Skynet is one of the oldest societies in the University of Limerick. It was setup in 1992 by a small, dedicated group of students. John Quinn, Andrew Good and Ivan Griffin and others had an interest in computers, and in the tradition of Clubs and Societies in the University of Limerick, wanted to bring that interest to other students. They started by running Skynet in a bedroom in Plassey Village. The location was far from static through the years - and as people moved from place to place, Skynet moved from Plassey village to underneath a desk in the B2 computer laboratory, to under a postgraduate's desk in the Foundation Building. The 1997 academic year saw Skynet and beast (two of the computers providing services) moving to the University Intel Lab where they lived until 2000.
The completion of the new UL Student Centre in 2000 and the Computer Society's successful application for a computer room has finally given the Skynet servers a permanent home. From the times of using donated machines, Skynet was finally in a good position to expand and offer a stable platform for services.
The computer society now hosts many websites for class groups in UL, Clubs and Societies and the ULSU. Our users consist not only of computer systems students and engineers, but include many humanities, business and other students.
Brief History Of Skynet
A glimpse at the History of Skynet, from 1992 to 2011
Skynet was originally a 486/33 belonging to John Quinn (quinnj) with 4MB of RAM. Gradually this was upgraded to first 8 and then a whopping 16MB of RAM. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this was overclocked to 100MHz and burnt through numerous CPU's in the first year.
Bear in mind that most people only heard of overclocking in 1999/2000 and a CPU's back in 1992 would have cost well over £100.
Not only was Skynet in its infant years at this stage but internet access was not widespread and was dearly sought after. With the establishment of the Computer Society, the air of legitimacy it brought with it alleviated fears of trouble were ITD (UL's Computer Department) to find out about Skynet.
This changed to the degree that at the beginning of the 1994 academic year, Skynet was given (restricted) internet access and donated a noisy 486 box by ITD which was christened the infamous Beast and provided DNS services for years.
Around this time, skynet was upgraded to a P90 with a mind-boggling 32MB of RAM and it stayed like this until 1996, when John Quinn departed Limerick - taking with him the machine formerly known as Skynet. This brought about the first society purchase of a machine - a P166 bought at a competitive price from the business of a user's father.
Skynet's location was far from static. For the initial years, it lived under various different desks in Kilmurry or Plassey. At one stage, it was very much a distributed system. Logins were on one user machine, home directories were on the P166 in Kilmurry somewhere and /usr/local was coming from one of the college labs. The 1997 academic year saw skynet and beast moving to the university Intel Lab where they lived until 1999.
Amongst all the happenings of Skynet in UL, there were good links and relations with Computer Societies in other Colleges around Ireland culminating in intersocs. This year saw one of the most memorable intersocs meetings with guest Alan Cox.
The completion of the new UL Student Centre in 2000 and the Computers Society's successful application for a computer room has finally given the Skynet servers a permanent home. At this stage, Skynet consisted of mother - the firewall, skynet - login and /home, orac - webserver and admin - DNS server. October 2000 saw the delivery of holly and hal, 2 dual Pentium Pro machines organised by Cian Davis (davisc). holly came with 7 9.1GB disks in RAID - it was quickly designated as the new /home relieving the 8GB or so /home single SCSI disk on skynet. Soon after, an Enterprise E450 was donated by Sun with 20 9.1GB disks in RAID. This gave Skynet more disk space than we knew what to do with. The computer was almost a cube and had wheels, giving it the name r2d2. hal brought the first IRC server to Skynet when one of the admins got bored one night - SkyChat was born.
This year saw the Skynet Computer Society really "come out of the server room". From the wide variety of events that were ran, the series of talks, InterSocs meetings and workshops have all proved to be the highlights of the academic year for all involved. Throughout the year workshops were run in whatever areas people needed help; from
programming to web design all was covered. This year also saw admin workshops for people interested in "giving some back" to help with the server maintenance. Retro Gaming Competitions and a series of talks were also run throughout Greek Week. These events and others were in line with the Society moving away from being only a server. There was a lot more socializing this year where members came away from their computers to actually meet the person behind the web alias!
This year saw all aspects of the Skynet Computer society develop tremendously. The third female president is elected, firmly establishing a focus on a society as a whole, rather than simply a server with admins. In terms of infrastructure and equipment, Skynet took a huge leap forward, resulting in a newer and more spacious server room with improved power and air-conditioning services been provided by UL and the Students Union. After completing several proposals and tenders, the hard work paid off, with funding and grant support being obtained, allowing the society to purchase two new servers (flexo and bender), a rack and UPS. Surely a far cry from the days of scrounging for old & used computers in skips, offices etc.!!
This year headed up some ground breaking talks with Alan Cox
speaking about "Software Engineering in Open Source". Skynet also organised, and part financed a weeklong trip to MIT, in Boston for 10+ members.
Further successful grant applications resulted in the purchase of another new server (calculon) to be used for /home, with a mammoth 2 Terabytes of disk storage. A second rack was also purchased, securely housing all of the updated and modern equipment providing a resilient and stable computer network.
The society celebrated its 15 birthday during the year with a weekend long technology conference, Skycon
. The society was awarded Best Society
in the University
The second Skycon
was held as a one day event. The society won Best Society Event
for the Skycon event this year
The summer of 2011 saw the purchase of 5 new machines (eve, walle, earth, deepthought & agentjones) with a total of 33 cores and 41GB of memory. With the purchase, all of the Skynet machines are now contained within the server racks. Along with the fresh wave of hardware, there was large influx of new committee members.
2011 also saw the introduction of a common brand for all Clubs and Societies in the University. We are now the University of Limerick Wolves Computer Society...
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To be continued...