OIS News -- December 1999Features
HOLLIS I performance update
OIS holiday system and support schedule
The following status report was originally distributed on 3 December as a HULINFO message from Tracey Robinson, OIS Assistant Director for Systems Management.
It has been almost three weeks since the OS/390 upgrade and I am writing to report to you on the current state of HOLLIS/HULPR as of today, December 3, 1999.
As many of you know, over the course of the last 6 months several major changes have been made to HOLLIS/HULPR. These changes culminated in a major system upgrade (aka the OS/390 upgrade) on November 14, 1999. It is unusual for any system to experience such intensive change. It is safe to say that HOLLIS and HULPR have not before in their lifetimes (except perhaps in their "birth") experienced this level of change. And it is highly unlikely that such extensive changes will happen at any point in the future. Every program and system component has been changed. These changes were necessary to upgrade HOLLIS/HULPR to allow us to continue to support our key library systems into the year 2000 and beyond that for as long as is necessary. Unfortunately major changes often bring with them unforeseen problems and a period of instability. (It has been a long time since we have made major changes to HOLLIS/HULPR and many of us have forgotten just how painful it can be!)
The perception by many of you may be that "the system is falling apart". The reality is that there is a small number (6-10) of random, unrelated problems which lead to this perception. At least one of these problems has resulted in the need to bring HULPR down almost daily and sometimes more than once in a day. We are working hard to isolate the different problems, analyze them, prioritize them and reestablish stability as soon as possible. The public system, HOLLIS, has been stabilized. We have made significant progress on the problems in HULPR but it is possible that some problems will continue to plague us for a few more weeks. Our highest priority at the moment is to stabilize the online system and insure the integrity of the database. Technical staff at OIS and UIS are working hard to solve these problems and technical consultants are assisting in the analysis.
I cannot emphasize enough that we are very aware of the fact that the current problems in HULPR are serious problems and that the instability of the system is disruptive, stressful, and has an impact on staff and patrons alike. We are doing everything in our power to solve these problems as soon as is humanly possible.
For those of you who are interested in the status of each of the systems, the following summary may be useful:
HOLLIS (the public catalog) is currently functioning normally. The HOLLIS system experienced repeated problems and periods of extreme slowness between November 15 and November 26. A fix was installed on Monday 11/29/99 which seems to have resolved the reported TELNET problem and no further problems have been detected. The public system has remained stable since Monday November 29, 1999.
HULPR (the staff system) has experienced repeated failures since November 14 and remains unstable. There is also evidence of a data problem in the circulation item file. Diagnosis and resolution of the problems plaguing HULPR and resulting in almost daily system failures is a top priority for OIS technical staff.
HOLLIS Plus was unavailable for some users from about 7am-10am this morning due to a server problem. This is not related to the problems on the mainframe.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at 495-3724. We will continue to issue periodic reports on HULINFO as we work through the remaining list of problems. As always, thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult time. ÌOIS holiday system and support schedule
The schedule of OIS systems and support availability during the upcoming winter holiday period is now available on the OIS web site, at the URL [http://hul.harvard.edu/ois/services/pubs/oistable.html]. During this period -- beginning Friday 24 December 1999 and ending Monday 3 January 2000 -- holidays and the Year 2000 cutover will affect availability of systems and the services and support provided by OIS.
Staff systems (HULPR, OLIVIA and the staff maintenance mode of E-Reserves)
will be available on their normal schedules until 5pm on Friday, December 24, 1999. These systems
will then be brought down and will not be available again until Sunday,
December 26 at 7am. From Sunday, December 26-Thursday, December 30, these
systems will be availalble from 7am-12midnight each day. On Friday,
December 31, these systems will be available from 7am until 5pm. The
systems will then be brought down and will not be available again until no
later than 12noon January 2, 2000.
Staff systems (HULPR, OLIVIA and the staff maintenance mode of E-Reserves) will be available on their normal schedules until 5pm on Friday, December 24, 1999. These systems will then be brought down and will not be available again until Sunday, December 26 at 7am. From Sunday, December 26-Thursday, December 30, these systems will be availalble from 7am-12midnight each day. On Friday, December 31, these systems will be available from 7am until 5pm. The systems will then be brought down and will not be available again until no later than 12noon January 2, 2000.
Systems support: Emergency technical support will be "on call" in the event
of any major systems failures except on Christmas Day. In the event of a
systems emergency, call the UIS Operations Desk at (617) 495-3232. All
other nonemergency calls should be made to (617) 495-3724, and leave a
voice mail message (all voice mail will be collected daily and any urgent
calls will receive some response within 24 hours), or send an email message
HOLLIS Plus problems should be reported at the comments page on the World
Wide Web [http://hplus.harvard.edu/comment/]. Please note that, while
HOLLIS Plus will be available throughout the holidays, we cannot guarantee
that all the services made available *through* HOLLIS Plus will be
available continuously through this period.
HULPR Products: No products will be distributed from December 27-December
31, 1999. HULPR products for all system activity performed during this
period will be available on Monday morning, January 3, 2000. In addition,
technical and desktop client support will be unavailable during this period.
If you have any questions concerning this schedule, please do not hesitate
to contact OIS.
Systems support: Emergency technical support will be "on call" in the event of any major systems failures except on Christmas Day. In the event of a systems emergency, call the UIS Operations Desk at (617) 495-3232. All other nonemergency calls should be made to (617) 495-3724, and leave a voice mail message (all voice mail will be collected daily and any urgent calls will receive some response within 24 hours), or send an email message to email@example.com.
HOLLIS Plus problems should be reported at the comments page on the World Wide Web [http://hplus.harvard.edu/comment/]. Please note that, while HOLLIS Plus will be available throughout the holidays, we cannot guarantee that all the services made available *through* HOLLIS Plus will be available continuously through this period.
HULPR Products: No products will be distributed from December 27-December 31, 1999. HULPR products for all system activity performed during this period will be available on Monday morning, January 3, 2000. In addition, technical and desktop client support will be unavailable during this period.
If you have any questions concerning this schedule, please do not hesitate to contact OIS.
A HOLLIS II status report? Well, Sidney Verba (Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library) said it all in his 16 November and 7 December letters to the Harvard library community.
URLs in this article:
16 November 1999 HOLLIS II status report
7 December 1999 HOLLIS II status report
The 14 November system upgrade ("OS/390") had a small but very visible affect on the behavior of remote connections to the HOLLIS Public Catalog system.
Before the upgrade, a small piece of software called Simmware handled the selection of terminal type (emulation) in a process that was invisible to the user. Unfortunately, incompatibilities between OS/390 and Simmware forced the removal of that handy bit of software.
Now those who telnet to HOLLIS are presented with an initial screen:
EZY4206I IF KEYBOARD IS LOCKED USE CTRL-R TO UNLOCK 17:44:58 ON 12/03/99
ENTER VT100, VT282, OR TTY TO CONTINUE
In most cases, the user can just press Enter to proceed to the more familiar menu containing HOLLIS. The first instruction in this new message was important in the first few days because, depending on the telnet client, the keyboard might lock after every enter, or after any time a PF key was depressed. That problem has since been fixed, but it may be useful to continue to remind users how to free their keyboards, should they lock. The second instruction asks the user to select a terminal emulation. Most users can press Enter to select the default VT100 emulation and continue with the connection. But in some cases, you must type the preferred emulation and press Enter to continue.
Dial-up connections to HOLLIS have been similarly affected. However, the dial-up user of HOLLIS must manually select a terminal type at the " ENTER VT100, VT282, OR TTY TO CONTINUE" prompt in order to proceed.
In early December, OIS will incorporate these changes and reissue HOLLIS network and dial-up connection instructions. Ì
The Public Catalog database selection screen (the "Welcome" screen) is looking leaner these days. Since the Fall of 1998, a total of nine databases have migrated out of HOLLIS. Most have been replaced by web-accessible versions offered by third-party database vendors (such as OVID or SilverPlatter). The remaining four – HU (Harvard’s Union Catalog), RV (Course Reserves), LG (Library Guide) and AL (Anthropological Literature) – are expected to remain part of HOLLIS until HOLLIS II is imminent.
On the technical services side of HOLLIS, there are six databases available only to staff (in addition to the four also available in the Public Catalog). These are: the Books File (BF), Old Widener (OW), Roosevelt Collection (RC), Subject Headings Authorities (SH), Unitarian Pamphlets (UP) and the Training File (TR). Descriptions of these databases are available from the OIS web site. The fate of these databases will be the topic of much discussion closer to HOLLIS II implementation.
If you have questions about database migration, contact Helen Schmierer in OIS.
The new Accounts Payable system implemented in July has had significant impacts on maintenance of vendor information in HOLLIS and the timeliness of payments to vendors. What follows is a description of the new web-based vendor change request process and a status report on payments to vendors. If you have questions, contact Julie Wetherill or Tracey Robinson in OIS.
New vendor request forms
The setup of vendors in HOLLIS and in Oracle is a much more complex task than in the past. To facilitate this process, all vendor change requests must now be submitted using web-based forms available from the OIS web site. The vendor set up section of the site offers a form and instructions to request setup of a new vendor, changes to an existing vendor, and assignment of an APSITE number for a HOLLIS vendor.
All requests are processed by staff in Widener Book Accounts. Staff in Book Accounts will notify the requesting library when a skeletal record has been established (in usually one or two weeks). ("Skeletal" refers to a vendor record with incomplete information. Additional business and tax information must be collected from the vendor before a record's status becomes complete.) If you have questions about these requests, contact Book Accounts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Status of payments to vendors
The University now requires that full business and tax information be on file before corporate vendors are paid. The instrument used to collect this information is a detailed vendor registration form that each vendor must fill out and return to the Accounts Payable office. (An Acrobat PDF version of this registration form is available from the Adapt ABLE web site.) The process to collect this information began before the July cutover to new AP processing, but to date there are vendors (domestic and foreign) for which critical information is lacking. In these cases, AP puts payments on hold until the information arrives.
Four months after the cutover, there are increasing reports from the libraries of vendor non-payment. Since there is no online method to ascertain the status of payments that have left HOLLIS and cleared the mapper but have not yet hit the general ledger, OIS suggests that libraries contact AP to determine status.
Accounts Payable is now trying to expedite payments by the using information from the old AP vendor file to complete the corresponding Oracle vendor records.
URLs in this article:
Vendor setup instructions
AP vendor registration form
The new HOLLIS Web interface introduced in September 1999 is a big improvement over its predecessor. Ironically, so good that it has fooled users into thinking that HOLLIS itself is web-based. But HOLLIS is not native to the web and there are certain interactions between the browser, the web interface and HOLLIS that do not work.
Since its September debut, OIS has received sporadic reports of HOLLIS Web performance problems. Characteristics of these problems vary from case to case, but most involve a user receiving confusing responses from HOLLIS. In many cases, a user's session to HOLLIS Web eventually fails with an error message.
The source of all of these problems has been use of browser BACK and FORWARD functions when navigating through HOLLIS Web. HOLLIS has a repertoire of commands it can recognize, but unfortunately this does not include browser BACK and FORWARD. A common example would be a user who performs a search, selects a single record from the resulting index, then uses browser BACK to return to the index. HOLLIS Web will allow this, but the underlying system thinks the user is still on the single record display. As the user continues to issue commands, HOLLIS and its web interface grow increasingly out of synch with each other until the session fails.
There does not appear to be a single clean solution to this problem. But OIS and the HOLLIS Web vendor (a local company called Intelligent Environments) are exploring workarounds. For now, library staff should incorporate warnings about this problem in their HOLLIS Web instruction. If staff receive reports of HOLLIS Web performance problems, they should suggest that the user avoid browser BACK and FORWARD. If the problem persists however, please do report the incident to Caren Smith in OIS. Ì
OIS is in the early stages of upgrading the "GQL" reporting software client that is used on individual desktops for HOLLIS Distributed Reporting. Upgrades from the current client (Andyne GQL/User) to the new release (now known as Hummingbird BI/Query) are now underway in units outside of Harvard College Library. What follows are some details about the upgrade and its timing. A very detailed description of the upgrade is available from the Reporting section of the OIS web site.
Timing and availability
Although BI/Query has been available for some months, OIS did not plan an upgrade when our plans for HOLLIS II would have shortened the shelf life of the reporting client upgrade. The delay in HOLLIS II implementation, coupled with indications from the software vendor that the release we are using will soon be unavailable and unsupported, leaves us in a position where we need to upgrade.
The new client (BI/Query) is available to units outside of the College Library (HCL) now. HCL
will be upgraded beginning in January 2000. OIS has contacted each library and asks that individuals contact the following people for information on obtaining the software:
The upgrade, now called BI/Query, looks and acts much like the one now in use. But it has significantly improved online help and reporting capabilities, including report wizards to guide users through the creation of more complex reports such as cross-tabs and presentation-quality graphs. In addition, it is a 32-bit client and is certified by the vendor to be Y2K compatible. Lastly, the connection method used by BI/Query will simplify the user login procedure.
To learn more
A more detailed description of the upgrade plan is available from the OIS web site. Beginning in December, library staff will have opportunities to learn more about BI/Query. OIS will host an informational session that will include an overview of BI/Query and how it differs from GQL. This session will be held twice: December 9 (1-2pm) and December 15 (10-11am) in the OIS Conference Room, 1280 Mass. Ave. Seating is. Please contact Patti Fucci in OIS (495-3724; email@example.com) to register.
The regularly scheduled Distributed Reporting training class (class #10) has been revamped to cover the BI/Query client. Consult the OIS training schedule for upcoming classes. Note that because BI/Query looks and acts very much like GQL, training is NOT necessary if you are already a GQL user.
Contact Martha Creedon in OIS if you have questions about BI/Query or the upgrade plan.
HOLLIS Plus currently uses two proxy servers to provide access to restricted resources-- the FWTK and APC proxies (Fire Wall Tool Kit and Automatic Proxy Configuration.) Since both require extensive technical configuration and user support, they are less than optimal solutions to the tricky problem of user authentication. So, when a new proxy, named EZproxy, became available, we were excited to hear that it potentially eliminates the problems introduced by the FWTK and APC proxies.
EZproxy controls access to restricted resources without the need for user browser configuration, customized login scripting, or multiple log-ins. The EZproxy serves as an intermediary between the user and the restricted databases in a way that is invisible to the user. OIS is working together with EZproxy's developer to tailor it to Harvard's unique needs. Once we are confident the proxy is ready for production, we will proceed with a systematic, gradual resource migration. The first resources will most likely be moved in late December. Beta and production releases will be posted on the HULINFO mailing list. If you have any questions, please contact Janet Taylor.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is planning to move to DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol) for IP assignment. In the simplest terms, this means that workstations will receive a new IP address periodically. While the process is transparent to the user, it is problematic for HOLLIS Plus, which authenticates many of its resources based on IP address.
Normally, in-library microcomputers registered with HOLLIS Plus are exempt from access control (that is, users at these workstations are not asked for their Harvard ID when using a restricted resource). When the IP address for such a workstation is changed dynamically (because of DHCP), the workstation is no longer exempt from access control. To reinstate this exemption, the library must register the workstation's new IP address.
A more permanent solution would be for libraries request static IP assignment for in-library computers. Static, consistent IP addresses ensure that HOLLIS Plus will recognize the computers as a valid users of electronic resources. If you have any questions, either call OIS or contact your local IT support staff.
URLs in this article:
HOLLIS Plus workstation registration
For Library Digital Initiative updates and links to related articles in the Harvard University Gazette and the Harvard University Library Notes, visit the News page on the LDI web site:
Notes & Reminders
On 1 December, 31,863 payments approved in HOLLIS between 7/01/89 and 12/31/98 were been flagged as weedable. Fiche for these records were distributed last week to those with subscriptions. These fiche should replace the previous fiche which were for 7/01/89 - 6/30/98. If you have any questions, contact Linda Marean in OIS. Ì
OIS has introduced a new web-based bulletin board, available from the OIS web site (http://hul.harvard.edu/ois/news/bb/oisnews.html). Known as the "operations" bulletin board, it is currently focussed on HOLLIS operations and typically carries messages about availability of printed products, index regeneration schedules and system availability. Undoubtedly, we will define other uses for it as time goes on.
This bulletin board was implemented earlier in the year to replace the EMS messaging system (software that was removed from the HULPR system in late June). This is a one way board -- OIS posts messages but replies and follow ups are not supported.
OIS will continue to use the HULINFO electronic mail distribution list as the official medium of communications with the Harvard library community. We will use the bulletin board for recurring announcements, such as product availability, that are important to some staff but do not warrant the full HULINFO treatment.
Questions about the bulletin board should be directed to Julie Wetherill in OIS.
A long-awaited facelift for the OIS web site is now in progress. On Friday, 12 November, a new version of the web site (http://hul.harvard.edu/ois/) made an unpublicized debut. About 75 percent of the new site became available on this start date, with the balance to be added by mid-December. Highlights of the new site include a new operations bulletin board, web-based request forms for HOLLIS vendor updates and a new electronic newsletter covering OIS activities (with the uncreative title of OIS News).
Like most web sites, this one is a work in progress. Feel free to send comments and questions via the OIS webmaster links, available on every page of the site.
URLs in this article:
OIS Operations Bulletin Board