Remote Access Server Helps Graduate Students Avoid Traffic

California State University- Northridge is primarily a commuter college with significant traffic congestion and parking problems on campus during the day. Often, students find themselves searching for parking simply to pick up or drop off assignments.

Internet access with e-mail is available to CSUN students who request it. With this account, they can send e-mail to instructors but cannot access school file servers to retrieve material.

To help students accomplish more work off-campus, computing officials turned to a new tool, the QuickStream/3, a three-port remote access server that provides access to network resources over standard telephone lines at speeds up to 115.2 Kbps. The product comes from Sonic Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif.

Quick Installation

Aside from some initial configuration details, the QuickStream/3 requires no support from the university's network services department. Dr. Vicki Sharp, who teaches a graduate course on integrating computers into the curriculum, has assumed the role of administrator, adding and deleting users as needed.

A single Macintosh residing in the CSUN computer lab acts as a file server for Sharp's course work. Students log onto the server, copy completed assignments into the instructor's drop box and pick up new assignments and graded work from their individual drop boxes without ever leaving home or their office.

Since QuickStream uses PPP for remote network connections, users can connect from any Macintosh, Windows, OS/2 or UNIX computer. The product includes an unlimited license for SonicPPP client software for the Mac, enabling remote access to AppleTalk resources (file servers, printers) as well as Ethernet-based TCP/IP services (e-mail, WWW, ftp).

CHAP (Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol) and PAP (Password Authentication Protocol) protect the network from unauthorized access without inconveniencing legitimate users.

According to Sharp, installing the QuickStream administration software was quick and easy. To configure the SonicPPP Client, one enters a valid user name and password in the control panel window and specifies the modem type and telephone number in the Apple Modem Tool dialog box.

Although setting up the server hardware proved to be slightly more complicated, Sharp says the system was ready for incoming calls in about 10 minutes. The unit is about the size of a modem and includes ports for both 10BASE T (twisted pair) and 10BASE 2 (thin-net) Ethernet connections.

She adds that about 60% of her 25 students own a notebook or desktop computer, and regularly take advantage of the remote access server, introduced last semester. QuickStream/3 is compatible with all modems from major manufacturers such as Supra, US Robotics, Global Village and Hayes.

The Next Step

Sonic Systems recently unveiled a Dial Out option for its product, allowing network users to connect to online information services such as America Online, LEXUS/ NEXUS or to Internet Service Providers. Sharp says that adding the Dial Out option could be the next step for the university.

Even further down the road, entire satellite courses could be conducted via QuickStream/3, a prospect that would surely delight those who would prefer to ride the data highway rather than sit in a real traffic jam.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.