Computer News

January, 1996 to March, 1996 No. 62

For previous issues please click here


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Hot Lines
General Enquiries 28592495
Fax 25597904
Computer Operations (Hardware
and operational problems)
Help Desk (Software and general problems)28592480
Hardware Maintenance 28592774

Dial-up Services
60-minute lines (24-hr service) 30-minute lines (HKUDIAL only)
HKUDIAL access
staff PPP line access 24-hr service linesNight service lines
(6 p.m. - 8 a.m. next day)
25480590 280302022859259528597992

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Normal Schedule : Sept. 12, 1995 to June 16, 1996 Monday (8:00 a.m.) - Saturday (9:00 p.m.) Sunday (12:00 noon - 7:00 p.m.)

(All central host systems will be running unattended during the closed hours.)

Microcomputer / Workstation Rooms

(All microcomputer/workstation rooms are closed on Holidays.)

Holiday Schedule from February 1996 to June 1996
Holiday Centre Close on Centre Re-open on
Lunar New Year February 17, 1996
(Saturday) 9:00 p.m.
February 22, 1996
(Thursday) 8:00 a.m.
Foundation Day
(University Holiday)
March 16, 1996
(Saturday) 8:00 a.m.
March 17, 1996
(Sunday) 12:00 noon (Friday)
Ching Ming Festival April 4, 1996
(Thursday) 8:00 a.m.
April 5, 1996
(Friday) 12:00 noon
Easter Holiday April 5, 1996 (Friday) to April 8, 1996 (Monday) Computer Centre will be opened from 12:00 noon - 7:00 p.m. daily
The Birthday of Her
Majesty the Queen
June 15, 1996
(Saturday) 8:00 p.m.
June 18, 1996
(Tuesday) 8:00 a.m.
Tuen Ng Festival June 20, 1996
(Thursday) 8:00 a.m.
June 21, 1996
(Thursday) 8:00 a.m.
(All central host systems in Computer Centre will be running unattended during the holidays.)

Scheduled System Maintenance


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Having missed writing my article to welcome new users to Computer Centre in the last issue of Computer News, I would like to take this opportunity to keep our users abreast of our latest development and to highlight some significant services that Computer Centre has introduced in the last few months.

New Computer Laboratories

Computer Centre is primarily located on the first and second floors of Run Run Shaw Building. We also have offices distributed in the Dental Hospital, the Old Library Building and Eliot Hall. This year, we have been allocated some additional space on the second floor of the Run Run Shaw Building. The new space allocated allows us to set up one additional PC laboratory in Room RR-201. To cater to the need of our Macintosh users, we have installed additional Mac systems in Room LG-108 of the K K Leung Building by reducing some of the PC provisions.

On the other hand, room RR-210, which was previously a workstation laboratory, has now been allocated, with the initial effort of GIS Research Centre, as a GIS (Geographical Information System) laboratory. The renovation to this room has just been completed and there are installed in it a A0 size scanner and digitizer and a number of SUN Workstations. Although we have been allocated some additional space this year, it is still not adequate to cover all our activities. Our offices and PC areas are still very crammed.

New Services

Computer Centre offers a comprehensive Computer Centre to staff and students of the University. Some new and significant services have been set up in the last few months which should be of interest to everyone. These include an IBM SP2 supercomputer with 32 processors for computational- intensive applications, a SPARCcentre 2000E with 12 processors to provide a comprehensive UNIX service to all our staff and students, and another SPARCcentre 2000E with 10 processors and a storage array serving as our central information server.

To provide our users with the necessary skill to use our provisions, we have continued to offer regular training courses on all our computer facilities and numerous PC software, electronic-mail, access to the Internet, World Wide Web, news bulletin service and multi-media facilities. This year, we have increased the number of our training workshops as a result of having more access to laboratories. Nevertheless, we are overwhelmed with applicants to all these courses.

We maintain a library of computer periodicals, reference manuals and books, which are available for short-term loan from our General Office located in Room 223, Run Run Shaw Building. The size of this library continues to grow as the variety of our services keeps expanding. We have also requested to place some popular manuals in the Reserve Book Room of the University's Main Library to facilitate our users.

In addition to our regular assistance to our users through the Help Desk and our electronic enquiry service through the CCBOX account, we have introduced this year another means of communication through the news bulletin board. A newsgroup called "" has been established to allow users can post their questions and enquiries related to Computer Centre . Our staff is responsible to answer these questions and user enquiries openly once every week. We do receive a lot of feedback on our services and we strive to improve on our services wherever possible.

New Central Computer Servers

This year, we have some powerful additions to our servers in Computer Centre . These include a Digital/Alpha 3800S AXP (HKUCC) running OpenVMS, one SUN 670/512MP (HKUSUB), one upgraded SUN SPARCcenter 2000E (HKUSUA), one SUN SPARCcentre 2000E (HKUSUC or, one IBM RS6000/390 (HKURSC), one dual processor SGI Power Challenger L (HKUSGA) and a SPARCserver 20/712 for replacing the network server for the Faculty of Medicine. With all these additional servers, we are offering a very comprehensive service to the University.

Furthermore, we have put into operation an IBM SP2 Supercomputer with 32 parallel computer nodes. This system is an upgrade from our IBM SP1 system installed 2 years ago and is intended to support computational-intensive teaching and research applications. It has a theorectical peak performance of 8 GFLOPS (ie 8 billion floating operations per second). This system is the most powerful computer in Hong Kong and presumably in South East Asia as well. It is now fully operational and we have quite a number of new parallel software and library installed. These include PVMe, xHPF, forgex, Gammes, PESSl and Gaussian 94. Any of our users with an interest in this machine should contact our User Services Group.

The library system is also undergoing some new development. The DRA system is being converted to the new Innopac system, scheduled for completion in the next 6 to 9 months. The new library system will support both English and Chinese titles for book and journals. We are working closely with the Library to ensure that the conversion will be smoothly completed.

Other than the A0 size scanner and digitizer in the GIS laboratory, the GIS system also has its own SUN server and an A0 size color electrostatic plotter. All the equipment have been installed and operational. We are working with GIS Research Centre to offer some training courses on the use of all these equipment.

While we have installed many new servers, we are also retiring a number of obsolete systems this year. This include the VAX 6420 system, the IBM 9375 system for the Management Decision Centre, the Micro-VAX II for network communication and the other Micro-VAX II for supporting network access from the Faculty of Medicine. We also plan to phase out our legacy administrative systems, the IBM 4361 (HKUVM) and the IBM 9375 (HKUVM1), some time this year as well. Our conversion of the administration system to an Oracle database running under AIX is almost complete, and we are introducing a new University Information System that provides a user-friendly enquiry interface for our central database using a client-server approach.

All our servers and network operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are however running unattended on all Sundays and public holidays. If you are not yet one of our users, you will need to apply for a computer account on one of our servers. There is an automated procedure for registering a user account, which once created will be valid until you leave the University. For the first time in our history, we have registered over 10,000 user accounts on our HKUSUA server this year. This is a good indication of the widespread use of our computer services among our staffs and students in the University.

New Microcomputer Facilities

We have upgraded almost all our student PCs to at least 486PC running Windows 3.1 in the last few months. Indeed, our PC laboratory in the old Library Building has been further upgraded to Pentium PCs, with some of them capable of full multimedia use with CD-ROMs and MPEG video cards. The projection screens in the PC laboratory and the workstation laboratory in the old Library Building have also been suitably enlarged to provide much better view for the users sitting at the back of the room. All these laboratories can be booked in advance for teaching or demonstration purposes.

We have upgraded the Macintosh computers in Room RR-104 to the more powerful PowerMac 8100. Again this room can be booked for teaching purposes. Some of old Mac LC IIIs, as mentioned previously, are relocated to Room LG-108 in the KK Leung Building.

We have upgraded all the provisions on the PC LANs for the students with the latest software including Windows, Chinese Windows and others. We have installed automatic network-boot ROMs in all the PCs for students, so it is no longer necessary to purchase startup diskettes from us. We have also redeployed the 386 PCs to the Student Amenities Centres.

As in the past, Computer Centre continues to arrange site licensing of many PC software as well as bulk-purchasing agreement on PC hardware and software from vendors, many of which are operated through the auspices of JUCC (Joint Universities Computer Centre). Users are welcome to enquire on these low-cost hardware/software arrangements from our General Office.

With our switching over to the support of Windows environment in all our PC laboratories, Computer Centre has tailor-made a HKUWIN interface for the access to all our centrally-provided network services. The old HKUMENU (for DOS environment) is still supported, but it is expected to be phased out in due course. We are already working on extending the HKUWIN interface to support Windows95 as well, and we shall be informing users when we are ready to roll it out. We hope this development will further enhance the functions and improve the usage convenience of the various facilities and services provided on the Campus Network.

New Connections to the Campus Network

Our work on the campus network, which started in 1988, has been extended to cover basically all the buildings in the campus. Over the years, the network has been expanding continuously as more and more users join the network. The bandwidth of the network has also been upgraded again and again to cater to the exploding use of the Internet.

All our centrally-located buildings in the main campus are now connected to the campus network, either through baseband copper Ethernet cables or fibre- optic cables. The backbone is a 100 Mbps FDDI network connecting all the Ethernet networks in the various buildings. Our remote sites are linked back to the main campus by leased circuits from Hong Kong Telecom. All teaching staff offices and departmental offices are connected to the network. And we are getting close to complete the network connection of the departmental laboratories and the centrally time-tabled classrooms.

In the last year, we have connected the new Phase V and Phase VI buildings to the campus network. Connections have also been extended to the peripheral buildings including Pao Siu Loong, Hung Hing Ying and Hui Pun Hing Buildings in the main campus, and to the Pokfulam Amenities Centre, the Laboratory Animal Unit and the Institute of Molecular Biology in the Sasoon Road area. To cater to the exponentially growing network traffic, we have installed a Giga/FDDI switch to improve the performance of our FDDI backbone as well.

We have also upgraded the remote links to the Dental campus, the medical campus and the Sasoon Road compound to 512Kbps. The network response is of course better than the previous 64Kbps, but is still much slower when compared with the main campus. We hope to further upgrade the links to T1 speed in due course.

New HARNET and Internet link

Our University is connected to the other six tertiary institutions via HARNET (The Hongkong Aacdemic and Research Network) through high speed T1-links, providing easy access to the other campuses. The HARNET configuration has been modified from the previous ring connection to the current star connection to provide better access to the Internet for all the institutions. We have worked together with the JUCC last year and were successful in getting a grant totalling HK$18 million from the UGC and the RGC to finance our upgrading of the Internet link to the US for the next three years. The link was ugpraded to T1 speed in September 1995. It has improved our access to Internet significantly, but as usage continues to grow rapidly, the traffic is already quite heavy for most time of the day.

New Information Server

One of the significant developments in the Internet is the rapidly growing World-Wide-Web (WWW) homepages in the world. The Internet is now much more than a large electronic collection of information. It has completely changed our way of communication and the way that we can access information. To cater for this explosive use of WWW homepages, Computer Centre has also set up a powerful information server, with the help of some generous donation from Sun Microsystems. The new information server is based on a powerful SPARCcentre 2000E with 10 processors. It serves as our WWW server, our Usenet News server, our ftp server and our JAVA applications server. Many departments have already put up their homepages on the Web, and for those departments who have not yet done so, Computer Centre will be glad to assist them to develop their homepages. Please contact me or our Peter Leung if you need any assistance from us.

We have also started supporting the access of Internet and WWW from home through dial-up lines. PPP services have been made available to all our staff and students since July 1995. A total of 78 dial-up lines have been installed and we are planning to add more to this provision later this year. Electronic mail, Usenet News, telnet and ftp services are also available through this PPP service.

New User Guides and User Services Handbooks

To assist our users in using the services and facilities, we have been continuously updating our User Guides and User Services Handbooks. These publications provide the basic information enabling our users to start using our facilities. They also indicate where additional details can be found. New publications include the Computing Services Handbook, the Unix Users Guide and the Network Services Guide for Unix Users. These publications can be purchased at nominal cost from our General Office.

Computer News

This newsletter, Computer News, is one of our means of communication with our users. In this article, I have tried to summarize the many new developments that we have achieved in the past year. It is by no means a complete account of what we have done. You will have to read into other articles to find all the details. I hope you will enjoy reading this Newsletter and find the information useful. Your feedback and comments are always welcome.

As the Chinese New Year is fast approaching, I take this opportunity to wish everyone a prosperous and healthy Year of the Rat.

N Ng Director
Computer Centre
Tel.: 2859-2491

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HKUMD1 Upgraded to SUN SPARCServer 20

We are pleased to announce that the HKUMD1 system which serves as the local network server in the Medical Campus has been upgraded from a MicroVAX II/VMS system to a new SUN SPARCServe 20/Solaris system since 18-DEC-1995.

The SUN SPARCserver 20 is configured with 128MB memory and 4 GB disk space. In comparison with the old MicroVAX II system, the CPU performance of the new SUN SPARCServer based HKUMD1 is about 40 times faster and it has 4 times more memory and 3 times more disk space. At present, the network functions, including email, telnet, ftp and Usenet newsgroup are available and can be accessible through the hkumenu interface. This menu interface can be invoked simply by typing the "hkumenu" command when a user has login his HKUMD1 account successfully. In the meantime, we are also installing the C complier and its associated libraries to provide the users with an environment for application development.

All users of the old HKUMD1, i.e. the MicroVAX II system, are allocated with the same username on the new HKUMD1 system. However, the passwords on the new system are changed. Users should have been notified about their new passwords. Any users who have not yet received their passwords or have any other queries about the new HKUMD1 system, please contact the undersigned for details.

Charles Cheung
Tel: 2859 2488

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HKU WWW (World Wide Web) News

In February, the HKU WWW homepage has been re-organised. In the new HKU WWW homepage, a link on "Search HKU information" is introduced to substitute the "HKU WWW Search" in the old Home page. In addition to the function of allowing users to search for information within the HKU WWW server, the "HKU Staff Communications Directory" has been added. This WWW page can be reached by clicking the hypertext link "Search HKU information" on the HKU home page, and then the hypertext link "HKU Staff Communications Directory".

To facilitate users to browse web information about Hong Kong, we have set up a new section "Hong Kong Information Network" in the new HKU WWW homepage. At present, there are five hypertext links (icons) in this section, namely, Hong Kong Academic and Research NETwork (HARNET), Government Civil Service Branch (CSB), Legislative Council (LegCo), the Government electronic Information Centre and the Trade Development Council. The LegCo web pages are the latest addition to our WWW Server, which has been put into service in February 1996. It is a collaborative project between Legislative Council and the HKU Computer Centre .

On 8-11 February 1996, HKU took part in the Education and Career Expo held in the Convention and Exhibition Centre. On one of the displays, we have put up a "live presentation" of the web pages of the Faculties and Departments of the University using the Java technology, which is now a very hot technology in the Internet arena. Our HKU homepage has also incorporated "Java applets" that present animations about HKU. Our WWW server is one of the first few sites in Hong Kong that has exploited the Java technology. Users can use Netscape web browser version 2.0 running on Unix or Windows 95 to see the HKU Java animations accessible from the HKU WWW homepage.

Peter K. H. Leung
Tel: 2859 2497

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The HKU Classroom Network Services

To facilitate the use of computers in teaching, Computer Centre has been working to provide access to the Campus Network and Internet in the centrally- administered lecture rooms/theatres (called "classrooms" hereafter). While the network connections for the classrooms in the Li Shu Fan Building and the Chow Yei Ching (Phase V) Building are still under installation, we are pleased to inform our users that majority of the classrooms are now provided with network connections, as listed in the following :

List of Networked Classrooms (as of 10 Feb., 1996)

Building                                    Classroom  No.

James Lee                                        JG01
                                                 J101 to J106
K. K. Leung                                      KKLG101 to KKLG107
Knowles                                          K223
Library Extension                                LE1 to LE9
Main                                             M103
Rayson Huang Theatre                             RHT
Runme Shaw                                       B101 to B104
Run Run Shaw                                     A206 to A209
Meng Wah Complex  (Phase VI)                     LT1 to LT7

To help PC users within the campus to make the most out of the network provision in the classrooms, we have set up a central Classroom PC-Server running the Netware operating system, usable by our users who have registered to use the Classroom Network. The Classroom PC-Server is set up to support two functions :-

1. To provide certain software packages that may be commonly needed in a class. Examples are terminal emulation and file transfer programs for connecting to the central host computers, English and Chinese HKUWIN (which include Netscape WWW browser, Windows-based TELNET and FTP, Microsoft Office, Harvard Graphics, etc.)

2. To provide disk space for the users to install their own software packages needed in their classes.

A user wishing to use the services supported by the Classroom PC-Server should apply for an account for using it. The account is valid for one academic year (from 1 September to 31 August of the next year), so that the user only needs to do this once when he use the Classroom PC-Server for the first time during an academic year. To register for the use of this facility, a user can complete the form for Classroom PC-Server Account Registration and returning it to the Centre's General Office (Room RR-223) during office hour. Upon such registration, Computer Centre will provide the user with a "Classroom PC- Startup Diskette" for gaining access to the Classroom PC-Server in classrooms. A "Classroom PC-Server User's Guide" obtaineable from the General Office has also been prepared to help users to use the Classroom PC-Server.

For PC systems, Netware services and TCP/IP services (including access to the Internet resources) are supported in the classroom through the Classroom PC- Server. The Netware services enable you to connect to your departmental PC- Server and/or the Classroom PC-Server, and run the application programs installed there. If the PC used for network access in classrooms does not have the Netware networking program installed, the user may use the "Classroom PC-Startup Diskette" mentioned above to start up his PC and then install the necessary Netware programs from the Classroom PC-Server. The details are presented in the "Classroom PC-Server User's Guide". The TCP/IP services enable a user PC to connect to other TCP/IP-based computers as required for Internet communications. In order to ensure proper TCP/IP communications, say for Internet access, the user must set his PC system with the appropriate TCP/IP settings which are uniquely assigned for each of the different classrooms. This setup of the TCP/IP parameters on the hard-disk C: of the user's PC is done automatically through the procedure of logging into the Classroom PC-Server. Please refer the "Classroom PC User's Guide" for details.

For users who require access to the network facilities with Macintosh and UNIX computers in classrooms, they have to set up the TCP/IP parameters for the system according to the information provided in an Appendix of the "Classroom PC-Server User's Guide".

At present, the classrooms, except Rayson Huang Theatre which is equipped with a network PC, are not yet equipped with any computer. The CMR which is in charge of the classroom facilities has been looking into this issue and discussing with our Centre on the possible scheme of equipping classrooms with computers. For the time being, users are required to provide their own computer with an Ethernet card (plus any accessories needed, e.g., network interface transceiver in the case of Macintosh) for network access in classrooms. As the classrooms are networked with the UTP cabling technology (except for Rayson Huang Theatre which uses only 10 base 2 coexial cable), the Ethernet card should support UTP interface. A UTP connection cable for connecting the computer to the network interface outlet on the wall is also required. (This cable can be purchased at the General Office of Computer Centre , Room RR-223, at a small cost.)

T. Y. Shen
Tel: 2859 2482

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1996 © Computer Centre , The University of Hong Kong.
rd should support UTP interface. A UTP connection cable for connecting the computer to the network interface outlet on the wall is also required. (This cable can be purchased at the General Office of Computer Centre , Room RR-223, at a small cost.)

T. Y. Shen
Tel: 2859 2482

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1996 © Computer Centre , The University of Hong Kong.