to about 20 (depending on what you count as a server).

Now that the move to the server hardware bought in 2001 is complete, attention is turning to further rationalisation of the servers we have. Each server has to be managed to ensure that it is fully up-to-date: with all known security and operational "patches" and updates installed to keep our place as good corporate citizens and maintain a high level of availability to our Divisional clients.

Student Email Outage

Information on a recent outage to student email services on campus.

Due to a power outage in the Building 10 Computer Room, a number of services were lost on Friday night 25 August 2003.

When the power was restored, the server providing student email services failed, and had to be restored from backup tapes. The restoration was completed on Tuesday morning 19 August 2003 at around 9.00am.

This provides another example of the impact of the lack of redundancy in the University's IT systems.

NowUC Website

The UCOnline Manager has raised concerns with the design of the NowUC website.

The UCOnline Manager has raised concerns with the design of the NowUC website. She believes the design of the site is not up to UC corporate standards, and has some concerns about the site's accessibility and usability.

05 August 2003

Web analysis tools

With increasing use of websites to communicate, it is also necessary to be able to track how effective the websites are. Simple visitor statistics can provide some insight into how websites are being used.

UCOnline has been asked to investigate the acquisition of enterprise web analysis tools, to analyse the structure and use of the University’s web sites. Such a system will allow us to provide statistics on visitors to the various pages around the campus, usage patterns and so on. With proper interpretation, suitable tools will allow use to provide a better service to users of the websites, identify broken links and orphan pages (those with no links to them), and other structural and usage issues.

An enterprise-wide system is likely to cost the University $20,000 to $50,000, with annual maintenance costs of between $2,000 and $20,000. Webtrends [ http://www.netiq.com/webtrends/ ] is an example of the type of software used commercially for this purpose.

Use of University equipment and off-campus loans

Policy on the conditions under which University equipment can be taken off campus.

TSU staff have been reminded of the University’s policies in relation to the use of University equipment, and the conditions under which equipment can be taken off campus, so they can be confident when approached in relation to the use of the Division’s resources of the conditions under which the resources can be used or loaned.

Network Access Policy

A link to the University’s Network Access Policy.

The issue of the University's Network Access Policy was raised at the last Executive. The Policy can be viewed online at http://www.canberra.edu.au/uc/policies/it/nap.html

Outlook Trainer

Executive has requested a trainer to help staff transition to using new email clients for use with the Exchange server.

The Division has organised a part-time trainer who will be available in about two weeks to help staff with Outlook. A bookings system will be available for staff to book time for the trainer to come around and help staff on an individual basis with Outlook and the new email system. The booking system will be available online at an address to be circulated in an email when details of his availability are confirmed.

Demise and resurrection of comedu (the server)

The slie-domain server, comedu, which has served the Division so well since its inception, has been decommissioned.

The migration of the Division's network services (email, web and file storage) from the old School of Languages and International Education server to new servers that were purchased over two years ago is now complete. The old server was disconnected on Monday, and it appears to have been a successful migration, with some issues (now fixed) with emails to old comedu.canberra.edu.au addresses from off-campus senders being bounced until the new email server could be fine tuned to accept these old addresses.

Staff should be reminded that they should use firstName.surname@canberra.edu.au email addresses, as the University will support this form of the email address in the future. Whether comedu addresses will be supported under the proposed campus-wide email and collaborative services system is unclear at this time.

All the Division's main web services are now on bacillus, the file storage on dcenas, and email and collaborative services on spirilium. Client Services Division will take back the old server as a development environment for Sun-based services.

Email addresses and departing staff

With email becoming such an important service for people, what happens with UC email addresses when a staff member leaves?

TSU has received a number of requests from departing staff to keep their email accounts active, sometimes for a considerable length of time after they leave.

The changeover to the new email system has brought us a step closer to an integrated, campus-wide collaborative environment, particularly in relation to integrating the Division's email system into the University's official system for identifying staff: the Staff Directory.

This is good for us in that it means there is much less duplication of effort required to keep information about staff current. It will be much easier to manage information about which staff belong to each School or unit for discussion or mailing lists for example: this is handled by using the Staff Directory.

One downside is the new system highlights the administrative effort required to manage the inclusion of non-University staff on discussion or mailing lists, or to manage email accounts for people not in the Staff Directory.

Section 4 of the University's Code of Professional Ethics states that:

University information systems, including software and computer equipment, may be used only by staff or students of the University within the established University guidelines, and only with the approval of a duly authorised University officer. [http://www.canberra.edu.au/secretariat/codethic.html accessed 31 August 2003]

While we will continue to provide email services for a reasonable time (around a month) to staff departing, we cannot continue this support indefinitely. Client Services Division is taking over responsibility for hosting discussion and mailing lists that include significant numbers of non-University addresses.

Radio and Television Reception and Reticulation

Progress on the installation of satellite dishes on Building 20.

A Request for Proposal for the reception and reticulation of radio and television services around the Division has been sent to two potential suppliers. Their responses are due at the end of August, and it is hoped to have the system in operation by the end of January 2004.

Network outage

Explanation for the recent difficulties experienced with the Division’s NAS.

Sometime before 11am on Friday, 1 August 2003, the Division's Network Attached Storage device (dcenas) began to exhibit behaviour akin to that of sahara in some recent episodes where students, Corporate Services Division staff and Client Services Division staff were unable to access their profiles and home drives. Sahara is Client Services Division’s Network Attached Storage device and is similar to dcenas.

Examination of dcenas showed that the system was extremely busy doing something that can't be identified. All other requests to the system (for information about profiles, access to documents and so on) were being suspended or refused until it appeared that the server was not responding at all.

Because of their recent experience, Client Services Division were informed and three staff arrived to examine the problem. They were unable to determine the cause of the behaviour, so the server was restarted at around 12.30pm. It has been operating normally since then and full service was restored to the Division.

They gave us some clues as to what they have done, which seems to have stabilised sahara over the last couple of months. We will implement some of these suggested changes to the dcenas environment next week and continue to monitor the situation.

Demise of ICT Productivity Group

Structural changes in IT Management.

With the advent of the new PVC Research and Information Management, the University’s IT committee structure is being revamped. Policy responsibilities will be taken over by the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC), which will have a strategic focus, and operational issues by the Network and IT Services Co-ordination Committee (NITSC). It is unclear what impact this will have on the Student Printing project.

Student Printing

Recent proposals to charge undergraduate students a uniform amount for printing and photocopyng across the campus has caused some concern.

Postgraduate students in the Division have raised concerns about proposals to charge students for printing. VCAC has asked the ICT Productivity Group to investigate the issue, particularly in relation to implementing uniform charges across the campus.

At this stage there is no intention of charging PG students for printing in their labs. Undergraduate students are charged for printing in some cases but not others. This is considered inequitable and VCAC has asked the ICT Productivity Group to manage the introduction of equitable charging across the University. The current charge is 20 cents per A4 page.

There is a suggestion that students be given an allowance to cover some printing costs, in much the same way as Internet access charges are levied.

22 July 2003

Campus email

Update on campus-wide email and collaborative services.

VCAC Resolution No. VCAC 2002/16/02 endorsed the concept of an enterprise e-mail system for the University. Deputy directors and IT managers of the academic divisions have asked the Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor to endorse the use of Microsoft Exchange as an interim standard server for email for staff across the campus until a thorough review of collaborative services (email, calendaring, discussion and announcement lists, chat, document sharing and like services) can be undertaken and recommendations made for a University-wide, open standards based, collaborative services solution.

The good news for the Division is that Exchange is the system we have implemented here. Not so good news for some people, such as those using Eudora, for example. To take full advantage of the services offered by Exchange, staff need to use Microsoft Outlook as their email client (Exchange is the server, or "back-end" software, Outlook is the user's client software: the application the user uses to access their email). Not all staff are happy with using Outlook, but although it has some shortcomings the use of Outlook (or Entourage on the Macintosh) throughout the Division will allow the Division to take greater advantage of the collaborative services offered by Exchange: particularly group calendaring. It also makes any future migration more manageable: unlike our recent move. Should the University endorse the proposal to use Exchange as an interim solution, Exchange will then replace the Netscape Calendar across campus as a means of organising meetings with colleagues, including those from other Divisions.

In the longer term, the goal is an open standards based approach which should allow users greater flexibility in the software they choose to use to access the various collaborative services, like email.

Access to Home (“H”) drives from Category A Spaces

Recent changes to the University network mean staff should now be able to access their home drives from computers installed in Category A teaching spaces.
Client Services Division has advised that staff can again access their Home drives from category A spaces around the campus, as we requested. Staff can now log on to computers in A spaces just as they do in their offices (if they use a PC) and their Home directory ("H" drive) will be available. The change also affects PCs in the Building 10 labs.

Those using Macintosh computers on their desks can access the "H" drive on their desktops via an alias that would have been installed when their email was changed over to the new Exchange system. The alias has a name like "sXXXXXX" where XXXXXX is their staff number. Note this is exactly the same as a PC user's "H" or Home drive, so a user with a Macintosh on their desk can put documents in their Home drive in their office, go to a Category A space and log on to the PC there and their documents will appear in the "H" drive on the Category A space PC. People using this facility will have to ensure that they use PC document naming conventions (for example, making sure PowerPoint document names end in ".ppt") so that the documents work properly with their parent applications on the PC.

Some users may find that it takes an inordinate amount of time for the computer to log on. If this happens, the user should let the Division's helpdesk know and they can work with the user to reduce the amount of time it takes the computer to log on in future.

Staff should be reminded that they should take special care to log off the computer so that there can be no unauthorised access to their documents once they leave the Category A space.

TSU Support for Research

Advice for budgeting for research proposals.

Members of staff considering developing research proposals that require TSU support should discuss the proposals with the TSU before finalising proposals. Any equipment, software, development, TSU staff time or other resources beyond the normal desktop and lab installations should be costed into the proposal.

NewsBoss Workshop

Report of a recent workshop on the NewsBoss software installed in the radio journalism lab, attended by Professional Communication and TSU staff.

Professional Communication and TSU staff recently attended a NewsBoss workshop in the radio journalism lab. Desktop Technologies, an Australian company that developed the software, ran the workshop.

The workshop was a real eye-opener in terms of the capability of the software, and its potential for use in radio, print and television journalism. The Division has invested heavily in the software and equipment in the lab to support it: having attended the workshop there are now opportunities to increase the Division's return on this investment by better management of the resources.

It is possible to use the system to manage making stories available on NowUC. Once an appropriate approval process is established, the stories created on the system can be directly uploaded to the NowUC website by anyone with the appropriate authority. Stories can include audio grabs, and possibly video as well.

An upcoming release of the software due later this year will further increase our ability to provide services to journalism students. Should the new release live up to expectations, next year it will be possible for journalism students to interact with the system from anywhere on the Internet through a browser. We are still exploring the licensing implications of this approach (that is, how much extra it will cost us), but indications are that the increased cost will be minimal or non-existent.

When the new version of the software has arrived and has been thoroughly tested, TSU will move the NewsBoss server to the server facility in 9B7: to provide better security, to increase capacity and to manage the server better. It should also be possible to combine the functions of both the NewsBoss and the Journalism server, reducing the number of our servers by one. We expect the move to happen in time for Semester 1, 2004.

During second semester this year it should also be possible to increase the number of computers around the Division capable of editing audio for NewsBoss. There are several possible approaches to this, and TSU is exploring introducing some or all of them in time for the expected load later this semester. Access to resources to edit audio for assignments was a particular challenge for students in Semester 1, and caused some difficulties for students and staff.

NewsBoss can also be used to manage and deliver news for the television journalism students in Semester 2. By using the same system for both (something a number of organisations around the world involved in both television and radio do, apparently) we can reduce complexity, provide a better service and reduce the students' needs to learn new applications.

08 July 2003

SMPTE

Report on a visit to SMPTE 2003: the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) sponsored conference and exhibition targeted at the motion imaging industry.

Last week the Australian Section of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) sponsored SMPTE 2003: a conference and exhibition targeted at the motion imaging industry.

Three members of the TSU travelled to Sydney to visit the exhibition at the Darling Harbour exhibition centre. Of particular interest to us was the current offerings of miniDV digital video camera, lighting and portable location equipment for video production, and display technologies.

The exhibition was an important opportunity to keep up to date on the products and services available for media and multimedia production.

WWDC 2003

Report on the Manager, TSU’s attendance at Apple’s World Wide Developers’ Conference in San Francisco.

The Manager, TSU, recently returned from San Francisco where he attended Apple Computer's World Wide Developers' Conference. WWDC is held every year, usually in May in San Jose, but this year the Conference was delayed a month (and moved to San Francisco) to accommodate some announcements on the next generation hardware and the upcoming release of the next version of the Macintosh operating system, code named Panther.

Apple and IBM have collaborated on a new IBM chip to be at the heart of new Macintosh computers, the G5. This 64-bit chip is a new generation of microprocessor and promises significant increases in the power of the Macintosh at similar costs to the existing G4-based computers. The new computers are expected to be available in August.

The next revision of the Macintosh operating system, Panther, is due by the end of this year. Beta versions of the desktop and server versions of Panther were distributed to attendees at the conference, and the features of the new release were demonstrated in a number of the conference sessions. There are a number of features in the new release which will make it easier for us to use this next version on the Macintosh computers in the Division.

At the Conference Apple also announced its approach to videoconferencing with the release of a beta version of an audio and video enabled chat application, iChat AV, and a new videoconferencing camera, the iSight. One of the highlights of the keynote address was the announcement that every attendee would receive a free iSight after the session.

While in typical Apple fashion iChat AV and iSight are ground-breaking and attractive, they support emerging, open-standards-based protocols rather than the proprietary "standards" used today by existing videoconferencing products based on H.323 standards. Having said that, it is likely that third party developers can adapt the new camera to fit into the H.323 environment, and indeed there are already a number of products around integrating the Macintosh into the "old" standards.

Virus management

Recent virus and malicious code attacks on the University’s IT infrastructure have demonstrated some of the risks that need to be more effectively managed at the Division and the University level.

There has been a large increase in the volume of email containing viruses over the last two weeks. While the mail servers in the Division have antivirus software installed, as should the desktop computers around the Division, some viruses have slipped through and infected a number of our PCs. Thankfully, none of the viruses have any impact on the Macintosh computers.

It is important to remind staff that they need to be vigilant about viruses and other malicious code that may compromise the University network and systems. Email attachments from unknown or unexpected sources should NOT be opened unless the recipient is satisfied that the attachment is benign. If you receive an email with a suspicious attachment, even from someone you know, it may be prudent to contact the sender asking them if they in fact meant to send you an attachment. Some recent viruses masquerade as movies or resumes, apparently sent from people who have your address in their address book.

For more hints on avoiding viruses, see http://us.mcafee.com/virusInfo/default.asp?id=tips

Demise of SLIE-DOMAIN

With the move to Windows 2000, the old NT domain, SLIE-DOMAIN, will disappear, to be replaced by the UCSTAFF domain.

Following the migration of the email to the Exchange server, the domain known as SLIE-DOMAIN will be taken down. This will mainly affect those people around the Division managing web sites: web sites from comedu have all been transferred to the Division's new web server (known as bacillus), and some configurations will need to be changed on computers used by people updating web sites to accommodate the move. Help desk will contact staff affected by the change and make the necessary adjustments.

Again, as with the transfer of the mail server, staff will be advised to contact the help desk if they are affected by the change.

Email Migration

Update on the status of the Division’s move to Microsoft Exchange for email, discussion lists and announcements.

Staff email migration to the Exchange server, known as spirilium, is now complete. Discussion lists, group and announcement email addresses are now being assessed and migrated. This will be completed by the end of July.

There have been some issues with the migration, primarily to do with managing change. With the new Exchange environment come opportunities for collaborative services beyond email (group calendaring and collaborative work on documents, for example), but not with old email clients like Eudora, Outlook Express or Netscape email. TSU is encouraging clients to use Microsoft Outlook (not Outlook Express) so that they may take greater advantage of the new environment, and make the maintenance load on the help desk a little less.

There have also been some issues with migrating existing email to the new system. Help desk staff are working with users to solve these issues as they come up.

The mail server on comedu will be turned off once all these services are transferred. Existing comedu addresses will be redirected to new accounts on the Exchange server.

Staff will be advised when the server is about to be turned off, and asked to report to the help desk any issues they find once the server is no longer operating.

Network outages

The recent outages to the network were caused by building work in the Library.

Recently over the weekend 27-29 June 2003 the electrical switchboard in the Library was replaced, during which time the network was unavailable in the Division. The network comes in to the University in Building 10, goes through the Library to Building 5, then to 20 and finally Building 9, where the Division's servers and other network resources are housed.

No power in Building 8 meant the network routers and switches were down, and so there was no network communication to or from the Division.

When the power was restored to the equipment in Building 8, there was a failure in one of the vital pieces of equipment, which meant our network was down until a part could be replaced on Tuesday 1 July.

While the network was down, staff were unable to send or receive email; had no access to central file storage; and by and large could not print. There was no access to any of the Division's web servers from on or off campus, so for four days no-one had access to information about the Division and its services.

With the network becoming an increasingly important service to the Division, such outages need to be avoided if at all possible. To minimise outages, there needs to be a more professional approach to the management of the University's network, with better network planning and the building of redundancies or alternative routes into the system.

Web servers required to be available reliably around the clock should be placed (in a network sense) as close as possible to the University's connections to the Internet so that, among other things, the availability of the Web pages is unaffected by outages within the University's internal network.

Contingency planning should be undertaken to allow for the Network to be broken in one place, but services continued through alternative routing. Completing the loop between Building 9 and Building 1 may be required to help provide for alternative routes.

Centralised services would not have helped in this instance: the Division would have been unable to see the services with the Library routers down. As it was, centralised services like DHCP and WebCT were also unavailable during the outage.

29 May 2003

Creative Canberra seminar

A National Office of the Information Economy initiative to use new communications technologies to support the creative Canberra Community.

On Wednesday 28 May 2003 the Manager, TSU, attended a workshop hosted by NOIE (the National Office of the Information Economy) on Canberra community cooperation and involvement in broadband initiatives. A key focus for the project, coordinated by Karin Geiselhart, is the CreativeCanberra website. Apparently the website was developed as a student project by students from the University of Canberra in conjunction with Grey Interactive.
The project is described on the site as

"an action research experiment to encourage collaboration between the educational and cultural sectors. Another aim is to showcase 'home grown' digital content for Canberra's creative sector. The aim is a learning community and online content that reflects Canberra's vibrant social and cultural environment." (http://creativecanberra.net/ accessed 29 May 2003)

One of the main discussion points at the workshop was the development of a community television initiative through the TransACT network.
There were also opportunities for media, journalism and PR and Marketing students to become involved in community projects, especially through ArtSound FM radio. Representatives of organisations interested in involving students in their activities will contact the relevant UC staff.

Display names on Emails

A hiccup with the way names are displayed on emails from Exchange will be sorted as soon as possible.

The new email system relies on data from the Staff Directory for creating and maintaining accounts, including the display name on emails (the “from” field). The automatic process that manages this system has had a few teething problems, including the display of people’s full names rather than their preferred names in their email addresses.

Client Services Division now accepts this is an issue and is allocating resources to fix it by replacing full names with preferred names. This should now be in place.

Email Migration

Changes brought about by the move from the old email server to Exchange are proving difficult for some people to adapt to.

There is concern being expressed by some staff in the Division in relation to not being consulted on the migration of email to the Exchange server. This process has been planned for over two years, and the infrastructure was in place when the present Manager arrived in 2001. There have been progress reports through the IT & Infrastructure Committee and Executive over that time: some School representatives on the IT & Infrastructure Committee may need to take a more active role in representing their Schools.

Journalism support

Changes to the way Journalism is being taught are having an impact on the Division’s limited technical support resources.

Increasing use of technology in Journalism courses, larger numbers, changes in technical and teaching staff, and overlaps in assignments have all increased the pressure on Divisional resources (people, space and technology) this semester to unacceptable levels. Journalism, Sports Journalism and the TSU need to discuss the issues and agree on changes to the current arrangements to make more effective use of the limited resources available. Additional technical staff will be required to service the demand if current requirements continue.

Student Access to Divisional Labs

Recent issues relating to student access to the Division’s labs.

Under current arrangements, Media and Journalism student labs in the Division may be available to students enrolled in some subjects during teaching weeks from 8am to 10 pm, Monday to Thursday, and from 8 am to 6.30 pm Fridays. Prior approval to work in labs after 6pm must be obtained, and a list of student names and numbers is faxed to security before 4pm each day. This arrangement relies on Security supporting the arrangements by unlocking and locking labs as required.

On 20 May 2003, students using the NewsBoss lab delaying security for 15 minutes by refusing to leave the room at 10.15 pm. Security has informed us that it will withdraw the service of opening and locking the rooms after hours if this happens again (this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened). The Division does not have the resources to offer this service after hours, and without the support of Security we will be forced to restrict the hours of access to these labs to 9 am to 5 pm.

13 May 2003

Laptop computer policy

Executive has decided to put a moritorium on the replacement of desktop computers with portables until the University Information Systems Management Committee has considered the issue.

At its meeting on 16 May 2003, the Executive discussed providing staff with portable computers instead of desktops.

After discussing the possible Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) impact of using portable computers, the costs involved, network connection, TSU workload and support, Executive decided to take the whole issue to the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC). The Division would again consider providing portable computers to staff in place of desktops once UIMSC had considered the matter. No more portables would be provided to staff in the mean time.

Executive noted that portable computers are available for short-term loan from the Curriculum Resources Centre (CRC).

Update 29 July 2005: The Division’s new laptop policy has come into effect.

Apple Computer’s World Wide Developer Conference

Manager, TSU, is off to Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco courtesy of the Apple University Consortium.

TSU Manager James Steele has been successful in an application for a scholarship to attend Apple Computer's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). The scholarship covers airfares, conference fees, and accommodation up to a total of $5,000.

This year WWDC is being held in San Francisco from 22 to 27 June (22 June is a workshop day). In the past up to 6,000 programmers, IT managers, system administrators, content creators and Apple employees from around the world have been at the event, although this year the Conference will probably be somewhat smaller.

Of particular interest to the Manager is the QuickTime Media track, for people who create media, or produce or deliver content. He will also be following the Enterprise IT track designed specifically for enterprise developers, system administrators, and IT managers. These sessions provide in-depth information and expert guidance on developing, deploying, and managing enterprise applications.

More details on the conference can be found at http://developer.apple.com/wwdc/

Access to the Division’s Media and IT resources

Rules for borrowing equipment bought for Media, Journalism and Education subjects requiring students.

The TSU and now the CRC often receive requests from students and staff to borrow the equipment the Division has purchased to service the needs of the Media, Journalism and Education subjects requiring students have access to such equipment. This equipment is normally only available for loan to students for the purposes of completing assessments in subjects where the Media Facilities Users Group (MFUG) has agreed that the equipment will be available. Divisional staff and students may be able to borrow equipment for University business or for assessable work if students in approved subjects do not require the equipment.

Equipment, resources and facilities are not available to staff or students outside the Division.

Postgraduate students should negotiate their resource requirements, including access to media equipment and facilities, IT facilities, and TSU staff, with the Division before the Division takes them on as students. The Manager, TSU, needs to agree to provide Divisional media equipment and facilities, IT facilities, and access to TSU staff beyond the usual desktop equipment, applications and support.

Of course, requirements change over time, and it is entirely appropriate for the Division to reconsider a postgraduate student's resource requirements during their course.

Central Help Desk Proposal

Little progress on a proposal for centralising helpdesks across campus.

With BLIS deciding to go its own way on help desk software, and the lack of a suitable proposal to fit the needs of the Division of Communication and Education, the prospect for a centralised helpdesk seems to be receding. TSU is therefore looking at improving its own helpdesk software.

ICT Productivity Group

Progress report from the ICT Productivity Group relating to student printing and photocopying; coordinated purchasing of equipment; and a proposed response to the Fuji Xerox report on printing services on campus.

The ICT Productivity Group has made a number of recommendations to VCAC relating to student printing and photocopying; coordinated purchasing of equipment; and a proposed response to the Fuji Xerox report on printing services on campus.

Printing/Photocopying Services for Students

The costs of student printing and photocopying is different in different areas of the university: in some area it is free, while in others students need to have a credit balance in an account before they can print: at a cost of 25c per page. The Group recommends that there be a uniform cost to students across the University by Semester 2, 2003 or as soon as logistically possible.

The Group seeks VCAC endorsement to investigate whether it is possible to reduce charges for student printing; to see what other Universities are charging; and if the charges cover the costs of providing the service. It also seeks endorsement for a proposal to implement a printing quota system (like the current Internet quota system).

Co-ordinated Purchasing of Equipment at UC

The Group has recommended that VCAC endorse its principles for co-ordinated purchasing of equipment at UC. The principles are:

  1. Cheaper prices can be demonstrated and/or access to special offers on maintenance and consumables
  2. Choice of product/system configuration is available
  3. Choice of brand within an agreed list of suppliers is available
  4. Single point for ordering, invoicing and payment processes is in place
  5. Centralise asset management is in place
  6. Delivery of equipment to multiple sites
  7. Service agreement with penalties and bonuses to ensure responsive and timely delivery and follow-up customer service
  8. Integration with University financial systems is a pre-requisite
  9. Right to purchase outside the agreement for specialist needs is preserved, undertaking own ordering within University guidelines for ordering, invoicing and payment processes

The Group also recommends that

  1. VCAC invite Harris Technology to give VCAC and interested parties throughout the University a presentation outlining what is possible with co-ordinated purchasing.
  2. Adrian Westerman be asked to provide a progress report on AVCC plans for co-ordinated purchasing.
  3. Adrian Westerman be asked to initiate appropriate University processes for establishing a preferred supplier agreement and to provide advice on the Corporate Services Division's capacity to staff co-ordinated purchasing.

Fuji Xerox Report

Last year Fuji Xerox did a survey of printing in the University and provided Adrian Westerman with a report on how the University might make better use of its resources in relation to printing. The Group has suggested Mr Westerman respond to Fuji Xerox thanking the company for its report and advising that the University is now developing a document management strategy and a plan to co-ordinate purchasing. Any future role for Fuji Xerox will be explored once the strategies and plans are formulated.

Portable Computers Vs Desktops

Use of portable computers rather than desktops is becoming more common. There are some issues that need to be considered before portables are issued.

Traditionally, the Division has supplied staff with desktop computers. On application some staff with specialist needs for a portable computer have had their desktop computer swapped for a portable. Lately there has been an increase in the number of requests for portable computers in place of desktops, and the following comparisons may help Executive decide whether to make portables more widely available in place of desktops.

The standard configuration for the Division's computers currently is:

  • Dell PC or Apple Macintosh
  • 256MB RAM
  • CD RW Drive*
  • Flat Panel Display

* The Macintosh computers come with Combo drives: they play CDs, CD ROMs and DVDs; and record CD Rs and CD RWs.

The Hard disk size is not really a consideration for desktops since it is expected that desktops will use Network Attached Storage for saving data. 20GB is usually the minimum available, which is generally more than enough for most users in the Division. No floppy or Zip drives are supplied.

Monitor size for Desktops is 15", giving a display usually of 1024x768 pixels.

Monitor sizes for portables are either 12" or 14", although either size can display the screen resolution at 1024x768 pixels.

Prices range from around $2,100 for desktops to $2,600 for portables.

Note that some PC and Macintosh portables are available for short term loan from the CRC for conferences and other uses.

Some points to consider in comparing portables to desktops:

  1. Our experience with users who are using portables is that they often request additional mice, keyboards, monitors, risers and sometimes docks for their office so they can more comfortably use the portable at work. Normally we will also purchase a carry case of some sort to better protect the computer when it is being transported. Each such item increases the cost of the portable over the standard desktop.
  2. The ergonomics of using portables compared with desktop computers may also have OH&S implications that need to be considered.
  3. Connecting computers outside the campus to the campus network is currently the responsibility of the user, so any staff member with a portable (as with any computer they want to use from home or anywhere off-campus) will have to make their own arrangements with a private ISP if they wanted to connect to the Internet from outside the campus.
  4. Portable computers are also by their nature less secure than desktops, although so far none of the Division's portables has gone missing.
  5. Using a portable is also more technically complex for the user, coping for example with online vs offline access to email and web browsing, printer connections, proxy settings and so forth which vary depending on whether the computer is on the university network or not. We have a number of helpdesk requests from users of portables for support for issues of this sort, and given the immediate need these users have for assistance it is often stressful for the staff of the helpdesk to be able to respond in a timely manner.

Update 29 July 2005: The Division’s new laptop policy has come into effect.