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


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


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.