Athena working to kill bugs
(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Kenneth A. Ellis '93.)
I would like to respond to the concerns raised in your recent letter to The Tech ["Unnecessary functions slow Athena operations," Feb. 5].
First, in your letter, you note the unusually long time it took you to log in, and add, "I don't mean to imply that [new Project Athena releases and updates] are the sole cause of this stressful login delay; some of it was the heavy user load." In fact, heavy user load is not what caused the delay; it was caused by light user load.
Unfortunately, Project Athena allowed a bug to slip into the spring software release. This bug did not manifest itself during extensive pre-release testing, because the conditions during testing do not completely simulate the conditions in the public clusters (the differences are unavoidable).
The bug, which was detected soon after the release, manifests itself when many of the workstations in a cluster are idle. Project Athena is feverishly working on a fix, which will be released some time in the next week.
When the fix is released, I believe you will find that the new software release is significantly faster than the previous release. The new release adds many features, and at the same time speeds up log-in time and makes more memory available to the workstation user.
These changes are documented in the user release notes, which are available in printed form in every cluster, in the Athena consulting office and in Graphic Arts. They are also available in the on-line help system.
If you do not find that performance improves considerably after the fix is released, Project Athena would like to hear from you about it. You can talk to Athena through its consultants, in person in the consulting office or by running olc.
Indeed, if you had asked the consultants about the delays you were experiencing, you would have been told about the bug in the release and about the work being done to fix it.
Second, you point out that help is too slow. You're right, it is. Project Athena did not anticipate the speed problems when designing it, and now that the mistake has been realized, a new, faster olh is being developed.
In the meantime, the text-based version of olh, which is quite fast, is available. In any case, either version is superior to what users used to get when they ran help -- an out-of-date help message that didn't do much good at all. Olh is an improvement over what help used to do, not a degradation.
Finally, you express your dislike of the xmh mail interface. It should be obvious that if you don't like xmh, you don't have to use it; it's there for the people who like it, and there are people who like it.
There are at least five different interfaces to mail available on Project Athena. Olh and the printed help available in Graphic Arts discuss some of those interfaces, and other documents, such as An Inessential Guide to Athena published by the Student Information Processing Board, discuss others. Furthermore, Athena's consultants are available to answer any questions you may have about mail (or any other subject) on Athena.
I hope I have adequately addressed the points you made in your letter. Furthermore, I would like to apologize for the trouble with Athena you have experienced. Project Athena values input from the user community, and I therefore hope you will not refrain from continuing to let Athena know how you feel in the future.
Jonathan I. Kamens '91->