NetBlitz conks out, resurrection unlikely

by Kate Farley | 11/14/07 2:29am

NetBlitz, a service that allows undergraduates and alumni to access BlitzMail through the Internet, broke down on Tuesday morning, and is unlikely to be resuscitated. Dartmouth's System Services staff members are unable to resolve the problem because they do not have access to the source code of the NetBlitz software, and they are encouraging those who need browser-based access to BlitzMail to use Webmail or WebBlitz.

NetBlitz was developed by David Marmaros '01. It was presented as a free service for students and alumni. Though NetBlitz was hosted on servers provided by the College, Technical Services has never been responsible for its support.

"The arrangement was that he [Marmaros] would support it, and after he graduated, he did whenever he could," said David Bucciero, director of Technical Services.

John Gaythorpe, director of Systems Services, stated that he did not view the loss of NetBlitz as a serious issue.

"We'd rather see it go away because there's already Webmail and WebBlitz," he said. Gaythorpe added that both alternative services handle passwords more securely than NetBlitz did.

Monday night, Systems Services staff performed an upgrade of the operating system on the server that hosted NetBlitz. Though the program responded normally in testing after the upgrade, user complaints on Tuesday morning alerted Systems Services staff that NetBlitz had become non-functional. Marmaros could not be reached for support at that time, so System Services staff decided to decommission the service.

The login page has been replaced with a notice informing users of the change and links to Webmail and WebBlitz. Webmail is a service both developed and supported by Computing Services. WebBlitz is another student-developed service that is currently maintained by The Basement, a volunteer group of students who independently develop computing resources for the Dartmouth community.

Those who had come to rely on NetBlitz, however, view the decommissioning of the service as a serious loss. Many users, particularly students studying abroad or alumni, only have access to Blitz via web-based services.

"I used NetBlitz exclusively, because the Internet firewalls in our housing here in London don't allow us to get on traditional Blitz," said Owen Roberts '09 in a e-mail.

`Roberts is currently studying in London on the Government FSP. He said that he was very upset to have to switch to WebBlitz, as he found it much more difficult to use.

"NetBlitz was faster, more logical, more aesthetically pleasing, had more reliable sign-ins, and didn't have all of the bugs that WebBlitz seems to have," he said.

His roommate David Schmidt '09, also in London on the History FSP, said that WebBlitz lacks some key features present in NetBlitz.

"[In WebBlitz], it's harder to tell whether a blitz is sent to you personally or not. On NetBlitz they would bold the subject of blitzes sent just to you. I miss that," Schmidt said in an e-mail.

Schmidt said that he had attempted to use Webmail as an alternative, but experienced difficulties logging in.