March 2013 update from the CIO

This is the March 2013 update from the CIO.shamrock

Computing Committee Survey.
In late November, I asked the Computing Committee to discuss how they thought CIS is doing, while I was out of the room. The committee decided to run a quick three question survey and got a large faculty response. The short version: CIS has made many improvements (we got a B- grade at Harvey Mudd College!), but there is still work to be done. For more about the survey and a link to the discussion of the results read Faculty Computing Survey Results.

In January the Board of Trustees approved policies creating a new Information Technology Infrastructure Fund (ITIF). This is an important development because it will allow us to plan more consistently for improvements and renovation work on the campus network. We are currently creating an “inventory of need” which we will use to prioritize infrastructure projects over the next five years. We will be designing the network architecture to address security, reliability and speed of the campus network.

SIGMAnet wired network report.
As I reported in the Fall, we contracted with a local company, SIGMAnet to conduct a review of our wired network. The report came in on January 10 and I updated the PPCPC Trustee Committee later that month.

The network assessment highlighted several key hardware and configuration risks. Twelve major concerns were listed that can be broken down as follows:

  • End of life and end of support equipment in use. This equipment presents risks on two fronts, security and potential down time due to equipment failure.
  • Security risks in network switch access methods and quality of switch passwords.
  • Design gaps such as lack of redundancy in connections between network switches.
  • Software configuration inconsistencies.

The report goes into detail and will be invaluable in the development of our comprehensive plan, which will address all of the issues. If you are interested in reading the report or contributing to the planning effort, please get in touch.

Core Switch upgrade.
One of our first ITIF projects! Early in the morning of Saturday, March 16 we will be upgrading the HMC network core. The network core is responsible for aggregating all of our campus network connections and linking us to the wider intercollegiate network and the internet. It has to be fast, powerful and reliable. CIS staff will be working in partnership with engineers from SIGMAnet to replace our aging core. The end result will be aprodcut_bulletin_c25-688075-1 much improved arrangement, with a pair of Cisco Nexus 7000 switches at the core. In the near future, we will move one of the pair out of the A-room in Parsons to either Platt or the TLB. This will give us both redundancy (“more than one”) and diversity (“not in the same place”) at the network core. There will be some network downtime associated with the work on Saturday morning, but the end result will be worth it.

Thuban retirement.
As well as rolling out new things, it is important for CIS to manage the retirement of services, to make sure we are making the most of our limited resources.  Thuban, a VMS system, is a case in point.  Most infrastructure services (such as DNS and DHCP) have been moved off of Thuban. Fewer than 20 people are still using the email system on Thuban and we are actively moving their accounts to either Google Apps for Education or Office365.  A number of faculty still have static html sites on www2, which is hosted on Thuban.  We are exploring options for moving them.  One of my favorites is to host them on Google drive. (did you know you could do that?).

TLB updates.
The TLB is 120 days away! I’m sure, if you’re on campus, you can’t help but notice the speed at which things seem to be happening. Weekly telecommunication meetings began this week  They are starting to pull cable for the network and electrical systems; wireless access points (86 of them, compared to 134 on the rest of campus) and network equipment have arrived and will soon be installed. The Audiovisual plans are in place. Much of the furniture has been chosen. The cafe is taking shape…They will be starting to prime and paint the basement this week.  It’s real!

Canvas pilot.
In the Fall, a group of Computer Science faculty presented a Bite of Learning on their use of Piazza for class discussions. Elizabeth Hodas and I were discussing afterward how we needed to keep up with developments in the learning management system (LMS) world.  Sakai is the LMS currently used by the Claremont Colleges but there are some interesting new ones, like Canvas.Canvas It is not like Sakai is going away anytime soon, but we do want to understand our options. So we decided to ask the same group of faculty if they’d be interested in running a small pilot of Canvas. Ran Liebeskind Hadas took up the idea and is currently teaching CS 140/Math 168 using Canvas.  We’re looking forward to hearing about this at a Bite of Learning session on April 17.

Other articles on the IT News site.
There are a few other articles on the IT News site that you might find interesting. Cindy Abercrombie provided an update on student printing. Elizabeth Hodas wrote about a variety of audiovisual improvements we will make over Spring Break in big Beckman and Hoch-Shanahan, complete with a photo of the instructor station, which is the same as the ones chosen for the TLB.   And we have an update on the Portal Advisory Group.

So, while you faculty and students are away, the CIS mice won’t be at play.  Have a great Spring Break!


Faculty Computing Survey Results

survey-300x224In late Fall 2012 the computing committee ran a survey of faculty, asking three questions about information technology at HMC.

About 50 faculty responded to the questions, and almost everyone wrote a few lines of comments in response to each question – in addition to giving scores.

Question 1: How satisfied are you with the current teaching services provided by the CIS (e.g. Sakai, portal, classroom support, labs, etc…)?

– Average letter grade: B- (2.57/4.00, 54 respondents)

Question 2: How satisfied are you with the other services offered by the CIS (email, research related services, laptop/desktop support, etc)?

– Average letter grade: B- (2.69/4.00, 55 respondents)

Question 3: How satisfied are you with the current computing services offered by your own department (e.g. email, website, lab, course support, etc)?

– Average letter grade: C+ (2.35/4.00, 49 respondents)

The spread of each score was roughly 0.50/4.00, with a bigger spread for the third question.

The committee summarized by saying that things have improved and are going in the right direction, but that there is still work to be done.

The computing committee members this year are:

Vatche Sahakian (Chair)
Alfonso Castro
Weiqing Gu
Jacob Bandes-Storch ’14
Joseph Vaughan

The committee made four recommendations of its own and added more recommendations coming from the Faculty Executive Committee. You can read the full report, with my responses to each recommendation at the following URL (HMC Credentials required to access the document):

Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award

From the Sakai folk…

Call for Entries: 2013 Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award (TWSIA)

The Sakai Teaching and Learning community is seeking submissions for the annual Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award (TWSIA) competition. The award recognizes innovation and excellence in technology-supported teaching, academic collaboration, and student engagement. (See last year’s winners.)

Award categories include:

·         Higher Education: Face-to-face

·         Higher Education: Fully Online or Hybrid Course

·         Primary and Secondary Education (K-12)

·         Project Sites & Other Uses of Sakai

·         Portfolios

We look forward to entries from those using the Sakai CLE and those pioneering the Sakai OAE (Open Academic Environment).

This year, the selection process will consist of two phases:


Phase 1: Preliminary abstract submission (recommended but not required)
Opening Date:  Feb 11, 2013      Closing Deadline: March 1, 2013

Each applicant should submit a brief description of the innovative teaching method, practice or strategy to be considered for the final award. Instructions and an example of a well-written abstract are included in the submission form.


Applicants will receive feedback on abstracts by March 8, 2013.

Submitting an abstract is not required. However, the three questions on the abstract submission form will be required for all applicants as a part of the full application process. Those who submit a preliminary abstract may edit their responses prior to submitting the final application, in order to incorporate feedback from the judges.

The responses to these three items also will be used as part of the session description at the annual conference.

Phase 2:  Final submission (required of all applicants)
Opening Date: March 1, 2013     Closing Deadline: April 5, 2013

Each applicant will submit an in-depth description of the innovative teaching method, practice or strategy submitted and how it addresses the award criteria.

Resources for applicants

·         Award categories

·         How to get started

·         Award eligibility, criteria and rubric

·         Frequently asked questions

Winners will be announced no later than April 19, 2013 and recognized at the Apereo (previously Jasig-Sakai) Conference in San Diego, California, June 3 -6, 2013.
Registration and travel expenses may be available for award winners.
Contact: Salwa  Texas State University, TWSIA Committee Chair


Sending email to a mailing list or yourself through Google Apps

This past summer, all HMC students email accounts were migrated from Zimbra (mailbox-02) and onto Google Apps.  You may also know that we are currently migrating faculty email accounts from Zimbra (mailbox-01) to Google Apps as well.

Early on in the migration, we received reports from students that when they send emails to their own address (which forwards directly to their Google Apps accounts), or when they send to a mailing list that contains their own address, they did not get the email back in their Inbox.

Here are some common statements that describe the situation:
– I sent an email through Google Apps with my email address in the To, CC, or BCC, field, but I never received that email back in my Inbox.
– My email address is a member of a mailing list.  However, when I emailed that mailing list, I never got my own email back in my Inbox.

We immediately began testing this thoroughly and found that it seemed like Google was dropping a message if it detected the message had made a forwarding loop back to the sender.  We thought it might be a spam detection issue initially.  We contacted our Google Apps support rep with a thorough description of the issue and offered to demonstrate it.  However, the rep had not heard of the issue and could not help us.

We did some research ourselves and found the answer, on Google’s support page:

The page above is a troubleshooting guide for when you don’t receive an email that you expect.  Near the middle of the page, they say:

“Finally, if you’re sending mail to a mailing list that you subscribe to, those messages will only appear in ‘Sent Mail.’ This behavior also occurs when sending to an email address that automatically forwards mail back to your Gmail address.”

So essentially, Google is saying that if you send an email that makes a roundtrip (through forwarding or mailing lists) back to your own Google Apps account, you won’t get it in your Inbox!  This behavior is definitely not what most people expect!  We understand that most people want to get a copy of their own email back in their Inbox as a confirmation that the email went out to a list successfully.  We will soon contact our rep to give our feedback and desire to have this behavior changed.  Thanks for all that have reported this issue to us!

“new iPad” available for loan

For a while now, rumors had been floating around about the third generation iPad.  Some sites claimed to have received a leaked screen with resolutions of 2048 by 1536.  There were also other sites with photos claiming to be of the new processor in the iPad.  The biggest mystery, though, was what it would be called.

On March 7, 2012, Apple announced their third generation iPad, and we found out that it would simply be called “iPad”, or the “new iPad” as Apple said in their announcement.
The biggest question that everyone has is, what is different in the new iPad from the iPad 2, or original iPad?
Wikipedia has a great chart (at this location), but essentially, the new iPad has these features:

– a very high resolution screen.  Even higher than your HDTV.  So high that your eyes can’t tell the pixels apart, and reading webpages on it look like reading a magazine.
– a slightly faster processor
much faster graphics (quad core graphics)
– a much better outside camera at 5 mp, but the inside camera is still the same as before
slightly thicker and slightly heavier
– same price

CIS has two of the new iPads available for short term loans (no more than 2 weeks at a time).  They are the 16GB WiFi versions.  A short term loan is probably best suited for those on the fence whether to get one or to see if it suits your needs.  If you would like to borrow one for a short term loan, please let the Help Desk know!

Kinect for Windows available for loan

When you hear about the Xbox Kinect, you probably think about interactive video games on the Xbox 360, such as Kinect Sports, Kinectimals, or Dance Central.  But did you know that the Kinect, as an advanced motion sensing device, can be used for non-gaming applications such as robotics, academic research, medical use, rehabilitation centers, and sound testing?  Microsoft calls this the “Kinect Effect”, and they document it here on their website:

Microsoft has also produced a video advertising the “Kinect Effect”:

In February 2012, Microsoft launched the “Kinect for Windows” hardware as a Kinect that can be used on a regular Windows PC right out of the box.  The Software Development Kit (SDK) is included as well.  Internally, the “Kinect for Windows” is probably identical to the Xbox 360 Kinect.  This kit, however, includes a proper AC adapter to power the Kinect, and includes the official Windows SDK.

CIS has purchased a “Kinect for Windows” available for immediate loan to faculty, staff, and students.  If you would like to borrow it, please let the CIS Help Desk know!

Working with Professor Kerry Karukstis on Prof S.O.S.

You may have heard or read the news about Professor Kerry Karukstis’ faculty-assistance program called Prof S.O.S., where S.O.S. stands for “student-offered support”.  Essentially, HMC faculty are given an easy way to get student assistance for an occasional or short-term project or task.  You can read more about Prof S.O.S. at:

Faculty fill out a form on a webpage, and the data from that form gets sent to a tracking system that students monitor.  Students choose a task they want to work on and provide updates on their work through the tracking system.

CIS was very happy to help Professor Karukstis with this project, and we enjoyed working with the student coordinators.  We combined several cloud-based solutions for the submission and tracking of tasks.  The software we used included FormStack (cloud-based form software), Google Apps (cloud-based email), and FootPrints (ticket tracking system hosted by Pomona College).

Here’s a quick summary of the technical background:
The form to collect Prof SOS data is hosted on FormStack.  When the form is submitted, the data is scraped together and emailed into a Google Apps account on our domain.  The FootPrints tracking system then pulls email from that Google Apps account and puts them into the ticket system queue.  Students work on the tasks in the FootPrints ticket system and provide updates through the ticket system.  The ticket system will automatically send out emails to the faculty member with each student update.  FootPrints provides Kerry and the student coordinators a broad view of all the tasks that are in or have gone through the system.

Visit to Reed College

In mid November, I visited Reed College in Portland, Oregon, to learn about their user support program, their procedures and processes, and to meet the IT staff there.  If you haven’t heard of Reed College, it is a private, liberal arts college in Southeast Portland with about 1400 undergraduate students.

Learn more about Reed College at or

This is a picture of their Help Desk, which is open until midnight.  A team of students helps staff their Help Desk.  I learned about their great student help program, where they have about 15-16 students working for them.  The students who have worked there longer are the ones who train the newer students.  When it gets busy, all hands are on deck, and the support staff are there to help out:
Reed College uses PaperCut software to handle print queuing and load balancing.  Coincidentally, PaperCut is also the print queuing software that I was investigating for student print queuing and card-swipe printing.
This is their print station directly across from their Help Desk.  The four identical printers are load balanced for print jobs.  The iMac you see to the left of the printers is a print release station:

This is one of their computer labs as viewed from the outside.  Reed faculy, staff, students, and computer labs mainly use Macs:

This is one of their computer labs:

I also learned a lot about their internal procedures and processes, and met a lot of great people in the IT department there.

The weather in Portland during that time was cold and wet, which reminded me of why California is referred to as “sunny California” all the time.

Here’s one more picture of an interesting wall I saw in Portland:

I’d be happy to talk to anyone about my experiences and things I learned at Reed!

Two high-performance workstations coming to the Learning Studio

The computers in the CIS computer labs (Sprague first floor and second floor of the LAC) were configured with mid to high range components during the time of their purchase.  The iMacs and Dell desktops have Core 2 Duo processors, between 2 to 4 GB of memory, large hard drives, and mid-range video cards.  Some also have dual monitors.

Every once in a while, we get helpful feedback from students saying that it would be nice to have a few high-performance workstations to do things like:

– test software and programs written for computers with a large number of CPU cores (greater than 4)
– run large compute jobs in a short amount of time
– use software that requires high performance video cards
– digitize or convert digital video or audio
– view work and research on several large monitors (more than 2 monitors)
– do processing that requires a lot of storage (in the TB range)

Based on this feedback, CIS will purchase and place in the Learning Studio two high-performance workstations for faculty, staff, and student use.  Below is the proposed configuration, and we would greatly appreciate any feedback or additions to the configuration.

Workstation 1
8 physical CPU core Mac Pro (Thunderbolt generation)
– Two 2.4GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon “Westmere” (8 physical cores total)
– 12 GB of RAM
– 1 TB operating system drive
– 6 TB of data storage striped (RAID 0) from three Western Digital Black series 2 TB drives
– Two ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB video cards
– Four Dell 23″ UltraSharp monitors in a 2×2 array
– Dual boot OS X 10.7 Lion and Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit



Workstation 2
12 physical CPU core Dell Precision T5500
– Dual Six Core Intel Xeon Processor E5645, 2.40GHz,12M L3
– 12 GB of RAM
– 1 TB operating system drive
– 4 TB of data storage striped (RAID 0) from two Western Digital Black series 2 TB drives
– Two 2 GB NVIDIA Quadro 4000 video cards
– 8X Blu-ray Disc Burner
– Media card reader
– Four Dell 23″ UltraSharp monitors in a 2×2 array

Fall Semester 2011 Reminders

Dear faculty,

Here are a few reminders about IT services for the Fall semester.

1) CIS Help Desk
The Help Desk is now located in the southeast corner of the Learning Studio on the ground floor of Sprague. Hours are 8am-5pm, including lunch hour. Call us at (909) 607 7777

1) Course mailing lists
You should have received an email message for each course mailing list that
you own. Please save this message as you will need the list password to
subscribe and unsubscribe people to the list. For any questions or help with
mailing lists, please contact the Help Desk or

2) Sakai Updates
Fall 2011 courses have been created and populated with students and faculty. We are happy to announce that we will be running imports from the student information system three times per day (rather than once a night!) to add students as they add courses, and will also inactivate students who drop courses.

You can find more Sakai tips and tricks at

3) Course Mudd Shots
Course Mudd Shots have been updated for the fall semester. They are available at The pages are restricted to the HMC network only, so if you are off-campus, please connect to the VPN first.

4) Learning Studio reservations available in VEMS
You can view and request reservations for the Fletcher Jones Classroom in the Learning Studio in VEMS. The advantage to using VEMS is that you can see right away whether the classroom is available. You can find VEMS at You can also contact the Help Desk or F&M for lab reservations.

5) VPN (Virtual Private Network)
We would like to remind you about the availability of the VPN. The VPN software allows you to connect to the HMC network to use HMC-and Claremont-only resources when connecting to the Internet via an ISP. The VPN also encrypts network traffic, so if you are connecting to a unknown or potentially unsafe network, logging onto the VPN first will encrypt all traffic going through the potentially unsafe network.  Visit and select the GROUP as HMC-LDAP.  Log in with the same username and password you use to access Sakai (but without the @hmc at the end of your username)

Have a good semester!

– Calvin, and the CIS Help Desk