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Re-purposing a Student Tech Service Group?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the quake-3-server-farm dept.

Education 185

discards writes "I help run a student group at a Canadian University. For almost 15 years we've provided students with services such as web space, email, wireless internet on campus, cvs/svn, database access, mailing lists, etc., all using Linux and FOSS. In recent years, however, we have faced becoming obsolete. The university now provides wireless access, people get their email from other places such as Google, which also provides free svn access, web space, and so forth. Since we have a large amount of decent, usable hardware, as well as space, funding and a very fast internet connection, we are looking to possibly reform instead of just withering away and dying. We would like to ask Slashdot for ideas as to what we could do; preferably something that cultivates student research or provides an otherwise useful service to students, though all ideas are welcome."

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First Post? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092589)

nt

Entertainment (2, Interesting)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092601)

Sounds like all you have left then is to provide entertainment.

Re:Entertainment (3, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092717)

A custom MMORG?
Maybe the game could focus on a school campus, and everyone goes to class via avatar.
The violent clash of ideas could get down to virtual fisticuffs.
Professors could do grevious bodily harm to annoying students.
Endless possibilities.

Re:Entertainment (2, Interesting)

far1h8 (1362897) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093193)

Sounds like all you have left then is to provide entertainment.

You could try something like creating your own Pandora.com radio station and encourage students to make their own and share them.

Re:Entertainment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093411)

Like Icecast?

Campus internet radio would be nice. Bonus points since it seems it's all LAN, so will serve a lot more than internet radio.

Music (2, Funny)

corychristison (951993) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092615)

Pirated music. :-)

Student start-up hosting (3, Funny)

cweelden (1344611) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092621)

You could provide hosting for recent graduates that want to make their own start-up. This seems to be one of the main expenses for such graduates besides costs of living.

Re:Student start-up hosting (5, Insightful)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092877)

I can't believe that students wouldn't rather have hosting locally rather then in some place in the USA.

Make it cheap, make it usable, make it useful.

Run tech courses, educating students about different technology.

Run LAN parties.

Do things that require face to face communication, and that people can't get some other place.

Do tech support and trouble shooting for people's websites (which they won't get else where).

Try and integrate into different departments, especially science related ones, and host data, run resource intensive programs etc.

Expand your eligibility criteria, open it up to arts students.

Also check out other student groups around the world, for example: http://www.tucs.org.au/ [tucs.org.au]

Most of all, enjoy.

Re:Student start-up hosting (2, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093281)

That's probably not possible since most such student groups use academic networks and donated hardware. This tends to limit non-personal commercial usage.

Re:Student start-up hosting (2, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093935)

i think you're probably right, but maybe there's something along those lines that would be acceptable for academic networks/donated hardware.

this might not appeal to most students, but perhaps they could help members develop/host/manage free web services & applications. instead of just offering a straight-forward web hosting service where students can only upload static files, you could form an organization geared towards developing free online services for the campus community. members can then learn how to build & manage complex web applications while providing new useful online resources to the general school population.

for instance, you could build a site where students can find or create study groups for the classes they are taking and also schedule meeting times and share notes, etc. or create a site for students to sell/trade used books. these type of services would be very useful on a college campus but might not be within the purview of the university itself.

the student group can even ask for suggestions for new services/applications from the student body. this would encourage the development of useful and innovative web applications by providing a place for developers, designers, system administrators, etc. to get together and collaborate on projects to serve the campus community.

meatspace... (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092637)

You could focus on local projects, find an on-campus place for OSS projects involving just the school(and encouraging students to cooperate) build school spirit or something. Even better start one or two, get them involved and evangelize.

I doubt the web hosting is going to be able to compete with google, byte for byte, but having one that's relevant isn't always about size...

A few basic needs. (5, Insightful)

Talinom (243100) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092643)

At some point every person needs tech support. They don't know how to do something, their computer died, they lost data, are infected by a virus or some basic functionality has been lost.

Tech support would be number one on my list of helpful services.

The other thing that would be helpful is basic computer education. Yes, I know that most people in college already know how to work on the computers, however some, possibly older students, might be embarrassed to admit they don't know everything they feel that they should know. Confidential, one on one tutoring can eliminate the fear of admitting they aren't fully up to speed.

Re:A few basic needs. (5, Insightful)

vorpal22 (114901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092827)

Even advanced computer education would be useful. I'm a PhD computer science student, so I see the holes in undergraduates' knowledge of computer technologies, i.e. things that they're simply expected to know for a class and never taught. I also see how frustrating they find it to try to fill these holes in with self-study while maintaining a full course load.

Big examples that spring to mind include things like basic Linux commands, LaTeX, Maple, MATLAB, etc. Offer workshops for students where you teach them how to at least get started with these technologies and I'm sure that you'll have some interest.

Re:A few basic needs. (1)

j_sp_r (656354) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093305)

MATLAB is used a lot, and you are supposed to be able to use it from day 1. But there is no instruction in it. At least on my university. Once you know it, it's really a powerful tool

Re:A few basic needs. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093357)

Big examples that spring to mind include things like basic Linux commands, LaTeX, Maple, MATLAB, etc.

LaTeX is fine, but not Maple/MATLAB. Why not teach Octave and r-project (stat like) instead? They're Free as in libre and more importantly (if $ is a problem), free as in $0.

Re:A few basic needs. (4, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093647)

LaTeX is fine, but not Maple/MATLAB. Why not teach Octave and r-project (stat like) instead? They're Free as in libre and more importantly (if $ is a problem), free as in $0.
.

If MATLAB is what is being used on campus then MATLAB is what you teach.

Re:A few basic needs. (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 5 years ago | (#25094281)

Why not teach the teachers Octave? In many cases, the teacher inherits a MATLAB ciriculum, and really can't explain a whole lot of the scripts or syntax.

Re:A few basic needs. (3, Insightful)

Shinobi (19308) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093683)

Because MATLAB is still the best tool around in its field, by far.

Not that that stops the religious idiots.

Re:A few basic needs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093447)

Are you at UWaterloo? ;)

additionally: you gain a lot of experience! (2, Interesting)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093987)

Indeed! I have been looking around for general computer/natural science related jobs, and Matlab is the #1 in demand. Most likely university has a campus-wide matlab license, (it should!). The teaching experience you gain will do you a lot of good if you are looking for a job later on. You could use the computer hardware you have to run calculations etc, as a testing ground.

If on the other hand you are religiously against using/teaching licensed software, why not take control over some orphaned but useful open source project. Or start your own. Make sure it is an interesting software so you can get fellow students enthusiastic about it. To stay in the Matlab field: you could work on numpy, perl::pdl, or add modules to gnu-octave. If that's too boring, why not make your own 3D animations, or programmable interactive robots, as a teaching project for students. Depends a bit on the background and interests of the people in your group at the moment.

Another idea: start an online platform for freelance projects for students. Try to get local companies involved. Students can get their first work experience, you get a lot of organizational and communication skills. As a student group you are probably not allowed to have the group make a profit from using campus facilities, so if you will calculate a provision you have to make sure you invest it in students parties :)

Re:A few basic needs. (4, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092927)

The other thing that would be helpful is basic computer education. Yes, I know that most people in college already know how to work on the computers, however some, possibly older students, might be embarrassed to admit they don't know everything they feel that they should know.

Computer hygiene, that's what I would call it. There needs to be a massive educational campaign performed across the United States. This needs to be approached like a major Public Health issue.

It's good that we have good systems administrators, but that basic knowledge is too centralized. In this new networked world, everybody needs to know how to maintain and clean their computers, just like everybody needs to know how to go the bathroom and properly wash their hands.

So what I'm suggesting, since you already have the infrastructure and the manpower is that you start an outreach program. Get them young, preferably before they start posting stuff on myspace. And target all the adults that are computer phobic, basically survey people in the corporate/working world, and target all the ones that check on their survey that they're "not good with computers".

Now, I'm not saying this is going to be easy, and I'm not saying that this is even glamorous work, but this needs to be done. An outreach program, a PR campaign, a manifesto, a think tank, etc. Start these efforts locally, and as you slowly gain success -- expand them outwards.

Re:A few basic needs. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093023)

Run a series of classes like "Intro to Unix 1". Make sure they are only about an hour long, and that they go home with a very good cheat sheet.

Excellent Idea! (3, Interesting)

uassholes (1179143) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093409)

In the mid '80s, all I new how to do was IBM 360/JCL/Fortran and DEC PDP11 Fortran.

Then my fortunes changed when I had the chance to buy a used Altos 8086 computer running Microsoft's version of AT&T Version 7 Unix called "Xenix" ( [wikimedia.org] )

What was great about it, is that it had a program called "learn" ( [bell-labs.com] ) which was a tutorial that taught both Unix and C.

It's a shame that "learn" is not included in modern Unix and Linux distros. That would be a valuable resource for students that would otherwise only be exposed to an OS (which will remain nameless here) that was designed for computer illiterates.

This is your chance to make sure the next generation can at least perceive the elegance and thought that went into making an OS and programming language that was designed by and for programmers, instead of by and for businessmen.

Re:A few basic needs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093341)

I've noticed that one of the biggest gaps in the knowledge of students is how to properly lay out a text document.

Of course, the true betas will be well-versed in LaTeX or the use of OpenOffice.org Writer, but the average student? I have seen many a friend's face lite up when I showed them that by using styles in OpenOffice.org Writer or even Microsoft Word you can automatically generate your table of contents, and changing the style of the whole document (or perhaps all top-level headers) can be so much easier if you just work with the word processor, rather than against it.

After that when you show them a nice clean academicly suitable font-face like DejaVu Serif or Gentium, they might even start to like it. Then you explain why they might want to use a PDF file when they go to the faculty to print the fruits of their labour.

Ask around, you'd be surprised at the number of people who could use this kind of education from someone who can explain why format X is better than format Y, and why OpenOffice.org might be better suited to their needs (and show them how to install it on a USB-key while your at it).

Do something for inner-city youth (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092647)

Forget college students. Do something for inner-city youth. Gather old computer parts from your school or lbusiness, put them together, install linux and give them to schools with limited computing resources. Involve the students in this process as well. Teach them how to install linux. Then teach them how to administer their own system.

Re:Do something for inner-city youth (5, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092893)

I can second this.

I set-up a computer with Xubuntu for where my wife worked.

She had 3 interns that used it to enter int information into a spreadsheet (updated info on local businesses), type some letters, and write an article for the local weekly paper.

A simple computer like that available outside of school was a huge plus. These kids were not even particularly inner-city (though definitely poor).

The ability to type things up outside of school was a matter of maintaining dignify and face amongst their peers (nobody wants to be the dorkus that stays late at school to type, aside from the safety of getting home after dark in some areas).

An oldish computer and a USB drive can make all the difference in someone who wants to accel, but is not driven.

Re:Do something for inner-city youth (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093295)

"inner city" youth are hip to the bleeding heart white folks. You'll make no inroads and just end up getting ripped off. Just TNB, thats all.

Re:Do something for inner-city youth (2, Interesting)

lordcorusa (591938) | more than 5 years ago | (#25094229)

Gather old computer parts from your school or lbusiness (sic), put them together, install linux and give them to schools with limited computing resources.

Most people not involved don't know this, but trying to donate to public schools can be incredibly frustrating, at least in parts of the US and especially in urban areas. Public school bureaucracy can be stifling. I have some friends who have worked with Techserv at Drexel University in Philadelphia. I have seen poor inner-city schools with almost no computers and no budget spend months or longer going through "proper channels" just to accept a donated computer. I naively thought that they would just accept them under the table but no, they have to go through the bureaucracy. Here in Philadelphia we have plenty of schools that need computers, but last I checked, Techserv has a large storage room packed with good hardware that they have trouble giving away.

Not that it is not worth doing. Just be prepared for some hair-pulling frustration and have plenty of storage space.

Call me! (5, Funny)

rpp3po (641313) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092651)

I think we could work out a very profitable deal on your part.
-----------------
Stephen Pilgrim
Assistant Manager
RIAA campus solution recruitment

Re:Call me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093141)

Hahaha!

Re:Call me! OK! Ring ring, Hello? Hi! BEND OVER! (2, Interesting)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093361)

This is a Canadian college, so it's the CRIA [wikipedia.org] that they have to deal with... though it's not like there's much different between them.

I have an idea for a great project that the article submitter could do, it would be great at any college. Most especially any college in the US. In fact I would like to thank the RIAA for essentially proposing the idea, and in fact having it passed into law here in the US.

H.R. 4137: College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008 [govtrack.us] , signed into law on Aug 14 2008, and mentioned here on Slashdot [slashdot.org] a few days earlier, contains the following requirement:

(29) The institution certifies that the institution--
(A) has developed plans to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including through the use of a variety of technology-based deterrents; and
(B) will, to the extent practicable, offer alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property, as determined by the institution in consultation with the chief technology officer or other designated officer of the institution.

I think it is in fact a FANTASTIC idea for colleges to "offer alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property". There are a multitude of sources across the internet for Creative Commons or other 100% legal music. I think you (and any other college) should set up a hosting site on your internal network. A huge easy repository of hundreds of gigs of 100% legal 100% non-RIAA 100% non-CRIA music. They want colleges to offer an alternative to the illegal downloading of their music? I say we damn well give them exactly what they want. The most effective way for a college to deter illegal downloads is to drown students in an overwhelming more-than-you-can-eat supply of legal downloads. Trying to block students from illegal downloads is a largely hopeless task because students are going to find ways to circumvent those blocks to get what they want. But if you get students hooked on more-than-you-can-eat legal music downloads, that is the most effective way to reduce or eliminate the desire for RIAA-music downloads. For any college in the US, I suggest this is the best and most effective way to comply with the law. If you are in Canada or anywhere else, I still say it's a great way to get a jump on things before the RIAA-CRIA-or-other-clone comes knocking. You can tell them that you already have an official school policy and program in place to minimize the downloading - illegal or otherwise - of their music.

The simplest system is just to have a basic server on the campus network hosting all of these files, but there are endless ways you can expand and improve upon that service and build a powerful community interest in it. You could have some sort of streaming service. You could have individual student accounts with some mechanism of tracking individual "collections" of the songs they like and playlists and maybe personal ratings of songs. You can have some simple way for students to recommend and "share" these songs with each other. You could set up some sort of streaming "radio channels", and maybe even a way for students to run "radio channels". You could use the data on student music collections or song rankings to to do intelligent recommendations of other songs they may like.

You can do something as simple as a minimalistic webserver just hosting the files, or you can build it as big and as advanced as you like. By having this on the campus internal network you cut down on external ISP bandwidth needs.

Oh, and the best part? Getting to bask in the delicious irony of giving the RIAA&friends exactly what they asked for with a big fat FUCK-YOU-UP-THE-ASS-SIDEWAYS-WITH-A-PING-PONG-PADDLE.

-

A help center (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092659)

Move toward becoming a help center, someplace for students to turn to for assistance.

Students need help in all areas from install software and setting up their machines for classes to virus removal and re-installation of their operating system.

Also, you could set up a paid tutorial service for applications used in some of the accounting (and other) courses.

There is a real need for something like this on all campuses and the University IT department just does not have the manpower to provide it.

Tom

Give them something the others don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092671)

Porn and/or piracy.

Re:Give them something the others don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093367)

Pirate Porn!! !

RESTRUCTURE, BUT, AS A SECURITY HELP CENTER? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092677)

Perhaps this type of guidance & aid to your fellow students may be of use (as a "new type of service" your group may offer others), ala points such as are noted in this guide online:

HOW TO SECURE Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003, & even VISTA, + make it "fun-to-do" via CIS Tool Guidance (& beyond that):

http://www.tcmagazine.com/forums/index.php?s=997120fdbd632fa871dc28209608c6a3&showtopic=2662 [tcmagazine.com]

* Simply changing your role, & the services you could offer others, is a start...

( ... & that is a start, right there, in the points in that URL above!)

APK

P.S.=> CIS Tool, & the other points (many of which 'layer ontop of' CIS Tool's points for securing a system), also applies to various *NIX variants (& distros, such as are seen in Linux for instance/example) - so, thus, you're NOT "solely restricted to Windows users, only" etc. et al ... apk

How about... back to Education? (3, Insightful)

compumike (454538) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092701)

Why not take on a bigger challenge, and focus on teaching? Run small mini-classes on various topics, teach programming at all kinds of different levels, how to solve engineering problems numerically, etc. Since it is an engineering/design school, you can provide some kind of (real-life or online) forum helping people use technology to solve problems. I suppose this will somewhat depend on how your college's schedule works, but you will find that students will make time for you if you're providing a useful service. You've got the hardware -- now you just need to find a niche to add the value.

--
Hey code monkey... learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]

Re:How about... back to Education? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092805)

i agree, mini classes of some sort is always helpful, at my school they make u take a required course on how to use microsoft office, it was an online or offline course depending how you wanted to take it. ALso providing software to use on the school computers is always good especially those expensive ones that a single person especially in school cant afford and dont want splash marks or cant save options from using the demos.

Re:How about... back to Education? (1)

frglrock (992261) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092881)

The online forum idea is a good one although it doesn't necessarily have to be restricted to education. Many faculties have their own forums these days to discuss departmental issues (or whatever the hell people want to) but I'm not aware of all that many campus-wide ones.

Then again, I'm not from Canada so this may be commonplace.

It also addresses the issue of putting the hardware to use.

The only problem with something like this is the internal political pressure that will arise when students are upset about something and the powers that be don't agree with them. This will inevitably happen and it could be tricky to navigate censorship/ego issues. It's also however exactly why this is a good idea - it's an excellent medium for people to address school-wide problems.

Re:How about... back to Education? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093097)

I think if you let them get hands on training on networks so that they have something to put on their resume then it'd be a big plus.

That's what IT jobs require the most besides an education.

Re:How about... back to Education? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093321)

Create a service that targets your local users.

Create a book exchange or notes swap site. Other place are offering those, but its those type of services that can be greatly improved because its local to you.

Create some competitions. If you target the computer science students, make a simple game and host it on the server. Then have the students make their own clients to play the game.

Either make the client user ran or have it be automated where the clients compete vs each other.

Get creative with your events. We had a microsoft users group host an install athon. They provided the operating system and helped everyone install it. (now with campus agreement its $5-$10, so they make the students get their own). You could do the same with linux easy enough.

Reserve a section of a building on a day its not used and have everyone bring in their computers to get linux installed.

You could offer workshops where you teach the basics and cool things of various technologies. Introduce them to appatche, java, ruby, whatever. I went to several workshops like this at my college and one of them just clicked with me. It showed me how to read from and write to a database in code. With none of my college classes teaching that, it sparked several projects off of that basic concept that I was just un aware of the power it posested at the time.

What a similar group does (5, Informative)

triplepoint217 (876727) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092703)

I have just joined a similar group, the Harvard Computing Society (http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/ [harvard.edu] ). We try to provide more up to date web services to student organizations. We provide web hosting for student groups that is capable of running all the latest web goodies like Drupal, Mediawiki, sql, and the like. We also maintain mailing lists for student organizations, and advocate for better tech practices at Harvard. There are also lots of other cool projects in the pipeline that may or may not go anywhere but are fun to work on: IPtv, content aggregation from student org websites, internet phone, and other off the wall ideas. I am still new to the organization, but everything seems to work very well.

Taking this successful example, I would suggest taking advantage of the fact that you can be less bureaucratic than the school's general IT staff to provide more modern web tools to student organizations.

Re:What a similar group does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092859)

I've worked with a similar organization at a US university. [cmu.edu]

The university provides students with email, personal web hosting, and wireless internet access. We provide web hosting for student organizations and alumni (mainly wikis), mailing lists, nntp service, a jabber server, and local mirrors of useful things (kernel.org, gnu.org). Far from being obsolete, we are often asked to do more, but we lack enough people to maintain things.

One of the other things we have started doing is collecting old computers and video games and making presentations on the history of computing. These events seem to be fairly popular. We also help people out with common tech questions, etc.

Back up service (3, Informative)

Jane_Dozey (759010) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092705)

How about offering a back-up service for students work? Sure, you currently offer services that could be used as such but your average student has no idea how to do it. Offer a nice simple web interface that allows them to upload files that they really wouldn't want to lose.

As other posters have pointed out, you could also move into entertainment services and help for recent graduates.

I wouldn't ditch things like the svn/cvs, webspace and database access though. My CS department used to run their own services and having them on campus was great since I could go ask our helpdesk people if something went wrong or I needed extra space etc.

Beowulf (0, Offtopic)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092721)

Since we have a large amount of decent, usable hardware, as well as space, funding and a very fast internet connection

Imagine a Beowulf cluster?

Re:Beowulf (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092757)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster?

So you're saying to dedicate part of it to English Literature?

Re:Beowulf (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092819)

Not a bad idea actually. I mean if your hardware is actually good(and you have some good networking equipment), why not become a compile/render farm. Or maybe a playground for students using MPI and whatnot. Speaking from experience, it does kind of suck when your first MPI program runs amok in the student lab(which is what we had to use) and crashes someone else's program.....

What Doesn't Google Offer? (4, Insightful)

Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092731)

Offer what Google doesn't; a protected data repository for the students IP. Make a local hosting source for all of the CS (and other) departments online projects, and educate them about why where you keep stuff on the 'net is as important as any other aspect. I know that all my g-mail is searchable, readable, and essentially the property of Google (if you can believe their TOS). Teach the students about Corporate and Private IP, how to protect it when it needs protecting, when and when not to hand over your rights...start discussions about why your data center is or is not needed.

...like private email (3, Informative)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093093)

Keep offering email services. GMail is not an acceptable alternative in many situations. In the Canadian University where I'm a faculty member some groups refuse to send mail to gmail addresses because Google scans all mail (this violates privacy contracts on some research material). This will affect final year undergrads and grad students mostly and already occurs. In addition things like the US "patriot" act mean that provincial privacy laws in many cases make Universities very uneasy to send any private information to gmail addresses due to the server location in the US - our University has not yet refused gmail addresses but they are working up to some sort of policy which will probably do so.

Re:What Doesn't Google Offer? (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093179)

Off topic, but when did everyone on Slashdot start saying 'IP' when they meant 'data'? It seems to only be about a month ago. Weird.

Back on topic, offering truly private storage in a computer society network is tricky. The people with root will be other students, who aren't paid. If you start claiming really private (rather than 'we don't think you're interesting enough to bother spying on your mail') storage then you open yourself up to all sorts of liability issues.

We noticed over the past few years that the number of students who actually enjoy hacking, rather than just expecting everything to work, is dropping. Maybe that's local, I don't know, but it's hard to sell web space with the ability to run your own code when Google offer Blogger. The local computer society even uses Facebook now to advertise its events, which seems a long way away from the ideals it once stood for.

Re:What Doesn't Google Offer? (2, Insightful)

Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093355)

Interesting. On your off topic point, I can't speak for everyone here, but when I say IP I mean patentable or copyrightable material, both of which are a subset of "data".

On your other point about private storage, well, that's exactly the discussion that needs to take place, IMO. You're very correct that it's a thorny issue in which all of the "trust" issues come into play. Perfect discussion for a University! And a great purpose for a becoming-obsolete-data-center-at-a-Uni to put itself to.

Free/Libre Content Production (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092743)

The key is that your users need to have a motivation beyond saving money. If someone is with you to simply save money they will be easily lured away by a cheaper competitor. You need to get people involved because they are passionate about what you do.

Maybe start up a content production cooperative (movies, music, stories, ...) with a policy of releasing everything under a Free license? Your student group can provide all the production facilities and branch out into buying microphones, cameras and so on. Make it even more interesting by having an open "bazaar style" production process too, instead of just presenting finished projects.

Get a bunch of people together who are passionate about freedom for arts and technology. These people will stick with you for the long term.

There is plenty of infrastructure now for the Libre movement (svn servers, web, email providers, source forge...). Don't compete with that which is is well established. What is needed now is plenty of fantastic content under Free licenses, with which we can run the mafiaa out of town.

Re:Free/Libre Content Production (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092763)

Mod parent up!

A Wikipedia club, to use the academic resources and databases available to a university to make the free encyclopedia better. (Or a Citizendium club, if you hate Wikipedia - CZ are working hard to recruit in academia.)

Sell your cycles to research. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092747)

Beowulf cluster?

The purpose of Bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092769)

On the one hand, I can applaud the fact that these techies want to do something worthwhile with their time.

On the other hand, I can't help but notice that the first reaction to discovering that their work is no longer needed (at least, at the level they are prepared to provide) is not to inform their employers that their budget is too large and positions can be cut, but rather they seek new reasons to exist and to expand.

The upshot will be higher expenses for students.

Of course, techies are far from the only people who seek job security in this way, but it's still sad to see it happen.

Re:The purpose of Bureaucracy is to perpetuate its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092797)

Chances are, no matter what you do you're actually pretty much expendable.

So, when are you giving up your paycheck?

ask the students? (5, Interesting)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092773)

Sounds like you're a solution in need of a problem. Try asking the students what you can do for them. I'd probably start with the postgrads since they tend to actually need things, and know they need it.

I know at my uni people found it hassle when needing to crunch data - server slots were a scarce resource and there was a lot of people scheduling things so they could crunch on their workstation over the weekend (often dropping in to see if it got stuck).

I'll bet there's a large number of other groups crying out for decent hardware, space, funding and maybe even the fast internet connection. If your group's services are no longer required it's time to hand the resources over.

The Internet is for Porn (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092777)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNARJPNz2CA

Micro VC / Startup Incubator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25092803)

Why not turn your organization into a startup incubator, giving grants of money, server space, bandwidth and consulting to students with promising ideas? If successful, it could turn your city/university into a real tech hotbed.

Start a Chess Playing Site (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092813)

The ICC is a good net chess club at about $30. per year. There is room for another. That would be more than true if you can create software to spot people who cheat by using PCs to find their moves before posting them. By the way the ICC model may be the best on the net.

be something else... (1)

waterford0069 (580760) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092841)

Traditionally you are providing services that the University is not able/willing to provide. So provide some service that the U doesn't. Perhaps you can be a "speak easy" (i.e. and anonymiser for the local U's IPs)

Online backup (2, Interesting)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092921)

Everyone needs online backups, but most providers of these services charge money. Make it .Mac compatible, so it's easy for Mac users. It's a great service for backing up papers and other homework assignments. Who knows, you might actually be a life-saver if some Ph.D. student gets his laptop stolen and wouldn't otherwise have a backup of his dissertation.

Telecoomunications (2, Informative)

JBG667 (690404) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092977)

Branch into offering telecom services such as LD, voicemail boxes, VoIP, etc... If you already have the hardware and internet connectivity, it's only a small step to branch into providing voice services. Canadian DIDs are cheap and with a couple of DIDs you can provide extension-based vm boxes. Outbound calls within Canada are cheap as well... Help people connect and keep in touch with their families and friends.

Time to die... sorry. (2)

duckintheface (710137) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092997)

Reminds me of the scene in "Independence Day" when the President asks the alien what he wants humans to do. And the alien answers.... DIE !!! Time for you (metaphorically) to die.

Underprivileged kids? (1)

nicks,nicks,nicks! (1312041) | more than 5 years ago | (#25092999)

How about helping other kids in the surrounding area(underprivileged or otherwise) with computers and introducing them to Linux and related FOSS software?This is only if your school gives permission,of course....I don't think they should have a problem with their used hardware being used to educate kids,increasing their Corporate(Schoold) Social Responsibility image in the process.

~/ less (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093031)

I placed a bunch of the worlds problems on pieces of paper in one hat, and filled another hat with pieces of paper that had new and exciting things written on them. Then I picked one from each hat.

On the first attempt I pulled my cousins name & realized I forgot to empty the hat after Christmas last year. Then again, I suppose you could consider him one of the worlds problems.

Anyway, on my second draw I pulled Virtualization Technology from the new stuff hat and Homeless People from the problem hat.

You could setup virtual apartment buildings and create ~/s for the homeless.

What every college needs. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093043)

Start your own dating service for the students.

Sounds a little bland, of course, but since you have the hardware, bandwidth, and funding, you can spice it up a little: Either find some type of FOSS social MMO, or start your own.

Ask yourself this; What does every college student that hardly ever leaves his dorm need? Another way to procrastinate online!

Student research... (4, Informative)

Shumskis (1367891) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093047)

Maybe change the focus to having your students do a little more research on what students and faculty are actually doing. As an example have the students look at various websites posted by students and faculty and see what can be changed to make the site more interactive or figure out where a database could be used to help gather and sort data. Students could also look around campus at the various publications and forms and change them into online forms or databases. And as always good fall backs are cleaning & restoring computers and performing upgrades. Hope it helps. Good luck.

Knowledge botique (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093059)

Roskilde University in Denmark could maybe be an inspiration for you in that respect:

From their site:

QUOTE:
Welcome to the Science Shop

Roskilde University wants to bridge the gap between enterprises, NGOs, public institutions (externals) and students. By participating in the Science Shop students and enterprises/NGOs/public institutions contribute to the sharing of knowledge and know-how between universities and the world outside. And the university becomes better at targeting our programmes towards the labour market and at preparing students for the transition from studies to working life.

The Science Shop constitutes the framework for project cooperation between students and enterprises/NGOs/public institutions. Students work with the practical aspects of the theories they have studied and gain relevant experience from the cooperating partner in the world outside the university. Enterprises, NGOs and public institutions can have somebody from the outside take a fresh perspective on them. In addition they will be able to see what it is like to work with academics, while at the same time obtaining focus on problems they may have or having shelved projects dusted off and re-examined. The main benefit for enterprises/NGOs/public institutions is that the students have up-to-date academic knowledge and may adopt unconventional approaches, which enable them to suggest new solutions to optimise everyday routines. Because of such cooperation, both enterprises/NGOs/public institutions and students will be better prepared for the future.

A project is an examination of a subject or a problem. It is based on specific research questions which students seek to answer and which serve as a connecting thread in the project. The research questions will generally require that students incorporate knowledge, theories and experience from a wide range of areas to find relevant answers, applying various methodologies and using different theories. The scope and extent of the project depend on the requirements formulated for the degree programme in question and on the number of students in the project group.

It is still not possible to view the database of the current project proposals. Therefore please contact us, if you need more information or want to know about the current project proposals. We still do not receive many project proposals in english, but are working on establishing cooperations including our englishspeaking gueststudents and international NGOs and enterprises.

QUOTE ENDS:
You can find information here: http://www.ruc.dk/vb_en/

I am planning to see if we can use them ourselves with respect to our own software project.

Regards

Einar Petersen - http://globability.org

freegmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093067)

Create/provide an open source Web2.0 alternative to Google's Gmail. Seed a P2P distributed cloud email-storage solution on your hardware and network, which will be augmented as users add more peers.

Cracking campuscards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093069)

Why not just crack Carleton Campuscards fulltime?

Security Education (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093081)

How about training the university admins how to recognize the difference between a naif white hat hacker [slashdot.org] and someone who really wishes them ill?

Re:Security Education (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093275)

How about actually HELPING students & instructors (+, even possibly network techs/engineers/admins also), on the topic of security itself, ala this guide's points:

HOW TO SECURE Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003 & even VISTA, + make it "fun-to-do", via CIS Tool Guidance (& beyond):

http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=970939&cid=25092677 [slashdot.org]

Offering a "learn to secure your own PC" type service, in addition to possibly also offering a "virus/spyware/trojan/rootkit/malware removal service" to students, instructors, & staff etc. et al, is an extension of the initial idea I offered... save them time, money, & also your jobs too (as well as educating others in the process!)...

APK

P.S.=> The CIS Tool itself, as well as points I added that "layer ontop of/go beyond its advisements", is NOT restricted to Windows NT-based OS' either (e.g.-> 2000/XP/Server 2003/VISTA), it also extends to *NIX variants as well (since it is a MULTIPLATFORM benchmark of security based on 'industry best practices' for the OS platform being tested, & automates this testing + even makes it sort of 'fun' too (like running a PC Performance Benchmark, albeit, this is geared to PC &/or Server based security, instead)... apk

become a non tech service group (1)

Uzik2 (679490) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093087)

Ben Franklin ran a group dedicated to meeting regularly and talking about what they could do to further their careers. http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/philadelphia/aps.htm [ushistory.org]

make it open (1)

Luke_22 (1296823) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093155)

I tried to join the local student group that manages lans, sysadmin stuff ecc...
...but after i saw their requirements, i did not even tried to talk to them.
Their rating system is: 40% your university year, 40% your marks and 20% your skills.
Since the ratings are public, I could even see that everyone had 16%+ in the "skill" part.

I'm so angry I'm not even going to tell them all their security holes (_lots_ of them, someone is already using them).
...
my suggestion is just: don't be a bureaucrat. you can lose interesting help.

Engsoc with business acumen? Hmm. (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093231)

Maybe y'all could hook up with the engineers down at Queen's, and help them get Clark Hall Pub re-opened?

That place was awesome.

Do It Better (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093263)

I've been to a university and college, both in the same city as Carleton, and their IT services were mostly lackluster. So my suggestion is: Compete! Keep maintaining your wireless internet, or even improve on it. Make a really good bulletin board/forum for trading, advice, anything a student might need. Even with all the free offerings floating around the 'net, I would have still preferred one specifically for my campus.

You can probably drop email, but for everything else, have a look at the services Carleton offers. If you think you can do better, then do it! Even if the services are equal, it's an incentive for Carleton not to let their own offerings turn obsolete. My experience is that as long as they can advertise it to prospective students, your typical post-secondary institution doesn't care how useful their services are.

Identity Management (1)

jptxs (95600) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093311)

With all the ids, personal info and bad practices of student users these days, maybe you can offer some form of identity management to them. Set up a web SSO solution (OpenID and a portal?) they can use as a portal for everything else, educate along the way as to why they should use this and let them see where their information goes. It could be useful and educational.

umm (1)

appelza (1151359) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093345)

Google doesn't allow SSH access.

Useful website resources for teachers. (3, Insightful)

jeremiahstanley (473105) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093387)

I'm currently a student (after being an admin for 10 years) working on a history degree. The one thing every class wants is lively out of class discussion but you never get it with the "blackboard" clones. Make available a PHPBB workalike to instructors with easy to remember URLs (eg, HIS3660.youdomain.com).

With that simple tool an instructor can post videos, syllabus, and class material that can be seen from any browser.

You could probably even offer this to student groups including the, gasp, non-school sponsored ones that don't get resources (like the history club I'm in).

C'mon folks, the answer is obvious (1)

cavehobbit (652751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093421)

These folks are in the perfect spot to offer colo hosting, data-processing and event site hosting for Girls Gone Wild, Shane's World and other college-age oriented pr0n producers.

They'll make a mint and the students can "work" their way through school without even leaving campus.

Win-Win as far as I can see.

Cluster? (1)

zbharucha (1331473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093445)

Why not turn your machines into a high performance cluster where graduate students can submit research jobs (in a queue)?

installfests and case-modding workshops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093513)

The computer science club at UW used to run install fests. This was great for anyone that wanted to try out linux or add a dual boot to their system. The case-modding workshops always attracted interested crowds.

Make money online (0, Redundant)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093525)

It's pretty obvious: you have decent hardware, cheap plentiful bandwidth, and a bunch of college geeks.

Welcome to the wonderful world of adult web hosting.

Some ideas (1)

m6ack (922653) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093613)

Asterisk PBX -- free long-distance calls.
Nethack server.
KVM space -- Allow users to have their own virtual machines online that /they/ can decide how to use. Open this up to teachers so that they can use this space in their teaching & research.

Pr0n? No, really. (2, Insightful)

mnslinky (1105103) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093655)

http://ipv6experiment.com/ [ipv6experiment.com]

From their site:

We're taking over 100 gigabytes of the most popular "adult entertainment" videos from one of the largest subscription websites on the internet, and giving away access to anyone who can connect to it via IPv6. No advertising, no subscriptions, no registration. If you access the site via IPv4, you get a primer on IPv6, instructions on how to set up IPv6 through your ISP, a list of ISPs that support IPv6 natively, and a discussion forum to share tips and troubleshooting. If you access the site via IPv6 you get instant access to "the goods".

Perhaps they could use some bandwidth or admin help. From their mailing lists, I've gathered it's a pretty small group who may welcome such a large amount of help.

Teaching about Virtual Servers & Server Securi (2, Interesting)

Firefalcon (7323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093815)

How about using it to teach students about virtuali[s|z]ation? That seems to be a growing trend among businesses and could certainly prove to be useful, as well as giving them experience with a range of virtualisation offerings.

It would also (at least on certain virtual server products) allow them to work with a variety of different operating systems, without risking messing up critical servers, and possibly learning about snapshot and roll-back options using virtual servers.

In addition, they could learn how to secure different operating systems, and be shown an example of how a server might be hacked, and what to do to lock out the attacker, perform forensics, and repair the damage done (admittedly reputation is harder to repair than an OS/app), and when it's best to wipe everything and start again (or roll-back to a known good server image).

On a completely different track, you could try to start up a University-wide social networking site, and allow the Alumni to join it too. Use it for sharing events, knowledge, ideas, fun, jokes, etc, maybe even have an API so students can extend it like with Facebook.

Obviously this would require some management to ensure that students don't use it to break University rules, intimidate other students, allow copying of others coursework, sharing of copyright materials, etc, but it some of this could be delegated to responsible students, and give them experience and hopefully make them feel valued.

Re:Teaching about Virtual Servers & Server Sec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093899)

"In addition, they could learn how to secure different operating systems, and be shown an example of how a server might be hacked, and what to do to lock out the attacker, perform forensics, and repair the damage done (admittedly reputation is harder to repair than an OS/app), and when it's best to wipe everything and start again (or roll-back to a known good server image)." - by Firefalcon (7323) on Sunday September 21, @12:39PM (#25093815) Homepage

Agreed, 110%, & I stated pretty much the same idea a bit earlier here in this very thread:

http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=970939&cid=25093275 [slashdot.org]

(Thus, 'great minds, think alike', lol!)...

Anyhow/anyways - This type of idea/service offering to the students, staff, instructors (& yes, network admins/techs/engineers) also, SHOULD 'go over well' with the init. thread posters' comments, & especially via offering services (& education in it, IN the same stroke) such as "how to secure your PC/Server" &/or "virus/trojan/spyware/malware-in-general removal services" too - saving said clients (students/instructors/collegiate staff of all types) time, money, & ALSO preserving this fellows' job (alongside that of his colleagues).

APK

Data Processing and Tech Support (1)

somanyrobots (1334451) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093867)

I'm part of a similar student-technology group in the US (http://www.yale.edu/its/stc [yale.edu] ), and our focus is very much on tech support. Our situation is different; we have a hundred members, and we focus on fixing people's software and hardware problems and providing direct education through a combination of helpdesk and house calls, all free of charge. But that's one possibility; you could morph your organization into a free tech support group, either for general computer issues or for specialized tasks like web development.

And far and beyond the thing to do with your hardware is convert it to number-crunching. Either run the machines for other people, and let them submit jobs to you, or just donate the machines to your favorite science department. My college's chemistry department is perpetually hurting for processing power; they don't own any department-wide machines, so if a lab has detailed calculations to perform, it has to buy its own hardware or rent time from a lab that already owns some. Donating all your hardware to a computation-heavy department could be a huge favor.

Suggestions from another student group (5, Interesting)

xSquaredAdmin (725927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093897)

I'm currently the president of the Computer Science Club [uwaterloo.ca] at another Canadian university. We, too, have a variety of machine architectures, and provide web/email accounts to students. We've stopped seeing as many signups for the web hosting and email side of things, and we've shifted our focus recently to a number of other things. For example, we're starting to run tutorials to introduce first year students to both the University's undergraduate computing environment as well as our own, and advertising some of our more powerful machines as a method for students who want to run processor/memory-intensive experiments to do so cheaply. One other thing we did was to make a deal with the web-design club at our school so that they now host all club sites which they design on our servers, since we have the ability to set up subdomains under our university's domain on their behalf. Lastly, one other thing which we're working on improving is setting up a proper library with copies of the various textbooks needed by students, as well as various other recommended reference books.

Help support FOSS (1)

marineam (882237) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093925)

I worked for a few years at an organization at my university, the OSU Open Source Lab http://osuosl.org/ [osuosl.org] which was founded as an effort to help give back to the open source community. The OSL now hosts a wide range of projects. Working there as a student required maintaining a large range of services for people all over the world and taught me more than I ever learned in class. If your department is starting to have some free cycles and spare hardware and spare bandwidth perhaps you can offer your resources to help support some of the projects that you have depended on over the years. Feel free to contact the guys at the OSL, perhaps they could help you get started. I know the OSL's mirrors http://ftp.osuosl.org/ [osuosl.org] could use some more bandwidth, perhaps you could partner with them to provide another mirror node. Cheers,

Take some notes from the originals (1)

Zackbass (457384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25093929)

http://stuff.mit.edu/sipb/ [mit.edu]

The Student Information Processing Board at MIT really has what you're looking for. All sorts of advanced services for students and lots of education from Haskell to hacking to LaTeX. They do a lot and do a pretty damn good job at it too.

A word of warning though, if you ever needed to fulfill a stereotype about nerds look no further than their ample Linux Beards. These guys mean business.

Grid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25093957)

Join the grid, the lhc people need all the computers they can put the hands on, (simulation, data analisys).

It's useful and is visible enougth to be a "insurance"...

Re-porpoising (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25094077)

My grand-daddy, who was a merchant marine, told me never to switch porpoises mid-sea. Doing that could get you... What? Oh, re-PURPOSING... My bad.

ASK THEM! (1)

blueadept1 (844312) | more than 5 years ago | (#25094169)

Get off your ass and go ask them. Do a survey. Why are you posting on Slashdot where possibly 5-10 people from Carleton will see this story? All of the responses you are getting here are ideas, but not the needs of the students.

Student cluster in a similar situation (2, Interesting)

lizthegrey (991606) | more than 5 years ago | (#25094235)

UGCS (http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu) has the same problem. The main draw of UGCS is the fact that accounts are permanent instead of only lasting until graduation, and that it permits many things that the campus IT department doesn't allow (e.g. CGI, colocation, substantially larger quotas, etc.) You might want to ask the other student clusters listed at http://www.student-computing.org/ [student-computing.org]

A local torrent seeder (1)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 5 years ago | (#25094325)

Setup the computers to seed popular torrents. It'll take a lot of load off the school's regular Internet access while providing the students with a valuable service.

porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25094401)

Use it for porn, duh.

hardware on a fat pipe... (1)

exes (853401) | more than 5 years ago | (#25094443)

Run a mirror.
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