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Mac Clusters Open, Fill Multimedia Void

By Sanjay Basu
Staff Reporter

Two Macintosh computer clusters designed to provide the MIT community with modern multimedia software opened recently.

Since most multimedia software is Macintosh- and PC- based, the Academic Computing Center chose to avoid UNIX-based systems when creating the two new clusters, called the New Media Centers. Macintoshes were chosen because of the graphics emphasis of the programs used in the clusters, according to Center Director Kate Livingston.

"Our basic goal was to fill a niche Athena failed to provide,"Livingston said. "Though Athena has strength, it lacks multimedia capabilities."

The larger of the two computer labs, located in Room 26-139, is now being used as both a classroom and as an open cluster for students who need to use media-based software. The cluster features 13 Power Macintosh G3-class workstations with Zip and CD-ROMdrives, a quality color scanner, a video digitizing system, and a laser printer.

The other facility is located next to the Academic Computing office in Building N42.

Since the larger cluster is also used as a classroom, Livingston added an instructor's workstation connected to a stereo sound system, LCDprojector, and VCR.

Students, faculty, and teaching assistants can use any of the workstations after 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and after 1 p.m. on Sunday.

"This larger cluster is primarily for student use,"Livingston said. "The smaller cluster in N42 is used mostly by professors and TA's."

The N42 cluster, called the Development Lab, has four Power Macintosh computers, a scanner and a video digitizer. Students must make appointments to use this smaller center.

Both clusters have media software including Adobe Acrobat, Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, Pagemaker, Illustrator, Macromedia Director, and SoundEdit.

Students can use the workstations to do everything from recording on CDs to "screen-grabbing"images from videotapes.

Cluster is a consortium project

Livingston and other members of the center decided to make the clusters Macintosh-based primarily because of joining the New Media Centers Consortium in Spring 1997.

The consortium is a non-profit organization which works to integrate media-based software into corporations and institutes of higher learning.

"We work to evangelize' multimedia," Livingston said.

"By joining the consortium, we can provide microcomputer-based multimedia to students and faculty while sharing our expertise," she said.

"We also get discounts on multimedia software," she said.

The center is also planning to teach students how to use multimedia software during Independent Activities Period. The center's events will include courses ranging from web page improvement to digital video editing.

"In addition to providing these IAPservices, we hope to upgrade our digital video capabilities," Livingston said. "We're hoping that people will make the most of these facilities."