Report: February 23, 2005



REPORT OF THE COMPUTING COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 at 3:10 p.m., in Room 3138, South Building.

PRESENT: J. Lim (in the Chair), R. deSouza, A. Vyas, J. Hu, B. Thompson, J. Linley, J. Seel, J. Sills, J. Tran
In attendance: Rishi Arora, LAN Administrator

1. Adoption of the Agenda

The agenda was approved. (A. Vyas/R. deSouza)

2. Minutes of the Previous Meeting (November 24, 2004)

The report of the previous meeting was approved. (J. Seel/A. Vyas)

3. Business Arising from the Minutes

There was no business arising from the minutes.

4. New Business

a) Mail Server Problem – Rishi Arora

Mr. Arora reported that the mail server had been experiencing problems for several months, with a large number of emails causing long queue times. UTM moved to a new mail server to remedy problems with server load and delivery. In order to repair the problem, UTM also worked very closely with Dell, its hardware provider. He added that the St. George campus was experiencing similar problems, but they have the option of distributing their mail over several servers. UTM only has one server and the resulting maintenance shutdown would cause service interruptions.

He noted that the new platform also experienced problems, in particular with the spam filter. In order to solve the problem, UTM installed another server to duplicate Solaris and gave the primary server to Dell for repair. This gives UTM the opportunity to continue running on Lennox and test this server for possible future use and replacement of Solaris. This decision would likely be made by the summer.

Mr. Arora reported that database discrepancies have resulted in an increase in the number of false positives when the system is testing for spam. He noted that this problem is starting to improve, but the spam server requires time to learn.

The Chair opened the floor to discussion:

In response to a member’s question regarding a comparison of server problems on the St. George and UTM campuses, Mr. Arora explained that although the two servers are similar in function, UTM uses a different manufacturer (Dell) while St. George uses IBM.

A member asked if there were any necessary resources that are currently missing, which could ameliorate future problems. Mr. Arora replied that Dell had been helpful in troubleshooting and the current operation of the Linux server has been stable.

Regarding spam, members further discussed that Outlook users were at a higher risk of false positives because headers could be easily forged on this system. Mr. Arora suggested that members follow the instructions, which were previously sent to all faculty and staff about creating spam and non-spam folders. Mr. Lim added that Outlook users could either lower their security threshold or switch to another email server like Netscape.

b) Web Server Changes – Jenny Hu

Ms. Hu reported that UTM’s newly upgraded web server has allowed for an upgrade in the web site content management system, Typo3. Typo3 will now be dynamic, meaning that changes would be reflected instantly, without users having to wait overnight for a batch run.

She added that Typo3 training is continuing, with the recent session hosting 30 new users. She reported that some of the comments from users include the inability of the current system to use different types of fonts and limitations of the template. Computing Services will work with the Office of Advancement to design a more flexible template.

The Chair opened the floor to discussion.

In response to a member’s question, Ms. Hu explained that maintenance of the look and content of the UTM home page is the responsibility of the Office of Advancement. Regarding templates available on Typo3, Ms. Hu noted that members have approximately five from which to choose.

In response to a member’s question about the maintenance of web pages other than the UTM home page, Ms. Hu explained that these links are managed by different administrative areas depending on their zone of responsibility. She further noted that other than this type of oversight by specific administrative area, one central body does not manage the content of all of the sub-pages.

A member commented that searches on the main University of Toronto web site do not provide results from the UTM and Scarborough campuses and that this would need to be remedied in any review of the web site.

c) Academic Computing Advisory Committee Update – Joe Lim

Mr. Lim advised members that the university has blocked the site “” which under the pretense of offering a faster download speed, captures personal information, such as passwords. Any machines running this client will be diverted and will receive a warning message.

Mr. Lim also reported that UTM is currently evaluating the possibility of upgrading to a much faster connection to the St. George campus, which would allow for the ability to support video conferencing and connection to ORION. The target for implementation is summer of 2005.

The Chair opened the floor to discussion:

In response to a member’s question Mr. Lim explained that the current video conferencing system is run on old equipment, but future uses could include conducting courses, meetings, PHD orals, and interviews. The current system is located in room 2038M in the portables and the new Academic Learning Centre will have the appropriate technology installed for future use of the service.

Mr. Lim also reported that the Provost’s Office has allocated $2M of matching funds throughout the university network for any group wanting to adapt wireless technology or expand existing wireless areas. A member commented that this would be useful for some of the classrooms and research labs at UTM and that much planning is needed to ensure strategic coverage in select areas.

d) Appropriate Use of Technology Policy – Joe Lim

Mr. Lim reported that the Office of the Provost has developed guidelines for the appropriate use information and communication technology. The guidelines are available on the Office of the Provost web site and are intended to provide a framework for the protection and effective use of these resources. Inappropriate or unauthorized use of information and communication technology is also covered by the Code of Student Conduct. Mr. Lim added that UTM needs to define penalties associated with these guidelines.

In response to a member’s question Mr. Lim explained that supervisors have oversight in this area and are asked to sign accountability reports.

5. Other Business

a) A member reported that Business Services was planning the implementation of a card system to purchase food services based on the T-card. This new service is likely to be in place by the fall and cash to card machines will be made available. This type of system may also be implemented for the shuttle bus and for vending machines.

b) Update on the Patch link: 642 installations have been completed, with 20 remaining in the MMPA area.

c) A member commented that a student had posted a message cancelling a test on a department specific bulletin board and added that measures have been taken to warn students of this kind of future activity.

6. Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Computing Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, March 23, 2005.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:20 p.m. (J. Linley / A. Vyas)

Secretary of Council _______________________ Chair ___________________

March 14, 2005