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I/S Offers Redhat, New E-Mail Servers: New Release of Athena, Faster Linux Boxes in Clusters Top Summer Updates

By Dana Levine


Students returning to MIT this fall will notice that Information Systems has made several changes to the Athena computing environment, including a powerful new e-mail system, the official introduction of Redhat Athena boxes in the clusters, and a new release of Athena.

IMAP e-mail planned for October

Although it has not officially announced an upgrade to its existing e-mail system, I/S has begun to implement a system which gives e-mail users several new choices.

I/S staffer Heather A. Harrison, who works on training and publications, said that for now all that users will notice is that “the mail servers are faster and more reliable than they were previously.” On October 2, however, I/S will begin official support for the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP).

Differing from the current system, in which a user downloads e-mail from the mail server to either his Athena account or a single computer running Eudora, the new system will allow a user to view his e-mail on any computer running Netscape Communicator.

IMAP servers allow any compliant client to view and reply to messages without downloading them from the server.

Matthew S. Brody, Senior Project Manager for Information Services and IMAP project coordinator said that I/S will begin offering quickstart classes on migration to IMAP and provide tools for migration to IMAP.

“I think that the primary focus of this is increasingly targeting those who use the mobile platform,” he said. “This is not a replacement for POP. This is about how people are starting to use e-mail in a different way and being responsive to them.”

Linux now supported platform

I/S has also removed the 106 SPARC 4 workstations remaining in the clusters, replacing them with 45 Redhat Linux machines and 65 Sun Ultra 5 machines. Ten Linux boxes were introduced in the W20 Athena cluster this spring as part of a trial program, and were supplemented by 35 additional boxes over the summer.

“The new Linux boxes are substantially faster than anything we have out,” said I/S systems programmer Camilla R. Fox ‘00. The new machines contain Pentium III processors running at 800 MHz with 256 MB of RAM (the machines purchased last spring contain 550 MHz Pentium III’s).

Fox noted that “people are going to notice that Framemaker does not run on the [new] machines.” Although I/S has attempted to work with software manufacturers, not all applications have yet been ported to Linux.

I/S purchases no new SGIs

Harrison said that Silicon Graphics, Inc.“has been reducing the amount of development effort they put into their workstations. SGI has shown a lot of interest in moving to a Linux-type platform.”

Therefore, I/S has not purchased any new systems made by SGI. Harrison said that “for now all of the machines that we have are in good shape.”

Software changes generally minor

Most of the changes in Athena 8.4, which was released in July 2000, should be transparent to the end users. “We like making changes such that people don’t notice them,” said Harrison.

Netscape is now part of the standard Athena release, meaning that it will be stored on each machine’s hard drive rather than in an Athena locker. This will speed Netscape execution time, and was one of the most frequently requested upgrades.