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UNT Internet Services in Transition

By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Associate Director of Academic Computing

Over the past several years, efforts have been underway to expand and improve the student E-mail system (EagleMail) and move away from older and insecure host and authentication technologies. Inevitable in this process, is the retirement of older technologies and computer systems. Currently on the horizon, is the shutdown of the system named jove.acs.unt.edu. That's not to say that all of its function will be eliminated, however, the system itself will be replaced with a more contemporary technology targeted at the services which remain in use.

A brief history of Internet Services at UNT

To understand the change, it is necessary to understand the development of Internet Services at UNT. In 1993 we acquired a UNIX system that was entirely devoted to supporting academic access to the Internet and its supporting UNIX technology.* At that time, most Internet applications were either based on or developed on UNIX and UNIX provided the widest suite of such applications. We named that system jove.acs.unt.edu (after Jupiter) in the scheme of solar system-based names (our largest UNIX system was named "Sol").

On jove we were able to provide access to the then current Internet staples of E-mail, Network News, ftp, telnet, archie, and many more now-forgotten utilities. The only way to access these services, though, was with a UNIX login ID and through use of UNIX commands and interfaces. This was fine, when the interested people numbered 2000 or less. As the Internet developed, however, more and more people wanted access and applications such as E-mail began to be available on personal computers which were easier for people to learn and use.

To make Internet Services and applications more accessible to a larger number of students, faculty, and staff, the following enhancements have been made over the last several years:

  • the student E-mail service was migrated from a standalone operation on a single computer to a network system using the IMAP protocol to allow access to E-mail from anywhere on the Internet;
  • a new authentication system was developed which is secure and which supports multiple Internet services;
  • an automated account application procedure was implemented to provide Internet Services without the need for visiting the Computing Center offices and completing a paper form;
  • a Web-based IMAP client was implemented to allow E-mail access from a simple Web page;
  • we reconfigured sol, the research UNIX system, so that it does not use the jove home directory, but instead uses a local home directory and authentication system;
  • personal Web page publishing was moved to a new platform that supports newer Web publishing technologies and authentication systems.

Most of the above changes have resulted in applications moving off of jove and moving to fault-tolerant and load balanced systems which can be easily expanded to respond to increases in services. This work has resulted in an increase in performance and availability of all of these applications. The resulting question is, what is left on jove? Some people still use jove as an access point to read Internet E-mail using the pine program. Beyond that, there are a few older applications which are still available, however, usage statistics show that pine is the most used program.

The end of an era

Jove will be shut down no later than August 31, 2002 (possibly sooner). In its place will be a system that existing faculty and staff can use if they still wish to use pine to read their E-mail. Since LINUX is easily available as a platform to explore UNIX technology, there are no plans to provide a general student-access UNIX system. We will continue to support UNIX for classroom instruction when requested by professors.

Just because jove will be shut down, does not mean that we cannot expand or provide new UNIX-based services. We do, however, need to move away from dependence on jove, which is an aging and soon-to-be unsupportable hardware and software platform. If you have any comments regarding jove or UNIX services, contact Dr. Philip Baczewski (baczewski@unt.edu), Associate Director of Academic Computing.


*Actually we created it out of "spare parts." The Academic Solbourne system was upgraded to a more powerful four processor Solbourne series 6. With sol's two old processors, some other spare parts and a new chassis, a second UNIX system called Jove was created ( two 33Mhz CPUs with 256 Meg of memory). Jove gained new life in 1996 when it was upgraded to a Sun SPARCserver 1000-E.