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 I was dealing with course notes and unpublished materials.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

 

 

Summer 2014 Upgrade to Sakai 2.9

This summer the Pomona IT staff will be upgrading the consortial Sakai server to version 2.9. We are currently running version 2.8. The Sakai Administration Team will be testing version 2.9 over the summer, with a tentative upgrade date of August 12, 2014. More information on how long Sakai will be down during the upgrade will be available as we get closer to the upgrade date.

Some important dates to keep in mind:

  • April 29, 2014: Summer 2014 and Fall 2014 5C course sites created, but not populated with faculty and staff. Faculty can request that they be added manually to a site by contacting the Help Desk with the name and section number of the course.
  • May 16, 2014: Summer 2014 5C course sites populated with faculty and students.
  • June 10, 2014: Spring 2014 course sites unpublished. Students can no longer see these sites, but faculty still have access.
  • August 12, 2014: Upgrade to Sakai 2.9. Sakai will most likely be unavailable for some amount of time. More information will be available as we approach this date.
  • August 19, 2014: Fall 2014 5C course sites will be populated with faculty and students.

The release notes tell us that “Version 2.9 of Sakai contains significant performance improvements, updated technical infrastructure, hundreds of bug fixes (over 600 bug fixes and over 20 security improvements), and it sports a new, updated look and feel, including smoother navigation, with a new neo-portal skin. Significant features have been added to the Resources, Gradebook, and Section Info tools in core Sakai. Major additions and improvements have been made to the “Indies,” including Lessons, which is now turned on by default, Samigo Test & Quizzes, Profile 2, Forums and Messages.”

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

Scientific Computing Seminars: MATLAB, Parallel Computing, and GPU Computing

CIS is very excited to announce the post-spring break events specially hand-picked for you. We have three scientific computing seminars lined up for the week of March 24th and April 1st. If you are interested, please pick one or two (or even all three) and register online to reserve your seat. Please find the details below:

MathWorks MATLAB Seminar:
Wednesday, March 26th from 12:45 pm to 3:30 pm in Sprague Learning Studio Classroom
Register online at https://www.mathworks.com/hmc2014

Title: Programming with MATLAB
Topics covered will include:
•    Basics of the MATLAB programming language
•    Automating with scripts
•    Building robust, maintainable functions
•    Tools for efficient program development
•    Using objects and authoring classes in MATLAB

Parallel Computing Seminar:
Thursday, March 27th from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm in Sprague Learning Studio Classroom
Register online at http://www.formstack.com/forms/hmc-seminar_registration_spring2014

Title: Parallel Computing with MPI (Message Passing Interface)
Topics covered will include:
•    Basics of Parallel Processing
•    Ways to make your program run (much) faster
•    Hands-on examples of MPI

XSEDE HPC Monthly Workshop on OpenACC GPU Programming:
Tuesday, April 1st from 8:00 am to 2 pm in Sprague Learning Studio Classroom
Register online at https://portal.xsede.org/course-calendar/-/training-user/class/163

Title: OpenACC* GPU Programming
Topics covered will include:
•   Parallel Computing and Accelerators
•   Intro to OpenACC
•   Using OpenACC with CUDA Libraries
•   Advanced OpenACC and OpenMP 4.0

*OpenACC is the accepted standard using compiler directives to allow quick development of GPU capable codes using standard languages and compilers. It has been used with great success to accelerate real applications within very short development periods. This workshop assumes knowledge of either C or Fortran programming.

Data Privacy Month (with a painful story about a phone)

messages

Data Privacy Month continues, and this week I have a story that is told to all young system administrators. It’s about what happened when a phone was lost.  Read it, weep… and then go make your phone secure.

Junior system administrators go through many rites of passage. One of them is when, early in their training, they get to spend a whole night in the data center.  This is a way of preparing them for those all  night system upgrades, when they have to  perform at their peak at a time when they are normally asleep. This story is often told during that special training night.

A good data center is cold. You should picture the junior sys admins huddled in their parkas around the back of a server, hoping to get some heat from the exhaust.  Some of them are nodding off.  The hoary senior system admin, noting this, decides it is time to tell the phone story, and fill it with detail, to spark their interest.  System admins are by nature fascinated with details, good at reading and, as a bonus, following, meticulously detailed instructions.  And so the hoary one begins…

“Once upon a time, in a far away College, there was a senior member of the administration, let’s call him VP Terry.  VP Terry had lots of responsibilities and was always on the move.  He had a very expensive and very sophisticated smart phone to help with his work. He used it all the time, for emails, for calendar, for reading documents and even for accessing many of the College databases.”

“VP Terry, just like Marissa Mayer, didn’t have a pin, or any other security, on his phone. It saved him (and her) time every day”.

The hoary senior sys admin paused for effect and noted with satisfaction that the eyes of her audience had grown large.  This bunch would be security conscious!

“And then, one dark day, it happened.  VP Terry mislaid his phone. Possibly at the airport. He didn’t notice it was gone until the end of the 11 hour flight and by then he could not contact the IT folk at his College to see what they could do.  Truth be told, he didn’t even think to do that”.  The eyes got wider.

“Someone sent messages from the phone and it was not returned. So do you know what happened?  Are you ready? Here’s the detail:

  • The cell phone contained a direct link to the college’s database, where confidential information on 40,000 students was stored. The College was obliged by law to notify each and every one of them.  Direct cost: $150,000.  Indirect reputation cost: ???
  • The cell phone provided unauthorized access to educational records (grades were accessible from the phone).  Student’s privacy rights were so compromised that it warranted a self-report to the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) of the Department of Education, placing future funding for the College at risk.
  • A document containing a job offer was viewable on the phone and ended up on the internet.  The candidate turned the College down and was gravely embarrassed at her home institution.
  • VP Terry’s personal credit card information was compromised.
  • He lost all the photos of his family vacations, since he was no better at backups than he was at security.”

As she listed these  details, the hoary sys admin’s voice reached a crescendo.  The junior sys admins were now fully awake and several pulled out their smart phones, sheepishly looking for the settings…

Thanks for reading. Please have a look at this Intel site on mobile security:

http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/security/mobile-security.html

Then go forth and put some security on your phones!

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.

Data Privacy Month (with a painful story about the students-l list)

Today is Data Privacy Day. See http://www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/

To celebrate, here is a true story culled from the vaults of HMC server administrator lore. Read it, weep… and then change your passwords.

Once upon a time there was a moderator of the students-l list. She was diligent and hard-working, devoted to the task of saving other students time by only approving messages that she judged to be of interest to students, and collecting together announcements about events at the other Colleges so they could all be included in one message. She worked on this most days, using the students-l list software.

The students-l list system is very old and resides on a Linux machine called Odin. The list system is so old that it may have been created when “GUI” was only a railway code for a station on the Glossop Line and graphical user interfaces were figments of fevered imaginations at Xerox PARC.

Now one day our diligent moderator (let’s call her Agnes) logged in to the system and noticed it was really slow, slower than usual.  At first, Agnes thought that maybe the list system was on the blink or even that Odin was finally giving up the ghost.  She couldn’t moderate messages or send anything out to students-l. Agnes quickly reported it to the CIS Help Desk.

The server admins were soon busy examining Odin as it lay there on its sheets of Irish linen. Little did they know that they were entering their very own long dark teatime of the soul, not working on high priority HMC projects, but just trying to figure out what was going on.

Bit by bit (was that pun intended?), they discovered that Odin was sending out tons of spam and then getting back tons of bounce messages.  So many that poor Odin was choking, unable to give any attention to Agnes’ plaintive login requests. Even worse, Odin was failing to recognize Agnes’ user name and trying to send error messages about that.

“But why?” said the server admins, pulling at their hair (long dark teatimes can have that effect).  “Why Odin?  Why now?  Why spam?  …Why us?”.

Now you just have to sit there and imagine time passing. Slowly.  No students-l messages are getting through.  Spam is spewing.  The server admins are ignoring other things. “Educational Technology?…no time for that”.   Are you imagining that?

OK. In the end, they figured it out.  Another user account on Odin  had been hacked and the hackers were using it to send their spam. And how did they hack it?  You guessed it. A weak password on the user account….  Sigh. Once they figured that out, the server admins had to spend several hours cleaning up the mess and then let Agnes know she was back up and moderating.  Lots of time lost and all because of a weak password.

Data Privacy Day. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure data privacy. And it can start with a better password. For tips on creating a better one, maybe even creating one that meets HMC requirements, take a quick look at the HMC Password Policy.

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).

Thanks for reading. Now go forth and change your passwords.

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.