30 January 2007

Streaming Television

Shuttle’s down, streaming back up.

After an interruption over the summer break due to problems with NASA’s border router, the UCTV International Services are back on air (much to the relief of our clients across Europe, North America and Australia). It appears that a misconfigured system somewhere in the US was rebroadcasting our program guide list (called Session Announcement Protocol, or SAP, Announcements) in such a way as to deny NASA Internet access by overwhelming its border router. Our thanks go to all the engineers on both sides of the Pacific who worked on solving the problem, especially the UC Berkeley engineer who identified the errant box (which wasn’t on their network) and organised for it to be shut down.

Projects for 2007

Looking ahead at the activities to occupy our time over the coming year.

With the demise of the IT Infrastructure Fund (the IT Loan), the move to leasing rather than purchasing of computers, and the general budget situation, the Technical Services Unit won’t be purchasing a lot of new equipment in 2007. This will give us the opportunity to commission or finalise a number of services and consolidate our role as a provider of specialised IT and Media services for the Division with the equipment and infrastructure we have available to us from the refresh of our services over the last few years.

Current projects of special note are:


After the success of the trial with Aichi Shukutoku University (ASU) in Nagoya, Japan last year, we will be putting in a permanent facility to support video chat between students here and elsewhere. The facility will be available through the Curriculum Resources Centre in Building 5.

BigVideo — Networked Video Editing Storage Solution

During Semester 1 2007 we expect to implement a networked storage solution for video editing in 9B23. Journalism students will be able to capture their original video material to the store where it can be accessed from any of the 8 workstations in the area. Students will be able to start their editing on one workstation, then return later to any of the workstations and continue their work. Once completed, their stories will be available from the store to the Television Control Room on the A floor in Building 9, where the stories can be played live into the news programs they produce as a part of their Unit.

Media Production Facilities refresh

The media production areas on the A Floor in Building 9 are being rebuilt in an effort to overcome a number of operational issues that have emerged with the facilities over the last few years. The facilities were looking a little tired, messy and outdated, so the refresh is smartening them up visually as well as technically to provide a better and more reliable experience for the users, and a more attractive facility to showcase the Division’s resources.

Home and share migration to ICT Services

Standard and common services migrate to ICT Services

On Thursday 18 January 2007 and the following days COMEDU staff home drives and network shares were transferred from the Division’s server, dcenas, to ICT Services’ staffprofiles and staffshares drives. A number of staff experienced some difficulties with accessing their files after the move, but for most, providing they had logged out of their machines before the transfer as requested, experienced no issues.

There didn’t seem to be any great consistency in the reported difficulties, and each incident was dealt with between the client, COMEDU Helpdesk and ICT Services on a case-by-case basis. Most have been resolved in a timely manner.

Staff should report any difficulties with their Home Directory, Profile or shares they access directly to the Service Desk where their difficulties can be dealt with without COMEDU intervention. During the transition period our helpdesk staff are being involved in any incident, increasing the number of staff involved in the process and making it more complicated for everyone, rather than making it more efficient. Any requests the COMEDU Helpdesk receive are directed to the ICT Services’ Service Desk, but in the future Divisional staff should direct any inquiries about their Home Directories, Profile or shared drives to ICT Services.

Knight Foundation grant application

Looking for funding for Real World Applications for video strteaming.

Late in December a colleague suggested that there might be some funding available from the Knight Foundation under their News Challenge program to utilise UCTV services in a community project. He heard about the opportunity from the Carrick Institute. The Division has already received a number of grants for research through the Carrick Institute itself.

Several of us met in late December and decided to submit a letter of intent, in which they proposed to develop a system where local television news can be recorded, subtitles extracted for text search, links provided to local online news stories, and community input facilitated so the local community could become involved in local issues (a key requirement of the News Challenge grant). Our supervisors agreed we should submit the letter of intent to see what happened.

The Knight Foundation asked us to submit a full proposal. The original group worked with the School of Professional Communication and submitted an expanded proposal in mid-January (deadlines were very short). The Foundation expects to announce the successful applicants by late April 2007.

[Update: While we weren't successful this time, we received strong encouragement for our proposal from the Knight Foundation. We will be looking for other funding opportunities to support the proposed project.]