Council on Academic Computing

December 18, 2003

Meeting Summary


NEXT-DOOR VIDEOCONFERENCING

Jeremy Levy from the Department of Physics and Astronomy discussed the results of his High Performance Network Applications Initiative project.  This project was entitled “’Next-Door’ Videoconferencing for Collaborative University Research.”  He collaborated with John Yates from the Department of Chemistry.  Professors Levy and Yates direct large, interdisciplinary projects that involve investigators from multiple universities.  Researchers on these projects must communicate frequently.  However, Levy and Yates wished to elevate communication to a more personal level than that offered by e-mail or phone.  They settled upon videoconferencing.  Most multi-user, videoconferencing solutions are costly and require expensive hardware.  Professors Levy and Yates found a more cost-effective, software-based solution from Vianet.  They were not able to take full advantage of the software due to network limitations at the University.  These same limitations are apparently present at other universities as well.

REPORT FROM COMPUTING SERVICES AND SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT

Jinx Walton, Director of Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD), discussed issues related to discounted dialup and DSL Internet services.  The University of Pittsburgh signed an agreement with Stargate three years ago to offer these services to University students, faculty, and staff.  This agreement ended when Stargate's Internet service business units were distributed to E-xpedient and Earthlink/PeoplePC.  Most dialup accounts were converted to Earthlink/PeoplePC, and most DSL accounts were converted to E-xpedient.  Some concerns arose regarding VPN (virtual private network) access.  VPN users can use PeoplePC, but the company only provides customer support to users of Windows platforms.  E-xpedient is a better choice for these individuals because it provides customer support for VPN users.

Other issues included:

  • Telephone and computer service for most, but not all, individuals within the University’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic will be transferred from the University to the UPMC network.
  • Class schedules are available to students and class rosters are available to faculty on their respective web pages.
  • CSSD is working with a consultant to determine whether weaknesses exist in the University network’s security.

MISCELLANEOUS

The Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse will be working with University faculty and students to support interdisciplinary cybersecurity projects.  Three or four projects involving undergraduate and graduate students will be funded in the first round.