April 2010 update from the CIO

Hello everyone,

Here’s the monthly update from CIS for April 2010.

1. IT Strategy

As you know, April is the month in which HMC employees work on annual performance evaluations. In the past few years at CIS, these have morphed into documents that represent a set of agreements about the goals we will pursue in the next year and, most importantly, how we will measure progress toward those goals.  During this year’s round of evaluations, we are looking at goals through the lens of the IT strategy document and the four areas it emphasizes:

  • IT Governance
  • IT infrastructure
  • CIS, the central IT organization
  • Innovation

For each of the four areas, we are identifying tactical initiatives, and asking each employee to fit their goals into that matrix.  You’ll read more about the tactical initiatives in future monthly updates.

2. New Staff Member

We recently welcomed Erik Pope to the CIS team.  He is working in the Data and Software Engineering Services (DSES) unit and focusing primarily on the student and faculty portals.  Read more at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=320

3. Email and Calendar

The Email and Calendar task force continues to examine issues around the College’s services in this area.   We are now looking at two off-site options, Microsoft’s Live@edu and Google Apps for Education, both of which are increasingly popular with colleges and universities, large and small.   If you’re interested in obtaining a test account on either (or both) of these, please drop me a line at  vaughan@hmc.edu I will ask you to agree to write up some notes on your experience, but would love to have you join the assessment. Read more at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=243

4. HMC Facebook Application

CIS, the Dean of Students Office and the Office of Admission have been working together to prepare for the launch of Harvey Mudd College’s first application that runs on the Facebook platform.   It is built using a product from Inigral called Schools on Facebook, which adds online social networking features to information about the college and college life. The first wave of our launch, which went live two days ago,  was directed toward admitted and incoming students.  They are able to see where other admitted students are from, easily connect with others who have similar interests and learn more about HMC, all within the Facebook environment that is so familiar to them.   See  http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=340 for more.

5. Learning Studio in Sprague

It’s almost here!  If you’ve been over in Sprague in the last three weeks, you know that the first floor is under construction.  It’s already clear that the space will be light filled and airy, and you can get a good sense of how large the classroom on the north west corner will be.  Carpets are due to go in May 5, furniture is ordered, computers are next.  Elizabeth Hodas is posting regular updates on the Learning Studio; the most recent is at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=344

6. Matlab non network version

If you’re going away for the summer and will need Matlab, then the non-network version is for you.  CIS collaborated with several departments and the Dean of Faculty to upgrade to a new “Total Academic Headcount” license for Matlab.  Calvin Tong, our Director of User Support Services, wrote about this at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=271

7. Jenzabar Visit

Jenzabar, the company that makes the student information system software that is used by the Claremont Colleges, hosted a meeting for the CIOs of all five undergraduate Claremont colleges.  It was a valuable meeting which helped us get a better understanding of Jenzabar’s plans for the future of CX (the student information system product), JICS (the portal product) and their Institutional Advancement product.  I know that many people cringe at the mention of the Student and Faculty portal, but over the last two years I have come to realize that the facts are very complex in this case and it is hard to determine whether the product falls short or our implementation of it falls short.  I believe it is important to re-engage with the company leadership in order to get an answer to that question.

8. Summer Plans

At CIS the summer usually means a long list of projects, and this summer is no exception.   We will give top priority to the next steps in our Client Centered Initiative, which will involve creating a catalog of all CIS services and analyzing them using the perspective we have gained from our information gathering activities (focus groups, surveys, department visits).  For each service, we’ll be asking how well we deliver it, whether it is “easy to do business with”, and whether we have arranged our systems and people to deliver the service optimally.  As we do that, we expect to be making changes in the way we deliver many services,  so watch for updates.

I encourage you to visit our news site for more detail and other news.  I received several encouraging comments about the March 2010 update,  so please do write and tell me if you like what you are reading and anything you’d like to read more about.

On behalf of the CIS staff, I wish you the very best during these busy busy weeks leading up to Commencement.

Joseph Vaughan

CIO/VP for Computing and Information Services

Task Force deliberates future of Email and Calendar systems at HMC

In the Fall, the President’s Cabinet set up an email and calendar task force and asked it to examine the College’s email and calendar services.  The questions that the Cabinet proposed looking at included:

  • What is the College’s current approach? What are the pros and cons of this approach? And what is the approximate cost of providing the service?
  • What are the pros and cons of HMC using only one email system, as opposed to multiple systems?
  • What are the pros and cons of adopting Google Apps for Education?
  • What are the pros and cons of adopting Microsoft Live@edu?

The task force has been meeting and discussing many issues, including these questions.  Currently, the task force is reviewing outsourced options such as Microsoft’s live@edu and Google Apps for Education.

The members of the task force are: Karen Angemi, James Brown, Eliot Bush, Claire Connelly, Lisette dePillis, Raissa Diamante, Michael Erlinger, Glen Hastings, Bob Keller, Chris Marble, Melissa O’Neill, Maksym Taran, Calvin Tong, Joseph Vaughan.     If you have questions or ideas about this topic, please feel free to contact any one of them.

Screenshot of Zimbra

Microsoft Live screenshot
Google Apps Screenshot

Grid computing with gridMathematica

From Jeho Park:

Are you a Mathematica user wishing for more computing power for your long-running number crunching jobs? Then this may be good news for you. In our continuing efforts to deliver cutting-edge computing technologies and innovations to you, CIS has installed gridMathematica server engineson the CIS lab computers. The lab computers will provide you with more parallel computation kernels that can be launched on demand to help your Mathematica computations using parallel computing tools in Mathematica 7.

Currently gridMathematica servers are iMac computers featuring 2.7 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processors in the CIS Parsons lab. Due to security concerns, your computer needs to be on the wired or wireless HMC network to get connections to those servers. When you are not on campus, you may be able to use the gridMathematica kernels via VPN. But we don’t recommend VPN for critical computations as network communications may be delayed by unexpected circumstances. To use the new feature, Lightweight Grid Manager must be enabled within your local Mathematica 7. Once your computer is connected to the school network, please follow our step-by-step instructions on Sakai (https://sakai.claremont.edu:8443/access/wiki/site/a0df75e1-0de9-4e40-bbac-a197643606c9/home.html) to enable the Lightweight Grid Manager.

Here’s some general information directly from Wolfram: General information about gridMathematica: http://www.wolfram.com/products/gridmathematica/ Q&A on gridMathematica: http://www.wolfram.com/products/gridmathematica/faq/ Parallel computing with Mathematica. Parallel Tools Tutorials: http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematica/ParallelTools/tutorial/Overview.html We will present a demo of gridMathematica use in a session of A Bite of Learning in April. You are welcome to try the new feature and come to the presentation for more discussion. If you have any questions about gridMathematica and parallel computing tools in Mathematica 7, please feel free to contact Jeho Park. Thank you!

HMC launches Facebook Application

In late April, CIS, the office of Admission and the Dean of Students office collaborated to launch the first Harvey Mudd College application on Facebook.  Within a day of the launch, 187 admitted students had logged in to the application, which resides on the Facebook platform but keeps its data separate from Facebook data.

In the application, admitted students can connect with other students that share similar interests, converse with a group of current student “ambassadors”, ask and answer questions and become more familiar with HMC.

HMC Facebook AppThe HMC application uses a product called Schools on Facebook, which is produced by a startup named Inigral.   We are one of a group of ten colleges that form the product advisory board for Inigral.  The key idea is to add online social networking features to College related activities and to do it using technology with which people are familiar, rather than on a separate application.

Future phases of our work with this product will introduce it to current students, faculty and staff and, eventually, alumni.

Construction of Learning Studio Begins

Construction on the Learning Studio on the ground floor of Sprague has begun and is proceeding rapidly. Among the steps taken so far:

  • Removal of the old carpet

    Construction of new walls for the storage room.
    4/19/10: Construction of new walls for the storage room
  • Coring of the concrete floor for power and data
  • Demolition of walls in the northwest corner of the building
  • Construction of new walls for the storage room
  • Construction of the framework for the installation of the Nanawall

The new Learning Studio has been designed to support and facilitate a number of different ways of working and studying. In addition to a new classroom space with flexible furniture and laptops, there will be a large area for individual and group work with desktop computers and lounge seating as well as a group work area similar to the work spaces in the Platt Living Room. The new carpet will reflect the different types of work areas. A dark solid carpet will be used for high traffic walkways. Two different carpets with similar color schemes but different patterns will distinguish between the quieter group and classroom areas and the busier lounge and individual work areas.

The concrete floor was cored along the perimeter of the outside walls as well as in several locations in the middle of each work space. We wanted to be sure to provide power and data to laptop users wherever they decide to sit. The whole Learning Studio will be blanketed with wireless networking as well.

Framework for the Nanowall
4/19/10: Framework for the Nanowall

Some walls were taken down in the northwest corner of the building in order to make more space for the classroom area. New walls are going up in order to create a large storage room to store laptop carts and any furniture that’s not being used in the classroom. Work has also begun on creating the framework for the installation of the Nanawall, the folding glass wall that will be used to enclose the classroom. The Nanawall can be folded back when there are no classes in session.

We’re very excited to finally see our ideas and plans taking shape. Check back here often for more photos of construction progress.

Update: More photos of the constructions:

5/6/10: Refinishing the wood paneling
Laying the new carpet.
5/11/10: Laying the new carpet.
Building one of the doors to the classroom
5/11/10: Building one of the doors to the classroom.
5/13/10: New carpet
5/13/10: New carpet
5/13/10: No more book drop!
5/13/10: No more book drop!

Erik Pope Joins CIS

Erik Pope became the newest member of the Data and Software Engineering Services group when he joined CIS in January as a Senior Software Engineer.  Erik comes to HMC from Pomona College where he was a member of the AISO team that supports the use of CX and JICS at all five of the undergraduate Claremont Colleges.   You may have seen him around campus on his electric skateboard, which he sometimes uses in his commute to work.

Erik’s focus right now is on making sure the JICS Portal is ready for web pre-registration at the end of April.  He has ungraded the HMC Portal software and installed numerous updates to support Claremont’s local modifications for cross-registration.  In addition, Erik is working closely with the Registrar Office on testing.

Beyond his work on the Portal, Erik has experience in documentation and work flow that are sure to be useful as we work with our customers to design new projects.

Order out of chaos for user accounts drives CIS Identity Management project

CIS is presently engaged in evaluating several software products that automate much of the work of creating and managing user login accounts.  In addition to making the administrative work easier and more streamlined within CIS, these products provide features that enable users to reset their own passwords, change their own privacy preferences, and update some of their own directory information (mobile phone number for example). Particularly notable is that passwords changed through a provisioning system are automatically propagated and synchronized to all of the user’s HMC accounts (Windows, Email etc).

Another feature is delegation of many resource management activities away from CIS and out to departments that determine them in the first place. It would be possible in principle (hedging a bit; this will take time) to enable designated department administrators to control directly the granting of access to department resources such as shared folders, web content and so on, rather than having to contact CIS to have this done.

CIS is receiving presentations from software vendors and expects to have a decision on future direction by the end of May 2010.  Andy Davenport and Stephen Schwartz, an external consultant, are leading this project.

Sakai Fellows Program 2010

From the Sakai listserv….
Nominations for the Sakai Fellows Program for 2010 are now open.  Up to six fellows will be chosen by the selection committee.  We are seeking nominees who have advanced the goals of the Sakai Community by their innovative work, leadership and/or advocacy.  The nomination form is attached and eligibility requirements are listed below.  You are encouraged to submit more than one nomination and you are free to nominate yourself.
The Sakai Fellows program seeks to foster community leadership and contributions by recognizing and supporting active contributors. Fellows enrich the community in a variety of ways, including technical expertise, teaching and research practices and community organization, support and leadership.  Fellowship awards recognize such contributions and support the efforts of the Fellows with a modest stipend.
Total: up to six Fellowships will be awarded
Term: 1 year from date of award
Stipend: $2500.00 (USD); Sakai 2010 Denver conference registration fees will also be waived.
All members of the Sakai Community are eligible for nomination subject to the following limitations:
1. A nominee must not have held a fellowship awarded in the previous year.
2. A nominee cannot be a member of the Sakai Board, Sakai Foundation staff or Sakai Fellows Selection Committee
Friday, 7 May 2009, Midnight EDT
Please return completed forms to Anthony Whyte at arwhyte@sakaifoundation.org

Introducing Apple’s latest invention: The iPad

Apple has finally released the “much talked-about” iPad starting at an amazing price of only $499.  There are more than a thousand apps designed specifically for the iPad, including iWork productivity apps such as Keynote, Pages and Numbers. Or you can browse thousands of new books at the iBookstore by downloading the free iBooks application from apple.com. For a sneak peak, visit: http://www.apple.com/ipad/gallery/#ad

There have been mixed reviews, but the verdict according to USA Today is: “It’s a Winner”. Walt Mossberg in his detailed review of iPad (ptech.allthingsd.com) writes: “After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. Others rave they are instantly smitten with iPad.

Consumers were able to pre-order the iPad as early as March 12, 2010 for delivery on or after April 3, 2010. If you were one of those lucky ones who pre-ordered, you may perhaps be enjoying your iPad already. For those of you who didn’t, you may find yourself (like us) on the waiting list as Apple allocates their shipments in order to meet the overwhelming demand for this spectacular new product.

In CIS, we are constantly striving to find new innovative ways to support teaching, learning and technology. Calvin Tong, Director of User Support, in conjunction with Elizabeth Hodas, Director of Educational Technology and Media Services, plan to have four iPads available as part of our faculty/staff loaner program. Check back for updates on when these will be available for check-out. It is our hope this article will solicit comments, suggested uses and feedback on this exciting new piece of technology.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more, take a look at the iPad video at: http://www.apple.com/ipad/.

New Matlab license for HMC

Dr. Jeho Park, CIS’ Scientific Computing Specialist, found from faculty interviews that more faculty use Matlab than any other scientific computing software on campus.  In fact, more than half of the faculty surveyed said that they use Matlab for research or instruction.  Students also use Matlab for research, homework, projects, and Clinic.  In other words, Matlab is very important to HMC.

Our previous license of Matlab was called the “Network Concurrent” license.  Essentially, this meant that in order to use Matlab, you had to maintain a live network connection to CIS’ Matlab license servers.  As you can probably imagine, this was very inconvenient.  For example, faculty and students traveling on a plane were unable to use the travel time to work on their research or instruction.  Faculty and students performing research in remote areas could collect data, but were unable to launch Matlab to process the data.

After several discussions with the Department Chairs combined with additional funding from CIS and the Dean of Faculty’s Office, a new Matlab license was agreed upon.

Effective January 1, 2010, the new Matlab Total Academic Headcount is available to all HMC faculty, staff, and students.  The main benefits of the new license are:

– no Internet access required to use Matlab
– users can download Matlab software and toolboxes directly from Mathworks
– users can access pre-release software
– users no longer have to wait for CIS to post the software before they can get it
– faculty and students both have access to the same set of toolboxes

Calvin recently gave a presentation on the new Matlab license during A Bite of Learning.

To view the PowerPoint presentation, please click here: Matlab TAH PowerPoint Presentation

To view the installation guide, please click here: Matlab TAH Installation Guide

If you have any questions about Matlab, the CIS Help Desk would be glad to help!