Plugging into the Internet on campus is easy. Here’s how to maintain your relationship with your computer and your fellow students.

Photo By David Robert

It seems easy enough to get connected—plug in Ethernet cable to computer and wall, activate your e-mail account and log on—but appearances can be deceiving. There are a few steps that you, as a responsible user and student, can take to ensure your computing experience at the University of Nevada, Reno is all smiles and easy sailing. By way of an interview over the electronic lines of e-mail, I was able to get the facts straight from one of the University’s talented system administrators.

According to Jeff Springer, Network Security Manager for the University, the first mistake students make is to fail to install an anti-virus program. This causes problems not only for you, the student (who ends up with a sick machine, unable to do homework and research), but it also creates a threat to others on the network who can become infected as well. As Springer notes, there is no excuse for a virus infection on your computer; the University offers free anti-virus software to all students, faculty and staff in disk format which can be checked out at Getchell Library circulation desk. The software can also be downloaded from the Campus Computing Web site.

Springer also mentioned that many students overlook the all-important act of “patching.” Patching is not mending the hole in your pants, but rather doing updates on your computer to make sure your operating system has no security holes. If done on a regular basis, your chance of getting infected by a virus is unlikely.

And finally, something called perhaps band-width etiquette or there-are-other-people-out-there-besides-you etiquette should be addressed (not to be confused with “netiquette,” proper forum manners). The university’s Internet connection is fast—quicker than any connection you’ll find at home. However, just because there’s ample Internet speed doesn’t entitle you or anyone to take all the bandwidth by downloading large files. It’s annoying when all you want to do is check your e-mail, but you can’t because your next-door neighbor is downloading Xanadu for the fifth time this week.

Springer also mentioned the network falters when “users install their own network hardware. … For instance, if a user installs a router or a DHCP server they can create problems in the network, which can affect everyone on their network segment.” Basically, this is just an extension of the be-thoughtful etiquette. Having your own DHCP server does nothing for you, but is an action generally done by malicious or uninformed students with too much time on their hands. As a student technician, I have learned to frown upon such careless felicity.

In short, “plugging in” is easy. It’s managing that connection that is difficult. Most problems and complications can be erased by small efforts on the part of the student.

Another student technician, John Yurtinus, put it nicely when he said, “I think everyone should have to take at least one CS [computer science] or IS [information systems] class, just so they get the basics.”

Computing is becoming a large part of higher education, and as they say, the more you know, the more prepared you will be to succeed. Some UNR classes can now be conducted online; library databases are stored exclusively on electronic media; even registration and fee payment have now been turned over to the realm of the virtual. So plug in, be nice or get left behind. See? I told you it was easy.