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June 10, 1999

Limits on remote access one of changes in Pitt computer services

Limits on remote access one of changes in Pitt computer services

The University is limiting remote computer usage of its in-house computer lab modems as the result of a study by a University Senate committee.

That was among the changes in Pitt's computer services reported by the Senate Computer Usage Committee (SCUC) to Faculty Assembly June 1.

Acting in tandem with the Executive Committee for Academic Computing (ECAC), the usage committee recommended connection limits of 120 minutes during peak periods — defined as 5 p.m.-midnight, seven days a week. During non-peak hours, users are limited to 240 minutes per connection. In addition, multiple log-ins now are disabled, SCUC co-chair Susan Sereika reported.

The average remote per-connection time for home computer users hooked up to Pitt's computer lab modems is 41 minutes. And the per-connection time for 92 percent of all remote usage is less than two hours, according to SCUC's remote usage analysis. The limits should help meet future access requirements as more members of the University community acquire remote capability, Sereika said.

Sereika also updated the assembly on administrative changes in Computer and Information Services (CIS) since her committee's last report in November. Jinx Walton has been appointed director of computing services and systems development and Maurice Gordon now serves as director of network services, in effect co-replacements for Robert Pack, former interim director of CIS.

Walton and Gordon report to the provost. Pack continues to serve as vice provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management.

The SCUC co-chair reported on computer issues raised last fall, including printing delays, the status of the Ubiquitous Network Access program and guidelines for decorum in University computer labs. See University Times, Nov. 12.

* The University replaced all printers in public computing labs campus-wide, Sereika said. Low maintenance and higher print quality (avoiding the need to reprint copies) helped cut printing queues during the just completed spring term. The maximum wait was 20 minutes, down from 90 minutes or more a year ago, the committee found.

SCUC continues to discuss other tactics for shortening delays, including providing clearer information for users, giving students a higher priority and better record-keeping.

* Sereika said a survey to evaluate the Ubiquitous Network Access program, which supports the computing needs of faculty, is being prepared by the departmental and faculty computer working group, part of ECAC. More information about the program is available at the web site:

* Guidelines for users who may be viewing potentially offensive material in the presence of others were posted March 20 in all campus computer labs (see guidelines). The guidelines were developed with input from faculty, staff, students and administrators from CIS, the Student Computing Working Group, ECAC, SCUC and the University's legal counsel office, Sereika said.

The computer usage committee also reported on continuing issues, including:

* As of April 1, Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) will be the default mailbox for all new accounts and Mulberry software will be available to all Pitt computer users to support IMAP e-mail, Sereika reported. Current account holders can convert to IMAP and Mulberry by contacting CIS.

IMAP is a method of accessing e-mail stored on a remote server, allowing users to check mail from any computer through on-line access. IMAP also allows for the off-line e-mail capabilities increasingly in demand by laptop and home-computer users.

Sereika said copies of Mulberry can be downloaded free-of-charge or purchased from Pitt's Software Licensing Services for a minimal fee. More information on IMAP and Mulberry is available at web site:

* A web site has been established by the University Library System that addresses issues of copyrighted materials used in teaching, specifically regarding course web sites. The informational web site address is:

* SCUC is continuing to discuss University copyright policies, including the dissemination of original works, copyright interest and distribution of royalties, as they apply to computer usage. The current policy, Research Administration Policy 11-02-02: Copyright, dates back to 1990 and does not accommodate recent technological advances such as web-based publishing, Sereika said. The committee plans to make recommendations for updated wording this fall.

Sereika invited assembly members — and others in the University community — to send comments and concerns about Pitt computer services by e-mail to her at or to Irene Frieze at Frieze is co-chair of the computer usage committee.

–Peter Hart

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