ITS summer roundup

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The hard-working folk at ITS have been busy this summer with a bevy of changes: new phone system, new Swatmail, improved wireless coverage, and a boatload of behind-the-scenes tweaks.

The biggest project was the switch to the new Cisco telephone system. Planning began in May and the entire college was switched over by the end of July. “The switch happened fairly smoothly for such a big project,” said ITS’ Mark Dumic. He noted that there were some installation issues– network outages, echoes on some early phone calls–but these were quickly fixed through system fine-tuning. The new system was used by summer residents in Mary Lyon; “The switch was fairly uneventful for them,” commented Dumic.

The new system has some powerful features that have yet to be unveiled, including the ability to check voicemail through a web browser. According to Dumic, the browser interface is currently only compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer. Cisco expects to update the client by next summer, but in the meantime ITS is considering developing their own application.

A new voice response directory was also installed as part of the new system. It includes the names of all students, faculty, staff, and even local pizza places. Students will be glad to know that this directory is a major improvement. “The percentage of successful name recognitions is significantly higher,” said Dumic.

The new Swatmail provides a much-needed upgrade as well, with loads of extra features and the ability to read HTML messages. “Our old Swatmail system, which ran Twig, was pretty out of date,” admitted ITS’ Jason Rotunno, who was responsible for the switch. More features and a sleeker interface were two of the main criteria for the new webmail system.

ITS chose Squirrelmail because it was a popular webmail system that didn’t require a lot of maintenance. A second option, Horde (which some upperclassmen may remember from a brief period in fall 2004), was rejected after breaking during testing. However, Squirrelmail didn’t provide a very modern interface, so ITS looked into a similar product called Nutsmail instead. Nutsmail “is basically Squirrelmail with some of the code rewritten to provide a much nicer interface, along with a few fancy themes,” noted Rotunno. The installation went smoothly and the new system was up and running without trouble. Overall feedback has been positive, according to Rotunno.

Students will also be happy to hear that even more of the college is covered for wireless internet. Almost all academic and administrative buildings are now covered, as well as Sharples and a number of outdoor spaces including Parrish beach, the Ruins garden between Parrish and Kohlberg, and the back of Kohlberg.

This marks the completion of the second year of ITS’ four year wireless networking project. Over the final two years they will work on covering the rest of the building on campus, including dorms and athletic facilities, and relevant outdoor locations.

Finally, ITS has been working over the summer to improve spam and virus filtering. The most important new component is the Postini Threat Identification Network, which monitors emails for viruses or spam. It marks the computers involved in sending these messages and drops their connection before it can reach the college network. Additional filtering systems deal with anything that makes it past this first screening. However, noted Dumic, this filtering will not be fully implemented until later in the semester.

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