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 (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:  You can create an account at (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.


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

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 (


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.

Admitted students post on Schools App

As of last week, the students that have been admitted for 2015 are up and active on the Harvey Mudd on Facebook App, at (note: only HMC community can see or add this app to their Facebook profile).  Lively discussions are taking place between admitted students and current students.  The faculty and staff are very quiet :-)

Among the topics of discussion “I’ve been admitted to HMC and MIT, how do I choose?”,  ”Is there a decent gym?”, “Harvey Mudd sounds like Harvard Med”….

You can join in the discussion on the Facebook App.  If you have not logged in before, it is expecting your username to be your hmc email in the format  If you have any trouble logging in, please contact the CIS Help Desk.

Here’s a map showing where all the admitted students are from.

View HMC Admitted Students 2015 in a full screen map


Notes on experiments in Cloud Computing

If you read the technical media, you know that “cloud computing” is a phrase that is much in vogue these days.  There’s lots of debate as to precisely what “cloud computing” means, and there are lots of sub-categories to get a handle on too:

  • Software as a service
  • Platform as a service
  • Infrastructure as a service

 At CIS and indeed across the College, we’ve been keeping an eye on these developments and experimenting with cloud computing for some time.  Here are some examples.

Formstack (formerly FormSpring).

The old way:  whenever someone needed to create a form on the HMC site, they contacted our “webmaster” and then went back and forth discussing how a form should look, while the webmaster made changes to a set of perl CGI scripts.  The new way: end users log on to Formstack and create their own forms using a drag and drop interface in the browser.  Features like encryption of data and email notifications are easy. 

This experiment has so far been a hit with users, especially administrative staff. We’ve used it for Alumni surveys, HR forms and lots of others.  Users really like the fact that they can design the forms themselves and turn around time is a matter of minutes, not days.   We are not entirely satisfied with the rudimentary data analysis tools that Formstack provides, even though they are improving all the time.  So we are looking at other online survey creation tools as well.


Google Apps

Some 47% of our students currently use Gmail as their primary provider, per our Fall 2009 survey.  In the engineering department, many faculty staff and students use Gmail and Google calendar as their primary email and calendar systems.  There’s clearly interest in this form of cloud computing.   Google Apps for Education is a different offering that we are currently experimenting with. It differs from the public version in several key ways, notably the absence of advertising and a contractual agreement recognizing FERPA obligations.


Jumpboxes are pre-built virtual machines that contain one or more dedicated applications.  They provide a web based interface for managing the virtual machine.  The idea is to provide a ready to run virtual server.  We’ve been experimenting with Jumpboxes in partnership with a hosting company out of Chicago. is one site that needed an instance of WordPress.  It took two or three emails and about 15 minutes of work to get them up and running.


Bluelock  is one of a group of companies that are offering on-demand access to virtual machines, based on VMWare’s technology.  Via a web browser, one builds a “virtual data center” with virtual servers (windows and linux) . You can manage the virtual servers from anywhere (as long as you can get to a web browser) and you can power them on and off as needed.  The pricing model is based on usage.   In general, cloud computing offerings are priced in a “pay as you go” fashion.  One thing we have to do is analyze how much it is costing us to provide similar services in house so that we can get a good understanding of whether services like Bluelock’s are a viable supplement to our own efforts.


This is a fun one.  Presentations online in a format that is very different from good old stolid Powerpoint. Elizabeth Hodas has done several of her conference and in-house presentations using this tool, and enjoys it greatly.  It takes an approach that is very different from Powerpoint, using the idea of a large canvas on which you create presentations and zoom in and out to work your way through the presentation.  It’s worth a few minutes of your time to take a look at  Or chat with Elizabeth about her experiences.

I’ve mentioned virtual machines several times. In another article, we’ll delve more into that topic.

So what cloud computing experiments have you been doing lately?  Let us know what you’ve been learning.   We’re especially interested when you find something that you think the would be of interest to many HMC users.

Wireless VOIP Phones

In our efforts to continuously improve customer service and become more client-centered, we have been exploring the world of wireless VOIP phones to replace  desktop phones for our staff  who tend to need more mobility. We believe this will improve communication for our staff members who spend some of their time in the field. We explored several options before deciding on the CISCO 7925G Wireless VOIP phone. We based our decision on several factors, including cost, size, weight and functionality. This phone was  recommended by both the CUC Telephone Office and Scripps IT, who have already begun using them.

The areas we felt would most benefit from a wireless phone device are: User Support, Audio Visual/Media Services, and Printer Support Services. All phone numbers will remain the same, and the phones will work anywhere on campus where there is wireless access. We hope to have the phones installed by June 30th.

If you’d like to learn more about the phones visit this url: or you can contact the help-desk to arrange for a demo.