MIT Tether System Falls Short
I have two MIT degrees and am a dissertation away from a third. While this obliges me to a certain degree of pride in MIT, especially with respect to that school down the street, I am currently spending a semester as a full-time Harvard student and have developed some first-hand knowledge with which to compare the two schools. I recently spent a week trying to get modem Internet access to each school. I can therefore state categorically that along this narrow criteria MIT loses. Badly. Here is the comparison.
MIT: There is a $50 set up charge for MIT's PPPaccess system Tether and a $12 per month use fee.
Harvard: It's free.
MIT: Over the course of hours of analysis and experimentation during five days, the staff of the Microcomputer Center told me that my modem software needed to be updated, my modem ROM needed to be upgraded, my system software should be changed, my init string was incorrect, some of my extensions were incompatible, and that my computer (a PowerPC Macintosh) was "a problem." They were very patient, and within the confines of MIT's wretched system they did their best to help.
Harvard: No support was necessary. The Harvard software worked beautifully the first time I tried it - using my existing programs, my existing init string, my existing ROM, and my existing system software. I now have network access without changing a single aspect of my system - through Harvard, with 10 minutes of mindless set up using their extremely well-organized guide. For free.
MIT: I gave up in desperation after more than 15 hours of needless effort. Maybe our system can ultimately be forced to work. Thankfully, I don't have to struggle with it anymore.
Harvard: The system works great.
The staff at the Microcomputer Center identified problems with every individual aspect of my system when in fact, Occam's razor provided the better answer: Tether is horrible.
Personally, I am offended by the idea of a university charging for the flow of information. Communication is at the core of academia, and it should be universally provided to the community as a piece of the infrastructure. Communication today means Internet: Two of my (Harvard) classes are Netscape dependent.
And lastly, the information should actually flow. Tether is an embarrassment. Someone needs to investigate why members of the MIT community are paying so much for so little while our friendly rivals down the street pay nothing for so much.
David H. Levy G