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Communication Technology Center addresses issues

The CTC has experienced numerous problem over the summer. With the added technology, they hope to improve the quality of their computers' service.

The CTC has experienced numerous problems over the summer. With the added technology, they hope to improve the quality of their computers’ service. | By Jessica Cruz/ The Cougar

The Communication Technology Center (CTC) at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication made several improvements to address user concerns at the computer lab during the 2015 summer break.

“Our goal is that when students come here, they have the best experience they can have,” said CTC manager Shawn McCombs. “That’s our mission, to create an environment that works well for students for studying, collaborating and those kinds of things. To do that, we’ve brought a lot of great technologies in.”

One of the latest examples of that technology is the new Cat6 twisted pair cabling that was installed over the summer. The new Ethernet cabling has increased the bandwidth at the computer lab from 100 megabits to five gigabits, which the staff thinks was a major reason for some of the computer crashes in past semesters.

“I believe that the network was the problem,” McCombs said. “Gigabit Ethernet has been around for the last ten years, but this building was still using Legacy Network technology and it was still using a tenth of the available bandwidth because of that.”

Another cause of the computer crashes at the CTC is the high number of students using the lab and the large amount of data used by each one.

“It’s not the Word documents or the usual Excel files, most of the time it is videos or photos,” said Systems Analyst Antonio Farias. “Obviously, we have photojournalists, media production students, etc. and they all end up saving all the files and all the video projects to their profiles, which affects the network.”

In previous semesters, all of the students and their data were supported by a single, unified server. Over the summer, the CTC staff divvied up the student load between two servers for improved efficiency.

Despite these improvements, some of the issues the CTC faces have not gone away for some students.

“I get a little frustrated sometimes because the login doesn’t work on some computers or they just freeze up on me,” said print journalism major Marco Revuelta. “This semester has been no different; just the other day, I was trying to transfer a Word document to my Passport and it froze.”

According to Farias, problems logging into the lab computers is a frequent student issue — one that the CTC has already taken steps to address.

Last semester, the lab used “mobile accounts” for each user; allowing personalized accounts to be created locally on one computer that could then be uploaded onto another computer at any time through a synchronization process.

“The wait time to synchronize could be anywhere from five to 15 minutes, depending on the load at the time — which varies based on the number of users and the information they are using up,” Farias said.

While there may have been an advantage to this system in terms of not relying on the network to retrieve the user’s data, the waiting times became an issue for students with tight schedules and necessitated a change.

Since upgrading to the Cat6 cable, the user accounts are again stored on the network.

“The system employed in the previous semesters, and again now, is reliant on the network being 100 percent connected to log-in and get your information, but you can log-in from any computer,” Farias said.

While some students continue to encounter complications with the CTC, others, such as senior corporate communications major Anne Deady, are satisfied with their experiences.

“Problems have come up here and there, but so far nothing major that I couldn’t work around,” Deady said. “I edit my own projects, not video projects or anything, but I do use the Photoshop and Illustrator a lot and I’ve never really had any problems to speak of.”

One of the complaints that the CTC staff continues to deal with is the keychain issue, which students still encounter on a daily basis.

“The computer requires the previous user’s identification and it also shuts down or crashes certain software, like Safari, like Firefox,” said CTC help desk assistant Shaun Liu.

A byproduct of multiple-user computers, the keychain issue is a result of the computer creating new log-in information and a profile for each user. It mostly stems from users ignoring the dialogue that pops up and clicking a button instead of reading it.

Issues like this have been a common occurrence at the CTC and students, such as senior advertising major Karla Figueroa, have grown accustomed to them.

“Firefox never opens for me and when it does, it takes forever to load,” Figueroa said. “After that happened to me a couple of times, I just keep using Safari instead and work around it that way.”

In a computer lab with the large volume of student activity that the CTC sees on a regular basis, issues are going to come up, but the staff makes it a priority to stay ahead of them.

“We graph this stuff, we look at this stuff daily because it’s in our best interest to make it the best possible environment,” McCombs said. “It’s our job to put an enterprise together here that works smoothly and we are continuously doing that.”

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