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.