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.