Author Archives: Joseph Vaughan

Update from the CIO February 2016

This is the first update from the CIO for 2016.

New faces and new groups at CIS
The key ingredient to CIS is the people.  We made a number of changes during summer 2016, and I wrote an article about this last Ocober: New faces and new groups at CIS. Our regrets about two  retirements were tempered by our excitement about three new hires.  We also reorganized to reduce the number of units in CIS, and now have four people dedicated exclusively to Educational Technology.  Since some people’s jobs have changed, your best bet is to contact the Help Desk when you have a service request.

IT@TCC
A number of  Consortium wide IT initiatives are under way and they will bring some major changes to IT at the Colleges.  The impact should be positive from HMC’s perspective.   The areas being addressed this academic year include networking, identity and access management (IAM), telephony and security. I have more detail in the post on IT@TCC.  These initiatives have been set up to allow for lots of input from “functional users”, so please make sure to get involved if you have questions or ideas about how to proceed.

Goodbye Majordomo
It is going to be a long farewell, but by now you should all be aware that we are transitioning from Majordomo to Google Groups for the HMC  Mailing Lists.  We have lots of reasons for doing this, and we are gaining some new and much needed automation.  See the Goodbye Majordomo article for more information about what’s done and what’s left to do.

Awesome Videos
During the Fall, a nice coincidence happened.  This year’s Computing Committee with the intrepid Paul Steinberg at the helm, suggested that we should create short training videos as an alternative way of getting information out to people. “Sometimes a workshop is overkill”, they said.  Independently and separately, at one of our staff meetings, Elly Schofield said “we should make some short videos…”.

With that happy coincidence, we have started making what I think are awesome videos (a new meaning for “AV”).  The first two are about Google Groups features, and were put together by Elly Schofield and Brian Reid:

Canvas pilots
Last summer, the Presidents Council urged the ITC (Information Technology Committee) to work with the ADC (Academic Deans Committee) on “transitioning to a new learning management system”.  This could involve moving to a new version of Sakai or to something else. Work on this initiative has proceed during the Fall, with examination of market options and planning to gather student and faculty opinions.

Colleen Lewis had already decided to use Canvas in the Fall, which was a nice piece of serendipity, given that CGU moved to Canvas two years ago and it is a strong candidate.  Elizabeth Hodas and the Educational Technology team have worked with several more faculty to set up pilots for the Spring Semester.   We will be collecting feedback throughout the Spring… don’t be shy about giving us your opinions!

Amazon Educate
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at running your own server? Or maybe you are developing a mobile app and want to test it on multiple types of phones, none of which you own? Or you want to explore some “big data” tools? If so, you might be interested in Amazon Web Services, Amazon Device Farm, or Amazon Big Data Services. The College recently signed up for Amazon Educate, a program which will get you free access to any of these Amazon services, and many others (though not Amazon Prime!) For details, see the news article about Amazon Educate.

I’ve promised myself that I will try to do more frequent, but shorter updates this year.  So that’s enough for now.  I hope you’re having a great semester!

 

 

Goodbye Majordomo

It is going to be a long farewell, but by now you should all be aware that we are transitioning from Majordomo to Google Groups for the HMC  Mailing Lists.  This is a transition from a very old technology to a more modern (and more complex) one, and there will inevitably be growing pains.   Some of the key lists (course, major, faculty-l, staff-l, students-l) have been moved and we have introduced more automation, which means that the list membership will be kept complete, a task that was difficult before.  For example, faculty-l on majordomo was forwarded to other lists google-groupsthat were manually maintained, and it was sometimes uncertain whether someone was on the (underlying) departmental lists.   One saw evidence of these difficulties in the fact that a random set of individual email addresses was included in faculty-l, itself manually maintained.  Thanks to the Google API for groups, we now automatically add faculty to the faculty@g.hmc.edu list based on their status in the CX database.

There are thousands of lists left on majordomo and we don’t yet have a timeline for the final retirement of that system, but I will keep you updated.

We acknowledge that many people were used to Majordomo and had its commands and addresses in muscle memory. It would be worth your while to take ten minutes to get acquainted with Google Groups on the HMC google apps site at http://groups.g.hmc.edu.  Our Service Catalog page at https://www.hmc.edu/cis/services/google-groups-mailing-lists/ is a good jumping off point to learn more.

Some people have asked if we could simply have “@hmc.edu” addresses instead of “g.hmc.edu”.  For complicated reasons that is not possible at the moment, but that is our target and removing majordomo from our “mail central” system is a key step in that direction.

Moving Cores

Over the last few years, we have been improving the network Redundant-network-topologyinfrastructure on the HMC campus, at the CINE core (the network switches for all the Claremont Colleges) and beyond at our ISP, Los Nettos (a consortium of Southern California institutions based at USC).

The key concepts in network infrastructure are redundancy and diversity.  To increase network reliability, it is important to have at least two switches at the core, and that they not be in the same place.  Similarly, it is important to have redundant and diverse connections from the campus to the CINE core and from there to the ISP. In recent years, we have built conduit, pulled fiber and installed switches with the goal of ever greater redundancy and diversity.  In March and April we will take two more big steps in this direction.  First we will diversify the HMC cores by placing one of them in Drinkward dorm, and with new conduit and fiber we will have diversity and redundancy for the first time for many of the buildings on campus.  In April, we will follow up by separating the CINE core switches, placing one of them in the “phone office” on eighth street and one at the Administrative Campus Center (ACC) on first street, where a new fiber line from USC Health Sciences terminates in Claremont. At that point, the Claremont Colleges will have redundant and diverse core switches for the first time ever.

Annually, the Claremont Colleges budget just under $700,000 for networking, and HMC budgets an additional $200-$300k. These costs, and network operations, are often invisible, especially when they are working well.  So much so that I often run into people who think that our internet connectivity is free.

Cindy Abercrombie, Mitch Shacklett, Roger Wiechman and Duke Vu have all worked tirelessly on these projects.  Thank them when you see them!

Amazon Educate

Amazon recently announced a new Amazon Web Services (AWS) Educate program.  It is designed to let you learn to use AWS services by giving you free credits to get started as well as access to a large variety of courses and tutorials about cloud computing “shared by top educators from around the world and by AWS”.  If an institution joins the program, then students and faculty get almost three times the credits they would otherwise be granted.   HMC has joined!

If you ever wanted to get your feet wet setting up a Windows or Linux server,  delve into things like Hadoop or build web applications, this is a great opportunity to get started.

To sign up:

  1. sign up for AWS Educate at https://www.awseducate.com using your @hmc.edu address.
  2. While filling out the AWS Educate application,  input your own AWS account ID. If you do not have an AWS account, navigate to
    http://aws.amazon.com, click Create an AWS Account and follow the on-screen instructions.
  3. You will receive an AWS credit code in a Welcome Email after your AWS Educate application has been accepted. The code should be entered into your AWS account.
  4. You manage your own account, and can take it all with you if you leave HMC.

IT@TCC

A number of major Consortium wide initiatives are under way, all designed to lead to what I like to call “appropriate centralization”.   You may recall that the Presidents Council commissioned an IT report from BerryDunn in 2013.  The resulting conversations led to the establishment of six initiatives owned by Stig Lanesskog, CEO of the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) and collected under the umbrella of IT@TCC.   The initiatives are:

  • Networking
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Security
  • Telephony
  • IT Disaster Recovery
  • Data Centers

For each of these, the College Presidents have asked us to “begin the planning necessary to seek a common solution” (letter from Council to ITC, 1/27/2015).

The Information Technology Committee (ITC) has since been working hard on each of these initiatives and we have made significant strides.  The goal is to have implementation plans for the first four initiatives by the end of Spring Semester 2016.

The impact of these initiatives on Harvey Mudd is, as yet, hard to predict in any detail.  We are very likely to see the transfer of the CINE networking functions to CUC and also to see a more uniform wireless experience across all the Colleges.  In general, if we can be freed of some work that relates to infrastructure, we should be able to dedicate more resources to the direct support of teaching, learning, research and the administrative work of HMC.

The website for this initiative is at itattcc.claremont.edu

I will try to provide frequent updates on progress and to alert you to any changes that may affect you directly.

New faces and new groups at CIS

Starting early in the summer,we began to make changes at CIS and, by end of summer, we had a new organizational chart and several new faces, as well as saying goodbye to some people:

  • Susan Selhorst retired.
  • Beverly Kelley retired.
  • We hired a new Instructional Designer, Elly Schofield ’13
  • We hired Brian Reid into a regular position as Technical Analyst
  • We hired Tony Xu as a Technical Analyst.  Tony also has expertise in AV systems.  He comes to us from Broadcom and started on September 28.
  • Michael Meyka started a new project on October 1 as a Video and Media Archivist; Michael will no longer be working on day to day AV operations.
  • Yi Sheng (Aaron) Ong ’19 has joined us in a part time position.
  • Patricia Carpenter will join us in a temporary technical analyst position.

As well as all making all these personnel changes, we reorganized, reducing the number of supervisors in CIS:

  • Cindy Abercrombie, Assistance Vice President and Deputy CIO will oversee three areas, CIS Administrative Services, User Support Services and Student Information Systems.
  • Elizabeth Hodas, Senior Director, Educational Technology Services, will concentrate exclusively on supporting students and faculty in teaching and learning.  Elizabeth leads a team that includes expertise in scientific computing, instructional design and audiovisual media.
  • Mitch Shacklett, Senior Director, Systems and Network Services, focuses on the management of our cloud services, in-house servers and the HMC and CINE networks.

For the full organization chart and a list of all the CIS Staff see https://www.hmc.edu/cis/

 

 

Course, Major, Dorm and Class mailing lists

In 2013 the Computing Committee surveyed the faculty to identify priorities for CIS.  The second highest priority (after “Improve the Portal”) was “improve the course mailing lists system”.   Since then, we have been steadily moving lists away from the old software (called Majordomo) to Google Groups within our Google Apps for Education domain g.hmc.edu.  I am writing now to let you know that we are about to move some widely used lists to Google Groups.

There are two kinds of list:  ad-hoc lists that are created by hand and automated lists that are created by scripts that draw on information in the student information system.   We (and you)  have been creating ad-hoc lists on google groups for some time.  We are now ready to migrate the automated lists to Google Groups and also to automate more lists, such as faculty-l, staff-l and some departmental lists.

The automated lists on Google Groups are now working in parallel with the Majordomo lists (so you can write to either).  On Wednesday, August 26 we will turn off the majordomo lists for the following categories of automated lists.:

  • section (“math-60-1-L@hmc.edu” will become “math-60-1-2015-FA@g.hmc.edu”)
  • major lists by year (“bio-majors-15-L@hmc.edu” will become “bio-majors-15@g.hmc.edu”)
  • dorm (“atwood-dorm-L@hmc.edu” will become “atwood-dorm@g.hmc.edu”)
  • class (“HMC2019-L@hmc.edu” will become “HMC2019@g.hmc.edu”)

You do not need to memorize any of these names, as they will appear in both the Directory and your  “My Groups” listing at groups.g.hmc.edu, as well as autocompleting when you compose a message in gmail.

Your course lists will be automatically updated three times per day, on the same schedule as Sakai. And you will be able to read archived messages at any time.

There should be no major changes for people who wish to use the lists. There are some new additional features of Google groups that you may find useful, such as the ability to view and respond to messages on the web, view archives and view member lists.  To distinguish automatically created lists from manually created ones, we will not be using the “-l” convention on Google Groups, so automatically created list addresses will have the format “groupname@g.hmc.edu”, whereas ad-hoc lists will continue to have “-l” at the end.

I would like to publicly thank Andy Davenport who has done patient and careful work to develop a system for automatically creating these lists.

As usual, I would appreciate any feedback you might have.

Digital Humanities Applications

From our friends in Digital Humanitiesdhcc-web

A reminder that faculty applications for the 5C Digital Humanities @ The Claremont Colleges (DH@CC) 2015 Summer Institute and Digital Course Development grants are due on March 6th. You can find applications at http://claremontdh.com/applications/, and learn more about these Mellon Foundation-supported programs at http://claremontdh.com/category/grant-applications/grant-descriptions/.

If you have any questions about DH@CC, please contact Project Manager AJ Strout at AJ_Strout@pitzer.edu.

February 2015 Update from the CIO

80101383152976HMCWeb10We had such a busy Fall semester that I was unable to send out updates.  In this one, I will cover developments since my last update in late August. I hope you have some time to read it.

People
Starting with the most important aspect of all organizations, I have the pleasure of introducing three people.  Taylor Calderone has joined us in a permanent position as a technical analyst on the User Support team.  Taylor has been with us for a while on a temporary basis, working primarily with audiovisual support.  When Corey LeBlanc left for Pomona’s Computer Science department, it was really great to see Taylor compete for and win the permanent position.

Brian Reid has joined us in a temporary capacity to work on the User Support team. Brian came to HMC from the Geek Squad, and we are very happy to welcome him to the campus.

I am also very happy to announce that our Senior Network Engineer search has finally yielded fruit.  Duke Vu joined  the CIS team on January 5th.  He comes to us after a five year stint at JPL and we are really looking forward to adding his set of skills and insights to the team that works on that most fundamental of things, our network.  Duke will report to Mitch Shacklett, Director of the Systems and Network Group.

ITC
The intercollegiate Information Technology Committee (ITC) has  been very active of late.  This year, I get to co-chair the committee with Ken Pflueger of Pomona. Among the topics we are dealing with is the IT Assesssment by BerryDunn, which I mentioned in my last update.   The final version has been received and is under review by both the ITC and the Presidents Council.  The ITC agreed with many of its recommendations and has started to lay the groundwork to implement some of them.  The Council discussed the report at their January 2015 retreat and ITC is meeting with Council in March.  Council has urged the IT leaders to collaborate more deeply in order to build strong centralized services where appropriate, in particular in areas like networking, data centers, security, identity and access management and disaster recovery.

Related to the ITC, I have been helping out at CUC since the late Fall departure of the previous CIO. I am assisting Stig Lanesskog, the CEO of CUC, with IT decision making and keeping the department moving while they redefine the CIO position and launch a search.  It is an honor and privilege to help the consortium in this way, and will, I believe, yield benefit for HMC in the long run.

Workday
I hope you all saw the announcement about Workday Financial Management.  This is big news for lots of reasons.

Last year, the intercollegiate Budget and Financial Affairs Committee (BFAC) began looking for a replacement for the aging Datatel financial system that is run by the Claremont University Consortium (CUC).  The BFAC narrowed its requirements down to four or five “show stoppers”, two of which will be of great interest to our faculty.  The first was the ability easily to report across fiscal years, which is often very important to grant holders. And the second was support for all modern browsers. (You read more about their philosophy on user interface design).

There is so much to say about this topic that I have started a series of separate posts about it.

Password Policy
Password Policy: As you know by now, we did not implement the system change we had announced for October 27th, which would have required you to change your password every 365 days.  Thanks to good feedback from the community and the Computing Committee, I went back to the drawing board, connected with our financial auditors and finally we worked out an agreement that will require slightly longer passwords, but no annual changing of passwords.  Once per year, you will be required to check your password to ensure that it meets the HMC Credentials password requirements (the timing of this check is up to you, based on when you last changed or checked your password).  If your password meets the requirements, then you are good to go.  Only if it doesn’t meet the requirements will you be required to change it.

Email aliases
joseph.vaughan@hmc.edu, jvaughan@hmc.edu, vaughan@hmc.edu, joseph_vaughan@hmc.edu which one am I? We have traditionally tried to anticipate what people might think was someone’s address by populating our “Mail Central” with a number of aliases for the main address, which is always of the form username@hmc.edu. During the Fall semester we reviewed a number of issues with this system:

  • As the numbers in our community increase, it is more and more common to have name clashes, so that the underlying idea of being able to “make up” the email address if you know a person’s name is no longer valid.
  • Many systems now use email addresses as usernames, which means that they treat the different aliases as different accounts.  We have a variation of that problem with the Footprints Ticket System.
  • All modern email systems have some form of directory lookup and autocomplete of addresses, so you don’t have to remember them.

With this in mind, we decided to stop creating aliases for email addresses and just use the canonical form username@hmc.edu.  We did not touch existing aliases, but will no longer be creating them when we create accounts.

Other Topics
So this update has gotten long enough. But please visit our IT News site to read other articles:

NSF cyberinfrastructure grants

Dramatic increase in service requests in SCTL

CIS Digital Badge Pilot

Enjoy Spring Break and the rest of the semester.

Shanahan Center brings dramatic increase in service requests

As the table below makes clear, we are seeing a huge increase in the number of requests for CIS services in the Shanahan Center.

We are happy to have this “problem”, but we are having to work hard to make sure that we are delivering services as efficiently as possible.

To that end, we have reorganized within User Support to make sure that there more people available to provide audiovisual services.   We have also made sure that every request goes into our ticket system and our calendar.

One of the best ways you can help us is to always request audiovisual support via our request form. Give us as much advance notice as you can and be as specific as you can about your needs.

We’d also love to hear your feedback about how audiovisual services could be streamlined even more.  So send your ideas our way.   Thanks!

Shanahan Center Usage

 2012
before SCTL
2013
start of SCTL
2014
SCTL full operation
Lecture Capture Events
44216549
Laptops ReservationsLearning Studio *145 (Fall)349 (Fall)
Overtime Hours283377550 (Jan-Oct)
Total Support Hours12,03513,20913,883 (Jan-Oct)