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Dorm Storm?

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the storm's-a-coming dept.

Education 628

The Ape With No Name writes: "I work as a network technician at a major Southern university and we are gearing up for what is lovingly called "Dorm Storm," aka the weekend the students return to their dorm rooms, ethernet connections and BearShare. We'll move in approx. 3500 students, install and configure 1500 or so network cards and troubleshoot hundreds of circuit, switch and routing problems over the course of the next two weeks (with less than 50 people or so). I was wondering if anybody out in the academic computing community had some advice, stories to relate, yarns to spin for the rest of Slashdot with regard to other universities and their networking for students. You might think you have had a hell of a time setting up machines for users, but this becomes a Sisyphean task when you face a wireless, IP only, Novell setup for a grumpy architecture student on a budget Win2K laptop - one after another after another!"

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There is a question in here somehwere, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2112738)

This was an ask slashdot i thought. Is there an actual question here, or are we all supposed to just be in awe at the installation of 1500 nic cards? Isnt this your job?

child porn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2116175)

now that wonderland has closed down, I am in search of a good child porn repository. someone said that people on slashdot know of a good one? i have pics to trade

Re:child porn (-1)

Ralph JewHater Nader (450769) | more than 13 years ago | (#2134786)

What is this? This is a serious forum for technical discussion, not some depraved marketplace for Jewish child pornography! Pack your smut and get out of here before I gas all you kikes.

Re:child porn (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2128726)

Does Ralph Nader really not like Jews? I haven't heard anything about this. Have you ever killed anyone?

Re:child porn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2138137)

Dont take this putz seriously. Just ignore him and he will eventually die (hopefully soon). (btw) I doubt Ralph Nader actually dislikes jews let alone hate them.

Re:child porn (-1)

Ralph JewHater Nader (450769) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157284)

Ralph Nader despises jews. Ever heard him give a speech? Corporations this, capitalism that. As we all know the jews control the banks, which in turn finances corporations. Hence, he hates jews.

Work Study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2118642)

Find some of the more tech savvy students who have to do "work study," send them out to take care of simple problems like configuration tasks. A self-help guide might be a good idea as well.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

captainmoo (209101) | more than 13 years ago | (#2118715)


Hot network (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2122111)

I actually had a friend who was living in a dorm where all the machines in one half of the building were fried in some way or another. Everything pointed to the network running hot since no appliances other than the computers themselves were screwed up. The college denied everything.

Re:Hot network (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2110679)

I was going to ask you WTF you meant, but this is most likely a troll. I give you credit for using networking as the bait instead of Linux vs. whatever. But you posted anonymously so you loose.

Did just this thing for 3 years (5, Informative)

wesman (6993) | more than 13 years ago | (#2122112)

Use cards from the same vendor. Don't support any windows 3.x machines. Older macs are easy but take a variety of cards. Easy to support but hard to stock card inventory. Laptops are picky and we never got 1 card to work in every laptop. We kept a few of another brand just in case. Buy 15 extra dongles for every 100 pc cards. A trouble ticketing system is a must. A large percentage of your users will be able to get everything working on their own. Many will help neighbors. It is a great way to meet new people.

Re:Did just this thing for 3 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2130662)

Use to hook people up for free now I'm going to get in sell them the card the cable hook them up for $25(ya the girls were cute but they never eanted anything to do with the geek that fixed their computer) the university charges $35 for card and cable the install the card but you need to do the software which is pretty easy since it all dhcp but you have to know where to find the form(otherwise the university will firewall you so you can only access internal web pages)

Re:Did just this thing for 3 years (1)

linuxbert (78156) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157318)

buy xircom dongless cards, the problem disapers..
startech 10/100's throughout work great

and its the strange problems that hurt.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2127632)

try being on managed by sprint.. all traffic college to college goes OUTSIDE of the network then back in.. driving from harrisonburg to charlottesville is a simple route.. I81 to I64.. an hour long or so but just that one turn/intersection (23miles south, 32 miles east).. however a packets journey is much longer.. start in harrisonburg.. go south for about 60+ miles (well past the I81/I64 junction) to Roanoke, back up past harrisonburg to DC, out of, come back in down to Roanoke (passing harrisonburg once more), then shoot over to charlottesville finally.. ya, what a trip. (note : this doesn't mean that I think all packets drive on state highways, just providing a rough idea of the journey by a person for those who don't live in virginia). --Loco3KGT

bearshare/napster/etc (5, Informative)

Therlin (126989) | more than 13 years ago | (#2127977)

Napster and all those other peer to peer programs were really eating our bandwidth because of all the computers in the dorms. So now we reduce the available bandwidth for those ports/programs to almost nothing during the day. We then let them do whatever they want to (within certain limits) in the evening hours until a couple hours before the new business days.

Probably not the best solution but it's working out for us.

Re:bearshare/napster/etc (5, Interesting)

b0r1s (170449) | more than 13 years ago | (#2140788)

my school [] has a slightly different solution ... each IP gets 1.5 GB a day of bandwidth. Exceed that, you and the admins get an email, explaining that bandwidth costs money and also explaining that it's very hard to exceed a gig a day in legal downloads. Three emails in one semester, and the admin's start threatening that you'll lose TCP/IP access beyond the router if it doesnt stop immediately.

I've actually challenged the "its hard to exceed this legally" nonsense, because I download quite a few operating system ISO every few weeks, usually all in one day, when I need to use them, but as a whole, it's a decent policy. As an student sysadmin, I know that very rarely does anyone actually exceed a gig a day, and on top of that, I know that most of the emails go ignored as "one time accidents"... Only once do I know of the school actually cutting someone off at the router, because the person thought it was cool to run a warez box from the dorms.

My only piece of advice (1)

jailbrekr2 (139577) | more than 13 years ago | (#2128176)

Look 'em straight in the eye and say "This is how it is being set up, and you have no choice in the matter".

Re:My only piece of advice (1)

linuxbert (78156) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157301)

bad idea, students will become resentfull, and if its theri equipment, its shouldnt be implemnting policys on it.

proxys are ok.. but preventing someone from changeing their settings is bad..
i have seen this.

I Know... (1)

Beowulf_Boy (239340) | more than 13 years ago | (#2128177)

This may be stupid, but doesn't DHCP pretty much do this all itself?
Atleast with my router it does.
I just enable it, my computer reboots, grabs an address, and I can surf the web, no biggie?
I've done the same with MAcs, and linux...
Just make a small guide and put it in each room,
"How to setup network"
and show how to enable it on each platform,
Of course you'll always get the power losers with the 3mbs networks cards or something, but shouldn't it atleast help with most of the problems?

Re:I Know... (1)

Mr. Piccolo (18045) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157183)

Hey, they stole the "anti-anti-missle-missle missle" thing from Rocky and Bullwinkle!

DHCP heaven?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2132458)

Simple (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2133276)

set up a transparent proxy server (Squid, perhaps) that redirects all pages to goatse. Sit back and enjoy the fun.

novell.... (1)

jaiteend (410415) | more than 13 years ago | (#2133278)

well, if you're using groupwise, you're best bet is to make sure that you're GWIA and webacc are configured so that the users can get to their mail via a normal web browser. everyone ( or just about ) knows how to point their browser to an address and fill in a simple form.
the same goes for NIMS.
as far as client side goes, it really depends on what their machines need to do. if DHCP is all, setting that up on a win box is easy enough to work with your network (assuming that you're using a Netware 5.x system with IP working).
if your back end is IPX, you definitely need Netware's IPX/SPX client software (IIRC, 4.8 for win boxen), which is a rather simple install, if not time consuming.

if you're doing drive shares, easy enough. make sure that your NDS config is set up to do group shares with user constraints (assuming that you have the login scripts set up for that, and not using nwadmin [ugh]).

and, if you have to have special applications for various whatevers, please oh please, pray that you either have a good Zen 3.x setup or that you are moving to one. it'll make your life so much easier.

so, in short, DHCP over IP (if possible) and forget the IPX to IP gateways. Zen for application pushes. and for goodness sake, if you use BorderManager, patch it to all get out, or you'll get the phone call load of AOL.

heh (1, Flamebait)

ShinGouki (12500) | more than 13 years ago | (#2134508)

do what my school did, "schedule" people for service turn-up about a month into the school year :P

When I was in the dorms.. (1)

psyclone (187154) | more than 13 years ago | (#2134667)

my school would give out stacks of forms at the beginning of the semester. It had a list of steps for getting the MAC address and other info. The students would then turn these in and some sorry students employees would sort them based on building/hall/room/etc. Then every few days people would go to the hub/switch closets and patch people in; then do all the config via the web (my university has an in-house web-based NMS).

I don't know if it's the best way to do it, but it worked and depending on the day the student's form was delivered, they would know exactly how many days until they were connected. Keep in mind this was a simple wire-only IP connection -- the users bold enough to try Novell would then visit a website and download, install, and setup the client. Troubleshooting was a pain in the ass, but most dorms had a few students willing to help out -- I helped my hall since it was that much faster to better gaming and file sharing. ;)

Move ins and computers (2, Interesting)

dopplex (242543) | more than 13 years ago | (#2135191)

At my school a subportion of the students are trained to help with computer problems. These students are usually work-study students, and also usually have a decent amount of computer background. While most of them are completely inequipped to deal with any serious technical problems, the student base providing top level support frees those who are more competent to deal with the real issues. In order to make sure that the students who are the "Information Technology Advisors"(ITAs) (Who don't necessarily have much prior technical experience) are qualified, they all have to come in a week and a half early, and are given training courses. While I don't have a behind the scenes perspective, the system does seem to work pretty well, and although the ITAs are very busy at the start of the year, nobody seems overwhelmed. (Plus the people who do the REAL work and who aren't students don't have to deal with individual problems and are free to run around dealing with all the problems generated by the newfound network load of thousands of mp3s and movies being traded over the network all at once...)

Preparation (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2135281)

50 staff for 3500 students? Man what a luxury. I used to be a System Admin for a colledge with 22000 students and there were only 10 of us. A few things you can do to make your life easier. 1) Get the students to lodge request via the helpdesk. In the request, get them to nominate Hardware, software, revisions and other related info. This will help you estimate the time of the installs. 2) Use the latest Novell clients. The microsoft novell components blow chunks. For the simple reason Microsoft has no interest in making Novell network experience a pleasant one. If you have a Novell network its a folly to run the microsoft novell components. 3) Prepare a brochure (with the authorisation of your managements) called; "Getting onto network at Uni of blah". In it, nominate minimum requirements. This is so you dont get stuck trying to get an ancient laptop with Win 311 onto a network. In addition, include some basic steps students need to do to get onto the net. Some proportion of your students would have gone to LAN parties. Give them the necessary steps and motivation and they will have the network up in no time. Leeching MP3z will get them hooked up before you can say "Screw RIAA thieves" 4) Then there is an option of payable support. But from what I know about the US education system, they allready have to spend tens of thousands of dollars for something thats free or close to in other more civilised countries. Hope some of this helps.

Believe it or not... (5, Funny)

Cycon (11899) | more than 13 years ago | (#2135329)

...but this is a great way to meet women.

No, seriously. Especially if you're not getting paid to do it, but are just helping out a friend-of-a-friend kinda situation. You're doing something you know how to do for someone who doesn't, and there's a pretty good amount of downtime in between reboots and so on. It's a great opportunity to meet some new people, and mingle with the ladies.

Just don't come on too strong, or act like there's anything special about what you know. Sitting around in someone's dorm is a great way to learn a bit about them too. Ask about the people in the pictures on their desk. Ask if they have a particular interest in the artist who did the painting they have a poster of on the wall.

There's no reason that you should look at this as a "Sisyphean task" ... it's more of an opportunity to meet some new people.


Re:Believe it or not... (2)

RestiffBard (110729) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157306)

you realize of course there are tons of geeks packing their bags for school and insuring they have a copy of the above msg to use as the holy gospel to meeting chicks at college.

Re: Believe it or not... (2)

Futurepower(tm) (228467) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157326)

Good advice.

Freshman Girls (5, Funny)

whatnotever (116284) | more than 13 years ago | (#2137362)

'Nuff said? ;-)

Heh. Well, being assigned as the sole CA (Computer Assistant) for the freshman girls' dorm was both good and bad. I mean, nubile young things giving me massages or sitting in my lap wasn't all that bad, but eventually some of them progressed to full-blown (no pun, really) sexual harassment.

Oh, the work? Nah. "I really have no idea how to fix this" worked well in plenty of cases. I would just pass it on to another CA, who might or might not get around to it. We weren't the most efficient organization, really...

Re:Freshman Girls (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157308)

Sign me up!

how we do it (5, Informative)

PapaZit (33585) | more than 13 years ago | (#2137390)

At the university where I work, we've been gearing up for the last few weeks. We have guides that answer the common questions for the users intelligent enough to read them. For the rest, we'll have every warm body helping with phones or going from room to room to help with setup.

One of the most important bits: have a clear SLA. Be sure that you know and users know exactly what you do and don't support. At this point, inconsistency is a killer, because if one guy's willing to do more than the others, users will keep calling back until they get that one guy. If anything's changed since last spring, be sure that <em>everyone</em> knows exactly what was changed and why.

Give your specialists some cross training. Be sure that your mac guys can do basic windows troubleshooting, and vice versa. It seems like all the Mac questions hit at once. It must be a mac user group mind thing. ;)

It's too late for this year, but automate as much as you can for next year. If you give your users access to your help database and you give them documentation, a few will check there. Set up web forms for network registration, account registration, etc.

Whenever your department doesn't do something, find out who does, and make sure that your info's correct. Students will call IT wanting to know how to register for classes online, or how to set up their telephone. That might be enrollment or the registrar or telecom or someone else. Be sure that you know, and that it's documented so that you're not sending users on wild goose chases. Otherwise, they'll call back (or worse, be referred back by another clueless department), and the second time around, they'll be pissed.

Most importantly, schedule breaks. We tend to push ourselves too hard during this time of the year. A lot of people just keep going "for another five minutes" until they pass out because they've been working for 6 hours straight without stopping for food or toilet breaks. If you've got someone who won't stop, force them to get coffee for everyone else. That'll get them away from the users for a minute, at least.

Re:how we do it (-1, Troll)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 13 years ago | (#2138719)

What's a SLA?

Re:how we do it (1)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157178)

I wasn't trolling.

Re:how we do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2157253)

Symbionese Liberation Army.

That pic of Tanya Hearst with the rifle gives me a chubby.


Re:how we do it (1)

Nightpaw (18207) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157281)

Absolutely vital.

1500 network connections in 2 weeks? pshhhaw! :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2137576)

That is quite the accomplishment when all is said and done. You should take a look at large gaming events as examples:

These events usually have less then 12 hours to setup in excess of 1000 people. Some even have to deal with donated hardware, which, to say the least isn't always up to the job. (can we say coax off a 5 port hub connecting 25 more computers? :) Power problems, network problems, server problems, people insisting on trading mp3's and movies with there friends while tournaments are in session.

Its not easy to set something like this up, especially in a building you've never been to before in most cases. These people manage to do it, perhaps you could use them as examples.

Hint: Lots of online documentation. ;)

Same here (1)

(startx) (37027) | more than 13 years ago | (#2137579)

I'm working campus support at the University of Missouri-Rolla [] and we set up a HelpDesk web site at the above link. of course, we tend to get slightly more technically capable people at this school.

Re:Same here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2140787)

these online help sites amuse me greatly, how do they get to the support site when they cannot connect to the internet?

What about competent admins? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2137673) - - [19/Jul/2001:19:27:48 -0400] "GET /default.ida?... HTTP/1.0" 400 327 name = SAPITS1.ADMIN.UTK.EDU.

that's funny (-1)

trollercoaster (250101) | more than 13 years ago | (#2138721)

wait, isn't "Southern university" oxymoronic?

Stupid peckerwoods.

primero (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2138808)


Do what my university did (1)

mjinman (515540) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139105)

My university has a unoffical policy not allowing students running linux (or the like) to access the network in the dorms. The claim since linux has services (telnet, web, etc) it violates their policy of not allowing students to run commercial services on their network. Because it is unoffical the end result is them just harrasing the hell out of anyone they find running it and shutting off network services to their rooms. But then again I think they might just be paranoid and severely bored.

Re:Do what my university did (1)

ByTor-2112 (313205) | more than 13 years ago | (#2128728)

Wow. You must attend the University of South Carolina. That is their policy. At least, it was when I was there.

A Win2K laptop? (1)

Jin Wicked (317953) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139172)

Wow...even poor college students can afford a better computer than me.

When our campus got Ethernet in the dorms... (5, Funny)

The Wing Lover (106357) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139204)

I was the system administrator of my university's computer science club's machines the first term that the dorms were wired for Ethernet. Previously there'd only been dial-up access, with of course dynamic IP addresses.

Well, one day, I noticed that our favourite luser was up to his old tricks again; logging in using stolen usernames, writing programs to tie up resources, flood the network, store gigs and gigs in /tmp, etc. I messaged him and politely asked him to stop it. He wouldn't. In fact, he was pretty cocky about it. "You don't know who I am, and you'll never catch me!"

Imagine his surprise when 3 Very Big Guys [tm] from the Computer Scient Club knocked on his door and said "stop doing that." I guess he'd forgotten, in his excitement, that he was now on a static IP, and doing an IP-to-physical room translation was pretty easy.

Re:When our campus got Ethernet in the dorms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2139307)

If only it was that easy to catch the handful of lusers that get off on flooding efnet :(

Re:When our campus got Ethernet in the dorms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2157277)

3 Very Big Guys [tm] from the Computer Scient Club

huh? they must of looked like those three sad-sack ghosts from Caspar...

DHCP and a big damn wall (1)

wizardofod (451389) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139305)

Make all of the Dorms DHCP while the classroom and administration buildings are Static IP, then seal them off from each other. The only place both should have access to is the school mail servers. I work for one of the top five wired schools in the nation, and students can only see other dorm shares. Students use Peer2Peer or just run through Windows shares. It runs most of the time and issues only really arise from ground seep taking out major wiring and occasional lose of our connection to the outside world from unexpected circumstance.

Once the LANLord of the Slums, now just a low rent vigilante.

just wait a few years... (1)

OxideBoy (322403) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139306)

At the rate the Tennessee General Assembly is going, the University of Tennessee won't have any money and therefore no students at Knoxville, so the problem will take care of itself. :-P

UTK was my first exposure to broadband and while setting things up was really rough in the early years (giving random students off the streets static IPs and an armload of floppies for the software and drivers required a lot of help for lots of people) the speed was phenomenal. Kind of like DSL in microcosm, now that I think of it. I've not had anything like it in a long time.

Thanks for all the work you did. It made my DOOM, Worms, Bolo, and Quake experiences much more enjoyable. :-)

(UTK Class of 1999)

Students know best (2, Interesting)

MikeLRoy (246462) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139328)

There are many universities where admin simply gives the task to students. They build and run their own routers, wiring, etc, off one large connection to the rest of the U.

Whether or not you do that is irrelevant, however... Give some of the kids some admin responsibilities (or pay?), and let them deal with some of the simple problems. Lots of those kids can probably fix things anyways.

Wondering (4, Insightful)

number one duck (319827) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139596)

Does the network topology at these places change enough between May and September that it is *really* a problem of troubleshooting the network all over again? I can certainly understand installing all the cards and such for the incoming students (at ridiculous fees, of course), but aren't most campus networks already hardened against this kind of abuse?

I'm suspicious, I think you might just be feeling a little down, watching your fat summer pipe go down the tubes again and all. :)

Yeah...the network changes completely (1, Interesting)

plemeljr (250971) | more than 13 years ago | (#2136871)

Yes, the network does change. The IT department here is upgrading from a 10 Mbps to 100Mbps line ALL OVER CAMPUS. The system is buggy now; I can't wait until 5000 new freshmen enter the dorms. I am in school now, and will have some overlap of next quarter, and from past experience the first week will be hell.

The first weekend of my freshman year was horrible. I came from home with (unheard of then) an ISDN line, and was excited about a faster connection at school. There were set time slots where you could bring in your boxen, and they could insert the card, load the (then Win95) drivers and then configure the software. Well, I bought the Ethernet card they required - $50 from the school store (rip off). Then the computer guy - they must have just asked a student to help out - he didn't realize that you had to physically push the close button on the cd-rom...not push on the caddy. We take that for granted now, but then these drives were novel, and my boxen was a franken-puter. To top it all off, we all had static-IP's so you had to get someone from the central IT to come and give you an IP address, and then turn your drop on. A better way is implemented now - dynamic IP's off of a DHCP server. Easy for connection, bad for me hosting that pr0n collection

Re:Wondering (4, Interesting)

Wolfstar (131012) | more than 13 years ago | (#2137546)

Not really, and for several really good reasons.

First off, he says that out of the 3500 students invading the campus, 1500 of them will be screaming Mommy when they head in and try and get connected. This is about right for A) The incoming Freshmen, and B) The terminally stupid upperclassmen.

Also, the number of people bringing computers to school with them and thinking that the archaic 8088 XT that they just dug out of the basement - usually because their parents can't or won't let them take the high-end 486 that the family uses - might be a bit surprising. (This is of course an exaggeration, I hope. None of my friends who've been there and done that ever mentioned anything quite so drastic.)

Also, there's the fact that, while the NETWORK might be able to take the abuse, it's not guaranteed that the Network ADMINS can handle the stupidity. Super-cheap-laptop + Win2K + Novell + Wireless = Twitching Admin. I really can begin to imagine the hell of it all compressed into three days or so, because - even if it wasn't tech related - I've worked the bookstore during hell week at a fairly large University before. You can't begin to imagine the disruption of life that occurs to the people who work on campuses at the end of the summer unless you've been one.

And yes, I imagine he IS in fact crying over his lost phat pipe. =)

Re:Wondering (1)

Redking (89329) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139226)

I don't think the network topology changes, but I think the asker of the question is referring to helping out new students who are using ethernet for the first time. Remember, 90% of the US is still using dial-up and many freshmen don't know what the Internet is beyond AOL. They have no clue what an ethernet card is, despite it already installed on newer desktops, or built-in the newer laptops.

I know this is the case at my school last year when the freshman dorms were finally wired for ethernet. I felt sorry for the people who had to help the incoming students install NICs and deal with IRQ conflicts and what-not. In addition, my school allows only static IPs to each port, so you have to fill out forms and wait for someone to "turn on" your port.

Dorm storm is definitely not a fun time. As for the porn pipe, you don't have to worry about the "fat pipe going down the tubes" once the coeds are back on campus. w00t!

Re:Wondering (1)

sfritzd (181571) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157185)

Switch upgrades, VLAN changes, new dorms, added bandwidth, packet shapers, I could go on and on... I've been working for a small private college in Minnesota for about a year, and this is just a small list of major changes we've made to the network in the past year, mostly over the summer.

Re:Wondering (1)

CodeMonky (10675) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157195)

While the topology usually doesn't change (dorms are always being renovated, cable runs snipped) it is amazing the number of ripped out jacks, missing patch cables and just general stupidy (eh hem, a phone cord and a patch cord are not the same thing) cause a ton of headaches. We assign tech savy students to each floor of the residence halls and for two days from 8 to 5 it is their job to hook up as many people as they can. Some people will have crap computers that just won't work. TO get around this we posted a minimum hardware configuration (RAM,CPU,Nic etc) that must be met for us to try and hook it to the network. We also implemented a dynamicport scheme where users cannot get anywhere but a registration page until they fill out the said registration which includes their dorm room, phone, MAC etc. The switches are then told which macs are authorized and they are good to go. This saves a TON of paperwork and gives student access within an hour or signing up.

The fact of it is though, that it is two weeks of running around fixing people problems, there is very little in the way of planning that is gonna help you get around this. Every year we see something new.

Some Tips (3, Insightful)

Redking (89329) | more than 13 years ago | (#2139839)

1) Have people fill out forms early, like what OS, what brand of NIC, etc... On the form, give them tips on helping them determine such info from their computer. Require all people seeking ethernet connections to have this form on them when they call/ask for help. This will help with the redundant questions..."what OS are you running?" "uh...i dunno" "well, reboot and tell me what you see on the screen."

2) Post network info in BIG poster boards attached to the dorm bulletin boards right at the entrance to each dorm. Some genius admins have directions to getting ethernet posted on the web. That sure helps when you have no ethernet connection in your dorm.

3) Plan conservatively when making troublshooting appointments. People get discouraged when you tell them you'll send a tech to their dorm at 7:30pm and the tech doesn't show because he's still at another dorm rebooting for the 9th time. People will be surprised the tech is early and appreciate him/her spending extra time troubleshooting their connections. It's better to take it slow, get one problem done right then do quick fixes and make repeat visits.

4) Have a TOS in plain english. List programs people are discouraged to use. If you have a per port traffic limit, publish an easy link for people to check how much they've used.

That's about it!

Re:Some Tips (1)

Dark-One (24259) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157283)

All excelent points the other thing you could try is to carry a CD with drivers for most major NICs on it and the win9x cab files. I have found that just having the drivers for a few 3com, linksys, netgear ect cards and the cab files reduces the "now where did I put my cds" search time.

What kind of preparation is THIS for reality? (1)

dfuller (304852) | more than 13 years ago | (#2140082)

Sounds like you guys are doing a laudable job of working with what you're presented. I admire your desire to do the right set of things.

Of course, in the real (IT) world the response would be to examine the configurations, declare them non-standard and unsupportable, repartition their drives to the supported config and loading the supported image. Doesn't work? Tough. Requisition new gear or declare yourself unsupportable forevermore.

Sounds like a hell of an education. What might be interesting would be to hear about any tools used in this environment to suss out the configuration of the machine and/or fix up common configs quickly.

My only words of advice are:

They are people, not users.
Most people don't care about the mechanism, only the function.
If you notice something that might hurt, point it out, gently.
If the individual decides they know more than you, work to enslave them.
Report particularly abusive people to the appropriate authorities.
Never die alone. Ask for help. Say you don't know. Chicks REALLY dig this.

Step by step screenshots baby!! (1)

terpia (28218) | more than 13 years ago | (#2143615)

It takes about 2 hours for initial setup, but a real timesaver:

Take step by step configuration screenshots for all your supported MS and Mac OSes. (for the *nix folk, just a sheet of all necessary info) Place all these in plastic page holders and then into a bright pink binder. Depending on the density of the dorms, distribute on per hall/floor/building. Let the students know they are encouraged to set it up themselves, and they'll have to wait their turn if they need personal attention. Many will be a little afraid, but will feel good after they do it.

What a great word! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2143901)

Nice use of the word 'Sisyphean'! For those of you who do not know the definition of Sisyphean:

Sisyphean \sih-suh-FEE-un\ (adjective) : of, relating to, or suggestive of the labors of Sisyphus; specifically : requiring continual and often ineffective effort

Example sentence: No one works at the Happy Burger for very long, so it's a Sisyphean task for the manager just to keep the place adequately staffed.

Did you know? The legendary Corinthian king Sisyphus annoyed the gods with his trickery. As a consequence, in Hades he was condemned for eternity to roll a huge rock up a long, steep hill, only to watch it roll back down. Sisyphus' story is often told in conjunction with that of Tantalus, another king who offended the gods and paid the price in Hades. Tantalus was condemned to stand beneath fruit-laden boughs, up to his chin in water. Whenever he bent his head to drink, the water receded, and whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches moved beyond his grasp. Thus to "tantalize" is to tease or torment by offering something desirable but keeping it out of reach -- and something "Sisyphean" (or "Sisyphian," pronounced \sih-SIH-fee-un\) demands unending, thankless, and ultimately unsuccessful efforts.

BTW, 'Sisyphian' is Merriam-Webster's word of the day [] today.

MIT Student Consultants (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2144328)

At MIT we have RCC's (Residential Computer Consultants (?)) which are regular student volunteers that help out throught out the year that in the dorms. They can issue IP's, give out ethernet cables, install mail reader programs, etc. They are next door neighbor tech-support. These guys are the front line to which everybody comes to. Then, we have SIPB (Student Information Processing Board) which is basically the computer guru club, run by students also. They handle all *nix related issues, like networking. They are the second line. Finally, we have the IT guys running Athena and the computing environment of MIT at large. Usually, they put together materials on how to hook up to the MIT net for the freshmen at orientation, and the guide is pretty good and thourough. They are the last line, and most of the time your problems are solved before you reach them.

I'm doing this in two weeks.... (4, Insightful)

avtr (457172) | more than 13 years ago | (#2144345)

I'll be doing this myself as a ResNet consultant for a major east coast university. Some quick tips:

1) If a user has crappy hardware, tell him or her so. Make them splurge for a 3com. When you're configuring that many students, if 1% of them are running cheap-ass ethernet cards that their local vendors told them would "speed up the internet" or some such nonsense, I can guarantee you'll be spending plenty of time supporting that 1% over the phone for the rest of the year. Nip the problems in the bud.

2) Definitely keep it as simple as possible. Make flowcharts. Win98? Ok, open box, insert card, driver disk / os disk, so on and so forth. Make sure everyone working gets a flowchart. Make them for the top 5 operating systems at your school. If the situation they encounter doesn't work / doesn't have a flow chart, have the consultant refer the problem to his manager. This minimizes hassles for everyone - flowcharts help your techies streamline things, and as a bonus you only get problems that require actual thought.

3) HIRE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. One day of training for 1 consultant for every 50 anticipated setups per week. (Our "Dorm Storm" lasts for three weeks. YMMV) Seem excessive? This is 10 setups a day - enough to compensate for the average difficult setup. More will leave your techies bored. Training should include NIC installation, different OS's, common user questions and the like. Bonus: handing out cd's with an automated installation and config program
is a good idea. Handing out static wrist guards so that someone working under you doesn't fry an expensive machine and piss of someone's daddy is a *great* idea.

4) Only higher tech support that is friendly. These people will be interacting IRL - they'd better be able to at least fake people skills.

5) Keep everything as low stress as possible. That means air conditioning everywhere (it's the little things), free coffee for techies / walk in students, and anything else that makes this massive hassle a little less of, well, a massive hassle.

6) Past five o clock, stay open with a skeleton staff, and have consultants ready to drop in on the dorm who are on call (i.e. have immediate phone access and the ability to go at a moment's notice.) Don't abuse this privilege, but do use it.

7) Lastly, be prompt. Have everyone who doesn't get serviced by flowcharts go to the first manager AND DEALT WITH IMMEDIATELY. More than 24 hours for turnaround is too late, especially with this heat. Those who can't get helped by the managers should be an extremely small group - have one more manager and/or an emergency response team to deal with these guys.

Good luck with yours... I'm at 1.5 weeks and counting...

Ugh. (4, Insightful)

YIAAL (129110) | more than 13 years ago | (#2144508)

This is a side of universal campus computing that doesn't get enough attention. Everyone is excited about building the networks, but the support obligations that the network creates are another question. Probably the best you can do is to have a really good FAQ available, and then do what everyone else does: rely on the students who know what's going on to share their expertise with the ones who don't. Could the tech revolution exist at all without free customer-to-customer peer tech support?

Re:Ugh. (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 13 years ago | (#2140081)

>> rely on the students who know what's going on to share their expertise with the ones who don't.

Yeah, double ditto on this!!! Definitely, ask for help.

1. Techies are always willing to show off.
2. College students are idealistic, and thus willing to give their time freely.
3. XY college students need an excuse, any excuse, to interact with XX college students.

how we do it (1)

gascsd (316132) | more than 13 years ago | (#2144820)

Well, first off, we don't have Novell, so that's going to be a little different ... secondly, I work in a department, so I don't configure how the scheme is setup ... I just configure the machines afterwards

... however, as far as getting TCP/IP going, we procured a 2nd class B. In each subnet (255 ips per segment is how the network people configured it), the first 30 are 'temporary', the next 200 or so are 'permanent', and the remaining are reserved for static IPs in that range ...

The routers on campus know to only let those first 30 ips (the 'temporary' ones) go to one machine (it's a beefed up to hell linux machine) on campus. On that machine, users can register their mac address and tie it to an ip. A simple ipconfig /release and ipconfig /renew (or equiv based on os) gives them an ip in that block of 200 or so 'permanent' ips.

We tell people to use DHCP aka 'Obtain an IP address automatically' and give them a small printout on how to do it, based on their OS. I say 'permanent' because so long as they are in the same subnet as they registered originally, they'll get the same ip. if they move to a different building (eg, switch dorms, or even go to a class with ether jacks in the room), they'll have to register a new ip using the same process

The last 20 or so ips, like I said, are reserved for static addys, but its not like we can really prevent anyone from tapping into them. However, when we find out someone is using them, fire up some SNMP tools, figure out which port on the switch that IP is using, pull their mac addy, find out who registered the IP, and give them a ring (a visit or turn off their port on the switch if we're pissed enough ).

That's basically how we do the TCP/IP part, but you'd have to have another scheme to do the Novell stuff.

Someone else suggested having a demonstration or something and passing out printed info sheets there ...

It works rather well for us. W9x through XP work fine, as do the nixens ... macs are a little different, because the machine has to be powered off for a few minutes before getting a more 'permanent' ip

we also have some wireless access points around campus, that are *supposed* to work the same was as with cables, but it's not looking so hot lately

Here's an option (-1, Offtopic)

rppp01 (236599) | more than 13 years ago | (#2144953)

You could try and work your ass off for the next month with the new whiners coming into college, or else you could just give em all the finger and go get a quiet job at microsoft making solid applications and OS's for us all.

.....oh wait......

go vols (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2144954)

good ole rocky top

Self Install Guide (4, Insightful)

isaac_akira (88220) | more than 13 years ago | (#2144955)

Seems like putting a small self install guide in all the dorm rooms might be a start. At least the more tech savvy users could be up and running on their own if you give them the vital info (router, dns, etc). That's one less user you have to deal with yourself.

Re:Self Install Guide (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2157319)

Oh, you poor little karma whore. Imagine your disappointment. You post this obvious drivel, and somehow the moderators pass you over -- even though, to your shock, they mod up similar crap in later posts. Sincerest apologies.

Next time, why don't you get fucking real, and not post such redundant crap. thx.

f1rst 00mpah (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2144957)



Arizona State University (3, Interesting)

zpengo (99887) | more than 13 years ago | (#2154071)

You might look into what Arizona State has done to overcome their amazing feat: They're making it *mandatory* for business students to have laptops with wireless ethernet cards, which are then going to connect to a variety of online academic services, including those used during class. There's been a lot of news on it recently, and Google should be able to get you what you need.

Re:Arizona State University (-1, Redundant)

gascsd (316132) | more than 13 years ago | (#2115056)

hmm ... you work there too? =) i'd post the url to describe it, but you know that machine would just get /.ed

Re:Arizona State University (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2138720) has some great links to Light Start University as well.

Provide Information (1, Informative)

Jason_Knx (244168) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157179)

The biggest help I think is to provide the needed information in the form of flyers and on the School Website before the week actually begins. People who know how to setup there own computers will look there before they get to school usually so they have the needed info to connect.

If someone calls for info and not asistance give them the info or make a prerecorded message that provides all the necessary information.

And you can do what one school did, in which any computer with a working dhcp client could connect and get access to the schools local website only. Once on it they were instructed to fill out an online request form which registered their mac address to dorm room number and student. Then all they had to do was reboot or restart the dchp client to get full access.

But the biggest thing is mostly to provide the information so anyone with experience can do it by themselves without having to call and jump through hoops to get what they need. I don't know how many times I had problems getting simple information from help desks because they insisted on knowing the OS and all they supported was Win95/98 and wouldn't touch NT/2000 at all when I wasn't asking that.

Cheap Network Cards? (1)

limey_reader (512911) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157186)

I have a question about supported resnet network Ethernet cards. The required one sold by the unnamed Canadian University is over priced at $50.

What could be the possible risks of using a very cheap one from another maker? What could they do to me?

There is little no info from the university IT services just a web site that contains a copy of the network user agreement that absolves the university anything and everything.

What are the limitations of a network user agreement and my legal rights? Is a network user agreement like a software user agreement? Can anyone remember a legal case involving a network user agreement.

C'mon! One more K per second! (1, Interesting)

mystery_bowler (472698) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157188)

The only tale I can tell was on the student end. The university I attended installed a dorm ethernet network and made the several thousand students share a limited number of connections (I think 500 or so). Given that the pr0n and warez leechers were on every single moment of the day, getting on the network was a test of patience to say the least. Being friends with the grad students responsible for helping support this monstrosity, I was one of many people who pointed out to them that the problem wasn't just the number of available connections or bandwidth (although those were problems), it was these losers abusing the usage policy.

Imagine these users' collective surprise when they got emails that contained copies of their usage logs and a stern warning. None of them were real l33t d00dz, of course, and the getting on the busy network got much easier after that day. :)

Keep your priorities straight.... (3, Funny)

ZoneGray (168419) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157200)

It's simply a matter of keeping your eye on the real priorities. Attractive females get the best service, get their systems tuned to the max. Everybody else can damn well figure it out for themselves.

Rutgers University (3, Informative)

jgaynor (205453) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157202)

I'm campus contact for College Ave campus of Rutgers U. We've had pretty massive host growth [] . User education is the KEY to reducing workload on your techs and admin. Three words will set you free:

LITERATURE LITERATURE LITERATURE. Make up pamphlets about the following subjects, distribute them to EVERY ROOM and email them to students and parents over the summer preceeding the semester on the following subjects:

-How to get and install a network card

-How to register for an IP address online

-How to set up IP in various OS's (Win9x, win2k, Mac OS 7, Mac OS X, command line linux)

-What rules you'll have to abide by concerning bandwidth caps, providing access and illegal activities

After you get everyone online youll have users screaming about configuring stupid crap like outlook and AOL. Create online documentation about these and make people aware of them.

Mind you Rutgers doesn't use DHCP, so that registering stuff might sound a little non-kosher to you small network DHCP guys :). We've tried, DHCP just isnt an option across ATM, more than two dozen routers and a few hundred VLANs.

Sisyphean (2)

abischof (255) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157205)

For those wondering, Sisyphean [] :

Endlessly laborious or futile

Student Consultants (1)

worldwideweber (116531) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157215)

Some universities enlist the help of students to serve as the front line... the students live in the dorms that they are responsible for helping.
These students work for a nominal hourly fee (and a few tech perks like a cool email address of their choice and increased print/disk quota). This is the perfect setup because of the bursty nature of this kind of technical support, and also because of the simple nature of most of the problems. The students also like it because it serves as a nice resume builder for young CS students.

don't mean to sound like a downer (2)

Archfeld (6757) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157230)

but that sounds like every workday for me, though you have 30 more technicians(?) to assist. Our little network group consists of 4 router techs, 5 wireheads, and 9 logical networking staff to deal with SNA, TCP, DLC, ATM, for nearly 4000 clueless employees. The best advice I can offer is DHCP all the way. More headache on the infrastructure team but easier to support and configure :) GOOD LUCK and MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU.

Run, run quickly (1)

aitala (111068) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157231)

We face the same problem with more students and less workers on the problem. i advise a hasty retreat

University Of New Hampshire (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157237)

Well, we've got 2500 wide eyed freshmen showing up two weeks from now, and a brigade of ResNet people around to get them all connected.

To be brutally honest, most of the resnet people are monkeys; fortunatly nowadays you don't need much more than that to get a plug and play ethernet card working on a modern computer with DHCP.

One of my friends, who works for resnet, is going to do his best to convince all the girls he plugs in to let him run a client on their computer- under his name, of course. Hell, they don't need a gHz to run Word and Winamp anyway...

But yeah, as a previous poster pointed out, it's a good way to meet girls- Last year I got several girls (and the occasional guy) up and running with an Ethernet card, on a friendly basis, and eventually got to know half of them pretty well.

some things we've done (2)

htmlboy (31265) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157243)

I work for residential student computing at We go through the same thing every fall, except with more students moving in (I think) and less Novell.

This summer, in particular, we've started some new programs to help students get their ethernet connection working on their own.

Last year, we put booklets in every room describing how to cable for a single computer or multiple machines with a hub [1]. It also covers driver installation for MacOS, Win9x/ME, and Win2k, as well as physical installation of the card.

That worked pretty well, so it's happening again. In addition, we've shot a video covering many of the same topics that'll be looped on a dorm-only cable channel for the first few days (making dvd's is fun!). It's also available on cd, in .mpg files so that people can watch it in their rooms if the looping cable thing doesn't work, or they bring their computer after we give the channel to other programs.

But there's still no substitute for competent people. We keep people in the computer labs for most of the day every day between move-in and the start of classes. They loan out hubs and sell cables, and also (hopefully) diagnose problems and tell people how to fix them without needing to go up to the room. If that doesn't work, they either take one of our people up to their room to take a look (if that wouldn't abandon the lab) or fill out a form on our website, so somone can call them and check out the problem whenever they're free.

It's always fun -- lots of hours for everyone.

[1] the uiuc dorms were wired before there was an ethernet standard, so the network jacks use the 4 middle pins. we have custom cables in every room that inevitably get plugged in backwards and thus don't work.! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2157268)

Way to use that word of the day. (no points for subtlety, though.)

My Experience (5, Informative)

Hrunting (2191) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157270)

I went to school at Lehigh University [] in Pennsylvania, one of the earlier schools to have a mandate that all students should be "wired" (as they called it). When I arrived as a freshman in 1995, all non-Greek on-campus housing was wired with 10baseT LAN access and all libraries and academic buildings (save for the Architecture building, funny enough) had access to the same network. Remember, this is the first year that Windows 95 came out. Through the network, not only did you have access to the Internet, but you also had a complete suite of software available without any installation hassles, including Maple, Word, Excel, and various other programs required for all your classes. By my sophomore year, when I started working for the IT guys as a part-time student installer, every on-campus student could bring in their machine and plug it in. I spent a good deal of time running around to various buildings, installing ethernet cards and making sure people could print, login, stuff like that.

The number one most important thing for a large-scale mass install like this is excellent documentation. I'm not talking user manuals, but step-by-step, written for special-ed third grader instructions. The docs for this project were excellent. I may have helped out maybe 50 people tops in those first couple of move-in weeks. I think the figures I remember were something like 70% of people needed no help beyond the instructions. That's pretty good when you're dealing with 5000 students, 3500 of which had older computers that were setup on the network the previous year (those are more difficult because they still have all their settings in place for older configurations).

The second most important tip is to have well-written support software. The software that Lehigh had doing the dirty work of configuring network settings, initializing programs for network use, and setting up printers and connections was pretty solid. Everyone once and while you'd get some oddball Packard Bell that didn't like it, but for the most part, it was solid. Macs were even supported well (indeed first, because the school actually transitioned from all Macs to all PCs during this period). People running Linux were usually clued in on their own, so no help needed there. In contrast, other friends have reported stories to me of utter nightmare installs due to programs crashing, wiping out configuration settings, installing the wrong software, etc. at other universities. If you don't have solid software that you yourself are comfortable using, don't push it out onto thousands of incoming freshmen. Every tiny annoyance you see will become a full-blown logistical nightmare as you try and coordinate your support staff to fix it.

Finally, use e-mail effectively. Our student consultants were all setup with mailing lists that we could post problems and solutions (mostly solutions) for even the rarest of situations. We were all told to do this and told to watch for the information as well. Information flows a lot better when a bunch of geeks can read threads of problems and solutions than when you go over it during organizational meetings. For us, those usually were reserved for congratulatory pizza and the occasional mass wishlist.

Of course, all that is probably a little dated (we didn't have wireless LANs yet when I left), but as far as logistics goes, it's pretty much the same good advice.

Documentation. Solid software. Communication. If you've got that, you should be fine.

My sugestion - Limited support (1)

Vic (6867) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157275)

How about this:

1) Make sure that the connections in each dorm room actually work with a properly set-up computer BEFORE the students move in. Check each one with a laptop if possible.

2) Provide clear instructions for connecting to the network under various operating systems, types of hardware, etc.

3) DO NOT make yourself responsible for setting up everyone's individual PC. Provide them with access and instructions, but the students should be responsible for all hardware and software configuration (except maybe if it's a "mandatory laptop" or some other school-bought PC...). You can't be expected to configure thousands of PCs that have just arrived.

4) If problems appear during the "rush", first check the connection with a laptop. If it works, you shouldn't be obliged to fix it right away. Make sure all networking problems are fixed first. PC troubleshooting can be available from nerdy students, a hired pool of trained techs, etc.

Or do you think this is a bit harsh?


good planning, hard workers (1)

warnerpr (9286) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157292)

Having done this as a student worker twice at Clarkson University, I know the best thing you can do is plan, do training and then on the actual days communicate well and work really hard (drink lots of caffine). Really though, the training and the communication are important. Have a central command post everyone can call, or radios. Triag things, skip the hard stuff and come back, get the easy ones on as fast as possible. Most of the ones that seem tough at first end up needing windows reinstalled or something evil like that. get them later!

Use this as an example (2, Informative)

_ZorKa_ (86716) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157307)

A lot of people have already written in with some good advice as far as FAQ's and the such. At the Univ. of Mich [] I think they do a very good job of handling this sorta thing with about 40,000 students. They have a whole entire division called ITD [] which may offer some material you may wish to cover.

Have good staff (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2157316)

I worked for the networking department at a reasonably large university until last year, and we went through some quit easy, and very difficult years. The key, esspecially when everyone is moving in is to have well trained people, who have not only the technical knowlege, but are also good with people, as there are a few challenges there (esspecially with parents who think their child is the _most_ important thing you could be doing). I'd say you've got enough people at least, even if you don't have any to spare really. We put just under 900 people IIRC online at the begining of last fall, without _too_ many problems with about 20 people, both staff and work-study students. Though it did take us about a month to deal with all the trouble calls.

The key is also to do as much in preparation as absolutly possible. Have all your documentation written, web pages done, forms and paperwork done, and printed, space reserved, staff trained, etc. But the two most important things, in my opinion, are to have all jacks that can be wired, wired. Even if they aren't all active, as long as they can be turned on remotely. We spent a great deal of time and effort (which could have been better spent) hooking up jacks on weekends people are moving in. Also make sure all the jacks have been tested within a couple of weeks of students moving in. Janitors can knock things in closets, staff can (and frequently do) bang jacks when moving funature, etc. creating problems that can be tough to track down when people have moved their things into the rooms. The other thing to make sure you've absolutly done is to have a worknig office, with trouble call database (or some other good way to track calls, not little slips of paper), with people to anwser the phone, already schedualed. Waiting until students arive to hire work study students or waiting until then to schedual them, to anwser the phones is a big mistake. The office will end up mostly empty for the first week to two weeks, which is the most important time.

Also dhcp will help a great deal. But what ever you do, do not require a MAC address to lease an ip to them. If you require a form to be filled out, or the student to pay a feet, etc. before they get serivce, remotely activate their port when they do, it's much easier to allow the person anwsering the phones to have a web page, or some other application to turn jacks on or off, than to have them (or in our case have them, ask someone else to) enter a MAC address in the dhcp table.

Online Service Call System (1)

droidix (472120) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157320)

Here at Kansas State University we use an online system to keep track of connection problems. The system has the ability to enter, edit, search, and close calls. It is written in jsp and uses mysql as the database. It was presented at the RESNET Symposium this summer. If any other university is interested in this just send an email to

BOFH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2157325)

If you dont know what BOFH is, you will never know how to properly deal with users.

Similar Problems (4, Informative)

TedCheshireAcad (311748) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157327)

I admin for a private high school in Connecticut, and I get this problem every year. Kids already have a NIC, but it's not set up right. Or something else obscure doesn't work. Here are a few helpers to get you through the mad rush.

1. Hire help. Cheap help. Go to the local high schools, and offer $50 bucks and pizza for a day of installing NIC's. Get tech-savvy students(duh).

2. Insist that your job is *only* setting them up on the network. If it doesn't work on the first plug, move on and come back to that person later.

3. Use only one type of NIC. I use 3Com 3C-905B cards. Carry a driver diskette with you.

4. Never help anyone with a Compaq Presario. They are a nightmare. Corollary: If you get suckered into helping anyone with a Presario, never, ever, call Compaq Tech Support asking for a recovery disk.

5. Set up a help desk site with common problems and solutions. Easy with PHP or something.

6. If students are savvy enough to do their own stuff, by all means, let them. This means anyone running Linux, so just give them the NIC, and tell them to have fun.

7. Block outgoing P2P. It will save you lots of bandwidth.

8. Use 10-Mbit hubs or switches in your dorms. This will keep the rest of your network (100Mbit?) nice and tidy from P2P traffic.

9. Keep a close eye on possible haxors. You know how to identify them, the kids who bring their own Cisco routers to school. They're the ones who are going to bring down your gateways.

10. Breathe. Just take it easy, and remember, they're only computers.

Hope this helps.

Ted (

"Quoth the Penguin, pipe grep more"

Coming from the field ... (2, Interesting)

Tack (4642) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157338)

I work for a significantly smaller university [] and deal with the same sort of problems, only on a much smaller scale. For example, we may have 75 students move into the residences at the start of the term who have to be serviced by our very small department (of 3 full-time staff).

Even though our scale is (much) smaller, I'm sure we face the same types of problems. So, I do have some advice:

  • Stable network: A stable network is totally crucial. This time last year our residences were wired with thinnet, using transceivers in every room which students plugged directly into their AUI ports on the network cards we provided them. This was an absolute nightmare. It didn't help that the network was cabled out of spec (we didn't do it! It was passed down to us from the previous staff in the department), but the network cards were arcane, and Windows 2000 stopped supporting some of them. So, perpetual physical network problems gave us nothing but grief, and inevitably as students moved in they would put additional stress on the badly cabled network and cause endless brokenness that would take usually weeks to get fixed. It's a wonder the students put up with us. Since then we have wired the residences with CAT5E using managed switches. We made sure professionals certified the cabling as CAT5E compliant. The difference in reliability and time spent in supporting the network is night and day.
  • Faculty still need help: The faculty procrastinate just like the rest of us, and they're frantically trying to prepare for their courses that are going to start in a few days. They always have last minute problems, or come to us and say, "Oh, we need this software XYZ available in all the labs for next week. Didn't I tell you?" It helps to be proactive before the beginning of the term to determine their requirements. But even still, their requests are going to tax your resources while you're busy helping students get connected to the campus network.
  • Delegate as much as possible: We give all our network cards to student services, and the student services staff handle assigning NICs to the new students, and give them instruction sheets on how to setup their systems. A lot of the new students are computer science students, so they can usually handle a basic NIC setup. For those students that can't, we have residence advisors (some of whom are co-op students in our department) and will help out in setup. Only when there are non-trivial problems do they reach the full-time staff for troubleshooting. Of course, this is the way it should be.
  • Students are your customers: Let's face it, anyone who works in this type of support role knows you get stupid questions, stupid problems, and stupid people. But the students are your customers. They are the people who ultimately pay your cheques. Be courteous and helpful. If you can't solve their problem as quick as they want, tell them politely they may have to wait a day or two because their problem is complicated, but do not forget about them! Remind them they can use the labs for all their computing needs while their PC is out of commission. Remember, they're your customers.

    In my experience, the first point is the most important one. The more stable your infrastructure is, the less problems you'll have. Use reliable network cards, switches, and cabling. Unless you're professionally trained, contract out your cabling, or at the very least, get it professionally certified. You do not want to spend 2 days troubleshooting a network problem a single student is having only to find out it's because their wire is running beside a BX cable in the wall somewhere.


You have problems, Check this out (1)

linuxbert (78156) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157344)

I work in an it fuction @ Algonquin College [] in Ottawa Canada.

we have a residence with cisco ip phones, aprox 1100 students with madatory laptops (IBM Thinkpads runing win98, nt 4, 2k and linux)
mixed in with a substantial wireless 802.11 network, Mac, Sun, Sgi, os390.... all working together across 7 campuses 50 miles apart. if you think you have headachs..

btw help desk responce will be 65% of calls resolved 1st day, and 10 min service to labs/classrooms.

classes start aug 27..
are you ready? :)

Here's a question for ya... (2)

Omerna (241397) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157346)

Why weren't there any question marks in that whole paragraph? Just a thought ;)

Resnet connections (1)

Dark-One (24259) | more than 13 years ago | (#2157357)

I am responsible for all the support for my college along with one other person and our superviser (who really doesnt do that much trouble shooting). Between the two of us in the first two weeks of school we handle connecting about 800 students and troubleshooting probably 1/4th of that along with going to class full time. I can honestly say I have seen some oddball configurations, no I dont mean the ever present RJ11 phone cord in the NIC why doesnt my internet work problems either. I think the worst I have seen has got to be a user who installed her own network card with the help of her mother. I got there and the NIC was showing no link light, her port had been managed up and I checked all the cables. It was only after a few minutes of scratching my head that I decided to open the case (something we are ordianrly not aloud to do because the school is afraid we owuld break something) only to find that the PCI nic was just hanging there in the open, screwed in to the backplane of the case... not connected to any slot. So ofcourse I had to nicely explain to her that the card needed to be placed in to one of the slots in order for it to work. to which she replied "Oh thats why it was so hard to install, we just couldnt figure out how to balance it right to screw it in." Fortunatly this was one of my first experiances and I learned that no matter how strange or funny the problem is its best not to laugh and just keep cool and explain the problem calmly and you will be supprised how many people are truely gratefull to have someone come in and fix their computer with out looking down on them.
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