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In This Issue

+ Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic

+ Google Services Coming This Fall

+ Phishing Scams Continue

+ facultEtools and H1N1: Go Slow, Go Low

+ Clicker Update

+ New Phones and Infrastructure for EduE

+ Emergency Text Message Alerts

+ Email Improvements

+ Mulberry Reaches Retirement

+ Update your Symantec Anti-virus

+ Data Storage Growth

+ Improvements to Computing Labs

+ Course Management Systems for the UM System

+ Laptop Charging Stations

+ Hub Equipment Update

+ Snow Leopard

+ We've Moved

+ Spotlight on: Jason Davis

ITSS home : infotech.NEWS : September 2009

infotech.NEWS

Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students

September 2009

ITSS by the Numbers

From January through June 2009, the ITSS Enterprise Team:

  • provided support for 71 different applications
  • completed development of 7 applications for UMD units
  • upgraded 5 applications for UMD units

Ten Years Ago in ITSS - September 1999

Modem Pool Upgrades
ITSS staff planning to have 168 56kilobit (56K) modems in place by the beginning of fall quarter.

Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic

Welcome back! We wanted to highlight the various learning opportunities available to you throughout the University of Minnesota system. There are multiple options, locations and formats available:

UMD ITSS Training Web Site: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/support/Training/

Additional Learning Opportunities are available through the following University Centers:

University of Minnesota Training Center: http://uttc.umn.edu/training/
UMD's Center for Economic Development (CED): http://www.umdced.com/workshops/

 

Google Services Coming This Fall

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) continues work on integrating Google applications for use at all campuses of the University. ITSS staff are collaborating on this project, since we run our own email system here. Services will be aimed primarily at students, although faculty and staff may opt in to use services as well.

A University Google account, in addition to e-mail, will offer access to the University Google Apps suite, which includes:

At present, we are expecting this to become available in October, but this is a complicated project, so we should all be patient as technical staff work to get it all right.

 

Phishing Scams Continue

Phishing scams are attempts to get you to provide private data, usually by email. The sender of a phishing message pretends to have a legitimate reason for asking you for this information, but really it is an attempt to get you to reveal information that you should keep private.

Please be alert to such scams and do not respond to them.

UMD now has a process for capturing and quarantining phishing messages aimed at getting you to reveal your username and password. If you would like to report such a message, please email to phish@d.umn.edu. ITSS staff regularly review quarantined messages and release those that are legitimate. If you have reason to send a message that might be viewed as phishing (username and password in the body of the message), you can expect it to be delayed due to the quarantine process.

Here is a very informative web site about phishing: http://safecomputing.umn.edu/safepractices/phishing.html

 

facultEtools and H1N1: Go Slow, Go Low

Altering a course to deal with the potential issues H1N1 flu will present may seem to be a daunting task. Some immediately jump to educational technology as a solution, but it is only a solution if it is appropriate for the task. Take a moment to slow down to think about the core aspects of your course. From "Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic", think about the following: www.d.umn.edu/itss/etrg/panflu/

Initial Teaching Considerations: Flexibility, Flow, & Simplicity

Possible Options for Course Completion

You may be able to teach your class as initially planned if you are able to allow for a more fluid schedule. However, some activities will need to be altered no matter how fluid your schedule. When considering an option, start with the simplest one that will suffice.

If you have been using an educational technology tool already (please see http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/facstaff/ for University supported tools), consider expanding its use if it meets your educational objectives. If you have been using little or no educational technology with your course, now is not the time to load up with higher level technology tools. Think "low technology" such as email and class email aliases if these will be appropriate for your needs.

"Go Slow" to take the time to think about your course needs. "Go Low" when implementing a low level technology if it is appropriate for your needs. Even if you already use a higher level educational technology tool be careful about what you add. Flexibility will be more important than any particular solution.

 

Clicker Update

There are no major changes to TurningPoint Student Response Systems (clickers) this year. There are a few minor changes outlined below, along with reminders of where to find resources and help. As always, please feel free to contact Jason Davis jdavis@d.umn.edu with questions or concerns. If you are no longer using or interested in clickers, let me know and I will remove you from this list.

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:
http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/classroom//srsfaculty_prep.html

Latest PC software release is highly recommended
TurninPoint released TurningPoint 4.2 on August 4, 2009. For the best support and the most solid build, I suggest you upgrade. If you would rather stay with an old build that you are comfortable using, I 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 works with both Office 2003 and 2007

Clicker Numbers for Fall 2009
This Fall, we have 19 faculty teaching 34 classes to 3059 students. However, only 1548 will need to purchase clickers (due to having them from previous semesters, being in more than one clicker class, etc.)

Communicating your Response Grid Number to Students
If you want to let your students know which numbered cell they occupy in the response grid, we can help. Once you have a stable participant list, cut and paste it into an excel spreadsheet and deliver the file to Spring Billiar in KPLZ 146. Please use a CD or USB drive, since email is not advised for transferring these sorts of files with FERPA protected information. Make sure you name the file with your course designator and number including section, so that Spring knows which course it is. She will upload them into eGradebook so that students can log in and see their number. Contact me if this is confusing and I will be glad to work through it with you.

Moodle Support still forthcoming
At this time, TurningPoint does have an automated way to integrate into Moodle, but it is in beta testing. Once it is out of beta, we will need the Moodle support group to help us integrate it into the servers. More updates on this when we know more.

The general page for all TurningPoint documentation is here: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/classroom/srs/index.html
Please don't hesitate to contact jdavis@d.umn.edu if you have any questions or concerns.

 

New Phones and Infrastructure for EduE

Included in the remodeling of the Education Endazhi-gikinoo'amaading (EduE) building was a complete rework of the ITSS infrastructure.

All phone and network cabling were ripped out and replaced by new cabling which meets today's communications standards. Fiber optic cable now supports the network backbone instead of copper cables. Telephone cable was all but eliminated except for a few fax machines. There are essentially no phone jacks in the new space.

Telephone service is provided by IP (Internet Protocol) phones. The IP phones plugs into the network jack in the wall and the computer plugs into a network connection on the back of the phone. Both devices share a single network jack. All network ports in the building support gigabit ethernet.

Four new communications rooms were constructed to house the new network gear, fiber optics, and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). All communications rooms are also fed by emergency generator circuits. The generator and UPS systems insure that during a power outage, even though computers will go down, telephones will continue to work. In addition to the wired network.

ITSS also installed our first full scale implementation of N-radio wireless with throughput bandwidth of 100 Megabits versus older G-radio technology which supports 22 Megabits.

 

Emergency Text Message Alerts

UMD will join the rest of the University of Minnesota system in using the TXT-U text messaging alert system this fall.  As with previous text messaging systems, we will use this system only for emergency messaging.  The system will allow us to send and receive messages only for this campus, although individuals will be able to choose which campuses they would like to receive alerts for.

When this system is ready to go, information will be posted on the UMD Emergency Preparedness. http://www.d.umn.edu/emergency/  All faculty, staff, and students will be invited to sign up via an email message to be sent out the week of September 14, 2009.

If you would like to be instantly aware of emergency school closings or serious personal safety issues, please sign up when you receive the invitation.

 

Email Improvements

During the summer of 2009 ITSS staff spent a great deal of time updating and expanding the four email servers that allow reading and storage of email. The systems are clustered in pairs to maximize uptime. Clusters are redundant, so that a second separate system is always available in case the one currently running fails. The switch from one system to another takes a few seconds, so uptime on our email servers these past several years has been quite good. All this leads into quite a bit of computer hardware: four clusters with eight systems attached to two disk farms that have full fail-over disk capabilities.

A new version of the operating system and a new version of the cluster system became available recently. In addition, we were running short of disk space. Because of the announcement regarding Google email, we decided not to update the hardware, but it was clearly time to update the software to current operating systems.

ITSS staff minimized downtime by starting work at 4 AM on several mornings, with an average downtime of about 3 hours. First the data from one cluster was moved to another system with similar capabilities (same hardware and lots of disk space). With about 500 gigabytes of space on each server, the first data move took several days. During the 4 AM switchover a final file system synchronization was done, and then the temporary system was renamed and started. The cluster systems were upgraded to the very latest operating system and patch levels. The matched disk arrays were merged into one disk farm (instead of two), basically doubling the available storage. After the staff completed the upgrade, they reversed the move process, again during early morning hours to move the data and focus back to the cluster servers. Unless you attempted to read email during those early hours, you may have never known we switched things around.

Prior to these changes, the disk space was almost completely used up. Now the disks are about 55 percent full.

When the semester started and the loading on the four clusters became heavy, we began to see instability on one of the four clusters. As this article is being written, we are working closely with our vendor to fix the system problems. We apologize for this instability and hope to have this resolved soon.

 

Mulberry Reaches Retirement

We will be retiring our Mulberry email server at the end of fall semester because it no longer meets our email security requirements. Customers using Mulberry will need to convert to a different email client, such as Thunderbird, Apple Mail or Outlook or Entourage.

When we rolled Mulberry out to our campus over a decade ago, in March of 1998, it offered many advantages over existing email programs (remember Pine?). It presented a graphical interface that had the look and feel of other Windows and Macintosh programs, including drag-and-drop capabilities and multiple windows. And because it ran on a server, customers could access their Mulberry email from any computer and experience the same interface.

Unfortunately, the Mulberry vendor went out of business a few years back, and development halted for Mulberry improvements and security enhancements. In the meantime, new email clients have emerged that offer more features and provide better security. ITSS has decided to invest staff time and funding to promote the newer clients, and to retire our Mulberry service.

There are several options available for email, all fully supported by ITSS systems and staff:

Windows computers:
* Thunderbird
* Outlook
* UMD Webmail

Macintosh computers:
* Thunderbird
* OSX Mail
* Entourage
* UMD Webmail

Our web site includes detailed instructions on how to configure these clients for your UMD email. If you have questions or would like assistance with the conversion, please call our TechCenter HelpDesk (x8847) to schedule an appointment with one of our staff

 

Update your Symantec Anti-virus

There are two components to good virus protection for your computer:

Current virus definitions

Your anti-virus software is only as good as the latest set of virus definitions. New viruses and malware are continually being released into the wild. In turn, Symantec releases new virus definition files for its products, sometimes on a daily basis.

To keep your computer protected, make sure your client is set to automatically receive updates. Directions are here:
How do I know if I am protected?
http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/security/nav/protect.html

Current client

Our site license with Symantec started with version 8.x back in 2003, and we are currently at version 11.x. Our network monitoring indicates that there are many computers on campus that are running older versions of Symantec software. If you are running an older version, you should upgrade to the latest client. In particular, if you are running Version 9.x or older your computer is no longer protected as Symantec has discontinued virus definition updates for these products.

Note that before installing a newer version, you must completely uninstall any previous versions of Symantec.

For instructions and to download the current version, go to:
Symantec site license
http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/security/nav/

As always, for questions or assistance, contact the TechCenter HelpDesk at x8847.

 

Data Storage Growth

Spring 2009 ended with one very clear growing need - disk storage that is fast, reliable, easy to use, and a reload service in case of user error. In addition, it was clear Spring semester that a 10 or 20% increase in storage would not be enough. Customers can easily generate gigabytes of data storage, and ITSS staff have now skipped thinking in terms of gigabytes and we are now working on providing terabytes of data storage at reasonable prices. We have opened up two 5 terabyte areas, space on our public web server (www.d.umn.edu) access via "MyWeb", and "MyFiles" and NFS access space for general use.

The large disk areas present new challenges, especially when it comes to reloading files. The reload service requires a second copy of your data to be stored on some kind of device. For example, for each system or service we usually have daily copies, weekly copies, and monthly copies. We use a combination of disk (for daily copies) and tape to ensure reasonable cost and fast reload times. However, as disk storage sizes increase, the time it takes to put this onto our backup storage system runs longer and longer. It is not uncommon for very large file system full to take more than 24 hours to complete. In parallel with large disk services our network has been upgraded during the summer to provide 10 gigabit backbone speeds. We are working closely with several vendors to take advantage of our backbone infrastructure, and have invested in high speed connections for all of our backup systems.

We plan to finish our design soon for another five terabyte disk area for research customers. This will be a Samba access similar to MyFiles, but restricted to large data research projects. More information about this storage area will be provided around the middle of October.

 

Improvements to Computing Labs

The Student Computing team has again made numerous improvements to the ITSS Full and Basic Access computer labs over the summer months.

The ITSS Computer Lab web pages have been updated: www.d.umn.edu/itss/labs/

These pages include 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.

Instructor Podiums
All instructor podiums in the Full Access teaching labs have been upgraded with podium setups that are identical to those in the general purpose teaching classrooms but also have a computer in them that is identical to those the students use in the room. Improvements include new a projector and sound system. There are projector, ethernet and sound connections for a laptop as well as control buttons right on the top of the podium. It is our hope that this will make teaching in the labs a more consistent experience for all faculty members using these computer labs.

Printing
The pay-per-page print system (Pharos) will continue in the ITSS computer 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.

Issues that have prevented laptops owners using Microsoft Vista have been worked out. As long as the operating system is not a “Home” edition of Vista and has Service Pack 1 installed the laptop should be able to have the iPrint software installed so a user can print to the Pharos print stations around campus. Details about this installation can be found on the computer lab printing web page: www.d.umn.edu/itss/labs/printing/pharos.html

Hardware Updates
Five new HP P4015 b&w printers were purchased to replace older models around campus. Two color printers, one 8.5x11 and one 11x17, were purchased for the Library 1st floor print stations.

All Macintosh computers in ITSS computer labs are now Intel iMacs. Additionally, we have purchased additional ram for all machines so they are running with 4gb.

The MWAH 177 and SSB 216 computer labs were upgraded with new HP computers with 3.0 GHz Pentium IV processors and 4gb of ram.

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. Any student or instructor in the labs needing assistance should call x6222.

For the Fall 2009 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, SSB 216.

Please feel free to send comments or questions about any of the computer lab services to the Computer Lab Coordinator at: labmanager@d.umn.edu

For more information on the Full and Basic Access computing resources, visit the ITSS computer labs. http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/labs/

 

Course Management Systems for the UM System

UMD makes use of two enterprise course management systems, WebVista and Moodle. Earlier this year, Steve Cawley, CIO, appointed a committee to engage the UM community in a discussion about the future of course management systems. Linda Deneen represents UMD on this committee.

The Office of Information Technology has created a survey and information site as part of a broader effort to engage University of Minnesota students, faculty, and staff in an exploration of our future use of Course Management Systems (CMS).

This site brings together information about current CMS use and compares features between WebVista and Moodle. We hope this data will help facilitate a system-wide dialogue about future CMS options.

After reviewing the CMS information site, found at:
http://www.oit.umn.edu/cms-search

we invite you to discuss this topic with your colleagues, and then share your thoughts about future CMS use by completing a short survey that can be accessed from the CMS Information site, or by going directly to the survey at:
https://umsurvey.umn.edu/index.php?sid=95134&lang=um

The survey will remain available during September, although the committee is due to present a final report by the end of September. If you have opinions to share, please do it soon.

 

Laptop Charging Stations

In a partnership with Facilities Management, ITSS is trying an experiment to help students keep their laptops and other wireless/electronic devices charged up. The new lockers are in the Kirby Plaza concourse near the TechCenter and KPLZ 144 office suite. These lockers have power outlets inside. A key will be left dangling from each lock. Students are encouraged to use the locker for limited periods of time. When you'r done, be sure to put the key back in the locker and leave the key in the same numbered lock.

If this service is popular and appropriately used, it may be expanded

 

Hub Equipment Update

The Multimedia Hub has added eight new iMacs, 5 new Nikon D60 DSLR’s, 4 Panasonic HD’s, 10 Panasonic video SDR-S26 cameras with Optical 70x Ultra zoom lens, mini tripods, green screen, new wireless microphones kits, and 2 Sony digital voice recorders. (Note the 3 Canon GSL’s have been reconditioned and are like new.)

What can you do with all of this equipment? Well . . . .

Online video presentations and class captures allow students to review material presented again and again as needed. The Multimedia Hub staff in Lib 119 can help faculty get started with this technology. We offer assistance with streaming server, moodle, WebVista, iTunes U, YouTube, podcasts and blogs. The Hub can also film your special event and incorporate that event into your course materials or syllabus.

The Hub staff could record your video introduction to your course. The Hub can provide one time video production support for one event or a series of events. Check out our site below for further information and costs associated with filming.

Bring your class for a tour of the Hub or arrange for your class to meet in the Hub and learn about camera use for video projects, software editing, how to record public service announcements, or create copyright free music using Garageband. Call Mary Olson-Reed at Hub 726-6087 for further information about the support available to you for class video projects. The Hub has 22 Mac computer stations with iMovie HD or Final Cut Express video editing software.

Check out digital and still cameras, tripods, sound and light equipment, all the equipment available for check out in the Hub can be found on our website at: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/classroom/media.html

 

Snow Leopard

Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard was recently released by Apple. This release offers a number of improvements and new features, including:

However, there are a number of University applications that are not compatible with this version of OSX, including

SPSS 18 will not be available as part of the University site license until later this semester (later Oct/Nov); we do not have a timeline on when/if updated versions of Norton or Novell will run on Snow Leopard.

Because of these issues, ITSS is recommending that faculty and staff do not update their University computers at this time.

Apple has a more detailed incompatibility list on their we web site. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3258

 

We've Moved

A number of ITSS staff moved to new office locations at the end of the summer. You can now find us at:

Sarah Paro Kplz 146a
Sally Bradt Kplz 166a
Mandie Johnson Kplz 166b
Roger Petry Kplz 166c
Joel Ness Kplz 166d
Sheri Pihlaja Kplz 166e
Jay Knute Kplz 166f
Julie Viken Kplz 367

 

Spotlight on: Jason Davis

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 Jason Davis, Manager of Classroom Technology and Customer Service.

What Jason does for ITSS:
Jason is the manager of our classroom technology services, along with our interactive television (ITV) and audio-visual services. He also manages our HelpDesk and data entry services, and he supervises the staff who work in all of these areas. Jason is the sponsor of the Student Computing Team. He leads the Assistive Technology Team. He both sponsors and leads the Classroom Technology Team and the Customer Service Team. Jason is also responsible for Human Resource issues and maintains our staff handbook.

Jason's Background:
Jason grew up near Independence, MN. He completed a Bachelor of Arts at UMD in 1994, a Master of Liberal Studies at UMD in 2000, and a Doctorate of Education at the Twin Cities campus in 2006. He has worked for UMD since 1994, and for ITSS since 1996.

Jason's Interests:
Jason enjoys jujutsu, windsurfing, snow boarding, and most any other adrenaline inducing activity. He reads science fiction and fantasy and enjoys spending time with his family.

Interesting Assisi
Jason is married to Amy and they have three daughters.

An example of Jason's work for ITSS:
Jason recently finished a Transformational Leadership Project to update the problem and project ticketing system used by ITSS. He has been involved in several classroom technology projects including student response systems, lecture capture, and enhanced control systems. In each of these technology implementations, Jason enjoys the process of working with stakeholders to build consensus, benchmarking all of the available options, and finding a solution.