What is Tardis?
Tardis is a network of multi-user computers linked to the internet as a subnet of the School of Informatics at Edinburgh University. It is connected to the internet through a packet-filtering router and firewall, which allows most services in to and out from the network. Some applications are barred by the firewall, the most notable one being telnet. Tardis is not somewhere from which access to other computer systems is allowed.
What does Tardis do?
Tardis provides a number of services to its users, including electronic ssh, mail, news, web hosting, and mailing lists. These services are provided to students and staff. In addition to this, the Tardis Project allows people to learn about system administration of a network of UNIX machines and other areas such as computer programming and networked environments. Projects undertaken on the Tardis machines have personal copyright.
In addition to this, Tardis acts as a base for a number of studies currently going on in various areas of computing. As examples, one of the Tardis machines is being used for sociological studies of virtual communities, and there is on-going research into the tools and methods which can be used in distributed administration and management of computer networks.
Finally, Tardis can provide an area where people who are restricted in their normal computing environment can either learn or provide a service which they could not do elsewhere. An example of this would be a user wishing to run CGI scripts when their own computing environment would not allow them to run due to possible security risks.
Who looks after Tardis?
Tardis has a two-tier system of operation, and is looked after by two sets of people: Timelords, and assistants. The Timelords act as managers of the Project, whereas the assistants look after the day-to-day running of the system.
People who join Tardis and have (or wish to gain) experience in the areas of management and/or administration of computer networks are welcome to help out on the system. In essence Tardis is a co-operative anarchy, with jobs normally being done by those who have the best knowledge to fix the problem or just whoever's around at the time. This normally results in a large number of people managing the system between them, with perhaps only one or two people actually on-site with the machines at any one time.
The Tardis Spirit
The main area of the Tardis spirit is that of personal responsibility. Tardis is a system which is not regulated strongly by those who administrate it, rather they prefer to let the users themselves look after the system by acting responsibly and not putting the project at risk. If you do something which you know to be against certain rules in existence, or you think that it might be, then you are endangering not only your own account on Tardis but the future of the entire Project itself. Please read and make sure that you understand all of the regulations that come with the application form, and if you have any queries on them then feel free to contact one of the admins with your questions.
Another part of the Tardis spirit is helping out, and improving the system for all of the users. If you see something on Tardis which you think could be improved or updated, then please let us know. Of course, if you do this you should be ready for a reply along the lines of "good point - go and do it." That is the way that Tardis has generally worked in the past, and it has worked quite well. Tardis could not have become the service which it currently is without the large amount of people who have worked on it in the past and there is a lot of software that needs looking after, with a continuous need for people who are interested in helping out. Along the same lines, if you have heard of or think up a new service which Tardis could be a host to, then approach one of the admins, who will pass your suggestions on for discussion.