Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students
Unless configured to use secure (encrypted) protocols, email programs send your username, password, and email content as clear text that can possibly be intercepted by others - particularly on a wireless network. You should check your email program's settings to make sure your incoming (IMAP or POP) and outgoing (SMTP) servers are configured to use secure settings. Beginning January, 2007, only email clients configured to use secure settings will be able to connect to the UMD email servers to send and receive mail.
The Twin Cities campus made the switch to requiring secure settings a while back and UMD is going to require this change at UMD this Fall. We'll be advertising this a number of ways including targeted reminder notes later this semester to those who we notice are still using non-secure settings.
For Mulberry users, the only version of Mulberry that will work after this December is the Mulberry 3.1.6 Secure version we've had available for the past few years. Older versions do not support secure protocols. Mulberry 3.16 does not run on Mac OS9 so those who have not updated to OSX will no longer be able to use Mulberry.
Our secure email instruction pages provide step-by-step instructions for those who are first configuring an email program or who are already using a program and just need to add the secure settings.
Any email program that supports secure settings should work with our UMD email system. We have secure configuration pages for using IMAP with the most recent versions of the following programs:
- OSX Mail
- Eudora 7 for Windows
- Eudora 6 for OSX
This fall we are testing a new version of Webmail. Our email web page http://www.d.umn.edu/email allows you to select either the new version of webmail or the older version. Data such as address books and preferences have not yet been moved from the old version of webmail to the new version. We would like to hear what you think of the new version and have provided an easy way to send feedback to us on the webmail selector page.
The new webmail version significantly speeds up listing email headers in your inbox by a method called caching. This eliminates the need to reread your inbox every time you read or send an email message. Another feature is a "virtual mailbox" which shows only your unread messages. This is handy when all you want to do is watch for new and unread messages as they come into your inbox. There are many other features available for the new webmail systeam and if testing goes well we may add in some of these after the end of fall semester.
Keeping the bad stuff out, and how to let the good stuff in
ITSS has been blocking email from known spam and virus sites for more than two years now. We use a variety of blocking techniques, including looking at commercial block lists, using greylisting, and making our own checks on sender's servers. If a sender's email coming to UMD is blocked, it is almost surely because the sender's email server is poorly configured or on a block list.
Using email blocking enables us to eliminate between 60 and 90 percent of the email sent to UMD, nearly all of which is spam or viruses. For example, on August 28, 2006, 215,336 emails were delivered to our systems. 139,262 were blocked, and 76,024 were sent to virus checkers and onto customer mailboxes.
We send our email through virus checkers after it passes any mail blocks we have set up. Virus checkers can usually strip off viruses that are not prevented by block lists, but virus checkers need to be updated regularly. If a new virus comes out, it can often take several days before the virus check is available. By blocking known spam and virus sites, we can often protect ourselves from outbreaks of new viruses until the virus check is available.
All of this is a very good thing except in the case where an email message that you want to receive is blocked. ITSS recognizes how frustrating that can be, and we are very willing to work with the remote site to help them remove the blocks to their systems. This will not only be helpful to them in delivering mail to UMD, but it will also help them deliver mail to many other mail providers. Most qualified email providers use these techniques now, including the AOL and the Twin Cities campus. If necessary, we can also set up a bypass for selected senders, but our preference is to help them configure their systems correctly.
If you know or suspect that email from someone you know is being blocked, here's what to do:
- Send an email to the blocked sender. It is quite likely this person
can receive email from you, even though email sent to you is blocked.
- Ask this person to send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is one email address at UMD that accepts all email (no blocking). Once we receive an email from the blocked sender, we will have enough information to begin the process of assisting the remote site with their email blocking problems.
- You can also send the blocked sender this url: http://www.d.umn.edu/email/block/
The blocked sender should forward this information to their email provider. It is technical information that the sender's email provider can use to determine what is wrong.
ITSS is working on adding new features to our email system that will enable people at UMD to review lists of email being blocked and alert us to those that you would like to receive. We hope to announce this later this fall. In the meantime, feel free to let us know about any instances by sending mailblock any information you have about the blocked sender.
- Spam - What it is and how to fight it http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/email/spam.html
- Your Internet/Email Account http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/email/
- Blocked Email Resources (technical) http://www.d.umn.edu/email/block/
After conversion to Call Pilot, you still have access to messages in the old voice mail system. To login to the old system you'll have to dial a new number. Dial 6688, and log in using your old 4-digit security code. You may want to check your old mailbox for messages you may have received between the time you left work on Tuesday, August 29th and the following morning.
Both the old system and new Call Pilot system can light the message waiting light on your phone. If your message waiting light remains lit after you have listened to all of your messages in Call Pilot, it's safe to assume you have a message waiting for you in the old system. You should only have to check the old system for message once after the conversion to Call Pilot as all new messages now go to your Call Pilot mailbox. Plans are to leave access to the old system in place through September.
Bonus tip : To bypass a recorded greeting press # or 5. Either option will let you bypass a greeting and go directly to the recording beep.
ITSS completed a number of large projects over the summer. Here are a few highlights.
Working with Qwest Communications, we replaced our old
voice mail system with a new Call Pilot integrated messaging system that went live on August 30. This new system currently supports 3147 voice mailboxes and 40 auto- attendants. Advanced features include:
- Access to voice messages and mail box administration via the web.
- Forwarding of voice messages to your e-mail inbox.
- Speach recognition of mail box commands.
ITSS worked with Dell-Comm, Inc. to reroute major telecommunications feeder cables out of the way of the construction site for the new LSBE building. This included 600 pairs of copper cable for Oakland Apartments, 900 pair for Heaney Hall, and 300 pair for Goldfine Hall. It also included fiber optic cable for networking to these buildings.
ITSS worked with the building contractor to provide telephone and network infrastructure for the new Sports and Health Building. The network in this building also supports 12 security cameras throughout the building.
ITSS worked with Facilities Management and contractors Dell-Comm, Inc. and Mesaba Electric to make Chester Park School ready for more than 100 faculty and staff to inhabit this fall. In order to provide telephone and network connections for all of these people, Dell-Comm needed to run a larger feeder cable from Heller Hall, along University Drive and down College Street to Chester Park School. Then Mesaba Electric did all of the internal cabling for phone and data. All of this work was done after UMD took possession of the school at the end of June.
ITSS and Facilities Management have completed covering all of the residence hall parking lots with 49 security cameras. This was a particularly challenging project, since we decided to use wireless technology to save money on cabling. The equipment we bought from our first vendor did not provide all of the options our site required, so we had to send it back and start over. The new Firetide equipment seems to be working very well. It uses a mesh technology to reinforce signals between the cameras, mounted on light poles, and the base stations, mounted on buildings. In addition, Mesaba Electric installed 17 cameras on building entrances in Burntside Hall, Lake Superior Hall, and Junction Apartments. Cameras are monitored by the Department of Central Security at the Twin Cities campus. We hope they will be helpful in reducing damage to vehicles and increasing safety of individuals.
ITSS staff moved to a new unified wireless system with improved authentication, with work done during the past year and completed over the summer. Wireless access points are now simple devices that take all their instructions from a central controller. This greatly improves the ability to manage the wireless network. One-hundred percent of the installation uses 802.11g technology, with fifty percent supporting 802.11a/g. The wireless network, as well as wired public jacks in classrooms and other locations, use our new Monolith authentication system. The new system no longer requires users to type "net" in a browser to bring up the authentication screen. Instead, it comes up automatically. All of these changes required us to replace 80 wireless access points, convert 98, and add 48, for a total of 226. It also required replacement of 87 network switches.
ITSS staff also upgraded other parts of our network infrastructure this past year. We now have new CPUs in our core routers, a new VPN server, and our link to the Internet nearly doubled in capacity to 150 megabits per second. We are moving to a standard service of 2 gigabits with failover to each campus building. At present more than 20 campus buildings have a gigabit feed as do most of our residence halls. Our network now serves a new facility in Boulder Lake. Our link to the Cloquet Forestry Center has been improved, and our link to NRRI will be improved shortly. The network is becoming more of a utility, as we no longer bill for each network jack. The network, in addition to serving user computers and servers, also supports security cameras, building monitoring systems, door access systems, interactive video systems, and IP telephones.
ITSS also made a number of improvements to our email systems, including an upgrade to our web mail system (see next article).
Peer-to-peer (P2P) software is generally considered unacceptable to use on the University network, except in rare situations. P2P and anonymous file sharing programs on your computer can inadvertently allow access to your entire computer. P2P file sharing networks have also recently been used to spread viruses and worms.
As a result, OIT Security <http://www1.umn.edu/oit/security/> has started to monitor for P2P traffic on the University network. If your computer is identified as passing P2P traffic, you will receive a notice from ITSS asking you to verify that the usage is legal and directly related to University business, and that it does not represent a potential exposure of protected data (eg. HIPAA, FERPA).
For those few that require file sharing, it is important to understand the risks and responsibilities when using such programs. Legally protected or other important University information should never be stored on a computer that has P2P software installed or file sharing enabled without a strong password.
University faculty and staff can refer to the following materials for more information on this topic:
What are Clickers?
Student Response Systems, or "clickers," are small handheld devices coupled with receiving hardware and presentation software. The system allows an instructor to present questions, usually via a computer projector, and collect student answers immediately during the lecture. The results can generally be manipulated and displayed immediately and can be used to change the course of the lecture.
New Clicker Aliases
Now that the standard has been set and piloted successfully,we have set up two new email aliases to better reflect the administration of the program:
"srs-announce" includes all faculty and staff who have expressed an interest in clickers, been involved in setting the standard, or currently occupy a teaching or support roll. This alias will be used only for major announcements.
"srs-faculty" includes only the faculty teaching with clickers during the current semester plus ITSS support staff. This alias will be used for day-to-day details and minutia of interest to faculty who are currently teaching with clickers. If you would like to be included on either of these aliases, please contact Jason Davis (jdavis).
Clicker Demographics for Fall 2006
Over the course of Fall 2005 and Spring 2006, 14 faculty taught 25 courses with clickers. A total of 2489 clickers were used by UMD students. During Fall 2006, we anticipate 18 faculty will teach 27 courses to 2551 students (1949 of them did not purchase a clicker last year). Chemistry, Math, Education, Business (FMIS), Psychology, Biology, Pharmacy, and Health classes will be taught using clickers.
TurningPoint Software Update
Turning Point has released the latest software update, which can be downloaded at:
ITSS strongly recommends that you download and install the latest version of TurningPoint. You must uninstall previous versions of TurningPoint prior to installing TurningPoint 2006 w/Service Pack.
WebDrop and eGradeBook Clicker Tools
At the request of faculty from last year, WebDrop has been updated in the following ways:
- Once your students have authenticated into WebDrop and registered their clickers, you can sort the list either alphabetically or chronologically before you download it. This means late additions will be easy to track and add.
- When the registration deadline has passed, any additional registrations will not only append to the list, but will also generate an email to you.
- An additional WebDrop box has been created for you to share files with ITSS staff securely.
- The arbitrary number assigned to student clickers to show where they are in a response table can be uploaded into eGradeBook through a semi-automated process developed by ITSS.
Clicker Recall Recap From Spring 2006
The 2500+ clickers sold at UMD last year worked very well for the most part, but there was a manufacturing flaw in all of them: a weak soldering spot meant they could fail. About 5% had failed through Spring 2006. As a result, TurningPoint made replacements available for all clickers.
Any student who had registered a clicker last year received two emails letting them know that they could trade their old clicker for a new one. We got back 1783 clickers during this warranty exchange. This means about 800 students missed their opportunity for a replacement clicker. We'll make one more pass at those students a few weeks into Fall semester and give them another chance to exchange clickers.
No Mac Version, No WebCT Vista... yet
The Macintosh version of TurningPoint software has been a lingering disappointment and actually resulted in an overall lowering of price for us last year, when the vendor fell short of our agreement. While the vendor has still not fulfilled this promise, they are planning to release a beta some time during Fall Semester 2006 and hope to have a fully functional release before Spring Semester 2007.
We also anticipated a "powerlink" that would allow us to integrate most of the administrative tasks into WebCT Vista. OIT was not able to implement this powerlink for us in time for Fall 2006, but will continue to test and may be able to make this work for Spring 2007. We have improved what we can do with in-house tools such as eGradeBook and WebDrop and we will continue to pursue an integrated server solution for the future.
General information and specific instructions regarding clickers can be found on our website: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/classroom/srs.html
If you have an comments, questions, or concerns, contact Jason Davis (jdavis).
FacultETools: Lots to do and no time to do it?
Information Technology Systems and Services would like to announce a new service for faculty. The ITSS Course Development Service is now available to help faculty members take course materials and content and transfer it to an online environment. As more and more students look to the Web for course resources, using our new service may help save you time!
To take advantage of our ITSS Course Development Service contact Shelly McCauley-Jugovich (smccaule) 726-6862 or Bruce Reeves (breeves) 726-6831 and hire a supervised, student course development designer. This is a billable service. Please visit our website for further details http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/etrg/webct/CourseDevelopmentService.html
The Student Computing team has made numerous improvements in the computer labs over the summer months. The ITSS Computer Lab web pages have also been updated. These pages include lists of available hardware and software, maps for the locations of all computer labs, a link to the reservations for each lab, and much more. www.d.umn.edu/itss/labs/
Computer Lab Support Changes
The Student Computing Team has implemented a different coverage model for our computer labs this semester. We are having one consultant “patrol” several labs on a rotating basis. They will spend 5-10 minutes in each lab checking for problems or questions from student users. Each roving lab consultant will have a radio so they can quickly respond to phone calls or emails from lab users.
One of the main reasons for switching to this coverage model is that a majority of the time the lab consultants were waiting for an opportunity to help someone.
The goal of the program is to become more efficient in how we support the labs. The new coverage model will mean the Student Computing Team will be able to provide more funding for the computer labs, which will result in other lab improvements: newer computers, printers and software, comfortable tables and chairs, etc. Please feel free to send comments or questions about the new consultant scheduling program to labmanager
Computer lab hardware upgrades
- The Engr 204 lab now has new Dell computers and 19” flat-panel monitors. The Dell PCs that had been in Engr 204 were moved to the Lib 115 room.
- New 19” flat-model monitors were put into the SBE 17 Mac lab.
- The MonH 209 and 239 computer labs were upgraded with new Intel iMacs with 17 inch monitors.
- The Library 119 Full Access computer lab now has 12 Intel iMacs with 20 inch monitors. This lab is not used for classes so students do not have to worry about being interrupted because of a class reservation.
Lab software changes
The biggest change to software in the computer labs is an application that tracks usage of each computer in each lab. This gives real-time usage statistics so lab users can know what other labs have computers available for use if the one they are in has a reservation or is closing for the day. http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/labs/schedule/
An additional color printer with both 8x11 and 11x17 capabilities has been added to the Lib 118 computer lab. The cost for black & white laser printed pages has stayed the same for this year,
The Student Computing Team tracked SunRay usage. We noticed that at the busiest time of any day, no more than 100 SunRays were in use. Since there were over 250 SunRays in the Library last year, it was determined that many of these computers could be removed. 116 Sunrays were removed from the 3rd and 4th floors of the Library.
In place of some of the removed Sunrays, 28 G4 eMacs have been placed on the 3rd floor of the Library. These are the first Basic Access Macs on campus for many years. An additional 12 PCs were also added to the 3rd floor, increasing the pool of Basic Access PCs in the Library to a total of 66. Any currently registered student can use the Basic Access computers.
For more information on Full and Basic Access computing resources, visit the ITSS computer labs. http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/labs/
A number of laptop manufacturers, including Dell and Apple, have discovered that some of their Sony-manufactured laptop batteries may be defective. If you have a Dell or Apple laptop you should visit the links below and compare the serial number of your laptop's battery to the list of affected batteries on the companies' web sites.
Dell Battery Recall Program
15-inch MacBook Pro Battery Exchange Program
iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 Battery Exchange Program
Recommended Technology Solutions updated
The ITSS Recommended Solutions document has been recently updated and is available for review. Recommended Solutions provides advice to the campus regarding acquisition of software and hardware, including computers, PDAs, wireless technology and more.
It is the intention of ITSS to provide guidance for purchase decisions and clarification of support available from ITSS. This document is our attempt to:
- Provide advice to the campus community regarding technology acquisitions.
- Improve the compatibility of information and staff training throughout the campus.
- Increase productivity of ITSS staff by limiting the number of hardware and software platforms we support.
- Help ITSS staff establish priorities for customer support.
For more information, see http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/policies/solutions/
One of the most exciting areas in education today is the integration of multimedia into teaching and learning. Research has shown that higher levels of learning occur when people are presented information via more than a single medium. If you want to incorporate video, sound, images, text, and/or animation into a presentation, lecture, or class the Multimedia Hub in the Audio Visual office of ITSS can help.
Don't have time or inclination to do it yourself? We can do video transfers, taping, editing, slide conversions, and media duplication for you, subject to our staff availability (there is a fee for this service).
Email: mmedia or call: 726-6087, or contact Mary Olson-Reed at 726-8544
info.tech.News is published monthly during the academic year by ITSS. An email digest is also sent to all users subscribed to the infotech.announce, UMD.business.announce and studenttech.announce. The goal is to distribute information useful to the daily routines of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus community in conjunction with computer and telephone technologies. Comments or suggestions may be sent to the editor at: email@example.com.