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March 2, 1994

 

                              MINUTES

                         Computing Committee

                    Information Systems Building

                            March 2, 1994

                               3:30PM

 

 

  PRESENT:     K.B. Rojiani, Sean Arthur, Gregory Brown,

               William Holbach (for David Goodyear), Bill Richardson

               (for Tom McAnge), Harlan Miller, Bhaba Misra,

               Sandra Muse, John Tombarge, Barbara

               Robinson (for Michael Williams)

 

  ABSENT:      Erv Blythe, John Burton, Scott Johnson, Katherine

               Johnston, George Libey, Gerry McLaughlin, Terry Rakes,

               Peter Shires, Lawrence Skelly, Jay Stoeckel,

               D. B. Taylor

 

 

  AGENDA ITEM 1:  MINUTES OF THE FEBRUARY MEETING  (Rojiani)

 

  Motion made, seconded and passed to approve the minutes of the February

  meeting.

 

 

  AGENDA ITEM 2:  ADMINISTRATIVE CLIENT PROJECT  (Robinson)

 

  The Administrative Workstation and Literacy Project seeks to create

  ubiquitous, highly functional, user-friendly computing capability at the

  administrative desktop.  This will allow computing which is now done on the

  mainframe, such as word processing, to be done on a more appropriate,

  efficient and effective platform. It will also assure staff have machines

  which are capable of accessing new large-scale administrative systems as

  they are acquired.

 

  Providing this environment presents many challenges as control becomes more

  decentralized and many pieces have to work together.  One important way to

  limit the magnitude of the problem is to confine efforts to a single client

  system.  That may be an unpopular decision in some circles,  but

  Information Systems simply does not have the people to do any more than

  that, if efforts are to be successful.

 

  The plan is to seed Macs throughout the University. Information Systems

  cannot afford to buy everyone a computer, however, and part of the effort

  involves encouraging others to spend their own money on Macs as well.  In

  some cases, cost sharing arrangements will be used and it is expected that

  improved support offered by Information Systems will encourage many

  departments to adopt the platform.

 

  Information Systems, with the full support of senior administration, feels

  the administrative staff can be more efficient and effective with a more

  uniform desktop environment.   There will be no effort, however, to dictate

  a platform for any area.   The Computing Center has not, in the past,

  supported any desktop platform very much, and some areas have independently

  developed their own environment, doing it very well.  If those areas feel

  comfortable with their environment, IS fully supports a decision to

  continue in that arena. IS will continue to provide the level of support

  they have received in the past.

 

  There was a major effort this summer to examine the question of which

  platform would best meet the University's needs as a client environment.  A

  review of the advantages and disadvantages of Microsoft Windows, Macintosh

  and Unix, viewed as the platforms with the most potential, was produced and

  is available to interested parties.  Criteria considered in the evaluation

  include support cost, ease of use, stability, software consistency,

  hardware consistency, depth of applications, vendor independence, and

  hardware/software cost.

 

  The standard advice for choosing a computer is to first look at the

  software needed.  For general office productivity, any of the three

  platforms probably has adequate offerings, though Unix is marginal.  If all

  platforms meet the software test, then support cost has to be the biggest

  issue for Information Systems, since  it is obliged to provide an

  environment which can be supported with its limited resources.

 

  There are well-regarded, highly functional Macintosh programs to meet

  nearly all the needs of administrative areas, including word processing,

  spread sheets, databases, calendars, e-mail and so on.

 

  Ingram  Laboratories, an independent testing lab, recently published the

  results of a comparative performance test for   a variety of Macintosh and

  PC computers.  They ran 57 tests using 9 applications,  producing a

  performance index which showed the Quadra 610 and 660AV's used in this

  project to perform at a level eqivalent to a 33 megahertz 486 PC.    The

  610 costs $2700.  An equivalent PC on the WIN contract is $2400.

 

  The area where there is a real difference is ease of use.  Almost everyone

  agrees that the Macintosh is easier to use than Windows or UNIX  because

  the interface is more intuitive and consistent. Even PC users who are

  familiar with both platforms generally agree.  Apple has also managed to

  influence software developers so that  applications are more consistent

  across vendors than in the PC world.  That is important when using several

  applications.  Surveys have shown that consistency is a major factor for

  people in deciding which system is easiest to use.

 

  Being tied to one vendor may not be optimum, but it does offer another

  advantage for support - the hadware is predictable.  While it may be

  attractive to be able to choose among many competitors when buying a

  computer, monitor, video board, hard disk, etc, those options can create a

  nightmare when a problem crops up because an element is incompatible.

 

  The advantages in ease of use offered by the Mac means that it takes less

  training for the novice to become proficient on the machine and

  experienced users are generally able to operate independently without much

  support.

 

  In general, individuals across campus who support both Macs and PCs agree

  the Mac is easier, by far, to support than Windows.

 

  Information Systems had to make a decision about platforms in order to

  proceed with the program, but the choice may change as technology changes.

  The PowerPC, the new RISC chip which Apple and IBM will be using, might be

  a very attractive way to satisfy nearly everyone, since the vendors  claim

  they will be able to run Windows, OS/2, Macintosh System 7 and Unix all on

  the same machine.  Those promises cannot be expected to be fulfilled

  immediately, but much more interoperability can be expected in the next few

  years.  Hardware choices may not make much difference in the long run.

 

  Some individuals have concern about the future of Apple.

  Windows is offering strong competition.  Profits are down,  and the

  software advantage in traditionally strong Mac areas such as desktop

  publishing and graphics is no longer so clear cut.  To counter this

  concern, MacWeek had an article recently which listed some points which

  describe some of Apple's strengths:

 

  o Apple has built the Macintosh into a $15 billion industry .

  o About 11 million Macs have been sold worldwide and the installed base is

  growing at a rate of 3.5 million units a year.

  o Apple has $800 million in cash and no long-term debt.

  o Two-thirds of multimedia vendors have developed Macintosh applications.

 

  There are important areas where Apple still has a technology lead and the

  company is likely to remain an important player for some time to come.

 

  The first pilot project to distribute Macs involved the Personnel Services

  department.  This area was chosen because their computing equipment was

  very old and they were operating almost entirely on the mainframe. IS felt

  their efficiency could be significantly improved.  They were enthusiastic

  about the changes and willing to make the effort that would be required for

  a transition.  Since a human resource system had been targeted by the

  administration as one of the first systems to be moved to a new

  environment, it was also important that the department acquire and learn to

  use computers which could access the new system.

 

  A group of 20 people were chosen in the dept to receive the machines, about

  half the staff.   Mike Naff from USAS was already working with Personnel

  Services  on  reengineering projects and was assigned to act as first line

  of support.  He was assisted by several others in USAS and Judy Watson in

  User Services led the efforts to set up the machines and provide training.

 

  In early October 20 computers were delivered.  Software was pre-installed

  and configured.  An icon was provided to allow quick access to the

  mainframe, so most recipients were able to simply replace their terminal or

  PC and keep working the old way at the same time they were developing

  Macintosh skills.

 

  Software installed on the machine included Eudora  (electronic mail), Brown

  tn3270 (full screen terminal emulation),  NCSA telnet (terminal emulation),

  Gopher/Mosaic (Internet information and file retrieval), Fetch (file

  transfer), Disinfectant (virus protection), Stuffit  (file compression),

  MacTCP (communication), Dark Side of the Mac (screen saver), Apple File

  Exchange (DOS file conversion),  Meeting Maker  (calendar), Retrospect

  (backup),  and Microsoft Word  (word processor).

 

  Other software was included as required on an individual basis, including

  Excel(spreadsheet) and FileMaker Pro (database).

 

  Training covered, in six 2-hour sessions, Macintosh basics, e-mail, network

  applications, calendars and Microsoft Word.  This may be modified for other

  projects to include a half-day session before machines are delivered, but

  it appears that less than 20 hours of training will be generally required

  to cover basic needs.

 

  As the number of users increases, it may be necessary to offer more

  classes, but those are expected to focus  primarily on specific topics of

  interest, such as how to do form letters in Microsoft Word.   Alternate

  methods of training, such as computer and video tutorials are also being

  investigated.

 

  Information Systems focused on helping the individuals in Personnel

  Services develop the skills they  would need to move to more independent

  operation.  The user of a PC database, for example, was encouraged to

  develop her own Macintosh version with IS help.  She now has a useful

  system she understands and is able to modify herself as required.

 

  Progress in the project has been monitored through questionaires and

  direct logging of VM usage.  The group has successfully migrated to using

  desktop electronic mail, calendars and word processing, and their VM usage

  has declined accordingly.

 

  Other groups which are currently scheduled to participate in the program

  include Enrollment Services, several areas in the Provost's Office  (which

  hopes to move all their administrative offices to the Macintosh in two

  years, with about 70 participants this spring), Research and Graduate

  Studies,  and Budget and Financial Planning.  This project will also be

  helping to convert staff who support participants in the Information

  Systems faculty programs.

 

  Criteria for choosing participants include:

 

  o degree to which dependence on central mainframe resources will be reduced,

  o impact on administrative efficiency,

  o commitment to maximizing use of equipment,

  o compatibility with central computing strategy,

  o central support requirements, and

  o commitment for cost-sharing or other contribution such as internal support.

 

  Large scale migrations are favored as more efficient.

 

  In return for Informations Systems assistance, participants are expected

  to make some commitments as well:

 

  o Costs will be shared, as feasible, with an agreement to be developed on

  an individual basis.

  o Mainframe usage will be decreased to the full extent possible.  No

  further development efforts will be undertaken on the mainframe and word

  processing, mail and calendars, with Information Systems assistance, will

  be promptly migrated to the Macintosh environment.

  o The department will name a liaison to Information Systems to facilitate a

  continuing relationship between the organizations.  In turn, one or more

  individuals will be named from Information Systems to act as first point of

  contact to answer questions  and otherwise assist during the first three

  months of migration.  After the initial transition period the bulk of

  individual assistance will be handled by the department.

  o The department will assume principal responsibility for converting

  existing applications to the new environment.

  o The department will pay monthly Ethernet costs.

  o With assistance of Information Systems, users in the department will be

  apprised and periodically reminded of good security practices and measures

  will be taken to assure that all reasonable practices and precautions are

  observed.

  o Only legally licensed copies of software will be installed on the machines.

  o The department will assume responsibility for the cost of hardware and

  software maintenance.

  o This equipment configuration is expected to meet current needs.  Any

  additional funding requirements are the responsibility of the department.

 

  At least 250 Macs  will be installed this fiscal year.  The  program is

  projected to be a continuing effort, including future replacement of

  equipment as it becomes obsolete.

 

 

  AGENDA ITEM 3:    COMMITTEE ISSUES

 

  SITE LICENSE SUBCOMMITTEE (Robinson)

 

  The subcommittee will be meeting in two weeks to consider new proposals.

  Management of the Word Perfect volume purchase agreement has been moved to

  Computer Purchasing, under the guidance of Keith Kenyon.  An agreement with

  Microsoft is expected shortly and distribution of their software will be

  handled in Computing Purchasing as well.

 

 

  TEMPORARY COMMITTEE ON TRANSITION ISSUES (Rojiani)

 

  Information Systems' response to issues raised last month was distributed

  electronically before the meeting.  There were several areas where the

  committee was encouraged to play a larger role.  Discussion of the response

  will continue via electronic mail and at the next meeting.

 

 

  AGENDA ITEM 4:    ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA

 

  Information Systems is still investigating the feasibility of an Oracle

  site license and no decision has been made.

 

  The Computing Center and Communications Resources are working to improve

  the PID application process.  Current procedures will likely have to be

  streamlined to adequately meet the growing demand.

 

  Committee members expressed some concern that student needs might be

  overlooked as faculty and staff programs go forward.  The small number of

  open computing labs with adequate software was cited as a problem for the

  University.

 

 

  The next meeting will be held on April 6 at 3:30 p.m. in conference room D

  in the Information Systems Building.

 

  Meeting adjourned at 4:40 p.m.

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