Archive for "IT"
It’s campaign season, the time of year for personal reinvention.
On Monday morning, 6:56 a.m. EST, the IT Team announced the launch of a remodeled BLSConnect. As is often the case with such declarations, the tone of the missive flitted between modesty and self-approval. The IT Team, after all, was eager to demonstrate its mettle, especially after months of dickey servers and log-in problems.
In the e-mail, fancy tech features were trotted out like show dogs. The new Connect would boast “improved search and navigation functionality.” There would be more links, an innovative calendar. And because the revamped interface was modeled according to student “feedback,” a refined navigational dashboard would now guide meandering users compass-like where its predecessor had merely spun about.
But, alas, the inaugural ticker tape was deployed too early. When students awoke from their fitful dreams, they found the good old BLSConnect “welcome screen” transformed into a hideous error message. User names and passwords were rendered useless. Pretty soon the IT Team had sent out another e-mail, this one an apology. Apparently, it conceded, people were experiencing “log-in problems.” Many people.
How well does this auger for the new BLSConnect? Surely in its race to win over the student body, the IT Team had wished to start anew, to put behind them not only the widely reviled original Connect, but the persistent sentiment around campus that the Team itself couldn’t handle user demand. Premiering the new system simply to have it crash, like a maiden cruise liner listing toward the jetty, could only undermine the IT Department’s credibility.
Yet politics, whether national or campus-wide, are all about comebacks. By Tuesday, the Team had sent out another e-mail. They had seemingly corrected the problem, whatever it had been. Students could now log in and explore the new Connect. Gone were the clunky interface, the crowded menu bar, the dizzyingly unintuitive navigation options. Missing, too, was the Public Interest tab, apparently a relic from a more compassionate time. In their place, users found softer edges, sharper connections. And like a luminous Arkansas presidential nominee having weathered a scandal, the Connect site emerged reborn.
Inaugurations are odd. They’re celebrations of the untested. The newly elected politician is met with jubilation and good cheer, despite having pronounced nothing but promises. So too the announcement of a new tech product; it’s only a vague assurance of improved performance. The real test begins once the ticker tape is swept from the public square.
Maybe it’s simply my American affection for the underdog, but the IT Team, one of BLS’s most recognized and publicly discussed departments, has all the makings of a great politician. They disappoint, they fail, they flounder. Sometimes we wish them ill. But they always apologize, dust themselves off, and try to win us back.
Next time you’re in the BLS library, open your laptop and google the acronym “A.P.” Chances are nothing much will happen. That’s because the library’s Access Points (A.P.s), which allow students to log into the communal server, have been spontaneously shutting down. This mysterious glitch comes with two unhappy results. First, it has hobbled the school’s Internet system, which means that surfing the Web has become about as much fun as taking a long bus ride. Second, it has left BLS’s stalwart IT department scratching their heads.
You know the IT department. They’re the ones who send you those persistent e-mails about the school’s Internet problem. It’s likely that at this very moment your BLS account contains a notice from Phil Allred, the chief information officer, whose apologetic missives have, over the last month, cluttered inboxes like letters from a worried mother. Usually, they start off with something innocuous and unalarming, like: “Hello. We are experiencing problems with the school’s Internet server…”
As it happens, however, these problems are numerous and complex. Last month, there was an issue with Macs: when the school installed new A.P.s in the library, students using Apple computers were unable to log onto the Internet. According to Allred, their laptops had become confused by the A.P.s’ unfamiliar encryption settings. Now there’s a new problem—one that affects every type of electronic device. “Many A.P.s on our old system are spontaneously restarting,” said Allred. “We have contacted our vendor, SpotOn Networks, who has contacted the manufacturer. So far, they haven’t found a solution.”
Allred harbors his own suspicions, though. According to him, one possible cause of the problem is the enormous number of electronic devices that students bring to BLS every day. Allred estimates that there are twice as many computers, smart phones and tablets on campus than there were just two years ago. All of that traffic could easily slow down the system, and sure enough a little detective work has shown that the A.P.s cease rebooting in the evening hours, when there are fewer students in the library.
While diagnosis doesn’t constitute treatment, it is a start. Allred seems confident that someone will eventually solve the problem. In the meantime, students will have to put up with slowly loading Web pages. Just as the Internet has always provided a forum for the discontented, it’s fitting that since BLS’s wireless network began floundering, the discontented have turned their ire on the Internet. Just spend a few minutes in the library and you’ll see students gnashing their teeth. The threat of violence is palpable. One almost expects to see a spike in the number of laptops brought into Computer Services with cracked screens.
There is one bit of good news. Allred reports that the IT team has been testing access points from different vendors across campus. All tests are now finished, and he plans to propose a new network to senior administration. With some luck, says Allred, the system will soon be running smoothly. And if it isn’t, expect an e-mail from him.