An all-NT Network, for the first time!!
As of this date, all Staff computer workstations and 99% of all public workstations are running the Windows NT 4.0 operating system. A homogenous environment for computing is a dream-come-true for any system administrator, and now both client and server operations are all NT based. The next big step for us to take in client-server operations will be the migration to Windows2000 Server, which may be preceded by Windows2000 clients which will be loaded on any newly installed computers.
New Web Site Designs, Revisited
Thank you for all of the feedback on the two designs for our library's main page, it's color scheme and style. The second choice was by far the favorite, and will soon replace our existing opening page. Unfortunately this implementation has been stalled by an inconsistency that appears when viewing the page in the new version of Netscape (version 6). The page will be revamped (again) to rectify this. The goal is to have the site look and function the same in all internet browsers. Netscape 4.x and above as well as Internet Explorer 5.x and above comprise 99% of the browsers used on the internet and are the baseline for our compatibility. A text-only version of our site will accompany the site, to facilitate universal access and ADA compliance. To view progress, you can point your browser to:
The addition of the compass rose as a symbol for the library will be adopted and will be located in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Look within the next few days look for the new icon. All paths lead to Poynter! :)
Networking Slowdowns Accessing the Virtual Library
Many of you have been involved in troubleshooting a library-wide access problem, stemming from the inaccessibility of the Virtual Library (VL) web site. The VL main page hung (or cycled ... or lagged… etc) accessing the main page, and subsequent pages within the site were also unacceptably slow. Although the problem turned out to be a more general networking issue, the slowest PC's (public use PC's in the reference area) were the best indicators of this lag in loading web content from the internet. The cause was traced through a process of elimination to our Cisco Fiber Optic Switch, sole piece of networking equipment that connects our library to the campus backbone.
The Fiber Switch had been configured and ran un-checked from the days of my predecessor, and from what I understand the responsibility of it's upkeep was left in the hands of Academic Computing in Tampa. Since the switch was inaccessible to myself and there was no information on it in Systems, an email query was sent to Joe Rogers in Tampa's Academic Computing to check it’s error status. Joe checked on it and reported that the fiber-switch was badly misconfigured, and that our degraded network problems could be amply explained by it. He graciously offered to share responsibility for it's upkeep with me, sent me a list of the errors, and granted me full access to fix them. Most of Labor Day was spent documenting the connections to and from the switch and making adjustments to each port. I am very happy to have gained his confidence and also am overjoyed to have solved a major problem that has been frustrating to us all! Testing after the change has shown network capacity to be equal or above the standard of the St. Petersburg Campus as a whole. Note the troubleshooting hints at the bottom of this newsletter for more information on troubleshooting and what steps to take when you experience problems with your computer’s connection to the Web.
Printing Issues in Virtual Library's E-reserves Collection
Printing E-Reserves from the Virtual Library has been one of the most time-consuming activities that students have encountered, due the size of the print jobs and the strength (or lack thereof) of our public computing environment. Large file sizes have ranged anywhere from 20 to 38 Megabytes per file, which in turn has crippled our older generation Pentium-based public computers to printing less than a page per minute. Relief is in sight however, as it was found that the file sizes can be dramatically reduced through correcting the advanced settings in Adobe Acrobat 4.0. A typical 20 page document can be compressed from the 17-20 MB range to a mere 2-3 Megabytes. Not only will this speed up printing and file access here in the library, but will also alleviate frustrations of patrons working from home. I have streamlined a process to reduce file sizes without rescanning the entire e-reserves collection, and the newly compressed files will be uploaded by Jackie in the next few days. Another improvement that results from this process is that disk space is saved on our servers, which is always at a premium.
DNS Entries for Static Computers
A list of selected computers has been given to Academic Computing to be added to the DNS servers in Tampa. What does this mean? Well, it means that from anywhere on the internet, you can enter a user-friendly name for a computer in the library and it will find the address of the computer automatically. This facilitates better connectivity between our servers and Tampa based servers, and will also help in accessing computers from home for file sharing purposes.
Computer Troubleshooting: How and When to Contact the Systems Team
Networking is one of the more complicated aspects of computing, but understanding this concept is important- especially for librarians that spend time at the reference desk. I will be assisting the reference desk periodically to keep in touch with the problems and also provide some solutions to common problems as they arise.
Now that the slow connection problems have been solved, incidents of web delays should be sporadic and short-lived. A healthy network can still experience delays accessing the web. The difference is that in a healthy environment lag problems are based on specific traffic congestion to and from popular locations on the web, rather than our local operations. Having said this, an internet related problem should now be defined as an event in which a workstation never connects, even after system reboot, or when a internet connection problem involves more than one computer over a period of more than 5 minutes.
More General Troubleshooting Hints
An internal web site will be constructed in the near future to address how to handle a variety of computing issues, but until then here are some general rules of thumb:
Rebooting can restore full function in most cases, so as long as you do not see the “BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH”. Safely rebooting the machine (Click the Start button, choose Shut Down, then Restart) refreshes connections both to the Internet and also to our domain servers, and is the first step toward testing to see if the problem is persistent.
A safe system reboot should also be done in the event of seeing a message from “Dr. Watson” (no puns, please), and this should be reported with the name of the program that caused it, if it happens more than once. Dr. Watson is an NT utility that allows a program to shut down gracefully, so that the system is still in a usable state.
“Blue Screen of Death”
This screen is the worst thing you can see on an NT machine. It is an error message followed by a list of all of the processes that were running at the time, and a memory dump of all the processes in memory and their addresses. Please note the error message, what program you were working in, and give me a call if I am available. Sometimes systems in this condition never reboot properly after it….. we have been lucky in not seeing many of this type! There are no options in this scenario except to disconnect power (top button).
Give Detailed Information
When you report a problem, be prepared to provide the following information:
Computer Name, location (all Public PCs are Numbered on the case).
If the problem persists after a system reboot for network errors.
Any error messages that were shown at the time of the error.
The program(s) that were opened and being worked on at the time.
The process that terminated in “Blue Screen of Death”, or Dr. Watson.
Thanks alot for taking the time to look this Newsletter over and please as always catch a Systems Team Member if you have any questions or comments, or respond to this email.
- Your Systems Team