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.