25 July 2006

UCTV Update

Digital television on a desktop near you (if not your own!)

Twenty one live free-to-air digital television channels are now reliably being transmitted from Building 20 around the University network, 13 of them to GrangeNet. It is possible that the GrangeNet channels can be received via experimental networks in Europe and the US (but still not reliably in Building 9!).

As an additional service from the Technical Services Unit, video pieces developed in media, journalism and other units can now be transmitted as a separate service along with the live television services. Any video placed in a particular network folder developed by the TSU for the purpose will be added to a loop of other such pieces and transmitted continuously. When the service becomes operational (when there are videos to play!), it will automatically appear in the Service Announcements list in the VLC player used to receive the existing services.

Recently a student from the Ressies asked if they could access the streams there: the answer is currently no, but the request was forwarded to PVC Research and Information Management. He has undertaken to see if the University can in fact make it work: it requires some updating to the network infrastructure and some work on network access policy, but he and the Deputy Vice Chancellor are hoping to be able to make it work.


Has the avalanche of unwanted emails slowed?

Early in July the University further increased its efforts to reduce spam and emails containing viruses and other malware from reaching University email accounts. Graphical evidence at http://rattlesnake.canberra.edu.au/cgi-bin/mailgraph.cgi/werewolf shows clearly the results of the changes between June and July (on the Month and Year graphs towards the bottom of the screen): many more messages are now being rejected rather than passed on to user accounts with [POSSIBLE SPAM] tags. Anecdotal evidence also suggests the amount of spam, even the number of messages marked as [POSSIBLE SPAM], has reduced since the increased measures were implemented.

Staff are asked to pass on spam and other unwanted email messages not marked as [POSSIBLE SPAM] that are still getting through to their in boxes to ICT Services for review, to establish what might be able to be done to reduce even further the amount of unwanted email reaching user accounts. A new Public Folder called SPAM for ICT should have appeared in your email client (under the Public Folders directory in your University account). Drag or save emails you believe to be examples of spam or other unwanted emails into this folder and they will be made available to ICT Services automatically. Contact the comedu helpdesk if you need assistance in transferring spam to this folder.

Forwarding suspect email to either ICT Services or the comedu helpdesk won’t help: forwarded emails may lose the data required by ICT Services to establish how it might have got through the filters in place.

The new arrangements in force may have unintended consequences for people outside the University sending legitimate email to University accounts. Otherwise legitimate email may be marked as [POSSIBLE SPAM] or even rejected without being delivered to the addressee. If you come across examples of this happening please contact the ICT Services helpdesk (x5500 or servicedesk@canberra.edu.au) to advise them and to seek advice on what needs to be done to overcome the issue.

If legitimate email is rejected the sender will receive an explanation of why the email was rejected by the University with instructions on what the sender (or their IT section or ISP) has to do to have their email delivered to the University recipient without being rejected in the future. While in some cases the original email may not be delivered to the intended recipient, in most cases the email will be delivered anyway while the problem is rectified at the sender’s end: the sender just keeps getting the message to have their email server configured properly to avoid the messages being rejected.

CLRC Printing

At least at the time of writing the report, it appeared student printing in the CLRC would work. Alas it was not to be...

After two years of issues, the Communication Learning Resource Centre (CLRC) can now reliably offer students enrolled in relevant units access to quota-limited free printing in the CLRC.

It has been a policy of the CLRC for many years that eligible students can print up to 20 pages free every two days. During an upgrade to the computing environment there several years ago, the management of this policy from a technical point of view became troublesome and unreliable. Efforts to fix the problems with the print quota system were complicated by the University’s complex management of student identity management; the requirement for a ‘single sign-on’ in the University (no matter what service you want to access you should be able to use the same id and password, and any password change should immediately follow you to other services you may want to use); and the lack of a single authoritative source of information covering a student’s id, their password, their enrolment status on a daily basis and the units and course in which they are enrolled now.

With another upgrade of the CLRC’s computing environment available, it became critical to fix the problem properly: the authorisation of students enrolled in the Division is also required to support a number of present and future specialist services provided by the TSU, including the existing ePortfolio and video streaming services, and the up-coming networked video editing storage solution now being developed.

The Division’s Services Delivery Manager worked with an outside consultant and with a number of people from ICT Services on and off over a period of several weeks during the mid-year break to rebuild the system to use University-sanctioned data updated daily for authentication, and the University-developed image for the CLRC computers adapted to the Division’s specialised requirements, to manage the CLRC computers.

There are still some issues for some students who are unable to access their quota, but it appears to be the responsibility of ICT Services in the way the centrally-managed student data is being selected to provide us only with the details of eligible students. The TSU continues to work with ICT Services to refine the processes but overall it has been a successful outcome for a nagging problem that also gives the Division a comprehensive and up-to-date solution allowing us to provide better specialised services to students in the Division, and one that fits in with the University’s proposed Enterprise Architecture.