December 2010 update from the CIO

Here’s your yuletide update from the CIO.  To be taken with eggnog.

At our December CIS staff meeting, we broke into three groups, each one charged with coming up with four CIS “headline achievements” during the year.  When the groups reported back, we discovered that we cannot count and we’d found 17 instead of 12 achievements worth noting.  You can read about them at  http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=813

Elizabeth Hodas attended  a TLC Talking Teaching session on Lab Notebooks in November.  Part of the discussion was about using digital lab notebooks of some kind.  Of course, you don’t want to bring any ordinary computer into a wet lab.  So the discussion came to Livescribe pens, those pens that record what you are writing for upload to a computer.  Elizabeth has since identified several faculty who are interested in testing Livescribe pens and perhaps trying them out for Lab Notebooks.  Read more about this new pilot in the making at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=809

We have several audiovisual upgrades planned for January.  They include new projectors and new cabling.  Details are in Elizabeth’s post at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=798

In December, Keith Lawton agreed to joined CIS full time, starting in January.  You may have already met Keith, as he’s been working part time for us for a while. He’s the latest person to join the User Support Group as a DTA (Departmental Technical Analyst).  Keith comes to us from Pitzer College, where he spent several years working at the Help Desk. When you see him, ask him about his extra-curricular musical activities.  Another new hire, Aasim Rizvi, joined us in October to fill the position of  DTA for Admission, Financial Aid, Dean of Faculty, and the Dean of Students.  You can read more about Keith and Aasim, our other new hire in User Support, at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=853

Calvin Tong has recently acquired a set of  netbooks and Wacom tablets, which are available for loan from the Help Desk.  He wrote about this at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=851

At the December ITC meeting (held in the Learning Studio!),  Celeste Anderson, Director of External Networks at USC, gave a presentation for the CIOs of each of the Claremont Colleges.  Among the things we learned is that Los Nettos connects us to Internet2,  You can read more about Los Nettos at http://www.ln.net/.  Among other things, they connect us to the commercial internet and to non-commercial networks and initiatives such as

  • CENIC  (Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California)
  • Internet2 (an advanced network consortium, led by universities)
  • NLR (National Lambda Rail, an ultra-high performance network owned by the education and research community)
  • ESNet (Energy Sciences Network)
  • DREN (Defense Research and Engineering Network)
  • NREN (NASA Research and Engineering Network)
  • GENI (Global Environment for Network Innovations)
  • GLIF (Global Lambda Integrated Facility)

If you have an interest in connecting to a particular network, please contact me.  One of the things that I discussed with Celeste is the “chicken & egg” problem that we encounter:  Los Nettos and these networks are prepared to help faculty and students with innovative projects, but faculty and students are often not aware of the possibilities.  She mentioned some examples, such as telesurgery, music master classes and psychological interviews using extremely high quality video. But she is also going to help us describe some other example uses.  Look for more posts on this in 2011.

On the Cloud Computing front, in November Microsoft announced the availability of NCBI BLAST on their Azure Cloud Computing service.  Researchers can use the National Center for Biotechnology Information tool to combine desktop resources with cloud resources for biological research.  The NCBI BLAST on Windows Azure software is available from Microsoft at no cost, and Windows Azure resources are available at no charge to many researchers through Microsoft’s Global Cloud Research Engagement Initiative. More information is available at http://research.microsoft.com/azure.

So that’s it for the December update.  I hope you’ll agree that we’ve had a good month and a good year.  On behalf of everyone at CIS, I wish you a safe and happy holiday break.

Joseph Vaughan

CIO/VP for Computing and Information Services

CIS welcomes two new staff members – Aasim Rizvi and Keith Lawton

CIS welcomes two new staff members that recently joined the User Support Group at CIS-  Aasim Rizvi and Keith Lawton

Aasim Rizvi is the Departmental Technical Analyst (DTA) for Admission, Financial Aid, Dean of Faculty, and the Dean of Students.  The position is a joint position between Admission/Financial Aid and CIS.  Aasim will help the Admission Office and Financial Aid with data analysis, use of software like Recruitment Plus and PowerFAIDS, and help with IT-related matters.  At CIS, Aasim is part of the User Support team that provides support to faculty, staff, and students for hardware and software and helps staff the Help Desk.

Aasim is a recent graduate of Cal Poly Pomona.  He received his B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis on Computer Information Systems.  Aasim’s previous work history includes web development and help desk.  His interests are in technology, design, reading, blogging, film, and music.

Keith Lawton is the Departmental Technical Analyst for the Business Affairs Office and the Office of College Advancement.  Keith will help these two offices with their administrative functions.  He will provide training, help with hardware/software, and help staff the Help Desk.  As the DTA for Advancement, he will also help as needed with Advancement-related events.

Keith comes directly from Pitzer College where he developed and taught technical workshops for faculty and staff and worked as the Help Desk Coordinator and Software Support Specialist for the past two and a half years. Previous to that, he also worked at Claremont McKenna College creating and teaching dozens of technical workshops and then as the Help Desk Manager.  Keith is a Microsoft Certified Master Instructor (MOS Certified) and comes to Harvey Mudd with a strong computer support and technical training background. Before local CompUSA stores disappeared, Keith was a technology instructor for five CompUSA locations where he taught hundreds of software classes to the general public and local businesses. His MOS Certification gives him expert knowledge levels in most Microsoft products. Additionally, he has taught many classes in Digital Image Editing (Photoshop), Web Design (Dreamweaver, Flash), Email (Outlook), Internet Research and most recently… Microsoft Office 2007. He’s already using MS Office 2010 in anticipation of HMC’s staff and faculty migration to MS Office 2010 sometime in the near future. Keith is excited about his new HMC post because it will allow him to blend two of his passions… working with the latest, greatest technology and sharing it with others.

Aasim Rizvi can be reached at (909) 621-8575 or at aasim_rizi@hmc.edu, and Keith Lawton can be reached at (909) 627-2897 or at keith_lawton@hmc.edu.

December audiovisual news

Educational Technology and Media Services will be renovating the audiovisual equipment in two classrooms and two meeting rooms over winter break. In Platt A/B and the Green Room we will be replacing the video projector and reprogramming the control system. We will also be replacing the projector in Jacobs B132. All three projectors have had reliability issues this semester. In Beckman 134 we will be installing a new SP control system and moving the video projector cable from the front of the room to the right front corner. We had to replace the video projector cable three times this semester after it became damaged accidentally. Moving the cable to a less exposed corner and installing the control system should make the video projector system much more reliable. Michael Meyka will also be supervising two additional renovations for the Computer Science department.

Pilot with LiveScribe pens

Last month the Teaching and Learning Committee sponsored a Talking Teaching session on lab notebooks. The session was very well attended with over 20 faculty from all of the departments present. One of the topics discussed was the pros and cons of electronic versus paper lab notebooks. Among the pros of electronic lab notebooks are that they can be more easily shared among several people, they can be easily backed up, and they are searchable. One of the disadvantages, however, is that bringing a laptop or tablet computer into a wet lab can be impractical. The LiveScribe pen was mentioned as an alternative to a laptop computer. The LiveScribe pen uses a tiny infrared camera and special paper to capture everything you write. The pen also captures audio which is automatically synchronized with your writing. Tap the pen on your notes and hear the recorded audio from that timepoint. A USB port on the pen allows you to upload your notes and audio to your computer. Your notes can be exported to PDF or shared via a “pencast” on the LiveScribe web site. Quite a few faculty were interested in exploring the LiveScribe pen. In response Educational Technology and Media Services will be sponsoring a small pilot with four faculty during the spring semester. Faculty will be testing the LiveScribe pen with the view of deploying them in a classroom or research lab setting. For more information please contact Elizabeth_Hodas@hmc.edu.

Lenovo netbooks and Wacom tablets available for loan

Many years ago, if you wanted to buy a thin, light laptop, you’d probably have to spend more than $1000.  If your budget for a laptop was less than $1000, then you probably had to buy a big bulky laptop.

In late 2007, Asus, a large computer electronics manufacturer, released the eeePC, a very small laptop computer called a “netbook”.  It had a small screen, small keyboard, and small storage, but most importantly it was cheap – less than $400.  The eeePC changed the laptop market forever, and a whole new class of computers called netbooks emerged.  Their main use is for web surfing, email, and light usage.  They have small screens (7″ to 10″),  moderate memory (1GB to 2GB), moderate hard drives (160GB or so), and a low price ($200 – $450).

CIS has purchased a set of 5 Lenovo S10-3 netbooks for loan to the HMC community.  They have 10.1″ screens, Intel Atom processors, 160GB hard drives, and come with Windows 7.  Most notably, the keyboard is close to full size.

If you would like to borrow one for a few weeks, please contact the CIS Help Desk, and we’ll check one out to you or let you know when the next one is available.

We will also be purchasing several Wacom Bamboo Fun multi-touch tablet add-ons.  The Wacom tablets are not a full computer in itself, but rather a multi-touch pad that connects to any computer via USB.  You can then use a pen, or your fingers, to draw, navigate your screen, and input text.

There are many uses for a Wacom tablet.  For example, a Professor can connect a Wacom tablet to their computer, and use it to write equations or drawings which are then projected onto the screen.  The Professor can then save the drawings as a PDF to send out to the class later.  There are also numerous applications for CAD (computer aided design), photo editing, and research.

We will be placing several Wacom tablets in the Learning Studio for everyone to try out and use.

CIS purchases MathType site license for Harvey Mudd

We’re happy to announce that with Professor David Money Harris’ recommendation and advice, CIS has purchased a site license of MathType for Harvey Mudd College.  As you may know, MathType is equation editing software that lets you create mathematical notation for many applications.  The “Equation Editor” commonly used in Microsoft Office is a simplified version of MathType.

If you have a Windows 7 tablet PC or a Wacom tablet, you can enter handwriting directly into MathType to recognize handwritten math.  MathType can also work with TeX or LaTeX editing.  Microsoft Office integration adds a toolbar or tab to access equation editing from within Office.

To see all features, please visit:
http://www.dessci.com/en/products/mathtype/features.htm

Harvey Mudd’s MathType site license:
– includes unlimited use on all computers within the control of HMC faculty, staff, and students, and includes home use
– includes both Mac and Windows versions
– does not require a connection to any license server
– does not expire or have to be renewed for this version (perpetual license)
To get MathType, please download it here on Charlie:

\\charlie.ac.hmc.edu\Dist-software\START-HERE\

The CIS Help Desk is happy to help you install MathType or make CD media for you to install yourself.

Office 2010, 2011, and Mathematica 8 now available

CIS purchases and manages many software site licenses that make research and academic software available to faculty, staff, and students.

In the past few weeks, two major updates to software we have licenses for have been released- Microsoft Office and Mathematica.

Microsoft Office, which is available for faculty and staff, has been updated to version 2010 for Windows and 2011 for OS X.

Office 2010 for Windows is very similar to the previous version, 2007.  The interface for 2010 is more streamlined based on feedback Microsoft received for 2007.  If you know how to use 2007, I think you will be able to learn 2010 fairly quickly.

Office 2011 for OS X, however, is a major change from the previous version, 2008.  Microsoft has brought over the “ribbon” interface from the Windows version of Office to the Mac.  2011 also replaces Entourage with a full Outlook client.  If you are happy with version 2004 or 2008, I recommend staying with these versions.  If you’re unable to open .docx files, you can install a converter (available here: http://www.microsoft.com/mac/downloads –  look for “OpenXML Converter”) to continue using Office 2004 or 2008 and be able to open the new Office file formats.

If you are a faculty or staff member, and would like to try Office 2010 for Windows or Office 2011 for OS X, we are happy to install it for you.  We’re also happy to provide CD media or put the installers on your flash drive for you to install yourself.

Wolfram has also released a significant update to Mathematica.  The latest version is now version 8, and includes many new features.  The most significant is the ability to enter free-form input in plain English to get results with no syntax required.  There’s also many new functions added.  For the full details of Mathematica 8, please visit:  http://www.wolfram.com/mathematica/new-in-8/

Mathematica 8 is immediately available for faculty, staff, and students at:

\\charlie.ac.hmc.edu\Dist-software\START-HERE\

As always, the CIS Help Desk is happy to help you install it or make media for you to install yourself.

Highlights of 2010

At our December CIS staff meeting, we broke into three groups and came up with the highlights of the year.  Each group was to contribute four highlights.   When we reported back, the list turned out to have nineteen items.  Either we can’t count, or we can’t follow instructions or we are just very enthusiastic about all the good things that happened this year.   Here’s the list we came up with:

  • The Learning Studio
  • Another successful Nelson Series
  • Two great new hires in User Services (Aasim Rizvi and Keith Lawton)
  • President Klawe’s kind words about Joseph at the Learning Studio Opening
  • Success with Footprints ticket system
  • A successful upgrade of Sakai to version 2.7
  • Development of system to create PDFs of student bills
  • iClickers
  • Alumni weekend
  • Printer/copier replacements finalized, introduction of card swipe technology
  • Claremont WPA wireless SSID now in production
  • Running ODE Architect in the cloud
  • R workshop by Jeho Park
  • Bite of Learning Series
  • Introduction of the DTA program
  • Cognos reporting for Department Chairs
  • Portal upgrade and online registration for classes
  • Colleges upgraded to 10Gb ethernet connections at the backbone
  • Successful transition to Time Warner backup connection when AT& T circuits were damaged by CalTrans crew

November 2010 update from the CIO

Tempus fugit. And here we are with only 168 hours to go until the end of classes!

I will keep the November update brief.

First, a word about a big non-event.  On November 1st a CalTrans crew used a pile-driver and put a fifty foot beam through AT&T’s conduit at Mission Blvd by Highway 71 in Pomona.   You might wonder what that had to do with us.  It broke AT&T’s optical fiber connection that we rely on to connect us to the internet.  Fortunately, a few years ago, CINE (and Roger Wiechman in particular) worked with Los Nettos to get us a backup circuit through Time Warner.  The backup circuit worked as planned, and we saw no interruption of internet connectivity.   HMC is the “lead college” for CINE (which stands for “Claremont Intercollegiate Network Effort”) for the Claremont Colleges, and as such we work closely with Los Nettos, a regional networking consortium based at USC. Collectively the Colleges are budgeting to spend $469,o00 in 2011-12 on CINE and provision of internet access, with HMC’s share being about $70,000. As you’ll recall, improving infrastructure is one of our four strategic areas, and I think this is a good example of great work in that area.

On November 19, we celebrated the opening of the Learning Studio in Sprague. We enjoyed it and, judging by the number of people who asked if we would do this more often, you did too. You’ll find some pictures here: http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=780 If you saw the demonstration of Vidyo’s video conferencing solution and have comments about it, please contact me.

I spent a good deal of time on Email and Calendar in November.  It now seems to me that the best thing for us to do is contract with both Google and Microsoft for their free email and calendar services, and we are currently exploring the implications of that decision.  For the many who already use Google’s consumer offering, we will simply be making it easier to handle their HMC mail, removing the advertising that is part of the consumer offering and, through the contract, obtaining better legal footing, especially with respect to FERPA.  For many more, we will be able to ensure a good experience with the Outlook calendar client, as well as better integration between Microsoft desktop products and their web based office products.  As I wrote in my October update, there is still much to do, so, again, expect more messages on this one.   As a reminder, we do have test systems set up with both Google Apps and Microsoft Live, and if you’d like to have a test account, please drop me a line.

Students, some of you will be aware of the Dreamspark program, which allows you to obtain free copies of software like Microsoft Visual Studio Professional.  We are currently working with the company to establish a mechanism for them to verify student status at Harvey Mudd.  As soon as that’s in place, we’ll let you know.

The Computing Committee discussed IT decision making and governance this month.  I presented a draft proposal for improving decision making at HMC, and they gave me lots of feedback.  The Cabinet did too.  I’m working on a new version, but preserving the central features of the proposal: agility, make good use of  existing committees, no centralization of decision making but a “decision support service” to help people quickly work through the considerations that anyone making a significant IT decision needs to address. Watch for more news on this in the new year.

Thanks for taking the time to read.  Good luck with what’s left of the semester and best wishes for the holidays from all at CIS.

Joseph Vaughan

CIO/VP for Computing and Information Services