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Re-purposing a Student Tech Service Group? 185

Posted by Soulskill
from the quake-3-server-farm dept.
discards writes "I help run a student group at a Canadian University. For almost 15 years we've provided students with services such as web space, email, wireless internet on campus, cvs/svn, database access, mailing lists, etc., all using Linux and FOSS. In recent years, however, we have faced becoming obsolete. The university now provides wireless access, people get their email from other places such as Google, which also provides free svn access, web space, and so forth. Since we have a large amount of decent, usable hardware, as well as space, funding and a very fast internet connection, we are looking to possibly reform instead of just withering away and dying. We would like to ask Slashdot for ideas as to what we could do; preferably something that cultivates student research or provides an otherwise useful service to students, though all ideas are welcome."
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Re-purposing a Student Tech Service Group?

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  • Entertainment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gewalt (1200451) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @09:49AM (#25092601)

    Sounds like all you have left then is to provide entertainment.

    • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:04AM (#25092717) Homepage Journal
      A custom MMORG?
      Maybe the game could focus on a school campus, and everyone goes to class via avatar.
      The violent clash of ideas could get down to virtual fisticuffs.
      Professors could do grevious bodily harm to annoying students.
      Endless possibilities.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by rhyder128k (1051042)
        Spot the American. "Hey, rather that shooting each other and killing each for real on campus, why not have a virtual reality version!" ;-)
        • You oppose my kindler, gentler approach to American education?
          This => @
          Is a bullet coming out of the screen at you.
          Play along, or I'll let go.
      • by GaryOlson (737642)
        Gaming can be fun and educational and provide a service to the student community in many aspects. Industry is exploring methods to make business more engaging, fulfilling, and innovative using gaming methods and game theory. So a custom MMOG, with or without role-playing, could provide a useful service for all types of students: software developers, philosophy, management types, game theorists, literature types to write dialogue, etc.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by far1h8 (1362897)

      Sounds like all you have left then is to provide entertainment.

      You could try something like creating your own Pandora.com radio station and encourage students to make their own and share them.

      • I think that local college groups are going the way of Electronic BBSes. When the ISPs came on the market and started offering free email, webspace, et cetera, it eliminated the need for local BBSes. Mine died a quick death.

        I suspect the same is true for local college services, although they still might be needed to do "Customer Support" for the in-dorm connections.

      • by CSMatt (1175471)

        Until the RIAA puts you out of business with either lawsuits or insane Internet radio fees.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lars512 (957723)
      I recommend brewing beer. Then at least you'll be reducing their living costs.
  • Music (Score:3, Funny)

    by corychristison (951993) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @09:50AM (#25092615)

    Pirated music. :-)

  • by cweelden (1344611) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @09:51AM (#25092621)
    You could provide hosting for recent graduates that want to make their own start-up. This seems to be one of the main expenses for such graduates besides costs of living.
    • by apathy maybe (922212) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:29AM (#25092877) Homepage Journal

      I can't believe that students wouldn't rather have hosting locally rather then in some place in the USA.

      Make it cheap, make it usable, make it useful.

      Run tech courses, educating students about different technology.

      Run LAN parties.

      Do things that require face to face communication, and that people can't get some other place.

      Do tech support and trouble shooting for people's websites (which they won't get else where).

      Try and integrate into different departments, especially science related ones, and host data, run resource intensive programs etc.

      Expand your eligibility criteria, open it up to arts students.

      Also check out other student groups around the world, for example: http://www.tucs.org.au/ [tucs.org.au]

      Most of all, enjoy.

      • Incubator (Score:4, Interesting)

        by inKubus (199753) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @01:45PM (#25094501) Homepage Journal

        Start a business incubator. Help tech students learn the basics of accounting, business law, incorporation, etc. and hopefully have some good ideas come to fruition. Provide hosting and support for student businesses. Provide CRM instances for students to track their contacts.

        They will pay it back big time if they make it big.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by UltraAyla (828879)

        I think parent hit most of the things that I feel are missing as a university student. Good list

        I will add one thing though. Some universities have tools for online collaboration (such as Sakai [sakaiproject.org] or other courseware tools) that allows students to create project sites and work with other students to share resources. If your university doesn't have something like this, I think it's something many students would embrace - especially students running other campus organizations.

      • Do things that require face to face communication, and that people can't get some other place.

        Sorry, can't think of anything that fits that description.

        • Cheap prostitute services? Oh wait, university. Oh wait, geeks (no free sex for many).

          I actually meant that to be two things:
          Things that require face to face communication.
          Things that they can't get elsewhere on line.

      • by centuren (106470)

        College campuses are the one places LAN parties aren't needed (computers in dorm rooms are much more convenient). A local source for game servers, however, could be quite useful. I don't know how many of the popular games it's possible for these days, but when I was in college, properly implemented Quake 1, 2, and 3 servers would have been much appreciated.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rtfa-troll (1340807)
      That's probably not possible since most such student groups use academic networks and donated hardware. This tends to limit non-personal commercial usage.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lysergic.acid (845423)

        i think you're probably right, but maybe there's something along those lines that would be acceptable for academic networks/donated hardware.

        this might not appeal to most students, but perhaps they could help members develop/host/manage free web services & applications. instead of just offering a straight-forward web hosting service where students can only upload static files, you could form an organization geared towards developing free online services for the campus community. members can then learn h

    • I guess that was a joke, but the thing most recent graduates I run across are actually missing is software lifecycle skills. So what you can do is drop a pile of fairly well written code on them and tell them to add features x and y. That's probably the sort of thing their first job will require, and it will help them learn to really use a debugger, source control and such. You could probably use an open source project for this and (if they're any good) contribute the features they add. Of course, this is
  • You could focus on local projects, find an on-campus place for OSS projects involving just the school(and encouraging students to cooperate) build school spirit or something. Even better start one or two, get them involved and evangelize.

    I doubt the web hosting is going to be able to compete with google, byte for byte, but having one that's relevant isn't always about size...

  • A few basic needs. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Talinom (243100) * on Sunday September 21, 2008 @09:55AM (#25092643) Homepage Journal
    At some point every person needs tech support. They don't know how to do something, their computer died, they lost data, are infected by a virus or some basic functionality has been lost.

    Tech support would be number one on my list of helpful services.

    The other thing that would be helpful is basic computer education. Yes, I know that most people in college already know how to work on the computers, however some, possibly older students, might be embarrassed to admit they don't know everything they feel that they should know. Confidential, one on one tutoring can eliminate the fear of admitting they aren't fully up to speed.
    • by vorpal22 (114901) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:21AM (#25092827) Homepage Journal

      Even advanced computer education would be useful. I'm a PhD computer science student, so I see the holes in undergraduates' knowledge of computer technologies, i.e. things that they're simply expected to know for a class and never taught. I also see how frustrating they find it to try to fill these holes in with self-study while maintaining a full course load.

      Big examples that spring to mind include things like basic Linux commands, LaTeX, Maple, MATLAB, etc. Offer workshops for students where you teach them how to at least get started with these technologies and I'm sure that you'll have some interest.

      • Indeed! I have been looking around for general computer/natural science related jobs, and Matlab is the #1 in demand. Most likely university has a campus-wide matlab license, (it should!). The teaching experience you gain will do you a lot of good if you are looking for a job later on. You could use the computer hardware you have to run calculations etc, as a testing ground.

        If on the other hand you are religiously against using/teaching licensed software, why not take control over some orphaned but useful

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:37AM (#25092927)

      The other thing that would be helpful is basic computer education. Yes, I know that most people in college already know how to work on the computers, however some, possibly older students, might be embarrassed to admit they don't know everything they feel that they should know.

      Computer hygiene, that's what I would call it. There needs to be a massive educational campaign performed across the United States. This needs to be approached like a major Public Health issue.

      It's good that we have good systems administrators, but that basic knowledge is too centralized. In this new networked world, everybody needs to know how to maintain and clean their computers, just like everybody needs to know how to go the bathroom and properly wash their hands.

      So what I'm suggesting, since you already have the infrastructure and the manpower is that you start an outreach program. Get them young, preferably before they start posting stuff on myspace. And target all the adults that are computer phobic, basically survey people in the corporate/working world, and target all the ones that check on their survey that they're "not good with computers".

      Now, I'm not saying this is going to be easy, and I'm not saying that this is even glamorous work, but this needs to be done. An outreach program, a PR campaign, a manifesto, a think tank, etc. Start these efforts locally, and as you slowly gain success -- expand them outwards.

      • Educate them on the benefits (and problems and risks) of FOSS. Help them switch. Even if they don't want to switch OSes, there's lots of things they can do, in terms of better mail clients, office clients, things like GIMP, etc. OTOH, if they switch to Linux or BSD, a lot of the nastiest dangers and problems go away.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Run a series of classes like "Intro to Unix 1". Make sure they are only about an hour long, and that they go home with a very good cheat sheet.

      • Excellent Idea! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by uassholes (1179143)
        In the mid '80s, all I new how to do was IBM 360/JCL/Fortran and DEC PDP11 Fortran.

        Then my fortunes changed when I had the chance to buy a used Altos 8086 computer running Microsoft's version of AT&T Version 7 Unix called "Xenix" ( [wikimedia.org])

        What was great about it, is that it had a program called "learn" ( [bell-labs.com]) which was a tutorial that taught both Unix and C.

        It's a shame that "learn" is not included in modern Unix and Linux distros. That would be a valuable resource for students that would otherwise only b

    • I agree, tech support on campuses today can quickly become anachronistic; that is, if they are not have the requisite intellectual curiosity or do not have the cajones to spearhead new technologies like cloud computing [ucsb.edu] (for distributed mathematical modeling), online E2E voting [wikipedia.org] (for student elections), Educational MMORPGs [nasa.gov] and a list of other systems being developed now ready for deployment to the student population ASAP. You should have programmers on staff that can help contribute or partner with your CS d

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2008 @09:55AM (#25092647)

    Forget college students. Do something for inner-city youth. Gather old computer parts from your school or lbusiness, put them together, install linux and give them to schools with limited computing resources. Involve the students in this process as well. Teach them how to install linux. Then teach them how to administer their own system.

    • by AvitarX (172628) <me@brandywinehund[ ].org ['red' in gap]> on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:32AM (#25092893) Journal

      I can second this.

      I set-up a computer with Xubuntu for where my wife worked.

      She had 3 interns that used it to enter int information into a spreadsheet (updated info on local businesses), type some letters, and write an article for the local weekly paper.

      A simple computer like that available outside of school was a huge plus. These kids were not even particularly inner-city (though definitely poor).

      The ability to type things up outside of school was a matter of maintaining dignify and face amongst their peers (nobody wants to be the dorkus that stays late at school to type, aside from the safety of getting home after dark in some areas).

      An oldish computer and a USB drive can make all the difference in someone who wants to accel, but is not driven.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lordcorusa (591938)

      Gather old computer parts from your school or lbusiness (sic), put them together, install linux and give them to schools with limited computing resources.

      Most people not involved don't know this, but trying to donate to public schools can be incredibly frustrating, at least in parts of the US and especially in urban areas. Public school bureaucracy can be stifling. I have some friends who have worked with Techserv at Drexel University in Philadelphia. I have seen poor inner-city schools with almost no co

    • by comp.sci (557773)
      The OP mentioned funding they receive. Likely this means they need to focus their efforts on students...
  • Call me! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rpp3po (641313) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @09:57AM (#25092651)
    I think we could work out a very profitable deal on your part.
    -----------------
    Stephen Pilgrim
    Assistant Manager
    RIAA campus solution recruitment
  • A help center (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Move toward becoming a help center, someplace for students to turn to for assistance.

    Students need help in all areas from install software and setting up their machines for classes to virus removal and re-installation of their operating system.

    Also, you could set up a paid tutorial service for applications used in some of the accounting (and other) courses.

    There is a real need for something like this on all campuses and the University IT department just does not have the manpower to provide it.

    Tom

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps this type of guidance & aid to your fellow students may be of use (as a "new type of service" your group may offer others), ala points such as are noted in this guide online:

    HOW TO SECURE Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003, & even VISTA, + make it "fun-to-do" via CIS Tool Guidance (& beyond that):

    http://www.tcmagazine.com/forums/index.php?s=997120fdbd632fa871dc28209608c6a3&showtopic=2662 [tcmagazine.com]

    * Simply changing your role, & the services you could offer others, is a start...

    ( ... & that is

  • by compumike (454538) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:02AM (#25092701) Homepage

    Why not take on a bigger challenge, and focus on teaching? Run small mini-classes on various topics, teach programming at all kinds of different levels, how to solve engineering problems numerically, etc. Since it is an engineering/design school, you can provide some kind of (real-life or online) forum helping people use technology to solve problems. I suppose this will somewhat depend on how your college's schedule works, but you will find that students will make time for you if you're providing a useful service. You've got the hardware -- now you just need to find a niche to add the value.

    --
    Hey code monkey... learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]

    • by frglrock (992261)

      The online forum idea is a good one although it doesn't necessarily have to be restricted to education. Many faculties have their own forums these days to discuss departmental issues (or whatever the hell people want to) but I'm not aware of all that many campus-wide ones.

      Then again, I'm not from Canada so this may be commonplace.

      It also addresses the issue of putting the hardware to use.

      The only problem with something like this is the internal political pressure that will arise when students are upset abou

  • by triplepoint217 (876727) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:02AM (#25092703)

    I have just joined a similar group, the Harvard Computing Society (http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/ [harvard.edu]). We try to provide more up to date web services to student organizations. We provide web hosting for student groups that is capable of running all the latest web goodies like Drupal, Mediawiki, sql, and the like. We also maintain mailing lists for student organizations, and advocate for better tech practices at Harvard. There are also lots of other cool projects in the pipeline that may or may not go anywhere but are fun to work on: IPtv, content aggregation from student org websites, internet phone, and other off the wall ideas. I am still new to the organization, but everything seems to work very well.

    Taking this successful example, I would suggest taking advantage of the fact that you can be less bureaucratic than the school's general IT staff to provide more modern web tools to student organizations.

  • Back up service (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jane_Dozey (759010) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:03AM (#25092705)

    How about offering a back-up service for students work? Sure, you currently offer services that could be used as such but your average student has no idea how to do it. Offer a nice simple web interface that allows them to upload files that they really wouldn't want to lose.

    As other posters have pointed out, you could also move into entertainment services and help for recent graduates.

    I wouldn't ditch things like the svn/cvs, webspace and database access though. My CS department used to run their own services and having them on campus was great since I could go ask our helpdesk people if something went wrong or I needed extra space etc.

  • Beowulf (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by gzipped_tar (1151931)

    Since we have a large amount of decent, usable hardware, as well as space, funding and a very fast internet connection

    Imagine a Beowulf cluster?

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Imagine a Beowulf cluster?

      So you're saying to dedicate part of it to English Literature?

    • Not a bad idea actually. I mean if your hardware is actually good(and you have some good networking equipment), why not become a compile/render farm. Or maybe a playground for students using MPI and whatnot. Speaking from experience, it does kind of suck when your first MPI program runs amok in the student lab(which is what we had to use) and crashes someone else's program.....
  • by Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:06AM (#25092731)
    Offer what Google doesn't; a protected data repository for the students IP. Make a local hosting source for all of the CS (and other) departments online projects, and educate them about why where you keep stuff on the 'net is as important as any other aspect. I know that all my g-mail is searchable, readable, and essentially the property of Google (if you can believe their TOS). Teach the students about Corporate and Private IP, how to protect it when it needs protecting, when and when not to hand over your rights...start discussions about why your data center is or is not needed.
    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:59AM (#25093093) Journal
      Keep offering email services. GMail is not an acceptable alternative in many situations. In the Canadian University where I'm a faculty member some groups refuse to send mail to gmail addresses because Google scans all mail (this violates privacy contracts on some research material). This will affect final year undergrads and grad students mostly and already occurs. In addition things like the US "patriot" act mean that provincial privacy laws in many cases make Universities very uneasy to send any private information to gmail addresses due to the server location in the US - our University has not yet refused gmail addresses but they are working up to some sort of policy which will probably do so.
      • Keep offering email services. GMail is not an acceptable alternative in many situations. In the Canadian University where I'm a faculty member some groups refuse to send mail to gmail addresses because Google scans all mail (this violates privacy contracts on some research material). This will affect final year undergrads and grad students mostly and already occurs.

        Gmail offers email addresses with *no advertising* to Universities and their students for free. If there is still scanning going on, it's prob

        • Gmail offers email addresses with *no advertising* to Universities and their students for free. If there is still scanning going on, it's probably for spam filtering, and I'll bet that most email providers will scan for viruses and spam anyway -- not just google.

          Who knows? Perhaps they generate demographics but don't use it via GMail? Apparently all the agreement saysis that you agree to let them scan your mail - the purpose is not specified nor what information they keep.

          If they're worried about privacy, may be they shouldn't be using email period (unless it's encrypted).

          They are not worried about someone hacking into the system and stealing personal, private information (that can happen to files in an office) which is all encryption prevents. What they are worried about is that the US government will obtain access and use that to pursue a student - an under US

          • We already do - there is no reason to use GMail, everyone has a free account accessible via IMAP, POP and Webmail. However some people prefer GMail because they are used to it. Sure, if you are really determined you can set up a forwarding chain to get you email to GMail but at that point the University no longer has responsibility and you will be personally liable.

            Is there really? Even if I want to email an attachment of 40 MB? Most email systems I've seen don't handle very large attachment very well. I k

          • ...the US government will obtain access and use that to pursue a student - an under US law they can force you to reveal the keys.

            And by the way, assuming that the student is using PGP encryption, the student in question would have to be located in (or visiting) the US in order for the US government to have this kind leverage on him. They can't force people outside their jurisdiction (special brown-skin individuals kidnapped by the CIA excepted of course).

            But usually speaking, it's the country where one is

      • by Fred_A (10934)

        maybe they should look into encryption ? email is wide open, google or not.

        • maybe they should look into encryption ?

          What is the point of encryption if the country you store your email in has laws to enforce you to reveal the keys?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      Off topic, but when did everyone on Slashdot start saying 'IP' when they meant 'data'? It seems to only be about a month ago. Weird.

      Back on topic, offering truly private storage in a computer society network is tricky. The people with root will be other students, who aren't paid. If you start claiming really private (rather than 'we don't think you're interesting enough to bother spying on your mail') storage then you open yourself up to all sorts of liability issues.

      We noticed over the past few years

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Interesting. On your off topic point, I can't speak for everyone here, but when I say IP I mean patentable or copyrightable material, both of which are a subset of "data".

        On your other point about private storage, well, that's exactly the discussion that needs to take place, IMO. You're very correct that it's a thorny issue in which all of the "trust" issues come into play. Perfect discussion for a University! And a great purpose for a becoming-obsolete-data-center-at-a-Uni to put itself to.

      • by anothy (83176)
        really private storage isn't all that hard, it just also isn't usually what people really want. you can't have the system automatically dump incoming mail in your private storage, for example, because it's private.

        there's all sorts of interesting things you could do in this area, given a population like a university. token-based authentication becomes at least a lot more reasonable to consider when everyone already has a token issued by the institution. or they're more likely to already own a USB stick, or
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:09AM (#25092743)

    The key is that your users need to have a motivation beyond saving money. If someone is with you to simply save money they will be easily lured away by a cheaper competitor. You need to get people involved because they are passionate about what you do.

    Maybe start up a content production cooperative (movies, music, stories, ...) with a policy of releasing everything under a Free license? Your student group can provide all the production facilities and branch out into buying microphones, cameras and so on. Make it even more interesting by having an open "bazaar style" production process too, instead of just presenting finished projects.

    Get a bunch of people together who are passionate about freedom for arts and technology. These people will stick with you for the long term.

    There is plenty of infrastructure now for the Libre movement (svn servers, web, email providers, source forge...). Don't compete with that which is is well established. What is needed now is plenty of fantastic content under Free licenses, with which we can run the mafiaa out of town.

    • Mod parent up!

      A Wikipedia club, to use the academic resources and databases available to a university to make the free encyclopedia better. (Or a Citizendium club, if you hate Wikipedia - CZ are working hard to recruit in academia.)

  • ask the students? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaveGod (703167) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:14AM (#25092773)

    Sounds like you're a solution in need of a problem. Try asking the students what you can do for them. I'd probably start with the postgrads since they tend to actually need things, and know they need it.

    I know at my uni people found it hassle when needing to crunch data - server slots were a scarce resource and there was a lot of people scheduling things so they could crunch on their workstation over the weekend (often dropping in to see if it got stuck).

    I'll bet there's a large number of other groups crying out for decent hardware, space, funding and maybe even the fast internet connection. If your group's services are no longer required it's time to hand the resources over.

  • The ICC is a good net chess club at about $30. per year. There is room for another. That would be more than true if you can create software to spot people who cheat by using PCs to find their moves before posting them. By the way the ICC model may be the best on the net.

  • Traditionally you are providing services that the University is not able/willing to provide. So provide some service that the U doesn't. Perhaps you can be a "speak easy" (i.e. and anonymiser for the local U's IPs)
  • Online backup (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LordNimon (85072)
    Everyone needs online backups, but most providers of these services charge money. Make it .Mac compatible, so it's easy for Mac users. It's a great service for backing up papers and other homework assignments. Who knows, you might actually be a life-saver if some Ph.D. student gets his laptop stolen and wouldn't otherwise have a backup of his dissertation.
  • Telecoomunications (Score:2, Informative)

    by JBG667 (690404)
    Branch into offering telecom services such as LD, voicemail boxes, VoIP, etc... If you already have the hardware and internet connectivity, it's only a small step to branch into providing voice services. Canadian DIDs are cheap and with a couple of DIDs you can provide extension-based vm boxes. Outbound calls within Canada are cheap as well... Help people connect and keep in touch with their families and friends.
  • Reminds me of the scene in "Independence Day" when the President asks the alien what he wants humans to do. And the alien answers.... DIE !!! Time for you (metaphorically) to die.
  • How about helping other kids in the surrounding area(underprivileged or otherwise) with computers and introducing them to Linux and related FOSS software?This is only if your school gives permission,of course....I don't think they should have a problem with their used hardware being used to educate kids,increasing their Corporate(Schoold) Social Responsibility image in the process.
  • I placed a bunch of the worlds problems on pieces of paper in one hat, and filled another hat with pieces of paper that had new and exciting things written on them. Then I picked one from each hat.

    On the first attempt I pulled my cousins name & realized I forgot to empty the hat after Christmas last year. Then again, I suppose you could consider him one of the worlds problems.

    Anyway, on my second draw I pulled Virtualization Technology from the new stuff hat and Homeless People from the problem ha
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Start your own dating service for the students.

    Sounds a little bland, of course, but since you have the hardware, bandwidth, and funding, you can spice it up a little: Either find some type of FOSS social MMO, or start your own.

    Ask yourself this; What does every college student that hardly ever leaves his dorm need? Another way to procrastinate online!

  • Student research... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Shumskis (1367891) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @10:52AM (#25093047)
    Maybe change the focus to having your students do a little more research on what students and faculty are actually doing. As an example have the students look at various websites posted by students and faculty and see what can be changed to make the site more interactive or figure out where a database could be used to help gather and sort data. Students could also look around campus at the various publications and forms and change them into online forms or databases. And as always good fall backs are cleaning & restoring computers and performing upgrades. Hope it helps. Good luck.
  • Knowledge botique (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Roskilde University in Denmark could maybe be an inspiration for you in that respect:

    From their site:

    QUOTE:
    Welcome to the Science Shop

    Roskilde University wants to bridge the gap between enterprises, NGOs, public institutions (externals) and students. By participating in the Science Shop students and enterprises/NGOs/public institutions contribute to the sharing of knowledge and know-how between universities and the world outside. And the university becomes better at targeting our programmes towards the labo

  • How about training the university admins how to recognize the difference between a naif white hat hacker [slashdot.org] and someone who really wishes them ill?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How about actually HELPING students & instructors (+, even possibly network techs/engineers/admins also), on the topic of security itself, ala this guide's points:

      HOW TO SECURE Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003 & even VISTA, + make it "fun-to-do", via CIS Tool Guidance (& beyond):

      http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=970939&cid=25092677 [slashdot.org]

      Offering a "learn to secure your own PC" type service, in addition to possibly also offering a "virus/spyware/trojan/rootkit/malware removal service" to students,

  • Ben Franklin ran a group dedicated to meeting regularly and talking about what they could do to further their careers. http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/philadelphia/aps.htm [ushistory.org]
  • Maybe y'all could hook up with the engineers down at Queen's, and help them get Clark Hall Pub re-opened?

    That place was awesome.

  • With all the ids, personal info and bad practices of student users these days, maybe you can offer some form of identity management to them. Set up a web SSO solution (OpenID and a portal?) they can use as a portal for everything else, educate along the way as to why they should use this and let them see where their information goes. It could be useful and educational.

  • I'm currently a student (after being an admin for 10 years) working on a history degree. The one thing every class wants is lively out of class discussion but you never get it with the "blackboard" clones. Make available a PHPBB workalike to instructors with easy to remember URLs (eg, HIS3660.youdomain.com).

    With that simple tool an instructor can post videos, syllabus, and class material that can be seen from any browser.

    You could probably even offer this to student groups including the, gasp, non-school sponsored ones that don't get resources (like the history club I'm in).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FlyingBishop (1293238)

      If Moodle or another Course Management System isn't fostering debate, that's not the fault of the software... they provide exactly the same functionality as PHPBB, and then some.

      If you're lacking out of class internet debate, it's because the class didn't buy into the concept. (This happened in a class I took several years ago where we tried to use a PHPBB board, and it flopped.) I think the problem is that bulletin boards are not particularly conducive to collaborative learning.

  • Pr0n? No, really. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mnslinky (1105103)

    http://ipv6experiment.com/ [ipv6experiment.com]

    From their site:

    We're taking over 100 gigabytes of the most popular "adult entertainment" videos from one of the largest subscription websites on the internet, and giving away access to anyone who can connect to it via IPv6. No advertising, no subscriptions, no registration. If you access the site via IPv4, you get a primer on IPv6, instructions on how to set up IPv6 through your ISP, a list of ISPs that support IPv6 natively, and a discussion forum to share tips and troubleshootin

  • by Firefalcon (7323) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @12:39PM (#25093815) Homepage Journal

    How about using it to teach students about virtuali[s|z]ation? That seems to be a growing trend among businesses and could certainly prove to be useful, as well as giving them experience with a range of virtualisation offerings.

    It would also (at least on certain virtual server products) allow them to work with a variety of different operating systems, without risking messing up critical servers, and possibly learning about snapshot and roll-back options using virtual servers.

    In addition, they could learn how to secure different operating systems, and be shown an example of how a server might be hacked, and what to do to lock out the attacker, perform forensics, and repair the damage done (admittedly reputation is harder to repair than an OS/app), and when it's best to wipe everything and start again (or roll-back to a known good server image).

    On a completely different track, you could try to start up a University-wide social networking site, and allow the Alumni to join it too. Use it for sharing events, knowledge, ideas, fun, jokes, etc, maybe even have an API so students can extend it like with Facebook.

    Obviously this would require some management to ensure that students don't use it to break University rules, intimidate other students, allow copying of others coursework, sharing of copyright materials, etc, but it some of this could be delegated to responsible students, and give them experience and hopefully make them feel valued.

  • by xSquaredAdmin (725927) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @12:50PM (#25093897)
    I'm currently the president of the Computer Science Club [uwaterloo.ca] at another Canadian university. We, too, have a variety of machine architectures, and provide web/email accounts to students. We've stopped seeing as many signups for the web hosting and email side of things, and we've shifted our focus recently to a number of other things. For example, we're starting to run tutorials to introduce first year students to both the University's undergraduate computing environment as well as our own, and advertising some of our more powerful machines as a method for students who want to run processor/memory-intensive experiments to do so cheaply. One other thing we did was to make a deal with the web-design club at our school so that they now host all club sites which they design on our servers, since we have the ability to set up subdomains under our university's domain on their behalf. Lastly, one other thing which we're working on improving is setting up a proper library with copies of the various textbooks needed by students, as well as various other recommended reference books.
  • http://stuff.mit.edu/sipb/ [mit.edu]

    The Student Information Processing Board at MIT really has what you're looking for. All sorts of advanced services for students and lots of education from Haskell to hacking to LaTeX. They do a lot and do a pretty damn good job at it too.

    A word of warning though, if you ever needed to fulfill a stereotype about nerds look no further than their ample Linux Beards. These guys mean business.

  • UGCS (http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu) has the same problem. The main draw of UGCS is the fact that accounts are permanent instead of only lasting until graduation, and that it permits many things that the campus IT department doesn't allow (e.g. CGI, colocation, substantially larger quotas, etc.) You might want to ask the other student clusters listed at http://www.student-computing.org/ [student-computing.org]
  • Setup the computers to seed popular torrents. It'll take a lot of load off the school's regular Internet access while providing the students with a valuable service.

  • Become a local user group. You could have special interest groups (SIGs), such as a Linux User Group (LUG), programming SIGs (possibly for different languages), etc.

    User groups provide educational opportunities, similar to ones discussed in other posts here. They also provide social opportunities, allowing people with similar interests to meet each other. In addition, you'll be helping people solve problems, and provide technical support.

  • You could possibly provide a virtual environment for students. If they want to experiment with various operating systems, code, or whatever - you could provide them with a number of virtual machines for their projects.

    You could use VMware, which would probably be the best solution at this point, but it's more expensive than the alternatives. There's also VirtualIron, based on Xen, or free Xen systems to use.

    I think it could be a service to your student base.

  • One of the most valuable services you can provide is your collective clue, available at a meat-space location. Some of the other suggestions (providing virtualization support, teaching classes on various aspects of computing, security hygiene), are great ideas and will definitely help the community. An actual physical place where people with an interest in computing and hacking (in the good sense of course) can just gather, work, bounce ideas off each other and help the community, is rare, and something th
  • It seems that you could use your infrastructure to provide value-added voice and audio services to your community. I'm thinking that anyone with a PC or an 802.11 handheld gizmo could use your service to access applications that the official campus networks probably would not support - like audio conferencing, cheap mobile voice services around campus etc.

    Surely there's some way to licence a sort of collaborative radio channel where students could play their own music or discuss lectures etc.

    How about makin
  • If you have too many resources, offer some to student projects. Not all student projects have connections that can garner them better equipment than whatever old junk the university gives them -- and student projects can be quite resource-intensive. I know from experience that it's fairly frustrating to do massive number crunching that would take a week for a single run on a 16-way Opteron system with 64+ gigs of RAM when all you have is a single Pentium III with 64 megs of RAM and a hard drive too small to
  • If services are useless given the freely available access perhaps it is a good time to close up shop. Seriously, go spend the resources (time, money) on something else.

  • Talk with them about the services that they can't provide to their users because they don't have the budget. Or ask them what services your group could take over to free up their people for other things.

    The risk is that if you're seen as taking people's jobs away in the IT department, they'll just clam up.

  • Host online open access journals. Start a series of journals that apply to the schools in your university, have said schools participate by having professors serve as reviewers/senior editors, enlist journalism students to serve as editors and summary writers, and put student research into the journals. Each journal would become a 'community' or subset of your original design, which was student access. Once operating open them to students at other universities. If it works out, open those journals to profes

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