Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students
Viz Lab Presents
After four years of research and testing, ITSS converted the Cloquet Forestry Center's (CFC) phone system to a new IP telephone system in December.
The recent move of the Minnesota Extension Service (MES) offices to the Forestry Center location was a major factor in moving ahead with this new technology. The old system at CFC could not support the expansion needed for the MES staff. All CFC and MES staff now have direct 726-numbers. If you need to contact either group, electronic directories have been set up for each, and staff can be called by dialing the last four digits of their number just as if they were on campus. The new main number for CFC is 6400. The new main number for MES is 6464.
What are IP telephones?
IP is short for Internet Protocol. IP phones run over the campus network and plug into network jacks instead of voice jacks. IP telephony is the future of telecommunications and allows for integration of voice, data, and video applications. ITSS is evaluating two IP phone systems. The first to be installed was a Cisco system. The second was a Nortel system. Each system has its benefits and drawbacks. Testing and evaluations continue on a daily basis.
Our current Nortel phone system (called a PBX) is roughly 20 feet long, 6 feet high and will support up to 10,000 phones. In contrast, an IP-PBX consists of a server that is roughly the size of a large pizza box. It too can support up to 10,000 phones. Applications such as voice mail or conferencing are added to the system by connecting additional servers to the network. An example of an application is voice mail. Support for our existing voice mail system runs out next year. The replacement will most likely by an IP voice mail system.
Power requirements limit use
A major consideration for IP phones is power. With traditional phone systems, if the power goes out phones keep working because the PBX is connected to backup power systems. In most areas of campus today, if the power goes out the network goes down. In the past, there was no incentive to keep the network up if the power went out because office computers wouldn't work anyway. With IP phones in the mix, it becomes mandatory that the network stays up. Many buildings on campus do not have emergency generators and significant work and expense will be required to install uninterruptible power supplies and replace network gear that provide power to operate the phones. It's due to these power limitations that ITSS intends to roll out IP phones only to remote sites or for special applications in the near future.
Other phone upgrades
ITSS is currently working on a long-awaited upgrade of phone services for Washburn Hall and Research Lab buildings. Because of distance limitations, those buildings are still using analog phones (no displays or feature buttons). Infrastructure planning and upgrades for those buildings are in the works.
More information: Telephone services /itss/phone/
The VDIL is a limited-access facility that is open to faculty members and their associates and students whose primary interest is in high-end visualization projects. Since its inception in 1999, it has developed into an extremely valuable resource for the faculty at UMD. It has become a place where artists, scientists, educators and engineers can meet and collaborate.
Three new features have been added to the VDIL web site to further enhance and promote its mission.
- VDIL Annual Report includes information on summer grants, awards and recognitions, research projects, technology resources, exhibitions, performances, conferences, presentations, publications and more.
- VDIL Video lets you meet the people doing research in the lab. Video vignettes provide a quick look at what's currently happening in the VDIL.
- VDIL Virtual Tour is available for those who prefer to experience life vicariously.
More information: VDIL www.d.umn.edu/vdil/
UMD faculty members may be eligible to receive the Faculty Toolkit, a collection of free and reduced-price multimedia software available to University of Minnesota instructors to use for University course development and instructional purposes. Additionally, ITSS provides a suite of tools called facultEtools to assist faculty with web-related services.
The Faculty Toolkit is co-sponsored by the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and developed and managed by the Digital Media Center (DMC) and Academic and Distributed Computing Services (ADCS), units of the OIT. ITSS provides local support for the Faculty Toolkit on this campus.
Software available in the Faculty Toolkit includes:
- Adobe Acrobat
- Adobe Photoshop
- Macromedia Authorware
- Macromedia Director
- Macromedia Dreamweaver
- Macromedia Flash
There are eligibility requirements and an application process for the Faculty ToolKit - see Faculty Toolkit for details.
ITSS has put together a suite of tools to assist faculty called facultEtools. The tools include:
- Grade Poster
- Streaming audio and video
- Test Pilot
- Web browser test for online courses
- Web Crossing
- Web directory password protection
- Web drop folders
For more information on these tools, see facultEtools
More information: Technology Resources for Faculty and Staff /itss/facstaff/
Viruses and exploits to the Microsoft operating systems are now a fact of life, and we need assistance from everyone to keep them at bay. New viruses are released each week.
What is ITSS doing?
We're putting the latest news on viruses up on our home page in the News Briefs section in the right column.
We've updated our section on Viruses and Security Information.
We've put together a list of helpful tips to combat viruses.
We are filtering out most viruses at the mail server before they are even delivered. However, when a new virus is released, there is a short lag time before new patches can be created and anti-virus software updated. This allows a few viruses to sneak through and infect our machines despite our best efforts. Doing regular updates frequently can help, however. Those running the Windows operating system are most at risk.
What can you do?
In addition to following the tips above, Windows users should also regularly run the the Windows Update feature to update their operating system (OS). Some viruses and worms spread through the network using Windows OS exploits - you don't need to get an infected email to get them.
If you think your machine is infected, please contact the Help Desk for assistance. Call x8847 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff responsible for servers running Windows operating systems must also keep these machines patched.
Please note that just because you receive an email message with a virus attached does not necessarily mean that your machine is infected. Don't open such messages and delete them immediately.
Some viruses send email from an infected machine by choosing an email address from the address book to pretend to be the sender. Thus, if your email address is in the address book of an infected machine, you may receive email saying that someone got a virus from you. In many cases, this is not true, but the additional email generated in this way makes the situation even more confusing.
To make matters even worse, some viruses are designed to do keystroke monitoring on infected machines. By monitoring keystrokes, the virus program can capture your password when you enter it. It then sends your password to its creator to use. Anyone who has had an infected computer should also change passwords once the infection is cleaned up.
We have heard a variety of anecdotes about users who find these preventive measures too troublesome or time-consuming, so they simply don't do any of it. Most of these people will eventually find out the hard way the folly of this approach. Having a machine infected and files lost will result in a much greater loss of work time and productivity than doing regular updates.
More information: Virus and security information /itss/security
If you are an Oracle/CorporateTime Calendar user, you have probably noticed that campus holidays are entered into your calendar globally for all users. These appear with a small icon in the Notes section at the bottom of the CorporateTime window.
It is possible for you to add other types of notes into this same section of your calendar using the "Events" and "Notes" features of the calendar program.
Events last for an entire day but do not block time in your Agenda. To add a New Day Event, click on the flag icon in the tool bar at the top of the calendar window.
You can use Notes to remind you about things you need to do over the course of a day. To add a New Daily Note, click on the thumbtack icon.
To set up repeating events (such as Pay Dates) or notes, select either Event or Note, click on the Repeating... button, and specify the frequency (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, etc.) and the Start and End dates.
Have you seen any of those recent news articles about other universities that released sensitive data by mistake? Several universities have mistakenly released social security numbers or credit card numbers, thus creating a ripe opportunity for identity theft. Could this happen here?
While we'd all like to think that important data is safe and secure in our university's enterprise systems, data is only as secure as we keep it. Reporting functions from enterprise systems allow for data to be downloaded and manipulated on campus desktops or stored on campus servers. If these desktops or servers are not secure, then the data is no longer secure.
The Office of Information Technology provides a comprehensive guide: Protecting Private Data Guideline. This includes important information about technical requirements as well as examples of private data that must be protected.
If you are storing private data, especially social security numbers or credit card numbers, on a campus computer, please read and understand these guidelines carefully. ITSS will be happy to consult with you about extra measures you can take to protect this data. The best guideline of all is to avoid saving any private data on local machines unless it is necessary to complete your regular work.
More information: OIT Security http://www1.umn.edu/oit/security/
ITSS is preparing for converting to Apple's OSX operating system in the Macintosh labs next year. Some of the labs will be upgraded at the beginning of this summer and some toward the end.
We're working with the departments that teach in these labs to coordinate software compatibility, upgrades, etc.
Two Apple eMacs in the Library 119 lab are currently running a test build of OSX 10.2 for students and faculty to try out. This summer's upgrade will be to OSX 10.3 (Panther).
If you have any questions about OSX in the Macintosh labs or on upgrading your computer to OSX contact Joel Ness (jness, x8841).
More information: Student Computing Labs /itss/labs/
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.
If you have any questions about this program or on upgrading to OSX, contact Joel Ness (x8841, jness).
More information: Macintosh OSX licensing offered /itss/news/2004/04-Feb.html#osx
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