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Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students

March 2012 Archives

Student Computer Labs Moving to Virtual Desktops

After a successful pilot in the Library this past fall, ITSS staff plan to roll out virtual desktops to all basic access student computer labs for fall semester 2012. ITSS will be using VMware View to provide the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

VMware View allows us to host the desktop operating system within a virtual machine (VM) running on our VMware cluster. Existing computers will be reused during the initial rollout and will be replaced with "zero client" hardware during the regular hardware refresh cycle. Zero client hardware is less expensive, has lower maintenance, and consumes far less power than standard CPUs. The zero clients were used in the pilot, and students who used them did not notice any difference between this hardware on VM and the standard computers running the OS and software locally.

VDI also gives us several other advantages over the traditional lab offering. We will be able to update and deploy software more quickly. It also will let us easily maintain several distinct lab offerings to suit class needs. The service also supports a ‘Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)’ environment, which may allow users to run lab software on their personal devices in the future.

Stop by the lab just past the ITSS Computer Help Desk in the Library to use one of the new zero clients. Let us know what you think!

Posted on Wednesday, Mar 28, 2012 | Permalink 1 Comment

WebVista and Moodle 1.9 Transition: August 31, 2012 Really Does Mean August 31, 2012

By August 31, 2012, the University of Minnesota will transition to Moodle 2.x as its sole Course Management System (CMS). Prior to this date, all content, grade book data, forum posts etc. need to be migrated out of WebVista if you'd like to use/refer to it moving forward.

How to:

If you have questions or if you'd like assistance migrating away from WebVista, please contact Amanda Evans (x7680, or Bruce Reeves (x6831, We will not have access to WebVista after August 31 and cannot assist with the migration after this time.

Posted on Tuesday, Mar 27, 2012 | Permalink

Network Subscriber Management

UMD ITSS staff are participating in a system-wide project to improve how access to networks are provided. Josh Richard, IT Professional, is providing technical expertise, including programming, server configuration, and network expertise. Linda Deneen, Director, is the Executive Sponsor for the project. Other members of the team are from the Office of Information Technology at the Twin Cities Campus.

This project is intended to improve the user experience on the network while at the same time providing better management tools to the technical staff who manage the network and who respond to security breaches. With specialized equipment purchased from the Sandvine corporation, this system is intended to provide a flexible and dynamic model with a profile for each user, regardless of where they connect to the network. It will also include a remediation portal that will allow users to address infected systems.

The next milestone is to use this new system to replace the old system that the Twin Cities campus uses to register users on the residence hall network. If this milestone works well, subsequent steps will begin to provide services at UMD and the other coordinate campuses.

Posted on Monday, Mar 26, 2012 | Permalink

ITSS By The Numbers: Systems Team

The ITSS Systems Team ensures access to computing resources for the UMD campus community. They provide an accessible and standardized set of system services by utilizing open-architecture and highly-integrated server platforms. The team supports distributed data bases, high-speed computing, distributed printing, and other large-scale services with high-speed access by using a variety of compute servers. They balance security and access to these systems for the UMD campus community.

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

  • 56,456 user accounts, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
  • 74 percent of email messages refused, on average, thus filtering out spam.
  • 88 percent of email messages refused on the worst spam day.
  • 111 watts per server per day of electricity in the data center.

Posted on Monday, Mar 26, 2012 | Permalink

Policy Update: Guidelines for Announcements

One person's must-do event is another person's junk mail. In order to strike a good balance between informing the campus and avoiding spamming everyone, our Guidelines for Announcements provide tips and strategies for getting your message out and making appropriate use of email mailing lists.

A special item to note is the very limited use of mailing lists for fundraising. Please do not use university email lists for making personal announcements or offering personal items for sale. Check the guidelines for details.

Posted on Monday, Mar 26, 2012 | Permalink

Ten Years Ago: Classroom Technology Survey

In April 2002, the ITSS Classroom Technology Team announced it would again be distributing a survey to help improve services to the campus by capturing feedback and suggestions from faculty and teaching staff.

Posted on Friday, Mar 23, 2012 | Permalink

Google Apps Updates


Nearly 94,000 University of Minnesota accounts are now in Google Apps, including over 16,000 UMD accounts.

Apps and Features

If you have a particular app or feature that you really want to see activated in our Education Enterprise version of Google Apps, please contact and let him know what it is and why you would like to see it activated. Apps will be prioritized by level of need and usefulness for University mission. Not all of the Apps available in the commercial Google implementation are available in the Education Enterprise version of Google Apps - and not all of the available apps have been activated in our domain. There are often technical and policy issues that need to be vetted before a new app can be activated. The apps being vetted for these issues currently are Analytics and Groups.

Student Accounts

Incoming student accounts are automatically provisioned in Google Apps - so they will be eligible to sign in to Google and agree to terms of service from the moment their University account is created. By the end of March 2012, we expect that this will also be true for all incoming faculty and staff.


Google's new privacy policy does not change the contractual agreement for Google Apps with the University. Google will continue to honor confidentiality and security obligations provided to the University’s domains. For more information please consult Google's new privacy policy and your University Google account.

Posted on Thursday, Mar 1, 2012 | Permalink