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.