Mast Kalandar

bandar's colander of random jamun aur aam

Wed, 29 Aug 2001

Buy only what you can use and manage competently


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Spending our money wisely
or
Why spending money on computers at
IMSc is a waste.

It is my personal opinion that IMSc is no longer competent
to spend the money allocated to it for computer-related
expenditure. This is in absolute terms and not in comparison
with similar institutes elsewhere in this country. My reasons
for reaching this conclusion are outlined below.

1. Inability to administer:

a. More than three years after the process was begun
we do not have a complete inventory of the hardware
and software that we have purchased.

b. We have three (perhaps even four) links to internet
and we are unable to set them up to function seamlessly
or give up those that we do not need.

c. We have no network management system by which the large
network can be monitored.

d. Our computer rooms are cluttered with non-working/obsolete
hardware that we have not fixed or disposed of.

e. We are unable to provide dependable remote access to our
users either from home or from outside Chennai.

f. User account management is absymal; the creation of
accounts, the creation of reasonable default
configurations for users, the removal of temporary
accounts.

2. Inability to use. Most of our users are unable to do any of the
following.

a. Manage their mail and files in folders.

b. Create sensible default configurations for themselves.

c. Avoid printing unprintable binary files on the printers.

d. Send and receive files other than text over e-mail.

e. Solve minor problems related with the computers by
reading the documentation.

3. Inability to improve on our programming skills.

a. Most of our computational machines (including the cluster)
are under-utilised.

b. Programs that would run faster on desktop machines often
clog the machines meant for computation.

c. Software meant for program improvement such as debuggers,
profilers and the like are lying unused.

d. We have multiple versions of algebraic and symbolic
manipulation software, Matlab, Maple, Maxima, Mathematica,
Form and others. Our programmers are unable/unwilling to
adapt from one to the other; each package has roughly one
and a half user (Except Mathematica which as three and a
half users!).

e. Graphical manipulation hardware and software is lying
unused.

Yet we wish to continue to spend of the order of 1 Crore of rupees to
"improve" our computer systems and ask for more in the next plan. The
logic is that "oherwise when we need it we will not get it" or "if it
is not used then it will be cut". Well, perhaps we deserve a cut so
that we will work hard enough to be in a position to deserve the
money.


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