Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Alpha computers?

Why do the Alpha computers need to be replaced?

Will the Alphas be replaced by new general purpose computers that do everything they do?

What is happening to my personal web page?

What is happening to my personal file space?

Will someone move my personal files?

Will this affect my UWM email?

I run statistical and mathematical software on the Alphas. Will that software be installed on a new central computer?

I use the programming languages that are available on the Alphas. Will there be a central computer that offers the same languages?

Before submitting publications to professional journals, I typeset the mathematic and scientific notation using LaTex on the Alphas. Will this functionality be provided on a new central computer?

I need to do analyses that require more processing power or memory than is available on my personal computer. What will the campus provide?

I just want to talk with a human being about my concerns, know that someone will listen to and understand my needs, and help me to make informed decisions moving forward. Who do I talk with?


What are the Alpha computers?

Those who have been on campus for more than a few years probably remember logging into the Alpha computers to read their email or "netnews" as a screen of plain text. They would also "ftp" files between their desktop PCs and the Alphas so they could share documents with colleagues or download PC software.

Although today comparatively few people actually log into the Alpha computers and type cryptic Unix commands, many faculty and staff still rely upon them for hosting their personal Web pages, typesetting scientific documents, writing programs, storing research files and other tasks.

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Why do the Alpha computers need to be replaced?

The Alpha computers are fifteen years old, and struggling. Their hardware is outdated and replacement parts are quite difficult to find. If we wait for one of the Alphas to fail, we may have great difficulty getting it running again, which would leave some people and processes stranded. By today’s standards, the Alpha’s operating system does not have a robust level of security. We want to provide everyone with a secure environment for research and learning and can no longer do that with the Alphas.

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Will the Alphas be replaced by new general purpose computers that do everything they do?

No, it will not be possible to simply replace the Alpha computers with new models and have everything continue as it has. There will be different solutions for email, file storage, web pages and the like. The replacement process will be akin to switching from a CD collection to an iPod. The end result will be the same, listening to your favorite music, but the technologies and the user interfaces will be different. UITS is committed to assisting in the development of functional replacements for the services that are now provided by the Alpha computers.

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What is happening to my personal web page?

Your personal web page will be moved to PantherFile. For more information about this process, please see the personal web page section of our website www4.uwm.edu/projects/alpha_retirement/web_space.

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What is happening to my personal file space?

The file space that you have on the alphas will be going away. Please transfer all of your files off of the alpha computing environment. For most people, PantherFile (pantherfile.uwm.edu) will provide file storage that is more convenient than the Alphas. PantherFile makes it possible to access files from virtually any computer on the Internet and it has many options for security and sharing files with others. Please see the personal file space section of our website for more details www4.uwm.edu/projects/alpha_retirement/file_space.

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Will someone move my personal files?

No, you will be responsible for moving your personal files. Rather than just moving everything, this would be a good time to "clean house" and consider which files are necessary to save. For a more detailed answer please see www4.uwm.edu/projects/alpha_retirement/file_faq.

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Will this affect my UWM email?

Thanks to gradual changes over the last several years, the answer for more than 99% of the University community is simply no, there will be no effect on email. The relatively few people who log into the Alpha computers and invoke "pine", "mail", "elm", "mutt" or "emacs" will need to switch to the web-based PantherLink or an email program that runs on a personal computer, such as Outlook Express or Macintosh Mail.

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I run statistical and mathematical software on the Alphas. Will that software be installed on a new central computer?

The tradeoffs between running research software on a central computer versus a personal computer or local research computer are still unclear. Different scenarios might work better, or be more cost effective, for different people. If you are using software packages on the Alpha such as SPSS, Maple or Lisrel please contact software@uwm.edu to discuss future alternatives.

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I use the programming languages that are available on the Alphas. Will there be a central computer that offers the same languages?

The pros and cons of writing programs in various languages on a central computer versus a personal computer or local research computer are still being debated. Different scenarios might work better, or be more cost-effective, for different people. If you are writing programs using the languages on the Alpha computers, please contact project team by filling out the contact form at www4.uwm.edu/projects/alpha_retirement/contact and someone on the project team will get back to you to discuss alternatives.

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Before submitting publications to professional journals, I typeset the mathematic and scientific notation using LaTex on the Alphas. Will this functionality be provided on a new central computer?

This is an area that requires further analysis to understand how many people require this functionality and which departments they are in. Please make your needs known to the project team by filling out the contact form at www4.uwm.edu/projects/alpha_retirement/contact

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I need to do analyses that require more processing power or memory than is available on my personal computer. What will the campus provide?

This is a very important question for the future of research at UWM. Some PIs (principal investigators) have received funding and installed their own "cluster" computers for research. Out of preference or necessity other PIs would like to use a central resource. If you're in this latter category, please contact the project team at www4.uwm.edu/projects/alpha_retirement/contact, which will tally the various needs from across campus and recommend solutions.

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I just want to talk with a human being about my concerns, know that someone will listen to and understand my needs, and help me to make informed decisions moving forward. Who do I talk with?

Contact the project team at www4.uwm.edu/projects/alpha_retirement/contact. Someone will get back to you in a timely fashion.

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