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September 2013 Archives

New Virtual Private Network (VPN) Service

ITSS will be retiring on October first and we now have a new SSL VPN Service available.

Summary of Changes

  • Latest AnyConnect Client with Windows 8 support
  • New hardware to replace 7+ year old device
  • Redundant network feeds provide higher availability
  • Automated user sanctioning for incident response
  • Added connection profiles, which allow custom access for groups of users
  • no longer accepted

What Users Will See

  • A banner message from umdvpn at login that instructs them to reconfigure their client.
  • Users who choose to remain on the old VPN for the time being can simply select "Accept" on the banner message.
  • On October first the pop-up banner will be changed to notify users that they will be disconnected after one minute.
  • At that point you will no longer be able to use the old VPN.

For futher information please visit VPN Service: Virtual Private Network.

Posted on Thursday, Sep 12, 2013 | Permalink

UMD Continuing to Expand Availability of Active Learning Classrooms

A new active learning "pod classroom" was constructed over the summer for fall semester 2013: James I Swenson Science Building 216. Pod classrooms have round tables (pods) of nine with the ability to further divide into smaller tables with groups of three. Each pod has extra technology to allow the students in that group to present within their group or to the rest of the class (including monitors, audio, camera, microphone).

The intention of active learning classrooms is to move from a traditional, passive, lecture-based model of instruction into an active, collaborative, inquiry-based model. This sort of classroom is inspired by the Scale-Up model (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies) from North Carolina State University. It is also often referred to as a "flipped" classroom. Active learning is a mode of instruction that can be done in traditional classrooms but it can also be enhanced with various levels of technology. A key function of the technology is facilitating and enabling small-group learning with ease of sharing.

Visit Active Learning to learn more about active learning classrooms at UMD.

Posted on Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 | Permalink

Campus Cash to Card System Replaced

Quick Facts Regarding the New System

  • All U Cards will work with the new system.
  • Old Campus Cash cards will not work with the new system - we will provide a replacement at the Cashier's Window in Darland Lobby.
  • You need to visit the Cashier's Window in Darland Lobby if you have value from the old system that you want to transfer to the new systems.
  • Value transfers need to be done this semester and before December 20, 2013 while the old system is still available.
  • Terms and Conditions (PDF) are available.

More Explanation About the New Technology and Why We Made the Change

If you look carefully at the back of your current U Card, you will see that there are two magnetic strips (this is true for U Cards issued before Spring 2013 - newer U Cards will only have the data strip necessary for the new system).

Legacy UCard with two strips: Data on top and Campus Cash on bottom.

The thicker strip near the top of the card is much like any ID or credit card - it contains some identifying information about you. The thin magnetic strip near the bottom of the card is more like a disk drive - it actually stores re- writeable data. It has been used to track cash value for things like Chemistry equipment, parking, and printing. This technology, supported by a company called Debitek, is at the end of life and will no longer be supported by commercial vendors, so we can't get help fixing or replacing it anymore.

The new system will rely on the wider strip and cash value will be tracked in a database separate from the U Card, much more like Dining Dollars are currently tracked. We expect the new system to be easy to use and to have added security and convenience. There will be a transition period for customers to use up or transfer existing Debitek funds. Watch for more details soon.

If you had value on your U Card before Fall Semester 2013, you will need to visit the Cashier's Window in the Darland Administration Building Lobby to get the value transferred into the new system. All U Cards, old or new, will work with the system as long as they are in reasonably good condition.

You must transfer value before December 20, 2013. After that, the old system will be shut down and there will be no way to transfer value from old to new. Consult the Terms and Conditions (PDF) for further information.

Posted on Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 | Permalink

Moving Your Mailman List into Google Groups

Icon: Google GroupsLike most of the transition from "legacy" products and platforms into Google Apps, the transition from our older email list technology "Mailman" into Google Groups will be optional at first. Later this Fall Semester we will make a push to try to get all remaining Mailman users to move into Google Groups to save continued staff time and effort - and eventually we will support only Google Groups.

Google Groups replaces all functionality from Mailman but also does a lot more. For details visit Google Groups.

You can move your Mailman List to a Google Group now by following these steps:

  1. Go to the Requesting a Group page.
  2. Click the link: "Request group by using the Official University Group Form".
  3. Pick "Convert UMD Mailman List" under the "Action" pull down menu.
  4. Add all your members to the group and change any settings you want.

In the meantime, your mailman list still works, so there is no disruption in service. But you will have to email and let her know when your group is set up and ready to go (members added etc) and then she will change the mail redirect to your new group versus the mailman list.

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2013 | Permalink

Large Lecture Hall Wireless Upgrade

During the summer, ITSS network staff improved wireless service in all large lecture halls on campus. While the previous wireless service in those rooms was adequate to allow for occasional wireless access during class, it was not sufficient to support an entire large class of students to take an exam online all at one time.

ITSS purchased a new tool that allows us to heat-map the wireless coverage of an area and calculate the best position and power levels to install wireless access points at. Here's Bohannon 90 before upgrades.

Diagram: Wireless coverage in center of the room is poor. Better coverage indicated at corners of the room by access points.

We installed additional access points in most rooms and added directional antennas in some rooms to augment the standard omni-directional antennas. We also upgraded network head-end equipment to provide gigabit connectivity to all of the classroom access points.

ITSS would like to hear from faculty and students using large lecture halls. Contact or call 218-726-8847. ITSS recommends testing the new system by asking all students to connect to Moodle using wireless and doing some low-stakes activity before attempting to do a full exam.

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2013 | Permalink

Computer Labs Update

ITSS computer labs continue to run Windows 7 with updated software packages. We have implemented a new print system using card swipe technology instead of mechanical card readers. Printing prices remain the same, with a black and white page at five cents and a color page at one dollar.

Labs located throughout the campus offer convenient hours and and an array of software. Eight full access labs have specialized software for students enrolled in lab courses. Three labs are open 24 hours Sunday through Friday (MWAH 177, KPlz 143, and MonH 209). Engr 204 is open 24 hours Sunday through Saturday. The four remaining labs, MonH 209, H 470, Lib 118, and Lib 115, are open during the day. We provide over 330 full access computers in these locations and library common areas.

Additionally over 130 basic access computers are available to any student, staff, or faculty member. These are located in the library, Multicultural Center, and SCC 42 and hallway.

For more information on labs, access, software, and printing, visit Student Computer Labs. Please feel free to email any questions or comments to

Posted on Monday, Sep 9, 2013 | Permalink

Moodle 2.2 to 2.4 Changes

Moodle has moved from version 2.2 to 2.4 for this academic year. Some faculty piloted it during this past summer session before it moved into production. Among some of the changes:

  • The URL has changed: will always take you to the current academic year Moodle version. Links to the previous year and the archives are also available on this page.
  • The "Assignment" tool has been condensed from 4 tools to 1 with all the old functionality and some new options.
  • Drag and drop is an option for adding files to your course site.
  • Your Moodle home page is now customizable. You may show the courses you want to see in the order you want to see them.

For a list of all changes, please visit Moodle 2.2 to 2.4 Changes.

Posted on Friday, Sep 6, 2013 | Permalink

New Design for UMD Web Site

ITSS has been collaborating with External Affairs to bring forth a new design for the UMD web site. The new site went live on August 30, but it isn't done yet. Expect more improvements in October. For detailed updates on project progress, consult the UMD Web Site Redesign blog.

Although External Affairs is taking the lead on this major project, ITSS staff have been providing technical support and development. Still to come are an enhanced home page, new second-level pages, and templates for all units on campus to use. We are also anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new enterprise Drupal content management system, under development by the UMTC Office of Information Technology.

Posted on Friday, Sep 6, 2013 | Permalink

ITSS By The Numbers: Enterprise Systems Team

The ITSS Enterprise Systems Team supports and improves campus and department requests for information, training and reporting which use University legacy and enterprise systems as the reference for source data. From January 1 through July 31, 2013, the ITSS Enterprise Systems Team:

  • responded to 345 customer requests for service.
  • supported 123 different applications.
  • managed 26 change requests and 34 unexpected application outages.

Posted on Friday, Sep 6, 2013 | Permalink

Policy Update: Data Security Classification

In June 2013 the University established a new policy on Data Security Classification. In this policy, data is classified into three categories:

  1. Private-Highly Restricted
  2. Private- Restricted
  3. Public

As in the past, University employees are required to protect private data, but the split in private data between highly restricted and restricted clarifies how we should think about this data. It also enables us to focus our most stringent security measures on the highly restricted category.

Individuals or units that store private data locally or in the cloud become responsible data owners. Whenever possible, we should continue to store data in the original enterprise system of record. However, when business needs drive us to other applications, it is important to recognize that this places extra responsibility on data owner.

Posted on Friday, Sep 6, 2013 | Permalink

New ITSS Staff Member: Joey Helder

Photo: Joanna (Joey) Helder
Joey Helder

We are pleased to announce that Joanna (Joey) Helder accepted a full time Information Technology Professional position with ITSS in June.

Joey is a UMD graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Computer Science minor. Joey began working for ITSS as a temporary employee last fall, and previously worked for ITSS as a student employee in the areas of computer lab support and computer maintenance. In her new position, Joey will primarily be providing support in the ITSS TechCenter, where her customer support and technical skills will help to improve our customer service for the campus.

Please join us in welcoming Joey (back) to ITSS!

Posted on Thursday, Sep 5, 2013 | Permalink

Avoid a Big Oops. Stop - Review - Send!

Barb Montgomery, Information Security Twin Cities, provides good security advice in her September 3, 2013, message to IT@UMN. It reads as follows:

Emailing the wrong information to the wrong people is a preventable security issue that happens more frequently when we are rushed or fatigued.

As a reminder, closely review every email before you click send:

  • Verify the content of your message.
  • Verify the addresses are who you intended and not a similar name.
  • Check for attachments.
  • Open any attachments and verify the content is for the intended audience.

We encourage you to share this good practice with students, faculty and staff.

Posted on Wednesday, Sep 4, 2013 | Permalink

Update to SCCM 2012 Provides Improved Services

The University is moving from SCCM 2007 to SCCM 2012 this fall. SCCM is the Active Directory service that allows us to provide operating system and software upgrades to workstations. SCCM 2012 provides a more reliable client for the workstation, fully supports Windows 8 workstations, and allows us to customize patching and reboot windows.

The University Office of Information Technology (OIT) will be reducing support for SCCM 2007 on Sept 1, 2013, and eliminating the service entirely by the end of the year. After successfully testing the process on ITSS workstations, we completed a phased migration of the remaining workstations on campus during August.

How were workstations migrated to SCCM 2012?

The migration was completed entirely by our SCCM administrators through the server, requiring no intervention on the part of the users or IT technical support staff. After a workstation is migrated, it automatically receives the SCCM 2012 policy on the next restart.

What will be different?

Users will notice two differences once migrated to SCCM 2012:
  • The "Run Advertised Programs" feature has been replaced by a new, more user-friendly application called "Software Center". It is located under Programs - Microsoft System Center 2012. For details consult AD: Installing Software.
  • The reboot window for patches and upgrades has been extended from 4 hours to 10 hours.

Posted on Wednesday, Sep 4, 2013 | Permalink

Accessibility with Apple's VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a type of screen reader built into Apple computer operating systems (OS). It works with Macintosh programs such as Finder, Safari, Mail and TextEdit. In the past people needing a screen reader had been more or less forced to use Windows because of the lack screen readers for the Mac, but now it's built right into the OS.

Apple products typically work the same way for all users including screen reader users. For instance the same gestures that work on an iPhone and iPad work on Mac computers, by using the track pad for navigation. Users don't need to memorize a long list of keyboard commands. This is great for people who have low vision or who are blind.

VoiceOver Demo

In the following video Tommy Edison, blind since birth, demonstrates how he uses VoiceOver on a MacBook Pro to send an email. A transcript of the Video: "How A Blind Person Uses A Computer" is available.

Barriers for Screen Reader Users

Something to be aware of is that screen readers such as VoiceOver don't magically make websites and applications accessible. Web developers, designers and content authors need to take care in their work to allow screen readers users to perceive and understand content as well as operate controls in an equivalent manner to that of individuals who do not have disabilities. The following are among the top obstacles to a person using the Web with a screen reader:

  1. The presence of inaccessible Flash content
  2. CAPTCHA - images presenting text used to verify that you are a human user
  3. Links or buttons that do not make sense
  4. Images with missing or improper descriptions (alt text)
  5. Screens or parts of screens that change unexpectedly
  6. Complex or difficult forms
  7. Lack of keyboard accessibility
  8. Missing or improper headings
  9. Too many links or navigation items
  10. Complex data tables
  11. Inaccessible or missing search functionality
  12. Lack of "skip to main content" or "skip navigation"

Source: WebAIM Screen Reader Survey 4

Providing accessibility increases usability for all people.

Further Information

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013 | Permalink

Ten Years Ago in ITSS: UMD Web Page Templates

To facilitate the conversion of existing UMD Web pages to a new design, ITSS first offered Web templates to the campus community in September 2003. Andrew Manteuffel developed the templates and was instrumental in that effort.

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013 | Permalink

Multimedia Hub Update

The Multimedia Hub continues to provide media help to students and classes. This fall we are being joined by the Library Reference desk, Writing Center and Tutoring Center in offering a new Learning Commons area for students on the second floor of the Library. This new workplace of students is a location for collaborative work, knowledge generation and innovation.

Several faculty have reserved space at the Hub for their classes for fall semester. Once again it is on a first come and first served basis. Many classes come to the Hub to learn or brush up on video camera and editing skills in preparation for a individual or group projects. Faculty can request that a Hub employee demonstrate camera, tripod, and software usage.

Equipment rental at the Hub continues to be for 3 days. No reservations are taken.

Come to the Hub for your fall classroom or personal multimedia needs. We are here to help.

A text description of the Multimedia Hub video is available.

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013 | Permalink