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SIPB Turns Over Website to Institute

Athena 8.3 features maintenance improvements; quota also increased

By Anna K. Benefiel

After six years, the Student Information Processing Board relinquished <> to Information Systems to mirror the official MIT home page.

SIPB has controlled the domain name since 1993, when the site was one of the first 100 on the web. “As a group, we’ve known that this has been coming for a couple years,” said SIPB Chairman Gisele M. Proulx G, “and we’re trying to work with Information Services to make a smooth transition.”

When the site was established, “www wasn’t a big deal,” said Matthew K. Gray ’99, author of the original SIPB site. After World Wide Web Consortium member Timothy R. Berners-Lee recommended www over other prefixes, the issue of domain names took on greater significance, Gray said. Berners-Lee, who invented the Web, is now a principal research scientist in the Laboratory for Computer Science.

Lauding the “close relationship” between I/S and SIPB, Gray said, “it makes sense for to be the MIT homepage.”

The www site receives an average of 500,000 hits a day, with six percent of visitors from MIT and 94 percent from outside the Institute, Gray said.

Athena system updated, improved

The domain name was only one of the several changes to the Athena computing network that took place this summer.

The Athena Cluster Service Team installed approximately 100 new Sun Ultra 5s, Ultra 10s, and SGI O2s and upgraded all Athena machines to the new Athena 8.3 release.

Most features of the 8.3 release involve maintenance improvements to programs and slight changes in the default e-mail system.

In response to a “growing demand” for disk space the default quota was increased by 33 percent to 30 Mb. The increase in capacity and data security was made possible through the “use of 72Gb RAID disks to give [Athena servers] tolerance to a disk failure without any loss of user data,” said Team Leader for Athena Server Operations Jonathon Weiss ’93. The increase is the first since November 1998 when the quota moved from 15 to 20 Mb.

Greg B. Hudson ’96, Athena Release Engineer for the 8.3 general release on August 3, said he thinks that many of the changes are “something that users wouldn’t be likely to notice.”

Users of Athena, including Andrew M. Glenn ’00, agreed. “Honestly, I haven’t noticed any differences [in Athena 8.3], except that when you type scan, the name of the person instead of the e-mail address is listed. That’s kind of cool,” Glenn said.

“I don’t use Athena that extensively. I just noticed the new version of Netscape.” said Dan D. Lowrey ’02.

Another smaller upgrade, or “patch release,” including a bug fix for a new screen saver is planned for Monday, said Hudson.

Hardware upgrades routine

The philosophy behind machine upgrades is to “work on a on a four-year life cycle” such that “at the end of [said] four year period, a lot of machines are new” said Brian T. Murphy. As Team Leader of Hardware Service for Information Systems, Murphy sets the year-in-advance schedule for the maintenance and through cleaning of clusters. Typically, clusters are “spruce[d] up” during the “spring, IAP, or August,” Murphy said.

“A great deal of effort goes into making the Athena environment as compatible as possible” to as many people, classes, and departments as possible, Murphy added.

“We’re always looking for other platforms, and we consider them every year, but it could take a great deal of work on the Athena software... and if a particular platform is going to require nine months worth of work, that will be prohibitive to us porting,” Murphy said.