Computing Service Unit

headed by Jörg Kantel

During the last few years, the Internet has taken on increased importance for researchers at the Institute. Consequently there have been a number of changes in the functioning of the Computer Service Unit. In particular the following activities have been supported:

A close cooperation between the newly founded Information Technology Project Group ()(and the Computer Service Unit has been established in reorganizing the support offered to the scholars and the projects at the Institute. This has led to a new division of responsibilities. In particular, a new structure for the support functions is being developed in cooperation with the IT group.

Main Services Provided

These sophisticated challenges still require the standard services of the Computer Service Unit. Although this department is very small (2 employees plus 4 part time students, 3 of whom were assigned to the IT Group in March 2002), the planning and acquisition of the computer equipment necessary for the Institute’s research projects, Administration Unit, and Library has been successfully accomplished. In 2001 around 250 workstations were installed at the Institute. The planning, maintenance and support for the Institute’s server structure was also realized. This includes the various database servers (most of them FileMaker servers), the internal and external web servers (currently run under Mac OS Classic using server software such as WebStar, MacHTTPd and QuidProQuo, although a switch to Mac OS X and Apache is planned), as well as the mail, backup, and archiving servers. The Institute’s Internet connection and its Local Area Network (LAN) were also maintained and upgraded. The Computer Service Unit provided key support for several research activities including the Virtual Laboratory and the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative.

Several training sessions were offered, for example:

Other important tasks of this department include the planning of the computer facilities for the Library and Documentation Unit, the support of the Administration Unit (SAP), and the planning of the Institute’s future computer facilities.


Apple Macintosh computers continue to provide the standard environment for the Institute’s staff and visitors. Due to the BSD (=Unix-) Kernel of the modern Macintosh Operating System OS X, a switch from some of the Linux boxes to Mac OS X is planned. However, a number of Linux and Windows NT machines will continue to be used. Most of these are utilized as servers, although a few function as workstations for special software not available to Macintosh computers. The number of high-end machines for Internet services as well as for database applications is increasing.

In order to manage the growing number of OS X machines, the Computer Service Unit staff participated in two courses on the Mac OS X system.

Following Max Planck Society guidelines and with the kind help of their data security engineer, a firewall with two DMZ has been installed for higher security. A new and more secure concept for the email-services of the Institute has also been developed.

As mentioned in earlier reports there are still “Office Service Centers” situated on every floor of the Institute. They are equipped with high-end workstations, scanners, CD-ROM-toasters, and fast, high-end office printers. These printers were upgraded in 2001 to newer and faster models as were the high-end color-printer/copiers.

The Administration Unit continues to work with a Windows NT Server and Windows ’95 workstations for the SAP application provided by the Max Planck Society’s central IT Unit.


The switch to a star topology network as mentioned in the last research report has proven very successful. The LAN now consists of a Gigabit backbone in glass fibre and a 10/100 MBit star topology net to the workstations with standard RJ 45 cables. Due to the fact that older Macs are unable to work with 100 MBit Ethernet, “Smart Switches” with auto-detection are being used between 10 MBit and 100 MBit connections. The Institute’s Local Area Network (LAN) is now much faster and much more stable than the old network.

At the moment the network’s capacity is sufficient for the needs of the Institute. However, it is foreseeable that in the near future upcoming activities in scanning and preserving digital sources will necessitate a higher-capacity network. A server and a small number of workstations were therefore connected via Gigabit-Ethernet for testing purposes. These tests proved very successful and were significant for the joint planning with the Max Planck Society of the network for the Institute’s new building in Berlin-Dahlem.

The research program “The History of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in the National Socialist Era” has now moved to the external rooms of the Institute situated at Glinkastraße. Consequently the connection of these workstations to the Institute’s LAN was upgraded to a more powerful but still transparent ethernet connection.

Together with the Fritz Haber Institute, a new concept for a decentralized backup has been developed. This involves a major upgrade to a 40 MBit line of the permanent Internet connection to the Fritz Haber Institute. The hard- and software required by the Institute was therefore planned jointly by the Computer Department, the Library, and a group of interested scholars. The concept was submitted to and consequently approved by the BAR, the relevant consulting committee of the Max Planck Society. This new concept distinguishes between backup and archive data. The backup system is designed for data that will constantly change and frequently be upgraded. The archive system on the other hand will collect key data that will rarely be changed (e.g. images of manuscripts).