Reflection, Renovation and Restrictions: The Internet Tales
With the beginning of a new academic year, there has been changes in the power corridor and policies of the computer centre. Team MM decided to bring to your notice of these changes. Excerpts from a conversation with the Prof. C.K. Biswas, PIC Computer Center.
MM: Who are the current ISPs (Internet Service Providers) for our Institute?
CKB: Previously we had Reliance and BSNL as ISPs, but recently we have shifted to ORTEL instead of Reliance. So, right now, our Internet Service Providers are ORTEL and BSNL.
MM: How far has the installation of LAN ports in rooms of MV proceeded? Even if rooms are of double occupancy, there is only one LAN port provided in every room (in KMS and CVR).
CKB: The installation of ports has almost been half done because the work order of the old contractor got exhausted and new work order is coming up and it may take some time close to one month. The installation takes some time because we require switch then racks, UPS etc. Ideally there should be two LAN ports in double occupancy rooms but I don’t think that it is an absolute necessity currently. And once you are sharing the room I guess you can share the LAN port also.
MM: What is the current bandwidth of the internet in our Institute?
CKB: The bandwidth is 1.2 GBPS. But, this speed has to be distributed across the institute, which is why we observe a reduction in the internet speed.
MM: The internet speed in the hostels is always fluctuating. At the same time, the average downloading speed has gone down as well. Why so?
CKB: The internet speed of 1.2 gbps is never sufficient. Since it is all shared line, it means that the dedicated 1.2 gbps is divided among all the users. A dedicated bandwidth of 1.2 gbps, however will be too fast for student activity.
MM: Is there any possibility of internet being provided for the full day during the exam times? At least websites such as NPTEL and other MOOCs.
CKB: I don’t think you need NPTEL lectures online, if you want them just download them from beforehand itself. I would insist you don’t have such a facility because internet is always a distraction. Rather if you want may be it can be provided for 24 hours at other times. We are thinking about that fact currently. The only advantage is that student’s traffic being less in the hostels facilitates a higher speed in the academic block. With advent of 4G, students are always online also 4G speeds being high enough I am in support of making the internet timings a bit liberal but again the whole administration has to agree to the proposal.
MM: Does check point restrict high speed downloads? Before the vacation on April 24th, when Checkpoint portal was down, the download speed rose as high as 15 mbps. Does this suggest that we have enough bandwidth to spare, but Checkpoint restricts the download speed?
CKB: Yes we can regulate the speed but with switches and not at individual ports. The problem with providing with high speeds is that it has to be equally divided among all the students and if we provide such high speeds by removing the firewall then students start downloading large files such as games and high resolution videos which take up a large amount of the bandwidth. But if someone wants to download educational videos then he/she is welcome to come to the academic block in the morning hours when there is decent speed available for downloading videos with sufficient resolution. Currently the purchase of more bandwidth is not one of the top priorities, given the budget we have, rather we are focussing on procuring quality hardware for various departments and laboratories of the institute.
MM: Why is the ‘Reader’s Digest’ website ‘rd.com’ blocked and that too under the category of ‘Games’? The website is not known to have any dangerous content of any sort.
CKB: I am not aware of that maybe I have to talk with the technical personnel. I suggest students can give me a mail regarding that and we will look into it. I am not aware about the issue as it might have been done by the erstwhile professor in-charge. The website might be hosting advertisements which redirect to websites, blocked under the institute policies and it might be a possible reason as to why the website has been blocked. In case of such a scenario, it is very difficult to filter advertisements and may consume a lot of time.
MM: The internet access is unavailable in the Satish Dhawan Hall of residence specifically in the B and C Block. When can we expect it to be restored?
CKB: There might be some problem in the switch. Actually the switches are very troublesome especially in the monsoon any power fluctuation is going to spoil the switches. In that case such problems arise.
MM: The Zimbra webmail provides with a space of only 200 MB which fills up very fast so is there a possibility of increasing the space?
CKB: The problem is the institute has to keep in reserve the same amount of space as it has allocated to the NITR junta. Thus, if I give you more space then I would also have to keep the same amount of space as a backup option. So, increasing the storage space for a client warrants the purchase of double the amount of storage space allocated to the client. With such a huge number of students, this process seems difficult. Currently, the faculties are being provided with 2 GB and the Director with 8 GB of storage space. The Thin Client servers that are in use in the laboratories also require space on the server including the NITRIS portal of all the faculty and students. So for a better management of webmail I would recommend students to check their webmail daily and clear out the unnecessary mails. A better approach would be to configure the webmail accounts on their computers using Microsoft Outlook Express.
MM: Will MAC ID registration be done online this time?
CKB: The MAC ID registration cannot be done online due to security reasons. Registration of laptops must always be done by authorised personnel. When an authorised person registers a laptop, he uses a client software which sends information to the server. If I give every student the authority to access the registration software, it may lead to a breach of the security, and it will cause more harm than advantage.
MM: Are there any new programs that are going to be added into the software vault this year?
CKB: Yes. There are plans to buy “Language Learning” softwares in the pipeline to augment the facilities in language labs. Apart from that, we are also purchasing a few dedicated softwares for Departments like CE and ECE owing to requests from the departments.
MM: Are there any new policies related to the computer centre?
CKB: Students are allowed to send only 20 mails per day from their webmail accounts to domains other than NITR. However, there is no restriction on the number of mails sent on the intranet. Due to CCing emails to more than 50 people at a time, outside servers have started identifying mails sent from the NITR server as spam, and block a recepient from receiving a mail from our server. Therefore, until this situation is brought under control, this rule will be implemented for students throughout the year.
If in case a student is in need of more email space (e.g.: during fests, conferences, etc.), then a window will be provided to allow 50 or 100 new mails as an exception for the student after he/she takes special permissions.My advice to students and faculty members is :
Please do not click on the “Reply to All” unless completely necessary.
MM: What is your vision as the new computer centre head?
CKB: My priority is to augment and update the hardware systems across the institute since we are lagging way behind in terms of high speed performance computing and networking. I’m also looking forward to develop and incorporate state-of-the art facilities the Language Labs. Simultaneously, we’re also buying new software packages for the same.