Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students
From January 1 through June 30, 2008, the ITSS Systems Team provided support for:
- 38,742 user accounts
- a daily average of 110,325 email messages delivered
- a daily average of 68 percent of email messages refused (spam or viruses)
- a daily maximum of 93 percent of email messages refused (spam or
viruses on a bad day)
Ten Years Ago in ITSS - September 1998
1998-1999 UMD Internet Kit Released
The Computer Corner has this year’s edition of the Internet Kit for sale at a price of $7.50 for the CD version. A limited number of diskette versions are also available.
This year’s kit includes software for Windows 3.1, Apple Macintosh and Windows 95/98 operating systems. Mulberry, our new e-mail client, and upgraded versions of Netscape and telnet are included in the Windows 95/98 and Mac software collection
Also included are modem scripts to automate logging in to the UMD modem pool for most modem brands. This kit is the easiest way to get connected to the Internet whether you are on campus or dialing in from off campus.
ITSS is pleased to announce the opening of our new ITSS TechCenter in Kirby Plaza 165. We have combined our services for computer maintenance, desktop support, help desk, AV checkout, and classroom and computer lab support into one area.
Our goal is to provide the campus community with one place to stop and one number to call for answers, advice and assistance with all of your UMD technology needs.
The ITSS TechCenter offers free phone or walk-in support for basic technology questions. We have staff that can visit classrooms and computer labs to resolve technical problems with equipment, including problems with projectors, lab authentication or printing, and more. We will also provide check out of classroom equipment such as projectors, laptops, and conference phones. (Digital and video camera checkout and return have moved to the Multimedia Hub, 119 Lib, 726-6087.) And of course, we will continue to provide computer repair services.
Call x8847, stop into KPlz 165, or check our our web site at: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/techcenter/
UMD has a new Data Center to house the various server systems that provide many of the services ITSS customers use. As many of you know, ITSS servers had been located in our old data center in MWAH since 1973. That room did not have a fire-suppression system, had become more and more crowded with systems and equipment, cabling and power were difficult to trace, and the electrical and generator systems were often stressed by the server load. The oldest piece of equipment in the room was the air conditioner, which was installed in 1978, long outliving the average life-span of an air conditioner of 20 years.
The new Data Center is a stark contrast to the old one; clean, room enough to open cabinet doors, wires (almost four miles of wire) neatly run to the sixteen rack mount cabinets, fiber connections to the cabinets and the network, and clearly defined hot and cold aisles for proper cooling. There are about 80 rack mount style computers or disk storage units now located in this room. Although the move happened about a year later than the staff move last summer, the Data Center always was part of the planned move from MWAH to Kirby Plaza. During this past year ITSS and Facilities Management and a consultant worked together to design and monitor the construction of the new data center. The consultant was hired because of the technical nature of the mechanics and fire suppression systems required for an up-to-date Data Center. Some of the special items included:
- A reroute of all the utilities above the ceiling in the room. It's required to remove any liquid located above a server room due to the replacement cost of the servers.
- A specialized sprinkler system that does not contain water until at least two smoke detectors in different zones signal a fire is imminent.
- A specialized under-the-floor gas fire suppression system that also requires at least two smoke detectors in different zones to signal fire detection.
- A fire panel that controls the fire suppression equipment in the room and that interfaces to the Kirby Plaza fire alarm system.
- Air conditioning units that can run 24 X 7 X 365 that have dual glycol loop paths and pumps to increase reliability.
- An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) unit large enough to run all the systems in the room for about 10 minutes.
- A gas powered generator that provides ample electricity during power failures to run all the systems, pumps and air conditioners. The generator starts up about thirty seconds after a continuous power failure.
- A specialized electric breaker panel that can shut down the whole room in less than a second, required if any of the fire alarm systems are activated.
Another positive item is that ITSS now meets the fire insurance adjustor request for three separate areas: a storage area, a setup area, and the actual Data Center. Special thanks to Facilities Management staff who worked closely with our staff and the contractors to keep costs for this project to a minimum.
Welcome to Fall semester 2008! If you are new faculty, please check out our "Essential Technology Tools for Faculty" at http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/etrg/essentialtechnologytools/. Once your head is no longer swimming, or if you've been here for awhile please be sure to see our "Technology Resources for Faculty and Staff" at http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/facstaff/.
Over the summer, ITSS continued to roll out enhanced control systems to general purpose classrooms.
These new systems include Crestron controllers, Audix speakers and Hitachi or Sony projectors. The control systems utilize a redesigned 8-button keypad user interface, which will be standard in most general purpose classrooms. We have chosen a control system design that can be modified with the least amount of change possible (consistent user interface) when equipping rooms with differing teaching needs. This will allow instructors to travel from room to room or building to building on campus without having to learn new technology when relocating.
For Fall 2008, over 75% of our general purpose classrooms have been updated with enhanced control systems. We have also been able to build these new systems into a number of conference rooms and computer labs. As a part of this work, over 20 classroom projectors have been replaced, and the sound systems in three lecture halls have been upgraded and integrated into the podium controls to eliminate the confusion of separate control cabinets in those rooms. A list of all General Purpose classrooms and detailed technology guides for those rooms can be found here: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/classroom/userguides.html
Pending funding, we anticipate that we will have these systems in every general purpose classroom with a capacity of 30+ students by the end of Summer 2009. In addition to installing these systems in general purpose classrooms, we are recommending this configuration for departmental rooms. If you would like further information about enhanced control systems, or about our design and installation services, please contact Karl Oman (koman, x8151) or Jason Davis (jdavis, x8782).
ITSS has long been in the business of working with Facilities Management to plan, specify, and oversee phone and network installations on new construction projects. One new aspect of the Labovitz School of Business and Economics project has been a great opportunity for ITSS to work with FM on classroom and public space technologies.
ITSS had the opportunity to specify, purchase, program, and install all of this equipment for the project. The classrooms have the latest in enhanced control systems, enabling us to monitor and support the rooms remotely and making it easier for faculty to get past technology hurdles and into teaching more quickly. The public space has digital signs (using a platform called "tightrope") that allow for constant updating of news and events, interactive kiosks helping users find their way, and a twenty-foot long electronic stock ticker.
By doing this project "in-house," ITSS was able to reduce the cost of this portion of the project substantially. We are also in a much better position to provide ongoing support for the technology because we have been so involved with each part of the process. We have been very happy to collaborate with FM and with LSBE on this project and we hope to build on this experience for future renovation and construction projects on campus.
Walk through the new LSBE building to see some of this great new technology.
UMD ITSS staff planned and installed upgrades this summer. They also implemented additional network redundancy. Aging network devices were replaced with new equipment, which often allows higher network speeds in the buildings involved. Here are some network specifics
- Our connectivity to the Twin Cities now includes multiple feeds and multiple routers. This improves reliability because two paths exists between the TC campus and ours
- Our path to the Internet is dedicated to our site. Prior to this we shared our feed to the Internet with the Twin Cities campus.
- Network firewalls have been put into place which improve security.
- Network capacity was improved by increasing the bandwidth between our major on campus connections to 4 Gigabytes
- LSBE was brought on line and work has progressed on the new stadium.
- We are in the midst of installing a fiber ring around the campus. This might take a few years, but two large parts of the ring are now completed. A ring will allow us to set up feeds between major routing equipment such that a single cable cut will have zero impact on traffic flow.
- We have a partially working 'standby' system on the major network backbone devices. We ran on one of our two major routers while moving one major router to the new data center. There were no network outages while this major router was in transit between buildings.
- Quickstart was added to the authentication process for using wireless computing. During the authentication process customers who have not run Quickstart are asked to do so, which increases the security processes required to use UMD's network.
Last year UMD began a new program to send emergency messages to cell phones using text messaging. Our vendor, ClearTXT, has been purchased by another company, Rave. We will be converting from ClearTXT to Rave in September. ClearTXT will continue to work in the meantime, although we will not be signing up new people for this old system. Watch for further announcements coming soon.
Student Response Systems (SRS) 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. Emerging literature on the use of this technology suggest that students are more engaged in learning in courses utilizing SRS. Turning Technologies "clickers" are the supported SRS technology at UMD. The general page for all TurningPoint documentation is here: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/classroom/srs/index.html
Below are some updates for Fall 2008.
WebVista Powerlink is working well
The WebVista Powerlink allows your students to register their unique clicker ID so that you can associate all clicker results back to your students and assign points accordingly. It also allows you to quickly and easily upload your class session clicker results back to WebVista for your students to see. Full instructions and a sample of email text to send out to your students can be found online here: <http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/classroom/srs/turningpoint_webvista.html>
Note that the old "WebDrop" solution is also still working and
can be found here:
Latest PC software release is highly recommended
TurninPoint released a new 2008 software build on August 11, 2008. For the best support and the most solid build, ITSS suggests you upgrade. If you would rather stay with an old build that you are comfortable using, we will still try to support you but may ask you to upgrade if we run into issues. Instructions and a link to the download are here: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/classroom/srs/faculty_prep.html#n4
(Note that the latest build of TurningPoint 2008 works with both Office 2003 and 2007)
New Options for Mac Users
The Mac version of TurningPoint lacks some of the function of the PC version including Response Tables and the smooth integration into PowerPoint. However, there are two new Mac solutions worth noting:
If you like using Keynote or other presentation software on your Mac, there is a "floating" turningpoint toolbar that allows you to use TurningPoint with any application. It is called TurningPoint AnyWhere. More info here: <http://www.turningtechnologies.com/resources/TPAnywhere/TPAnywhere-Quick-Start-Guide-mac.pdf>
If you are a Mac user but want the more robust PC TurningPoint build, you can run it on a PC emulator such as "Parallels." ITSS has tested this solution with great success over the summer and we'd be happy to work with you. Please contact me for more information.
Clicker Numbers for Fall 2008
This Fall, we have 15 faculty teaching 27 classes to 2459 students. However, only 1314 will need to purchase clickers (due to having them from previous semesters, being in more than one clicker class, etc.)
Moodle Support still forthcoming
At this time, TurningPoint does not have any automated way to integrate into Moodle. They are working on a solution but can't give us a firm timeline on when that will be ready.
Please don't hesitate to contact Jason Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or concerns.
Computing Labs Improvements
The Student Computing team has made numerous improvements to the ITSS Full and Basic Access computer labs over the summer months. www.d.umn.edu/itss/labs/
Our web site includes hours of operation, lists of available hardware and software, maps for the locations of all computer labs, printing information, a link to the reservations for each lab, and much more.
Library Computing Changes
- With the loss of the SBE 17 computer lab to building renovations the classed taught in that lab are now held in Lib 118. Twenty-five new 20” Intel iMacs were purchased for the Lib 118 lab, along with new instructor podium, sound system, and widescreen projector.
- The Lib 115 lab was also upgraded with new Dell computers and 19” wide-screen monitors.
- On the 3rd floor Library is a new group of Macs; 12 Basic Access iMacs and 20 Full Access iMacs. These will compliment the dozens of Full and Basic Access PCs already on this floor.
- Ten Basic Access PCs were added to the 4th floor Library.
- To be more visible and helpful, student lab consultants will be working on the 1st floor (at the far end of the main Circulation Desk) and 3rd floor (at the desk right at the top of the stairs) areas whenever the Library is open.
Collaborative Work Areas
Collaborative workspaces have been set up in the Engr 204 and KPlz 143 computer labs. Table configurations to fit small or large groups have been set up on the sides of these labs. When a class is not in session, students are encouraged to use these spaces for their group meetings and projects. Each table area has one Full Access computer and plenty of space for laptops and other materials.
- The MonH 239 Full Access computer lab was upgraded to 20” Intel iMacs.
- KPlz 143 was upgraded with new 19” widescreen Gateway computers.
- Hum 470 has a new instructor’s podium, sound system and widescreen projector.
- Five new HP laser b&w printers were purchased for the print stations in the Library and MonH 209/239 computers labs.
- The cost of black & white laser printed pages remains the same: $0.05 per 8½ x11 page, $0.20 per 11x17 page. Color printing also remains the same: $1.00 per 8½ x11 page and $2.50 per 11x17 page.
- Color and black & white printers with both 8x11 and 11x17 capabilities are available on the first floor of the Library, Lib 118, and MonH 239.
Computer Lab Support
The Student Computing Team will continue the student lab consultant “patrol” coverage model for all Full and Basic Access computer labs. The consultants will spend 5-10 minutes in each lab looking for problems with equipment and users, then move onto the next location.
Each roving Lab Consultant will have a radio, so they can quickly respond to phone calls or emails from lab users when assistance is needed.
For the Fall 2008 semester all ITSS Full Access Computer labs except the Library rooms are part of this program: Engr 204, Hum 470, KPlz 143, MonH 209, MonH239, MWAH 177, SBE 17, SSB 216.
Please feel free to send comments or questions about any of the computer lab services to the Computer Lab Coordinator at: email@example.com
ITSS has been very involved with this project all summer long. Scheduled to be ready for a nationally televised football game September 11, there's still plenty for ITSS to do to bring this new building on line. Throughout the summer, staff and student technicians have done dozens of underground cable locates to protect existing fiber optic and telephone cables from damage by foundation construction, gas line installations, water main breaks, and sewer work. Even so, we still had fiber and copper cables cut off which caused outages at the Fleet Grounds facility. ITSS helped coordinate a new route for these cables as well as the splice work and testing of the new lines.
As this article goes to press, contractor crews are still pulling cables and terminating fiber optics. During the next four days ITSS staff will install lines for the elevator phone, broadcast truck, home and away radio stations, and the press box. We will connect the fire alarm panel to the campus Simplex network via fiber optics. We will outfit two network closets and turn on nearly 60 network connections which will support building automation systems, wireless networks, the TV broadcast truck, connections for webcasting future games, and surveillance cameras. There is also extensive work being done by the ITSS audio visual staff to coordinate satellite TV services and the public address systems.
ITSS is pleased to announce that Jay Knute joined ITSS effective Tuesday, Sept 2. Jay will be providing desktop support for the campus and will start as our primary staff person at the TechCenter front counter.
Many of you may remember Jay, as he worked as a computer technician for ITSS Maintenance while he was a student here. He graduated from UMD with a Management Information System degree in 2006, and since then has worked at SISU Medical Solutions providing technical support for remote sites. With his background and experience at UMD, I'm confident Jay will be able to jump right into our busy fall schedule and start providing much needed desktop support assistance to the campus.
Jay's office is located in KPlz 175 and you may contact him at by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling x8857.
Each month ITSS highlights a different member of the staff to let you get to know some of the great people who are working "behind the scenes" to make technology work for our campus. This month the spotlight is on Dan Ellis, Computer Maintenance Coordinator.
What Dan Does for ITSS:
Dan coordinates the installation, upgrade, and repair of desktop computers and printers for campus personnel and for our student and instructional computing labs. As a member of our Student Computing Team, he provides important advice regarding the planning and scheduling of major lab equipment upgrades. As leader of the Desktop Support team, he provides guidance on issues concerning desktop reliability and security. Dan also coordinates with Campus Tech Coordinators and UMD Stores to service what we sell, and he tests and distributes Windows updates to the campus through our WSUS server. Dan is an Apple Authorized Service Provider and Certified Macintosh Technician. He supervises 8 student technicians.
Dan was Born in Duluth MN, the oldest of three children
Dan earned a Bachelor of Applied Science in Industrial Technology focusing on Electronic Engineering Technology from UMD in 1992.
Dan worked as a technician for Best Buy Corp. before he started working at UMD in the summer of 1996
Computers, History, Astronomy and spending time with his family.
Interesting Facts about Dan:
Dan is the third generation of his family to serve UMD (grandfather and mother).
An Example of Dan’s Work for ITSS:
A steady stream of customers enters Kirby Plaza 165 each day looking for advice, technical support, and some times just a little hand-holding. Dan and his student workers meet that challenge every day, providing a level of customer service to the campus that isn't available to our customers elsewhere.
To ensure quality customer work, Dan maintains his accreditation and/or certification for both Apple and Windows, as well as keeping up to date on new operating systems, such as Windows Vista, the latest Mac OS, and dual Mac/Win installs on Mac Intel units.
Dan and his crew process about 2600 repairs on average every year.