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Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students

September 2010

Google Apps is Here Fall 2010

Through a partnership with Google, University of Minnesota students, faculty, and staff can access a suite of Google-powered communication and collaboration tools designed to enhance our ability to work together. The suite includes email, calendar, document sharing, instant messaging, and web site publishing tools.

When can I opt in to Google Apps?

The time line for transition into Google Apps is dependent on coordination between the Office of Information Technology (OIT) at the Twin Cities Campus and Information Technology Systems and Services (ITSS) at UMD. Three test groups, including information technology support staff across all campus units have opted in to Google Apps during Summer 2010.

All opt-in happens by invitation only, so we can meter the process and offer a high level of support during the transition:

Can I use Outlook, MacMail, Thunderbird, or my favorite email client with Google Apps?

Most email clients can be pointed at the Google Apps servers and be made to work. However, the web interface for Google Mail is where our support efforts will be focused and most users find that this interface is superior to desktop clients in some pretty significant ways. We strongly encourage users to use the web interface for some time before they attempt to use desktop clients.

Will my Smart Phone, iPhone, Android, etc. work with Google Apps?

Just using the web browser on a smart phone often does the trick because Google Apps will adapt its size, but there are also ways to point your smart phone mail application at Google Apps.

Will my productivity suffer when I switch to Google Apps?

We are finding that the transition is surprisingly painless for many users. As you get used to the new interface, there are some tricks that will really help you move from new user to power user.

For details see: Goggle Apps or contact Jason Davis,

Active Directory Strategy

During the summer, ITSS began talking with numerous groups on campus about how best to organize our two major projects, Google Apps and Active Directory, both to be done during this academic year.

Because we would like to keep these two projects, and their impacts on faculty and staff, separated, we have decided to focus on Google during fall semester and hold most conversions to Active Directory for spring semester.

During the summer, our student computing labs were converted from Novell to AD for authentication. We also created test accounts for a number of technology staff across campus, and are in the process of testing file and print services for this group.

While the emphasis is on Google in the fall, ITSS staff will continue work to ensure that our Active Directory infrastructure is fully tested and robust. We will move ITSS staff along with a few key units that require special security to Active Directory in the late fall. All other units will begin moving after January 1, 2011.

We will post a schedule for the campus conversion in October. Visit our AD web site for updates: AD at UMD.

WebVista or Moodle: Which to Choose?

Blackboard Inc. is discontinuing WebVista at the end of the calendar year 2012. The University will continue to offer WebVista as an option for course use through the end of Spring semester 2012.

Moodle is currently at version 1.9 and will move to version 2 in Summer 2011. Version 2 is a change from version 1.9, but for seasoned Moodle users the change should not be much of an issue.

Which to choose?

If you have courses already in WebVista that you plan to teach this academic year then keeping them in WebVista is probably a good idea. You certainly may transition if you like, but keep in mind Moodle will be changing Summer 2011. You may only want to learn Moodle once. If this is case, please wait until next summer to make the transition.

If you have a new course to teach, then creating the course in Moodle may be a good idea. Moving from WebVista to Moodle may or may not be complex. This depends upon what tools you currently use in WebVista. Even though Moodle will change somewhat by next summer, you will be creating the course using many of the tools that will carry forward into the next version.

If you have questions about the WebVista to Moodle transition, please contact Amanda Evans (amevans) or Bruce Reeves (breeves).

UM Strengthens Security Policy

The University of Minnesota has completed work on a new system-wide policy, "Securing Private Data, Computers and Other Electronic Devices."

The policy brings together and strengthens many of the UM security policies and procedures that have been in place for some time now. Key changes that will have a big impact on this campus include:

For details see: Security Policy http://

Internet Bandwidth Increased

UMTC Office of Information Technology (OIT) and UMD Information Technology Systems and Services (ITSS) have collaborated with the State of Minnesota to upgrade our Internet link from 500 megabits per second to 700 megabits per second, effective September 1, 2010.

Plans call for this link to be upgraded to 1 gigabit per second later this fall. Longer-term plans call for a dedicated fiber link between Duluth and the Twin Cities, which will greatly increase our Internet bandwidth. It is likely that dedicated fiber will take us at least 10 gigabits per second, and it may possibly result in speeds of up to 100 gigbits per second.

Bandwidth Management and Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) and ITSS have retired an old device called the Packet Shaper, which we have used for many years to control bandwidth usage on the Internet link. In particular, we have used the Packet Shaper to greatly reduce the amount of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing allowed on this network. While there are certainly legal uses of P2P, it has been widely used to share music and video that is protected under copyright law. Unfortunately, it has also blocked some legitimate applications from working correctly on the network.

The good news is that we are now supporting a content-neutral internet service: all traffic passes over the network, good or bad.

The bad news is that we anticipate an increased use of P2P traffic along with a resulting increase in the number of complaints we receive about copyright violations. ITSS is required under law to deliver such complaints to the appropriate user. In addition to delivering these complaints, we will also require the users to re-register their computers and review the rules for using the network. If you use any kind of music or video file sharing using P2P methodology be aware it is almost certain you will receive a DMCA notification.

If subpoenaed, and not until such time, the University may need to provide the identity of an individual where evidence exists of illegal activity. We have had cases in the past of UMD students threatened with lawsuits based on such activity.

For details see:
ResNet: What about file-sharing? http://
Legal Sources of Online Content http://

Wireless Access Added to ResNet

UMD Housing and ITSS surveyed students living in on campus housing about their technology needs this past spring. It was no surprise that a majority of students expressed a desire for wireless access for multiple devices, and a preference for using their personal cell phones rather than the campus-provided phones in their rooms. Based on these results, Housing and ITSS agreed to phase out room telephones and add wireless hubs throughout Housing units. By exchanging wireless service for telephone service, we can make these changes at no additional increase in Housing rates.

During this past summer, ITSS staff removed phones and began installing wireless hubs in the campus apartment buildings, completing Heaney Hall, Goldfine Hall, Junction Apartments, and Oakland Apartments. Next we will move on to the residence halls, starting with Burntside and Vermilion this fall. The complete plan is located here: ResNet: Wired or Wireless Access?.

ITSS will continue to offer UMD-provided telephones to residents who are willing to pay extra for this service. Additionally, there are public phones in building entrances that can be used for emergency calls (dial 911).

MultiMedia Hub has Moved

The Multimedia Hub is now really the "Hub" - it has moved to the Library 260 Rotunda.

ITSS and the Library collaborated to create a "Learning Commons" area on the Library second floor. Now there is a common area for students to study together in groups or alone and to seek digital and video assistance. The new location provides easy access for students to the Hub or to the new study and lounge area for students.

The Hub now has much more space for individual and student groups to work together. Hub offers continued video editing assistance and camera tutorials. Digital and video camera equipment is available for rental at no cost to UMD students, staff and faculty. Hands on assistance is available upon request. Classes are invited to tour the Hub or hold a class in the Hub. Contact Mary at 726-8544 or for more information.

For details see: MultiMedia Hub

Student Computing Labs Move to Windows 7 and AD

The ITSS computer labs have some changes this fall. In the Windows labs, the operating system was updated to from Windows XP to Windows 7. Additionally, authentication was changed from Novell authentication to Active Directory, in preparation for the campus move to eliminate Novell.

On the Macintosh side, we opened a new Mac lab in Lib 119 (the former Multimedia Hub space). This replaces the Montague 239 lab, which was closed due to scheduled renovations on Montague.

We continue to provide two levels of computer access to students:

For details see: Student Computing Labs.

Class Capture Ready for Production

Class capture has moved from the pilot phase into full production. By the end of last spring semester, over 4,600 faculty had recorded over 19 terabytes of classes for their students to retrieve through iTunes, Moodle, or WebVista. The system is easy to set up, easy to use, and available at no cost to UMD faculty and staff.

If you have used classroom lecture capture hardware or software in the past, and decided it had too many moving parts, it may be time to take another look. The new system combines Camtasia Relay (this is not the same as the Camtasia of the past) and a server called "MediaMagnet," that was developed by CLA IT at the University of Minnesota.

Camtasia captures any video that comes across your laptop screen and sound fed in through a boundary microphone. With a few minutes of configuration on the server at the beginning of the semester, you can record and submit lectures from your laptop without any post-production work and without visiting the server again. The files can be streamed directly from the MediaMagnet server or shipped over to iTunesU where students who are enrolled in your class can pick them up and use them on their desktop, laptop, or portable video device.

What is new about this system is the streamlining of file compression, uploading, indexing, and other post-production work that might have added complexity to similar efforts in the past. The software and account are free for UMD faculty and staff. A number of UMD faculty have helped test this new system and they were generally pleased with how it works.

For details see: OIT: Class Capture http://

Student Response Systems Engage Students

Student Response Systems (SRS) are small hand held 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.

Below are some updates for Spring 2009:

WebVista works well with TurningPoint Clickers
WebVista is still the easiest way to both get your students to register clickers and give them regular feedback to assure them that their clicker is working. WebVista TurningPoint documentation are here: SRS: TurningPoint and WebVista
Moodle and TurningPoint
There is a Moodle and TurningPoint connection available and being tested, however it is not in production mode on Moodle servers this fall. We hope to see it available for spring semester and we certainly expect it to be the solution when WebVista is eventually no longer available at UMD.
Running Total of Measures
For Fall 2010, 18 faculty will teach 25 classes with clickers. A total of 2,653 students will use clickers this semester. All but 1016 of them already had a clicker from a previous semester. Since we set TurningPoint as the standard during the Summer of 2005, 143 faculty have taught 243 courses to 21403 students using clickers at UMD.
Update for Mac users
The Mac version of TurningPoint is functional but has continued to lack some key features from the PC version, (i.e. Response Tables). During Fall 2008, Paul Bates worked through using a software package called "Parallels" to run the PC version of TurningPoint on his Mac laptop. Early results were not great, but Paul persevered, and arrived at a fairly stable build about a month into the semester. Over break, Stephen Hedman and Jason Davis have been testing a different software package, "VMWare," for the same purpose and have found it to be very stable right out of the box. We will be testing it under load early this semester and are very hopeful that this will be a better solution for Mac users in the future.
eGradeBook Direct uploads available
The latest build of eGradebook includes the capability to upload files directly (CSV format). Please contact ITSS if you'd like to help test how this new functionality might work with TurningPoint session data.

Please don't hesitate to contact Jason Davis ( if you have any questions or concerns.

For details see: Student Response Systems (SRS).

Viz Lab Presents: Robotics Redefined

Thursday Sept. 16, 9-11:30 am, at the Viz Lab, 154 MPAC. Andrew Archer, a former resident of Hermantown, is 22 years old and currently operates his business, Robotics Redefined, in Detroit, Michigan. He builds robots and controllers for numerous companies and industries. Andrew was heavily involved in Legos as a child and attended and competed in many Lego Mindstorm camps, and currently builds and hacks robots from off-the-shelf components to design new robots for factories and tools for urban farming, among others.

ITSS Staffing Changes

ITSS would like to thank Rick Brill and Yanlin Yu for their years of service with us and wish them the best of luck in their new endeavors. Rick has moved on from ITSS to become the new Technology Director in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. We're happy for him and look forward to working with him in his new role. Yanlin left the Duluth area to pursue professional opportunities in Seattle, WA.

As a result of this transition, some ITSS staff have stepped up to take on duties associated with these currently vacant positions:

We really appreciate our staff stepping up to cover an incredible amount of work during this transition.

Spotlight on: Linda Deneen

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 Linda Deneen, Director of ITSS.

What Linda does for ITSS:
Linda is the director, so she has her fingers in everything at ITSS. Despite her broad interest in the activities of the department, she recognizes and relies on the expertise of ITSS professional and student staff to make things happen. Linda's most important functions are planning, budgeting, setting priorities, and communicating.
Linda's background:
Linda was a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science before moving into administration at ITSS. She holds a PhD in mathematics, a masters in mathematics, and a masters in probability and statistics from Michigan State University. Her undergraduate degree in mathematics is from Central Michigan University. Following graduate school, she attended the Institute for Retraining in Computer Science at Potsdam University, after which she changed her career path into computer science.
Linda was born in Detroit, Michigan but spent most of her early years in Gaylord, Michigan. Following graduate school, she was an assistant professor of mathematics at Beloit College in Wisconsin. She moved to Duluth in 1985, where she joined the faculty in computer science.
Linda's interests:
Linda keeps tropical fish, so if you visit her house, you will get the aquarium tour. She enjoys singing with her friends Shuby and Lyle. While maintaining her aquariums and doing other chores around the house, she listens to audio books on her iPhone.
Interesting facts...
Linda is married to Gary Shute, who serves on the faculty at UMD in computer science. Linda and Gary have three cats - Pluto, Venus, and Mercury.

Linda Deneen

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