Newsletter No. 147

2 No. 147 4th June 1999 CUHK Newsletter Biotechnology Research for Better Food and Health Prof. Samuel Sun introduces the University's research on plant and fungal biotechnology Plant and fungal biotechnology has been identified as an area of excellence in the Faculty of Science and the University's Department of Biology has founded a research and teaching centre i n state-of-the-art plant and f ungal biotechnology w i th representatives from the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Baptist University as associate members. The new centre w i ll aim at generating crops with improved yield and quantity; producing high-value pharmaceutical, health, and food products; developing novel technologies that can be transferred to the industrial sector, and training innovative and skilled technologists. By the end of the 1998-2001 triennium the centre expects to deliver new species of plants and new strains of fungi with economic potential; gene libraries for selected plant and fungi; clones of novel genes of agricultural, nutritional, or medicinal importance; plants with increased nutritional value and improved metabolic efficiency; high-value genetically- engineered products generated from plant and fungal bioreactors; high-value natural products; and postdoctoral associates and M. Ph i l, and Ph.D. students knowledgeable and s k i l f ul i n biotechnology. The Department of Biology has also founded a Joint Lab on Plant Genetic Engineering in collaboration w i th Peking University, and established extensive collaborations w i th mainland Chinese agricultural research units such as the National Hybrid Rice Research and Development centre, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Agricultural Society, and the National Engineering Research Centre for Vegetables. Web-enhance d Learnin g A seminar on 'Innovative Uses of the Web to Enhance Learning' was held by the Computer Services Centre/In formation Technology Service Unit on 18th May. Prof. Michael Chang of the Department of Information Engineering (above) and Prof. Pingping Fu of the Department of Marketing (right) shared their experience on how to achieve excellence in teaching and learning through the Web. Prof. Fu used WebCT which was launched as a pilot project by CSC/ITSU in March and Prof. Chang demonstrated some Web courseware which he had developed to allow students to learn at their own pace. Tackl e th eY2K Proble m No w From the Computer Services Centre: It is only 210 days from Year 2000. At the turn of the millennium, all computer users in the world w i ll face the same danger 一 their computer systems may not work properly. In order to save expensive disk storage and speed up program execution, most computer programs, especially those that have been used for a long time, have been using only two digits to represent the year (e.g., ‘97’ for ‘1997 ,) when dealing with calendar dates. The two-digit year field can be found in operating systems, microcodes, compilers, middlewares, application packages, in-house developed applications, screen formats, and databases. At the turn of the millennium, problem programs w i ll be unable to interpret the digits '00' as the Year 2000 , but as Year 1900 instead. If the two-digit year field is handled incorrectly, these programs w i ll fail, or, at the very least, fail to operate properly. In other words these types of programs are not Y2K compliant. The problem is not confined to software. Hardware devices, which depend on internal electronic logic to handle dates, may encounter the same problem. Therefore you should check if your computer software and hardware are Y2K compliant to avoid any loss of precious data and document files, and to ensure that your future work will not be hindered by the breakdown of software and hardware. Check Your Hardware and Software Academic and administration units should check whether all computer hardware and accompanying systems have been examined either by the staff of the Computer Services Centre or by your L A N administrator for Y2K compliance status. CSC/ITSU began to test all the PCs in early 1998 and has informed all departments to perform the same test for departmental machines. PCs that pass the test have been marked with a colour label reflecting its Y2K compliance status. Checked hardware should bear a green, yellow, or red label. A green label confirms that the hardware is Y 2K compliant. A yellow label indicates that some manual adjustment of the system clock is needed at the turn of the century to make the hardware Y2K compliant. A red label means that the hardware is not Y2K compliant and cannot be fixed; it should be replaced. If the Y2K compliance status of the unit's computer hardware and software (both the operating system and the applications) has not been verified, the unit can consult the appropriate staff of the Computer Services Centre/ Information Technology Service Unit (see below) or the hardware and software vendors. Microcomputer Systems and Network Roger So 2609 8836 Microcomputer Applications Judy Cheung 2609 8920 Unix-based Systems Carol Chiu 2609 8823 Suet Yi Fung 2609 8832 Academic Computing System (ACS) Applications (e.g., SAS, IMSL, MATLAB) Thomas Tsui 2609 8844 Registry Applications Wing Kong Chong 2609 8915 Lawrence Leung 2609 8990 SAP Accounting Applications Anita Kwong 2609 8872 Edmund To 2609 8843 New Funding Model System, Admission System Mei Yin Leung 2609 8840 Sally Wong 2609 8871 Personnel and Payroll Systems Michael Chan 2609 8809 Edmund To 2609 8843 I f you have any critical non-Y2K compliant hardware or software that cannot be fixed, you should replace it with Y2K compliant substitutes using your department or unit budget. You should act as soon as possible, as the University's fiscal year ends on 30th June. Beware that you are already running out of time ! Work Out Your Contingency Plan No one really knows what w i ll happen when the clock ticks into the new millennium. However, one thing is certain 一 i f you have made a contingency plan for your business applications, the damage w i ll be minimized should these applications fail to work. The essence of a contingency plan is to prepare for possible failures of business applications. You should work out a contingency plan for all your critical business functions, regardless whether or not they have been made Y2K compliant. I f you are really running out of time, you must at least have a contingency plan for all critical business applications that have not been made Y2K compliant because of the high possibility of failure. Furthermore, the single most important thing you must do as part of any contingency plan is to make a full backup copy of all your data by 31st December 1999. This is because non-compliant applications may damage your data, and this backup w i ll be a last defence for your data should that happen. Lastly, we would like to suggest that all departments should not perform important work on our servers and the e-mail systems between 31st December 1999 and 2nd January 2000. We may need to shut down our systems when carrying out comprehensive checking. Further details about the down time w i ll be announced in late November and you can contact your L A N administrators with any inquiry before or during this period. In the next issue of the CUHK Newsletter, we w i ll let you know about the contingency plan of the centre. You may also take it as a reference in planning for your department. Please refer to the Y2K homepage ( or CSC/ITSU Digest ( digest) for the latest information.