Information Technology Systems and Services.

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Technology news for UMD faculty, staff and students


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October 2012 Archives

Whatever Happened to Tech Camp?

Since Tech Camp's inception in March of 1999, a total of 15 Tech Camps have been offered helping faculty learn about and use educational technology appropriate for web enhanced face-to-face courses, hybrid or blended learning courses and fully online courses. The format generally followed a 5 - 7 day intensive immersion.

Then, in calendar year 2012, no Tech Camp was offered. This only happened one other time - in 2004. Was Tech Camp gone?

No. Tech Camp is being rethought. Tech Camp 16 will be offered during the spring term of 2013 over an approximately 9 week period. The format will be what UMN considers to be a "primarily online course" (consult section 2 of these curriculum standards).

Details are being worked out, and an announcement will be coming later this term.


Posted on Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


ePortfolio Update

ePortfolio has been a valuable tool for student development for many years now. Although it began life as an enterprise application, it is now the responsibility of the Duluth Campus to support. After several years of being supported by the Knowledge Management Center, responsibility for support now resides with ITSS. To request assistance or report problems, please contact the ITSS Help Desk (helpdesk@d.umn.edu or 218-726-8847).

As time has passed, requirements for portfolio systems have changed and funding to further develop ePortfolio has diminished. Paul Treuer, who first conceived of ePortfolio, has been assigned the job of evaluating options and helping the campus to determine a new strategy. In the meantime, ITSS will continue to support ePortfolio. When a decision is made about our new direction, ITSS will work with users of ePortfolio to provide a mechanism for moving materials stored in ePortfolio to a different solution.


Posted on Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


Ten Years Ago in ITSS: facultEtools

In November 2002 ITSS announced a collection of faculty web tools under a unifying name: facultEtools. Electronic submissions, test taking, and grade posting were a few of the programs available to faculty from that web page.

Since 2002 the facultEtools web site evolved into its current topics:

  • Class Capture
  • eGradebook
  • ePortfolio
  • iTunes U
  • Moodle
  • Streaming Audio and Video
  • Student Response System (clickers)
  • UMConnect
  • UMD YouTube Channel
  • UMSurvey
  • Web Directory (Folder) Password Protection

Posted on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


911 Emergency Dialing

Updates have been made to ensure 911 calls are routed in the shortest possible time. Learn what you should do if you inadvertently dial 911.

It has long been the case that campus telephones can make an emergency call by dialing 911 or 9-911. However, emergency calls placed by dialing 911 took longer to start ringing than calls placed dialing 9-911. The delay was related to a misdial prevention feature. Misdial prevention has been removed, thus eliminating the delay. Either method of dialing now routes the call in the shortest possible time.

So What Should You Do if You Inadvertently Dial 911?

Don't hang up. If you realize you have accidentally called 911, please stay on the line until the dispatcher answers. You will save the dispatcher several minutes of valuable time by simply explaining you accidentally misdialed. If you hang up, they are required to call you back. If they cannot reach you, they must call Campus Police to have an officer dispatched to your office to ensure there's no actual emergency.


Posted on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


Multi-Sensory Approach to Learning With Assistive Technology

Kurzweil 3000 is an assistive technology (AT) program designed to provide a multi-sensory approach to learning via visual and auditory feedback. Words are highlighted in context as they are read aloud. It can help improve reading speed and comprehension for students with disabilities.

Each individual possesses unique abilities, preferences, and learning styles. Assistive technologies can help to accommodate such unique characteristics and enable people who learn in different ways. In the following video an Indiana State University student, Tracy Brookshire, tells her story of how this particular AT has helped her achieve academic success.

Kurzweil 3000 is Available in the UMD Library

Kurzweil 3000 is available in Library 122, 124, and 126 with a consultant available to provide assistance Fall 2012 according to the following schedule:

Access Technology Support Hours
Day of Week Hours
Monday 7:30 to 9:00 and 3:00 to 6:00
Tuesday 4:00 to 6:00
Wednesday 7:30 to 9:00 and 3:00 to 6:00
Thursday 7:30 to 9:00 and 4:00 to 6:00
Friday 7:30 to 9:00 and 3:00 to 4:30

Kurzweil Tutorials and Documentation

Further Information


Posted on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


Policy Update: UMD Technology Competency Plan

The Subcommittee on Information Technology and Library of the Educational Policy Committee completed a revision of the UMD Technology Competency Plan (including Mission, Vision, Goals, and Competencies). This plan gives guidance to students, faculty, and staff regarding what technology tools they should seek competency with. Competencies are structured as primary, intermediate, and advanced. Are you wondering how your technology competencies measure up? Have a look.

On a related note, if you have been wondering how to use services that are available out on the Internet (in the cloud), check out the new Guidelines on Cloud Applications: Advice for Instructors. Although this is aimed at instructors, students and staff may benefit from the ideas here as well. Be sure to understand the risks of cloud services before you use the


Posted on Tuesday, Oct 23, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


ITSS By The Numbers: Student Supervision Team

The ITSS Student Supervision Team provides support for ITSS supervisors of student employees, including producing written material to clarify the roles of student employees and the policies and practices of student supervision. The team promotes the most efficient and equitable environment for students to provide excellent service and benefit from a great work experience.

ITSS Student Employees

From January 1 through June 30, 2012, the team reported:

  • 63.5 student employees
  • 35 student employees worked in the Tech Center
  • 10 student employees worked in the Multimedia Hub
  • 8 student employees worked in Computer Maintenance
  • 3.5 student employees worked at the Help Desk
  • The remaining students worked in Desktop Support, the ITSS Office, Phone/Net Support, and as programmers.

Percentage and Area Worked Pie Chart


Posted on Tuesday, Oct 23, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


Microsoft Home Use Program Now Available for Faculty and Staff

University of Minnesota faculty and staff are eligible to participate in Microsoft's Home Use Program (HUP), enabling those who use Microsoft Office for their work at the University to purchase one licensed copy per platform of Office (for Windows or Mac) to install and use on home computers, for work and personal purposes.

A few things to note:


  • Eligible faculty and staff must be currently employed at the University.

  • The cost to the user is $9.95 for the download, paid by credit card to Microsoft. A backup copy, as well as different language packs, are available at additional cost.

  • A UMN email address MUST be used.

  • You may not share your purchase information with anyone outside of the University.

  • The software must be removed from your computer if you leave University employment.

Complete information and purchase details are available on the Office UTools website.

(Reposted from UMN Technology News


Posted on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


Mac OS X 10.8 Upgrade Available for UMN-Owned Apple Computers

The University of Minnesota has acquired Apple OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) upgrade licenses for all University-owned Apple computers systemwide, and the upgrade is now available for download at https://download.software.umn.edu.

To keep up-to-date with the UMN's Mac OS licensing, please refer to the UTools website.


Posted on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


ITSS Supports Both Macs and Windows Computers

Macintosh-Windows Logo

We have heard a number of questions raised recently about whether ITSS provides support for Macintosh computers. Yes, we do! Many of us in ITSS use Macs, and our maintenance group is a Certified Apple Repair Center. We welcome your questions.

Please start with our Tech Center for your one-stop computer support needs. We will be happy to serve you.

There are a few things that are different between Windows and Mac computers that may have led to these concerns.

  • Full Active Directory (AD) services are currently deployed only to Windows computers on campus. However, users with Macs can still access department file shares on the AD server, and ITSS is using AD for authentication in both our Windows and Mac student computing labs.
  • While Joel Ness (aka "the Mac Guy") has retired, we do have staff members on our desktop support team with Mac expertise who are ready and willing to assist you.

We are also aware of a number of people on campus who use Linux desktop computers, as do some staff in ITSS. Our support for Linux computers is not as robust as for Macs and Windows, but we'll do our best to help if you need assistance.


Posted on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


UB Retiring; Bulldog Continuing

Because of the migration away from the hardware and Unix variant UB was using, and because of its changing role, it was decided to retire UB and utilize bulldog as its replacement.

UB History

The computing environment at UMD during the mid 1980's was much different than it is today. There were various systems running the VAX operating system from DEC that were used for business and statistics; these system names began with the letter "v". Then, due to an interest from computer science faculty and other adventure seekers, systems running the Unix operating system emerged. These system names began with the letter "u".

The early days of UB were marked with random and expected crashes and sluggish performance. "You be sorry" and UB was often found in the same sentence.

UB eventually moved to new hardware and a new variant of Unix, and became one of the most important systems at UMD when the VAX systems were retired and services such as email, in addition to business and coursework support, was centrally located on UB.

Eventually, by the mid 1990's, when email and the newly installed web server was overwhelming the system, these services were deployed onto other systems and the role of UB began to change. New systems such as bulldog emerged, running the same Unix version as UB but offering an environment of experimentation that did not impact the business use of UB.

By 2010, UB was mainly used by people who used Mathematica and SAS, and students learning programming. UB did not even exist as a physical system, being virtualized a few years earlier on hardware and a Unix variant fast becoming deprecated.

Because of the migration away from the hardware and Unix variant UB was using, and because of its changing role, it was decided in 2011 to not migrate UB to a new platform but instead revive bulldog as its replacement. The bulldog system is virtualized Debian Linux. The important services such as Mathematica and SAS once found on UB is also on their own virtual system.

At 0800 on 7 September 2012 UB was effectively disabled, with access only by ITSS staff. The hardware hosting the UB virtual system also hosts the system used by Samba. Samba is being migrated virtual Linux and, when completed, the hardware for UB will be powered off.

There Will Always be a "U" and a "B" in Bulldog

UB may be gone and replaced by bulldog, but it's comforting to know there will always be a "u" and a "b" in bulldog.

For questions and comments please contact dburrows@d.umn.edu.


Posted on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


PeopleSoft Outage: October 13-14

Beginning Saturday, October 13 at 6 p.m. PeopleSoft Campus Solutions (Student Admin and HRMS) and PeopleSoft Financials will be unavailable for use due to a planned upgrade. It is intended that full functionality will be restored by 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 14. During this time, access to all of the PeopleSoft core applications, as well the many other applications that depend upon them such as One Stop self service and employee self service, will be unavailable.

This outage is necessary for an upgrade to PeopleTools version 8.52. Please plan your work accordingly. Updates will be posted throughout the maintenance window on the system status page. For more information, consult the PeopleTools Upgrade page.


Posted on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments


Student Computer Labs Moving to Virtual Workstations

After a successful pilot in the Library this past spring, ITSS staff plan to roll out virtual desktops to all basic access student computer labs throughout 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 roll-out and will be replaced with zero clients during the regular hardware refresh cycle.

Advantages

This 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. We have also leveraged existing hardware with specialized software that connects to our virtual desktop infrastructure. This software allows us to transition to VDI workstations without losing the hardware investments we already have made. You can see these currently on the third floor of the library. The basic access machines there have been converted to "thin clients" and allow the users to log in directly to the virtual basic access labs. We are working to make the existing CD/DVD drives work with the software as well. All of the Library basic machines will be migrated to the new thin client by the end of October.

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. This service will also support a - Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) - environment, allowing users to run lab software on their personal devices both on and off campus. One of the best features is the entire session is AES encrypted which means you don't need to use VPN to work on files in your AD or Samba shares. You can even connect a USB drive on your local computer to the virtual machine to transfer files between them. Also, we can offer these virtual machines to Mac, Linux and Windows clients! So if there are programs you need that are Windows only, Mac and Linux users have an easier option with VDI.

2D and 3D Graphics Progress

This summer we attended conferences where we gained a lot of feedback about how well VDI is working for other institutions. As we had discovered during our pilot program and from other sources 3D graphics are really hard to virtualize at this time, but demos at one of the conferences showed astounding progress on this issue. VMware plans to release the updates to enable 3D graphics card sharing Q1 2013 and we will be piloting that as soon as it's available. Meanwhile the testing of programs such as Mathematica, MatLab and other computation heavy/2D programs has gone really well and we hope to release some test machines early spring so that users that have paid full access lab fees will start to see some of those extra programs available to them when they log in into the VDI workstations.

How You Can Participate

To help move us to a more virtualize server and workstation environment we have upgraded both the speed and size of our storage arrays (SANs). These upgrades will ensure we can meet the needs of larger and more power hungry servers and workstations. We look forward to putting all our systems through their paces and making improvements as we receive feedback from you, yes You!

Finally, if you'd like to use some of the systems, stop by the lab in the alcove just past the ITSS Computer Help Desk in the Library to use one of the zero clients. Please try out the rest of the basic access machines in the library as we completely migrate them by the end of Oct as well. Let us know what you think! We'll also be looking for BYOD testers this fall for a small pilot program. Please email amoren@d.umn.edu to inquire about being a BYOD tester! Thanks all and we hope you had a great start to your fall semester!


Posted on Tuesday, Oct 2, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments