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Imagine this: you’re in Texas visiting your aunt and uncle over a weekend. You’re about to start up your netbook laptop to work on a big PowerPoint project that you have due on Monday (yes, you procrastinated because you’re a true college student) when you realize that %$&^ you don’t have the Office Suite on your little laptop. You’re used to going to one of the USF computer labs to work on your projects, so you’ve never deemed it necessary to buy the expensive Office Suite. But now you’re in a bind — your partners’ part doesn’t open up on your old version of PowerPoint. You need PowerPoint, and not even your aunt and uncle’s computers have it!

Taylor Jackson uses a workstation in one of the virtual computer labs

Taylor Jackson uses a workstation in one of the virtual computer labs

USF has you covered. The folks at ITS have created an online computer lab for you to use at your convenience. Previously, you had to go to campus and actively interact with the computers at the computer lab in order to access the standard suite of software that they provide. Now, all you need to access the standard software is a Windows or Apple computer, a valid USF account, and high-speed internet. All you have to do is go to this website and sign in. For full directions, go here. You can be anywhere and still access these features.

USF wanted to provide current technology to students who were coming to school with older versions of necessary software, or without any software at all. This put them at a disadvantage — especially with group projects — and ITS wanted to level the playing field. Licensing prevents USF from just giving away the software, so USF need to provide the standard software in a legal and secure way.

Currently, there are only about 150 virtual desktops that users can use online; so only 150 students can log on. The pilot version of the online computer lab was very recently released at USF, and ITS hopes that it will become popular among students, faculty, and staff. If demand is high, ITS will buy more servers, which will create more space for the users to use. (Servers are basically specialized, powerful computers that hold all of the virtual desktops.) The pilot period will end around spring 2013.

Through this online computer lab, ITS is even lowering its costs. The virtual desktops have an extended life because the servers do not have to be replaced for at least five years; so there aren’t even any negatives to this great new feature.

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