Enhancements of the Central Student Computing Facilities

by Joe Lee
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The Challenges

In recent years, the substantial increase in student number has led to the significant shortage of computer teaching studio not only in its number but also with the right seating capacity. Unless immediate measures are to be taken, the situation will undoubtedly be worsened for the years to come. Without the allocation of additional space, extra teaching studios can only come from the conversion of open-access terminal rooms (which are solely used by students for their course work and self-study), and the increase of seating capacity can merely be achieved by replacing the existing larger computer desks with relatively smaller ones.

According to past experience, teaching studios are heavily demanded during term time, and therefore, students practically have little chance to make use of the machines in these studios. Besides, those students who must use software or courseware that can only be accessible from PCs in the Terminal Areas of the Computing Services Centre (CSC) will be most hard hit as there will be less open-access computers available.

Moreover, security has always been a major concern in end-user computing today. In order to protect users from attack, software developers have designed complicated security infrastructure and implemented a large number of security features in their products. The resulting systems or applications, especially operating systems (e.g. Windows XP SP2) and antivirus tools (e.g. McAfee), are getting much bigger in size and thus requiring more resources and longer time to start up. The situation may become intolerable for large teaching studios when hands-on tutorials can start only when all machines have been booted up.

The Project

The CSC tackles the above challenges by

  • Replacing the computer desks in all the CSC teaching studios with smaller ones so that more PCs can be housed per room.
  • Converting two open-access terminal rooms to teaching studios to increase the number of teaching studios in the CSC.
  • To offset the reduction of open-access computers due to room conversion, an area in the Library will be set aside to house about 100 units of open-access computers with identical setup as those at the CSC, and additional 300 notebook computers will be provided by the CSC for students' use on campus.
  • Upgrading the network switches and replacing all PCs with P4 3.2GHz CPU to improve the boot up time.


The Results

Difficulties are unavoidable for a large scale project involving 16 rooms, several tenders, external contractors, workflow dependence, tight shipping schedules, etc., not mentioning the teaching requirements (day and evening) in the Summer Term, and the deadline for financial settlement before the end of the academic year. Fortunately, the whole project can be completed on time.

After renovation, there are now 5 teaching studios with 60+ seats, 3 rooms with 40-50 seats, 5 rooms with 30+ seats, and 1 room with 20 seats. All PCs in the teaching studios now have a standard hardware configuration of P4 3.2GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, and a 15" LCD monitor, having a fast boot up time of around 1.5 minute instead of four to six minutes before the upgrade. Use of LCD also provides students with more working space. The number of seats increased is 180 (80 in CSC and 100 in Library). In addition, a total of 620 notebook computers are ready for students' use through our Mobile Computer Service.

Room List:

Category
Room
Seating Capacity
Teaching Studio
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A
45
B
35
C
20
D
30
E
66
F
62
G
66
I
32
J
66
K
38
L
60
M
40
P
50
Q
38
Classroom
N
80
Open Access
 
 
 
H
94
O
11
Express Printing/Scanning
22
Library
100