From: Colm Buckley (colm at domain tuatha.org)
Date: Wed 03 Oct 2001 - 14:31:34 IST
On Wed 03 Oct 2001 00:19, Alan Horkan wrote:
> (I scaped through my exams and can now repeat third year)
[Note; the below are my personal opinions; they do not represent those
of any other organisation; in particular my former employer, the
Computer Science Department of Trinity College, Dublin.]
> The Trinity Computer Science Department Officially sucks ass, about
> 200 windows 2000 machines and about 10 Sun machines running Solaris
> and KDE which most CS students dont know exist or simply ignore.
I've been worried about this for at least the last five years; since
before I was a sysadmin there. When I was an undergrad in CS
(1989-1993), almost all of our courses were founded on Unix and VMS;
with the workstation/PC end of things being introduced in the latter
half of the course; in first year we wrote stuff in Modula-2 on VMS
and in 68k assembler on those peculiar custom boxes that used to be
upstairs in the Pearse Street block. Second year saw the addition of
C on Unix and Ada on VMS; third year brought LISP, more low-level
assembler and PLA stuff, and various 4GL things, and by fourth year,
although Scheme was introduced; we were pretty much expected to know
the "meta" of programming environments and work out the details of any
particular environment from there. Most of my year preferred the
Solaris and DEC workstations to any of the PCs available.
This struck me as a sensible way to do things; this was a *Computer
Science* course; as such it was supposed to deal primarily with the
*theory* of computing and programming, not the *implementation* - it
wasn't considered the business of the CS course to train the students
in any particular environment, except as required to illustrate a
particular faction of computing theory.
With the introduction of more "focussed" courses, especially the
various night diploma and degree courses, and the ICT undergrad day
course; the department necessarily shifted away from pure theory
towards "training" in particular environments.
Which caused problems.
In particular, the decision was made to standardise on the PC and
Windows as the workstation environment, with the Solaris machines
dedicated more-or-less to project work and so on. The intent was
*not* to deprive students of a broad experience, but merely to make
the best use of available resources; the Department has *thousands* of
students, and simply not enough budget to satisfy all of their
requests. The intent was that Unix (etc) environments would still be
offered as part of the course curriculum, but that the Windows PCs
would be used as terminals to larger shared machines - in particular,
we got a big Dell machine (maxwell) for this very purpose.
However, it was *the* *students* *themselves* who caused this idea to
run into trouble - the ICT students in particular, who were due to be
introduced to the Unix environment in third year, strongly resisted
the notion of doing development work in any other environment than the
Windows platform, to the extent that the course plans had to be
altered. This was about two years ago; I don't know what's happened
since then; although I've heard rumours that the situation hasn't
> The Maths Department are gods gift to students, if you are a science
> student you will be given a *nix (BSD and RHAT linux) account and
> probably end up knowing more about *nix than most of the CS Dept (read
> the previous paragraph again).
While I totally agree that the "attitude" of the School of Maths with
respect to "real" operating systems is preferable to that of the
Department of Computer Science, I'd like to point out a couple of
(a) The DoCS has twenty times as many students as the SoM. Some
policies regarding access and environmental diversity scale well,
(b) The nature and content of an undergraduate curriculum is not
necessarily reflective of the interests and competences of the
Department as a whole. From the University's point of view,
departments exist primarily to do research; teaching is merely a
means to an end, and "training" in any given environment is not a
priority at all.
> Virtually the entire network is made up of X Servers running off of
> a bunch of FreeBSD and Red Hat servers.
... there are *disadvantages* to an entirely Unixcentric setup, too -
the students in CS have *insisted*, time and time again, that Windows
workstations are a requirement, and there simply isn't the budget to
provide both environments.
> The admins dont hate students (unlike the CS dept)
Excuse me, point of information; we didn't hate students; we merely
(Insert smileys for the sarcasm-impaired.)
> and ive heard DCU do a great computers course (which of course no
> one has heard of if you want to leave the country and go to America
> but thats not worryig about when you acutally know what your doing
> and by being on this list the odds are good).
Quite. Please continue to bear in mind the difference between
education and training. Familiarising undergraduates with Unix, Linux
(or, indeed, *any* environment) is not a priority of an academic
department, nor should it be. If you want the DIT, you know where to
> Did i say how unhelpful the CS Dept actually are? I should probably
> fake my address but it is highly unlikely that any of them are either on
> this list or actually care (hey Colm Buckley!).
I'm no longer involved with the CS Department, of course. That said,
I would like you for a moment to put yourself in the position of being
in an team of seven system administrators, most of whom are familiar
only with a subset of the programs and architectures used in the
Department (there are *thousands*), trying to administer four hundred
diverse workstations and twenty-odd servers, and respond to support
requests from three thousand users. You *must* agree that any
unhelpfulness is due to massively over-stretched resources, not due to
a *desire* to be unhelpful. Also consider the likely response of such a
group to a skinny young blond fresher who pipes up with persistent requests
for sweeping changes in the architecture of the system, additional
software which isn't required by the core curriculum, and a positive
revolution in the level of access given to undergraduate students,
despite the security and maintenance problems such a move would bring.
The most apposite quote would be "walk a mile in these boots, then say
And the most apposite adjective would be "cocky".
> Netsoc have recently aquirred a mother f**cker of a machine from Sun
> and the Computer Science Society are making a comeback.
Excellent news in both cases, but I don't see the relevance to your
> There is a departement called "Engineering and Systems Sciences"
> which a bunch of Trinity courses get thrown into, basically CS &
Sorry, Alan. You're talking arse here. Talk to John Byrne about the
history of the Faculty and the Department before you go making
statements like this.
> One of the more influential Engineering lecturers has a Mac fetish
> and has inflicted CodeWarrior on manys a student, but allegedly next
> term it will be all Mac OS X and some proper kickass POSIX shit
> (which the computer science soc hope to exploit).
Is this good or bad?
> i manged to con^H^H^Hvince the CS dept to put Cygwin on a bunch of
> the machines last year but it never really worked properly and they
> are not going to bother this year so ill have to find a workaround
> (btw, i obviously cant use a bootdisk for security reasons and
> Exceed is not properly configured, so if anyone knows an
> alternative, or how to get DemoLinux to run without boot privelidges
> i'd love to know, alternatively ill just have to "fix"* windows)
Again, I'm no longer an employee of the department, and have no
authority in this matter, but it might be a good time to remind you
both of the terms of the Acceptable Use Policy of the department, and
of the penalties for infringement. Do remember that you've
effectively announced your intention to subvert the security of the
departmental workstations on a list with a thousand members...
lugh# list_members ilug | grep -c tcd.ie
... ie: if you get caught, don't come crying to me.
-- Colm Buckley : Systems Architect at domain NewWorld Commerce Business: +353 1 4334334 / colm at domain nwcgroup.com / http://www.nwcgroup.com/ Personal: +353 87 2469146 / colm at domain tuatha.org / http://www.tuatha.org/~colm/ I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.
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