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IS to Add Machines for Brief Sessions

By May K. Tse
Associate News Editor

Students may soon be able to quickly e-mail and Zephyr from dedicated "quickstation" workstations in high profile areas on campus, providing convenience and alleviating cluster crowding.

Quickstations will have a fairly stringent 10-minute time limit but will be able to do anything a regular Athena machine can. Additionally, users have to stand to utilize the first quickstations.

"We hope to have the first quickstation deployed around spring break,"said Brian T. Murphy, team leader for cluster support services in Information Systems.

"They will have the full Athena software suite. Nothing has been removed. If you can do it on Athena in less than 10 minutes, you can do it on a quickstation,"said Michael D. Barker, team leader of Athena Software.

One thing that users will not be familiar with is the new furniture that the quickstations will be equipped with. "Imagine a small table raised to the level where it would be comfortable to work on the workstation standing up,"Barker said.

Hopefully this measure will "prevent people from pulling up a chair and using them for extended periods of time. However, after the initial pilot we will most likely move to have some of the quickstations located on Americans with Disabilities Actcompliant furniture,"Murphy said.

The actual computers and platform will be very similar to the typical Athena cluster fare users are familiar with.

"The pilot machines will be Sun Sparc Classics, the same type and configuration that are in some of the Athena clusters. Over time though it is assumed that older machines reaching the end of their life cycle will be put into service as quickstations,"Murphy said.

Currently, the plan is to deploy the first quickstation in the Building 56 Athena cluster. This one will be followed by two stations in the Student Center, Murphy said.

The quickstation team hopes to have four more quickstations released in the new Student Services Building by August, and one more in the new Building 12 cluster.

"Eventually our interest is to have quickstations on the main corridor and in every cluster,"said Director of Academic Computing Vijay Kumar.

The exact number and location of quickstations deployed overall is currently uncertain. "We really can't say what the full force' of quickstations is until we've found out what kind of usage and reception they get,"Barker said.

"The pilot will determine to some extent what the full force will be and when. But if the stations meet with the acceptance that we anticipate, I would imagine that over the summer we will deploy as many as possible. Iwould think that the end result would be in the neighborhood of dozens of quickstations across campus,"Murphy said.

10-minute limit will be enforced

The quickstation team has taken several measures in order to enforce the 10-minute time limit, including having users stand to use the stations.

"The quickstation will keep track of how long a user has been logged in. The amount of time will be displayed on the screen. When the user is approaching the end of their time, it will put up a warning,"Barker said.

When a user's 10 minutes are up, the quickstations will not automatically log out but "it will tell them [the users] to log off. After that, it will start reminding them repeatedly and frequently that they are into overtime. We will be monitoring the usage of the workstations, and may take further actions if we discover repeated abuse,"Barker said.

Login options can be used to configure the window manager appropriately for preferred quick' functions to be launched quickly, he said. "Given that this is a new initiative we would like to understand the nature of use, therefore there is also a script which will poll to see the distribution of login durations,"Kumar said.

The purpose of the quickstations is to decrease the wait time for short login sessions and to make them more efficient, something that won't happen unless people cooperate. "We will soon launch a publicity and education campaign to promote and encourage the effectiveness of the quickstations,"Kumar said.

The quickstation project began last year, when students suggested via questionnaires that it would be helpful to have machines dedicated to e-mail and Zephyr.