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The heterogeneous background of investigators at South Pole results in a wide diversity of computing preferences. This extends much further than choice of hardware - the system configuration for each machine (particularly in the small workstation class) and the choice of software for the machine can make identical hardware appear significantly different to the user. Researchers will increasingly import their own environment to South Pole because:
It must therefore be a requirement that the station support connectivity for diverse systems while maintaining its own relatively predictable computing facilities.
This diversity requires careful attention to staffing. It will be hard to find a single person to maintain this heterogenous system. The person(s) will have to have more expertise than those hired in the past. However, with better communications to the station, experts do not necessarily have to be at the site in order to help. Using remote logins, staff at McMurdo or on CONUS may be available to remotely assist with software support or other problems.
There are four categories of hardware (and operating system) which make up about 95% of the various university computing environments - those are a) SUN, 2) VAX, 3) PC (AT style), and 4) Macintosh. These systems in turn have some commonality which should be supported at South Pole:
Common across all elements:
Note that the systems share the attribute of bit mapped displays, but each is rather unique. It is possible to stock monitors which work for given systems, but it is rare that the monitors will work across manufacturers. Disks and tape drives may be shared. Printers may be shared, but the queuing mechanisms are so diverse that it is currently most reliable to provide separate printers for each machine. In addition, the best print services are provided when the printer matches that FULLY supported by the manufacturer.