Following numerous complaints about the unpredictability and speed of Colrain, Williams is officially phasing out the Colrain system in favor of a UNIX system. Not only will the UNIX system allow students to access Pine or Selfreg faster, but it should also eliminate many of the mass Colrain shutdowns common last school year.
Unlike Colrain, the UNIX system is composed of more than one machine. When a student logs into UNIX, he will be randomly assigned to one of the four smaller systems that compose UNIX. Since fewer people will be enrolled on a given machine, each server will be able to work faster to read information.
The UNIX four-machine system enables the Office of Information Technology (OIT) to fix glitches within the system without having to halt all email traffic. Consequently, Colrain shutdowns which have become common over the last year will be eliminated.
Although the UNIX system is quite similar to the Colrain system, there will be some changes. As students have noticed at the email stations in Baxter Lounge, Goodrich and Mission Lounge, the UNIX system requires students to reenter their login name and password when they enter into Pine.
Another difference between the two systems involves the practice of checking student logins, called fingering. Because each UNIX subsystem recognizes logins only on particular machines, not the entire UNIX system, it will be difficult to use fingering to search for other students and receive accurate information. Also, certain statistical programs currently run through Colrain will be rendered unusable.
However, despite these changes, most of the Pine and Selfreg systems will remain the same. Students will still be able to change their finger names and their passwords without any complications. Furthermore, students will now be able to run such email programs as Eudora and Microsoft Outlook without any complications since part of the UNIX system, called IMAP, will leave all email in a central location that will be accessible by multiple programs.
Although the switch from Colrain to UNIX is a major technological change for a majority of individuals on campus, there has been no official announcement by the Information Technology department concerning the replacement. Most students are completely unaware of the upcoming alteration.
“I am just confused,” Craig Tamamoto ’02 said. “I saw that they put UNIX on some of the computers but I have no idea what that means.” The Information Technology department admits it has yet to make any effort to notify the student body.
“They should have been notified,” Edward Nowlan, member of the Information Technology department said. “The servers arrived a bit late. We did get the system configured before the students arrived but somehow the information did not get out that the new server was available.”
The Information Technology department stated it decided not to inform the student body because it wanted to test the new server in various spots on campus, such as Baxter Lounge, before rewiring all of campus. It also claimed that there is no need to alert the student body since Colrain is still accessible.
“We didn’t want to [announce the switch to UNIX] at the beginning of the semester because it is disruptive,” said Mark Berman, director of Networks and Systems for the Information Technology department. “It didn’t seem as though it was a priority to make the information available since it isn’t a negative effect on people’s activities and Colrain is still available.”
The Information Technology department opted not to disable the Colrain system until the spring of 2000. When the Colrain system is permanently disabled, Williams students will no longer be able to access Pine or Selfreg through Colrain. Instead they will have to use UNIX.
The Information Technology department will publish instructions explaining how to alter computer setups for using UNIX. Since the changes necessary are few and simple, the changeover should be no problem for the majority of students.