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Harvard Offers Sneak Peek Into Their Network

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the what-makes-you-tick dept.

132

Bob Brown writes "Harvard University doesn't usually talk much about its internal network, but here, the guy overseeing it opens up about the homegrown and commercial tools used to manage the massive system." From the article: "Harvard, as of late, has been exhibiting another telco trait - considering the network as part of the university's critical infrastructure. As such, its construction is considered during the initial planning phases of building renovation, new construction and campus expansion projects. The data networks that are being built today, at Harvard and similar institutions, are being built to host a variety of IP-based traffic. Most every physical-plant control device, whether it be security cameras, chilled water-valve actuators or parking garage card readers, are being designed to work with the IP network"

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Wait .. (5, Funny)

karvind (833059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860489)

Wait till MIT hears about it !! :P

Re:Wait .. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14860600)

Off-topic?

I guess the moderator has no idea that MIT is two subway stops down the street from Harvard. Funny? Maybe, or maybe not. But not off-topic. Dumb moderator.

Re:Wait .. (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860878)

Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought the point of the GP was that once the MIT students hear about it, the occurrences at Harvard of building lights blinking on and off or the temperature fluctuating wildly during the day would be non-stop.

Re:Wait .. (5, Funny)

Globby (764317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860742)

Oh... you mean that trade school down the River... :)

Re:Wait .. (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861129)

MIT was MIT when Harvard was a pup
And MIT will be MIT when Harvard's time is up
And if any Harvard son of a bitch thinks he's in our class
He can pucker up his rosey lips and kiss the beaver's ass

And should we find a Harvard man within our sacred walls
We'll take him to the physics lab and amputate his balls
And if he should cry uncle well I'll tell ya what we'll do
We'll stuff his ass with broken glass and seal it up with glue

KFG

Re:Wait .. (3, Funny)

Globby (764317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861274)

Reminds me of another tale... When the Massachusetts Avenue bridge was built it was examined by MIT engineers who said, "This will never last... let's call it the 'Harvard Bridge'"

Re:Wait .. (1)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861885)

How many Smoots long was that bridge, anyway?

MIT already knows. (was Re:Wait..) (4, Informative)

elwinc (663074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860768)

Crimson brags about its class B address -- MIT has a class A! And if you look at the physical connection, last I heard the Harvard campus was served by a fiber strung along the MBTA Red Line tunnels -- straight from an MIT router!

Re:MIT already knows. (was Re:Wait..) (4, Funny)

blinder (153117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860998)

huh, interesting. i take the t every day between harvard and central and i've always thought, as i stand in the car... looking at those bundles of cables, "what if i chopped through them?"

so... if that is right... i could, theoritcally, break the intarweb for all of harvard?

oh, did i just say that outloud? i mean come on! what do you think when you see large bundles of cable?

Re:MIT already knows. (was Re:Wait..) (2, Insightful)

Kermit870 (889647) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861039)

so... if that is right... i could, theoritcally, break the intarweb for all of harvard? +5 Interesting? Only on slashdot.

Re:MIT already knows. (was Re:Wait..) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861430)

Who says that was the interesting part of the post besides you?
I personally thought it was the topology here that was interesting.

Re:MIT already knows. (was Re:Wait..) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861462)

Dweebs who can't stomach a little truth and don't know how to properly format a post..

Only on Slashdot, is how the cliche goes, I believe.

Re:MIT already knows. (was Re:Wait..) (1)

blinder (153117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862021)

hmmm... now if /. had a +/-5 for "snarky" then maybe it could have been modded properly... but interesting? not so much. i'm not that interesting.

Re:MIT already knows. (was Re:Wait..) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14862854)

i mean come on! what do you think when you see large bundles of cable?

Ohh. Mmm.

Re:MIT already knows. (was Re:Wait..) (2, Interesting)

The Pim (140414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861053)

It used to be a microwave link to MIT. When whether was bad (and remember this is Boston), we had massive packet loss.

Won' t somebody please (0, Offtopic)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860490)

"Most every physical-plant control device, whether it be security cameras, chilled water-valve actuators or parking garage card readers, are being designed to work with the IP network" Won't somebody please think of the toasters! If they can't turn on and off their toast so they can arrive at their office and breakfast is hot and ready, then what good is all this IP based technology?

Necessary Approach (4, Interesting)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860944)

I worked for the network and telecommunications department for a smaller university for a few years. Building the infrastructure in place like this is critical. We constantly found ourselves working out awkward solutions to providing access to older buildings. A couple of the buildings are running ethernet over phone wires and served by hubs that are 20 years old because they are the only thing with a strong enough signal for the quality of the wires. Two of the dorms are using Cisco's LRE DSL technology. Locating IDF's when we did major upgrades was a pain in the butt. Sometimes we would spend most of a day adding a couple drops to a single office that needed more space, but rewiring that wing wasn't in the budget. In the long run, the costs add up, as do the frustrations.

In contrast, our newest building is thoroughly wired (with the perplexing and random exception of two small labs that I spent several days running cable to last summer). Even the closets have multiple ports, just in case, and that has been important several times.

Documentation is equally important, and someplace where we currently lag. Currently, what goes where is stored in our heads, and gets lost every time someone leaves. The mix of old and new standards, as well non-standard crap has made the documenting process difficult. Also, it is impossible if there isn't a method in place for ensuring that changes made as documentation is being built up aren't recorded.

Another challenge is correctly anticipating what your future needs are and building in expandability. Our athletic center was built right before the networking became standard, and while it has plenty of phone lines, the distance is too far to run ethernet in some cases, and the routing makes spot-upgrades close to impossible.

oh, neat....Harvard's network (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14860502)

It must be amazing. What with it being a university an all. Cool. I can't wait to read all about it. I'm glad they've unveiled the secrecy behinds "Harvard's Mysterious Internet Thingy That Noone Knows About". All networky and what not. With routers and things.

Re:oh, neat....Harvard's network (0, Offtopic)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860983)

Their head SysAdmin seems to be a drunk, circa 1989.

I'd like to work there. (3, Funny)

qualico (731143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860505)

I'd like to work in that size of environment.
*sigh*

[goes back to fixing another spyware ridden windows box]

Re:I'd like to work there. (4, Funny)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860559)

I'd like to work in that size of environment.

Why don't you apply? I hear they are looking to fill at least one position [harvard.edu] .

Re:I'd like to work there. (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860595)

They have the money to do everything properly!
I can't remember the last /. article where that actually happened.

Documentation - Check
Test Environment - Check
Disaster Recovery Tests - Check
Inform the Users - Check

They made a really good move hiring someone from the Telephone Industry. Nothing like having someone used to managing critical infrastructure in charge of your biz.

Re:I'd like to work there. (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860870)

But what happens when some geek takes down the Master Control program?

Re:I'd like to work there. (2, Funny)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861005)

You ..can't.. do that... Dave.

Re:I'd like to work there. (1)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861041)

My question is: what's an accounting program doing playing games?

Re:I'd like to work there. (1)

ninja_assault_kitten (883141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861391)

Red tape - Check Politices - Check

The hell we do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14862067)

***They have the money to do everything properly!***

Our network has been in the shit-can for the last few weeks. Sometimes emails get stuck in server-land and don't show up for three or four days after they're sent. My thesis advisor and I weren't on speaking terms because he thought I hadn't sent my first chapter. That and because my first chapter was generated on www.lipsum.com.

Re:I'd like to work there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861072)

I worked in Harvard IT for awhile...it's not the slick and well-oiled piece of machinery as you'd think. Sure it's bug, but so was that pimple on your nose on prom night. I was glad when I left.

Death to IP! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14860539)

Damn MBAs with their fancy ideas about intellectual property and whatnot..."Screw em," I says! What's that?

Who Talks Like This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14860598)

we solicit advice from all connecting members to solidify customer demarcs, network ownership and funding models.

What exactly does this mean? It sounds frighteningly like Cisco sales speak. Is this really how people speak or am I just too stupid to go to Harvard?

Re:Who Talks Like This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861571)

Yes

Incompetence (2, Interesting)

schmiddy (599730) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860645)

All that, and they still don't know how to set up DNS properly.

-----------
$ host harvard.edu
harvard.edu A record currently not present
-----------

I notified them about this months ago, but they didn't seem to care. Most web browsers automatically try the "www" prefix when you type, say, "harvard.edu" into your address bar, so you don't notice this problem generally. However, if you try wget, you can see it fail.

-----------
$ wget harvard.edu
--14:38:45-- http://harvard.edu/ [harvard.edu]
=> `index.html'
Resolving harvard.edu... failed: Host not found.
-----------

Pretty sloppy if you ask me.

Re:Incompetence (5, Informative)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860786)

What magical internet law dictates having a web server at hostname.com? And what other law dictates hostname.com resolve to an ip address? If anything, they are being pendantic, not sloppy.

Re:Incompetence (1)

wfberg (24378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861102)

What magical internet law dictates having a web server at hostname.com? And what other law dictates hostname.com resolve to an ip address? If anything, they are being pendantic, not sloppy.

Though, for largely historical reasons, having an A record (that points to a SMTP server) is considered A Good Thing. (For example, if for some reason MX lookup fails, postfix will, optionally I think, look up the A record instead. Some other MTAs have this behavior too).

Re:Incompetence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861354)

But it is sloppy to misspell pedantic

Re:Incompetence (2, Informative)

Feyr (449684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861389)

rfc states (don't rember which one, sorry) that hostname.com MUST point to an A. a CNAME is illegal.

it is also Good Practice to have an A record on your hostname. for legacy reasons. some mail systems will refuse to send and/or receive mail if the A is absent (although they may check for MX, there's no garantee)

irrelevant ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861678)

Ummm, check with dig -- harvard.edu is not a "hostname" and only has SOA, NS, and MX records associated with it -- neither CNAME nor A.

Re:Incompetence (2, Funny)

s88 (255181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862243)

You can call me pendantic, but the proper spelling is pedantic.

Re:Incompetence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14860852)

All that, and they still don't know how to set up DNS properly.

Really? Who said that harvard.edu has to resolve to an IP address? No rule requires it. And frankly, if you can't figure out where the website for Harvard is, you should look for another school.

WiFi Accounts Disabled (3, Informative)

MLopat (848735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860654)

My favorite piece of network technology at Harvard is their system to shut off a student's WiFi network access when they have a scheduled class. :) Been in use for a while now, and it sure cut down on the kids at the back of the class yelling "PWNED YOU!" during a lecture.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860837)

Wow are you serious? Jeez, I guess $40K a year just doesn't buy as much as it used to... ha!

NCSU sure spoiled us then, with nice Wi-fi access 24/7. And at under $10K a year to boot!

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (5, Interesting)

theJML (911853) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860913)

Because there aren't any legitimate uses of internet access during class time...

Like maybe browsing the notes to the lecture that the teacher made available and adding notes/annotations
Pulling down source code from the book you've got because it didn't come with a CD (that costs extra)
Googling for more info to assist a group project
Uploading/Downloading your notes from your home server so you can keep them all in one place
Saving bookmarks and urls that a teacher may point out as a good source for more info
Using your laptop to run a presentation/group project
etc...
I know I was able to get a lot of use out of internet access when I was in the classroom a number of years back. It was Quite invaluable in MANY of my classes. The annoying thing is that we didn't have wireless then so I had to make sure I was by a port, although many of the newer buildings had classrooms where there was a network port and power plug available at every seat (if there weren't already PC's there). How one sided of a universtiy to think that because someone COULD missuse a piece of technology, that everyone will... but then again, it is Harvard. I bet they talk to the RIAA on a regular basis.

In All Fairness... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861044)

Obviously you raise some geniune questions about Internet access in the classroom, however...

Having been to a school where we all had laptops and Internet access during classes, the reality is a bit different for the majority. During lectures, if you sat in the back, pretty much all you would see was people browsing hobby websites on their machines. Some of them playing with SNES emulators (for Final Fantasy mostly).

Of course it's different during actual classwork, as access to the Web is an amazing tool, but some teachers decided to start policies whereas we had to close our laptop screens or unplug our network cables (no wifi) during lectures because nobody would pay any attention.

Re:In All Fairness... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861421)

I'm going to go out on a limb and say if the students aren't paying attention, its probably that the lecturer is not doing a very good job of making the lecture interesting, the lecture doesn't present any useful information (but, perhaps, attendence is taken in the lecture for grading purposes because otherwise no one would show up and just read the book instead), or that the students simply don't need to devote their full attention to it and desire some distractions (and for someone like me with a bad case of ADHD, if I didn't have a distraction, I'd probably end up not being able to focus on the lecture at all).

If Harvard is such a great school and only admits the best students, I'd think they could trust the students to exercise their own judgement in regards to how they choose to learn in class.

This is college, not high school. These professors and college beaurecrats need to grow up. If I pay upwards of $3000 a semester (and this is just a public college I attend), I expect a little bit of freedom and respect towards how I choose to gain or squander with my education. It seems like the higher up you go in the prestige ladder, the more inane and ridiculous it becomes.

Re:In All Fairness... (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862300)

"If Harvard is such a great school and only admits the best students, I'd think they could trust the students to exercise their own judgement in regards to how they choose to learn in class." Ok, Harvard only admits the best students--they still make the curriculum challenging to those students. If this even helps them have a 2% lower rate of people failing out, it makes them look better.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861048)

Because there aren't any legitimate uses of internet access during class time...

I don't know if the parent poster was being sarcastic or really believes this. The Internet is a tool that can be used at ANY time for quick lookups of information.

My SO and I keep a laptop in the Den when we watch TV and we quite often "Google" things as we are watching ("where did we see that actress before?", etc)

If you treat "the Internet" as a big dictionary, encyclopedia, whatever tool, I can definitely see a use for it during lectures as a way to ENHANCE the information that the prof is giving me.

In other words... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861156)

You're gay.

I mean, if it's your wife, you say "my wife and me" or if its your girlfriend, you say "My girlfriend and me". But when you're gay you say "SO".

Come out of the closet my friend.

Come out of the closet and give us your review of "brokeback mountain"

Re:In other words... (1)

charlesnw (843045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861603)

I agree. This Life Partner and Significant Other stuff is junk. Man.

you have an alternative term to SO/LP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14863190)

I've lived with and carried on a monogamous sexual/romantic relationship with a person of opposite gender for close to a decade. We're not married. 'Significant Other' and 'Life Partner' seem like perfectly apt terms for this arrangement, but then I'm not a homophobe so I guess I don't get the stigma you seem to believe is attached to them. You have some alternatives to suggest, or is your post in fact a pointless troll as indicated by moderation?

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861050)

This is exactly the stance I take on the subject. Yes, if you have a class full of just out of high school kids then there might be problems with people surfing the Internet for stuff unrelated to class. However most of the students can and do use thier connection in class for building on the learning experience.

I work at a health sciences university and recently the faculty voted to not instal network ports in thier main classroom. I was shocked. There are so many reasons why people with laptops would need network access while in class. Yet, it was the fear of a few people taking advantage that swayed thier vote. Why do the good students always have to suffer because of the few bad ones?

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861463)

Why do the good students always have to suffer because of the few bad ones?

It might be due to the fact that good students will know how to work around the limitation. Not in a bad/intrusive way, but they'll write down any addresses the professor mentions and look at them after class. They'll get the class notes from the professor's website before or after class.

In other words, the good students aren't suffering, and there's a chance some of the people who would have been using IM, playing games, or looking at unrelated material are paying attention.

Slightly unrelated, but I can't think of any reasons why people with laptops would need network access while in class. It's always nice to have, but necessary during class? Give me a break. What about all the people who don't bring laptops to class? They seem to do fine without laptops, much less network access.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

yawn9 (848734) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861481)

The bad vastly outnumber the good. Most other students that I meet who are really dedicated to learning take notes with pencil and paper. Why? You tend to remember things that you write down more. Out of all the laptops I've seen used in classes, only a small fraction of them were actually doing school-related tasks.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (2, Insightful)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862471)

Tablets. Without WiFi for my tablet, half the features which do things like cross-reference stop working. I quite like being able to quickly look something up, whilst still scrawling notes, then drop it straight into my work. Tap the 'save' and the whole thing is backed up off-site.

I'm only in 6th Form at the moment, but I find being able to access everything absolutely invaluable. I could live without it, but having 3 years worth of notes on-hand to search through comes in useful.

Harvard and RIAA (1)

The Pim (140414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861131)

it is Harvard. I bet they talk to the RIAA on a regular basis.
The Berkman Center for Internet & Society [harvard.edu] , former home of Lawrence Lessig and current home of Jonathan Zittrain, Charles Nesson, et al, is at Harvard. Does that change your perception?

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

Smack (977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861373)

You have a much more altruistic view of college students than I.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (2, Insightful)

sharpestmarble (875443) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861374)

>browsing the notes to the lecture that the teacher made available and adding notes/annotations

A good student will have pulled down the lecture notes to their hard drive already.

>Pulling down source code from the book you've got because it didn't come with a CD (that costs extra)

You don't know when you got a CD with your book?

>Googling for more info to assist a group project

This one is a decent use. The instructor could have a web-based interface to say when students can use the Internet.

>Uploading/Downloading your notes from your home server so you can keep them all in one place

Again, do this before class and again immediately after class.

>Saving bookmarks and urls that a teacher may point out as a good source for more info

This is where that web-based interface comes in handy. Giving URLs and/or sites they're allowed to browse.

>Using your laptop to run a presentation/group project

USB thumb drives are common enough, as are ethernet ports on laptops. Equip the instructor's computer with a crossover cable that will enable a student to send a presentation to the instructor's computer.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861839)

Maybe not for you. But I record the classes I visit so I can sleep during and review them later. Also I can broadcast the lecure to people who couldn't even get out of bed in time. Next time they will have to go to class while I stay in bed.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (2, Insightful)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861997)

Using your laptop to run a presentation/group project
Store it locally
Uploading/Downloading your notes from your home server so you can keep them all in one place
Store them locally temporally
Like maybe browsing the notes to the lecture that the teacher made available and adding notes/annotations
Pulling down source code from the book you've got because it didn't come with a CD (that costs extra)
Grab them before class and store them locally

Googling for more info to assist a group project
This one can't be answered by store it locally, but in my years in college we never had the chance to work on a group project during class time.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

chanceH (197827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862698)

how bouting skipping an easy class because you are behind and need to catch up in a hard class?

man. that would tick me off.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

A_Duck_Named_Ping (612873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862713)

... How one sided of a university to think that because someone COULD missuse a piece of technology, that everyone will...

Have you considered this policy was enacted after after it was misused?

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (3, Informative)

A_Duck_Named_Ping (612873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861028)

This policy is in effect at the Harvard Business School only, afaik.

Instructors may override this per student, or per class when needed.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861042)

...because admin is your mom...

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

kebes (861706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861046)

I've heard about this a couple of times now, and I'm not sure what the point of that is. If people using WiFi to goof-off during class is a major problem, then just ban laptops in class... don't ban the WiFi.

Why? Well:
1. Those who would use WiFi during class for non-class things will just use their laptop for playing offline games or whatever anyways, so it doesn't solve much.
2. Those who are actually using their laptop to help learn during class benefit from WiFi. Prof uses a term you don't know? Wikipedia it quickly. Prof refers to last classe's course notes? Download them and take a look.
3. Some students decide not to go to scheduled classes. Whether this is a good or bad idea is up for debate (with a bad prof the time is probably better spent in the library). The point is that this is a university: it's up to the students to attend class if they want. But those students who do not attend class will have their WiFi access suddenly crippled for an hour or two? Unless this restriction is localized to the classroom in question, it's just a needless blocking. If a student is skipping a class to work on something more urgent, and their WiFi doesn't work during that time period, that's annoying. (Yes they can try to find an ethernet jack I guess... but then what's the point of having the WiFi infrastructure?)

In my opinion if you're going to have campus-wide WiFi and you're going to allow students to use laptops in class, then just deal with the consequences. Force students to grow up and use the technology properly. If they are disrupting a class, then ask them to leave. If they are just wasting their own time, then that's their problem: their marks will be a reflection of the wisdom of their choices.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

paulsully (922487) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862043)

This is not true at all. In fact, I'm using Harvard WiFi during class right now. I've never heard of this.

Re:WiFi Accounts Disabled (1)

A_Duck_Named_Ping (612873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862670)

AS, I mention in a previous post, I believe this is only in effect at the Business School, where the default access settings prevent student access.

I have been in both environments, and have seen what a difference it makes. There is always far greater ratio goofing off with the internet available. It is sad that a few rotten students ruin it for others.

Nightmare on Harvard Yard (1)

Peldor (639336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860672)

My god the pranks that students will be able to pull!

100 goats in the President's swimming pool will be so passe now!

So close (1)

EBFoxbat (897297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860887)

...reads post as I sit within range of MIT and Harvard WiFi at the 4th largest pharma company on the planet. Yet I still connect to my cripple (nothing the "game" in the URL ) internet access. That routinely downloads at 7mbps. Oh well, I have my EVDO phone for games.slashdot.org :(

Just install greasemonkey (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861076)

And remove the "games." from all "games.slahsdot.org" links.

Any article on /. is referencable from any section other section's domain or even from the "no section" section.

Re:So close (1)

EBFoxbat (897297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14863029)

Much appriciated. I'll be sure to try tomorrow. Still doesn't fix all the blocked sites. I can't even get around most of it with proxies. The (only?) benifit is that many ad domains are blocked leaving some pages almost ad-free.

Cogent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14860908)

Am the only one sitting here thinking "ewww, cogent"?

Honestly, I was under the impression they had some sort of a robust setup, and then I see their main link is cogent and I'm left wondering how they can talk about robustness. I suppose, at least they have a qwest fallback.

Why? (3, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860922)

What's the point of being able to control a cold water valve actuator through the internet? Wiring everything into their internet servers just creates a lot more problems when something goes down.

If a server goes down you would expect that internet access would not work. But now if a server goes down you can't access the internet and you can't get water either. Considering the fact that most networks are poorly configured anyway, the amount of problems that could be generated from something like this far outweigh the ability to actuate a cold water valve through the network,

Re:Why? (2)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861188)

Wiring everything into their internet servers just creates a lot more problems when something goes down.

While true, that's another part of the system's analysis and design. A risk and cost/benefit assessment must be made. How important are these services in the event of IP failure? What redundency can be built in to avoid it? What are the consequences of a security breach? etc. It seems to me that if they were smart enough to address IP possibilities before construction begins, they also have the brains to make such assessments--which means that despite the obvious problems that might come up, they have solutions that outwiegh the costs.

Re:Why? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861249)

Two things:

- you're confusing the servers and the network. The network is intended to be up 24/7 just like electricity and water, and it seems from the article that they do a pretty good job of this. This is also true of individual servers, but you're kidding yourself if you think that crashing the www.harvard.edu webserver, or cutting their internet access off, is also going to shut off the water. The water server is separate, and more importantly:

- the water valve actuator is not likely to be continuously controlled via its network connection. These kinds of building automation systems, which I have a bit of experience with, usually run under localized control. Their connection to the central system is for monitoring and sending new control instructions to the localized controller. The local controller can then run its program oblivious to the network, until new instructions arrive. If the network fails, it just keeps right on going, and if you really need to turn the water on or off, you can always send a live person to rotate the valve.

The point of the article is that they no longer allow these kinds of monitoring systems to be run over separate wiring and custom serial protocols -- it MUST be IP-based. Which is a good thing -- you want as few custom solutions as possible, especially when the existing network can handle the job just as well.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861275)

Why would you want to control an actuator valve remotely? Because in the event of an emergency you can respond a lot faster by pressing a few keys than you can by sending a man out to do it for you. It is also cheaper for maintenance purposes. I know a valve doesn't sound very complex but when you talk about an entire system, especially a loop that serves multiple buildings it all adds up. It also allows you to monitor the system and tune it so that you aren't wasting energy. There are other reasons too but there are some major ones.

In addition most networks for controlling critical building services are separated physically from the rest of the network. And even if the network were to go down the valves or equipment would be set to fail in a certain position ensuring not only safe operation but continued service.

Re:Why? (1)

ninja_assault_kitten (883141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861368)

Welcome to 1999 where we have IP-enabled console access.

Re:Why? (1)

boxless (35756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861665)

He's talking about chilled water, not cold water, though chilled water is cold.

Chilled water is the water that the campus's aircon units use to cool the air in the buildings. The chilled water is pumped from a central plant where there are massive things called 'chillers'.

I can only assume that HVAC controls companies are starting to use IP with their controls. used to be all custom.

Still scary putting it all on the same net, though.

Re:Why? (5, Informative)

denobug (753200) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862052)

What's the point of being able to control a cold water valve actuator through the internet? Wiring everything into their internet servers just creates a lot more problems when something goes down.

A cold water valve actuator works very differently from your faucet in your ketchen, both in the mechanics and scale of flows.

Let me begin by pointing out the facts that most, if not all of the new industrial controls are trying to get on the IP based networking already. It is far cheaper to convert all different wiring and protocols (RS-232, RS-485, serial communication in general and Common and proprietery protocols like Modbus, ControlNet, etc.) and have them run over the TCP/IP network than having dedicated networks on all of those devices across a plant, or in this case, across the campus (and possibly multiple "plants."

TCP/IP network is scaleble, and second, it can be secured (with proper isolation and expertise). It is also transparent, i.e. multiple typs of physical wiring/connection scheme can be used. Other industrial protocols (yes, there IS a protocol involved in that actuator valve you mentioned, and so does other devices) often are either proprietary or are "narrow-band" type protocol designed to run across a serial cable. Running multiple networks on dedicated medium requires more wiring than single TCP/IP network. It also makes it difficult to do upgrade/equipment change-out in the future. When changing out industrial equipments down the road (we're talking about like 10 years later), technology changes, making it unreasonable to put up a wiring that will need to be changed.

In addition, there are usually limitations on the physical length of the wiring on the medium. Most protocols not based of TCP/IP model tends to be limited on the length on its own, requiring a repeater if it needs to travel longer distance (we're only talking about more than 250 ft). TCP/IP network, on the oter hand, has switches and routers in place, they act as the repeaters when needed. TCP/IP can also be run on fiber, expanding the distance a lot farther than traditional copper wires. Across the campus control with direct serial cable might work (RS-485, for those who are famaliar with them), but management cost is a lot higher today using pure serial wiring network than new "virtual" network resides on TCP/IP infrastructure. Signals can be re-routed without signigicant physical re-wiring as well.

Let's also talk a bit about the "why" we need to have the on that actuator valve connected to the network. Modern campus-wide (or plant wide) controls are monitored and done by a centralized control room. They monitor and issue commands to run the equipments to maximize the use of equipments while minize the cost of operation (wages = expansive cost). Actual machine controls(flow control, automatic safety switches) are done by PLC or other embedded devices on site. They are your field operators today! The commands are issues by the central Control Room to those controllers, and they in term control individual devices (pumps, valves, power breakers, you name it). If my descriptions does not convince you how complicated it can be, it is. To have dedicated control networks on those devices, which are not necessarily on the same protocols, especially not at one location, only add cost to the control system. It is better to "out-source" the transmission medium to a more transparant network platform and let the networking people to ensure its constant uptime.

I'm sure I do not have to mention the use of VOIP, audio/video, survalience (security) on the TCP/IP network. We already beat the subject to death.

Re:Why? (1)

dk.r*nger (460754) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862190)

What's the point of being able to control a cold water valve actuator through the internet?

Not "the internet", the TCP/IP infrastructure.

The reason is the same that you want your toilets, lab sinks, coffee machines and drinking fountains on the same, unified water supply network, rather than seperate ones for each. Sure, if the watermains break, you loose ALL of those, but on the other hand, you have the budgets of n networks, rather than one, to make sure that won't happen.

Ok (1, Troll)

Cryptacool (98556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14860942)

So a couple questions first a) what makes harvard so special? seriously I mean its a generally well regarded college, but not nessecarily in the area of IT b) putting everything on the IP network, is probably a bad idea.

Does Harvard have a nuclear reactor? That would be a "not so good" technology to have on the public network. just seems that the current trend to give everything an IP address is a step in the wrong direction.

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861121)

A) Maybe it has something to do with it being the oldest university in the country, or maybe with it having the largest endowment in the world... or maybe that it has the largest academic research library in the world...

B) the article does not say EVERYTHING is being put on the IP network.. "Most every physical-plant control device, whether it be security cameras, chilled water-valve actuators or parking garage card readers, are being designed to work with the IP network." There is a big difference between devices like those and a nuclear reactor.

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861272)

That would be a "not so good" technology to have on the public network

I doubt there's anything public about what they're putting on the IP network. They're just using standard networking hardware instead of buying dedicated proprietary control and communication equipment. It's not like they're putting students on the same subnet ... I hope.

Granted, they're routing this special traffic over the IP structure they've built. That's where his ROI point comes in.

But the whole thing does bring up a very interesting point. Say you have a critical control system, e.g. air conditioning. If you've built a fast, redundant, monitorable IP infrastructure, would you rather run your critical control system over it or over some black box network some contractor builds? How do you judge what's more likely to fail?

Reactors (1)

agaffin (28278) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861404)

Harvard doesn't have a reactor, but MIT does - and just outside Central Square.

Re:Ok (1)

mplex (19482) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861749)

There's nothing wrong with putting this stuff on the network. Before the network, each system needed it's own cable plant with it's own problems installed in every building. Air conditioners had their air pressure system, with door locks and other equipment on seperate low voltage systems. It costs a lot of money to install and maintain all those different cable plants. With IP, you just run network jacks everywhere, and when Bob wants to cool down a building, he can do it from his desk. This is great for large campuses or where infrastructure is managed remotely.

They are not talking about the fire alarm system or critical infrastructure, but for everything else, it's a good idea that is being sold nationwide on all large construction projects. I happen to be a network engineer, and these days, our equipment is more reliable than the primitive token ring systems or low voltage systems strung around campus that I've seen. The only problem is when the network goes down, all the doors unlock and security cameras go down ;) But that never happens...

Re:Ok (1)

dildo (250211) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862024)

Sigh.

Giving everything an IP address is not an intrinsically bad idea. It _would_ be a bad idea if the hypothetical nuclear reactor was controlled remotely, but do you think anyone would be that stupid? If we were to remove everything that _could_ be misconfigured, broken, or hacked we would quickly run out of possessions (the first thing gone would be your beloved computer.)

To convince you that it is not intrinsically stupid, look at this
thumbnail strategy for protecting the IP connected water mains.

Case 1. Use the IP connection only for checking status. The checking apparatus will have no control over the operation of the water main.
Allow it only to receive connections from inside the Harvard network to protect from external attack. To protect from attack within the Harvard network, log traffic into the main. The worst thing that can happen is a DOS attack, and in that case, make the water main capable of being monitored manually.

Case 2. If you want to use IP connections for monitoring and controlling the water main, restrict access like in Case 1, but add the restrictions that the password not be set by users but be provided by one of those RSA keychain [rsasecurity.com] things. This is a hedge against the typical weakest point in many security systems -- crappy passwords. Eliminate all unnecessary services and accounts on the computer responsible for the water main control. And then, most importantly, incorporate a network-independent failsafe control that will override the IP-controlled computer if the watermain tries to do something catastrophically stupid at the command of a hacker or a user mistake.

I'm no expert, but this strategy seems like it minimizes risk enough. If you stick with Case number 1, then things should probably go nicely.

And of course, it can still be hacked (although that is unlikely.)

The name's DUMAS.. j/k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14860945)

He he

What is that noise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14860952)

Oh, its all the people anonymously donating to Tor.

PacketFence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861006)

We run PacketFence and it works nicely. We use it to register students and it can automatically block worm infections. Good to see open source getting a bit of press.

150-200TB per day? (1)

outriding9800 (547724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861278)

Is it me or does that number seem a bit high? If a 100mbit line will push only 30TB in a month. And yea I know they are probably not running a flat network.

Re:150-200TB per day? (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861521)

Do you know how much porn one man is capable of downloading in a day?

Re:150-200TB per day? (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862341)

Do you know how much porn one man is capable of downloading in a day?

Seeing as how we're talking about college, I'd say s/man/boy/, unless you're talking about the profs.

Go down the street to MIT (1)

raze888 (931914) | more than 8 years ago | (#14861440)

I used to work there, Harvard's <insert anything here> is nothing compared to what they have at MIT.

Re:Go down the street to MIT (1)

Brikus (670587) | more than 8 years ago | (#14863011)

Where you a gifted math genius disguised as a janitor?

If only you knew. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14861872)

It's not nearly as rosy a picture as is painted in the article. I've been working in IT at Harvard for quite a few years and until recently we've had too small of a budget with priorities on gadgets for VIPs and not regular infrastructure replacement. We're still in the dark ages in many ways.

Those custom apps he brags about? They break, are poorly documented, and we're in fact trying to move away from them as much as possible. Testing of major network changes is so poorly done as to be nonexistant in many cases. And let's not even get into the uptime of critical systems like email and webspace (those have been down for hours at a time, days in a row for week son end).

And those staff numbers? Inflated. We are really short-staffed.

Re:If only you knew. (1)

anonymouskowherd (959338) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862168)

why not tell us how you REALLY feel? It must help to publicly air the dirty drawers of Harvard's seamy underside rather than languish voicelessy in bitter serfdom... Harvard's CLOCK is really getting cleaned lately. I am glad this article came out so some people could vent and now are able to move on with their lives...

Re:If only you knew. (1)

noFilter (840219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14862333)

Ah, this person actually works for the Department of Indoor Tennis at Harvard. Actually, FAS's dept of IT. Yeah, there's only two of them there and you should see them scramble on the out of bounds balls. Strange, I thought the dept of Indoor Tennis was well funded.
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