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Williams Students Online

Revision as of 23:55, September 20, 2006 by 08bpw (talk | contribs) (Contact)

Williams Students Online, or WSO, is a student computer group that offers several computer- and internet-related services to members of the College community. Current projects include a multi-featured web site, this Wiki, listservers, Linux parties, and web hosting for students, student organizations, and alumni.

Type of groupService
SelectiveNo way!
Meeting timeWednesdays 10:00 PM
Meeting placeTCL 206
OfficeJesup Basement

Many people often confuse WSO with the college-run Office for Information Technology.



These are the people who keep WSO services running.

  • Jing Cao '08 (jcao@wso) :: web hosting
  • Jessica Chung '07 (jchung@wso) :: Root, listservers
  • Diana Davis '07 (ddavis@wso) :: wiki
  • Mike Gnozzio '07 (mgnozzio@wso) :: Root, head officer
  • Brian Hwang '09 (bhwang@wso) :: treasurer
  • Jordan Landers '09
  • Iris Lee '09
  • James Ritterpusch '08 (jritterp@wso) :: Root
  • Aaron Schwartz '09 (aschwart@wso) :: secretary
  • Scott Tamura '09 (stamura@wso)
  • Ben Wood '08 (bwood@wso) :: Root


Web Hosting

WSO lets students and alumni put their web pages on our servers. To apply for an account, email Richard Oot (root@wso). Please supply a email address to send the password to. Organizations can also get web pages through WSO.

Our web hosting supports PHP and server-side includes by default. If you want more advanced features, such as CGI, MySQL, or PostgreSQL, contact a Richard Oot (root@wso).

See also: How to make a web page on WSO

This is our fancy web site, featuring blogs, a calendar, a campus facebook, photos, floor plans, choose your own adventure, and surveys. We wrote it all ourself with the help of Apache PageKit. If you have ideas for it, please come to a meeting (above). Or scribble something on Stuff WSO Definitely Should Do.

Linux Parties

See Migrate to Linux


A listserver is an email address that distributes messages to a bunch of people. WSO hosts listservers for student groups broadly defined, and other organizations around campus/Williamstown. You can apply for a listserver at, and we'll try to get to the request in a few days. A complete list of WSO listservers is available from

WSO uses Mailman to power its listservers. Jessica Chung (jchung@wso) is our list admin. Contact her with list administration questions.


This is a listserver with basically all students subscribed. It has information about campus happenings. See [1] for info about subscribing or unsubscribing, and see [2] about sending messages.


You're reading it now. We host, hack, and prune the wiki.


The current roster:

Ursula is the latest addition to the cage. Lean and sleek, she's an Xserve with dual G5 processors and 2 gigs of RAM. Don't bump into her, though, unless you're a deaf person in need of a metronome. Ursula runs shell logins, email forwarding, and listservers.


Nancy houses dual P4-Xeons at 2.7GHz a pop, and due to a hyperthreading kernel she's faking another two. With over fifty Gigs of RAID-5 storage and 2GB of ram, she can handle pretty much anything we ask her to. Also, there's a cool quadruply redundant power supply that lets her operate even if two (three?) power supplies break down, and a neat blue LCD on the front that turns orange when something's wrong. Nancy is currently doing all of our web and database serving. Here's a picture of Nancy:


Spiker has dual Pentium III 500MHz processors under the hood, 1024 MB of ram, and over 100 GB of RAID storage, plus another hundred in a shameful IDE drive running at 33 MHz that's hanging out of her front side. See:


Spiker is currently taking up space in the cage, having been Officially Unplugged after a long stint in Non-booting Purgatory. It's quieter in the cage now.

Olga and the Firewall are nearly identical Dell PowerEdge 300's running at 800 MHz. Olga has much more hard disk space (600 GB), though, because she's (was) our backup server. The Firewall is the only machine in the Cage without a scary aunt name. As you might guess, she acts as a firewall, connecting incoming traffic to the proper machine in the cluser, and protecting the machines from requests on ports that we don't run official services on. Here the are pictured together. The Firewall is on the left, identifiable by the red FreeBSD demon sticker:


Read about the retired aunts.

Choice excerpts from WSO files


WSO was founded in January of 1995 by DeWitt Clinton and John Kim, with help from Jon Zeppieri, Jason Gladstone, Jessica Mintz, and others. Originally, the first server was an Apple Powermac 7100 running WebStar, on loan from the College Council. The original mandate from the CC was to create an online version of the daily advisor. John and DeWitt successfully ignored this mandate for serveral years.

1996 saw the beginning of the Internet boom, and the arrival of many new recruits to WSO. With the strong Unix background of Jon Zeppieri, Iein Valdez, Geoff Hutchison, and DeWitt Clinton and a blazingly-fast Pentium I 100MHz machine, WSO was migrated to a FreeBSD-based server. Meanwhile, WSO attracted the artistic talents of Kate Tan, Eric Smith, and Kenric Taylor. Others lending their computer expertise and love for technology included Matt Garland, Ken Fowler, and Christine Soarse. Finally, Jonah Wittkamper served as general all-around cheerleader for WSO.

The fall of 1996 saw the arrival of a new crop of freshmen, including Chuck Hagenbuch (would would go on to design Horde/IMP, the Williams College Webmail system), Dan Mason (HTML coder extrordinaire), Chris Richards (security and FSH enthusiast), David Ramos (designer and typographer), and Jason Healy (future all-campus listserver nazi). By winter, the website had been overhauled (sporting a scan of Chuck's right hand), and new services were cropping up like crazy: the online Facebook, all-campus and dorm listservers, online Daily Advisor and calendar announcements, and a small software archive.

WSO continued to grow at a rapid pace, as new services were added and members signed on for web and e-mail accounts. Free University HTML courses were taught to students and members of the community by David Ramos, Ben Isecke, and Jacob Eisler, and several clubs and organizations at the college created web pages about themselves.

As the use of technology grew, WSO acquired more and better equipment. Better funding was provided by the IT department of the college, and WSO soon got a new server. A new naming scheme was conceived for the servers: Scary Aunt Names. The new machine was christented "Ethel", and replaced the aging Pentium I ("Mabel"). In the years that followed, several new servers came on board: Gertrude, Spiker, Olga, Nancy (and others?).

In the fall of 2002, abuse of the WSO Forums continued. A thread entitled "Gays Suck" prompted the Queer Student Union to print out the thread and post it in Baxter Hall, inviting responses with paper and pen. Abuse escalated at the end of October, at which time there were several pornographic images, violent threats, and racist, sexist, and homophobic posts to be found in the forums. On October 30, the forums were removed.

But they were to return. Shimon Rura led a site re-write in the spring and summer of 2003. One goal of the re-write was to authenticate users, so that their postings and doings could be identified. The site was written with Apache PageKit. Shimon wrote the authentication system and the WSO Ride Board, Josh Ain wrote a new menu feed, Tom White re-wrote the WSO Forums, Evan Miller re-wrote some screen scrapers, and Topher Cyll re-wrote the WSO Facebook and wrote WSO Blogs from a hole in Scotland. The site went live in July of 2003 and has grown in features and popularity since then.

Toph, Tom, Brent, Jacob, and Steve graduated in the spring of 2004, and around that time Ben Cohen and Dan Weintraub were given root. During the summer, Evan and Dan converted WSO Plans from its standalone PHP/MySQL incarnation over to PageKit, so that students could access it from off-campus without setting up a proxy server. Also, they converted the Postgres database and the website over to UTF-8/Unicode. With the help of Masha Lifshin and Sam Dreeben, the duo made much-envied but never-imitated Quicktime VRs for their Facebook pictures.

In the fall of 2004, Kai Steverson rewrote Factrak on hire by College Council, to enhance the abilities of the admin, make comments expire, and allow raters to "agree" with comments left about professors. Kai also wrote My Survey that semester. Evan re-wrote the WSO Facebook (again) to include faculty and more information fields. The new Factrak's interface pulled entries and faces from the new Facebook.

In February 2005, WSO was hacked by a group of Brazilians calling themselves Simiens Crew 2005.

Migration to Ursula: October 2005

In 2005, WSO bought Ursula to replace Spiker. Migrating a 3000-user FreeBSD system to Mac OS X Server is not, in the end, recommended. The play-by-play was delivered on the old WSO announcements system. Copies of the posts are stored here.

Things actually went smoothly the next time (a week later), with Jason Healy '01 scoring an assist by providing some migration scripts.

Spring 2006

Ben Wood, James Ritterpusch, and Jessica Chung were made root over WSO dinner at Coyote Flaco in the spring of 2006.

See also