12 December 2005

Generic email addresses

The University is developing guidelines for generic, or position-based, email addresses.

The University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC) has asked the Divisions for comments on a recent paper from ICT Services proposing guidelines (stress: guidelines) for the use of generic email addresses to be used for official contact with the University.

Copies of the paper have been circulated to the members of the Division’s IT & Infrastructure Committee for comment. Further copies can be obtained from the office of the Deputy Head of the Division.

Network switches

Network bandwidth problems to be solved at last?

One long-running source of frustration for the Division MAY soon be overcome: it appears that ICT Services will fund the replacement of outdated computer network switches around the Division (and the University) over the coming year.

Should ICT Services indeed have found the money to fund the replacements, we could soon be seeing better network response and improved speed.

NetPVR - Network Personal Video Recorder

Development continues on this service with some help from the ANU.

Scholarly Teaching Services at the Australian National University has contracted the Division to provide them with a netPVR: a system for requesting, recording and replaying television programs over the computer network.

The Division is developing such a system as a part of the implementation of the DEST Infrastructure grant that supported the National Institute of Language Learning (NILL).

A prototype is due to be demonstrated to the ANU in late January, 2006.

Assets transfer

New administrative arrangements come into play on 1 January 2006.

In order to transfer responsibility from the Division of Communication and Education for ASP to the Division of Learning and Teaching, and for IELTS/ELICOS and the Customised Language Program to International Division, on 1 January 2006, a list of the assets currently in use by these group is being drawn up with the intention of transferring their ownership to the new Divisions.

Blacklisting of email server

Overzealous attempts to limit spam leads to email delivery failure.

The COMEDU and BLIS email servers are being blacklisted by the SORBS service, apparently every day for the last two weeks. SORBS is a service that purports to list email servers that are sources of spam: email server administrators can subscribe to the SORBS service and use the blacklist to block ALL emails coming from those email servers on the basis that the emails are spam. ICT Services subscribes to the SORBS list and uses it to block any email from servers on the blacklist, resulting in email from BLIS and COMEDU addresses being ‘bounced’ back to the sender and not delivered.

There have been various reasons for the blacklisting of the BLIS and COMEDU email servers. For example, the first few times was from an 'Out of Office Reply' to a spam email which caused ICT Services email servers to interpret the reply as also spam. Over the past few days we were blacklisted due to some emails being “poorly” formatted, or email addresses misspelled. A series of bulk emails from the office of our PVC sent in support of an upcoming conference has led to the latest blacklist.

Each morning for the past week ICT Services has been contacted to remove the BLIS and COMEDU servers from the blacklist. ICT Services has been asked to change how they handle the blacklisting rules, but as yet to no avail.

Any attempt to reduce the amount of spam and malware is admirable: when it is overzealous and hinders the legitimate work of the University it is unacceptable. The Director of ICT Services has been asked to ensure that ICT Services staff modify the rules to ensure no legitimate email is refused delivery.

29 November 2005

SonyBMG’s “malware”

Threats to computer security may come from unexpected sources...

Probably the biggest IT story in the last few weeks has been the discovery of SonyBMG’s distribution of “rootkit” software on its audio CDs. The rootkit software installed itself secretly on PCs and was designed to manage copying of the music from the CD onto the computer. Designed as a copy protection system, it also inadvertently provided a new opportunity for third parties to install malware on computers infected with the rootkit: there are two known exploitations of the rootkit by malware developers. Removal of the rootkit damages Windows.

While Macintosh computers were not affected by the rootkit, SonyBMG had an alternative system that did work on Macs, but users had to agree to the software’s installation whereas with the PC version the installation was done automatically and the software hidden.

SonyBMG has since stopped shipping CDs with the rootkit and recalled all affected CDs. Microsoft will be releasing removal software as a part of its regular Windows Update service to remove the rootkit and repair infected systems.

Access to Divisional resources for other than assessable work

The University's resources are provided to support teaching, research and administration.

There are requests from some staff asking for students to have access to Divisional facilities and other resources for activities outside of Semester time for other than assessable work: one recent example is for students to have access to facilities to be able to produce ‘show reels’, and another for them to be able to use University resources to produce entries for a competition organised by the ABC.

The media production facilities of the Division are scare and expensive resources, procured and managed to assist academic staff teaching designated units. Student use of University resources outside units where the facilities are required for assessable work should not be permitted.

Prioritising the IT Loan

Basis for giving priority to bids for equipment funding.

When Executive considers the IT Loan bids they should endorse the principle that items purchased through the Infrastructure Fund should, where possible, be made available to the whole Division through the CRC or TSU.

The bids for video and still cameras in this year’s IT Loan bids should only be approved subject to the cameras being available for loan through the CRC or TSU, with demand timetabled through the Media Facilities Users Group (MFUG).


Get frequently given answers to those frequently asked questions.

Student Services, the Library, TEDS and ICT Services have got together to introduce RightNow (http://www.rightnow.com/), a knowledgebase of questions and answers initially being designed to provide current student information to University of Canberra students. RightNow Web from RightNow Technologies is a web-based, off-site solution hosted in the United States. Administrators at the University of Canberra will be able to enter questions and answers, monitor use of the site and receive queries that aren’t answered by the system via email. At least initially the system will be open for anyone on the internet, on- or off-campus, to use.

HR and Marketing are also investigating the system to see whether it has potential to support staff and potential students with answers to their queries.

Right Now is not ITIL compliant and isn’t seen as a candidate for a proposed IT knowledgebase using Computer Associates UniCenter Service Desk Knowledge Tools. It also will not be searchable using Panoptic, the University website search tool, and under current arrangements students will be charged for the internet traffic generated when they make enquiries of the system.

01 November 2005

Stanford on iTunes

Lectures on iTunes?

Stanford University in the USA and Apple have agreed to provide a number of audio services (like news, music, sports, and lectures) available for download from the iTunes Music Store. Anyone can download the materials, which are provided free: there is even some video content. The service is called Stanford on iTunes: see http://itunes.stanford.edu/ for further information.

More email issues

Missing some emails? This might explain it...

It appears that the University, through the IT Security Manager, has recently implemented a security measure that checks the email server responsible for sending any emails to @canberra.edu.au addresses before delivering them. If the check establishes the email server is “valid”, the email will be delivered. If however the server sending the email identifies itself with a name that is not properly registered on the internet, the email will be refused and “bounced” to the sender with instructions on how to correct the problem before emails to University recipients will be delivered.

The objective of the measure is to reduce the number of inappropriate emails getting to UC addresses (including spam, pornographic emails, viruses and other malware delivered along with emails, and so on: a laudable objective). Unfortunately there will be many “false-positives”: legitimate emails that are bounced if there is a problem with the registration of the sender’s email server. The Division in fact found out about the introduction of the measure when Canon Australia complained that their emails to us were being bounced.

Staff should be aware that the new measure is in place and that legitimate emails may not be getting through. If you are not receiving emails that you think you ought to be receiving, contact the sender (your emails to them should still be delivered) and ask them to call you if their messages are being bounced. Explain to them that the bounced email message contains instructions for their mail server administrator on how to fix their problem. The sender may also be able to use a different email server, one that is registered in a DNS as being of type ‘A’, to send their emails to the University.

No discussion was held with the Division about this change, and no warning of its implementation given. The comedu helpdesk would like to receive reports of any bounced emails to monitor the situation and if necessary take it up with ICT Services.

Email server issues

The TSU is aware of the problems with the Divisional email server at the moment.

Isaac, the Division’s new email server, is somewhat problematic at the moment: Macintosh users may see frequent requests for passwords to be re-entered, and Windows users may get frequent messages from Outlook indicating the email server is either on or off line at that particular time.

Efforts are being made with the help of BLIS and ICT Services Network team to isolate the problem, which appears to be related to excessive network traffic being generated by the email server.

18 October 2005

What to do when staff and students leave the University

Policy is under development to guide IT staff in dealing with data managed by staff and student who leave the University.

A member of staff, or a student enrolled at the University, gets access to a number of ICT services like email, file storage, web access, library systems and so on. When that person leaves, their access to these services is terminated, which may mean the loss of data that is significant for them and for the University. Current practice sees staff lose access to ICT services the day after they leave (although email may be redirected to a new address for one to six months), and students lose access when they complete, or are no longer enrolled for other reasons.

ICT Services is currently investigating developing more detailed policies on what to do when a staff member or student leaves. The University may be required legally to keep emails and electronic documents for everyone, including those that have left, for a certain period: ICT Services is seeking advice on what the requirements might be. Some staff members like to keep their email address working for a number of months until they can advise their contacts of their new details; students may like to keep their work available from a University server for potential employers to review: the demand for this access may increase with the development of ePortfolios.

Direct any comments on what may need to be done with data when staff or students leave to the Manager, IT and Media Services.

Central funding for software

It may take a while for the University to completely manage software licensing centrally.

PVC Research and Information Management has indicated that he would like to investigate whether funding software licensing centrally would save the University money. He has proposed an audit to find out currently what the Divisions are paying and for what.

Nothing will be in place for 2006, so the Division will need to continue funding licensing for software like Adobe Creative Suite and Final Cut Pro at least until a decision is made to fund it centrally.

Reticulation of satellite and terrestrial television

Thirty-four channels and counting...

Digital reticulation of live television broadcasts from satellite and terrestrial services over the University’s computer network is moving ahead apace: at least on the backend. Twenty services are now being streamed live from Building 20, and depending on the state of the University’s network can be received across campus using VLC. VLC is free software for Macintosh or Windows that can be downloaded and installed by any user with administrative privileges on their computer.

Any relatively new computer on the campus network is now theoretically capable of seeing any of the twenty channels without needing any additional hardware: to hear the sound there needs to be some speakers on the computer, for the best sound external speakers will be needed.

Services are not available beyond the boundary of the University network for copyright and licensing reasons, as well as the need to manage network traffic to other institutions.

For details on how to “tune in” to the services using your desktop computer, see the instructions on the project’s website at http://uctv.canberra.edu.au/campus-channels.

Soon it will be possible to receive the current channel list automatically when VLC is launched. What is missing is a comprehensive program guide detailing what programs go to air when. There are significant issues with providing a comprehensive program guide: in Australia the information is not made available freely for anyone to use, internationally there is no single source of program data, and time zones and language make data for services on individual channels sometimes difficult to interpret even when it can be found.

We don’t have a way of automatically scheduling recording the live digital streams yet, or making them available for replay and editing: this is the next stage of the project. In the meantime, many people, especially Languages staff, can record, simply edit and use video recorded from the analogue network completed earlier this year.

'Lost' and 'Desperate Housewives' for US$2 an episode

Missed your favourite TV show? Download it!

There has been a paradigm shift in television broadcasting during the week: on Wednesday 12 October 2005 Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the availability of top-rating episodes of popular television programs from the American ABC network for legal download from the company’s iTunes store.

The announcement came with the release of a new iPod, capable of storing and playing back video on its own screen or through a television set. More than 2,000 music videos, half a dozen Pixar animations, movie trailers and full seasons of Lost, Desperate Housewives and That’s So Raven, plus episodes of new shows like Night Stalker and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody can all be downloaded: legally and ad-free! New episodes are made available on the site the day after they are first broadcast on the network.

For copyright and other licensing reasons most of the downloads are only available in the US at the moment. Like the iTunes Music Store, no information is available of whether the service will ever be available in Australia. The announcement does, however, give us an insight in the future of television distribution where programs from all over the world will be available for viewing when it suits the viewer, not the local television station.

Lab pressures

More units are wanting access to Divisional labs.

The replacement languages lab in Building 9 seems to be in great demand, so much so that there are requests for classes to be scheduled in the ILTC because of scheduling difficulties with the new lab. While the configuration of the computers in the ILTC is the same as those in the new languages lab, the ILTC space was intended to be available for informal use and occasional presentations and meetings.

Increasing pressures on labs is also anticipated if the ICT in Education unit returns to being a first year unit (it was to be moved to third year). With increasing numbers in the unit, and more students in first year rather than third, greater demand is expected on the ICT in education labs. Journalism has also indicated that there will be greater demand for resources over the coming years, and Advertising is seeking access to specialist Divisional labs where previously they used Building 10.

Demand for the Division’s specialist labs is growing: if the current growth in demand continues the Division will need to consider opening up to three new additional labs in 2007. Space, infrastructure, fitout, audiovisual facilities, furniture, hardware and software will be required if new labs are to be available.

04 October 2005

Apple University Consortium Conference

This year's AUCC was a great success...

Manager, IT & Media Services, Helpdesk Manager and Streaming Media Manager all attended the Apple University Consortium Academic and Developers Conference at Wrest Point in Hobart from 25-28 September 2005. All three were granted AUC scholarships that supported or completely covered travel, accommodation and conference fee costs. Some highlights of the Conference were:

Streaming TV via IP

James and George presented a paper in the Conference’s technical stream giving an update of the Internet Television project they are undertaking (the AUC, through the Apple University Development Fund, started the project off in 2002 with a grant to James of a server and technical assistance: the presentation was a progress report on how the project was going).

There was significant interest in the project from a number of other Universities with representatives at the Conference. Most notably, the Central Queensland University is following up the project to see whether the television received here in Canberra can be viewed, via AARNET’s GrangeNet experimental ip network, in Rockhampton and then out to CQU campuses throughout Queensland, the rest of Australia and even internationally.

Interestingly enough some streams prepared earlier here in Canberra were received well in Hobart on the Conference’s 2Gb link: the same streams often don’t work on broadband connections here in Canberra, so more investigation is required to see where the problems lie.

See the project website for more information. The presentation is also available for download.

Creative Commons

Joichi Ito, who among his other broad interests is on the Board of Creative Commons (http://www.creativecommons.org/) presented one of the keynotes of the Conference. From the Creative Commons website:

Creative Commons offers a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors and artists. We have built upon the "all rights reserved" of traditional copyright to create a voluntary "some rights reserved" copyright. We're a nonprofit. All of our tools are free.

With all the discussions around the world recently about copyright, music and movie sharing and the dire warnings of the collapse of the music and movie industries (some might say “hurray!”), it was refreshing to hear of an alternative, creative way of providing access to media materials simply and easily.

Several disciples in the Division, particularly Education, Media and Journalism, may find something of interest in the Creative Commons approach to sharing that will be useful in their professional activities.

Seminar: An online delivery tool

Simon Goldrei is a postgraduate student at the University of Sydney who has written an application called Seminar to broadcast and archive presentations, meetings and lectures simply and effectively using the internet. The application was of particular interest because of its simplicity, and because Simon announced at the Conference that the program would now be available for free as an open source product. For further details see http://www.SydneySeminars.com/.

IT Infrastructure Fund

What DOES the IT Infrastructure Fund cover?

The Division borrows from the University’s IT Infrastructure Fund (the IT Loan) to pay for maintaining and growing the infrastructure used in the Division to support teaching, learning, research and administration. The Fund has financed replacement and new desktop computers, media equipment, printers and photocopiers, commissioning costs, software and so on: all the costs necessary to replace old equipment and grow the resources available.

The Loan is attractive to the Division since the Division only pays back two-thirds of what it borrows: a system established six or seven years ago to help the Divisions replace outdated (and expensive to maintain) infrastructure with up-to-date alternatives.

University administration is now enforcing much stricter limits on what loan funds can be spent on: we are advised that funds can only to be used for capital items such as computers, fax machines, printers, desks, workstations and so on that may or may not be “capitalised” depending on purchase price.

A Financial Services Project Team review of transactions in the IT Loan has shown it is being used for consultancy, repairs and maintenance and licence fees: mostly due to the Division replacing, maintaining and building the Division’s ICT infrastructure.

It would be prudent in future to limit purchases from the IT Loan to that which can be categorised in the University financial system as Equipment & Furniture $5000 & Over or Equipment Expensed - Less than $5000. This leaves about $60,000 of expenditure annually on other items traditionally purchased through the IT Loan that will need to be funded from other sources (with no discount).

Update 7 October 2005: The Division's practice (and it seems the practice of the other Academic Divisions and ICT Services) has always been to fund capital purchases, consultancy, repairs and maintenance and software licence fees (items to do with providing and maintaining our ICT infrastructure in the Division) on the IT Loan. These items have not been questioned in the past nor has any dispute arisen.

The Division's position is that it will continue to use the IT Loan in this way.

Divisional Web Hosting

Centralising of Web services in the University will mean the Division will no longer host websites.

The Division currently hosts a number of websites that are more or less to do with Divisional activities: some examples include the Inflect magazine, the University of Canberra Centre for Writing [website removed], and The People’s Voice [website removed].

With the transition of the Division’s web presence to a central server, the Division will no longer be in a position to host these additional services. It is proposed to cease hosting these web services in December 2006: where possible the Technical Services Unit will contact those responsible for the various sites and ask them to make alternative arrangements for the hosting if the sites are still required. UCOnline should accept hosting of most of the sites that relate to current UC activities.

Schools, Centres, and other units with Websites currently hosted on the comedu server will be moved over to the central server over the next year or so: the comedu server won’t be decommissioned until all the services are either transferred or closed down (no longer required or moved elsewhere).

20 September 2005


The Technical Services Unit IT staff have moved.

With the new appointments in the Technical Services Unit, more accommodation needed to be found to house them. More appropriate accommodation for existing staff was also required, so the growth in number has spurred us on to reorganise current arrangements.

The Help Desk team are in the process of moving to the new comedu helpdesk area. More TSU staff will move into the area as the ICT project winds down later this year, and as the space can be properly fitted out for their occupation.

Student printing in labs

Monitoring of printing in labs will be undertaken to manage costs.

Now that some of the Division’s facilities are more available for students, printing to printers in a number of labs needs to be reconsidered. Currently in a number of students labs printers are available to service in-class printing needs free from the normal student printing charges. Now that the students who use the spaces can access them while the buildings are open, they now also have access to free printing here as well, contrary to University policy that says all students should be charged the same for printing across the campus.

Should the printing remain free, where experience has shown students become aware of the facility fairly quickly and printer use (and Divisional costs) increase dramatically, or should printing be charged for in these facilities?

CardAX access is up

New door access facilities have now been installed.

Over the class-free period work was completed on the installation of the CardAX access system to teaching spaces in Building 5 and Building 9.

Although it is still early days yet, so far the installation, commissioning and operation seems to have gone smoothly, although there are some teething problems.

Some students where unable to access spaces where their unit number had been left off a list provided to Security, and one staff member with an old staff card was unable to access a room until his card was replaced with the new type. Some individual student cards did not operate the doors when the cards of others enrolled in the same unit worked: cards that fail need to be taken to Security for examination.

Some lecturers are still using keys to enter doors where the staff card should be used, and propping doors open. This defeats the purpose of the system somewhat: if there is a problem with access using a card (staff or student) that should work on the door, the issue needs to be taken up with Security.

Course Convenors should contact Security before the beginning of each Semester to advise them of who requires access to which spaces over the coming Semester. Requests should be provided for each space where access is required: listing staff names and staff id numbers, and unit numbers of students requiring access to the rooms (or names and student id numbers where there is no unit number applicable). Security should also be advised of any limitation on access, otherwise access will be provided during building opening hours, for the whole of the Semester.

Individual vs Generic email addresses

We don't seem to be any closer to resolving the issue of using generic email addresses rather than personal ones for position-related email in the University.

Recent staff changes have again highlighted the difficulty posed by people advertising their individual email addresses for official purposes. When the staff member leaves or moves to another position, official email may be lost or delayed.

While there is a project currently running in the University to develop a schema for so-called generic email addresses (position@canberra.edu.au rather than firstname.surname@canberra.edu.au), the variety of purposes requiring generic addresses makes it difficult to develop a working schema, let alone manage one effectively.

All marketing and promotional materials (especially printed materials) should contain generic email addresses where possible. Contact the cehelpdesk in the first instance for advice on how to obtain and manage generic email addresses.

Divisional Web pages to the Content Management System

Progress on migrating Divisional Web pages to the University Content Management System.

ICT Services has advised that the comedu Divisional Web pages (not the Schools, but the Divisional pages) will be able to be included in the UC Web Content Management System in the near future.

Any comments of the existing pages are welcome to inform us of how the migration is handled: whether the existing pages are more or less moved to the new system or changes are made in the structure and content.

One item of concern is the Majors and Minors section of the existing site. It will be difficult to update and transfer that part of the site in its present form so it may have to be dropped. University approved majors and minors are published on the University website, but it appears at this stage they can’t be displayed by Division. Is this a suitable alternative?

06 September 2005

Network issues

Network problems are restricting our ability to work and implement new services.

ICT Services network people would agree that the network has a number of deficiencies that result from historical decisions made locally (rather than centrally) to provide local network services, or ad hoc extensions to the network, that now don't fit in and even conflict with the centralised system.

Recent security limitations implemented in an attempt to protect Windows PCs from malicious attacks have further limited the usefulness of the network.

Other restrictions in place to limit the amount of data that comes into the University (for cost reasons) also limit the range of services available to users.

Some examples of problems encountered include:

  • Marratech eMeeting is not usable on campus.
  • iChat AV is no longer functioning.
  • There are limitations on the use of multicasting for software distribution and live streaming of video due to port blocking and outdated network equipment.
  • Now access to off-campus streaming video has been lost.

The University network is now less useful for teaching, learning, research and administration than it was say a year ago. Pushing the network to its limits (for example by using multicasting techniques to push installations out over the network, or streaming live television around the campus) is causing basic services like access to network storage, email and the web to degrade or fail when theoretically the network should be able easily to cope with the load of all of these services.

How is the University going to ensure it has the resources to keep up with or respond to the dynamic demands of teaching and research at a time when there is great interest and spectacular growth in bandwidth-hungry IP services like VoIP, Google Earth, video streaming and video conferencing? There is no (known) strategic plan for designing and rolling out network support for services (like audio and video services over IP, or video chat and conferencing) that require high bandwidth, on campus, nationally and internationally.

There is still no (known) operational plan or budget to systematically upgrade the network to remove outmoded legacy devices installed in good faith years ago that now impede the potential capability of the network to serve the University community.

As a Division we have had to invest recently in a number of devices to replace older equipment that now no longer serves us well, even though the responsibility for network support has been (quite rightly) ceded to a central service: we still have to provide resources to fix the problems because while ICT Services has the responsibility to look after the network it doesn't have the money.

The University Information Systems Management Committee (UIMSC) should investigate and address these issues.

Access to Divisional Facilities

CardAX controllers on the doors to some Divisional facilities have improved access, but there are still demands for more access.

In the past is has been customary to restrict undergraduate student access to Divisional facilities to business hours (9-5 on working days), or to building opening hours with written requests being sent to Security in advance detailing the times, the facilities and the students involved. Building opening hours are 6am to 10.30pm Monday through Thursday, and 6am to 6.30pm on Friday during teaching periods, 6am to 6.30pm Monday through Friday during non-teaching periods. Buildings are closed on holidays and weekends.

Increasingly there is pressure from media production and journalism staff and students to increase these hours, with one recent example of students staying all night in the video editing facilities to complete their assignments. The facilities were unable to be cleaned as a result of the students still working when the cleaners arrived at 4am.

Climate control is turned off outside of building opening times. Unless previously arranged (and paid for), there is no access, no climate control, and no cleaning or maintenance of buildings on holidays and weekends. Normal University hire rates for rooms out of hours is $28/hour + $22/hour for climate control + $7 for each lock/unlock. The climate control charge would probably cover a building as a whole, since it is unlikely Facilities and Services could or would heat or cool individual rooms separately. This estimates are based on some figures provided by Facilities and Services a couple of years ago and purport to cover the costs incurred in making the rooms available: electricity, corridor lighting and settings, water and so on.

Staff argue that increasing demands on students in terms of employment and work experience preclude their use of these facilities during regular working hours, so that the facilities should be opened up to them after hours and on weekends. This they say “will be increasingly important in 2006 when the affects of the recent university-wide course restructure result in larger class sizes and increased output demands for third year students due to expanded contact hours”.

Unsupervised out-of-hours access to Divisional facilities raises significant financial, security, health, safety and other duty of care issues that would need to be addressed if the Division were to extend the hours currently available.

At the very least the Division would have to commit to the additional costs of keeping a building open beyond the current building opening hours, and negotiate the proposed arrangements with Facilities and Services. It may also be prudent from a liability perspective to employ student monitors to look after the spaces on behalf of the Division during opening hours.

23 August 2005

More streaming media

Work on live and on-demand video streaming being done in the Division may be useful more widely.

Last week the contractor working on streaming media in the Division met with representatives from the ANU and AARNet to discuss live and on-demand streaming media. AARNet is a part of the ResearchChannel initiative, a University of Washington project that provides educational and research television programming to a wide section of the US community via nationwide satellite, cable and internet networks. The internet service is available internationally. AARNet aims to provide a similar service in Australia by enabling Australian science and education institutions to create, archive and transmit their own television material. The result being one (or more) full-time TV channels focused on promoting Australian research and education, particularly to the Asian markets.

It looks like the work being done here will be extremely useful to the ANU and to AARNet to make an Australia ResearchChannel viable.

Network issues

Recent changes to the University network have restricted previously-available services to help stop malware on Windows PCs.

First, a definition. A “port” in network terms is a “logical connection place” where a program on a user’s computer connects to a server program. Ports are referred to by numbers, like port 25 (email programs communicate with email servers using port 25, among other ports), or port 80 (Netscape gets pages from World Wide Web servers over port 80 (usually)). As well as these and other well-known and standard ports, other server and client applications use dynamically-assigned ports to “bind” to in order to communicate with each other over the network.

Malware often exploits open ports by opening a connection between an infected computer and other devices on the internet without the user’s knowledge (on Windows computers anyway: most ports on Macintosh computers are closed by default and are only opened by the user initiating a particular application or service).

The University recently closed down most network ports in response to compromises to the local network from outside. Only known services (like official web and email servers) were allowed to continue to operate. ICT Services asked that where these restrictions prevented services from operating, contact them and the issues would be investigated.

Desktop video conferencing services like Apple’s iChat AV and Marratech eMeeting use a range of ports to dynamically connect participants through text, audio and video links. In order to create a good connection between users who might be on the other side of the world (and often are: that’s why these systems are popular), the various computers involved negotiate a “good” set of ports for each service from the wide range they might use.

iChat AV and eMeeting are (or at least were) used by staff to communicate with off-campus colleagues and collaborators. When the University's IT Security Officer was asked to open the ports used by iChat AV up again he declined, saying he was unhappy with the requirements and suggested there might be alternative more secure (but unnamed) solutions available.

While we had some success with eMeeting before the blocks were implemented, we haven't been able to commission the service since the ports were blocked and have stopped working on it until the ports it uses become available again.


Proximity cards will allow students greater access to some Divisional facilities.

Over the next month University contractors will be installing CardAX access to a number of rooms in Building 5 and Building 9. Security has advised us that there will be some noise and disruption associated with the installation of the card system when the installations begin in two or three weeks time. The contractor has been asked to keep the noise and disruption to a minimum but expect drilling, hammering and dust.

Please bear with this short-term pain in order to enjoy the longer-term benefits of giving students greater and more convenient access to Divisional facilities.

Proposed lab rules (based on existing practices and the new situation) that will govern the rights and responsibilities of the staff and students accessing the facilities are being developed and will be presented to the IT & Infrastructure Committee for discussion at its next meeting.

09 August 2005

Technology Triage

How do you prioritise your work?

The Technical Services Unit is developing a draft Service Level Agreement to discuss with the Division so that there can be a clear understanding of the role of the TSU.

As a part of the internal discussions within the TSU in relation the proposed SLA, how requests are prioritised has received quite a lot of attention.

Under ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) Service Management practice, there are ‘incidents’ [“Any event which is not part of the standard operation of a system that causes, or may cause, an interruption to, or a reduction in, the quality of service.” Remedy Implementing ITIL Best Practices http://www.remedy.com/solutions/documents/white_papers/wp_itil.pdf accessed 9 Aug 2005], and there are ‘change’ requests [“The addition, modification or removal of approved, supported or baselined hardware, network, software, application, environment, system, desktop build or associated documentation.” ibid.]. During one of our discussions, a TSU staff member came up with the suggestion that hospital triage procedures might inform us of how better to assess ‘incidents’ in order to more effectively deal with them in the context of the Division’s needs to keep its processes operating.

According to wikipedia, the word triage comes from the French word trier, "to sort". Much of the credit for modern day triage has been attributed to Dominique Jean Larrey, a famous French surgeon in Napoleon's army who devised a method to quickly evaluate and categorize the wounded in battle and then evacuate those requiring the most urgent medical attention. He instituted these practises while battle was in progress and triaged patients with no regard to rank.

After the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centre buildings in New York, the term Technology Triage came into use in relation to dealing with getting companies that relied on technology back into business, asking such questions as what is mission-critical for your organization? And what technology supports those functions?

The TSU is now looking at both medical and technology triage practices to help it develop an agreed way to classify incidents as they arise, based at least initially on the START (Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment) system developed at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California.

So far we have come up with five categories of incidents with some associated signifying colours:





Send elsewhere: not our responsibility (although the TSU will manage the transfer).


Has to be dealt with now.


Can be dealt with later.


Can be dealt with now or may be delayed.


Minor injuries; first aid and home care are sufficient, a doctor's care is not required.

The TSU is currently working out how to determine which incidents fall into which category: quite an educational experience for the members of the group. There may be a need to change the nomenclature, especially in communication with a client, to ensure that the client feels that their request is being dealt with properly, but as a point of departure for the TSU the technology triage concept is proving enormously successful.

Managing requests for change is yet another matter, but if we improve incident management we can then move on to managing change.

Printing in the Division

Looking for better ways to provide services to the Division.

As a result of our investigations into printing in the Division to establish some benchmarks for the design of a replacement program for the current aging stock of Divisional printers, the Technical Services Unit has implemented a remote monitoring system for the existing stock of networked printing and photocopying devices (at least those that can be connected to the network).

The present temporary system is now tracking some 50 printers and multifunction devices and further refinements are in progress, such as finding additional printers that aren’t in the list for any reason, seeing which vendors’ software gives us the best view of the devices (and supports other vendors’ devices as well as its own), and setting configuration options to give us a better understanding of the devices we are looking at.

Experience so far has reinforced the view that the development of a remote monitoring system not just for printers and multifunction devices but for all networked devices is way overdue: with proper monitoring the Technical Services Unit can become more proactive in managing issues as they occur, or even anticipating potential problems before they occur and preventing them from happening. For example, we can now see the percentage of toner remaining in the cartridges installed in most of the newer devices around the network, and can replace it before the it runs out, or advise the person responsible (in the case of multifunction devices, for example) that they need to monitor the machine in question.

It has also demonstrated that we must assess the capability of any proposed additional or replacement devices to make sure any such device will fit in with modern network-based monitoring facilities, particularly a single monitoring solution that can be used to monitor all the devices on the network.

The TSU is assessing network monitoring systems available from several different vendors to establish which ones provide us with the sort of flexibility we want before a final recommendation will be made. Although most of these monitoring products are free, such a decision will have an impact on the brands and types of devices we buy in the future, because we will want to be sure any new device fits in to the one monitoring scheme.

We intend initially to target for replacement some older printers and other devices that don’t fit in with any system so that a better service can be offered. Based on the current experimental system we will be able easily to provide regular reports on the scope and spread of printing (and eventually photocopying as photocopying devices become networkable) across the Division.

26 July 2005

Use of Divisional Resources

With the start of a new semester it is timely to remind everyone of some general conditions for accessing Divisional resources (people, facilities, equipment or materials) managed by the TSU:
  1. Apart from arrangements in place through MFUG or the CRC, request access to any TSU-managed Divisional resources through the helpdesk, in writing. No access should be assumed until written confirmation of a request or booking is received.
  2. Send requests for changes to equipment configurations or setups to the comedu helpdesk in writing. TSU will carry out any approved changes. Setups are not to reconfigured by non-TSU staff.
  3. No equipment can be borrowed from the TSU or the CRC without the necessary paperwork being completed.
  4. Consumables are to be provided by the client.
  5. Divisional resources are not to be used for unofficial purposes. See the Outside Work Policy for information on the Use of University Resources.
  6. No non-university equipment is to be located within any University facility without the written permission of the Deputy Head of the Division.


More background information on ePortfolios to help determine how the Division might use its new ePortfolio service when it becomes operational.

Educause has just made available a white paper on ePortfolios that makes interesting reading in relation to the server the Division is currently commissioning as the first stage in its ePortfolio server offering: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3001.pdf

Delays in the development of a working provisioning system for authenticating students required for the Division’s ePortfolio server have put back its availability until (hopefully) the beginning of next semester. This delay has also affected CLRC students’ access to free printing.

IT Loan Fund

Over time the original intention of the IT Loan, or IT Infrastructure Fund, has become a little blurred.

In 1998 VCAC introduced an IT Infrastructure Fund (the ‘IT Loan’) that allowed Divisions to 'borrow' against future budget expectations for the purchase of information technology equipment. An assumption underlying the establishment of the Fund was that if Divisions could upgrade their infrastructure to new and uniform equipment, the savings made on not having to repair, maintain and support a wide range of obsolete equipment would allow them to pay back the loans. Adrian Westerman reported to Council in February 1999 that:

This fund had worked well with significant improvements in IT infrastructure throughout the University being realised during 1998 and most cost centres repaying loans through savings during the course of the year. [http://www.canberra.edu.au/secretariat/committees/council/1990-/1999-docs/1999-02-05.pdf]

The Division of Communication and Education has failed to realise the full benefit of the Fund because the old equipment that is supposed to be replaced by the new purchases is being recycled (in an attempt to satisfy increasing and insatiable demands) rather than being sold or trashed.

Each year there is more technology of increasing variety and age: maintenance costs are higher, older equipment restricts our ability as a Division to, for example, provide training, expert support and to roll out new operating systems and services like remote assistance.

Staff and student numbers (at least in some units where resource costs are high, and postgraduate student numbers) are growing, and staff and student expectations of the quality and sophistication of the resources that should to be available to them are also increasing. These issues are not being addressed effectively in the Division’s resource planning, at least in relation to the provision of space, infrastructure and technology.

Heads of School need to be mindful of the resource implications of proposals they endorse especially with respect to:

  • projections of student numbers (are there enough items to be bought to satisfy the projected demand?);
  • costs of commissioning of any new hardware or software;
  • staff numbers and their skills;
  • training costs for existing and future staff required to use or demonstrate the equipment or systems;
  • additional infrastructure, licensing or provisioning requirements; and
  • ongoing maintenance and administration costs.

Executive should ensure that the IT & Infrastructure Committee considers these TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) issues in making its recommendations, and that all the members of the IT & Infrastructure Committee agree with the whole approach to managing any particular proposed resource over its life.

Total Cost of Ownership

TCO is one of a number of things to consider when considering purchasing equipment.

Try this quick quiz:

How much does a dog cost?

  1. Nothing: you get them free from the pound
  2. $150-$1,000 depending on the breed.
  3. $10,000

According to HP, the cost of owning a dog for its lifetime of around 10 years is over US$8,300 (http://h71032.www7.hp.com/tco/). So why is this important? The same HP article goes on to quote a Gartner Group study that gives the five year Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a US$2,000 PC at around US$21,000 when administration and management costs are taken into account.

Recent presentations to the University from the Commonwealth and Macquarie banks quote research that shows costs actually increase as equipment gets older: with more support and maintenance required as equipment gets older, and the higher costs associated with supporting increasingly complex environments as items of equipment of differing ages and capabilities are mixed together. What the banks propose is replacing the equipment every two to three years to eliminate the increasing costs, and of course the banks will be pleased to provide the finance through leasing plans to help the University manage their equipment (including media equipment) to keep it all current.

18 July 2005

Copyright and streaming video

Do we have the right to stream television around the campus network, and beyond?

Advice from campus copyright guru Greg Jones is that the streaming of off-air video and audio around the campus network live and on-demand comes under the fairly liberal conditions of the University’s Copyright Guide (http://www.canberra.edu.au/copyright/guide#heading7), so long as we restrict the streaming to the campus and educational institutions that also have an agreement with Screenrights.

12 July 2005


Subscribe to all the audio you can eat with this new form of media file sharing. Video coming soon...

Podcasting is not about iPods and broadcasting: it means a system of publishing mainly audio files on the internet so that users can subscribe to a feed and receive new files automatically (see WikiPedia.com). For example, a series of lectures could be podcast as they were recorded: students subscribing to the feed would receive the lectures on their computers as the lectures became available. They could listen to them on the computer or have them automatically transferred to their MP3 player for playing later. Yet another reason for providing students with access to more server space, since a typical one-hour lecture might take up 25MB of storage space.

The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that is) has been enthusiastically podcasting since May, and now provides listeners with access to a range of audio news programs including AM, PM, The World Today and Correspondents Report; many Radio National programs like the Science Show, Background Briefing and Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live; and highlights from TripleJ, dig, and Sunday Profile.

There is a good help file on the ABC’s Radio National site that explains the whole process at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/help.htm

See the following links for more information:

Two radio programs from Broadcast Journalism are podcasting from feed://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/tsu/rss/nowUCradio.xml (paste the url into iTunes, available free for Windows or Macintosh at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/, Advanced>>Subscribe to podcast…). Anyone with editing access to a webserver can set up podcasts easily with a few simple tools: contact the cehelpdesk for further information.

Photocopy cards

There is a proposal to put student card readers on photocopy machines so that students can pay for photocopying through their Pharos accounts.

It appears that the University Library is upgrading its photocopying machines to accept student cards to manage payments instead of the dedicated photocopy cards currently in use. The Division has a number of photocopiers using the Library’s card system (in the CRC, the CLRC and the ILTC, as well as the 5C44b lab), but no infrastructure to issue or recharge the cards when they run out of credit: this is currently handled by the Library with a charge-back system in place to ensure the Division gets its money for the photocopies done on its machines.

Under the new system the Library may no longer issue or recharge the old photocopy cards. If this happens, the Division will have to install its own system to issue and recharge photocopy cards, or upgrade the card readers on the photocopiers to read student cards instead of the old cards. Some of the readers in the Division are rented through the Library, others leased as a part of rental agreements with Canon.

The new student card readers will need access to the computer network in order to reverify the cards and manage the transactions required for students to pay for their printing. While this appears not to be a problem with the Division’s multifunction devices (which are already connected to the network), some of the photocopy machines will need access to network ports where none is currently available. There will be some cost involved in extending the network to allow the new card readers to access the network ($300+ per port depending on the individual location and network capacity).

The CRC Manager is liaising with the Library on the project to see if she can establish a time scale and costs for the changeover: best option would be to covert all the Division’s machines to use student cards at the same time that the Library changes over, but there will be some as yet unknown costs associated with the changes.

28 June 2005

New Calendar clients

A recent upgrade to the University Calandar supports new clients.

The University’s Netscape Calendar has recently been upgraded to a new version with a new name: Corporate Time. While the old clients still work, there are new clients available for the Calendar that give added functionality. Contact the cehelpdesk to have the new client installed.

You can also check out the new web interface at http://calendar.canberra.edu.au/cgi-bin/nscal/login.cgi [sign-in required: use your staff number in the form sXXXXXX as the User Name and your usual proxy password].

OPUS portal for Student Management System

Upgrading doesn't always provide all the attractions of the old system...

One of the features of the old Merlin student management system that appeared to have been popular with staff was the web access provided to Merlin through OPUS. When Callista replaced Merlin the OPUS interface was dropped.

If staff are interested in the restoration of web access to the student management system through OPUS they should register their interest with the IT & Infrastructure Committee (through their School representative or the Office of the Deputy Head of the Division) so ICT Services can be encouraged to reinstate it.

Leasing ICT equipment

The University is discussing leasing arrangements with a number of potential partners.

The Commonwealth Bank, with its partner ComputerFleet, has approached the University with a proposal to consider leasing rather than buying ICT equipment like computers, monitors, printers and even media equipment like digital cameras.

The system could work like the current IT Loan system to the extent that Divisions retain their autonomy to purchase equipment that fits their needs, although the University may also be separately considering centralising some purchasing if it can be shown to drive down the cost.

Under the ComputerFleet proposal, the University would replace equipment like desktop computers every two years, and end up paying less than the University pays for the computer if it buys a replacement every three years. Under the current IT Loan arrangements, the Division only pays 67% of the cost of new equipment (the rest is funded by the University centrally to encourage the Divisions to keen their stock of IT equipment current), so it may cost the Divisions more if they were to absorb the whole cost of leasing.

Benefits of the ComputerFleet proposal include:

  • Replacement of ICT equipment every two years;
  • Asset tracking is handled by the ComputerFleet’a ClientXpress software, management of which can be decentralised to the Divisional level or even finer;
  • Using the ClientXpress software, costs can be applied easily to local cost centres and easily transferred as needs change (like research projects that may be completed, for example);
  • At the end of the lease period ComputerFleet’s partner, APCD, disposes of the assets.

New Helpdesk software

New helpdesk software will improve communication with staff about the status of their requests.

The Division’s helpdesk is managed using some software originally developed some time ago: we have been planning to replace it but with the uncertainly surrounding the centralisation of ICT services it was not thought prudent to invest resources in a new or upgraded solution that may be defunct if and when centralisation proceeded. The recent IT & Infrastructure planning day highlighted the need to press ahead with an update: among other things to provide staff with information about where their jobs were in the system.

BLIS has been using the Computer Associates UniCenter ServicePlus Service Desk solution (http://www3.ca.com/Solutions/Product.asp?ID=191) for more than a year, and recently HDS also began using it (previously HDS didn’t have a computerised request tracking system). BLIS has offered us access to their system, for which they have requested a modest fee to help them cover the costs of the infrastructure. We would also need to buy 4 or 5 licences and provide analyst and administrator training for our help desk people.

Helpdesk phone upgrade

New phones and headsets will improve TSU telephone support.

Helpdesk phones have now been upgraded to new ones with headsets, so helpdesk staff can deal with support calls ‘hands-free’. As well as making it possible to interact with a computer to solve issues as they arise, it also makes it easier for the helpdesk to log requests in the helpdesk system so we have a better record of the work they do.

Remote support

Some decisions have to be made before the mechanisms for remote support of staff computers are introduced.

For some time now the Technical Services Unit has been accessing computers remotely for maintenance: mainly for configuring servers but we have also been experimenting with managing staff desktop machines via network access. We have a number of tools available to use that allow us, for example, to log on to a Windows or Macintosh computer over the network and share the screen, mouse and keyboard with that computer.

In the case of a request for support, for example, with the permission of the client the support person can log on to the client’s computer over the network, see what is on the screen, and use their keyboard and mouse to control the client’s computer as the client watches. Combined with phone contact, this provides a very simple way for support (and dare it be said ‘just-in-time’ training or ‘at-elbow’ support) to be delivered.

Once in place, such systems also allow us to update and reconfigure computers remotely, either singly or sometimes in groups as large as, for example, ‘all PCs in the Division’.

There are a number of challenges that need to be addressed before such systems are introduced throughout the Division: security and privacy being significant issues that need to be addressed appropriately. The widespread introduction of the systems will require software installation or upgrading and changes to settings on staff computers that may involve a visit by a member of the technical staff.

With Executive support we will develop a detailed plan, including costings, to implement this approach across the Division.

14 June 2005

Staff relations

We do what we can...

Always at the end of Semester the levels of tension within the University community rise: with limited resources, competing deadlines and overwhelming requests for support this can lead to frayed tempers and misunderstandings.

While the TSU staff do their best, often above and beyond reasonable expectations, some staff members in the Division feel they aren’t getting the attention they deserve and express their dissatisfaction directly with TSU staff, sometimes beyond the point of what would be considered appropriate workplace behaviour.

TSU staff have been instructed to bring any instance of such behaviour to the attention of the Manager, IT & Media Services. Any support work for the individual staff member concerned will be suspended pending an investigation of the incident. If it looks like the complaint is justified an official complaint may be lodged with the University about the incident.

Divisional staff who are dissatisfied with the Technical Services Unit should take their grievance up with the Manager, IT & Media Services, or the Deputy Head of the Division, not with TSU staff directly.

Help requests

PLEASE use the proper channels to lodge requests for TSU support!

Often TSU staff are stopped in the corridor with requests for urgent assistance: to aid in setups for presentations for example. The TSU has no staff specifically available for this type of support: requests for help should be logged with the helpdesk by phone or sent to the cehelpdesk email account.

Swipe card access

Swipe card access is being upgraded around the University.

The University has (finally!) begun the transition between the old Honeywell swipe card access system used in a number of places around the Division, to the new Cardax system. The first phase of the transition is expected to be completed by the beginning of Semester 2, when all existing Honeywell controllers managing access to Buildings 5 and 20, and rooms 5B38, 5C44a and b, and 5C56 will be replaced with Cardax controllers. Eventually out of hours access to all of the buildings on campus will be regulated by the system.

After the rollout the Division can request additional spaces be regulated by the system: suggestions for any spaces that might be regulated by the new system should be sent to the Division’s IT & Infrastructure Committee for discussion. The Division will have to pay for the installations requested.

Network issues

Leading-edge network services need a robust network.

Difficulties with the network continue to plague the Division’s capacity to support existing services and introduce new ones like the eMeeting system and streaming video. Network Services from ICT Services are being extremely helpful in this regard (a major issue with the live streaming of local television services was solved last month when a security setting on the main University router was identified as the culprit and reset), but problems continue with getting reliable services across subnets.

Current thinking is that we must replace ALL the older D-Link network switches with more modern managed switches: while this is necessary and it may solve some of the performance bottlenecks on the network, there may be other underlying configuration settings that will also need to be modified before full service from, for example, the eMeeting server is available. There are between 15 and 20 older switches in the Division that need replacing: at our own cost we have already replaced 5 and are waiting for them to be installed in key locations around the Division to see if performance improves. Another 10-15 switches will be required to completely update the network, and there may be some additional capacity required to allow them to be connected properly to the University network.

While the installation, maintenance, administration and upgrading of the network is the responsibility of ICT Services, in practice they don’t have the resources to solve these issues on their own immediately: the Division will need to contribute funds if the problems are to be addressed now.

New email server

The Division has had to move to a new email server.

The new Exchange email server, isaac.canberra.edu.au, is now operational and TSU staff are busy transitioning Divisional staff over to the new server. While not yet complete, the transfer to a new server has shown great promise in solving a number of the issues recently experienced with the old server, spirilium.

All staff should be migrated to the new server by the beginning of Semester 2. For some staff this may require a visit from TSU staff who will check the configuration of their email client to ensure they are using the correct setup for the new server. Staff who access their email from outside the campus via an email client may need to contact the helpdesk to help them apply the new setting required.

Staff can access the new email server via the web: once all accounts have been transferred to the new server instructions for accessing the service via the web will be posted on the TSU website at http://www.canberra.edu.au/divisions/comedu/tsu/home. In the meantime, staff who have been migrated already can visit http://isaac.canberra.edu.au/ to have a look at the new Web Access system (enter your staff number with the ‘s’, and the password is your normal proxy password: no domain required!).

Directory Service for the Division

More specialised needs for Division of Communication and Education students.

In order to overcome shortcomings with the ICT Services-supported Directory Services for students in the University, the Division has been investigating the development of a partial replication of the central student Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) service to satisfy the Division’s own specialist needs for additional functionality.

The new Directory Service would provide support for, for example: the ePortfolio service, student access to Communication Learning Resource Centre (CLRC) resources, and Professional Experience teacher education students secure access to online registration of their placement preferences and information about their professional experience program. The Division is working with ICT Services and outside consultants to implement the augmented Directory: it is expected to be available for further testing within the next week or two.

17 May 2005

ITIL: IT Infrastructure Library

ICT Services at the University of Canberra is keen to embrace ITIL.

ITIL, the IT Infrastructure Library, was developed by the UK Office of Government Commerce and is currently gaining wide acceptance as an approach to managing IT Services. From the Official ITIL Website (http://www.ogc.gov.uk/index.asp?id=2261):

ITIL provides a cohesive set of best practice, drawn from the public and private sectors internationally. It is supported by a comprehensive qualifications scheme, accredited training organisations, and implementation and assessment tools.

Some background to the structure of ITIL practice is covered in the ITIL Structure paper.

Training: how much is enough?

Best Practice in IT Training for University technical staff.

If the University of Canberra is going to embrace ITIL, then there needs to be a commitment to supporting Best Practice in a number of areas. So what is Best Practice for training IT staff?

According to Best International, citing a Computerworld list of the Ten Best Places to Work in IT for training, the ten best places to work in IT in the US spend on average between AU$9,000 and AU$14,000 per employee per year on training, with an average number of training days per year of between 7 and 17. Since the TSU has 9 employees, this means spending between $80,000 and $126,000 each and every year on training, plus the cost of the additional staff required to cover their absences while training (about another two-thirds of a person, plus THEIR training…).

There is a case study of the University of Florida (voted number 2 in the 2004 Best Places survey) at http://www.computerworld.com/careertopics/careers/story/0,10801,93759,00.html. Average annual number of training days per IT staff member at the University of Florida is 7.

Broadcast Flag is lowered

...before it was even raised!

Last year the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated the introduction of a broadcast flag in digital television broadcasts that receivers and other devices dealing with digital video signals would have to read and obey (an item on the mandate was in the Technical Services Unit Report 20 August 2004). The idea was that producers and broadcasters could limit what consumers could do with digital television broadcasts: preventing the broadcasts for example from being recorded, or made into DVDs, or broadcast around IP networks (all of which we do here in the Division of Communication and Education, under existing provisions of the Copyright Act).

Last week a US appeals court struck down the regulation, concluding that the FCC didn’t have the authority to regulate ancillary devices like recorders.

While the FCC has no jurisdiction in Australia, under the Free Trade Agreement signed between the US and Australia last year, there would have been pressure on Australian broadcasters, manufacturers and distributors to mind the flag here as was to be required in the US.

See Court Nixes ‘Broadcast Flag’.

Scholarship for Service Delivery Manager

WWDC Scholarship for Service Delivery Manager from Apple University Consortium.

The Division's Servce Delivery Manager has won a Nationally Competitive Staff Scholarship to attend Apple Computer’s World Wide Developer Conference to be held in San Francisco 6-10 June 2005. With Apple’s recent release of Tiger, Mac OS X 10.4, and QuickTime 7, his attendance at the Conference is very timely and will be of great benefit to the Division.


The microteaching spaces are proving problematic...
  • There are some technical issues still being resolved: one particularly difficult to resolve technical issue is a hum in the sound recording systems when the rooms are used in a particular configuration: TSU staff are working with the supplier and installer to either rectify the problem or replace the errant components.

  • The new installations are challenging students: as an example, in one case last week a group of students became quite insistent that their issues with using one of the rooms were dealt with summarily, and were told to contact their lecturer, or the comedu helpdesk. Subsequently a member of the TSU staff on his lunch break was contacted directly, with the insistence that help be provided to the students immediately. It turned out the students had not followed the instructions provided and the fix was quite simple: changing one setting on the camera to reflect their requirements for recording.

The microteaching spaces are a flexible design required to satisfy a number of different and varied uses: this has increased the apparent complexity of the spaces when used by inexperienced students and staff, even though the rooms are now simpler to use (for single camera recording) than they were before.

  • Access is difficult: not a day goes by without students seeking access to the rooms: without swipe card access this will continue to the annoyance of staff in the surrounding offices. Also as a result of the lack of swipe card access the rooms are being left unlocked: there have been a number of security reports of the rooms being found unlocked by security on patrol overnight.

In order to get the full use from these rooms the Division will need to consider seriously dedicating staff resources to help staff and students get value out of the resources there. Either that or limit access to trained and qualified operators only.

03 May 2005

Replacement equipment

Policy on funding replacement equipment bought originally from research and consultancy funds needs clarification.

In investigating computers around the Division in need of replacement, a number of machines older than three year that were bought originally with research or consultancy funds have been identified, raising the question should a computer purchased with research or consultancy funds be replaced using central Divisional funds when it goes out of warranty?

The Technical Services Unit can’t support the older machines, and it doesn’t seem appropriate to upgrade them with computers purchased from central Divisional funds.

[Update 6 May 2005] At its meeting on 6 May 2005, Executive noted that if equipment purchased from Research or Consultancy funds needed replacement, it should be replaced with research or consultancy funds. The Technical Services Unit is not expected to support outdated equipment.

Printing in the Division

A project is required to update printing facilities in the Division.

In 2000/2001 the Division embarked on a major project to upgrade printers throughout the Division, rationalising the then existing wide range of devices to standardise on HP LaserJet printers. These printers have by and large served the Division well and standardisation has made looking after the printers centrally easier. Bulk buying has reduced the cost of toner.

In 2006 these printers will be five years old, well out of warranty and at the end of their service life by industry standards. Most are still working well, but particularly high-usage devices increasingly need service and replacement parts.

While there has been talk in the past about the University centrally managing printing, no plans are yet in place. Something will need to be done over the next twelve months to maintain printing services across the Division at a reasonable level: with changes in printing and photocopy technology over the past five years, there is an opportunity to look at other ways of providing printing to staff by combining the functions of printing and photocopying in the one device (multifunction devices or MFDs), leasing or renting rather than buying, and paying a service provider a click-charge to cover toner and maintenance over a five year contract period. Personal printers can be replaced by purchasing cheaper devices, but toner and maintenance charges remain high for these devices, much higher per page that using MFDs.

With the approval of Executive, a range of two or three options for refreshing printing across the Division can be prepared for discussion.

Email server upgrade

A server and software upgrade is planned to alleviate some current issues.

The Division’s existing Exchange 2000 email server is in urgent need of upgrade: to help combat spam; give some more protection against virus attacks; and to provide much needed extra storage space for emails (the current server is almost full and additional space can’t be added easily).

While the University has been talking for some years about providing a centralised collaborative system covering email, calendaring, document sharing and other tools, no system has yet been chosen and there is no timetable for implementation. In the circumstances, the existing server needs to be upgraded to continue to provide the Division with a reliable email service.

The Division of Business, Law and Information Systems has kindly assisted with the provision of a server licence for the current, newer version of Exchange (Exchange 2003), the email server used here in COMEDU, and has assisted us in the initial installation of the software. The server must now be installed in the rack and the existing Exchange 2000 accounts have to be transferred over to the new server: while end users should not notice the change, TSU staff may have to visit staff members individually over the next three months to finalise their transition to the new server.

Backlog in TSU projects

Installations require commissioning with no new resources.

The TSU is currently finding commissioning new services and upgrading existing installations very difficult because of limited staff resources. Both the ePortfolio and eMeeting servers are now installed but more work is needed to bring these services online so that they can be used.

There is also an urgent need to upgrade the email server (see separate item in this report).

A number of teaching activities and research projects have also unexpectedly called on TSU resources, further delaying work on approved projects: any activities being planned that would require the assistance of the Technical Services Unit in teaching or research should be discussed in the first instance with the Manager of the TSU or raised with the Division’s IT & Infrastructure Committee, and an approved source of funding for the activity identified and approved.

Storage space for student work

More space required for student work.

With the increased numbers of students in media and journalism units using video editing facilities in the Division, storage space for projects is becoming more of an issue. As local hard disk storage is used up, older projects have to be deleted to make enough space for those that come later, sometimes resulting in the loss of other students’ work in progress.

While there is network storage available for Divisional students, the current network infrastructure is not sufficient in practice to support transferring the large files involved in video editing between the network storage and the local machine: a major upgrade of computers and network infrastructure would be required to support editing video over the network.

Students enrolled in units requiring them to edit video may need to be advised that they need to purchase their own storage devices with sufficient capacity to hold their video files (20GB to 400GB +) to reduce the risk of losing their work.


Recent incidents demonstrate need for constant vigilance.

On Thursday 28 April 2005, someone tampered with the cables securing equipment in two of the Division’s labs: three new flat panel displays were stolen and a computer damaged in one of the labs.

The TSU is reviewing the security of the installations, but no matter how much is done to secure equipment, determined thieves will find a way to steal equipment, even though they destroy it in the attempt.

Staff must take responsibility for locking labs after use: keys can be requisitioned from Heads of School if required. Staff should also notify Security on x2222 if they notice any suspicious activity.

08 April 2005

Laptops for Staff teaching offshore

Laptops, portable computers, notebooks: there’s more demand for them from staff.

At its meeting on 8 April 2005, Executive noted the advantages of laptop computers for academics to maintain contact while teaching offshore. Executive agreed that staff teaching offshore would have an option to have a laptop computer (in place of their desktop computer) when such an option could be accommodated within the TSU computer replacement program.

08 March 2005

ePortfolio Server

Rising demand for server space and increasing expectations lead to innovative approach to student storage.

Last year the IT & Infrastructure Committee supported a proposal for the development of the first stage of an ePortfolio system for students enrolled in courses in the Division. The Division has been offering students enrolled in some units additional server storage and display space on request from staff. The space was only made available for the duration of the unit, and any materials left on the server after the end of the unit were erased.

Executive approved the proposal for the first stage of an ePortfolio service in December. The hardware for the system is now on order and is expected to be commissioned over the next few months. By Semester 2 all students enrolled in courses in the Division should have access to 1GB of server space that they will be able to access until they graduate.

The plan has come as a surprise to several people around the campus, so the proposal is included here for information so news of the Division's initiative can be disseminated more widely.

Network storage for students, especially those doing courses in media, journalism and education, is a big issue around the campus: the 20Mbyte limit on student storage imposed by ICT Services makes it impossible for these students to develop their assessable work online, and they are unable to keep their completed work stored for long periods. ICT Services believes that larger storage requirements beyond the 20Mbyte limit are specialist requirements and should be provided by the Divisions in response to individual needs.

Each semester the Division of Communication and Education makes available network storage space, on Divisional servers, for student enrolled in particular units where staff have requested it. In some Media courses, for example, students are provided with private network storage space, a "public" space they can use to publish work on the Internet, and shared directories for group assignments. Typically 1Gbyte of storage is allocated to each student: twenty times the space available to them through their ICT Services-provided Home Drive.

At the end of each semester, the storage is wiped and prepared for the next semester's units.

Recently the concept of an ePortfolio has been developed: "…an online environment loaded with electronic tools that can be used to develop and present a portfolio package." (Ali Jafari, http://www.educause.edu/apps/er/erm04/erm0442.asp).

In 2005 it is proposed to begin the development of an ePortfolio service to students enrolled in courses in the Division of Communication and Education: such that each student enrolled in a course in the Division, and students enrolled in units requiring server space additional to the 20MB offered by ICT Services, will be given continuing access to up to 1GB of space on a network server while they are enrolled at the University. The space can be used for private storage, public access or presentation, and collaborative work.

In later years, increased capacity, redundancy and backup will be added, as demand for more space and by more students requires additional capacity. It might also be possible to add content management tools: publishing tools to help students display their work in a number of formats, and so on.

The system should be built from the ground up to allow for expanded capacity to handle more students and to give each student more space. It should also allow for expanded capabilities (new electronic tools as they become available) without having to migrate older materials.

Increasing demands for network storage for students doing courses requiring it are driving this proposal: but as well a service of this sort would attract and retain students in these courses.

ICT Services believes that extra storage should be managed by Divisions on the basis of needs: there is a demonstrated need to give media, journalism and education students access to additional storage for their project work, and provide them with space where they can store and provide access to their "portfolios" to their assessors, peers, prospective employers and the wider community.

Future growth
Proposals to expand the system will be prepared as requirements become clear: for example to provide greater security (backup), greater capacity and more sophisticated tools.

Access to new Category B spaces in Building 9

Increased Divisional resources pose some challenges to the Technical Services Unit.

Since the spaces in Building 9 became the responsibility of the Division, there have been numerous requests for the rooms to be unlocked for scheduled classes and for casual use.

Often the doors have been left unlocked after the last occupant has departed.

The TSU does not provide security services, and staff needing access to these rooms should requisition the appropriate keys from their Head of School so they can access the spaces as required. They should also take responsibility for ensuring the spaces are locked when leaving.

The TSU has approached the University of many occasions to develop proposals for the installation of Cardax swipe card systems to access spaces around the Division (especially the Microteaching rooms in Building 5), but to no avail.

Divisional labs

An update on the current status of labs in the Division.

All labs should now be operational, with the CLRC upgraded to new machines and a printing function added to the photocopier; the new Media Lab is operational.

Video editing workstations are scheduled for upgrade from Media 100 to new machines with Final Cut Pro HD software this week.

Students can now log on to Macintosh computers in Divisional labs with their student ID and password.

Updated Helpdesk statistics

More complete February 2005 Helpdesk statistics are provided.

Last month incomplete data for February 2005 was provided: below the figures are updated. While the graph demonstrates the amount of requests dealt with by the TSU in February, we have been more diligent recently in adding requests to the system so that we can better manage the requests.

TSU statistics including final February 2005 figures

We have also added some features to make adding and tracking jobs easier, including a web form where users can add their requests to the database directly without sending an email. The webform is at http://www.ce.canberra.edu.au/tsu/staff_add_request.cfm

New online form to request TSU services:

22 February 2005

MacWorld Conference and Expo 2005

The world’s Number One Macintosh trade show, conference and exhibition.

IT and Media Services Manager was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the Apple University Consortium to attend the MacWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco in January 2005. The Division also contributed to the trip. He attended the PowerTools Conference on AppleScript, the Keynote address from Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the MacIT Conference aimed at IT Managers using Apple technology for clients, servers and management, and the Expo itself.

This is the year of HDV (High Definition Video), or at least according to Steve Jobs. He is putting Apple behind the push, with support for editing the HDV format available in Apple's high-end video editing software Final Cut Pro HD announced last year. At the MacWorld Keynote, Steve announced that the cheaper Final Cut Express video editing software will also support editing HDV video, and incredibly so will iMovie, the 'consumer' video editing package that comes free with every new Macintosh, or can be purchased as a part of Apple's iLife suite of media products which retails in Australia for AU$119 a copy (for the whole suite, which also includes iPhoto, iTunes, IDVD and Garageband).

Steve demonstrated Sony's new "prosumer" HDV camcorder, the HDR-FX1, that is available in Australia to the University for about AU$5,500. He then invited then Sony President and CEO Kunitake Ando onto the stage, where Mr Ando told us that Sony would be releasing even smaller and cheaper consumer HDV cameras onto the market later this year. A professional version of the FX1, the Z1, has also be released: about AU$7,500 to the University.

The Division has 40 computers in student labs capable of editing the new format, but we face challenges with storing the large video files required on the computers (most of the hard disks are just not big enough, and the networks aren't up to transferring the files around even if storage were available somewhere on the network). These issues can be solved, and if the demand is there a proposal to purchase some HDV cameras and to overcome the storage and network problems will be put to the Division's IT & Infrastructure Committee later this year for funding in 2006.

Why HDV? Superb quality at a low price.

Mac Mini
Of greatest interest to the University among Steve's other announcements during the Keynote is the Mac Mini: at well under AU$800 to the University (without keyboard, mouse or display), it is by far the cheapest Macintosh ever. While not suitable for high end tasks (like editing HDV, for example, although the machine is capable of it), as a desktop computer for Office and internet use it's hard to beat the price.

A standard Dell (with keyboard, mouse and display) in the Division's current configuration is priced just under AU$2,000. A similarly configured Mac Mini (with keyboard, mouse and display) would cost us less than AU$1,200: less than 2/3rd the price of the PC.

PowerTools Conference
The two-day PowerTools Conference on AppleScript was useful in exploring using the technology to help manage the various aspects of the video servers. While not all of the components can be controlled through AppleScript, AppleScript can also control unix shell scripts. The Conference showed how a solution can be built through the use of a number of processes integrated together through the AppleScript environment (if only we had the skills, experience and most of all time).

MacIT Conference
Sessions at the MacIT of particular interest included:

  • Macintosh in the enterprise
    What some larger corporations are doing to support the Macintosh.
  • Managing a disparate computing environment
    University experiences in integrating the Macintosh.
  • Using the UNIX shell
    A couple of sessions covering the use of the command line in OS X (useful for automating the video servers).
  • Tiger Server in Depth
    A look at the next release of the Macintosh server software.
  • Xsan
    Apple has just released Xsan: Storage Area Network technology allowing networked computers fast access to large central storage (particularly useful for video editing labs).
  • Shell scripting
    Automating the management of recurring activities required to keep services running on Macinsh servers.
  • Remote Desktop
    Apple software for managing users' computers at a distance.
  • K2 (formerly known as KeyServer)
    Software asset management (making sure the software we install and use is legal) is a challenge for the University: K2 (an upgrade to a product the University already owns) can solve the problem for us for PCs and Macintosh computers.

Expo: the Show Floor
While not as large a previous MacWorld Expos in San Francisco (all trade fairs in the US are apparently down post 9/11), there was a positive feel on the floor of the Expo. The Mac Mini and iPod Shuffle (a merging of the iPod and USB key technologies at a bargain price) were the stars of the show.

There were a lot of iPod third party product exhibitors on the floor, which sometimes made the show fell a bit like iPod World rather than MacWorld, but it did demonstrate what a success the iPod has been for Apple. One particularly interesting piece of software for the iPod is iLingo: a language translator for the iPod. The English Euro pack contains over 450 translations from English in each of French, German, Spanish and Italian. Designed more as a companion for travellers, iLingo allows the user to display translations written on the iPod screen, and play a native speaker speaking the phrase out load in the chosen language. The content is intuitively organised into categories that make it simple to find the necessary phrase quickly and easily.

It was also good to be able to catch up with the latest from vendors like:

  • El Gato (makers of the EyeTV hardware and software that forms the basis of the current live video streaming of local terrestrial television content around the University network)
  • FileMaker (version 7 of FileMaker Pro has now been released that has great support for internet access to data: something there is a need for in the Division).
  • Belkin, Kensington, Dr Bott and Griffin (all producers of a range of third-party products that provide additional functionality to the Macintosh, especially in video and audio capture, storage and peripherals).
  • Printer manufacturers with good Macintosh support, including Canon, HP, Epson, Xerox and Brother.
  • Camera producers Kodak, Nikon, Olympus and Canon, for digital still and movie camera, and scanners.
  • Large software vendors including Macromedia, Adobe and Microsoft.
  • Publishers O'Reilly and Peachpit Press
  • Sorenson Media (producers of the software used here to prepare video for on-demand streaming).