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Campus Computing News

UNT General Access Labs: What We Did This Summer

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

It is September once again and time to report on any and all changes in the General Access Labs that occurred during the summer. Summer is when we scurry about like little worker bees getting our act together while the student use is minimal. All of the labs were in excellent shape equipment-wise from last year, so many changes have been cosmetic or strategic in order to improve access and/or maximize space.

The ACS/Adaptive lab upgraded all of its machines to JAWS 5.1 and also added the Spanish version of JAWS. All of the other labs will be making these changes to their JAWS machines soon also. Additionally, after discovering that the new 20-inch flat panel displays are much clearer and easier-to-read by folks with vision issues, the lab added these displays to their adaptive stations. The ACS/Adaptive lab will soon be adding a two-way video phone system for the deaf. This is scheduled for October. Also coming is an isolation wall for our Dragon Naturally Speaking station to help prevent interference from outside noise with this particular piece of software. Finally, 1000-sheet paper trays were added to the lab's two printers helping to cut printer down time for paper refills.

The College of Arts and Sciences reported no significant new features to its lab and has concentrated on making sure all software and hardware needs for the many CAS courses are fulfilled. The College of Business Administration added JAWS and Zoomtext to all of its machines thus greatly expanding its availability to persons with disabilities.

The College of Education began experimenting with providing as large a workspace as possible for their students. To this end, they added 12 Biostar iDeq 200t Small Form Factor PC workstations (we affectionately call them 'breadboxes'!) and 20-inch flat panel displays. So now students have a great big desk space to work on with a little tiny computer and a huge, honking monitor that doesn't take up much space because it is a flat panel (oh..and the monitors PIVOT too so they can be 'portrait' or 'landscape' - is that cool or what?!). It is anticipated that these types of workstations will be quite popular with the students.

The College of Engineering Lab at the Research Park was open all summer. Their machines now have Windows XP and Office 2003. They are in the process of adding Saturday hours as needed if the shuttle bus system begins taking students to the Research Park on the weekends.

The SLIS/Graduate Lab has done a whole lot this summer. Its most popular accomplishment by far has been the expansion of its hours until 2:00 A.M. This means that graduate students have a second late night venue in addition to the Willis 24-hr lab in which to get their work done.

Here are the new hours according to lab manager Alan Livingston: M-Th 10:00am to 2:00am and Sunday from 12:00pm to 12:00am; Friday and Saturday remain the same at 8:00am to 10:00pm. They are now open a total of 104 hours per week.

Additional work done in the lab included the following:

1. Changed 20 PCs in the lab from P3 1Ghz machines to P4 3Ghz machines

2. All of the computers now feature Windows XP Professional as the standard operating system with Office XP, Adobe CS, and Macromedia Studio MX.

3. Changed their scanner from a single ScanJet 6300C to two ScanJet 5550C scanners with Automatic Document Feeders (ADF). (those babies are fast!)

4. Dropped support for Iomega Zip discs and added support for USB, Firewire (both standard and mini inputs available), Memory Sticks, Sandisks, and eight other forms of portable media.

Over in the arts areas, the School of Music lab got all brand new tables for a spiffy updated look. The School of Visual Arts lab upgraded all of their PCs to Windows XP. The SCS lab in Chilton Hall also got spruced up with new counters, storage space and printer cabinets. The SCS lab also added two HP9100DN printers with duplexing set as the default print configuration.

The lab folks at the System Center Dallas are busy adding a new lab room. This lab will have 18 stations and will be specially configured to encourage collaborative and group work (a 'team lab'). The Willis 24-hr lab upgraded its machines to Windows XP and Office 2003, added printer pooling for greater printing efficiency, added three new employees and also added two 'multimedia workstations' with scanners and CD-ROM burners.

In addition to all this, all of the labs using the Checkin system have migrated to a more updated server setup. Lots of 'behind the scenes' work this summer in all of the areas. Nothing as visually dramatic like all new green UNT tower machines or anything like that but simply hardware and software to better enable students to complete their digital work here at UNT.



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