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MIT network to reach independent living groups

MIT undergraduates will soon have access to the extensive facilities of the Athena Computing Environment without having to visit an on-campus Athena cluster.

Beginning in September 1993, according to James D. Bruce, Vice President for Information Systems, MIT will extend its campus computer network to fraternities and other independent living groups. Network services will be available in undergraduate dormitories later in the 1993-94 academic year. Information Systems will also extend selected Athena services to personal computers with network connections.

The Athena Computing Environment is MIT's heavily used and influential academic-computing resource. Today, almost 600 Athena workstations are available to students in public and departmental clusters; several hundred private workstations and more than 100 servers are also part of the Athena Computing Environment. Each day, more than 6,000 different individuals use Athena.

Extending connectivity to the living groups and providing Athena services for personal computers will enhance this already important Institute resource.

The new network services in undergraduate living groups result from collaboration among Information Systems, Housing and Food Services, the Planning Office, and Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs. The joint effort has strong support from Provost Mark S. Wrighton.

According to Professor Wrighton, the extension of MITnet to dormitories and other living groups and of selected network services to personal computers maintains MIT's leadership position in distributed educational computing. It will particularly maintain MIT's reputation for delivering reliable, low-cost common services to thousands of diverse computers through the Athena client-server architecture.

Arthur C. Smith, Dean of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, noted that this undertaking will enhance undergraduates' educational experiences by increasing their access to Athena services from a wide variety of platforms. Lawrence E. Maguire, Director of Housing and Dining, indicated that work on the project will begin this summer.

Wiring the Living Groups

In fraternities and other independent living groups, Information Systems will provide a single MITnet connection. For off-campus sites the connection of this Ethernet drop to the campus will be at 56 kbps and will initially use leased lines. For on-campus sites connection will be directly to MITnet at 10 Mbps.

The first of these installations will be completed by September 1993 with the remainder completed during the fall term. This connection will be provided at no cost to the living group. To take advantage of this connection each living group will need to extend the network within its building to student computers. Costs associated with equipment (such as Ethernet cards) and wiring necessary to extend the network will be the responsibility of individual students or the living group.

In undergraduate dormitories, Information Systems will provide facilities in each room for students to connect their own appropriately equipped computers to MITnet. An Ethernet drop using existing twisted pair wiring will be provided for each student. Ethernet will provide service at 10 Mbps. Initial work will begin in the dormitories this summer with all 2,600 new network connections installed and operational during the 1993-94 spring term. There will be no fees associated with this service.

Students can buy workstations or personal computers, such as Macintoshes and DOS-based machines, configured for MITnet from the MIT Computer Connection (MCC) in the Student Center. They may also buy from other sources as long as the equipment meets network specifications. To take advantage of their network connection, students will have to outfit their computers with Ethernet cards at costs ranging from $150 to $250.

Athena Services for PCs

To maximize the educational effectiveness of the expanded MITnet, Information Systems is also expanding the services available to users of Macintoshes and computers running DOS/Windows. These services include TechMail for electronic mail; Discuss, an online meeting system; Zephyr for instantaneous messages; Online Consulting for help with computing problems; TechInfo, MIT's campus-wide information repository, and the many information resources and services available on the Internet.

The full suite of new services will be available for Macintoshes by September 1993, and for DOS-based computers running DOS/Windows by September 1994.

The new services extend to students, faculty, and staff who have personal computers connected to MITnet, capabilities that were, until now, only available from Athena workstations. These capabilities will be available with the same look and feel of either the Macintosh or DOS/Windows environment.

For more information, contact Cecilia R. d'Oliveira, director of Distributed Computing and Network Services, x3- 0893, , or Gregory A. Jackson, director of Academic Computing, x3-3712, .

A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 32).

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