February 1, 2000
Tulane computer users who access their e-mail accounts and Internet from home are facing a change in the way they dial into the university. As of late last month, Tulane students, faculty and staff accustomed to e-mail and Internet sessions of unlimited time length must now choose between sessions of one or five hours.
The limitation is a way to mitigate a problem that many users have had when trying to log into their rs/6000 account, said Jed Diem, vice president of information systems.
"Much of this is motivated by complaints we have received from users," said Diem. "Many who want to log on at 10 p.m for 15 minutes to check their e-mail are simply not able to do so."
Instead, they receive a busy signal, a sign that users are not only dialing into the university, but that many are staying online for a very long time.
"We've looked at the usage patterns," said Diem, "and found that approximately 30 percent of the users are consuming about 75 percent of the dial-in time."
In fact, said Diem, some users stay logged on 24 hours a day. Such use and abuse quickly leads to problems because there is a finite number of telephone lines to the university, said Diem. "We've continually expanded the number of lines from 100 to 391 over the years," he said.
For financial reasons, said Diem, that number will not increase. The university spends $350,000 a year with BellSouth to maintain the current number of lines. With supply constrained, Diem said that Tulane Infrastructure Services (TIS), with the approval of the Senate Committee for Academic Computing, arrived at a plan to "better fit the supply to the demand."
There are now two numbers through which to connect to the rs/6000 cluster. Users dialing in on 821-1226 can connect to the university through their modems for one hour before the line is automatically disconnected. Users dialing in on 821-4562 can connect for five hours. In either case, any user may reconnect to the university by recalling either number. Numbers will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, said Diem.
"We would like people who just do short-term things like check their e-mail to use the one-hour pool," said Diem. "If the five-hour pool fills up, then users will have to use the one-hour pool."
Diem said lines to Tulane initially will be divided equally between the two numbers but that ratio may change depending on usage. Diem said users will be given support from TIS on how to reconfigure their home computers and modems to work with the new system.
Tulane students, faculty and staff should have already received a communication from TIS documenting the necessary changes to make. If anyone needs additional assistance, Diem said the TIS Help Desk will be available to guide users in making the necessary changes. The Help Desk number is 862-8888.
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