“Logon failed.” These words have been read by students around campus more than perhaps any others in the past two months. Prior to the start of the Fall term, Trent’s I.T. department updated the university’s computers to a Windows 7 environment from their previous XP environment. However, things did not go as smoothly as planned.
Senior Manager of Client Services, Anne Parker, told Arthur that “intermittent login failures started to surface with the increase in network traffic associated with the return of our students and faculty” in September.
All classroom computers were rolled back to Windows XP in September. This was meant to be temporary while a solution was worked out with the vendor. As of October 12 no immediate solution was foreseeable and the I.T. department made the decision to rollback the rest of the university’s computers.
This decision comes after much difficulty with the troubleshooting process. Parker said to Arthur that “non-replicable symptoms complicated our troubleshooting attempts and the initial support from our vendor did not find resolution.”
Non-replicable symptoms are troublesome because they make it more difficult to trace the actual source of the problem. Sometimes a new problem might come up while stepping through the code, while other times the original problem might seem to resolve itself. If the root of the problem cannot be found then the problem itself cannot be resolved.
Whether or not a student or faculty member could log into a given computer was one of these troublesome non-replicable symptoms. In a test done prior to the rollback, I was able to log into only one of a group of four computers on the fourth floor of the Bata Library. Another student I met that day was unable to get onto any of them. Others might not have noticed a problem while still others might have been unable to access any computers at all until the systems were rolled back to XP.
Despite all this, Parker assures Arthur that Trent students will be using Windows 7 eventually: “It is still our intent to upgrade our environment to Windows 7. However, we [i.e. the I.T. Department] try to minimize the introduction of changes mid-semester and will therefore reschedule a university-wide deployment to the end of term.”
In waiting until the end of term to roll out Windows 7, I.T. hopes to minimize the impact system maintenance will have on the student population.
Parker also indicated that this roll out will be done more cautiously than the previous one: “Part of the rollout strategy may result in the introduction of Windows 7 to some controlled sections of our public labs to ensure reliability prior to rolling out across the entire institution.”
However, with the rollback to Windows XP came another problem—loss of access to Microsoft Office 2010 software. The solution to this problem proved to be much simpler. According to an I.T. bulletin from October 19, as of October 22 “Office 2010 will be installed on all classroom lecterns, and in all public and teaching labs, in Peterborough and Oshawa.”
This software update also includes Internet Exploder 8, an updated Refworks Write-N-Cite and an updated RETScreen Suite. The update intends to give students access to the programs the Windows 7 environment would have provided had the login complications not been present.
The I.T. Department ensures that “it is our intent to maintain the XP image as above until the end of the Academic Year-Spring 2013.” In the mean time, work continues on finding a permanent solution to the Windows 7 issues.
As this situation continues to develop Arthur will remain in contact with I.T. to keep you up-to-date on new information.