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University of Waterloo -- Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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Wednesday, January 29, 1997

It was on a bitterly cold night and frosty morning, towards the end of the winter of '97. . . .

-- "The Abbey Grange", The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

UW isn't backing project

A "tech house" planned by a Toronto-based entrepreneur as an incubator for computer science whiz kids at UW isn't being endorsed by the university, despite what some publicity says.

The university, which promoter Raymond Brackstone had said in print was "incredibly cooperative", has made public a letter that officials sent to Brackstone this week, expressing some concerns about the venture. The report appears in this morning's Gazette.

According to Jerry Gray, UW director of technology transfer and licensing, the university has "concerns about being allocated a position by default in the tech house project," as well as Brackstone's plans for "commercially exploiting student intellectual property".

Last fall, Brackstone's company, Software Incubation Inc. of Toronto, bought a duplex on Albert Street in Waterloo which it said will be converted into a high-tech residence for eight UW computer science students with entrepreneurial ambitions. In a quest to find a "Wayne Gretzky of software", Brackstone is offering free room and board for the students, who must agree to turn over up to 49 per cent interest in any intellectual property developed while they live there.

In the letter to Brackstone this week, the university warns that "Young undergraduates may be lacking in business experience and not fully understand all of the implications of the contract they sign when they enter tech house." The letter also speaks of "the need to correct the public impression resulting from media reports that the University of Waterloo is involved in either promoting or supporting the tech house concept."

Gray said the university "occupies a position where it should look out for the best interest of students. The problem is it doesn't have the staff or resources to provide information" and legal advice to students on an individual basis. However, he said, UW intends to distribute information to students on questions and issues that could assist them in giving informed consent.

"Young students may not be well-positioned to make the best deal for themselves," he added, recalling his own naiveté when he was an engineering student at the University of Toronto. Issues of intellectual property are particularly sensitive, said Gray, since development may occur on a continuum and involve more than one student. The issues of ownership become increasingly complicated the more students are involved in a project.

As well, tech house residents involved in the co-op program may face conflicts of interest between their work term placements and their obligations to Brackstone. Although the university is not suggesting the tech house project is without merit, Gray said, it "cannot endorse or participate in any enterprise which has the potential to compromise the rights or academic success of the students, or which may give rise to situations in which the university's interests may come into conflict with the interests of its students".

Watch for heavy machinery

Rick Zalagenas, manager of UW's central plant, is used to heavy machinery, so when he says that the crane coming to the central campus today is "huge", I for one will believe him. The behemoth will be arriving this morning to unload the new chiller that's to be installed in the basement of Biology I -- underneath the greenhouses, where mountains of earth and snow were moved aside a few weeks ago. An out-of-service chiller was taken out earlier, and today's installation should provide another good show for spectators on the north side of the Dana Porter Library.

Also happening today at UW

The Women's Association of UW is sponsoring a panel discussion on harassment issues at noon today with Matt Erickson of the office of ethical behaviour and human rights, and Theresa Casteels-Reis of counselling services. The panelists will present information on "dealing with harassment issues from an emotional, supportive and educational perspective". A discussion will follow. The event starts at 12 noon in Needles Hall room 3001: "Please bring your own lunch; juice will be provided. All are welcome to attend."

"Christ in China" is the topic of a lecture to given at 7:30 tonight in Davis Centre room 1304, sponsored by Fountain Ministries, formerly the Laymen's Evangelical Fellowship on campus. The speaker is Murray Sherk, a part-time faculty member in computer science, who will talk about his work . . . with university students in China.

Co-op students can look for job posting #7 today -- more opportunities for the spring term -- and are reminded that workshops on "Researching Occupations" and "Information Interview" are scheduled for this morning.

Voicemail will fall silent

UW's voicemail will be shut down for about twelve hours starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, says Bruce Uttley of information systems and technology. An upgrade (from Release 8 to Release 10 of the Meridian Mail software) makes the shutdown necessary.

There had been talk of postponing the shutdown until Release 11 was ready, later this winter, but the date originally announced as part of a general telephone system upgrade is being kept after all. Uttley explains:

The Voice Mail processor is being replaced with a faster model. Voice messages will be stored redundantly on two disks to provide uninterrupted access in the event of a disk failure, and the total capacity is being increased from 84 hours of messages to 120 hours.

A much shorter interruption will occur in May 1997 when the Voice Mail software is upgraded to the newest version that Nortel is to ship in February.

There is no direct path from our current Release 8 to Release 11 that becomes available in February. Release 8 is too old. The migration path has to be to upgrade Release 8 to Release 10 first and then upgrade Release 10 to Release 11. Adding a pause of a few months between the steps is no extra work and might be safer if the brand new Release 11 contained any software bugs. Bell agreed that a two step upgrade was a fine idea and that is the way it will happen.

And a footnote to last weekend's conversion of the central phone switch: all went well, but "a problem in one of the racks" left a number of phones on campus dead on Monday morning. Uttley reports: "The incident disabled some 75-80 phones across campus when a power supply and its associated telephone line cards failed. There is no cause-and-effect connection between the new switch and this failure."


January 29, 1993: Physics professor Ian Dagg dies suddenly.

Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@watserv1.uwaterloo.ca -- (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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