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Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students

January 2012 Archives

Captioning: The Right Thing to Do is Becoming Easier

Creating an inclusive environment for individuals with hearing impairment requires that we caption video content. In the past, the cost and time involved made it difficult to meet this very important need.

This year the Accessibility and Technology Team, a cooperative effort among ITSS, Disability Resources, Library, and Human Resources, has identified a service to make captioning feasible for just about any video that will go online.

Additionally, the EVCAA and VASSL have made funds available to accommodate identified individuals in courses for credit, so the cost of this service will not be a barrier for departments who are serving students with these needs.

This is an emerging service and we expect to make a tremendous amount of progress this year. Watch for more information soon.

For more about the service visit captioning.

Posted on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 | Permalink

More 24-Hour Lab Access, Mac Labs Return to Montague

The following labs join KPlz 143 in being open 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, from 4:30 pm on Sunday to 4:30 pm on Friday:

  • Engr 204
  • MonH 209
  • MWAH 177
  • SCC 41

The other labs open for class hours are:

  • Hum 470
  • JISSB 216
  • Lib 118
  • Lib 115
  • MonH 239

With Montague Hall construction complete, the two Mac labs that have historically been in MonH 209 and 239 are back in their respective places. These labs were temporarily relocated to the first floor of the library and the third floor of Kirby Plaza to accommodate construction for the past year.

All computer labs are being outfitted with security cameras, with most already in place.

Posted on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 | Permalink

Industry Moving Away From VHS

The ITSS Classroom Team has traditionally provided a VHS and DVD combination player in each general-purpose classroom. Over the past few years, these players have become increasingly difficult to purchase as the industry continues moving toward new formats. Stand-alone VHS players have been out of production since 2008. Sony and other manufacturers have also quit making DVD/VHS combo players more recently and it is inevitable that these players will cease to be available at some point in the near future.

As a result of technology changes, we are beginning to phase out combo players. We have already removed them from computer labs. We think a logical next step is to remove them from classrooms and to create a checkout pool of DVD/VHS combo players that will be available at the Tech Center for instructors who still require that technology. Faculty will have the option to play DVDs through their laptops or through AV checkout laptops or DVD players. They will also be able to play VHS tapes through checkout players as long as we can continue to offer them with a reasonable expectation that these aging players will continue to function.

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 to start a discussion on campus about this problem and possible solutions moving forward. To that end we will be highlighting this issue on a forthcoming faculty survey about classroom technology. Additionally, we welcome all comments. Please email Jason Davis (

Posted on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 | Permalink

Google's New Privacy Policy

Google's new privacy policy does not change the contractual agreement for Google Apps with the University. Therefore, the updated Terms of Service do not change or supersede the terms of the University’s Google Apps agreement. Google’s new Terms of Service explains that if users have a Google account and are signed in, that Google may combine information the user has provided from one service with information from other services.

Google is not changing how any personal information is shared outside of Google or the measures Google takes to protect information. Google will continue to honor confidentiality and security obligations provided to the University’s domains.

For more information visit Google Apps for the University of Minnesota.

Posted on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 | Permalink

Google Now Available to Health Care Components (HCC)

We finally have a sub-domain for Google Apps for HCC units (like Pharmacy, Med School, and any other units who may be subject to HIPAA compliance because people in the unit may handle medical records). Currently this sub-domain does not include gmail or Google+ but it does include all of the other apps that the rest of the University uses. In the near future we will also have a Google Domain for our alumni and retirees, and our transition to Google Apps will be complete.

Posted on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 | Permalink

Internet Capacity Doubled

ITSS worked with the State of Minnesota and OIT/NTS at the University of Minnesota to double the capacity of the campus Internet service over January break. Currently the rate we are contracted for is 2 Gigabits per second. This is equivalent to 2000 Megabits per second. By comparison, a home with DSL service may have 3-7 Megabits per second. The amount increase for this upgrade is greater than the total of all upgrades for the past 10 years! As we move forward, the next target rate will be 10 times faster than what we have today.

Posted on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 | Permalink

Proposed Rates and Fees for 2012-2013

ITSS is proposing to increase rates for our billable labor services in FY13 by approximately 2.5% and we are proposing to increase both of our student fees, the combined basic access and technology fee and the full computer lab access fee, as well. We recognize that all University students, staff, faculty and departments have been and continue to be impacted by budget issues, including ITSS, and we have worked very hard to maintain most service rates and fees at the FY12 level and to contain overall increases in other service rates and fees.

The combined basic access and technology fee is proposed to change from the current $81.75 per semester to $83.50 per semester. Because these fees are now part of the fees collected through the UMD Collegiate and Continuing Education fees, if this increase is approved, it will raise those fees.

The following table provides an overview of the fee assessment for UMD Collegiate Units and Continuing Education based upon credits and semester:

2012-2013 Fee Assessment
Collegiate Units and Continuing Education
Credits Semester Fee Per Semester
6 or more Fall and Spring $83.50
Less than 6 Fall and Spring $41.75
3 or more Summer $41.75
Less than 3 Summer $20.88

This fee provides students with Email accounts, file storage through Samba, web space, basic access computing stations in the Library, Solon Campus Center, Multicultural Center, and SBE Atrium, access to some electronic Library databases, computer maintenance services, and access to the ITSS Tech Center and Multimedia Hub.

Full computer lab access services, which include many specialized application software packages, will be available to students who pay an additional $75.50, an increase of $3.75 per semester. Page printing costs in the computer labs will remain the same, $.05 per page.

In setting our rates and fees for the next fiscal year, we have:

  1. Followed the University policies and accounting principles that govern internal service organization rate development methodology, and
  2. Reviewed and complied with the FY13 Budget Instructions: Support Units, dated September 16, 2011. Although ITSS is not specifically identified as a support unit in the context of this document, ITSS uses the framework of the document in planning rates and fees, knowing that our draft of proposed rates and fees may change through the campus administrative review process.

A complete listing of Proposed ITSS Rates and Fees for 2012-2013 is available for your review.

We are committed to retaining rates and fees as low as possible while continuing to provide quality support and services. Please feel free to address any questions to Linda Deneen ( or Steve Patterson (

The final rates and fees decisions are pending campus administration review and Board of Regents approval.

Posted on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 | Permalink

ITSS Managed WordPress Service

WordPress is a free and open source blogging tool and content management system (CMS) powered by PHP and MySQL. It features a publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability, including a plug-in architecture and a template system.

ITSS is offering a common good virtual server service that provides the WordPress application to campus departments and business units. The virtual servers are maintained and managed by ITSS systems administrators, which includes maintaining and managing the infrastructure, operating system, storage, backups, security, and patching.

This service offering is suggested for campus departments and groups with simple WordPress needs that are self-supported by the customer; however, the customer may contract for assistance from ITSS staff on a charge back basis for time. Customers in campus departments and business units retain the responsibility for the application administration and customer support for their users. This service is generally appropriate for projects that have no restricted, private, credit card, or HIPPA data, modest storage requirements, and no complex design issues.

The managed service will reduce the burden of server administration work for users and provide control within a supported technical environment. There is no charge to the customer using this service as ITSS costs are kept low by using automated processes and sharing the infrastructure with other WordPress instances.

For more information about this managed service please review ITSS Managed WordPress Service.

Posted on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 | Permalink

ITSS Managed Database Service

ITSS offers complete packages of hardware, database software, database administration and system administration in support of your data needs. Projects and services are initiated by customer request and are scheduled based upon ITSS staff availability, project priority and project development time.

Models of low cost managed database services include:

  • MySQL database service - fast, reliable, easy to use, and suitable for simple database needs
  • PostgreSQL database service - capable of handling transaction processing

These service offerings are available for campus departments and groups with simple database needs, transaction-processing applications, or to house the database of dynamic web sites. These databases and web sites are generally self-supported by the customer; however, the customer may contract for assistance from ITSS staff on a chargeback basis for time. These services are appropriate for projects that have no restricted, private, or HIPPA data, modest storage requirements, and no complex database design issues. These services provide customers with their own:

  • Dedicated database instance running on a shared database host,
  • Tools for them to manage that own instance, i.e.
  • A supported automation system to handle many of the routine database maintenance tasks

The managed database service will reduce the burden of database administration work for users and provide control within a supported technical environment. There is no charge to the customer using this service as ITSS costs are kept low by using automated processes and sharing the infrastructure with other SQL instances.

For more information please review ITSS managed service.

Posted on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 | Permalink

Moodle 2 Upgrade Moving Along

With both Moodle 1.9 and WebVista shutting down this August, the upgrade to Moodle 2 is moving along. Many have made the switch this semester, and we encourage everyone to switch by the start of the summer term.

If your department or group is currently using WebVista, Amanda Evans and Bruce Reeves are available to come meet with your group to help create a plan for moving to Moodle 2. Please contact Amanda Evans at to schedule a time with your group.

We are working with the Twin Cities trainers to come offer some workshops on our campus. Look for more details toward the middle of the semester.

For the latest updates on the Moodle 1.9 to Moodle 2 and WebVista to Moodle 2 transition, please visit Moodle Upgrade Updates.

Posted on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 | Permalink

ITSS By The Numbers: Phone and Network Team

The ITSS Phone and Network Team provides and maintains quality telecommunications and network products and services. The team provides the campus wire and fiber backbone; the technical services related to the telecommunications area; the connectivity to the telephone and computing equipment in offices, residence halls, and remote sites; and long distance phone service.

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

  • 1,177,136 telephone calls connected through our telephone switch.
  • The team supported 3,178 telephone sets on campus.
  • The campus network has 14,544 switch ports, 3,721 networked desktop or laptop computers, and 352 surveillance cameras.
  • Wireless networking is provided with 790 wireless access points, allowing for a maximum of 5351 simultaneous wireless users and serving an average of 2261 simultaneous wireless users.

Posted on Thursday, Jan 26, 2012 | Permalink

New Vendor for Emergency Text Alerts

The University of Minnesota has changed vendors for our emergency text message alert system. The new vendor is Rave, which was our original vendor when we first implemented text messaging a number of years ago. We found the Rave product to be very good back then, so we are happy to be working with this vendor again.

Phone numbers registered in the old WENS text messaging system have been moved to the Rave system. We still use the internal name of TXT-U for this service.

If you signed up for this service previously, your number should still be in the system. Watch for our test message on February 1. If you are not currently receiving text alerts, you may find more information and sign up at our Emergency Preparedness web site.

Posted on Thursday, Jan 26, 2012 | Permalink

Interactive Campus Map

The UMD campus now has a new interactive map, available at our main maps page on the web.

To use the new interactive features, select the different tool icons in the maroon bar at the top of the map. Or use the arrows and slider in the upper left of the map. And notice the different views across the top of the map.

This map is the work of a talented team of individuals at UMD, using advanced Geographic Information tools:

  • Project Manager: Stacey Stark (GIS Lab)
  • Business Analyst: Peter Angelos (CLA)
  • Testing: Andy Manteuffel (ITSS), GIS Lab students
  • Web Developer: Andy Manteuffel (ITSS)
  • Data Development: Steve Graham (GIS Lab), Erik Larson (FM)

The map was built with tools developed by UMTC University Services IT. We particularly appreciate the help of Bill Kanfield and Dan Sward from this group.

Finally, thanks to these others who lent their support and helped with planning: John King (Interim VCFO), Steve Levin (U Services), John Rashid (FM), John Sawyer (FM), Cheryl Reitan (External Affairs), and the Campus Web Committee.

Enjoy this new resource.

Posted on Saturday, Jan 21, 2012 | Permalink

SFTP required on UMD Web Server

Effective February 6, 2012, plain FTP service will be disabled on the UMD web server ( After this date, you will need to use secure FTP (SFTP) to upload files to our web server.

You can begin using SFTP at any time, and ITSS strongly encourages you to make the change now. For details on how to configure SFTP settings with Filezilla and Dreamweaver CS5, please see our web site: Secure FTP Settings. (Note that older versions of Dreamweaver do not support SFTP.)

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact the ITSS Help Desk (, 726-8847).

Posted on Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 | Permalink

Ten Years Ago: Email Features

In February, 2002, ITSS developed an email application to allow users to customize their email with vacation responses and message filtering.

Posted on Monday, Jan 9, 2012 | Permalink