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Computing News Archive 1997-1998

Remote Access Update

There are three recent developments in remote access to PennNet:

  • NetNews can be accessed from any Internet Service Provider (ISP) worldwide, including local ISPs such as DCANet and Comcast @Home. Details are available for both NewsWatcher (Macintosh) and Navigator (Win 3.1x and Windows 95) users (read MORE).

  • The Penn Library databases are available from home through any Internet Service Provider via a proxy server (read MORE).

  • Comcast @Home service is available at a special discounted rate to the Penn community. The Comcast @Home service offers a high-speed cable modem connection to the Internet, which is up to 100 times faster than a standard telephone modem connection (read MORE).

--Mike Palladino, Executive Director, ISC Networking   (April 9, 1998)

ISC Computing Support Services Moving in July 1998

ISC offices and services housed at the Computing Resource Center (CRC), 3732 Locust Walk, and High Rise East (Harnwell House) will be moving to the second and third floors of Graduate Tower B, 3650 Chestnut St., in the middle of July.

These widely used end-user services will be moving:

  • CRC walk-in facility and ISC help line (help@isc or 573- 4778 (57- FIRST))
  • Training services and training labs (Technology Training Group - ttg@isc or 573-3102)
  • Site License and Volume Discount Program (licenses@isc or 573-3558)

Also moving are several ISC units and services that work primarily with local support providers or other University offices. These include

  • Classroom Technology Services (cts@isc or 898-9550)
  • Client Services Group (help@isc, 573-4778 (57- FIRST))
  • ISC Communications Group (898-1786)
  • Provider Support Services (573-4429 or aseltine@isc)
  • Support-On-Site Services (898-1781 or onsite@isc)

As plans and dates are firmed up, we will be publishing more detailed information. By providing plenty of advance warning, we hope to minimize confusion for those who use these services or refer others to them.

-- Mike Eleey, Associate Vice Provost, Information Systems and Computing     (March 19, 1998)

Online Directory Now Requires a Secure Web Browser

On Wednesday, February 25, the Online Directory's Faculty and Staff Update Form will be moved to a webserver capable of secure socket layer (SSL) connections. The move will further protect the privacy of directory transactions. All information passing to and from your web browser will automatically be encrypted.

If you use an SSL-capable web browser such as Netscape, you will notice no changes to the update process except that the connection between your web browser and the webserver is secure. You can verify that the page is secure by selecting "Document Info" (PC) or "Page Info" (Mac) from Netscape's View menu.

If you use a non-SSL-capable web browser, such as Lynx, you have several options for updating your directory entry:

  • Install an SSL-capable web browser. You are encouraged to obtain Netscape Navigator, Penn's recommended and supported web browser. Details on obtaining, installing, and configuring this software are available at

  • Access the Directory Update Form using an SSL-capable browser from another machine in your office area or via Netscape frome a public computer lab.

  • Send e-mail to and specify your e-mail address and home page URL. If you are updating privacy settings, please indicate one of the following:

    • If you would like your e-mail address and URL to be public (available to anyone on the Internet who searches the Directory) or private (not available).
    • If you would like your entire listing to be public or private.

The online directory services home page is located at General information updating your directory entry is available at

If you have any other questions about the online directory service, feel free to e-mail us at

--Daryl Chertcoff, Programmer/Analyst, ISC Networking     (February 18, 1998)

10Base-2 to 10Base-T Ethernet Conversion Program

To encourage the University community to complete the transition from 10Base-2 (coax) to 10Base-T (twisted pair) ethernet wiring and connections, ISC is offering free conversion services between now and the end of June 1998. In addition, since 10Base-2 connections are no longer strategic and are not likely to be supported for more than two or three years, ISC will no longer install coax cables for new connections. We will, however, continue to activate 10Base-2 connections.

The free conversion offer is applicable only on retail 10Base-2 connections maintained by ISC and excludes new wiring charges that may be needed. ISC will waive the $91 fee per 10Base-T connection for clients who request that we disconnect an existing 10Base-2 connection and simultaneously activate a new 10Base-T connection in the same wallplate or room.

ISC will schedule your conversion on one of the following time tables:

  • Work will be completed within 3 days if you have existing 10Base-T equipment and ports.

  • Work will be completed within 2 weeks if you need new 10Base-T equipment.

  • Work will be completed within 2-4 weeks if you need new CAT5 cabling (i.e., newer, unshielded, twisted-pair cable installed since July 1993).

* Work will be completed by special arrangement if your wiring center is over-populated or has limited infrastructure (such as fiber). In this case, we will evaluate your needs and discuss pricing and scheduling options within 2-4 weeks. Work will then proceed on an agreed upon schedule if budget approval is given.

For more information, or to apply for the free conversion service, please call 898-9654 or send e-mail to

--Mike Palladino, Co-Executive Director, ISC Networking   (January 20, 1998)

Changes to the 898-0834 modem pool affecting SLIP and PPP users

Starting on February 2, 1998, SLIP and PPP services will be discontinued on the low-speed (14.4) modem pool. From then on, that pool will support only CLI (command-line interface) connections. This change is one more step towards reducing the size and use of that pool as its equipment ages and begins to fail. The goal is to make it easier to support users and to move the Penn community towards higher speed access to the net.

At the same time, new equipment on the high speed modem pool will make it possible to allow variable time limits on sessions in place of the universal one-hour limit that has been in place for the last year. The four-hour limits that have been available on the low-speed pool will now be available on the high-speed pool except at the most congested hours of the week (read MORE).

--Mike Palladino, Co-Executive Director, ISC Networking     (December 9, 1997)

Virex replaces Disinfectant

On October 15, Virex replaced Disinfectant as the recommended antiviral software for the Macintosh. Virex 5.8, now site licensed at Penn, offers all of the functionality of Disinfectant and much more -- including protection against macro viruses.

ISC recommends that all Macintosh users remove Disinfectant and install Virex 5.8. The software is distributed from FTP and AppleShare file servers, as well as the Computing Resource Center. Please use the FTP or AppleShare file servers when possible.

  • Secure FTP (PennNet ID and password required) from (after logging on to the the ftp server, change the directory to:   /pub/mac/virex/)

  • Penn AppleShare file server from AppleTalk Zone: UPenn-ISC-DCCS; File server: PENN_SW; Name: penn; Password: Penn; Volume: Mac

  • Computing Resource Center (CRC) at 3732 Locust Walk from 9 AM - 4:30 PM

Installation instructions are available from the CRC and on the web. For additional information about antiviral software, check Penn's virus website or contact your primary support provider.

--Erica Garriest, Site License Program Coordinator, ISC; John Mulhern III, Consultant, ISC Client Services Group     (October 14, 1997)

Year 2000 at Penn

Penn is expanding its efforts to ensure that the University is prepared for the millennium bug, the date malfunction facing systems and devices in the year 2000.

Briefly, the date problem is associated with hardware, software, and other devices programed to determine the year using the last two digits only. When January 1, 2000 arrives, these systems will assume that it's 1900 and cause havoc with all non-year 2000 compliant systems.

Recognizing that the turn of the century is a serious business concern, Penn's Year 2000 project aims to not only fix the date problem but to ensure the continuation of core processes via a multifaceted strategy that includes ensuring mission-critical systems and devices are year 2000 compliant by December 31, 1998. See Penn's Year 2000 website for details.

--Stephen Stines, Senior Project Leader, ISC Administrative Information Technologies     (October 13, 1997)

The new Penn Web

The Penn Web is the University's public face on the Internet. It is also a communications medium for users with differing information needs and degrees of familiarity with the University. The redesigned Penn Web, which replaced the current Web on October 1, 1997, addresses both functions: It makes evident Penn's richness as an institution, while providing several ways to navigate University information. The entire community was invited to try out, and comment on, the new Web. Feedback will be used to refine the site and help set the agenda for development. (more...)

--Edda Katz, Director, ISC Communications Group; Randall Couch, Communications Design Manager, ISC Communications Group     (October 1, 1997)

PennConnect CD-ROM network applications fall 1997

In fall 1997, Information Systems and Computing released the PennConnect CD-ROM, which contains the recommended networking software for off-campus students, staff, and faculty. The CD-ROM includes PPP (Point-to-Point) software, which allows for remote connectivity to PennNet; Netscape, the recommended Web browser; and other Internet applications for Telnet, e-mail, and NetNews.

Also available is a readme file for installing and configuring PPP, as well as a Welcome page that you can view and use after you install Netscape and connect to PennNet. The Welcome page provides links to online orientation for the Library and for new students, and links to information about the schools and computing.

This CD-ROM is cross-platform, and works on Macintosh, Windows 3.11, and Windows 95 computers. Copies of the CD are available for many faculty and staff directly from their local support provider or at the CRC at 3732 Locust Walk.

--Mary Griffin, Senior Consultant, ISC Client Services Group     (September 19, 1997)

Dual-speed (10/100 Mbps) Ethernet Card Recommendation for Windows 95 Users

Windows 95 users who are considering a new Ethernet card that can be used today at 10 Mbps speeds, yet will be compliant with future 100 Mbps service offerings, are advised to purchase the 3Com Fast EtherLink XL. The Computer Connection will announce availability and pricing shortly.

Once a 100 Mbps service is available, users who have purchased dual-speed 3Com cards will be able to switch to a 100 Mbps connection without having to replace their Ethernet card.

ISC based the 3Comm recommendation on an evaluation of four 10/100 Ethernet cards: 3Com Fast EtherLink XL, IBM 10/100 EtherJet PCI, Intel EtherExpress PRO/100 and the SMC EtherPower10/100. No evaluation was done of 10/100 Ethernet cards for Macintosh.

The 3Com card was judged best overall in an evaluation that focused primarily on functionality, ease of instalation, and clear documentation. It is important to note that the test did not include a network performance analysis. A web page, providing more details of the evaluation is available.

--Jon Boone, Systems Programmer, ISC Networking     (September 16, 1997)

PennNet password rules changed on August 22

User's attempting to obtain a PennNet ID and password (or modify an old password) face stricter password rules.
  • Passwords must be at least 7 and no longer than 16 characters.

  • Passwords may not be all upper-case or all lower-case. (Examples: ivyleague, IVYLEAGUE, and jklasdf are not valid passwords.)

  • Passwords may not contain your PennNet ID; username; your first, middle, or last name; or any variation thereof

  • Passwords may not be derived directly from words or phrases of any language. Embedding a number or case-shift within a word does not make a valid password. Systematic password guessing attacks are sophisticated and will routinely 'crack' such passwords. (Examples: time2go, big$deal, ivyLeague, 2morrow, money$, and Ivyleague are not valid passwords.

  • Passwords may not be composed of all numbers. Embedding decimal points, minus signs, or plus signs within a number does not make a valid password. (Example: 1-609-555-1212 is not a valid password.)

-- Daryl Chertcoff, Programmer/Analyst, ISC Networking     (August 15, 1997)

New rules for Penn computing policy in effect

Penn's Policy on Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources "defines the boundaries of 'acceptable use' of limited University electronic resources, including computers, networks, electronic mail services and electronic information sources" and references a compilation of Specific Rules that interpret the policy.

It is the responsibility of the Vice Provost for Information Systems and Computing, as questions arise, to publish modifications or additions to the Specific Rules. Two new documents specifying additional rules have been released. The new rules became effective July 1, 1997.

Rules for Users of Penn's Electronic Resources establishes rules governing username changes on e-mail accounts, operation of large mailing lists, rights of list participation, and maintenance of message archives.

Users are encouraged to review and understand the new rules contained in this document, as well as the Policy on Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources.

Guidelines for Administrators of Penn E-mail systems specifies configuration constraints on the size of incoming and outgoing e-mail messages on campus systems as well as guidelines for mail spool area management.

--Noam H. Arzt, Executive Director, Administration and Information Technology Architecture     (August 12, 1997)

Changes in Computing Support: A New Model

The 1995 campus-wide Task Force to Restructure Computing Across Penn strongly recommended that "primary support" -- the first point of contact for a user in need -- be located in the schools and units, close to the faculty, staff, and students being served.

In support of that principle, support providers have been gearing up over the last year to provide that support "at home". Now, ISC's Client Services Group, which is responsible for walk-in consulting at the Computing Resource Center (CRC), First Call telephone support, and help@isc e-mail support services, will begin to take the lead in directing users to their primary support provider.

This means that many people contacting First Call or CRC in the coming weeks will find themselves being directed to a source closer to home:

  • Faculty and staff will, in almost all cases, be referred back to their school, center, or department for assistance.

  • Students in the first-year and college houses will receive primary support from the ambitious new "Computing Support in Residence" program.
Students living off-campus and in other on-campus residences may continue to use CRC and First Call for primary support for another year or more, until the "Support in Residence" program can bring them its benefits too. CRC will continue to serve the entire community as ISC's walk-in contact point for software distribution. In addition, any authorized user will be able to go to CRC (and to several other locations, see /computing/help/doc/passport/netid.html) to initiate or alter a PennNet ID.

Questions? Contact your local provider. If you don't know who your local provider is, call First Call at 573-4778 and we can refer you to the proper source.

Penn's new model for computing was developed by the Task Force to Restructure Computing Across Penn. The restructuring project's web site at /computing/restruct/ includes a description of the model and has information about related pilot projects that have been underway during the past year, including the "Support in Residence" program.

-- Michael Kearney, Director, ISC Client Services Group     (May 27, 1997)

Desktop Computing Hardware Standards: 1997-98 Update

The desktop standards document, published annually by Information Systems and Computing in collaboration with the Penn community, is available on the Penn Web at The document provides recommended and minimum standards for new, institutionally owned, desktop computers; recommendations for new laptop computers; advice on mixed Macintosh-Windows 95 environments; and pointers to related information and followup contacts. Highlights of the 1997-98 recommendations are summarized below.

  • The desktop recommendations distinguish between general- purpose systems for standard tasks such as e-mail, word processing, and spreadsheet calculations, and "Cornerstone systems" for accessing administrative applications.

  • All users should consider Intel-based, Cornerstone-compliant computers for new purchases to ensure compatibility with new campus systems.

  • Newly purchased Macintosh systems may not be fully functional for all Cornerstone administrative systems for the full life of the guaranteed support period. In addition, support for new general-purpose Macintoshes is extended only until July, 2000; that is, for three, not for four, years as in the past.

  • Windows 95 should be installed on new Intel-based computers.

  • The recommended Macintosh strategy continues to be one of caution, not, in most cases, of migration away from the Macintosh. Recognizing that an increasing number of Macintosh-oriented offices will introduce Windows95 computers into their workgroups and that mixed offices may be more challenging to support, ISC will give providers of computing support additional services targeted at platform migration and mixed Macintosh-Windows workgroups.

-- Noam Arzt, Executive Director, Administration and Information Technology Architecture     (May 9, 1997)

PennNet Guest Access Policy to Change on July 1

Eligibility rules and application procedures for PennNet guest IDs will change on July 1, 1997. These changes will affect University offices that wish to provide dial-in PennNet access to non-University collaborators and friends.

Under the new policy, guest access will be limited to individuals who need to access PennNet in support of instruction, research, or administration. The fee will be $300 per year. All requests must be submitted via the director of computing of the appropriate school or center; ISC will no longer accept direct requests from individuals or departments. Please note that existing guests will continue to have access until their terms expire, at which time a renewal request must be submitted under the new policy guidelines.

For details and rationale, please review the text of the policy at

-- Monir Shahpari, Accounts Administrator, ISC Networking   (May 9, 1997)

Online directory: Telnet service change

The online directory is no longer available via telnet to You must now use one of the two methods below to access the directory. The first method is available to anyone with a web browser; the second method is limited to affiliates of Penn with a PennNet ID.

Web:  Point your web browser to /computing/directory/

Telnet:  Telnet to, follow the on-screen login directions, and then type:  g /computing/directory/

Note: the instructions above will get you to the Directory Services home page, you can then make a selection from the menu to access the service you want.

-- Daryl Chertcoff, Programmer/Analyst, ISC Networking   (May 7, 1997)


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