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University of Waterloo -- Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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Wednesday, June 25, 1997

Polaris, son of Watstar

Users of the Watstar computer networks -- a huge part of UW's student computing environment, with 60 servers and 1,800 work-stations -- will soon have access to Windows 95. To tell more about that conversion, the information systems and technology department is holding one of its open houses this Friday morning.

"What are Project Elmira and Polaris?" you obligingly ask, and IST obligingly answers: "Project Elmira is the code name given to the project of modifying the Watstar LAN [Local Area Network] so that it could deliver a Windows 95 client. Polaris is the production name we have chosen. Changing the name was a simple way of distinguishing between the old and new systems and to continue the 'star' theme."

Okay, then, "What is so special about Polaris?" Answer: "Our experience with networking PCs has shown us that ensuring client security is key in maintaining a student computing environment. Push software distribution, user quotas on system servers, roving profiles, license control, write protected clients, access to Unix and Windows NT systems make Polaris unique and much easier to support than many commercial systems. Essentially, what has been done is to add some software to the base system to automate installation, software upgrades and add needed features to Windows 95."

Friday's open house -- 9 a.m., Davis Centre room 1302 -- will give a bit of history about Watstar and Polaris and explain "why we chose Windows 95" and "what features have we added to make Windows 95 suitable for student computing". There will be a brief demonstration of Polaris.

Burning up the keyboard

I briefly thought we had a lively news story yesterday morning: Waterloo computer catches fire! Uh, sort of. It happened in the housing office in Village I, but it wasn't really a fire, says Cheryl Skingley, who works there and ought to know.

Something shorted out in the machine -- she could smell "wires cooking", she reports -- and someone called the fire department. By the time the trucks arrived, she had unplugged the machine and carried it outside. Three firefighters stood and looked at it a while, then left. There was no smoke or other damage, although the computer is not quite as effective as it used to be. That's the (non)story.

Burning up the road

UW's Midnight Sun IV is now in second place as the three dozen vehicles in Sunrayce '97 cruise along the straight flat roads of central Kansas. Hail is in the forecast for today, and race teams have been advised to bring along widths of carpet foam to protect the solar cells atop their cars, if the ice does start falling.

After a rest day Monday, the cars made it to Manhattan, Kansas, last night, and are to travel 150 miles to Smith Center today. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which had been in first place up to the rest break, had a bad day on the road yesterday, and George Washington University turned in the best speed for the day. Overall, the Sunrayce lead is now held by California State University at Los Angeles with a total elapsed time of 17:07:28. Waterloo's Midnight Sun is close behind at 17:12:37.

What's a-happening, baby?

The club with the longest name on campus presents a talk with an oxymoronic name. I refer to the Pure Math, Applied Math, Combinatorics and Optimization Club, and the event today is a talk by Allan Donsig, a post-doctoral fellow in pure math, titled "The Complete Works of John von Neumann (Abridged)". Von Neumann, says Donsig, "is, arguably, the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century. . . . I will sketch his life, explain a few of his theorems and, I hope, give an idea of what he was like." The talk starts at 3:30 today in Math and Computer room 4041.

The Matthews Golf Classic gets going at noontime today at the Elmira Golf Course; if some of your staff and faculty colleagues are inexplicably missing this afternoon, you'll know why.

The moment of truth is getting close for co-op students: all students who took part in employer interviews over the past few weeks should plan to pick up job ranking forms at the Needles Hall paging desk tomorrow (after 10 a.m.), make their choices, and return the forms by 8 p.m.

The registrar's office reminds students that Friday, June 27, is the last day to pay fees for the spring term.

500 years, more or less

I have an interesting note from Park Reilly, retired faculty member in chemical engineering, who says that in spite of what was said in yesterday's Bulletin -- and in voluminous publicity from Newfoundland this week -- it can hardly be 500 years, exactly, since John Cabot arrived on those rocky shores in the "Matthew":
We currently use the Gregorian calendar which was introduced, for at least some continental European countries, by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It was adopted in England in 1752. The calendar previously used throughout Europe was the Julian calendar which is still used, at least for ceremonial purposes, by some parts of the Orthodox church. The date June 24, 1497 is therefore a date of the Julian calendar and it is comparing apples and oranges to say that that date was 500 years ago to-day.

There are at least two possible solutions: I believe that the best is to say that the 500th anniversary will not occur until the Julian date June 24, 1997, which we will observe 13 days from now on the Gregorian date July 7, 1997. An alternative is to observe that in 1497, if the Gregorian calendar had existed (which it did not!), the difference between the two calendars would have been 9 days and therefore under this approach we celebrate the anniversary on our date July 3, 1997.

So let's celebrate, all over again, next Thursday!


June 25, 1969: The annual congress of the Canadian Association of Physicists opens at UW.

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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