The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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9:19am on Friday, 8th September, 2006:
Back in February, I spent an evening in EQ2's Trial of the Isle chatting to students from Trinity University. At the time, I noted that one of the reasons I couldn't do something similar for my own students was because of Essex University's firewall.
I determined to do something about this.
OK, so the first thing to do was to contact the departmental support staff, outlining what I needed and asking them to find out whose bosses I'd have to speak to in order to get it. It would be someone in the formidable Computer Services section, but who? I did all this before the summer vacation, in the hope that I'd be able to demonstrate some virtual worlds in my second-year module or my third-year module. When it transpired I'd have to teach EE224 this year, I was even more keen to be able to do it.
However, I was not the only person making requests of the departmental support staff over summer, and the group was somewhat rocked by the untimely and tragic death of one of its number, so I didn't get a reply to my request until this Monday. By then, I'd submitted the syllabus breakdowns for all my modules (including, incidentally, EE224 — here's how), so couldn't do anything about it. Still, if I could get the firewall relaxed before 2007/2008, that would be something.
I explained my problem (connections to off-campus sites that use TCP/IP and UDP on non-sanctioned channels are blocked), outlined what I wanted (I want lab machines to be able to run EQ2, WoW, SL, GW, Lineage 2, EVE and anything else that takes my fancy), and waited.
Next day, I received a reply telling me that Computer Services don't block TCP/IP or UDP connections. All they do is filter incoming HTTP and various email protocols.
Well I was pretty damned sure they did block it, because I and every student who'd tried to access a virtual world from behind the university's firewall had met with zero success. Therefore, I took in my laptop, hooked it to the network, cranked up WoW and ha!
It let me in.
Hmm. It seems that over the summer, Computer Services significantly relaxed their firewall policy — they just didn't bother to tell anyone. I don't know whether students will be able to access virtual worlds from their accommodation, as that network has a second firewall (festering pit of zombified, virus-infested neglect that it is — and the computers are just as bad). Still, the prospect of actually being able to show, live in a lecture, exactly what it is I'm talking about is rather refreshing. I expect lab attendance to rise, too, if students can't access their game of choice from their flat so have to go to the trouble of finding out where the labs are...
As an experiment, I downloaded the Trial of the Isle freebie for EQ2, to see if it could be preloaded onto a lab machine. It took about 90 seconds to get it onto my PC, then 20 minutes to install. Not too bad. Sadly, though, it required a few patches to bring it up-to-date, which I abandoned after 20 minutes with (by its own reckoning) an estimated 4 hours 50 minutes to go.
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