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A birthday for the man on the $100 bill

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Monday, June 26, 2000

  • Here we are in summer | TB case
  • Web gives access to Access . . .
  • . . . and to registration, by next year
  • US bank makes grant for prof's work

TB case reported

The K-W Record reported Saturday that a UW student has been diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis, and that about 100 people have been advised to get a TB skin test and antibiotics to prevent the disease.

Letters to students, faculty and staff members who had been in contact with the patient were sent out by the Waterloo Region community health department, the Record said.

The patient was not identified. "Waterloo Region has 12 to 22 cases of TB reported each year," according to health officials. The Record quoted Barbara Schumacher, UW director of health services, as saying a case comes up at UW "every two, three or four years".

Here we are in summer

The sun has returned, the temperature is going up to something like 29 today, the straggly impatiens have become a riot of colour -- and it's just five days until the Canada Day celebrations on the north campus on July 1. Organizers have issued some details of the live entertainment that'll whip up Canadian spirit on Saturday, including Erica Knight, Scott Wicken, the Matt Osborne Band and the Stone Prophets.

I'll say more about Canada Day as the week goes on. Meanwhile, some notes for today:

Job match results for co-op students will be posted by 3:00 today. Students who are matched with fall term jobs should meet with their coordinators to do the paperwork; students who don't get jobs at this stage of the process should attend meetings scheduled for late afternoon today. (Meeting details: AHS, ES and science at 4:30 in Biology I room 271; arts, accounting and mathematics at 4:30 in Physics 145; first-year engineering at 4:30 in Engineering Lecture room 101; upper-year engineering at 5:30 in EL room 101.)

As some students go out to work in the fall, others will be returning to campus. Fee statements for upper-year undergraduates who have preregistered for the fall term will be mailed this week, the finance office says. Details of fees and payment information can be found on the web.

The first mathematics faculty graduate student conference runs today and tomorrow in the Davis Centre. The conference will feature five plenary talks -- one from each department in math -- along with a number of short talks. Things get started this morning with a talk by Erik Demaine of the computer science department, under the title "Research is Fun: A Brief Look at Some Work in Algorithms". Plenary talks later today are "Option Valuation via the Relative Entropy Bootstrap" (Mark Reesor, statistics and actuarial science) and "Internal Solitary Waves in the Ocean" (Mark Stastna, applied math).

And the Ontario Hockey Association is back on campus; a referee school, June 24 through 28, is the latest OHA event to bring visitors to the conference centre in Ron Eydt Village.

Web gives access to Access . . .

to ACCESS] The co-op and career services department unveiled the long-awaited web interface for its Student Access computer system on Friday.

"The new interface," said an official announcement, "will make it easier for students to access employment information, increase the number of users who can use the system simultaneously, and provide a less cumbersome and more intuitive user interface."

Until now, the users of Access -- mostly co-op students finding out about work term jobs, interview schedules and rankings -- have had to communicate with Access through the letter-by-letter Telnet system. Now it'll be largely point-and-click.

Said the co-op department's statement on Friday: "Designed to support Waterloo students in their search for co-op, full-time, part-time or summer jobs, the original ACCESS system allowed students to access job information through a campus-wide network of terminals, or from off campus by connecting to the University server via telnet.

"The new Web ACCESS contains the same features of the old system and also includes a new 'News and Notices' section that allows for the communication of important information. The Web front end is available to any registered user of the existing ACCESS system and both systems will be operational this term while any bugs are worked out."

Students have been clamouring for Web access to Access, to the point that earlier this term one student created his own quick-and-dirty interface. University officials asked him to remove it a few days later.

Said Dave Thomas, associate director of the co-op and career services department: "This new Web front end will allow students to get at the information they require in a timely fashion -- and it'll meet a frequent request from co-op students for a better interface. The Web site will make life much easier through the rest of this spring's application and interview session."

He pointed out that the new interface is a short-term solution -- a new computer system to replace the complete CECS information system is being developed but is still a couple of years away.

The co-op department said the new system should eliminate the need for manually posting co-op jobs each term at the Math and Computer and Engineering Lecture Hall posting sites. "For those wanting to view paper versions of job postings, these will still be available at the Needles Hall posting site."

. . . and to registration, by next year

Students should be preregistering over the Web a year from now, as UW's huge new Student Information System comes into use, says a status report issued last week.

"The Student Information Systems Project (SISP) team is working hard toward several 'go-live' dates beginning late in 2000 and continuing through 2001," said the report, which emphasized the amount of work that needs to be done for a system that touches on everything from room bookings to financial aid.

Says the report, published on the SISP web site: "Considerable work has been completed. However a significant amount of work still remains and the schedule is very tight. We have a current plan and a contingency plan.

"Our current plan would see the initial cutover in late November 2000 at the beginning of the undergraduate admissions cycle for applications to Fall 2001. During January and February of 2001, approximately 250,000 student records collected over the past 43 years would be migrated from our legacy mainframe system to the new PeopleSoft Student Administration System (SA). By early March, we expect to be operating our student record, enrollment, financial aid and fee assessment processes on our new system for business in Spring 2001 and future terms. During June 2001 we may introduce web access for coop students to enroll in Winter 2002 courses. The last major cutover point will be in August 2001, when the new Academic Advisement module is introduced. This will be the foundation for our new advisement/marks processing system.

"Our contingency plan is to stay with the Admissions cutover in November 2000, but move all other targets down approximately one term to synchronize all our plans toward Fall 2001 business."

The original idea had been to keep some of the "legacy" computer systems that are still operating at UW, including the ones for timetabling, marks processing, and distance education. They would simply be connected to the new PeopleSoft Student Administration System (SA), the report says. "However, as the project team learned more about SA, it became apparent that the structure and context of the data was significantly different between the two systems. This led us to believe that, rather than interfacing back to outdated legacy systems, it would be better in the medium and long term to develop new solutions that would better integrate these functions into the new system." That's meant more work, and it also means some changes to the services provided to students and the faculty and staff who work with them.

"In consultation with the Undergraduate Operations Committee," says the report, "it was agreed that the University would operate on a non-optimized timetable (not driven by student pre-registrations) and tender for third party software to assign teaching space and manage room bookings. Astra Schedule (from Ad Astra) was purchased in April 2000 and is currently being prototyped for Spring 2001 classes. . . . The need for an optimized timetable will be re-visited when we begin planning the continuing developments of our student information systems in 2002 and beyond."

Among other aspects of the project:

[Twelve men in a row]
Gays and Lesbians of Waterloo -- GLOW -- sent a contingent to yesterday's spectacular Gay Pride parade in Toronto. Members of the group posed before the march started (photo courtesy of GLOW).

US bank makes grant for prof's work

A UW computer scientist is heading a research project that will eventually lead to improvements in the speed of financial forecasting and services.

Tim Brecht will be receiving $375,000 over a five-year period from a U.S. investment bank, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, to conduct work on heterogeneous (different) distributed computing. Distributed computing is computing that's spread out over more than one machine simultaneously, usually over a network.

Andrew Gunstensen of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter was to speak at UW this morning on some related research, under the title "Distributed Calculation Services for Risk Management", but his talk was cancelled last night and will be rescheduled, Brecht said.
"We will be researching techniques and software to make it easier to write and execute programs that run on several computers from different manufacturers possibly even running different operating systems," Brecht said. "The idea is to harness the power of several computers connected to the network to solve problems more quickly and reliably. Financial forecasting is a terrific application for this work."

Middleware is a general computer term for any programming that serves to link together two separate and usually already existing programs. The goal of the project is to devise and evaluate techniques for supporting high-performance, fault-tolerant, parallel and distributed Java applications that execute in a dynamic and heterogeneous environment.

Such techniques are required because of the substantial increases in both trade volume and trade complexity in today's highly competitive derivatives trading. What's needed, therefore, are significant improvements in both processing power and reliability.

Brecht said a significant problem faced by developers of parallel and distributed applications is the huge amount of time and effort required to implement high-performance applications that can be executed in heterogeneous environments. "The problem is exacerbated by the limited time frame in which these applications can be effectively executed in the ever-changing environment," he said.


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