5.0621 CDROMs -- Towers, Jukeboxes, Futures (1/66)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 23 Jan 1992 18:04:43 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0621. Thursday, 23 Jan 1992.

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1992 11:04:25 +0200 (EET)
Subject: RE: 5.0613 CDROMS -- Pricing, Library Use

Lorne Hammond's comments on library supply of CD databases were very
interesting. Lorne (I'm repeating the name because I don't know if it
should be "he" or "she" and it's not a mistake one can allow oneself to
make these days :-) ) saw a "jukebox" arrangement where a PC supplies
10 CDs, though only one at a time, and is linked to the library LAN.
Libraries are rushing to put CDs on the library/campus network these
days the way they were rushing to computerize the catalog 10-15 years
ago. But I'm surprised Houston opted for a jukebox arrangement. Most
"professional" opinion holds that it's too slow for efficient service
on a LAN, i.e. when several people are likely to want a disk from
the same jukebox at the same time, and they'll have to wait because
the jukebox PC must physically switch CDs for each one. I could understand
it better if the "tandem" arrangement Lorne mentioned meant that both
PCs were supplying data at the same time, but s/he says one only steps
in when the other crashes. Most libraries prefer a "tower" arrangement
-- a PC with room for multiple CDs (currently up to around 28 per tower)
in multiple drives, all available at the same time. You can put that
on the campus-wide LAN (as a matter of fact you can put as many of
them as you like on the campus-wide LAN) and let 100 faculty members
loose on them with relative impunity.

I'm sending this to Humanist because Lorne said "talk to your friendly
librarians about it". Being one myself, I'm all for it; but don't,
please, suggest a jukebox... suggest a tower.

The other point was a smile at the words "in a back room, safe from
hackers, viruses etc..." Ah dear, those days are over. Back rooms
don't guarantee security any more, 'cos the PC is, after all, on
the LAN, and anyone with a terminal or PC attached to the LAN has
access to that PC. It's enough to download your search to a diskette
with a virus on it, and you've infected the LAN CD-ROM fileserver.
About all the back room does is ensure people don't walk off with
the CD-ROM disks (which at several thousand $ apiece for some of
the databases Lorne saw, is a good enough reason for locking up
your CD server!)

NB if you're going to talk to your friendly librarians, and even more
if you're going to talk to the folks who provide the LARGE budgets
for all this, you may be surprised to find out that keeping a dozen
databases with attendant hardware and software available on the
campus LAN also costs around a 50% job position. Since the university
administration sometimes prefers to forget this fact, an awful lot
of us are turning into computer technicians/system managers these
days. The whole business is going to get easier -- because it can't
get more complicated than it already is!

Of course, speaking now from the other side of the fence (user, not
librarian), I know we aren't going to be satisfied until all the
material -- books, articles, maps and other visuals etc. -- is on
CD along with the citations to it. Only it probably won't be CD
but some central computer with many many gigabytes of storage on
ultra-fast magnetic disks (average access time of a CD these days:
350 ms, down from 600 when they first came out but a far cry from
the 19 or 28 of cheap hard disks). Our computer universe started off
with one central machine and everyone queuing up for terminals;
expanded to a PC on every desk; is now contracting to a central
machine with access via a LAN... like the model of the continuously
expanding/contracting universe. Wonder what's coming next!

Of course, if I were Big Brother, I'd definitely prefer the
back room arrangement: all of human knowledge in one place and
only I and my representatives have the key...

Just a few stray thoughts on a cold morning.

Judy Koren, Haifa.