18 March 2003

Email spam

Options for dealing with spam are limited.

A number of staff have complained to the Help Desk about the amount and more importantly some of the content of unsolicited email (spam). While it is possible to implement some filtering of emails, spammers are getting more and more sophisticated in designing their emails to circumvent any filters that may be put in place. It is possible that filters may inadvertently delete or redirect valid email messages, and while this remains even a remote possibility the TSU is reluctant to put any server-based filtering in place.

We will however develop some instructions to circulate to the Division explaining how filters may be put in place on individual machines, and will advise staff when installing email client software how to create filters. We will also monitor the resources that are available for blocking spam and report to the Division as new approaches become available.

See also SPAM for information on what to do if you receive an offensive email.

Changed arrangements for loan equipment

Loans of audiovisual, media and portable computer equipment are now being handled by the Curriculum Resources Centre.

The loan of mini-disk recorders, digital video and still cameras, and staff laptops is now being handled by the CRC in Building 5. Permissions to borrow equipment are determined by discussion with the Media Facilities Users Group (contact MFUG through the Coordinator), which advises the CRC on who can borrow what, at what time of the semester and for what period. The CRC has done an excellent job setting up the system and apart from some workload issues the system appears to be working well. TSU Loans Officer still has responsibility for management (including loans) of the equipment used by high-end television and journalism courses.

During the refurbishments in Building 9, the TSU Loans Officer was relocated from his dungeon to the Server Room. While this new location is not ideal, it provides better amenity with regard to the Loans Officer's asset-management responsibilities, and with the relocation of the loans to the CRC the requirement to be located downstairs has been diminished. As a trial, the Loans Officer will remain located upstairs, with attendance in the NewsBoss, Television and Audio studio as required. Bookings for the equipment still managed by the Loans Officer will be made in the New Media Lab, where editing facilities for the projects are booked as well. Phones will be installed outside a number of rooms to facilitate contact with the TSU in the event of access being required out of booked times. Speed dialling on the phones will provide access to the Loans Officer, other Media staff, or the TSU helpdesk, and it is anticipated that the calls will be handled effectively between 8am and 6pm weeks days during teaching periods.

Rollout of replacement desktop computers

Updated computers to satisfy outstanding requirements will be installed over the next few weeks.

Once the initial rush of beginning of semester requests have been dealt with, the focus of the TSU will move to installing updated computers to satisfy outstanding requirements.

Migration to Exchange

The Division is moving to Microsoft Exchange as its email and collaboartive services environment.

TSU continues to transfer existing users to the new Divisional Exchange server. All new staff are given accounts on the new server when the accounts are created.

Use of Divisional Computer Labs

Usage priorities for the Division’s computer labs clarified.

At its recent meeting the IT & Infrastructure Committee was requested to clarify the usage priorities for the Division’s computer labs. The meeting reinforced that Building 2 and 20 labs are primarily for Languages, 2A13 for Information Management, Building 5 for Education, Building 9 for Journalism and New Media. Facilities can be booked for other classes if available.

Given the feedback from the recent ICT survey of staff, and requests to the Timetable Officer, the TSU proposes to install a data projector temporarily in the Building 2 Languages Lab to make the lab more usable. A projector from the CRC’s loan stock, one that is not in much demand, will be put into service as soon as it can be secured in place.

Temporary installation of off-air recording system

An off-air recording system capable of taping programs simultaneously from all the local free-to-air television services has been commissioned.

In order to provide a facility for the off-air recording simultaneously of material from all five local terrestrial free-to-air analogue television services, the TSU installed some new video recording equipment provided from a Divisional Research account temporarily in the video post production area. This facility will be used initially to record television coverage of the Iraqi war, and then will be moved, probably to the storage room behind the Journalism Lab, to provide Professional Communication with a dedicated off-air recording system.

03 March 2003

Beginning of semester paperwork

TSU is looking at streamlining the processes required to provide new staff with access to email and network services.

Beginning of Semester, and particularly of first semester, is a busy time for the TSU with among other things a huge increase in the number of staff joining the Division. The systems in place needed to ensure staff members can access email, computers, the Internet and file storage are complex and interrelated to the wider campus systems in a number of ways. TSU is seeking ways to streamline this process in conjunction with the other divisions, particularly CSD.

Multi Function Devices

The Division’s first Multi Function Device (MFD) goes into service.

Our first multi function device (photocopier, printer and fax) has had its baptism of fire in PACE over the last few weeks. There have been some teething problems and we will be seeking more formal feedback from PACE, and other users of the MFD, in an effort to make it a more efficient service to users.

Equipment loans

Arrangements for staff and students requiring media equipment for course work have changed.

In the past, digital still cameras, VHS camera, digital video camera (miniDVs) and minidisc reorders have been available for loan to students enrolled in certain courses in the Division for project work from the TSU Loans Officer.

This equipment is now available for loan from the Curriculum Resources Centre, on the A level in Building 5. The CRC is open during teaching weeks from 9am until 7pm Monday through Thursday, and 9am to 5pm on Fridays. During non-teaching weeks the CRC is open from 9am until 5pm Monday through Friday.

Who can borrow what equipment when is managed by the Media Facilities Users Group (MFUG).

Equipment bookings can be made, and equipment picked up and delivered whenever the CRC open. Bookings can be made by phone, fax or by emailing the CRC.

NOTE: Video camera equipment used in advanced Journalism and Media courses is still managed through the TSU Loans Officer.

Fines for late return of equipment

With the move of the equipment borrowing from the TSU to the CRC, there is now a fine system in place for students failing to return equipment within the loan period. Fines are typically $12 per day late. Students with outstanding fines over $10.00 will not be able to borrow any further equipment until the fines are paid.


Headphones are not available for loan with any equipment. Students must supply their own headphones for use with minidisc recorders and miniDV cameras if required. Suitable headphones are available for purchase from the Computer Centre Helpdesk in Building 10 for $10 each.

Dreamweaver training

First Dreamweaver course indicates improvements required.

The first introductory course for Dreamweaver users was held recently, organised by Client Services Division through Spherion. Feedback from the attendees of the course was negative, and CSD has undertaken to seek to improve the quality and focus of the other introductory and advanced courses.

Software installation on home computers

Clarification on the policy of installing University-licensed software on home computers.

Recently the University's software licensing agreements with Microsoft covering the University's use of MS system software, Office products, and some other site-licensed software has changed.

Under the terms of the new agreement, certain staff may have the software installed on a home PC that they own or lease for work related purposes only. The agreement specifies that we (in this case TSU) must install the software on staff home computers here at the University (we can't give them disks).

This will place undue pressure on the staff of the TSU if they are required to judge whether a particular staff member qualifies for the program and whether the computer is owned or leased for work related purposes only. Also, with the amount of work they have now such requests would have no priority, and it may take quite some time before staff would be able to get around to doing installations. Given that the TSU has no control over the other installations on the home computer, it leaves staff open to being required to give general support to the user should something go wrong with the computer during or after the installation.

The TSU is therefore not accepting requests to install MS software on home computers. This does not affect University-owned computers that staff members may take off-campus (such as those bought from consultancy funds). These are clearly covered by the Agreement and TSU has no difficulty installing site-licensed products on them.

Postgraduate lab outages

TSU is working with CSD to resolve network problems for postgraduates in Building 9 and Building 5 labs.

Partly as a result of the outages with Sahara, and some knock-on effects with other interrelated Client Services Division (CSD) services, there have been difficulties for postgraduates in Building 9 and Building 5 labs. TSU is working with CSD to resolve these problems as soon as possible.

Sahara outages

CSD’s Sahara Network Attached Storage device has been unreliable over the past month, leading to a number of outages, disruptions to work and some loss of data.

Central file storage for students and some staff is managed through the Client Services Division on a Network Attached Storage device known as Sahara. Sahara has been unreliable over the past month, leading to a number of outages, disruptions to work and some loss of data. Some students in the Division, particularly postgraduate students, have been affected by lack of access to their files. There have been no reports of any lost data in the Division through the difficulties with Sahara, although the impact on postgraduate students being unable to access their files has been significant.

This is a significant issue for the University in a number of ways, especially in relation to "selling" the idea of the efficacy of central file storage and access (as opposed to individuals being responsible for their own data on local hard drives and using portable storage for backup, archiving and file transfer).

The Division's NAS, dcenas, is of the same type as Sahara, and there is concern that we are vulnerable to similar issues with our device. The TSU is monitoring CSD’s progress with Sahara, and we have been promised by CSD Associate Director, Bob Thompson, that the Division will be given a formal debrief on the situation with Sahara once it is finally resolved.

Lecture streaming service

The audio cassette based lecture recording service is being replaced with a live and on-demand streaming service over the University network.

Over the next two semesters Client Services Division will be replacing the audio cassette based lecture recording service with a live and on-demand streaming service of the audio and sometimes video of lectures where this service has been requested. It is expected that the tape-based system will be phased out by the beginning of next year.

ICT Efficiencies Group

The group looking into Efficiencies in Information and Communication Technologies has a number of items on its agenda that will have an impact on the Division's IT management. These include:

  1. Common Helpdesk for the University
  2. Common purchasing of computers, printers and photocopiers
  3. Utilisation of ICT staff across the campus

The group also commissioned a survey of staff attitudes to ICT across the campus, and the raw results show the Division that while by and large we are in good shape there are a number of issues, particularly in relation to the support of teaching, that we need to address.


The database used by the Professional Experience Program in the School of Teacher Education is in the process of being completely rewritten to better serve their needs. A database is also being developed for the Public Relations Internship program in the School of Professional Communication to help track industry offers of Internships and student involvement in the internship program.

Update on Divisional website development

An interim website for the School of Languages and International Education was completed before Christmas. The UCOnline Web Designer has now produced templates for SLIE and some reorganisation of the site will be needed before these can be implemented. Some additional content will have to be written to fit the new template.

With the availability of generic templates in mid February, new sites have been created for the School of Teacher Education's Professional Experience Program, and for the School of Professional Communication's Public Relations Internship Program.

UCOnline Web Designer has also created templates for the School of Information Management and Tourism and the TSU is now working with School staff to fill in the site's contents.

Staff templates

The UCOnline Manager has convened a University-wide group to look at the prospects for developing a template for Staff Profiles on School websites. Under the Staff tab for each School, an index to the staff in each School would be dynamically generated from the telephone directory. The index would contain location, email, voice and fax contact for each member of staff, and a link from the Staff member's name would go to a "business card" page for the staff member. On this "business card" screen, there would be the option of a link to a Staff member's personal home page, should they wish to create one. The information used to create the index and “business card” pages would be automatically generated in the approved graphical look from existing staff directories, so the information will not require separate updating.

Upgraded computer lab

The ICT in Teaching computer lab has been upgraded with 20 new P4 computers, flat panel displays and DVD readers/CD RW drives replacing some aging and problematic PCs. The computers were installed in record time (purchase dependent on the availability of funds from the new IT Loan), and were up and running in time for the start of semester.