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Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students

April 2011

Google Apps Transition

To date, over 8,300 UMD users have made the switch (approaching 60% of the campus). With UMCal being shut down at the end of the fiscal year, enterprise calendar users will need to be opted in to use Google Calendar. Given our positive experience thus far, we expect to get all remaining users into Google Apps by the end of the fiscal year.

We have asked remaining legacy email users to make the transition by the end of the semester, May 13th, 2011. We have begun working on a process that will automate the migration for any users who have not made the switch before the end of the semester. Over the next several weeks we will continue to contact users who have not made the switch in an attempt to meter out the migration over time and minimize the number of last minute switches. If you have not yet opted in, you can help us keep the load to a minimum at the end of the semester by finding a time, as soon as possible, to make the switch.

The process for moving departmental accounts into Google Apps is finally built, tested, and ready. We are beginning to contact departments now and switching these accounts as staff time permits. Once we have all current accounts moved into the Google Domain, we will be able to turn our attention to alumni and retirees. The Google Transition Team really appreciates the help we have received from all of our partners on campus and we look forward to working with the remaining users on a similarly smooth transition.

Accessibility in Google has been in the news recently and we are watching that issue carefully. Here is the summary of the issue that the National Federation of the Blind broached last week regarding Google Accessibility. In general, Gmail is very accessible but some of the other tools in Google Apps are less accessible. We expect this legal action to put the appropriate pressure on google to bring about better accessibility of the whole suite.

Finally, a HIPAA compliant solution for Google Apps is still not quite ready. We will work with affected units (any group who might work with protected health information) as soon as OIT provides the solution. In the mean time they will need to stay in the legacy email system.

For opt in reports, technical how-tos, and general information, please visit our Google Apps for the University of Minnesota Duluth or call the Help Desk at 726-8847. Feel free to contact Jason Davis with any questions or concerns.

The Active Directory (AD) project is on pace for the UMD campus. To date, we have migrated ITSS, Library, CEHSP and most CLA workstations, and are in the process of migrating LSBE workstations for faculty and staff.

During the migration, we continue to receive questions from faculty and staff on campus about the project. This month we'd like to share a few common questions and our answers.

Question: When the network is down, will people still be able to get into their computers to work?
Answer: Yes. When you log in to the AD domain on a workstation the first time, your AD credentials are securely cached on that workstation. If you need to access the workstation at a later time and the UMD network is not available, you will be able to log in using the cached credentials.
Question: When my computer is added to AD, will I be able to keep my bookmarks, desktop shortcuts, and other personal workstation settings?
Answer: Yes. ITSS has purchased a tool that allows us to migrate your personal settings, so your desktop will look and function exactly the same after the move to AD.
Question: Will I be able to install software on my computer once it has been added to AD?
Answer: You will have restricted access rights on the AD workstation (this is a security feature designed to mitigate virus and malware infection). Depending on your computer and the software, you may be able to install some software. If the software requires elevated administrative privilege, you will need to request this access by contacting the ITSS Help Desk, 726-8856, and asking for "elevated access rights." Your AD account will be granted temporary administrative access for your workstation (expires at midnight).
Question: Once a computer is on AD, can anyone with a University Internet ID (X.500) use that computer?
Answer: Yes, anyone with a University Internet ID will be able to log in to a workstation that has been added to AD. However, on doing so they will be presented with a new user profile, i.e. - a clean desktop will be displayed and they will not have access to any data files, bookmarks, shortcuts, etc. that are stored on the computer under any other user's profile. They will have access to their own personal files on the AD servers. This is a good thing. It will allow departments to share computers in a much simpler, more secure way, without sharing passwords or compromising data security.

ITSS staff has been preparing for the Active Directory project for over a year and have shared this information with the campus through ITSS newsletters, department meetings, and monthly meetings with the academic technologists. For information including a complete schedule, please visit Active Directory at UMD. If you have other questions that have not been answered here or on our website, please send them to the ITSS Help Desk.

ITSS Planning to Eliminate Modem Pool for Dial-Up Network Access

In response to University budget cuts, ITSS plans to eliminate our modem pool for dial-up network access effective July 1, 2011. Our records indicate that fewer than 150 people use this service, down from highs over 1000 in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Most people have switched to broadband services in order to obtain network access from home. When available, these services are so much faster and more convenient than dial-up that we recommend our remaining users make this conversion. For information about access to UMD via local vendors is available on our web site. Check the yellow pages under telecommunications for specific vendors.

There may remain areas where broadband service is unavailable, but even so, it is possible to buy dial-up service. We regret having to discontinue a service that some continue to rely on, but we hope our customers will understand our need to economize.

Individual users of our modem pool will be informed via email about this change. Comments about this decision may be directed to Linda Deneen, 726-7588.

Classroom Technology Survey Results and VHS / DVD

Earlier this year the ITSS Classroom Team started to get the word out that the media industry is moving away from VHS and that we would not be able to continue providing VHS players in the classroom indefinitely. Many manufacturers have ceased production of VHS players and we expect that they will be increasingly difficult to purchase. Following feedback from that article, we conducted a faculty survey and received additional input about some of the implications of this shift in the media world. Fifty of the 100 randomly chosen faculty responded with the following feedback:

Despite the relatively low number of faculty who depend on VHS, it is a very important issue for them and in many cases it may be difficult to find an alternative format. In an effort to create some time for all of us to figure out the best way forward, the ITSS classroom team will work to keep DVD / VHS players in classrooms for one more academic year. We expect that by Fall 2012, there will no longer be VHS / DVD players in the classrooms, but we will keep a pool of checkout players for as long as we can reasonably do so.

A longer-term challenge for faculty will be how to replace VHS offerings with a newer digital format alternative. There is not necessarily a clear single solution to this problem. In some cases copyright protection prevents any migration from older VHS resources into any other format. We hope that setting this timeline will create an appropriate amount of time to move toward the best solution(s). Additionally, we welcome all comments. Please email Jason Davis.

Considering Holding Online Office Hours?

If you are considering holding online office hours, or you would like to hold an online tutoring session you have multiple options. Within the University system two of the more flexible options you may use are:

  1. UMConnect which may be used for Web conferencing. You may share your screen with your students as well as send your audio or your audio and video. Students may respond via text chat, or you may enable them to send audio/video back to you.
  2. UMN Google Apps which may be used for collaborative document writing while maintaining a chat. Currently the drawback is not all Duluth faculty, staff and students are in Google. This will not be an issue this coming academic year.

If you would like to learn more about these and your other options please contact Amanda Evans or Bruce Reeves.

IT Policy Update: Recommended Solutions

Wondering what hardware, software, or network solutions to use? ITSS provides guidance about what we recommend you use, and what we will support, in our Recommended Solutions Policy. Network solutions include both on-campus and off-campus access. Hardware solutions include desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices, printers and scanners, servers, student response systems, and adaptive technology. Software solutions abound for both desktops and servers. Have a look, and you might find something new you'd like to try.

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