Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students
ITSS recently completed a long-awaited upgrade of phone services for Washburn Hall and Research Lab Building. For years they suffered with old analog phones (the rest of the campus has digital phones), patiently waiting for the new technology we assured them was coming that would allow us to extend better services to remote locations. That day finally came and they now have state-of-the-art Cisco IP phones with caller-id, feature buttons, message waiting lights, and other services too numerous to list.
Both buildings were converted to Cisco IP phones as a continuation of our IP phone pilot project testing. IP is short for Internet Protocol. IP phones run over the campus network and plug into network jacks instead of voice jacks. Computers then plug into the phone. The two devices share the one network connection. IP telephony allows for integration of voice, data, and video applications and it is no longer just a fad or concept for testing. Last year, of all new phones shipped worldwide, 64% were ip phones. ITSS is currently evaluating IP phone systems from Nortel and Cisco. We now have 77 IP phones connected to UMD's network.
In order to role out IP phones to our customers, a lot of changes were made to improve quality and reliability. A redundant Call Manager server had to be purchased and installed. Routers had to be installed at Washburn Hall and Research Lab Building to allow for Quality of Service (QoS). Without QoS, voice traffic would suffer from large bursts of data traffic. All network switches had to be replaced at both buildings in favor of models that provide power-over-ethernet to run the phones. Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) also had to be installed at both buildings. Two Call Manager software upgrades were needed. And most importantly, our network links to the buildings had to be upgraded. The old 1 Megabit/second links were replaced with new links that have actual throughput speeds of 6.5 Mb/second.
Have there been problems with the new system? You bet! We discovered after installation that users couldn't dial international numbers. Our dial plan requires more digits than the system would allow. It took us three weeks to come up with a solution for that one. Another problem which still exists relates to caller-id. We lost the ability to send out caller-id to local numbers so now when an ip phone calls a local cell phone for example, the number comes up as "unavailable". We're working with the vendor to resolve this but it is proving harder to correct than we thought it would. Other problems we've seen relate to poor building cabling and that's why you'll see more re-cabling of buildings on campus in the near future.
So what else does the future hold? Our voice mail system will need to be replaced in the next couple of years. The replacement will most likely be an IP Unified Messaging (UM) system. Users will be able to retrieve voice mail or e-mail messages from their PC desktop. The opposite may also be true. Users may also be able to listen to their voice mail or e-mail messages by dialing in. More phone types keep hitting the market. Some with color displays are already available. Wireless ip phones exist too, but our wireless network needs more robust roaming capabilities and security settings before we offer these types of services.
A big factor for IP phones is power. With traditional phone systems, if the power goes out the phones keep working. In most areas of campus today, if the power goes out the network goes down. In the past, there was no incentive to keep the network up during a power outage because computers wouldn't be up anyway. With IP phones it becomes mandatory that the network stays up. Many buildings on campus do not have emergency generators. Major work and expense will be required for UPS systems, new network gear, and cabling to help ensure that the network and phones keep running. It's due to these limitations that for now, ITSS intends to roll out IP phones only to remote sites or for special applications.
More information: Telephone services /itss/phone/
On January 5, 2005 ITSS staff will upgrade the hardware and software for the current UMD web server (www.d.umn.edu). The upgrade is required to keep software levels current, and to tighten security on the system. ITSS staff will copy all the data on the old web server to the new server. (While files are being copied, users will be unable to update files on the older server.) After all files are copied, we will set www.d.umn.edu to point to the new server, so all existing URLs will remain the same. Customers who visit the UMD web site on the new server should see no visible changes.
On the new server, all basic web pages should work as before with no changes needed. However, we are aware of several situations that will need to be corrected involving CGI and PHP scripts (used mainly for forms, databases, etc.) and with the process to upload files to the new server. Changes that may affect UMD web developers include:
- The CGI module will be upgraded to the current version. Perl CGI programs will need one or two minor changes.
- PHP will be upgraded to a current version. It is possible that some PHP code will need minor modifications.
- New libraries will be installed on the server. There may be some incompatabilities with the newer software. Although most binaries should run without changes, there may be some compiled programs that will need to be recompiled.
- The directory structure of the web server is changing. This means that the path used to upload (ftp) files to the new web server will change. Customers will need to update their Dreamweaver, Contribute and/or FTP program settings before they can upload files to the new server. (Note that this does not affect ~tilde web pages, such as http://www.d.umn.edu/~jdoe.)
A web page with details on these changes will be up on the ITSS web site soon. Look for a link to be added to the "News Briefs" area on the main ITSS web page.
If you have questions or concerns about the upgrade, please feel free to email shollatz.
More information: News Briefs /itss/
This fall, ITSS updated the version of Samba file and print services offered to the campus. The updated Samba services meet new University security standards for passwords. The new Samba services are MyFiles (which replaces windir) and MyWeb (which replaces winweb and www). Additionally, Windows printing through Samba now supports specific printer drivers, rather than the generic drivers previously used.
Customers who use Samba services for printing or file access will want to update their computer to use the new versions.
|Service||New Samba name||Replaces|
|Web file access||smb://samba/myweb||smb://www/www/|
|Unix file access||smb://samba/myfiles/||smb://windir/windir/|
|Service||New Samba name||Replaces|
|Web file access||\\samba\myweb\||\\winweb\www\
|Unix file access||\\samba\myfiles\||\\windir\windir\|
More information: Samba File and Print Services /itss/computing/samba/
Yanlin Yu joined ITSS on December 13, 2004. Yanlin has a BS in Computer Science with a Chemistry minor from UMD, and has attended numerous systems and network training sessions while employed other places. She worked for ITSS as a lab consultant for several years, worked in a school system providing training, data base, and desktop support, has worked independently on various web sites, and has spent the last three years working mostly with Windows servers and providing network support. Her recent training includes classes in Novell, Windows and Cisco networking.
Yanlin will join the systems team within ITSS, with a specialization in Windows and Novell system support.
More information: ITSS staff /itss/about/staff.html
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