ACS' General Access Lab
By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager
Following last month's overview of what our General Access Labs have to offer for the University community, I will now begin featuring a specific GAL every month with a discussion of what makes it a unique and valuable part of the entire campus computing system. I am taking the labs in alphabetical order by their sponsoring college or area, and interestingly enough (wink!) that makes the lab I manage - the Academic Computing Services (ACS) Lab - the first one on the list!
Every Lab is Special
Though all of the general access labs feature "standard" hardware and software (the Microsoft suite, internet browsers, laser printing etc.), each lab by virtue of its sponsoring area and its location incorporates special additional services as appropriate to its most frequent user base. Decisions regarding these added perks are influenced by the faculty, staff, and students in a particular area and by budget resources. Some of the labs serve "double duty" as computerized classrooms and this accounts for much additional software, staff, and services. In all of the labs user behaviors and preferences are carefully tracked and noted, and the management and staff constantly respond to these changing needs.
The Academic Computing Services General Access Lab is located in ISB 110 - a large room found in the back of the Science and Technology Library.
The lab currently houses seventeen PIII 600mHz PCs with Windows 98, two 333mHz iMacs, two 225mHz PowerMacs with flatbed scanners, and two PII 300mHz PCs with RedHat Linux. Two laser printers are available for black-and-white printing and there is a CD-ROM burner for the creation of audio and data CDs. Both color photo and document scanning is possible at the PowerMac stations, and an easy-to-use OCR software package is installed for digital conversion of print documents to text files.
The lab is open Monday-Thursday from 8:00 am - midnight, Fridays from 8:00 am - 9:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:00 am - 9:00 p.m., and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. - midnight. On most shifts a lab monitor takes ID cards and watches print jobs while a lab consultant is available to answer user questions regarding hardware and software.
As the lab sponsored by Academic Computing Services (featuring the Helpdesk and user services in ISB 119), additional services and software available reflects the mission and purpose of this area. Faculty, staff, and students using statistics in their work and research often come to ACS for consultation with the research statistics support team who also offer short courses in various software applications for the field. As a direct result, these applications are available for use in the ACS Lab and include the mega-packages S-Plus, SAS, and SPSS, and the smaller applications Eviews, and Lisrel.
Academic Computing Services also provides extensive UNIX support, and the Linux machines located in the ACS Lab signify the Center's commitment to this workstation environment. In order to log in to one of the Linux stations, a user must apply for a Linuxlab account at the Linuxlab Website. The ACS general access lab attracts many international students, and lab management makes an effort to accommodate international user issues as much as possible by providing several internet plug-ins for the reading of online information in a variety of languages and scripts and by including multi-lingual word-and-information processing tools for the Microsoft Office Suite.
Upcoming projects for the ACS general access lab include completely rewiring the facility for faster network access, migrating all of the Microsoft-platform PCs to Windows 2000, adding two more Linux machines, and some cosmetic remodeling to the lab room. Additionally, construction is being completed on an informative Website about the lab.
This lab is a special favorite among Science and Technology Library patrons as a quick getaway for E-mail reading, Web browsing, and printing services but all university community members are invited to take advantage of its fast machines, pleasant plant-filled atmosphere, and supportive and helpful staff members!