CIS squashes computer bugs
One rotten apple can truly spoil the barrel, as seen by the recent network problems on campus. Starting three to four weeks ago students and faculty began noticing major problems with the Bowdoin network. The most noticeable of these troubles being e-mail difficulties and the loss of member directory use. The frightening aspect of this problem is that one computer can cause it all.
According to Associate Director for Network and Operations, Charles Banks, "everything is stemming from a bridging issue." A bridging issue is when a computer loops a network by having two connections to it-which will disrupt any services on the entire network. The most common scenario where this happens, which is also the one causing a majority of the campus problems, is when there is a combination of a wireless Ethernet card, an Ethernet cord, and bridging is enabled on the computer.
The solution to this problem is simple, the disabling of bridging; however, it is difficult to detect exactly where the problem is, because the network service can only trace the difficulty down to a building and many students are unaware if their computer fits the profile of one with a bridging issue.
To take actions against this problem there have been campus-wide e-mails alerting students and faculty of the issue and describing what needs to be checked on their computers. In addition, prevention information has been posted on the CIS website and walk-throughs of buildings to check each and every computer have been conducted.
Bowdoin is not alone in this dilemma however, for Banks said, "other schools have already been plagued." The University of North Carolina has been greatly effected and Bowdoin's problems seem minimal in comparison for, as previously stated, one bridging issue with one computer can disrupt the whole network and Bowdoin only has sixty switches whereas UNC has seven-hundred.
The question of why this problem has not been an issue in previous years is partly due to two factors-a greater wireless presence on campus and the use of Windows XP. The wireless component allows for double connections to the network and Windows XP often automatically enables bridging which permits both of these connections to operate at the same time-looping the network and thus causing the problems.
Banks said, "at Bowdoin this isn't a problem of any one individual being malicious, but that it is a genuine mistake." He goes on to add that "we are blessed by being at [a school with] such cooperative students to helping us combat this problem."
Although students have been cooperative, "in walking buildings and asking people if they had read the advisory the general response was that they didn't seem to pay much attention, but [campus members] need to realize the severity of the problem at hand" said John Meyers, Systems Administrator
Student are urged to call extension 5050 with any questions regarding this problem and CIS would like to thank the community for being extremely helpful and understanding during this process.