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Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students

October 2011 Archives

Google+ is Now Available

The University of Minnesota has added Google+ to the list of Google apps that are available to students, faculty, and staff who already have a U of M Google account. In the coming days, users will begin seeing the link for Google+ in their list of available Google Apps. They will have the option to use Google+ to connect with colleagues, coworkers, and friends at the U of M and beyond.

The University of Minnesota is proud to be among a small handful of universities that are partnering with Google to make Google+ available to its users on its worldwide launch on October 27, 2011. The opportunity for the University to be early adopters of Google+ helps to enhance our position as a leader in institutional technology. Some of these include Arizona State, Boise State, the University of Notre Dame, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, as well as universities in Egypt, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Kenya, Mexico, and Italy. You can read Google’s announcement on the official Google Enterprise Blog.

How Google+ Can be Used on Campus

Students can share their thoughts with a project group, friends, or family circle; have a Hangout with up to nine classmates; keep up with their connections from their mobile device. Faculty can host virtual office hours in Hangouts; share information with their class circles; share published articles with those that might be interested. Staff can use Hangouts to meet with a distributed team; share information with a project circle; keep in touch with colleagues, students, and faculty. You are encouraged to explore this tool and learn how it might be useful to your college, department, or unit.

We hope that by opening up tools like this for the University, people will begin to innovate and discover new ways to collaborate. We hope you find value in the capabilities that Google+ provides.

General Google+ Resources

Visit Google Apps for the University of Minnesota Duluth for further information or contact

Posted on Friday, Oct 28, 2011 | Permalink

Policy Update: Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources

The University of Minnesota Policy on Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources has been updated. It now includes two important appendices:

These policies provide important information about how to treat email, voice mail, and text messages that may be considered public records. In particular, from the second policy:

These records therefore (1) should be managed according to University records retention policies, and (2) may be subject to disclosure under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

Please read these policies for more information.

Posted on Friday, Oct 28, 2011 | Permalink

Use Google Docs instead of waiting for one of those expensive Active Learning Classrooms...What?!?

Have you ever wanted to use one of those specialized Active Learning Classrooms (ALC)?

Well, now you don't have to wait. While the ALC environment offers the following opportunities, we have found that these same opportunities are possible within traditional classrooms with the use of Google Docs:

  • Cooperative learning environments that encourage student collaboration and peer teaching.
  • Technology that allows students to easily present work for review by peers and instructors.
  • Furniture designed to facilitate small-group work. (note: may need to get creative for those large classrooms with bolted down seats etc.)
  • The ability for instructors to interactively coach students during activities.
  • New options for student interaction and class structure.

How is This Possible?

Within all of our General Purpose Classrooms, and some departmental owned classrooms, there is standard equipment which includes a wireless connection, overhead projector and projection screen. If you create a Google Doc for each group and ask students to bring their laptops/iPads (or at least a laptop/iPad per group), you now have the potential to offer a cooperative, collaborative, interactive learning environment. The potential is endless!

Interested in Putting This Idea Into Action?

Contact Jason Davis (jdavis, x8782), Amanda Evans (amevans, x7680) or Bruce Reeves (breeves, x6831). For more information about Google Apps in general, read this short article: 7 Things you Should Know About Google App's (PDF).

Posted on Thursday, Oct 27, 2011 | Permalink

Using an AD Computer Off Campus

If your laptop has been added to Active Directory services, you will still be able to use it on any network. However, there are a few items to note to make this process as smooth as possible when using it off campus.

Sign in to your workstation at least once while on campus
You must be on the University network the first time you sign in to your computer.

Install the UMD AnyConnect VPN client and sign in to it prior to signing in to AD
The AnyConnect VPN client allows you to sign in to the UMD VPN service immediately on starting up your computer (before signing in to AD). This is the best way to ensure that you will be able to sign in to and access all UMD services, including AD file storage.

"Elevated Access Rights" require you to sign in 2 (two) times while on the UMD network
When your account has been granted temporary elevated access rights, you will need to sign in and restart your computer twice before they take affect. Note that your computer must be connected to the UMD network during the sign in process. We recommend that you complete this process while on campus if possible.

For details, see: Using an AD Computer Off Campus.

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011 | Permalink

Policy Update: Administering Summative Student Evaluations

Because we are getting close to the end of the semester, it may be a good time to review the UMD Procedures for Administering Summative Student Evaluations.

Here is the opening statement in this policy:

When courses are evaluated summatively by students (i. e., for inclusion in academic files for personnel purposes), such evaluations shall be conducted during the last two weeks of classes for the term, preferably not on the last day of classes or during the final examination period. All evaluation forms shall be processed by Information Technology Systems and Services (ITSS), a neutral party, in order to provide standard results, security of data, and privacy of the results.

Please review the entire policy for detailed information.

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011 | Permalink

Changes for the Visualization and Digital Imaging Lab

For many years the Visualization and Digital Imaging Lab (VizLab) has been a cooperative effort among ITSS, SCSE, and SFA while also supporting faculty research for the whole campus. Recently, a group of faculty and Lisa Fitzpatrick were able to secure a very substantial grant that will engender some fundamental changes in how the VizLab works. There may be a change in location to accommodate a professional HD video/3D motion capture studio. Moreover, the lab will continue to be an interdisciplinary research area. This, coupled with other changes and re-organization on campus, made now a good time to rethink mission and reporting lines for Lisa and the lab.

The result of that reevaluation is that Lisa and the VizLab will move into SFA. We believe that this reporting structure will simplify the process of adjusting the mission of the facility.

ITSS looks forward to continued collaboration with Lisa and SFA. Despite the fact that Lisa will no longer report to ITSS, she will remain our valued colleague. We anticipate great new things for the VizLab and for Lisa in the years to come.

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011 | Permalink

ITSS By The Numbers: Accounting Team

The ITSS Accounting Team ensures responsible accounting, billing, and reporting of all ITSS funds in compliance with University fiscal policies and procedures.

From January 1 through July 31, 2011, the team reported:

  • 3769 faculty, staff, and retiree accounts
  • 6 out of 6 billing cycles completed on time.

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011 | Permalink

Ten Years Ago: Office XP

The Office XP suite of products became available on the office server in November 2001.

Posted on Thursday, Oct 20, 2011 | Permalink

Captioning Services

The Accessibility and Technology team has identified a service that can provide captioning for videos. They currently charge $162 per content hour ($2.70 per minute) for transcript and caption files and offer over 40 output types, all listed at: CaptionSync.

To create an account on their system, fill out the form at:
CaptionSync Account Sign Up.

It is likely that if you are already offering video as part of your course you have a preferred file type that is supported by this service, but if not - or if you have any questions, contact the ITSS HelpDesk for assistance.

Posted on Thursday, Oct 6, 2011 | Permalink

Virtual Server Update

If you are considering purchasing server hardware for your next project we strongly encourage you to use our virtual server solution instead. ITSS has been working with virtual services (VMWare coupled with Veeam) for several years now. We have many of our critical services running as virtual guests with over 90 systems now running on our VMWare systems.

Many advantages to using our virtual solution exist. For instance we have lowered our power usage by about 15%. Other advantages include:

  • The customer is automatically provided with redundant networks, processing power, and daily snapshots.
  • File restore or snapshot restore is available for systems housed on our VMWare system.
  • Expanding our VMWare system is easy, so if we need more compute power no outage is required to add processing power.

We will be moving more servers to our VMWare system during the January holiday break. Please contact Dan Burrows at 8846 or via email at if you are interested or have questions.

Posted on Tuesday, Oct 4, 2011 | Permalink

Web Server Upgrade

ITSS is replacing our existing web server ( with newer hardware and software. A Web Server Upgrade guide has been prepared that will help you prepare for the changes that will happen on Monday, October 31, at 6AM. If your web sites do not use CGI (PHP, Perl, C, C++, etc) or data base systems, it is very likely no changes will need to be made to your web sites. If you do use CGI components or use data bases then it's important that you test ahead of time and be prepared to update your web pages on October 31.

ITSS staff have discussed and decided against a test run before the October 31 deadline. Here are some reasons why:

  • The ITSS web server has more than our main web server on it, web1.d hosts many other "virtual" web servers. These servers would be affected twice, both when moving to a test system and also moving back to the base system.
  • There are DNS (name service) issues, as DNS servers have differing cache lag times. Customers might see the new test server or fail attempting to see the base one.
  • Web pages using data storage devices might have conversion issues after returning to the base system.

ITSS recommends focusing on the October 31 conversion rather than possible web, DNS or data base related issues.

Everyone can do some testing (first pages for sure) at either of the following URLs

  • (replace "unitname" with your unit's name).
  • (replace "username" with your use name).

Remember, if you have web pages that utilize CGI it is very important that you test them before October 31, 2011.

For more details please visit Web Server Upgrade.

If you have questions please contact Dan Burrows at 8846 or via email at

Posted on Monday, Oct 3, 2011 | Permalink