All 4 entries tagged ITS

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April 30, 2006

What is the union doing about Resnet?

Yet again our on–campus residential Internet connection, Resnet, is in an abysmal state. This is nothing particularly new though, as it has had bad periods all year. What is annoying me at present is that there doesn't seem to be any official pressure on the University to sort it out.

The infrastructure was set up a few years ago by an external company contracted by the University to provide network access to the residences. While it worked reasonably well for the first few years it apparently began to suffer significant problems last year and finally the university terminated the contract at the beginning of this academic year. ITS immediately had to take over running the network which by this time was in a pretty sorry state.

Another factor comes in to play here. In past years file sharing had been going on inside the campus network by means of an internal only system (I'll leave out the details but I think everyone knows them). A few people downloaded the large files from outside the campus network and then propagated them internally putting little strain on the link to the outside world. At some point before or at the beginning of this academic year the University (not ITS) took the decision to outlaw the use of this particular system and ITS accordingly set about brining down any of these 'hubs' that appeared. The result, rather predictably, is that everyone now uses systems to download from off–campus such as BitTorrent, which puts an absolutely huge strain on the external link and cannot so easily been shut down. The original contractors had set up a network that simply is not capable of withstanding this sort of load but, up until the University's P2P ban, this had not been a problem. Whatever your opinion on the University’s decision politically, they did rather shoot themselves in the foot.

This is what ITS have to deal with and I really don't blame them for failing to begin with because they simply weren't prepared for it. However, it is now 6 months down the line and the situation is no better. ITS clearly don’t have the resources to cope with running both Resnet and the main campus network, including all its associated problems like security incidents and the E–mail system and so the university should have done something to sort it out by now. Simply putting pressure on ITS to deal with it isn't going to help so really they ought to be providing the resources to help them do their job or maybe even recontracting Resnet out to a more competent, established company and not just the cheapest deal this time!

The students union, while happy to campaign on various things that have little or no bearing on students here at Warwick, seem to be completely absent from this issue which definitely is affecting real students right here and now. There was a brief intervention by the Students Union in the form of a motion demanding compensation from Warwick Accommodation for a group of students who were without a connection for some time but I don't feel this was particularly useful for anyone except those directly involved. What I'd like to see is the students union demanding that the university get the situation sorted out as soon as possible. While Resnet is not officially part of our contract with Warwick Accommodation, the university continue to publicise our 'always on high speed internet connection' to prospective students and this is now just an out right lie. I'd like to see the union threaten the university with making it clear to these prospective students that this simply isn't true. Hopefully it won't come to that but something has to be done to make the university take this problem seriously.

Thinking about it, the union should demand that the provision of internet become part of the contracts with Warwick Accomodation so that any signifcant failures next year can be dealt with properly.

February 01, 2006

The Boar: ITS, ID and Investment banking.

For some reason I decided against going to my lecture this morning despite getting up in order to do so. Instead I have been reading this week's Boar. I have to say I disagreed with most of what I read. A short run down:

  • ITS - 3 articles on how incompetent they think ITS are, including one double page spread. While the occasional point is valid they again seem to merge a veriety of different problems all into one. See my IT Services and Resnet entry for my views on ITS bashing.
  • "Darwin versus God": While the article manages to keep fairly neutral, I do dislike anything which tries to give credibility to the idea of Intelligent Design being, in any way, a scientific theory. It may well be right and evolution wrong for all we know but evolution is a debated and tested theory now fairly well supported with evidence. I.D. is not testable and has no evidence (And no, you can't count not being able to explain things in any other way as evidence. Should we count the unknown acceleration of the Pioneer space probe as some divine creator blowing on them for amusement?). Evolution is a scientific theory, I.D is not, end of story.
  • "Invested Interest" – An article about the Careers Service being almost entirely devoted to financial companies. Mostly I agree with this one, the careers service seem to basically only give us the things that turn up on their doorstep – i.e the financial companies that directly push for warwick graduates. Surely the job of the Careers Service is to get out there, find other companies and encourage them to come here so we get a wide choice of graduate employeers?

Morning winge over. I shall try to make my next lecture and will have to be late for the Resnet focus group meeting. Incidently, this week's focus group meeting is at 12.30pm in Room H355, Humanities Building. If you have anything useful to say about resnet please turn up, they need as much feedback as possible at the moment, apart from being made aware that the Boar don't like them. Does the Boar like anyone these day?

January 27, 2006

Symantec Antivirus (and Jetico personal firewall)

Symantec antivirus… Don't install this. Ever. Even at gun point.
(and yes, this is the AV software recommended to you by ITS)

I have tried to avoid heavily computing based blog entries so far but this has annoyed me enough to write something public on it. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a reviews section for software.

I have just installed it, and very rapidly decided to uninstall it. My reasons for hating it were:

  1. It doesnt ask you where to install it, it just puts in in 'Program Files' which is on the wrong drive on my system.
  2. It installs 7 services, all for virus protection, 2 is excessive for any one piece of software.
  3. It makes the system horrifically slow. This is usual for Anti-virus programs with resident protection mechanisms but in this case it was unusable even with everything disabled.
  4. It crashes if the firewall denies it internet access after saying 'your network is not correctly configured'.
  5. 5 of the 7 processes remained running after disabling everything, and were in the top 7 in the list processes sorted by CPU usage.
  6. It keeps givnig those stupid baloon pop-ups which irritate me. Especially when it is just to say "you have just disabled resident protection" YES I KNOW, I JUST CLICKED IT.
  7. Having decided within a few minutes to uninstall it, it took me a good ten minutes to regain enough control of my system (which has been stable for 2 years now) to remove it.
  8. When you uninstall it, it doesnt actually uninstall everything, you have to go and clean up after it (Find LiveUpdate and remove)

ITS used to use and give a license for Kaspersky AV, which is must better though still not perfect. I wish they still did.

Rant ends.

To balance this out, if you know what you're doing and you want a firewall program get Jetico Personal Firewall . This is the most rigidly and sensibly built piece of software I've seen in ages. It has every feature you could possibly want in a firewall and is infinitely configurable, it is just out right brilliance, a credit to Jetico and to the computing industry as a whole.

January 25, 2006

IT Services and Resnet

There seems to be a great deal of moaning and winges about IT services recently, both on here and in general around campus, especially with regard to ResNet.

I have just come from the Resnet focus group meeting, to which all students who wish to express problems with resnet are invited. This week there were two of us students there, and four people from ITS. If you really have something to say, come to the meetings.

For example, they've made some changes to the traffic shaping systems recently, and need some feedback about how the network was performing last weekend. Fortunately for me, I was away from the curse of technology on the weekend and so couldn't help. The other student reported that it wasn't any worse than before the changes and so we've all assumed that it's at least bearable at the moment. If you don't agree or you'd actually like to talk to ITS about their level of service rather than sitting around winging or throwing abuse at them, then come and actually do something useful about it.

Before anyone moans about the 'incident' on the weekend, I'd like to point out that I believe they did the right thing – initially at least. They very quickly dealt with a situation where everyones accounts were at risk. You may moan about having to change your passwords but how would you like to have all of your work deleted by someone whos broken into your account? Also, it should be pointed out that the usual method of dealing with an incident of that sort, in the short term, is to take the entire system offline, how would you have liked that?

I can't pretend that I don't think they made any mistakes though, particularly with regard to the handling of communication of the login grace period. I think they now realise that communication of the 2 login grace period to people using the web-based single sign-on system or the accursed Groupwise webmail system would have saved them the few thousand helpdesk calls and massive queues outside the computing centre on Monday. The two of us that did turn up to the resnet meeting have suggested some ways we think they can improve this and deal with it in a much better way if it ever happens again, but this is just our opinion, how are they supposed to ever improve anything is all they get is abuse and winging from people that don't even have anything constructive to say??

With regard to Novell Groupwise, everyone is fully aware of its complete inability to cope with the university's email and ITS are working to migrate everyone over to the new system. Please abuse Groupwise itself as much as you like, hopefully anything written on here about it will eventually come up in search engine queries for 'Groupwise', as it is one of the most useless and unstable systems I've ever had the displeasure to use.

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