Midwest Conference on Technology, Employment & Community

Chicago Circle Center, UIC, 750 South Halsted, Chicago, March 2-4, 1995

Notes on Workshop #1: Access to education

Lessons Learned Bringing DuSable HS onto the Internet

Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, Astronomy & Astrophysics, U of Chicago (mmaclow@quads.uchicago.edu)

Bennett Brown, DuSable High School, Chicago Public Schools (bbrown@jean.dusable.cps.k12.il.us)

James T. Lauroesch, Astronomy & Astrophysics, U of Chicago (jtl@oddjob.uchicago.edu)

3 March 1995

The first Internet node in the Chicago Public Schools came up on 26 January 1995 at DuSable High School, on Chicago's South Side, near the Robert Taylor Homes. See our World Wide Web page for more information on the school, at the URL

  • Outside funding. The school provided some funding from internal sources, but having outside funding served two important functions. First, it gave additional validation, attracting internal support, and second it established connections to people with needed expertise.

  • Outside institution. Although the outside institution did not offer us a direct network connection, having the relationship gave us access to their expertise on pricing, available service providers, and funding possibilities, as well as technical expertise on network design and installation. They also provided validation important for internal support.

  • Unix. The Internet is becoming simpler, but it is still solidly based on the Unix operating system. Little knowledge of Unix is required to use the World Wide Web or many other Internet services, but to maintain a complete node Unix is still vital. We actually used Linux, a version of Unix that runs on 80486 and Pentium-based PCs, and is available, on the net, without charge, to provide electronic mail and nameservice.

  • An Internet connection. All of the software needed to bring up a node on the Internet is available, for free, on the Internet. Thus, it turned out to be very useful to have access to an existing Internet connection to download software -- everything from Linux to World Wide Web browsers such as Netscape.

  • Conduit. Old school buildings lack conduit for laying network wires that meets the current building code. We needed to explore with the building engineer to determine what work would need to be done, and inform the contractors during the bidding process.

  • Existing bids. We already had bids for a building-wide network that had been specified in two ways. First, contractors were asked how much a building-wide local network would cost, and second, they were asked how much work could be done for a specified amount.

  • Expandability. Think big. We ended up doing so anyway, and because we assumed that our network would expand from the start, we found it relatively easy to add new components as it became clear that we would require them. Never assume that the network has reached its final form.

  • Backups. Last, but not least, backups are vital, both of information on the machines, and of vital hardware. A tape drive should be purchased with the initial equipment, and it should be used religiously, especially immediately after a working configuration has been established. A second Unix box to serve as a secondary nameserver would also have saved us several weeks of lost time: when our primary nameserver went down with hardware problems, our entire network became unusable, due to the lack of a secondary nameserver.

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    Maintained by Robin Burke <burke@cs.uchicago.edu>
    Last modified: Wed Mar 1 16:56:07 1995