23 November 2004

2004 IT Projects

Major projects funded in 2004 include:

New and replacement computers
245 new and replacement computers were purchased for the Division, including staff desktop, portable and student lab machines, covering replacement for three student labs; replacement of all the existing computers in the ILTC plus 20 new ones; portable computers for loan from the CRC and ILTC. Also 10 new servers were purchased: 7 new ones for the video recording and reticulation system, and 3 replacements for older servers.

Staff desktops for all full-time academic staff in the School of Languages and International Education, and some desktops used by part-time staff in the School, are being refreshed with new computers all capable of receiving, recording, editing and saving to DVD or streaming server, analogue television services from the RF reticulation system (the services available include foreign language services in Spanish, Japanese and Chinese, as well as the local analogue free-to-air channels, SBS World News, and a number of English-language news programs).

Data projection
Seven new data projectors were installed around the Division.

As required by the NILL group, four SmartBoards have been fitted around the Division, and anotherone installed in one of the teaching labs.

Mini Disc recorders
With the change in format of the mini disc recorders during the year, the Division purchased a number of the older format. The older format is compatible with other Divisional equipment, whereas the newer, HD format is not compatible. High maintenance costs with older recorders meant replacing them was sometimes more expensive than purchasing new ones, where stock of the older format was still available.

Digital SLR still camera
The Division's photographic service is now fully digital, with Alan Nicol purchasing a Nikon D70 camera and parts for taking marketing photos and documenting Divisional activities. No more waiting for processing, scanning images and managing bits of film and paper photos: the results are available immediately for print or electronic delivery. Also no more film processingreduces ongoing costs.

Microteaching upgrades
The Microteaching rooms can now be used to videotape presentations, lectures, demonstrations, counselling interviews and a range of other activities using 2 cameras, a computer, and/or the SmartBoard. VHS and miniDV formats for recording and playback to monitor or video projector are both supported; the sound quality has been greatly improved; and lighting will be renewed soon. It is even possible, with some additional hardware (and expertise), to stream the live activities in the rooms over the Internet.

eMeeting Videoconferencing
The hardware and software required to allow videoconferencing between desktop computers has been purchased and will be installed for testing in January. A one-year trial licence of Marratech eMeeting will be available in calendar 2005 to see whether the Division (or the University) can use this approach to teaching.

The limited twelve-month licence we have purchased will allow for one unlimited "auditorium" session at a time, where any number of participants can join in, and 20 "mix-and-match" seats that can be used in any combination to provide say two concurrent 10-seat tutorials, or four 5-seat tutorials, or any other combination up to twenty concurrent participants.

A perpetual licence will cost around $70,000 for the same capacity, with an annual maintenance charge of $12,000 ($82,000 in the first year including the maintenance charge, then $12,000 per year after that for software maintenance and support), should the University wish to continue with the service after 2005.

Participants will be able to video and/or audio conference (if they have a video camera and microphone), text chat, and share a whiteboard or screen shots of applications and presentations with the whole group. While the licence for the server software that allows all this to happen is expensive, the end-user's client is free and can be downloaded from the Internet for Macintosh, UNIX or Windows computers.

Satellite reticulation and recording
The ongoing saga of the satellite system continues, but huge progress has been made: six terrestrial and 11 satellite television services, and three local and four satellite radio services are now available on the RF networks in Buildings 1, 5, 9 and 20, and linked to the CIT. A Video on Demand Server with 10 TB of storage (that should be enough for over 3,000 hours of high quality video, including backup and working files) is installed and being commissioned, and as a trial the First Test between Australia and New Zealand was available streaming live over the University network in full digital splendour if you knew where to look.

MacWorld San Francisco 2005

IT & Media Services Manager is off to San Francisco.

The Apple University Consortium has awarded Manager, IT & Media Services a scholarship for the January 2005 MacWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco. Eight scholarships were awarded to people from Universities throughout Australia, including UNSW, Monash, Curtin, Newcastle, UWA, UQ and ECU. See the Apple University Consortium website for more information.

Callista for Macintosh computers

The new student management system doesn’t necessarily run well on all platforms used on campus...

While the latest release of Callista is now Macintosh compatible, the University has decided not to support it for Macintosh computers because of security concerns. The Technical Services Unit has therefore implemented an alternative, interim, solution where Macintosh users in the Division are provided with secure network access to PCs running Callista so they can do their jobs effectively.

26 October 2004

Admin rights on staff desktop computers

One of the issues to come out of the discussions currently underway on the development of a Common Operating Environment (COE) on staff desktop computers is administrative rights to the computer.

In the Division of Communication and Education our practice has been to give staff administrative access to their computers. While the computers are all installed with the same basic image, giving the user administrative access means they can change settings, install software, manage updates and a number of other functions to adapt their computing environments to better suit their needs.

With a broad range of IT skills and experience in the Division, and the differing requirements between staff, this means there are over 300 machines that can all be configured differently around the Division: complicating maintenance and support.

In other organizations, and elsewhere in the University, IT units control the desktop much more tightly so that users must contact their support staff in order to install software, change settings or install updates. While this reduces the opportunity for end users to render their machines inoperable, and therefore reduces the needs for IT support, it also means end users are restricted by the IT staff in what they can and cannot do on their computers.

One option currently under discussion is to tie the level and type of support an end user gets to an agreement with the user about administrative access to their computer: a higher level of support would be available to users who forgo administrative access to their computers than would be available to users who want to retain their administrative rights.

In order to manage which end users have administrative rights and which don't, each end user would be required to declare their preference when they apply for access to the University network. A draft agreement might look something like the following:

DRAFT Client Agreement: desktop computing facilities

I understand that the University will supply me with a computer of standard hardware and software configuration as determined from time to time by the University.

I accept that, as a condition of using the computer, I will abide by the University's Network Access and Use - Responsibilities and Obligations statement.

I can elect to have either:

  • Administrative access to the computer: I can install software, drivers, applications; alter settings and other configurations of the computer, within the limits set by the University's Network Access and Use - Responsibilities and Obligations statement. I understand that if I choose to have administrative access to the computer, I will not expect the support of the University to look after the computer. If support is required, I understand the University has, at its discretion, the option of returning the computer to its standard configuration before providing support. Support for my computer will receive no priority over support for users who have elected not to have Administrative access to their computers. I acknowledge that the University has the right to keep the computer's virus protection and operating system patches up to date as it sees fit, and will in no way prevent the University’s ability to access the computer through its own administrative account.


  • User access only to the computer: I do not have administrative access to the computer and will rely on [technical staff] to keep my computer up to date and operating under the standard hardware and software configuration. The only files I expect to retain are those saved on my University-supported network drive.

By signing this form I agree to abide by the University's Network Access and Use - Responsibilities and Obligations statement. I acknowledge that my use of the University's facilities is a privilege, not a right, and that if I break the terms of this agreement the University may issue me with a warning, deny me access to computing resources, refer for prosecution, or administer other penalties, depending on the nature of the infringement.



Why we use Flat Panel Displays

The issue of why the Division of Communication at the University of Canberra uses flat panel displays rather that cathode ray tube computer monitors has been raised recently.

For the past three years the Division has purchased flat panel displays exclusively for desktop computers for staff and student labs. They are more expensive (more than twice the cost of the traditional cathode ray tube, or CRT, monitor), unproven in terms of longevity compared with CRTs, don't reproduce colours as well at the high-end graphics CRTs, and lower end flat panel displays can smear video so that it doesn't look as clear as video displayed on a CRT.

Flat panel displays (not to be confused with flat screens, which are flat CRTs) are also called Thin Film Transistor (TFT) displays or more commonly these days Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs).

So why do we buy them? An article by Professor Alan Hedge from Cornell University (Ergonomic Considerations of LCD versus CRT Displays) summarises the arguments for use of the devices by citing research from a number of sources.

As members of the Division's administrative staff will attest, the displays are easier on the eyes and better to use. There is no image flicker, the displays are brighter and sharper, and the image more uniform, than CRTs. Flat panel displays take up less desk space, are lighter, can be positioned more easily and with greater flexibility, use less power and produce no radiation and far less heat (replacing old, large CRTs in Building 9 New Media and Journalism video editing labs has removed the need to provide an additional air conditioning plant to serve the Media lab area).

While the initial investment has been higher, over time the cost to the Division is less, and staff and student satisfaction higher, using flat panel displays rather than CRTs.

12 October 2004

Portable computers

The Division has decided to give staff the opportunity to use a portable or laptop computer in place of their desktop.

While the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC) is yet to complete its Laptop Policy, in its discussions of the matter at its meeting no. 2004/4 held on 15 June 2004, the Committee noted, among other things, that:

The additional equipment required to be issued with laptops are: an additional mouse keyboard; carrying case; monitor and riser (docking station).

A base system portable computer costs the Division between $1,800 and $2,300 depending on the brand, more if extras like a DVD burner or wireless network card are required: to add an additional mouse, keyboard, carrying case, monitor and riser or docking station could conceivably double the cost of the computer.

Next year's IT Loan is already oversubscribed without taking the extra costs for portables into account: desktop computers cost us around $2,000 each, much less than the final cost of a portable if all the items required by UIMSC are to be supplied as well as the basic portable computer. The proposals for replacement and new computers for 2005 submitted to the Division's IT & Infrastructure Committee is based on the cost of a desktop, so we won't be able to buy as many computers if there is a strong demand for portables.

The Executive of the Division has noted the additional costs of portable computers and agreed that new staff of the Division will have a choice of portable or desk-based computers. Continuing staff will eventually have the same choice through a rolling program. The costs for portable computers compared with desktopswill be clarified once the University's laptop policy is finalised by UIMSC.

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

Move to Building 9

After many years of discussions, the Division has successfully swapped space in Building 2 for space in Building 9.

The decision to swap Divisional space in Building 2 with Category A space in Building 9 has some impact on the Technical Services Unit: between 1 and 12 November all the Division's equipment and materials will have to be removed from Building 2 and either disposed of or relocated.

We have no storage space in the Division, so most items no longer in use will have to be dumped: this particularly has an impact on the School of Languages and International Education, by far the greatest user of the space. School staff should ensure, by 1 November, that arrangements are made to keep any items currently in Building 2 to be retained: anything not claimed will be disposed of then.

IELTS testing

Some of the space in Building 2 to be handed back to Facilities and Services has been used for IELTS testing. At this stage there are no plans to replicate the facilities elsewhere in the Division, so alternative arrangements will need to be made for any future IELTS testing.


The Division is unlikely to have the funds in 2005 to replace the Information Management lab computers, which are well beyond their replacement dates. Any classes that were to be using the Information Management lab next year will have to be rescheduled into Building 10 or other Divisional labs.

All other classes currently timetabled in Building 2, apart from the Languages Computer lab which will move to Building 9 in November 2004, will be rescheduled into newly refurbished Category A rooms in Building 2 to be completed over the 2004-2005 summer break. It is also hoped to move any classes currently scheduled into the Category A spaces in Building 9 to refurbished Building 2 spaces, leaving the rooms in Building 9 available for short term bookings until the reorganisation can take place there.

Minor Works

The Division put in an ambit minor works bid to spend $175,000 in 2005 on refurbishments to Building 9, to repurpose the space from 9B14 through to 9B27 to better suit the current and future needs of the Division. It was proposed that a consultant designer be brought in to work with the various stakeholders in the Division and in Facilities and Services, to come up with a detailed costed proposal which would then be implemented.

Facilities and Services has advised that the proposal is not specific enough to be considered by the Buildings and Site Committee, but has agreed to take forward a proposal for the contracting of a consultant designer to work with the Division and, with Facilities and Services, to come up with a costed plan that would then form the basis for a bid in the 2006 round of minor works proposals.

In the meantime, the Building 2 Languages lab will be moved to Building 9, and some refreshing of other areas would be undertaking late this year or early in 2005.

28 September 2004

ICT Governance

Management of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) within the University is being restructured.

PVC Research and Information Management Professor has been having discussions with ICT Managers from ICT Services and the Academic Divisions about the organization of governance for ICT in the University. Currently there is no University-wide entity that looks after these things, the responsibilities having been devolved to the Divisions some time ago. A number of University-wide committees that coordinated activities in this area have come and gone, with no single group responsible for advising the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC), or to coordinate the implementation of any policies that come down from VCAC.

With the current move to centralise ICT Services, PVC R & IM is looking for a structure that will ensure proper governance of ICT services, projects and systems.

Web Content Management System

The University now has a Web Content Management System (CMS) to help keep UC web content current.

PVC Research and Information Management launched the University's new Web Content Management System last Thursday in the Council Room. The first site to go live using the Web CMS is the CELTS site, available at http://www.canberra.edu.au/celts/.

PVC R&IM made some interesting remarks at the launch about the need for Universities to be online for prospective students to do some research on where they might like to go: if you are not online, you don't exist for these cyber-generation students. One member of the Division's staff had such an experience in China in January this year when her Chinese hosts could not find the School of Education and Community Studies on the University's website, even though it was on the staff member's newly-printed business cards.

The University's Web Content Management System was built with the open source software MySource Matrix developed in Australia by Squiz.net. The system will simplify and automate the way web publishing and management takes place at the University: allowing content owners to edit their web pages in a browser-like environment rather than having to learn Dreamweaver or another complicated web-page editing system, or having to rely on others with web-editing skills to make the changes for them.

The Division's "marketing" websites will be transitioned to the system over the next year or so, but the timetable and strategy are still be determined by UCOnline Manager and the ICT Services team (ICT Services will take over the responsibility of hosting sites using the Web Content Management System, and will help with training, coordination and supervision of the sites hosted there).

TSU Team are aware of the future transition to the Web CMS, and, while our role in any changeover is unclear at the moment, any work that has been done on websites recently has been done in the knowledge of the new system coming in, and sites have been designed to transition easily to the Web CMS once this is required by ICT Services.

Resource requirements and the restructure

The change in credit points to standardise on multiples of three has given us the opportunity to review resource requirements for restructured units.

Manager, IT & Media Services met with the Heads of Schools of Professional Communication and Creative Communication to discuss the resource requirements of units in courses being restructured.

In particular, the units of concern were Advanced Broadcast Journalism 1 & 2, Television Production 2 & 3 (all four of which courses are heavy users of media facilities, equipment and technical staff, and all of which are proposed to be changed from 4 to 6 credit points), Communication Dissertation and Creative Project (both of which, at the discretion of the convenor or Head of School, can include substantive media production work).

It was agreed that the Advanced Broadcast Journalism courses both have a 20% increase in assessable items that include production components, and this would have an impact on the facilities, equipment and technical staff involvement with the unit. Students in these units would be expected to spend more time in the studio and lab environments than do those students currently doing the units, placing greater demand on supervising and technical staff.

Television Production courses would not require additional resources for the restructured units, but Creative Project was proving to be an issue that is being looked into by the School of Creative Communication. The unit is expected to be changed to reduce the pressure on equipment, facilities and technical staff, and any requirements for access to these resources would be coordinated with the Media Facilities Users Group, MFUG.

The convenor of the Communication Dissertation unit, where students can choose to do a substantive media production work as their dissertation, must liaise with the Division through MFUG, and get their agreement before the convenor can approve a particular substantive media production work where the facilities, equipment and/or technical staff of the Division are involved.

14 September 2004

Student Access to Multifunction Devices

Students in ICT in Education and the ILTC can now print and photocopy to local devices.

After an inordinate amount of to-ing and fro-ing between the TSU and ICT Services, the new student access multifunction devices (MFDs) in the ICT in Education student lab and the ILTC are now configured to correctly charge students for printing in line with University policy. While the system for charging (Pharos) is an ICT Services service, it appears the Division must administer the system for our printers.

In contrast the Library was most helpful in establishing a system to transfer funds to the Division for the use of the MFDs by students for photocopying using the same photocopy cards the students can buy in the Library or the CRC.

What we support

With limited resources, the Technical Services Unit can’t always satisfy a client’s every wish...

Recently there has been some discussion around the Division about what the TSU supports in relation to desktop and laboratory computers.

All computers purchased conform to a standard hardware configuration (that changes over time as technology changes and prices drop). The current configuration is Pentium 4 or Macintosh G5, 512MB RAM, Combo Drive (reads and writes CDs, reads DVDs), Flat Panel Display.

Staff desktop computers in the Division are imaged with standard environments, with additional software added for some users with specialist requirements where the additional applications are properly licensed (and usually paid for from the cost centre associated with the end user). Staff can install additional software on their computers (they must ensure they have the legal rights to install the software), but the TSU will not be able to support this additional software. Should the computer require re-imaging, the TSU will apply the current image to the computer: all end-user installed software and locally saved data may be lost during this process.

Images for lab computers are developed after consultation with stakeholders around the Division. Images are built from properly licensed software and tested to ensure all the available applications work together properly. Applications already in the image are normally given precedence to new software if there is a conflict. Applications requested may be rejected for any (or all) of a number of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Lack of compatibility;
  • Size and complexity;
  • Cost; and
  • Support issues.

Further information about the Division's policy on software requests and lab images can be found on the TSU website at http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/tsu/soft_requests.htm and http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/tsu/labs.htm.

Acronym soup: SOE and COE

A University project to come up with a more manageable system of providing a stable computing environment is underway.

SOE stands for Standard Operating Environment: a specification for a standard architecture, system software and set of applications to be used on computers throughout an organisation. On the other hand a COE is a Common Operating Environment, which as well as specifying a common IT architecture within an organisation also stresses interoperability and cross-platform capabilities among an organisation's computers and sometimes other devices like organisers, pocket PCs, mobile phones, and so on. Under a COE all the devices in an organisation would run the same software and use the same interfaces so that information is presented consistently throughout the organisation. ICT Services felt that SOE was too prescriptive a term (suggesting an identical outcome for all which was not the intention), so has decided to refer in future to COE.

The COE group in ICT Services has been established to develop and maintain images to set up different groups of computers around the University (for example staff PC and Macintosh desktop computers; student PC and Macintosh lab computers). An image is a complete copy of all the files on a hard disk: when an image containing an operating system is applied to a hard disk, the computer containing the hard disk becomes as exact copy of the computer from which the image was made. Together with other management strategies, the use of images makes it possible to deploy and look after a number of computers much more effectively.

An image is created first by setting up a master computer with all the system software, settings, patches, drivers applications and so on required by the organization. This environment on the master computer has to be checked to see, for example, that it actually works properly, that all the software is licensed, that there are no conflicts between the various applications and drivers, and that it works on the University network. Once a stable functioning environment is achieved, the same environment must then be checked across the whole range of systems it is intended to be deployed to: unless all the computers are exactly identical (same make and model number, identical memory, hard disk [type and capacity], monitor, peripherals, firmware, etc), it is impossible to say that the environment will work across all the computers without testing them first. Often for example several alternative drivers have to be included in the environment to cover a range of different hardware configurations used. Only after the environment has been certified to work on its intended hardware can a final image be made and applied to the target computers.

In the past the process of developing a base image that works has taken between six weeks and three months: and it has to be redone (not necessarily from scratch) each time there is a variation to the environment. There are often conflicts between existing applications and new ones: if these can't be resolved the existing application is usually retained and the new ones refused. Often different end users request alternative applications that do the same job (like web browsers, for example), but when tested the applications don't work together properly: if both are included in the final image it means that some configuration needs to be done manually once the image is applied to an end user's machine (somewhat defeating the purpose of creating the images in the first place). Over the past three years at least it has not been possible to include all the functionality requested by end users due to hard disk capacity alone: the resultant image has been too large to fit on older machines like those in Category A teaching spaces.

The COE group will build on less formal arrangements that have been in place for a number of years around the campus, whereby the computer centre, in consultation with the Academic Divisions, has developed some base images that the Academic Divisions then take and modify to suit their local needs. Sometimes these modifications have created difficulties, for example for staff and students trying to access network storage from computers managed by different Divisions. The COE group will work actively with representatives of the Academic Divisions to develop images at suit everyone as much as possible and try to ensure interoperability across Divisions where required.

Two TSU members are currently working with ICT Services to ensure the needs of the Division are communicated to the COE group and our requirements are met.

31 August 2004

Swipe Card Access to Building 5

Out of hours building access restricted.

Swipe card access to a number of labs around the Division and to Building 5 and 20 failed late on Friday night and was unavailable for most of Saturday after a hard disk containing the information about who could access the various doors on the system ran out of disk space. While most access was restored on Sunday, some users who previously had been added to the system manually lost access. The manager of the Honeywell system that controls the doors is working on the issue.

At the same time it appears that the controller for doors within Building 5 has failed, and needs to be replaced before access to labs can be restored. Honeywell is working on the problem and expects to have the system fixed in a couple of days. In the meantime, the ICT in Education labs will be unlocked at 8.30 am and locked at 5.30 pm. Postgraduate students may need to contact Security to access their rooms if the cards don't work.

Access to Divisional Labs and Equipment

The Divison’s loan equipment and facilities aren’t open to everyone.

From time to time approaches are made to the CRC, or to members of the academic and general staff, for access to the Division's equipment and facilities for purposes other than assessable work in agreed units. As an example, a request was received recently to allow a student access to media production facilities to produce a film to enter into an outside competition.

The Division has acquired these resources to service the needs of the Media, Journalism and Education subjects requiring students have access to such equipment and facilities. Loan equipment is normally only available 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.

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

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. Requests should be made in the first instance to the comedu helpdesk, who will refer requests to the appropriate Divisional staff or Committee for consideration.

Staff considering including access to the Division's loan equipment, lab facilities or other resources in their teaching, or expecting that their students can borrow equipment, should not assume that the resources will be available: demand is high and resources are limited. Requests should first be taken to MFUG for discussion (and approval by the PVC or Deputy Head if necessary) before any commitments can be made.

Staff who want access to media equipment for other purposes can borrow the equipment from the CRC if it is available (provided the equipment is being used for University-related business), but should ensure they know how to use the equipment before they borrow it (CRC staff cannot provide training in the use of the equipment). The Division's ICT Education Officers (see http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/ict/) may be a good place to start for information on how to use the equipment.

Broadcast Flag

New US regulations may restrict flexible use of digital broadcasts.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC: http://www.fcc.gov/) has recently mandated that from July 2005 digital television tuners must listen for and obey a "broadcast flag": a content protection system that will constrain the way a television program can be used. Producers or broadcasters may for example insist that their programs can't be recorded onto DVD, or rebroadcast around an IP network, and the flag will specify this. An Acrobat file of the FCC's original proposal can be downloaded from http://www.eff.org/IP/Video/HDTV/Final_Rule_FCC-03-273A1.pdf

Why is this relevant to us? The Australian Government has mandated that all television services are to be broadcast in both analogue and digital form from 1 January 2004 for a period of at least eight years, after which analogue licences will be revoked and television will be broadcast in digital form only. Under the terms of the recent Free Trade Agreement signed with the US, Australia is expected to comply with US law in relation to the treatment of intellectual property: this may mean Australia will also insist that the broadcast flag is complied with in all equipment sold in Australia. Commercial reality of tuner manufacturers might mean the devices sold here conform to US requirements anyway.

Under the terms of an agreement between the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee (AVCC: http://www.avcc.edu.au/) and Screenrights (http://www.screen.org/), the University pays Screenrights for copying broadcasts (radio, television, cable and satellite) under a statutory licence provided for in Part VA of the Copyright Act. The Digital Agenda Amendments to the Copyright Act, which came into force on 4 March 2001, allow the University to record, transmit, store and make available online broadcasts digitally.

The FCC recognises the rights educational institutions (among others) have to copying materials, and "will administer our flag rules and, in particular, our approval process of output content protection technologies and recording methods to foster the continued availability of content to consumers in accessible formats." (Federal Communications Commission, FCC 03-273, Washington DC, 4 November 2003, p9).

Meanwhile in Geneva the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO: http://www.wipo.int/copyright/en/index.html) is negotiating an international treaty to give broadcasters the right to control who may record, transmit, or distribute their signals. Again arrangements the University has in place through the AVCC and Screenrights should mean that we can continue to offer the distribution service proposed for the television and radio reticulation system currently being developed even if the WIPO proposal becomes a binding agreement in Australia.

The University should be aware of these issues when considering the impact of copyright on teaching.

[Update 17/5/2005] Broadcast Flag Lowered

17 August 2004

Progress on television and radio reticulation

Slowly but surely the reticulation of radio and television services continues around the Division.

All the satellite dishes are now installed on Building 20 and are being commissioned. Most of the television and radio services specified in the Draft List, except for the BBC World Service and the services to be sourced from the Optus B1 satellite, are available in Buildings 1, 5 9 and 20 through the RF network. The network has been formed by joining the old local antennae feeds in Buildings 5, 9 and 20 together, by extending the reach of the networks in these buildings, and by adding a new network in Building 1. The antennae in Buildings 5 and 9 are no longer being used.

Devices like television tuners and VCRs previously using the old antennae networks for tuning local free-to-air analogue television services will need to be re-tuned to receive existing local terrestrial television services and the new radio and television services (the local television services have been moved to new frequencies on the RF network to avoid interference).

As the final few services are added to the system and fine-tuned, devices will have to be again retuned to receive them, so if you don't need to retune now it is probably easier to wait until all the services are completely commissioned: an email will be sent out at the appropriate time with a list of the services available and how to find them.

The next challenge is streaming some of the services, and providing a facility to record and replay programs, over the computer network, and to set up a facility to make DVDs from materials recorded off-air. Planning is well advanced for these services and we expect to get a proposal from our contractors within the next few weeks.

Service Pack 2 for Windows XP

If you are asked to restart Windows XP on your PC...

Microsoft is about to release Service Pack 2 for Windows XP: an upgrade to Windows XP said to make Windows XP more secure. Computers in the Division using the Windows XP operating system (we are progressively moving to Windows XP on staff desktops over the next year) should receive the upgrade automatically following the release which is now expected to happen around 24 August 2004.

Sometime after that date a message may appear asking the user to restart their machine: they should do this. If you are using XP, and no message has appeared by 6 September, choose Windows Update from the Start menu, and check for updates. Install any Critical Updates and Service Packs.

Note that Service Pack 2 applies only to Windows XP users: Windows 2000 and Macintosh users are not affected.

Networked Video Learning Laboratories

Upgraded facilities have been developed for self-service video recording.

The Microteaching rooms, now known as Networked Video Learning Laboratories (NeViLLs), have been upgraded with video projection, SmartBoards and more flexible audio and video capabilities. New furniture, better lighting and drapes are planned for later this year, with new cameras and better computer integration planned for next year if resources are available.

The TSU has provided an information sheet on using the new facilities for videorecording and playback, copies of which have been left in the rooms. The information is available online at http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/tsu/nevills.htm in html format, and can also be downloaded in Acrobat format.


An innovative solution to lack of available lab space...

Five Curriculum Resource Centre portable computers are being upgraded to allow them to connect to the University network wirelessly through an access point to be set up in the CRC. In the absence of the infrastructure necessary to manage wireless connections in the manner determined by the University Information Management Systems Committee, the Division has the University Network Manager's approval in the interim to allow the computers to connect to the network wirelessly provided that the computers and the access point are configured in an agreed manner to minimise risks to the users and the University network.

The computers are to be provided primarily for students in the LOTE unit in the School of Education and Community Studies this semester who were unable to get access to a lab for their classes: the students will use the wireless computers during their class time (two hours per week), with the computers available for loan at other times for other appropriate uses from the CRC.


The beginning of the semester is always a busy time for the Technical Services Unit, with the Division's staff realising what their requirements for the semester are, new staff starting, and the ever-increasing cohort of sessional staff commencing or returning to work.

Heads of School are asked to remind their staff of the need to inform the TSU of any new or changed requirements in good time so that appropriate arrangements can be made in time for the commencement of teaching: there is currently a delay of up to a week before some IT requests can be considered and in some cases can't be addressed for even longer. Last minute urgent requests for additional or changed computers are a particular concern: the Division does not have an unlimited supply of computers, there may be problems with network connections where more computers are proposed to be placed, and specialist software requests are sometimes difficult or impossible to respond to adequately without sufficient notice.

The comedu helpdesk's priorities are to make the computers, IT systems and media equipment of the Division work. Requests for help in using applications and installations should really be addressed (in the first instance at least) by reference to documentation or help files, searches online and colleagues. Staff who need training in application software should discuss their requirements with their supervisors, who should organise suitable training with outside providers if necessary. Academic staff with ICT needs should explore the Division's ICT Education initiative (http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/ict/) to see if they can get help through the project.

04 August 2004

Space Allocation

Increasing demand for space is causing conflicts in the Division.

There appear to be competing demands for the video editing room in Building 9, between the television and audio control rooms. Most recently this space has been used for off-air recording, dubbing, non-linear video editing and DVD production.

The Vice Chancellor has expressed an interest in using the space to accommodate a research project over the next couple of years. Head of School Creative Communication has supported the request.

The off-air recording facility is being moved to the storage room behind the Journalism lab; non-linear video editing and DVD production to staff offices (although audio is proving to be a problem when editing in office environments), and a home for dubbing is still to be found (although this can possibly be accommodated in the television control room when this is rebuilt sometime next year, budget permitting).

At some point in the past the space was set up for autocue practice. The room has not been used for this purpose in three years, and a facility that was being developed to accommodate autocue practice in one of the Microteaching room was abandoned (after six months of development work) when we were informed the facility was not required.

The space is not appropriate for casual access, or for use by many people at once. Autocue practice, if required, should be accommodated in the television studio where it is already set up, or in the NewsBoss lab or Journalism lab (additional autocues will need to be procured).

The demonstrated lack of demand for another space for autocue practice does not provide a compelling case for dedicating the space for the purpose, when the room could be used much more effectively in a variety of ways including support for the VC's research project and other teaching and production purposes.

Multifunction Devices

New Multifunction Devices (MFDs: combined printers, scanners and photocopiers) are being introduced for student use around the Division.

There has been a bit of a delay in commissioning new multifunction devices in the ILTC and the ICT in Education labs due to our reliance on ICT Services for the mechanism used to ensure students are charged appropriately for printing.

The MFDs can't be made available until the printer function of the devices are included in the Pharos printer management system managed by Building 10. Their workload is delaying their timetable for doing the configuration.

Generic Email Addresses Working Party

email is an increasingly important mode of communication within the University: how can we be sure that email is getting through to the right person or people?

The University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC) had set up a Working Party to investigate the use of generic or position-based email addresses as an alternative to publicising or circulating personal email addresses.

Wireless - Progress!

The University has moved a step closer to providing authorised staff and students with authenticated wireless access to the University’s computer network.

The University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC), at a special meeting held on Tuesday, 3 August 2004, endorsed the Wireless Working Party proposal for the staged introduction of a wireless network on the University's Bruce campus to serve staff and students.

Funds are now required for two VPN servers (one for staff and one for students), network infrastructure improvements to support rolling out wireless networks in the Division to support Languages, and base stations to cover areas in Building 5 and Building 20 used for Languages teaching and learning.

Virtual Campus - Progress!

Want to be able to access your H drive through your broadband connection? You can, securely!

The Virtual Campus Vision of the Division is a step closer: thanks to the development by ICT Services of a trial Virtual Private Network (VPN) server facility, staff can now connect to the University network via the Internet and can work with network resources as if they were on campus. The VPN connection is a secure and encrypted 'tunnel' to the University network that provides access to network services like Home Directories and OPUS that are normally blocked to outside users for security reasons.

Funds for two production VPN servers (one for staff and one for student use) are being sought as a part of the NILL Infrastructure grant. The VPN servers are required to implement wireless access to the University network proposed by the Wireless Working Party of the University Information Management Systems Committee. Once in place, the VPN infrastructure can also be used to access the University network securely from anywhere on the Internet using a wired or wireless connection.

Staff with a broadband connection at home (dialup is also possible, but may be unacceptably slow) can 'VPN' into the University network using their usual staff id as your username and proxy password as the password. Once the production servers are in place, detailed instructions will be provide to staff so that they can establish their own connections.

06 July 2004


Traditionally, non-teaching periods are busy for the Technical Services Unit with installations and other activities requiring access to the Division's teaching spaces at times of less demand.

This semester break sees the installation of or upgrades to data and video projection in several of the Division's Category 'B' Teaching spaces..

Two student-accessible multifunction devices are also being installed.

Work on the NeViLLs (formerly known as the Microteaching rooms) goes on, with completion by 19 July promised by the contractors.

TSU is also working to replace AUVA computers on staff and postgraduate student desks, and hope to have most if not all of the desktop machines removed and replaced by the beginning of Semester 2.

There are still three labs with AUVA machines: current plans are to upgrade these labs before the commencement of teaching in 2005.

Progress on the installation of satellite dishes on Building 20

Dishes are finally appearing on Building 20, and there is lots of activity in the “head-end” control room. A lot of the equipment required to receive, decode and retransmit the signals is now installed, with final tuning happening over the next few weeks.

Extensions to the RF network are also in progress, with cabling hooked up in Buildings 1, 5 and 9 (Building 20 was cabled when the building was built). The interconnections among the buildings is installed and final commissioning of the fibre links should be completed this week.

Once the network is in place, aerial outlets throughout the Division will be capable of receiving the 5 terrestrial television services, 14 satellite television services (including services in Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian and French: the Italian and French services are for the benefit of the CIT), and 8 radio services (over television frequencies) planned to be available. See the draft list of the services proposed to be provided.

A cable-ready television, VCR and monitor, PVR (Personal Video Recorder) or television tuner card for a computer will be needed to access the services.

Distribution of some of the services live over the computer network is the next step, followed by a system that will allow any of the services to be recorded onto hard disk centrally and streamed on-demand over the computer network. Suppliers are working on these solutions now and we expect to have something operating by the end of this year.


There is still room for improvement in the Division’s mangement of its IT assets.

A recent audit of the Division's assets revealed that quite a number of computers have been moved around the Division without the appropriate asset movement notification going to the University's asset management unit.

The Technical Services Unit has been conscientious in notifying Assets when computers are moved, but due to pressures of work and other factors not all movements come to its attention.

While the outcome of the recent audit was much better that a similar audit three years ago after the faculties were merged into the Division, there is still room for improvement.

Whenever any University asset is relocated in the Division, the comedu helpdesk must be notified.

Moving Assets off-campus
No University asset is to be removed from the campus unless an Application to Remove University Property off Campus form is completed and properly approved. Approval to remove University assets off campus must be renewed every twelve months if the item is still off campus. Contact the cehelpdesk to arrange for a form before moving an asset off campus.

Web Addresses

There will be a change to web addresses for the Division’s websites when the University’s new Web Content Management System (CMS) is fully operational in 2005.

At its meeting number 2004/4 held on 9 March 2004, VCAC notedthat:

Item 10: Consistent URLs for the University of Canberra

VCAC received and noted a proposal to establish consistent URLs across the University. The committee noted that the branding of UC as http://www.canberra.edu.au is an extremely powerful marketing tool and an important factor in search engine ranking and is lost in URLs where this is broken up. A consistent URL would also assist in the implementation of a Web Content Management System.

In VCAC resolution 2004/4/6, VCAC agreed:

  • that the University adopt a URL standard of the form: http://www.canberra.edu.au/xxxxxx/yyyyyy; and
  • that responsibility for the allocation of all URLs hosted on UC servers should rest with the UC Online Program Manager.

With the Web Content Management System coming on line over the next six months, "marketing" sites in the Division will be transferred to the new system.

UCOnline Guidelines for the generation of URLs for the UC Online website are available online at http://www.canberra.edu.au/aboutuconline/standards/url-guide.html.

What this means to the Division is that current urls will change. Any reference to existing urls in printed materials must be changed at the earliest opportunity, as existing comedu.canberra.edu.au or www.ce.canberra.edu.au urls may not function from the end of 2004.

A draft table showing existing and proposed urls that conform to the VCAC decision and UCOnline guidelines has been produced.

22 June 2004

Support for web browsers older than v5

Older web browsers will no longer be supported on the University website.

In planning for the transition to a Web Content Management System (CMS) to handle the University's "marketing" websites, UCOnline is canvassing the idea of no longer specifically supporting browsers older than version 5 of Netscape and Explorer. This means that "fixes" for display problems (resulting from the failure of the original browser developers to support html standards) will be removed. The University will only include current standards-based html which may not be rendered properly in older browsers.

Executive has endorsed the UCOnline approach to using current standards-based code in the University's websites.

comedu email addresses

The legacy personal comedu email addresses will be phased out in February 2005.

As a way of further reducing spam to staff in the Division, and to prepare for the inevitable move to a University-wide email system, staff with personal comedu email addresses should cease using them immediately or as soon as possible. Staff with comedu email addresses (those who have been with the Division for more than a year) should contact the University Switchboard supervisor by email requesting that any reference to a comedu email address in the staff directory entry managed by the switchboard should be removed.

Once the Switchboard Supervisor has confirmed that there is no comedu email address in a staff member's entry in the staff directory, the staff member should contact the TSU helpdesk to request the comedu account is removed.

Note that for all staff the generic University of Canberra email address should work now, regardless of the existence or otherwise of a comedu address.

A few things to consider:

  • Any business cards or marketing material with personal comedu email addresses should be redone with the required form of the email address.
  • Any web pages with a personal comedu email address listed as a contact address must be changed to the generic form (web pages should have a "Content Custodian" or similar link at the bottom of the page: contact the content custodian to have a personal comedu address changed).
  • If you are subscribed to mailing lists using a personal comedu address, unsubscribe and resubscribe with your generic address.

Personal comedu email addresses will be turned off in February 2005. Generic addresses, group addresses and email lists using the comedu email form will remain for the time being until ICT Services takes over the responsibility for these types of email addresses.

Demise of AppleTalk

AppleTalk will no longer be supported across the campus.

Recent changes to the University network management have meant that AppleTalk, a legacy proprietary Apple networking protocol used by Macintosh computers to locate resources like printers and file shares on the network, is no longer supported and will be turned off within the next few weeks.

For a number of years the Macintosh has supported wider standards to access network resources, so there should be no major issues for users in re-establishing contact with printers and file shares using these alternative means once AppleTalk disappears.

Staff who can no longer print from their Macintosh computer, or access network storage or other network resources, should contact the comedu helpdesk for advice.

Power outage

Lessons to be learned from a recent power outage.

On Friday 11 June 2004 at around 12.40am power failed throughout large areas of the University and the Belconnen Town Centre. Power was restored just after 3am, and there is apparently no explanation for the outage.

All servers in the Division managed by the Technical Services Unit shut down: most are connected to an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and did so gracefully.

When power was restored most of the servers came back up without any problems. Others were restarted manually on Friday morning and all but the Network Attached Storage came back on line.

With some help from BLIS, the computer controlling the NAS was restored, but all the network shares on the NAS itself were lost. Backup of these shares is scheduled nightly, but the last recoverable backup was the previous Monday night, 7 June 2004. A TSU Technical Officer spent many hours over the weekend restoring the shares (he had to do it twice, and each restore takes about twelve hours). By Tuesday morning (Monday was a holiday), most of the services were again available and with fine-tuning all the services were restored by Wednesday.

The TSU is to be congratulated on their efforts to restore the services, and credit to BLIS IT for their support.

We are investigating why the NAS did not shut down properly and restart, and checking the backup regime to see if a better experience can be planned if such an outage happens again.

Desktop computers
A number of power supplies, particularly in AUVA computers, were lost when power was restored. Replacement computers have been provided and a number of extra new computers purchased to cover the losses.

Sharing Digitally-recorded content

Proposals to make available digitally-recorded content across campuses need to address a number of legal and technical issues before plans are implemented.

As a part of the National Institute of Language Learning (NILL) project, the Division is installing a system to record, repurpose, store and reticulate free-to-air radio and television from local terrestrial services and from satellite-delivered services. Some of these services may also be streamed live around the University network, across to the CIT, and possibly beyond into the AARNET and GrangeNet networks. The stored materials will also be available on demand to the CIT and possibly beyond.

Currently-available and proposed bandwidth availability through AARNET and GrangeNet means that technically it is possible to share video and audio files at quite good quality (up to and exceeding the quality available on the TransTV network, for example) to the door of many educational, research and cultural institutions across Australia from Brisbane to Perth.

The issues are the networks within the institutions, and the legality of sharing copyright material across institutions.

Institutional networks
It is planned that the Video on Demand server at UC will be attached to the University network in such a way as to provide high bandwidth from the server to the network. There are issues that are currently restricting the bandwidth to some desktop computers within the University network that are being investigated, but in theory the capacity should exist to transmit high-quality video and audio to the desktop from the Video on Demand server.

Bandwidth is at risk of greater restriction the further the desktop computer is from the UC server: in institutions with poor internal network architecture it may be impossible to view video files or listen to audio files. Internal network issues are the responsibility of the organization concerned, and not UC, AARNET or GrangeNet.

Legal issues
The University currently pays Screenrights for copying and communicating broadcasts (radio, television, cable and satellite) through a Part VA statutory licence under the Digital Agenda amendments to the Copyright Act which came into force in 2001. The agreement with Screenrights is managed through the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee (AVCC).

The Digital Agenda amendments require the University to take "all reasonable steps" to ensure that access to broadcasts made available on-line in reliance on Part VA is restricted to those people entitled to receive access, such as staff and students of the university or of another university with a remuneration notice in place. There may be a cost advantage if material is made available only to those students who need to receive it, for example through password authentication.

TSU is seeking guidance from the University to ensure the proposed system conforms to the requirements of the Screenrights agreement, and under what circumstances we can make the materials available to others outside this institution.

AARNET has also expressed the desire to investigate a sector-wide agreement with Screenrights (which may be covered already by the AVCC arrangement), to ensure all participants in AARNET and GrangeNet can exchange video and audio materials for education and research purposes.


The group promoting a TransACT-supported community television initiative is now calling itself OurTV.

OurTV organisers hosted a meeting on 18 June at TransACT House to further the proposal. About 40 people attended the meeting, representing organizations including TransACT itself, the Community Television Association of Australia (CTVAA), AARNET, GrangeNet, the Sydney community television community (with representatives from Community Television Sydney (CTS) and Television Sydney (TVS)), Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM), Canberra filmmakers, distributors and independent producers, Australian College of Entertainment, ACT DET, CIT, ANU and the University of Canberra. There were also a number of people there as individuals with interests in developing and disseminating content.

If a representative community-based organization can be established to be responsible for co-ordinating the transmissions, TransACT has agreed to provide a channel on its network at no cost for a trial of community television in the ACT (at least where its subscribers are receiving TransTV). OurTV has proposed this trial as a stepping stone to free-to-air broadcasts at a later time when a licence can be granted by the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

AARNET and GrangeNet are particularly interested in the OurTV proposal because it will be the first all-digital community television service in the Southern Hemisphere, and probably the world. The Video on Demand server currently being developed at the University of Canberra to provide for the reception, recording and reticulation of satellite and terrestrial television and radio services will fit in with the proposed OurTV trial: technically we will be able to take at least completed programs on miniDV or other tape format and provide them to OurTV for broadcast, and possibly even live feeds from the television studio (although there are no plans to provide live programs at the moment).

If the Division is interested in being involved with the OurTV Community Television trial, it should register its interest on the OurTV website (http://www.ourtv.net.au/). The organisers are seeking supporters to execute a well-defined project later this year as a sort of "taster" to demonstrate the end-to-end process of acquiring local content, manufacturing programs and getting them to air in advance of a community television trial in December 2004.

The group has produced a flyer in Acrobat format.

08 June 2004

1:1 Notebook Conference

Innovate, Imagine, Inspire

Manager, IT & Media Services attended the International 1 to 1 Notebook Conference at the Westin Hotel in Sydney 31 May-1 June 2004. Looking for answers to mundane questions in relation to the use of portable computers at the University of Canberra, the conference was challenging and truly inspirational in expanding thinking about how computers could be used in teaching and learning.

Seymour Pappert

The conference opened with a presentation from Seymour Pappert, cofounder of the Media Lab at MIT and some say the father of educational computing. He challenged the audience, of educators and administrators from all levels of education from throughout Australia and New Zealand, to look far enough ahead to see that technology will change education fundamentally, as it did with arithmetic when the Roman numerical system gave way to the Arabic. He asked his audience not to think about what to teach on Monday, but about where teaching is leading us.

Pappert believes that the debate about whether staff and students should use portable computers is a silly debate: in a few years everyone as prices drop and power increases will have access to powerful portable devices and this will change fundamentally the way students and staff interact. We need to get into the future now.

Angus King

The second keynote was present by Angus King, former Governor of the State of Maine in the US. In 2002 during Governor King's term in office, he introduced the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (http://www.state.me.us/mlti/), a program of each year providing every seventh grade public school student in the state with a portable computer. The program, which he describes as an education program not a technology program, is now in its third year so all students in grades seven through nine throughout the state now have computers.

King is an excellent speaker with the politician's gift for the voice grab: one of my favourites was "You don't get ahead by keeping up". He also told a meaningful story about a Canadian ice hockey player, Wayne Ritski, who when asked how come he scored so many goals, he said "Because I go to where the puck is going to be, not where it is".

Gary Stager

The third keynote, The Case for Computing, was presented by Gary Stager, Adjunct Professor of Eduction, Pepperdine University. Stager's presentation focused on the need to create a culture of technology throughout an institution, compelling staff and students to embrace it or be left out. He argued that professional development was not an answer, PD gave people solutions to problems they didn't know they had. What was more important was creating demand in a supportive and appropriately resourced environment: professional development happens in an environment that allows it to happen.

Paul Papageorge

The final keynote was presented by Paul Papageorge, Senior Director, Education Marketing for Apple Computer. He explained how Apple partnered with the State of Maine to introduce the Notebook program there, covering not just technology but project management, consultation, support, installation and advice.


There were also six breakout slots over the two days of the Conference that covered Teaching and Learning, Leadership, Technical, and Hands-on streams. The technical streams covered case studies from schools and universities, security, wireless infrastructure, SOE (Standard Operating Environment) management, and Apple's IT infrastructure within the corporation itself.

25 May 2004

Access to the UC Network from home

While it would be extremely convenient to be able to access the University network from off-campus, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed if this is to happen.

The Division's Vision for ICT in the Division [authentication required] seeks to provide access to the Division's resources from anywhere at any time. With network storage this requires HomeDrives to be available from off-campus as well as from the University campus.

Home drives often contain sensitive information that needs to be kept confidential, so the security of any access allowed to information stored on home drives must be maintained. The University has decided to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, approach to providing people physically outside the University campus with access to the resources they should be allowed to see.

A current proposal to provide wireless access to the University network from on-campus includes the development of the systems necessary to support the establishment of VPN connections to the University network. Once this infrastructure is in place it will also allow people from off-campus to establish VPN connections to the network over a wired connection from anywhere on the Internet. Although it may be slower that access while on campus (depending on the connection speed and network traffic), a user will be able to access all the network resources they are entitled to see as if they were on campus.

Establishing a VPN connection to the University network from outside the campus (say from home) will still require an Internet connection. The University's current policy is that staff and student need to organise their own accounts with commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) if they wish to use UC on-line resources from home (http://www.canberra.edu.au/cc/off-campus/ [link updated]).

Allowing staff to access the University network from home (and through that connection to the Internet) is difficult for a number of reasons, including:

  • Providing the infrastructure involved for the network connections (via dialup modems, for example).
  • Managing access through off-campus connections.
  • The traffic costs to the University.
  • Monitoring access to the University network, which is a part of the Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet), and thence to the Internet via the campus network. Use of the University network is is subject to AARNet Policy as formulated by the AVCC and limits the uses to which the networks can be put.

The technical complexity of limiting people from home who access the University network, just to the University network itself is high and would probably need other changes to the way the network is managed to ensure services are available. Some services available on the University network (like some of the Library research databases, for example) would not be available unless additional work was done, if at all.

Size of individual emails

Email is not the best way to distribute large documents, especially to a number of recipients.

General consensus seems to be that the size of individual emails should be limited: the actual size of the limit is still under discussion. Since it is attachments that increase the size of emails beyond what might be considered "reasonable", discussion is centred around limiting the size of attachments by using the configuration options of email servers.

In some cases (like the uc-chat discussion list for example), no attachments should be permitted. Many commercial ISPs limit attachments to 2MB, or limit the overall size of an individual mailbox to 2 to 20MB. Email larger than the limit, or which would put the size of the mailbox over the overall limit, is bounced back to the sender. Some Government Departments are reportedly limiting email attachments to 4MB.

Whatever limits are put in place, alternative mechanisms for sharing files with colleagues individually or in groups need to be developed and understood by staff. The Division's Public Documents [authentication required] service goes some of the way to providing document sharing with other Divisional staff, but isn't a suitable solution in all cases. Authenticated access to shared network storage is used widely throughout the Division to share files among workgroups, and can be set up on request by the Help Desk, although the administration of these services can be onerous as groups change.

The University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC) has established a Working Party on Collaborative Services that includes consideration of these issues among others, and is working on possible solutions.

In the meantime, staff should be reminded that sending "large" files (2MB+) via email is probably not a good idea, and definitely not to a number of recipients. Other ways may be more appropriate: if in doubt contact the cehelpdesk for advice.

Portable Computers

The issue of staff using portable or laptop computers instead of desktops is still not resolved.

Last year in the TSU Report 13 May 2003, the issue of portable versus desktop computers was raised. Executive referred the issue to the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC), which referred it to the OH&S Office for comment. PVC Research and Information Management has reported that the UIMSC is following up the issues in relation to a University policy on portable computers.

Following is last year's report on portable versus desktop computers, updated with current configurations.

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 new computers currently [May 2004] is:

  • Dell PC or Apple Macintosh
  • 512MB RAM
  • Combo Drive (reads and writes CDs, reads DVDs)
  • 15" Flat Panel Display

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. 30GB is usually the minimum available for desktops, which is generally more than enough for most users in the Division. Standard configurations vary from 20GB [Dell portables] up to 80GB [Macintosh desktops]. 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 usually 14", capable of displaying 1024x768 pixels (same as the desktops, although overall the screens themselves are slightly smaller in size so the text and graphics look smaller).

Prices (ex GST) range from about $1,800 for a Macintosh portable to almost $2,400 for a Dell portable. Desktops are around $2,000.

Note that 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:

  • 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.
  • The ergonomics of using portables compared with desktop computers may also have OH&S implications that need to be considered.
  • 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.
  • Portable computers are also by their nature less secure than desktops, although so far none of the Division's portables has gone missing.
  • 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.

Also since writing the above Wireless or WiFi access to the University network is being actively developed; and malware (virus, worms, Trojans and other malicious software) has become a bigger issue for PCs, particularly through the connection of infected portable Windows PCs being attached to the University network (wired or wireless) when infected elsewhere.

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

11 May 2004

Sasser Virus

PCs at the University were badly affected by the Sasser worm.

On Wednesday, 5 May 2004 at around 3pm Windows PCs on the University network came under attack from the Sasser worm. Many PCs were unusable for several days as the IT groups within the University removed the worm and patched the vulnerability.

The Sasser worm is transmitted machine to machine by exploiting a vulnerability in Windows 2000, XP and 2003 operating systems (Macintosh computers were never vulnerable to this attack, although the network traffic generated by the worm, and subsequent attempts to remove it and patch the Windows computers, caused significant delays for Macintosh users accessing network services like email and Web pages).

The vulnerability exploited by the Sasser worm was recognised by Microsoft, and a patch to prevent the vulnerability being exploited had been issued by Microsoft on 19 April 2004. Windows PCs belonging to Divisional staff on the network are supposed to be configured to download security patches automatically when they become available: this has obviously not been happening consistently throughout the Division, and investigations are underway to determine why patches were not being installed consistently.

All the Division’s Microsoft servers had been patched and were not infected by the worm, but network traffic was such that their performance slowed dramatically, to some users appearing to be down. Macintosh servers were not affected, although again network traffic gave them the appearance of being compromised.

The network port used by the worm to propagate had been closed at the border of the University network for 10 days, so the worm had to have been introduced into the network from inside, either via removable media (floppy disk, Zip disk, or CD) with the worm on it, or from an infected portable computer brought on to campus and connected to the University network.

As a result of this episode, the following things should be done:

  • A communication strategy needs to be developed.
  • As an interim measure, immediately implement an effective strategy to keep security patches and virus definitions current, until systems can be put in place in the University or the Division to maintain Windows PCs.
  • The University, or the Division if ICT Services is unable to manage it, should install and manage Windows Update Services when is it available in late 2004 to ensure an efficient updating system is in place (although the software is free a server will be required, and a licence for the Windows 2003 Server operating system).
  • Serious consideration should be given to expanding the use of alternative platforms in the Division, particularly Macintosh. The Macintosh operating system, OS X, is based on Unix, a mature and largely open-source operating system that is far less vulnerable than Windows to exploitation and not a target for the type of activity plaguing Windows PCs.

Limiting the size of emails

Large emails (usually the result of attaching large files) are clogging the network.

Recently there have been a number of instances where people within the University have sent emails containing large attachments to discussion lists: in one case the attachment was around 150MB in size. The more addresses a large email is sent to, and the larger the attachment, the greater the impact on the email system. In this particular case, the University's main email system ground to a halt and steps had to be taken to remove the email from the system.

Email attachments sent to a discussion list or a group of addresses where the attachment is not required by all recipients is a waste of resources: unless deleted by the recipient the recipient's mailbox grows taking up space on hard disks or servers.

Under discussion is a proposal to limit the size of attachments to emails going to discussion lists, or blocking attachments altogether and providing an alternative means for making files that would otherwise be attached to emails available (like the Division's Public Documents facility).

Software audit

ICT Service is proposing to audit software installed on all of the University’s computers.

ICT Services is planning how it might audit software installed on all the computers in the University, including the Division. By 28 May 2004 ICT Services wants to have details of all the software the Division has purchased in the last three years, including when it was purchased, the version, the licence conditions for the software, and when and where it was installed and uninstalled. They also want to get details of what software is currently installed on every computer in the Division, including staff desktops, servers, lab computers, portable computers, even computers on long-term loan held off-campus.

While this is necessary to have this information, the tools required to capture, store and manipulate it just don’t exist in the Division or the University as a whole. We await client agents for Macintosh and Windows computers from ICT Services that provide a profile: when they arrive we will have to test them and then distribute them to staff with computers that are not on the University network.

ICT Services plans to audit the computers on the University network by deploying agents via the network itself, run them automatically and return the results directly to ICT Services.

05 May 2004

What to do about the Sasser worm

The Campus is currently suffering from a large number of Windows PCs being infected with the Sasser worm (Macintosh computers are not affected).

If your Windows PC keeps shutting down try the following:

  1. Windows 2000: Install the Security patch for Windows 2000. [Click the link]


    Windows XP: Install the Securitypatch for Windows XP. [Click the link]

    Allow the computer to reboot after the patch is installed.
  2. Launch the eTrust Antivirus - Local Scanner [Start>Programs>Computer Associates>eTrust>eTrust AntiVirus>eTrust AntiVirus] and run a full scan on all affected computer systems, with the "Infection Treatment File Actions" set to "Cure File" and enable the System Cure feature.

For a more detailed process print the security note from Microsoft (Windows 2000) (Ignore Step 4). [Original at http://www.microsoft.com/security/incident/sasser_print2000.asp]

If you can't get rid of the infection yourself, call the helpdesk to report it.

30 April 2004

Support for non-TSU Projects

Ground rules for student projects and individual staff developing computer-based systems are being discussed.

It is a time-honoured practice in Universities, including this one, for students to develop projects of all sorts as some part of their assessable work. For example each year IT students put out a call to UC staff for expressions of interest in having suitable projects developed for them by the students. Design students are also sometimes available to develop websites for clients who otherwise don't have the resources to develop them themselves.

In our own Division the Scribe website was originally developed as a student project and has now become a permanent service used in subsequent semesters for teaching: third year students maintain the site as part of their Professional writing course.

While such projects must be encouraged as a critical part of students' learning, they can provide some difficulties once the student has completed a project and moves on: often IT units are expected to host, support, maintain and upgrade the "project" as time goes by and the project becomes an important service that is relied upon.

In the case of the Scribe website, it was developed in a temporary student directory that in the normal course of events would have been deleted at the end of the semester: it was only the invitation from the Vice Chancellor to the launch of the website (with the student url) that alerted us to the fact that the service was expected to be continued. It had to be transferred to a different, permanent address (rendering the marketing materials developed to promote the site unusable), and is now another service that needs to be maintained technically by the TSU.

There are also other systems developed by end-users to support their own activities that become mission-critical systems. From time to time these systems require some support from IT sections, especially when the original developer moves on and the system needs to be supported, maintained, updated and sometimes developed further.

ICT Services is currently looking at a number of possible support mechanisms and guidelines to provide a framework within which these projects can expect to sit. In the meantime, student projects and end-user developed applications must be seen as 'proof of concept' applications that could become corporate application projects after re-development, but clients should not think that a such projects would become supported UC systems. Any proposals for these projects to become permanent services must be discussed with ICT Managers or ICT Services to avoid unnecessary or duplicate proposals or the development of systems not able to be integrated with current environments or supported long-term.

Download limits for postgraduate students

University Information Management Systems Committee examines the possibility of increasing download limits for some postgraduate students.

The University is generally charged for Internet traffic coming into the University from outside: the cost can vary depending on the source of the data coming in. Traffic from the Local Regional Network (including UC, ANU, ADFA and now CIT) is free, and all other traffic costs the University 2.25 cents per megabyte (as of February 2002).

All students at the University, undergraduate or postgraduate, have a $25 allocation per year (starting in February) of "free" downloads to computers they use within the University network, which means they can access something like a gigabyte of data from outside the Local Regional Network, and unlimited amounts of data from the Local Regional Network, each year at no cost to them. Students who exceed their limit can purchase additional allocations from the ICT Services helpdesk at what it costs the University. Download charges are expected to drop over time rather than increase.

At its meeting on 15 April 2004, the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC) asked the Academic Divisions to nominate research students who should has increased download limits.

Payments to particular students’ download accounts could also be made from other University cost centres.

Student storage limits

Increasing demands for storage of larger files is addressed by the Division of Communication and Education.

At a recent meeting of the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC), the Committee agreed that the general student file storage allocation should be maintained at 20 megabytes, noting that Academic Divisions could consider providing additional storage if they thought it necessary.

Academic staff in the Division of Communication and Education requiring their students to access greater storage can contact the cehelpdesk with a request for more storage for their students. The subject or unit number, name of the course, ID numbers of the students requiring the extra space, type of data to be stored (eg. sound files, video files, graphics) and the amountof space required must be included with the request.

Supervisors of postgraduate students requiring additional space for any student should send the same type of request, with the same information where appropriate, to the helpdesk. Instructions explaining how to access the additional storage will be provided once the space is set up.

The Division has a number of possible alternative storage options available for this purpose: the appropriate option to satisfy a particular request will be chosen after a request is received.

Space will only be provided on a subject basis for the semester or year (for full-year courses) while the subject is being taught. Access to storage will be revoked and any contents deleted after examination results are released, so these storage allocations should not be considered permanent.

Students abusing the storage provided to them (for example, using the storage space to illegally trade music files) will have their access revoked.

The Division is working on a proposal for a "portfolio" server that, if provided, would allocate around 1 gigabyte of space to students enrolled in selected courses, and the space would remain available until they graduated or withdrew from the course.


Update on upgrades in Building 5.

The Networked Video Learning Laboratories, NeViLLs, formerly known as the Microteaching rooms in Building 5, are in the process of being upgraded to provide better facilities for recording and playing back of video for teaching and learning. Video projection and SmartBoards are being installed, along with better sound recording facilities and lighting. When completed, it will be possible to use the facilities online, joining participants with broadband connections from anywhere on the Internet with the local group in the presentations.

Macintosh OS X 10.3 (Panther) Training

Feeling a bit lost in OS X?

New Macintosh computers being rolled out across the Division have the latest Macintosh operating system, OSX 10.3, installed.

In order to help clients with the transition to OS X, the Division has purchased a number of licences for some comprehensive online training materials, Macintosh OS X Fundamentals, to help clients become familiar with their new environment.

The training materials are available, to Divisional staff only, online at http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/mac/. You may need to log in to the site using your ucstaff login: you MUST include the domain name (ucstaff) in the login: in a separate field if there is one, or by typing your username with "ucstaff\s" in front of the number (without the quotes).

See Logging on to secured services for more information about how to log onto the system.

The training materials can be accessed from a Macintosh or Windows computer.

20 April 2004

Digital Recording presentation

Notes for a presentation on digital recording techniques.

The Division has been using minidisc recorders for a number of years to supportthe teaching of Journalism and Media courses. The recorders are also useful for recording interviews and meetings, and provide a relatively high quality sound recording capability especially when used with good microphones.

The minidisc format is a proprietary format owned by Sony, and over the years Sony has changed the format a number of times: the newer formats always incompatible with the older recorders (although usually the newer recorders have supported the older formats to a greater or lesser degree).

The discs used in minidisc recorders are small recordable CDs that use a laser to encode the audio signal onto the disc: minidisc players read the discs and convert the sound to audible signals for replay. The sound to be recorded is compressed using the ATRAC encoder: a proprietary Sony system that is difficult to convert to digital formats without Sony or other licensed providers' equipment.

Why not use older analogue audio recording equipment? Anything with moving parts is prone to failure: the less moving parts the higher the reliability of a piece of equipment. Media like tape, cassette, film, magnetic or optical disks have a high failure rate, are difficult to administer, can vary in quality and may be expensive to purchase and process.

Digital recording offers the prospect of higher quality in smaller packages at a cheaper cost, and better control over the recorded material.

While minidiscs are digital, they are still mechanical devices that are prone to failure in the laser, the motor and the discs themselves. Repairs (involving replacing the laser and/or the motor) are costing us between $200 and $375 on a $450 purchase price.

The revolution in still photography over the last five years is a good example of the migration from analogue systems to digital: over the last few years digital still cameras have outsold film cameras and are increasing their lead. Some film manufacturers have announced that they are ceasing production of camera film, and some camera manufacturers no longer produce film camera or have announced production will cease in the near future.

Digital still cameras record onto media using no moving parts: solid-state memory storage devices that can be used to transfer files to computers over wires.

Currently domestic VHS video recorders are being overtaken by DVD recorders and Digital (or Personal) Video Recorders (DVR or PVRs). DVD recorders record video programs directly to recordable DVDs: PVRs to hard disk. Consumer and professional digital video recorders can now be purchased with no tape mechanism: instead the camera record to DVDs that can be played back to provide high-quality recording for watching or editing.

There are a number of digital portable audio recording devices on the market now.

In solid state the high end of the market is going for devices like the Nagra ARES BB, ARES-P / RCX220 or ARES-PII (see http://www.nagraaudio.com/pages/professionalaudio.php?etat=2).

There are many high-end professional audio for video solutions out there as well, (eg Fostex stuff or HBB Portadrive: see http://www.locationsound.ca/reco.html#renl Nagra also has a hard-drive version of the classic Nagra reel-to-reel: http://www.nagraaudio.com/pages/nagrav.php?etat=2). These devices are too complex, unwieldy and expensive for student use in theUniversity.

Professional minidisc is also popular with the market at the lower end, but the mechanical nature of the devices are of concern: the fewer moving parts the less likelihood of service requirements. Sony's proprietary format of the minidisc is a challenge for the University, illustrated very well by Sony's Hi-MD format not being backwards compatible with the existing players in the NewsBoss suite. Buying the new format will mean replacing all the portable and desktop units: assuming the same price points for Hi-MD desktops and prosumer portable recorders, it will cost the University about $25,000 to replace the existing devices with Hi-MD devices to give us the same level of resources that we have now.

Microcassette memo devices are giving way to MP3 recorders and other solid state or removeable media devices like the Creative portable audio devices, Olympus DM-20, Sony digital notetakers, iRiver MP3 player/recorder, and the iPod with Belkin Voice Recorder. Some of the Sony's use Memory Stick, and all of themuse a proprietary recording system of one sort or another.

Recently Journalism students at the University have become unhappy with the resources available to them, particularly minidiscs, to complete their assignments. Of the 25 recorders available last year, two were lost (last year), and five have broken this year, needing repair or in one case irreparably damaged. The Division had budgeted for additional and replacement portable minidisc recorders this year to bring the number available up to 30, but the models we purchase were discontinued pending the release of a new format called Hi-MD. This format is incompatible with the desktop players the students use to transfer their audio to the NewsBoss system (see the specifications for the new Hi-MD format).

Several existing high end portable minidisc models designed for journalists will be continued, around $700 to $1,000 RRP inc without an external microphone. These recorders are more complex than the existing ones in use, and the extra cost would reduce the number we could afford to purchase.

Old stock of some other models still in the distribution channel pending the release of the new Hi-MD recorders have been purchased and are being put into service as soon as they arrive: these recorders are different models and students will need to learn how to use them.

The Division is exploring alternatives to the minidisc recorder using non-proprietary formats that are also easier to use and provide for better transfers of interviews to the computer for editing. At this stage there are no obvious replacements, although this is a constantly changing field with quality improving and cost dropping month by month.

Students that provide their own recording devices can now incorporate their recordings into the NewsBoss system: over the April mid-semester break a new version of the NewsBoss software is being commissioned that will allow students greater flexibility in completing the tasks required of them for assessment: for anywhere on the Internet they should be able to transfer their stories, including audio, onto NewsBoss. This greater flexibility should reduce the demand on the available recorders.

There is a proposal to get Journalism students portable computers: with a good mic (and an iMic if there is no analogue input), they could use the portable with Sound Studio (Macintosh) or some freeware PC application to record and edit their sound on the computer. At the very least students should be informed (by their lecturers) about the possibilities for using portable voice recorders that don't require drivers to be installed on lab computers. All computers with USB ports available should be able to handle devices that use standardfile formats like mp3 or wav.

What we are looking for is in the price range of around $650 ex GST with provision for an external microphone, power supply, USB transfer and removable media (fully solid state types like compact flash, smart media, multimedia, secure digital, microdrive and memory stick that can be read by card readers connected directly to the computer. Standard AA or AAA rechargeable batteries are preferred.

The market is moving rapidly with no firm answers at the moment: Sony is reported [NY Times: free registration required] to be releasing a hard-disk-based system later this year, although it is unknown whether this reported device will support recording using an external microphone. Costs will come down and quality improve as the devices evolve, so committing now is a bit too soon, although we should be keeping ourselves informed and experimenting where we can.


These are the links from the presentation:

  1. Nagra
  2. Fostex and HHB Portadrive
  3. Sony ICDP28 (not the Memory Stick device)
  4. iRiver H140
  5. Olympus DM-20
  6. Creative Labs
  7. Belkin Voice Recorder
  8. NewsBoss (NewsBoss user name and password required)

Other resources

General article on digital field recordings: Tools for Digital Audio Recording in Qualitiative Research.

Minidisc guide from Transom.org (US public radio)


Consider using a portable computer with a good microphone and software like Sound Studio [Macintosh only, site licensed at the University of Canberra: contact the helpdesk for installation information], or Audacity, for Macintosh, Windows and Unix [free], add headphones and you have quite a good if a little bulky set up.