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Athena Upgrades Attract Record Workstation Usage

By Nicole Sherry

About 200 new workstations were added to Athena clusters over the summer in an effort to update the campus-wide distributed computing environment -- an effort that was rewarded with record-setting Athena usage last week.

"We are trying to bring the system to a new plateau," said Keith M. Swartz G, an online consultant for the Computer Support Services branch of Information Systems.

All of the older Digital VAXstation 2000 workstations were replaced with DECstation 5000/25s, and 40 additional IBM RS/6000s will be put online later this year, said Janet M. Daly, information officer for Academic Computing Services.

The new machines are nearly 30 times faster and are more reliable than the older workstations they are replacing. The DECstations run at 27 million instructions per second and have a 16-inch color display, 24 megabytes of memory, and 232 megabytes of hard disk storage, Daly said.

Improvements are popular

IS provided $1.2 million for the project, Swartz said, adding that he thought the increase in usage has already proven the expense to be worthwhile. As a result of the investment, more students than ever are using the campus-wide network of workstations, he said.

On Thursday, Sept. 17, Athena usage reached an all-time high, when 5,623 log-ins were recorded. "It's getting huge," Swartz said.

Students seem to be pleased with the change. Most notice the faster log-ins and the new color.

"It is a lot faster, especially when working with a lot of windows and printing," said Adeela Komal '93.

"They're cool, they've got colors," Luis Ba '95 added.

"The new machines all have 31/2-inch drives which are nice for making backups," Todd T. Foley '94 said.

The main complaint among students, however, is that there are still not enough machines. Some also complain that the remote dialup system remains slow; they propose replacing the dialup workstations with faster models.

"It is great for power computing but there is still no decent, user-friendly word processor and not enough workstations which would really help the average user," said Sumit Basu '95.