HASCS Boosts Speed, Memory Of FAS System

Updates include Web pages for every course

Students and faculty using the Harvard computing system this fall will find a bigger, faster and better system.

As a result of network improvements made this summer and fall, Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Computer Services (HASCS) quadrupled the space available on student e-mail accounts, upgraded servers, created Web pages for every course and upgraded the facilities in its labs and classrooms.

"It's safe to say that all students, faculty and staff in FAS who use our facilities will benefit from these improvements," said Rick Osterberg '96, coordinator of residential computing support for HASCS.

A student can now store 50 megabytes of information in his home directory, which holds e-mail messages--enough to store 84 archived copies of Moby Dick. Previously students could only store 11.5 megabytes.

"Although the 11.5-megabyte limit was sufficient for the majority of users, some were running into limitations with this quota. As with all computing resources, there is always a demand for more space," Osterberg said.

Osterberg described the changes as part of an ongoing effort to meet the demands placed on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) network.

"As one figure, the number of e-mail messages that our systems process seems to roughly double every year to year and a half," Osterberg said. "We need to stay ahead of the curve so that our systems have the capacity to meet the growing demands."

In addition, the computers that handle student logins have also been upgraded, with performance increases of more than 20 percent.

The decisions were made in order both to make the network more helpful for students and to guarantee its stability.

"We were in a situation such that the money spent on increasing our storage space was justified in light of the increase in resources that it provides," Osterberg said.

Not all of the changes have dealt with equipment. In response to an FAS Information Technology committee decision last May, new Web pages have been created for every course offered in the FAS.

So far, many of the 2,200 pages contain only the official description of the course found in the course catalog. However, instructors and teaching staff are revising the pages at a rate of ten courses a day, said Paul F. Bergen, manager of the Instructional Computing Group (ICG).

"We designed tools which we call the 'Instructor's Toolkit' which allow instructors to update these sites automatically," Bergen said.

Using the kit, professors can disseminate administrative information such as lecture notes and course syllabi, as well as create online bulletin boards to continue class discussions and make announcements on a calendar of events.

"What we hope to do for the faculty," Bergen said, "is make it easier for them to use the Web and make the Web more approachable."