Update from the CIO

In this post, I will provide updates on our Identity and Access Management initiative, wireless and other IT infrastructure, the Shanahan Center, Data Privacy Month and the new CIS web site.

Identity and Access Management Project (IAM@HMC)
I wrote to many faculty individually before the break to ask them to synchronize their passwords on our Password and Account Management Portal.  Many thanks to those who took the few minutes needed to update their accounts.  I will be in touch again soon with the remaining 20 or so faculty.

The point of doing this is to allow us to move forward with the next phase of the project without interrupting your work unexpectedly. It is a small step in that it synchronizes passwords between Active Directory and the Fischer Identity Engine, but it sets things up for future improvements. As you are all no doubt aware, we live in an environment where we have multiple sets of credentials. The core goal of the IAM@HMC project is to simplify things so that you use your HMC Credentials for as many systems as possible. Right now, only a few systems are integrated, but with each phase of the project we will add more systems.

Rachel Levy, Chair of the Computing Committee has been urging me to produce an infographic that will explain better what connects to what, and when each system will be included in the single sign on ecology. I am working on it!

Unfortunately, we were not able to bring the next phase of the IAM@HMC initiative into production over the break as we’d planned.  Testing took much longer and did not go as well as we’d hoped. So we continue to test and will let you know about the new date for installation.  Once we do go live, you will have Single Sign On to Google Apps, Office365, Ultipro and, with luck, the Portal.

Wireless
As more and more wireless devices arrive on campus (including a new slew thanks to holiday gift giving), we are doing our best to get ahead of the demand.

In the Fall, more Wireless Access Points were installed in five dorms, greatly increasing the density of coverage. The dorms in question were Case, East, West, South and North. If you’re wondering why those dorms, it is not because we love them more than the others but because there was already conduit and wiring in place to accommodate the new access points, so a much smaller investment was needed. We also added additional wireless access points in and around the Beckman auditorium, to accommodate additional demand from the large CS classes. We have not forgotten the other dorms and the rest of campus; we are working on a plan to improve wireless across the campus outside of the Shanahan Center.

Which brings me to the question of so called “rogue wireless access points”. We have settled on a friendlier phrase to describe them: “wireless access points not managed by CIS”.  Sometimes people set up their own wireless access points, plugging them directly into the HMC network.  Our equipment can detect these access points,  but to date we have not been doing anything about them.  They are problematic because they can interfere with the performance of the main wireless network.  We will need to develop a set of practices and a policy around this issue. We’ll be using new test equipment to identify problematic access points and will be able to provide their owners with information about the impact they are having.  We would welcome hearing from you with any ideas you might have.  You could use the new Computing Committee Feedback form or write directly to me at vaughan@hmc.edu.

Other IT infrastructure
Parsons rewiring. I am happy to report that the Board of Trustees approved additional funding for us to rewire the Parsons building in tandem with the vacated space project that will get underway the day after Commencement.  Parsons is really two structures that were built at different times and the goal of our rewiring project will be to reduce the number of wiring closets down from six to no more than two and to ensure that the building network (wired and wireless) is adequate for the intended usage of the space. We will release more details on this project as they become available.

Shanahan Center.  The  AV systems in the Shanahan Center have been reconfigured.  If you are a faculty member, you can read details in any of Elizabeth Hodas’ emails about this topic. The controls have been greatly simplified, we believe.  So far this semester we have not heard much in the way of feedback.  We interpret that to mean that people like the new controls better.  Right?

We are still working with the vendor, Western AV, to iron out the kinks in the AV installation.  Elizabeth will make sure to keep you informed of progress.

Data Privacy Month
Data Privacy Month started on January 28th, with Data Privacy Day.  Held annually on January 28, Data Privacy Day encourages everyone to make protecting privacy and data a greater priority. DPD is an international effort to empower and educate people to protect their privacy and control their digital footprint. It kicks off Data Privacy Month (http://www.educause.edu/focus-areas-and-initiatives/policy-and-security/educause-policy/community-engagement/data-privacy-month).

Last Fall, I promised the Board of Trustees that we would increase our efforts to make people aware of data privacy issues.  The HMC policy on safeguarding of sensitive and confidential information is under development. And during Data Privacy Month we will be offering stories and tips about ways to improve data privacy.  The first instalment covered passwords and the second asked you to check your file permissions on Charlie and Alice.  Watch for a third and fourth instalment this week and next.

New CIS Web Site
We decided to take the launch of the new HMC website on January 21 as an opportunity to revamp the aging CIS web site. Our goal has been to keep things as simple as possible and to focus the pages through the lens of services provided by CIS, what they are and how to access them.  It is a work in progress but please check it out and give us your feedback at http://www.hmc.edu/cis

 

Data Privacy Month (with a painful story about file permissions)

January 28th kicked off Data Privacy Month.  CIS is marking the month by reminding you that data privacy is everyone’s responsibility. Here is a second true story culled from the vaults of HMC server administrator lore. Some details have been changed. Read it, weep… and then check your folder and file permissions.

Agnes and students-l are not involved.

So there once was a professor, let’s call him Dr. Linus Windonmax. He was a professor of linguistics in the Humanities Division of a large state university. (Not all of the HMC server administrator lore is actually about HMC.  Server admins sometimes talk to other server admins around water coolers or campfires).  LWM, as his students called him, was a careful and detail oriented person who always read every word of every email sent to him by his local IT unit.  This in itself marked him as a rare bird, since not even the IT folk read every word of every email, especially not the ones they wrote.  But I digress.

LWM had read and carefully followed instructions about how to store files on the file server.  He wanted to keep his work for posterity and he knew that files on the file server were backed up and stored off site, unlike things he stored on his local hard drive. So he had gotten into the habit of stashing his stuff on “charlie”, as the file server was affectionately called.  Only hoary server admins knew why, and no one wanted to be considered hoary.

One day, as LWM ambled to class, his colleague Wilma waved and smiled.  ”LWM, congratulations on selling the house”.  Linus politely smiled back; in fact he bared his newly polished teeth to hide his mortification.  For he hadn’t told anyone on campus about the house. In class, a few of his students made arch mention of pajamas and champagne. More mortification: it seemed they knew about his little soiree to celebrate the house sale. Hmm. not good, not good.

Later that afternoon, as the still agitated professor sat in front of his widescreen monitor, it suddenly struck LWM  that someone must have been looking at his files. He’d stored copies of all of the house sale documents and the “pajamas and champagne” party photos on Charlie, as was his wont. He sprinted over to the IT Help Desk to demand an explanation.

The friendly folk at the Help Desk had to work hard to explain the situation to LWM, especially since the server admins were still deep in the long dark teatime of the soul, dealing with students-l problems. In a nutshell, it went like this. No one could actually see LWM’s files, except LWM himself and two server admins of high integrity (definitely not hoary).  But everyone who had an account on Charlie could see the names of his files and browse through his folders looking at how they were organized. That, said the helpful help desk staffer, was a result of the “file permissions”, which determine who has access to a file or folder and what kind of access they have (see file names, open files, edit files, delete…). Most users can change their own file permissions, and over time, the result of choices by users and server admins had resulted in the mortification of LWM.

Coming back now to HMC, the file permissions on Charlie and Alice are not very consistent, and we have had situations in which file names were visible in ways that people did not intend.  This is the result of myriad choices over the years by both users and server admins. And the only really safe way for us to be sure that permissions are correct is to ask you to check them.  So, during data privacy month, perhaps you can take a few minutes to do so?  You can double check your file permissions easily enough.from a Windows computer.  Here are instructions (requires HMC Credentials).

It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure data privacy. During Data Privacy Month, please make protecting privacy and data a greater priority. Thanks for reading. Now go forth and check your file permissions.

November 2013 update from the CIO

thanksgiving

The first time I encountered Thanksgiving was in 1985 at Hershey Hall, then the graduate dorm at UCLA. Neither I, from Ireland, nor my roommate from Korea, were quite sure what to make of it.  But some things stood out. It wasn’t really commercial, there were no cards or gifts. The food was delicious.  And we could eat under the palm trees in the courtyard!  Ever since then, I’ve loved Thanksgiving in California.  And, in the spirit of the feast, here’s the November update from the CIO, focusing on things I’m thankful for in each of CIS’s four strategic areas.

IT Decision Making/Governance
The Portal Advisory Group (PAG), which we set up last year, is under the guidance of Registrar Mark Ashley.  Although the group has not met yet this semester, Mark, Susan Selhorst and I have been working on creating a list of portal projects that we want the PAG to prioritize.  We’re figuring out brief descriptions for each project and a “rough order of magnitude” to indicate our sense of the amount of effort involved.  I anticipate that the group will be able to meet and finalize the priority list before the semester ends.

Computing Committee Chair, Prof. Rachel Levy got the computing committee off to a start for the year.  This year, for the first time, we have a staff member on the committee (other than the CIO) and Tim Hussey, Assistant Vice President of Communications and Marketing has joined the committee. I anticipate that, among other things, the Committee will help CIS with a new survey on our effectiveness, and with feedback on proposed data privacy and security guidelines.  They have already provided excellent suggestions about how we might make better use of infographics in our documentation.

Infrastructure
I wrote in October about the CINE core switch outages that we suffered in September and October.  We replaced the CINE core switch on November 16th and this seems to have stabilized things. I am grateful to Mitch Shacklett, Cindy Abercrombie and Roger Wiechman for their work on this issue. If nothing else, these failures have emphasized the high risk that the Claremont Colleges face by having a single core switch;  we are actively working on this problem.

We are in the final stages of negotiating a 20 year lease of fiber between the CUC Administrative Computing Center on First Street and downtown Los Angeles.  This is a first requirement for the kind of redundancy and diversity we seek in our connections to the internet.  We have also begun working on a location for a second CINE core switch.

CIS the central IT organization
Rick Fisher has been with the User Support area of CIS for some time, although I have omitted to mention him in earlier updates (sorry Rick!).  He started as an intern and is now in a temporary position funded to help with the transition to the Shanahan Center.  We are finding Rick to be a great colleague and a wonderful addition to the team.

So far this month, the CIS staff have worked on a total of 508 tickets in Footprints, our ticket system.  They have closed 407 of them as of this update.  I am sure that these numbers don’t capture all of the service they have given, and I am grateful for all their hard work.

Innovation
The HSA Advising Portlet went into production in time for Spring registration.  Faculty and students gave strong positive feedback about it.  We are delighted to be reducing the paperwork and data entry for the HSA faculty and their students.

Elizabeth Hodas and her team have identified a front runner solution for software based video conferencing from a company named Vidyo.  The primary goal is to find a good video conferencing solution for Board of Trustee meetings, but the licensing on most of these systems will allow us to use it for other purposes.  So if you want your class to conduct a videoconference with the author of a paper (for example), you’ll be able to do it.  Watch for more information on this.

Other
CIS put together the Shanahan Center Feedback form for the President’s Cabinet.  So far we have received 104 submissions and the Cabinet has begun to review them. I am grateful to the folk who submitted comments and suggestions. If you want to join them head on over to http://www.formstack.com/forms/hmc-shanahan_center_feedback 

Don’t forget that the new control design has been set up in Shanahan B460.  If you are interested in how the screen and projector controls function, please try them out in B460 and send feedback to Elizabeth Hodas.

That’s it for the November update. On behalf of everyone at CIS, I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 

October 2013 Update From the CIO

IMG_20130704_210653What a Fall Semester we are having so far!

Shanahan Center
We love the new Shanahan Center.  As everyone knows, we’ve seen a few issues with the AV systems.  We are developing a list of these issues and their status, which we will share with everyone.   And I thank the people who have given us specific feedback about what’s working or not working for them.

I’d like to provide a little context about some of the issues. The TLB Advisory Committee (8 faculty, 2 students, 5 staff) met with the two AV companies that were bidding for the project in early summer 2012.  Both companies recommended a Crestron system and both anticipated programming the system, receiving feedback from users and then making changes.  That is the phase we are going through at the moment.

Overall, from our perspective, the move into the Shanahan Center has gone rather well. The sheer number of pieces of technology in the building (90 wireless access points, 450+ wired ports, VOIP phone system, networked projectors, lecture capture, document cameras etc) is daunting and, while we acknowledge that some things need fixing, we are glad that so much is working well.

CINE issues
When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. (OK, so Claudius, in Hamlet, probably didn’t have the Shanahan Center and CINE in mind).  Most of you know “CINE” as one of the wireless networks on campus.  ”CINE” also refers to the backbone network between the Claremont Colleges and connectivity beyond the colleges to the internet.  Harvey Mudd College is responsible for that CINE too.  Recently some work being done by a contractor in the CUC phone office on Eighth Street resulted in damage to parts of the CINE core switch.  As a result, we lost internet connectivity, VOIP phones, VPN and other parts of the network for periods of several hours in late September and October.  These incidents emphasized the fact that we have a single point of failure at the CINE core.  We had received approval from the Colleges late last year to place a second redundant switch at a different location and bring new fiber connections from downtown LA to the CUC building on First Street.  The project was approved and we are moving ahead with obtaining the new fiber, as well as looking at ways to get the second CINE switch earlier than we had planned.  Together, these initiatives will remove the single point of failure problem with the CINE core switch.

Identity and Access Management (IAM@HMC)
Our IAM@HMC initiative continues apace. We have begun testing Fischer’s work for phase III of the project, which will bring us automated creation and deletion of accounts on several of our key systems. The CIS Help Desk will soon be sending an email requesting that users synchronize their passwords and configure their security questions.  I mention this now to ensure that all users know that the message is a legitimate request from the IAM project team.  It will instruct users to enter their username and current password at the HMC Credentials kiosk. The request will include a detailed set of instructions,  which you should follow.

HSA Advising Portlet
The HSA Advising portlet, which will replace the HSA department’s standalone Filemaker Pro application, is in final testing.  Using this application on the JICS portal, HSA advisors will be able to work with their students to identify the classes that meet HSA requirements and record student progress.  Students will be able to use the portal to review their progress toward completion of the HSA requirements and will not have to shuttle paper over to the Registrar’s office.  This portlet will be in production for Spring pre-registration in a couple of weeks. It was developed under contract by Lee Jones.  Paul Steinberg, Bill Alves and Susan Selhorst guided the work, which was funded jointly by CIS, HSA and the Dean of Faculty.

Ongoing Infrastructure Upgrades
Thanks to the Information Technology Infrastructure Fund (ITIF), which was established in early 2013, we have a source of funding for infrastructure upgrades. These will be ongoing, and we are steadily building out a project list for 2013-14 and for 2014-15. Generally speaking, we will follow a process similar to that for building renewal and replacement.  If a project is on the ITIF list, we will prioritize it accordingly (eg. improvement to network, high number of people impacted, construction opportunity etc). Departments then have the choice of waiting or of funding the project directly to bring it forward in time.

Among the projects funded by ITIF so far this year were the Core Switch upgrade in March, wireless improvements in three dorms (which took advantage of already existing wiring) and improvements to the network in Olin.

One can never say thanks often enough: I am very grateful to President Klawe, Andrew Dorantes and the Physical Plan committee for their foresight in establishing this fund. There is much work to be done on our IT infrastructure, but we now have a regular source of funding and coherent decision making process that will help us design and build out a more robust infrastructure.

Smartboard Arrival
We recently acquired a new Smartboard, which will be traveling around to a number of classrooms in the Shanahan Center.  Some of our faculty will be testing it out in their classrooms during the rest of the semester. We are looking forward to getting a better understanding of how HMC faculty and students might make use of this technology. Do talk to your colleagues and fellow students and let us know what works (or not) with this technology.  If the boards prove useful, we will plan to purchase more.

Educause Conference
Several CIS staff recently attended the Educause Annual Conference in Anaheim. Educause is the professional organization for IT in higher education and the conference was attended by nearly 8,000 people from 51 countries.  Even a glance at the agenda will probably stoke your curiosity http://www.educause.edu/annual-conference/agenda-and-program/annual-conference-face-face-agenda.  Many of the sessions were recorded and most will have some materials available, so take a look if you are interested in topics like   For thought-provoking points on gaming and its relationship to learning, I recommend the keynote by Jane McGonigal, which will be available in about 90 days.

 

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.

ITIF
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!

 

Update on Portal Advisory Group

Screenshot from 2013-03-14 17:30:10I’ve written about the Portal Advisory Group before.  Affectionately known as PAG, it’s a group that will assist us with setting priorities for the Portal, starting from the premise that the portal is a tool which we know HMC has not used to its full capacity. The group will guide CIS and the College in improving and expanding use of the portal.

The following people have all agreed to participate and I am grateful to them.

Mark Ashley (Registrar, Chair)
Lauren Kim (Assoc Registrar)
Susan Selhorst (CIS)
Cindy Abercrombie (CIS)
Paul Steinberg (HSA)
Vatche Sahakian (Physics)
Tim Hussey (OCA Communications)
Jennifer Greene (OCA Communications)
Guy Gerbick (DOS)
Scott Martin (BAO)

We are also seeking one or two students to help with this initiative.

The first meeting is being scheduled for just after Spring break.

I look forward to good outcomes!

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):
http://goo.gl/oqxiF

December 2012 Update from the CIO

HolidayCard_2 This is the final update from the CIO for 2012.

Getting ready for the TLB.
That shiny new building will be ours in a mere 203 days.  CIS is working hard on preparations for our part in getting a building like this open. The things we are working on include:

  • Network within the building
  • Campus network to support the new building
  • Changes to the network to support the new uses of vacated space
  • AV services in the building, which will include “simulcasting” and (hopefully) videoconferencing from some of the rooms
  • Three “technology rich” classrooms to augment or replace the Learning Studio Classroom resource
  • As we get closer to the data we will need to be planning for moving computers for people moving into the building and all the moves that are triggered by it (in Kingston, Parsons and Olin)
  • Digital signage in the building

This is quite a list!  It is work we are (happily) undertaking in addition to the normal work of a Spring semester.  Please keep this in mind, especially if you are thinking of an IT project for 2013.  We’d love to hear about it soon.

Infrastructure
I mentioned last month that we had contracted with SIGMAnet to help us with a review of our wired and wireless networks, which will form the groundwork for a longer term comprehensive network plan.  We recently received a draft of the review of the wired network and will be presenting the results in an update to the Board in January.  In part thanks to the report, we have begun preparations for upgrading the campus network core in order to accommodate the new building.
In the past couple of weeks two intercollegiate committees  approved our proposal for major changes to the network beyond the Claremont Colleges that connects us to downtown Los Angeles and the greater internet.  Working with Los Nettos, our regional network provider, we will be purchasing equipment and fiber runs that will increase the diversity and redundancy of the network, and greatly reduce the risks associated with single points of failure.
We recently completed a four day workshop with Fischer International which moved forward our Identity and Access management project.  The current phase of the project is focused on account provisioning.  In ordinary English, this project will allow us to automate the creation and deletion of accounts in many of the College systems.
On the News Site
Elizabeth Hodas wrote about Recent Changes to Sakai and about the exciting Spring Bite of Learning Schedule.  And we have an article about what happens when people give us honest feedback, which I hope you will take the time to read and join me in thanking the members of our community mentioned there.

Everyone at CIS wishes you the very best for the holidays.

The value of honest feedback

We request feedback in many ways.  One of them is via the surveys that are sent out when we close a ticket in Footprints, our service request management system. Over the past year, we’ve seen a definite increase in the number of people who are filling out those surveys.

Whenever we receive feedback, I ask “what can we learn from this?”. If the feedback says “excellent service”, then we have learned that we got things right.  If the feedback identifies some problems, then we can ask what aspects of our procedures, guidelines or systems may have led to the problem.

I wanted to call out some of the feedback we’ve received this past year and thank those who took the time to give it to us.

Peter Saeta recently said it would be nice if we could let people know when an update was available for software such as Mathematica.  Jeho is now gathering the information we need about what software to include in our list.  Elizabeth told me that she used to use an m-software-l list for this purpose, so we may revive that, or create a calendar (or both!).

Stephanie Graham ran into a problem with an event that was scheduled for AV setup before 8am.  She was unable to contact anyone at CIS when the staff member was unavoidably late and the staff member did not have Stephanie’s number.  We changed our checklists for events so that we are always giving out a contact number and requesting a contact number from the event organizer.

Xanda Schofield told us about the challenges of being the moderator for students-l and suggested that we put something more modern than majordomo and easier to use than mutt in place.  So Xanda is going to help us review list software in the New Year (we’re very interested in Google Groups and in Sympa).

Many students have given us feedback on the new PaperCut print management system, which was taken up with great enthusiasm by the students in the early Fall.  We are working with the company to get some of the requests into the next version of PaperCut.

Similarly, we received lots of feedback when we launched the Fischer password management portal.  We have been working with Fischer and will relaunch this portal in the new year.  The new version will be at a HMC url https://iam.hmc.edu/identity/self-service/HMC/kiosk.jsf  and will have much more flexibility with respect to the security questions it allows you to ask and answer.

Mark Ashley and Lauren Kim gave us a spreadsheet filled with detailed suggestions for improvements to the portal.

To these and all the other folk who have given us honest feedback we say “thank you” and please keep it up in 2013.

 

Data Management Plans

Many faculty are already aware of the fact that the NSF and other funding agencies are now requiring that grant applications include a “data management plan”.  Last Spring, Jeho Park, our Scientific Computing Specialist wrote a report on data management plans, which is at http://goo.gl/XXdf8 (requires HMC credentials).

Jeho has also recently told me about the California Digital Library’s DMP Tool, which takes you step by step through the process of developing a data management plan.  It is at this link: https://dmp.cdlib.org/.  You can create an account at https://dmp.cdlib.org/institutional_login (choose “none of the above” under “select your institution”).  Once you create your account and log in, the tool is pretty self-explanatory.

Several faculty that have tried it have reported to me that the found it useful.

If you are writing up a data management plan, I urge you to contact me.  We can help with the specifics of how CIS systems are backed up and provide feedback on the plan.