CCIT revamps system for speedier access

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Sluggish e-mail access on university computers has prompted CCIT to enact new policies for system access and install a new computer system specifically for e-mail and Internet access.

A recent surge in the number of students, faculty and staff accessing e-mail, newsgroups, the World Wide Web and other services has created bottlenecks on the University of Arizona's on-ramp to the so-called information superhighway.

Linda Drew, information center manager for the Center for Computing and Information Technology, said two new policies affecting people who access the VMS computer system have been implemented over the past few weeks.

The first, which has since been repealed, limited on-line access to two hours at a time.

The other policy, which will remain in effect, allows only 220 users to log into the VMS system simultaneously.

Drew said that policy was implemented as a result of complaints that response time on the system was slow.

"It got to the point where it took five minutes to log in, and at that point (users couldn't) do anything," Drew said.

Previously, when there was no limit on VMS access, up to 330 people were logged onto the system at one time, making e-mail and other functions on the system move at a snail's pace.

Scott Gilbert, a CCIT Help Desk consultant, said since the new policy, CCIT has received a few complaints from professors who want better access to their mail.

But Gilbert also said, "VMS is not a great system for just using mail."

Other systems, such as GAS, which is mainly used for student e-mail and access to the Internet, have always had limits on the number of users who can get access simultaneously. GAS allows up to 80 people at once.

Another solution to the large amount of lag time on VMS and GAS will be the addition of a totally new system in April, Drew said.

The new e-mail system will be for people who just want to have e-mail and Internet access, such as newsgroups and the World Wide Web.

Drew said people who now use VMS or GAS for only those purposes should transfer to the new system, which will be faster and easier to use.

"The new system will be menu-driven," she said. "You don't have to learn UNIX commands to delete files or get into mail or newsreaders. It's much more of a tool like the phone is now you don't have to understand computers and operat-

ing systems to do the things you want to do."

Gilbert said the system won't have a command line, users will simply select what they want to do from a list of options.

Since the equipment for the e-mail system will be brand new, it will be faster than any of the existing systems, Drew said.

The new system will handle about 10,000 accounts initially, and will be expanded to accommodate up to 20,000 users, she said. Focusing users on the new system will also free up space on VMS for use of the math and statistics routines it is designed for.

VMS currently handles 12,000 accounts, which is actually a decrease from the 15,000 accounts existing in the summer of 1994. The GAS system has close to 9,000 users, which is more than double the 4,000 who used GAS one year ago.

Other improvements to CCIT's systems will include the installation of 64 additional modems in early May to bring the total number of dial-in lines to 304, Drew said. That will alleviate complaints people have made about frequent busy signals when calling into the computer system via modem.

Gilbert said additional modems have become necessary because of the large growth in e-mail accounts and people who call into the system from home.

"Lately, everyone and their dog has been getting (an account)," Gilbert said.

Drew also offered several tips to help make time spent accessing the system more productive:

Dial into the system during off-peak times, 2 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The modems are especially busy from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Try to organize off-line. Think about what you are going to do so you don't have to be on line as long. Write e-mail messages and programs off-line and only log in to do what you need to do.

If you notice the system is extremely slow, wait and call back later if the work you need to do is not urgent.

Think of the computer systems as part of a community everyone needs to cooperate and give a little bit.

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