I remember when casbah was installed. It was a time to celebrate, for casbah's predecessor had long been overburdened providing e-mail service. But casbah was to be more than just an e-mail machine; it was heralded as a "network services" machine. Faster e-mail for more users and USENET please check if this should be all caps USENET news were just two of the services it was to offer. Now, five years later, NU is forcing users off casbah and its brethren. Why?
Success can be frightening. As casbah's wonders became better known, use of its services grew. To meet the ever increasing demand, casbah went through numerous upgrades and was joined by new central "network services" machines.
E-mail became part of the infrastructure, and all incoming students were automatically given accounts. Organizations were also encouraged to use e-mail to communicate among large groups of people.
But NU's support for the new infrastructure has never been very solid. Upgrades are often reactive instead of proactive. As the tide of users continued to grow, the "network services" machines started being advertised solely as "e-mail" machines.
To avoid the expense of further central computing purchases, users are asked to utilize their desktop computers for internet applications. But many students don't have a networked computer. Plus, the suite of internet applications used to lure people away from the central machines lacks functionality many users find to be crucial - and is not fully supported.
Now, not having found a sufficiently alluring carrot, the stick is being brought to bear in the name of "reliable" e-mail service. Technical Support Services claims that POP usage is more efficient than telnet logins. (POP users with programs like Eudora briefly connect to the system, while telnet allows users to interact with the server for an extended period.)
Officials say the change will provide more predictable delivery times. This is like solving the on-campus parking problem by replacing the parking lots with bike racks because then more people would find a "parking spot".
In reality, the program using the most resources on the central machines during peak load times is the POP daemon, which is the program Eudora communicates with to download mail. In fact, POP users make such demands on the machines' resources that TSS asks POP users to check for new mail only every thirty minutes or longer. (Telnet users are able to be notified within a minute of receiving new mail.)
Like campus or U.S. mail, there will occasionally be slow e-mail delivery. Forcing a migration to POP usage does not solve any problems and eliminates service relied upon by many.
-Robert, is a university staff member who holds casbah user id 212