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Lab-of-the-Month: The Boxed Set

By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager

I concluded my Lab-of-the-Month series with the feature on the Willis 24-Hour General Access Lab found in the last issue of Benchmarks Online. Here is a recap of some of the most important General Access Lab issues covered in this series and information on how the university community can keep current on the lab system.

The General Access Lab System

The UNT General Access Lab System is somewhat unique in that it accommodates both the needs of individual colleges and schools within the university while also providing a standard set of computing resources and applications in every one of the the system's fourteen facilities. This means, for example, that a musician can find all the specialized hardware and software he or she needs for major-specific study, projects, and research in the College of Music Lab while also having complete access to the types of Office applications, internet resources, and email utilities needed for more general work. The same is true of artists, computer scientists, statisticians... just about any area of study that has specific computing needs. Additionally, the non-college and school affiliated labs (Willis 24-Hour, System Center Dallas, and Academic Computing Services) exist to provide exceptional service to those who simply need to do web research, paper-typing, and spread-sheet creation.

The majority of the labs also have specific areas and workstations devoted to accommodating special needs patrons with applications such as Zoomtext and JAWS and ergonomically designed furniture for easy access. However, the lab system does also provide a facility exclusively for special needs. The Adaptive Lab located conveniently on the first floor of Chilton Hall contains state-of-the-art furniture, equipment, hardware, and software for just about any special need.

With very few exceptions, students can also have access to lab services during the holidays, though usually on a limited basis. The Willis 24-Hour Lab and the Academic Computing Services Lab are always open during the breaks and usually have quite a few grateful customers during that time. Be sure to check individual lab sites for details about their holiday hours. Holiday hours are also always posted here in Benchmarks

Events on the Horizon

Some exciting events are on the horizon for the lab system, most of which will be implemented this summer. A storage-area-network (SAN) will be put into place for centralized digital storage of student work. Students will now be able to save their work that they have done at home, in a dorm room, or in another lab and then access it again in the general access facility of their choice for further work or printing. This means that removable media such as floppy disks will no longer be needed (except for very large projects) thus eliminating a common cause of data loss through media failure and viruses. Everyone will be hearing more about this service as it is put into place, implemented, and tested.

Labs will also be set up so that if a student needs to access resources specific to their major college servers (class Websites and projects for example), they may do so in any facility. This project, called Students in the Tree (SIT), has been in place for awhile but its use should be much more widespread in the future. This allows a student much great flexibility in his or her choice of lab environment, however, it should be noted that college- and school-specific hardware and software will still only be accessible in that area's lab facility.

Keep in Touch

Finally, it is quite easy for University community members to keep in touch with lab issues and developments. To review any part of the Lab-of-the-Month series, readers can go to http://www.unt.edu/benchmarks/archives/GeneralAccessLabs/Glabs.htm and select the lab article of their choice. Additionally, all lab hours, equipment lists, locations, policies and other lab information is found at http://www.gal.unt.edu , the official Website of the General Access Lab System.