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 @hmc.edu address (which forwards directly to their Google Apps accounts), or when they send to a mailing list that contains their own @hmc.edu 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 @hmc.edu email address in the To, CC, or BCC, field, but I never received that email back in my Inbox.
– My @hmc.edu 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:
http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=82454

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: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/Kinect/Kinect-Effect

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:  http://www.hmc.edu/profsos/

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 g.hmc.edu 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 www.reed.edu or
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_college

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 helpdesk@hmc.edu

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 http://www.claremont.edu/doc/sakai/tips.html.

3) Course Mudd Shots
Course Mudd Shots have been updated for the fall semester. They are available at http://www.internal.hmc.edu/dir/courses/ 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 http://emsweb.claremont.edu/HMC/. 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 http://vpn.claremont.edu 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

CIS Help Desk moves to Sprague 1st Floor

As you may know, CIS moved from the basement of Parsons up to the 5th floor of Sprague this summer.  It was a big move, and we are mostly settled in.  Everyone is welcome to come up to take a look at our space (and our view!).  You can see the construction of the new building!

As a result of the move, we also moved the Help Desk from Parsons to the first floor of Sprague.  We decided to put the Help Desk on the first floor rather than the fifth floor for several reasons:

  • Our customers (you!) would be able to find us without having to come up to the 5th floor
  • We would be able to watch over the Learning Studio Classroom and help set up for classes
  • We would be able to help students who are studying or working in the Learning Studio
  • The first floor is a nice place to work in   :)

The Help Desk is currently located in the southeast corner of the Learning Studio.   It is directly across from the group work area, and diagonally across from the classroom.

We learned quite a bit from the old Help Desk down in Parsons, and we plan to apply that knowledge towards building a more-accessible, comfortable, and technologically-advanced Help Desk in Sprague.
For example, at the old Help Desk, we had a L-shaped sit-down desk.  We found that when we worked on a computer with a customer, the customer would often kneel on the ground to try to work on the computer.  We also did not have enough space for more than 1 customer at a time, and cables were strung everywhere for power and Ethernet.

The new Help Desk will have a walk-up counter with comfortable stools, and we’ll be able to help 2-3 people at a time.  Both CIS staff and the customer will have the option to stand or sit down during the consultation.  We’ll have power and Ethernet ports in the counter for easy access, and we’ll have LED-backlit LCD screens behind us for any demos or messages.

If you have any suggestions for what makes a good Help Desk area, we’d love to hear it!  You can either add a comment to this blog post, or contact Calvin at calvin@hmc.edu or x71073.

Bite of Learning: Backing Up Your Digital Data

In early April, I presented at a Bite of Learning on the topic of backups, titled “Backing Up Your Digital Data”.

Many important files are stored on computer hard drives these days.  For example, you may have irreplaceable photos or videos, important financial documents, and so on.

A lot of home consumers consider their computer to be one big appliance, like a toaster.  What they may not know is that there are many distinct components inside a typical computer, and one of them is the hard drive.  The hard drive is the place where your digital data is stored, and if anything were to happen to it, your data might be lost forever!

In 2007, Google performed a massive study on hard drive failure trends.  If you’re interested in seeing the whole report, it can be found here:  http://labs.google.com/papers/disk_failures.pdf

What they found was:
– hard drive failures can be unpredictable, with more than half of drives failing without any self-warning
– failure rates generally did not correlate to drive usage

So how should most people back up their data to prevent loss?
Comprehensive backup consists of two parts: local backup and offsite backup

Local backup is fast and quick to recover, but because they are in a similar location, they are also susceptible to many of the same risks that your computer’s hard drive faces.

Offsite backup provides protection against local disasters and local theft, but takes longer to recover from since the data has to be recovered from a distance.

As a result, the best plan is to combine a local backup with offsite backup.

Local Backup
for OS X, we recommend an external hard drive with Time Machine
– for Windows, we recommend the built-in Windows Backup utility, or Acronis True Image Home
– for Linux, we recommend rsync

Offsite Backup
for automated backup, we recommend MozyHome or Carbonite
– for manual file backups, we recommend Dropbox
– all of these services offer free accounts, but to backup a lot of data, you’ll want to get a paid account

If you’d like to see the slides from the presentation, they’re available here:

Calvin Tong – Bite of Learning – Backing Up Your Digital Data

CIS deploys new copiers

Last week, CIS replaced the Canon copiers located in Platt (in front of the Registrar’s office) and Kingston 138 with two Sharp MX-4101Ns as the replacement copiers.  These copiers are color, full-featured copiers with duplexing, saddle-finishing, stapling, extra large paper trays, and scanning-to-PDF functions. There is no charge for scanning.

You can also print directly to the copiers (department charges for prints are the same as for copies).  If you would would like to use this feature, please feel free to contact the CIS Help Desk so we can set it up for you.

A complete reference guide for the new Sharp copier is available online here:
http://www.hmc.edu/files/CIS/cop_qguide_MX4100N_4101N_5001N.pdf

If you were unable to attend one of the recent training sessions held by SoCal Office Technologies, one important change is that there is a slight difference in how you log in to the new copiers. The Canon copiers asked for a department id and then a passcode.  With the new Sharp copiers, you only need your passcode to log in to the new copiers.  If you don’t know what your passcode is, just add a 3 to your department id and that should work.  If you have any trouble with your code, please feel free to contact the CIS Help Desk.

We are currently investigating adding card swipe to both of these administrative copiers.
There are also many improvements coming in the area of student printing.

Following the guidance of the Print Task Force, we will be installing card swipe printing on all of the student printers.  The first phase will involve installing two new very-high-speed Sharp copiers for students in the Sprague Learning Studio and LAC.  After these copiers are installed, we will implement card swipe access on all the student printers and copiers.

Printing and copying will remain free for all HMC students with card swipe access.  Currently, students print directly to the printers, and the print job starts printing right away.  Students then pick up the print job at a later time.  However, a student study found that at least 40% of print jobs are never picked up from the printers, leading to a significant amount of paper, toner, and energy waste.

With the new card swipe system, students will print to a centralized server that holds their print jobs.  They can then walk up to any student printer on campus, swipe their ID card, and their print job immediately comes out.  The copiers can print 75 pages per minute, so the print job will come out quickly.