HMC Scientific Computing Workshop and Digital Badge

We are pleased to announce the HMC Scientific Computing Workshop schedule in October.  The workshops will be held on Wednesdays from 5:30 pm to 7 pm in Aviation Room in Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons.

  • October 8th: Essential MATLAB for Beginners — Learn the basics of MATLAB programming and plotting through hands-on examples of simple script m-file and function m-file.
  • October 15th: Advanced MATLAB — Learn more about MATLAB’s advanced programming skills: data structures, advanced use of functions, debugging and profiling, and parallel computing techniques.
  • October 22nd: R for Statistical Computing — Know R for statistical data analysis and graphs.
  • October 29th: OpenMP Multithreaded Programming — an easy way to parallelize and speed up your iterative calculations on multi-core machines.

All these workshops are digital badge-earning opportunities. All participants who finish their required work in and out of the workshop will be awarded a digital badge through CIS Digital Badge Pilot program. For more information about digital badges, please see https://www.hmc.edu/cis/digital-badge/.

Please reserve your seat by signing up at http://bit.ly/scicompworshops-Oct2014

 

Summer 2014 update from the CIO

beanoWhen I was a kid growing up in Ireland, I loved reading the Beano and the Dandy.  Every summer, they would announce a “bumper edition”, which was packed with extra stuff for those long summer days out of school.  This is the bumper edition of updates from the CIO!

Infrastructure
The summer was a very busy one in the realm of IT infrastructure. We oversaw a major rewiring of the Parsons structure; which set the building up to host a modern wired and wireless network that should serve us well for the foreseeable future.  The major points of emphasis in the architecture of the new network are:

  • Assume an increase in the use of wireless devices (to support this we increased the number of wireless access points from nine to sixty seven).
  • Build a high capacity wired network that requires fewer physical cables (cat 6A throughout the building, fewer physical ports, but higher capacity)
  • Improve switching closets and reduce their number (from six to two).

I am very grateful to our partners in Facilities and Maintenance who worked with us to make the wiring project a success, and were supportive of our idea of carrying out our project in parallel with the vacated space project.  The new Clinic space in the basement is just beautiful!

We planned the new dorm wired and wireless network and, taking advantage of the construction work, have laid the groundwork for a “north campus loop” that will enhance the resilience of The Claremont Colleges network by providing alternate (redundant and diverse) networking routes to the second CINE core switch.

We bought new switches for east and south dorms, as well as the Linde Activity Center. We placed a new UPS in Kingston and new wireless access points in the LAC.

A new fiber run from Claremont to downtown Los Angeles is about to be completed, connecting with the Claremont network at the CUC building on First Street. This will increase the resilience of our connections to the internet.  As you can imagine, this is ever more important with the increased use of software services that are hosted elsewhere.

IAM@HMC (Identity and Access management)
We worked closely and intensely with our project partners from Fischer Identity during the summer, meeting every day for many weeks.  This let us push through to get several big wins:

  • We eliminated the distinction between LDAP passwords and Active Directory passwords — it’s all HMC Credentials from now on.
  • Automatic Account Creation (“provisioning”) went live. This meant that we could bring all the new students on board in record time, without manual account creation.
  • We brought the portal (portal.hmc.edu) into the Single Sign On environment. It uses HMC credentials now and you won’t be challenged to log in if you have already logged in and established a session in another application that is part of Single Sign On.
  • We added payors to the HMC portal so that they can view and pay bills on line.
  • We worked with other consortium members to bring up CAS, which will provide single sign on for other systems and, in our case, increases the usefulness of your HMC Credentials. In a new phase of the IAM@HMC project we hope to integrate CAS with Fischer Identity and get even more single sign on in place.

IT Assessment by BerryDunn
During the summer, representatives from consulting firm BerryDunn were in Claremont working on a Claremont-wide IT Assessment at the request of the Presidents Council. Some of you took the opportunity to meet or talk with them and give your views on the quality of IT overall at the Colleges.  I understand that the BerryDunn folk will be coming back again in the Fall, so there will be additional opportunities to meet with them.  I will try to send a bit more advanced notice, so please keep an eye out.  If you are particularly keen on talking with them, please just get in touch with me and we can set up a telephone call. They are very eager to provide the Colleges with a high quality actionable report and would greatly appreciate your input.

IT Policy
During the summer, I completed updates to the HMC Password Policy and finalized the policy on incidental personal use of IT, both of which are now linked on our IT policies page on the HMC website.  Both are the result of extensive discussion with various instances of the Computing Committee, the Presidents Cabinet and other stakeholders.  I believe that policies should be realistic and should interfere as little as possible with your day to day experience, while at the same time achieving institutional goals.  I have found that a good way to achieve that is to have extensive discussion with stakeholders, including college counsel and to be willing to wait until the policy is well cooked before releasing it.

Next up is a policy on safeguarding confidential and sensitive information.

Speaking of passwords, on October 27th we plan to turn on the password expiration function in the Fischer system.  If your password is over 365 days old, you will need to reset it. The prompt at login will just say “invalid credentials”, as we don’t want to give hackers any clues.  But you will receive a notice via email when your password is seven days away from expiring. When we first released the HMC Password Policy, the advice of the Computing Committee at the time was that August would be a good time to remind people to reset passwords, since everyone is coming back and doing housekeeping tasks for the new year.  The timing of your annual reset is up to you though, since you can change your password at any time by visiting the Password and Account Management Kiosk.  If your password is getting old, now might be a good time to change it.

Websites
When we moved to the new HMC website last January, we vowed that we would work hard to ensure that only accurate and relevant information would appear on our pages. We continue to work on that goal and have been enhancing our Service Catalog page and keeping on top of updates to the IT Projects page.  Our goal is to make it valuable and effective to turn to the CIS web page whenever you are looking for a solution or are curious to know what we’re up to.

We have also set up pages.hmc.edu for people who wish to host static html pages outside of any of our content or learning management systems.  I wrote about this in the April update, but it is worth mentioning again as we work towards decommissioning older systems such as thuban (www2), odin (www3) and www5.  www4 has already been decommissioned and replaced by pages.hmc.edu

Educational Technology
Thanks to our restructuring that placed AV operations under the wing of User Support,  Educational Technology Services had become even more focused and productive under Elizabeth Hodas’  leadership. Elizabeth is paying special attention to the question of how to relate technology tools to the goals of faculty and students.  I hope you will notice this emphasis in the roster of workshops available during our Week of Workshops, which started on Monday.

Over the summer, there was a surprising amount of interest in trying out Google Glass. Jeho Park described our experiments in his article OK Glass,shoot a laser beam!.  I found the star mapping app really compelling, even though the night on which I had Glass was a cloudy one!  It was the first time I really felt for myself the potential of augmented reality applications and I will never forget my daughter’s exclamation “oh wow” when she donned the Glass and went outside to conquer her fear of the dark.

Also over the summer, Deb Mashek set up a Google Apps Learning Community that several of us participated in.  It was a quiet success and I heard from a number of the participants about how they liked the hands on and interactive approach of these sessions, so we’re thinking of other possibilities.   We are also exploring the possibility of subscribing to lynda.com campus edition through a Claremont wide agreement. This would give faculty, students and staff a large number of online professional development and learning opportunities.

People
Unfortunately, Corey LeBlanc left us for Pomona College, where he is now the Computer Science Dept System Administrator. We wish him the best of luck, and were very sorry to see him leave us.

Taylor Calderone will be helping to fill in as we search for a new DTA. Taylor has been with us for a while in a temporary capacity, particularly with AV support for events, so he knows the ropes.

In other hiring news, we are having more success in the search for a Sr. Network Engineer and have interviewed a couple of really promising candidates in recent weeks.  Stay tuned for news on that front.

As I completed writing this update, I had a feeling of exhilaration.  It is just so pleasing to see so much progress in so many areas!  And, once again, my hat is off to the hardworking staff at CIS who just keep on working at a very high level.

Welcome back every one (and welcome, first years).  At CIS, we missed you and are looking forward to supporting you for yet another great year at Mudd.

 

 

 

Adventures in Self Publishing

This is a story in the “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade… ” category.

After we experienced some hardware issues with the Charlie file server, some of the older websites that were published under www4.hmc.edu went offline.  The new version of Charlie did not provide the file system needed by the www4 server, which had been limping along for some time.  So we quickly began to explore ways to host those pages. The inimitable Mitch Shacklett (Director, Systems and Network) came up with a great way to do this, by making a subset of your folders on Charlie visible on the web.  He promises that we will soon have a way to password protect pages being offered in this way too.

One of the people affected by this was Tad Beckman, Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts Department.  Tad had a collection of pages that included some essays and lecture notes that were referred to by many people around the internet.  Together we looked at a variety of options to publish this material in a more permanent format.  In the end, Tad found a very interesting solution: he published five eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle Store.  I was intrigued by this idea, and asked Tad a few questions by email:

How did you discover that you could publish on Amazon’s kindle store?

I Google searched self-publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing was one of the sites that came up.

Why did the  Claremont library not want to take your material?

The Claremont Digital Library program seems to be only for faculty works that have already been published somewhere. I was dealing with course notes and unpublished materials.

To whom would the material be of interest?

All of these materials have been on my WebSite from the early 1990s onward. Some were developed for courses I was teaching but others were just pursuing interests of mine. Philosophy students around the country have used my course notes and I’ve had extensive contact with some of them. Students of Native Americans (especially California 4th graders) have used my extensive notes for my freshman course “Indigenous People of the Western US”. I used to interact with parents, students, and teachers quite a bit. In addition, I wrote a whole book about California’s indians (The View from Native California) but failed to finish it when I became department chair for the second time. It wound up on the WebSite. In addition, I put up an article on Martin Heidegger which has been read widely over the internet.

How easy/difficult was it, in your opinion to get this done?

If you already have an Amazon account, it is easy to create an account on Kindle Direct Publishing. If you intend to publish, you can go ahead and fill out the tax-related forms as well. Then you get a “bookshelf” from which you can add new titles. It is very easy to do if you have your material in MS Word format. (I was using Word for MAC 2004 but switched to Word for MAC 2011.) When you add a title, you fill out a longish form with all the vital information — title, subtitle, author, categories, search words, etc. You will do two important things toward the bottom of this form — first, create a cover using their cover-maker (import your own image or leave it without an image) and, second, upload your Word file. After that, you go to a second form where you select a price and authenticate that you have authorship rights. After that, it takes the system about 12 hours to put your book into the store. The book appears on your “bookshelf” and offers several operations that you can perform — like creating an updated version, etc.

The one thing that gave me trouble until I finally figured it out was creating a table of contents that worked on a Kindle or iPad. When you know the magic it is easy in Word. In the MAC version at least, you just insert a “bookmark” over the title of a chapter, essay, etc. Then, in your table, you insert a “hyperlink” to that bookmark. When you are all finished, the table works in the Word version and is taken up by the Kindle-format conversion.

What would you say to fellow faculty about your experience with the Amazon system?

Well, I wanted these materials someplace where people could continue to use them and this looks like a good place. It was a very easy process to convert my Web pages into Word format and then coalesce them into a full document. Most of the time went into proofreading, editing, and making additional text so that the final document would be coherent. In about three weeks, I have created five publications. (You can see them by searching “Tad Beckman” on Amazon.com.) I’ve even sold a few!

Any other comments?

Retirement is great!

——————-
I am grateful to Tad for telling me about this. You can take a look at his new  pages, served from Charlie, at http://pages.hmc.edu/beckman and his Amazon publications can be found at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=tad%20Beckman

 

 

Google Apps Learning Community

google appsOne of the priorities that came out of the Spring 2013 survey of faculty priorities, was a request for training in Google Apps for Education.  This feedback has come to us through a number of channels, so we are delighted to participate in and support the initiative announced in Debra Mashek’s recent email to faculty and staff, which is the first step in the creation of a “learning community” around Google Apps for Education.  As she was preparing her call for participation, I got the opportunity to share a favorite quote, from an article that Dan Stoebel sent around last year (thanks Dan!):

“A healthy alternative is one that celebrates being an ‘accomplished novice’ who is proud of his or her accomplishments but realizes that he or she is still a novice with respect to most that is knowable and hence actively seeks new learning opportunities.” John D. Bransford and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Rethinking Transfer: A Simple Proposal with Multiple
Implications,” Review of Research in Education, vol. 24, no. 1 (January 1999), pp. 61-100.

What better way to approach a learning opportunity like Google Apps for Education?  If you’re inspired, please visit the form to express interest and preferences by Monday, May 5th  http://tinyurl.com/googleappslearningcommunity

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.

 

How are you using Office365?

A while back, I posted an article about how Prof Eliot Bush is making use of Google Apps for Education.   We recently completed the migration of accounts from mailbox-01 to Microsoft Office365 for Education.  I asked Patricia Wang how she liked it, and to tell me two things that she does with the Office365/Outlook combination.   Here’s what Patricia wrote:

Since I was really comfortable using Zimbra, I was a little apprehensive about migrating to Outlook 2010. I’ve only been using Outlook for a short time, but I’ve discovered a couple of features that I really like already.

One of the features that I find helpful in Outlook 2010 is the built-in task list. I use it to organize my tasks by assigning due dates, setting reminders, and marking tasks as complete when I finish them. It can also be used to delegate tasks to other people and manage task assignments. Tasks can be created from scratch by selecting the New Items > Tasks button on the Home tab. However, my favorite way to create a task is by by dragging an email to the task button on the bottom of the navigation pane. This transfers an existing email message to my task list without me having to create an individual task from scratch. I can also use this drag and drop method if I want to flag a contact record for follow-up.

Another feature that helps me keep organized is the Rules Wizard. Outlook lets me set up instructions, called rules, that determine how it should process messages upon receipt. I can set up rules to automatically move, copy, delete, forward, redirect, or reply to an incoming message. For the messages that are already in my inbox, I love the run-this-rule-now feature. It’s like waving a magic wand to reduce the clutter in my inbox!

I hope to discover other neat features as I explore Outlook 2010!

Thanks to Patricia for sending these comments. If you have other interesting ways that you make use of Google Apps or Office 365, don’t hestitate to share in the comments section below, or send me an email.

How do you use Google Apps?

We’re putting together short articles about the ways that people make use of the new HMC Google Apps for Education service.  I asked Eliot Bush, chair of the Computing Committee, to give me examples of things he does.   Here’s what he wrote:

One thing I do is use appointment slots in google calendar. This is great for setting up meetings with students. When its time for advising meetings and registration, I set up a bunch of appointment slots and have them select them.

I also co-teach quite a bit. We often have to do things like write an exam together. Its so much easier to do this with a google doc which can be edited together. It saves us from having a thousand different versions flying back and forth over email.

If you have found a good use for Google Apps, or know of a Google add on we should activate, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, or leave a comment on this post.

Saddle Rock Presentation on Technology and Education

At the annual Saddle Rock Trustee retreat in October 2011, all of the Vice Presidents gave presentations.  I wanted to stimulate discussion of issues in technology and education, so I spent about twenty minutes giving an overview of four interesting examples, and then had people discuss them in groups.  Prior to the retreat, I had mailed out a document that contained information about the four topics, for those who wanted to read beforehand. You’ll find that document linked here: IT reading prior to Saddle Rock 2011

Below is a reconstruction of the session, which I recorded afterward. If you want to look at the full size screen cast click here.

Learnstream

Our series, A Bite of Learning,  is intended to foster innovation.  In October 2010, Ryan Muller ’11 and Neal Pisenti ’11, approached us about doing a presentation on a project they’d been working on.  It was Learnstream, an application for creating lecture notes around YouTube video content.  Their pilot version was built around Francis Su’s Real Analysis Class.  This was one of our more popular Bite of Learning presentations.

You can see how the current version of Learnstream works at beta.learnstream.org

Since then, Ryan and Neal have been working very hard on the project and CIS has been supporting them where we can.  Together Ryan, Neal and I applied for an Educause Next Generation Learning Challenges grant, although we were disappointed in that effort.  Working with Jeff Burkett ’11 and Chandler May ’11, they added social networking features to the application over winter break.  They showed Learnstream to Bill Gates when he was here, and he found it “stimulating”.  

As soon as Commencement is over, they will be working hard on a rewrite of the application and on developing content for material to support high school students who are preparing for the AP Physics C exam.  This work will be funded by a Shanahan grant and CIS funds.

This is quite a success story from one Bite of Learning presentation!  Got a project you’d like to present?  If so, get in touch with Elizabeth Hodas or with me (vaughan@hmc.edu).

 

CIS presents at faculty meeting

On April 21, 2011 the CIS management team presented a report on the state of Information Technology to the faculty. Joseph began the presentation with a review of our four strategic directions and our customer service initiative. The four strategic directions are IT Decision Making (Governance), IT Infrastructure, Central IT (CIS), and Innovation. Before presenting examples of projects in each of these four strategic initiatives, Susan Selhorst described the iterative process we went through with the management team and the CIS staff to create our service vision statement.

  • CIS is dedicated to providing excellent client-centered services to the HMC community.
  • We promote the mission of HMC with reliable, innovative, and convenient technology.
  • We provide customer support that is friendly, knowledgeable, and responsive while working collaboratively with clients to develop effective and relevant solutions.
A Bite of Learning

A Bite of Learning

Joseph talked about the gap between what we espouse and what is actual, and how we approach that gap. As an example of initiatives in the area of Central IT, Calvin Tong spoke about the DTA program and introduced the two new staff on the User Support team. In the DTA (Department Technical Analyst) program individual staff in the User Support group are assigned to specific departments. This allows the DTAs to become very familiar with the needs of each department.  Elizabeth Hodas talked about the A Bite of Learning series as an example of innovation. The series focuses on introducing new and emerging technology to the HMC community in an informal lunch setting. Joseph continued with a discussion of how IT decisions are being made and some examples of the different sourcing models we are using. He concluded with a description of the planned email and calendar migration. Questions after the presentation focused mostly on the email and calendar migration.