Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students
At the end of Fall 2003, after many attempts to revitalize our existing email service, it became clear that we needed to change the architecture of our email system. We found the bottleneck that was causing the slowdown, and the only way around it was to remove the basic method used to share email between systems. Without this basic sharing method we either needed to ask every customer to reconfigure their desktop, or do a full redesign and work out a migration path from the old service to the new service. We also needed additional hardware in order to complete the switch.
Based on an external vendor review and ITSS staff design recommendations, new hardware was ordered in November and a new design was completed mid December. Unfortunately, equipment did not arrive until January 13. Systems staff focused entirely on new equipment setup and worked out a migration path with the target conversion date of January 17. Basically, every email account and inbox was moved from one central system to one of four new high speed servers. We were relieved and delighted on January 17 when the move and reconfiguration took only three hours. We had scheduled four hours, and had backup time scheduled on January 18 and 19 as well.
The new service held up well during the first two weeks of Spring 2004, and we expect that reading email will be smooth for the rest of this semester. We will make additional adjustments during the summer months since we have additional hardware on order. What has been implemented is a very scalable approach, allowing us to add servers if needed with minimal downtime.
To resolve some issues sending email, we have added a server to the set of systems that distribute email from on-campus, and believe we have this problem resolved now. Both sending email and reading email should be quite usable during Spring 2004.
More information: Your UMD Internet/Email Account www.d.umn.edu/itss/email/
In mid-December, a change was made in wireless authentication that allows any UofM faculty, staff or student to use UMD's wireless network. Prior to the change, wireless access at UMD was limited to UMD faculty, staff and students. Now anyone from any of the UofM campus systems can authenticate to our wireless network.
More information: Wireless networking at UMD www.d.umn.edu/itss/computing/wireless/
The amount of storage associated with each individual ePortfolio for faculty, staff, and students at UMD has been increased from 20 megabytes to 100 megabytes. This should enable us all to save considerably more information in our portfolios than we could before.
More information: Portfolio https://portfolio.umn.edu/portfolio/
ITSS has coordinated the purchase of Macintosh OSX licensing for computers owned by UMD. This includes licensing for OSX 10.3 (Panther) as well as three years of OSX updates (major updates of OSX are usually released once a year). Home computers and student computers are not eligible for this program.
Enough licenses have been purchased to cover most of the Macintoshes on campus that are capable of supporting OSX. ITSS does need to track how many and which computers these new OSX licenses are installed on in order to manage the automatic upgrade process.
Should you upgrade?
OSX is a modern, very stable, operating system based on UNIX. Although there are a few differences to get used to, the graphic interface and the Finder are quite similar to Macintosh OS 8-9. The OSX versions of programs such as Mulberry, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office are just about identical to using the older, "Classic" versions. The OSX CDs also install iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie (but not iDVD or GarageBand).
Installing OSX won't really change what you're currently doing on your Macintosh, but will make it more stable and allow you to run the newer versions of applications such as MS Office which don't run under the older "Classic" operating system. OSX may not run faster than OS 8-9 on older Macintoshes or Macintoshes that don't have enough memory installed (see below).
Your older non-OSX-native applications can still be used if you currently have an OS 9.1 or 9.2 System Folder on your hard disk. OSX can use this System Folder as an emulator for what is called "Classic" mode - allowing your older programs to run. The OSX install CDs will not install an OS9 System Folder so you must already have one on your hard disk in order to use Classic mode.
If you are currently using OS 10.1 you should definitely upgrade (make sure you have enough RAM - see below). OS 10.2 users won't notice a lot of changes in OS 10.3, but will likely want to upgrade to take advantage of the three year update feature of this purchase.
What computers shouldn't be upgraded?
- "Beige" Macintoshes (even G3s) will not support OSX.
- Early model iMacs (under 400MHZ) may not run OSX well.
- At least 256MB of RAM required - 512MB recommended (check with Computer Maintenance, x7973, for memory upgrade costs).
- Macintoshes that are due to be replaced within a year or two probably shouldn't be upgraded.
You can find out how much RAM you have installed by choosing "About this Computer" from the Apple menu. OS8-9 users can find out their computer's MHZ speed by choose "Apple System Profiler" from the Apple menu.
Obtaining the OSX CDs
Faculty and staff can pick up the OSX 10.3 install CDs at the ITSS Computer Maintenance area (165 KPlz). We will need you to register your name and which computer(s) you will be installing this on. Technical Coordinators can pick up one or more sets of OSX install CDs and be responsible for registering the computers they install OSX on with ITSS.
If you have any questions about this program or on upgrading to OSX contact Joel Ness (x8841, jness).
Streaming video on the web has been a very hot topic on campus recently. Several departments have asked ITSS to explore the topic and do some demonstrations and tests. We have found that streaming can be an excellent way to broaden the reach of an interactive television (ITV) event, and it can also be a reasonably inexpensive way to deliver the base components of a classroom lecture to an online audience. The challenges and high-cost issues inherent to streaming video are in the capturing and production phase and less in the delivery.
Just about any classroom lecture can be streamed with the following equipment: a digital video camera, a wireless microphone, a laptop running streaming video capture software, an Ethernet connection, and an account on an ITSS server that streams video. The server is centrally funded. Ethernet is readily available most places on campus. The other components can be purchased for under $3000. Unless a person is operating the camera and trying to capture the various components of the lecture, the quality of such a setup is relatively poor. An example of a static camera used to capture a lecture is available at http://www.d.umn.edu/~breeves/cse.mov
The video and audio are connected to a streaming server and broadcast to a web site. Anyone with a broadband Internet connection and freely available Quicktime software can view the lecture real-time. This means that streaming should be easily scaled to every class on campus, right? That is the premise we researched this past semester, and we found that the answer was not quite as simple as a "yes" or "no." File storage, capturing multimedia, production, and compression complicate the issue.
File storage is potentially a very expensive problem. Video takes up huge amounts of disk space. Buying and maintaining disk space on servers is expensive. Most applications of streaming video include archiving it so that it can be available on demand. This means lots of disk space on the streaming video server and a significant amount of cost.
One way to mitigate the cost of disk space is to compress the video into smaller file sizes. The "quick and dirty" approach is to set up the video capturing software to compress as it records. This, unfortunately, precludes the possibility of enhancing the size and resolution of the video. The alternative is to capture "raw" footage that is not compressed. Now the size and resolution can be easily modified, but not without spending a significant amount of time processing the files. The work is highly variable in scope and cost. Mark Summers, who has produced several online course materials for the UMD School of Medicine, found that it took him several hours to compress longer lectures into 4 or 5 minute clips for the web. The example clip listed above took a few hours in preparation, production, and upload. The quality of the clip such as removal of "dead air" time or alteration of size and resolution, is directly proportional to production time.
While the disk space issue is difficult, capturing multimedia is a much bigger challenge. Classroom lectures in the 21st century include things like PowerPoint slides, video clips, music, and more mundane things like blackboard/whiteboard writing, student discussion, etc. Capturing all of these things, which are often integral to the fabric of a class, is possible, but expensive. ITV classrooms already have all of the appropriate equipment to capture the many aspects of a class. A document camera captures the lecturer's writing that would be done on a chalk board in a traditional setting. Dish microphones or individual desktop microphones feed into a sound-activated mixer to seamlessly record all points of discussion. Two cameras with panning and zoom capabilities ensure that students and faculty will be seen at the remote site (or through a web site). Additional video inputs for a VCR/DVD player, a laptop computer, or practically any other video or audio device is easily controlled with a touch pad device. All of this is generally sent over the Internet to other ITV classrooms, but can just as easily be streamed on the web to anyone who has a broadband connection anywhere in the world.
As you might imagine, though the technology is here and the resources are already in place, scaling the ITV classroom model to a department or campus would be very expensive. The equipment is expensive, and ITV sessions generally require a student employee trained to operate the equipment. Storing the resulting video would also be expensive. Any production to edit, compress, or otherwise alter the video would require expensive staff time.
Our preliminary findings on streaming video are:
- capturing and streaming a basic lecture is fairly inexpensive and easy.
- archiving lectures could be very expensive either due to disk space or because of the staff time required to compress video.
- capturing the multimedia, discussion, and chalk-board components of a class requires a much more expensive infrastructure.
ITSS will continue to research and test video streaming solutions and applications. Please contact Jason Davis (jdavis) or Bruce Reeves (breeves) if you have any questions (or answers) regarding streaming video.
Did you know that University policy requires all computers connected to the University network to have updated anti-virus software? Installing the free site-licensed Norton Anti-virus software on your computer is just the first step in securing it against the ever-increasing volley of viruses, trojans, and worms. You also need to know how to keep it current, and how to run a full system scan to check for problems.
Updating your NAV
LiveUpdate is the best way to obtain current updates for your Symantec products. LiveUpdate makes sure that you have the latest program updates, current virus definitions, URL updates, firewall rules, IDS signatures, and ALE updates.
The University managed version of NAV is updated automatically each day that you are connected to the UMD network over an Ethernet connection. You do not need to run the "LiveUpdate" feature.
The personal (off-campus) version of NAV is not updated automatically. You will need to run the "LiveUpdate" feature manually to make sure your computer has the latest virus protection. You run the live update daily, and any time you are notified of a new virus threat. To manually run LiveUpdate:
- Start Norton AntiVirus Corporate Edition (double-click on the icon on the task bar, or select START - Settings - Programs - Norton AntiVirus Corporate Edition).
- Check the date for the "Virus Definition File". To update, click the "LiveUpdate" button.
Running a full NAV scan
If you keep NAV updated, you should not need to run a full NAV scan on your computer. However, if you have not updated your NAV recently and/or you suspect that your computer may have a virus, you can run a full scan on your computer to check for any problems. To run a full scan:
- Run LiveUpdate to ensure you have the latest virus definitions.
- Open Norton (double-click on the icon on the toolbar, or select START - Programs - Norton Anti-virus Corporate Edition).
- On the top toolbar, select Scan - Scan computer
- On the Scan Computer window, check your hard drive (Local C:), then select the Scan button.
- If Norton AntiVirus detects a threat, write down the name of the detected file or threat. Then, if you are given an option, do one of the following:
- If the threat is detected as a virus, click Repair. If Norton AntiVirus cannot repair the file, either delete or quarantine it.
- If the threat is detected as a worm or Trojan, click Delete. Worms and Trojans are malicious code and there is nothing to repair.
More information: Norton Anti-virus www.d.umn.edu/itss/security/nav/
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