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Watch is On for Millionth Web Visitor
SHSU's Internet home page is poised to welcome its millionth visitor this year. But time is running out. The visitor counter resets at midnight Dec. 31.
But it's not the Millennium Bug that has the university's technical wizards holding their breath during the waning days of 1998. They still have a whole year to prepare for the possibility of worldwide electronic Armageddon.
The excitement at Sam involves a countdown of another sort. It's possible, even probable, that SHSU's home page on the World Wide Web will log its millionth visitor for 1998 before year's end.
That feat, according to computer services officials, will be something to celebrate. But the corks aren't popping yet. With about three weeks to go, the university was about 40,000 visitors shy of its goal.
"It'll be close," said Jim Stevens, director of Computer Services for SHSU. "Right now our home page is logging about 4,000 visits per day."
Were that rate maintained throughout December, the millionth visitor would arrive on SHSU's cyber doorstep long before the midnight Dec. 31 deadline when the Web page counter resets to zero.
"The problem," said Nancy Sears, coordinator of the university's Web pages, "has to do with the unpredictability of Web traffic over the Christmas holidays. We anticipate a slowdown when the students leave."
But just how much SHSU Internet traffic will diminish isn't certain. And that uncertainty has Web administrators hedging their enthusiasm.
"If visits drop by half, to 2,000 per day during the holidays," Stevens calculated, "we'll still make it. But it's going to be very close."
Yet even if SHSU's home page falls shy of a million visitors this year, Web traffic at the university has almost doubled from the 650,000 visitors who surfed through the campus's electronic gateway in 1997. And when the university's vast on-line presence is considered, it becomes evident that the one-million milestone, while impressive, is somewhat superfluous.
"Not everyone who visits Sam's Web site comes through the front door," said Sears. "Many regular visitors to the university's Web pages are linked directly to other sites, so those visits aren't logged on the home page counter."
If those "backdoor" visits were included in the tabulation, Stevens said, SHSU's million-man mark would have been chalked long ago.
Another factor to be calculated into the odds of reaching the seven-digit goal is an exciting new on-line service launched this month on the SHSU Web site. It could be the "secret weapon" that puts SHSU over top.
The new SamInfo Web Access System allows students to conduct business with the university over the Internet. This will ultimately include registration, course catalogues, class schedules, financial aid queries, admissions information and account queries and payments.
"Basically all of the services available on the dial-in SamInfo Line at (409) 294-3900, will soon be available on the Web," said Sears. "We want the new Web site to be a place where you can go to find all the information you really need to know in one place."
One SamInfo offering that's sure to draw a lot of on-line traffic during the Christmas holiday is a feature allowing students, past and present, to check their grades. The new on-line database lists grades by semester, starting with fall 1977. To retrieve the information, students and alumni must enter their Social Security number and a six-digit personal identification number, or "PIN."
Unless changed by the student, SHSU uses birth dates as PIN numbers. A student born on July 8, 1964, for instance, would use "070864" as a PIN.
The SamInfo site can be found by following the link on SHSU's home page. Before clicking the SamInfo button, visitors may note the new page design featuring a flipping slide show of images from around the SHSU campus. The photographs are periodically changed and, Sears said, submissions of outstanding photos highlighting aspects of SHSU campus life are welcomed.
SHSU's main Web page is also home of the counter displaying the current number of visitors that have accessed the site. The counter flips once per visit from each host computer accessing the page.
"Simply reloading the page or returning to the page during the same Web session will not increase the visit count," Stevens explained for the benefit of loyal Bearkats who might want to contribute to the million-visitor-a-year goal. "There's a difference in page 'hits,' 'accesses' and 'visits,' and the counter only measures visits," he said.
For Web monitoring enthusiasts, a detailed weekly summary of SHSU Web traffic is available on line. According to the statistics posted on that page, SHSU's entire Web domain logged an impressive 56,282 visits for the week of Dec. 4-11.
This year's boom in Internet traffic hasn't exactly surprised the university's technical team. In an article penned in October 1997 Stevens predicted a million visits in 1998. But the burgeoning popularity of the Internet and the accompanying demand on the university's computer infrastructure has kept SHSU technicians busy throughout the year.
"Since Sept. 1 we've doubled the dial-in access capacity of our Web server and have added 56K modems to facilitate quicker data retrieval," Stevens explained. In addition, technicians have almost completed the rewiring of SHSU academic buildings, adding network circuits to every classroom and upgrading connections between buildings to handle up to 100 megabytes of data per second.
Future plans call for installing conduits that will bring faster Internet service to SHSU resident halls.
"The administration," Steven said, "is committed to putting high-speed access into dormitories."
Also in the works for 1999 are several new computer labs that will provide an additional 146 work stations around the SHSU campus.
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