March 2013 update from the CIO

This is the March 2013 update from the CIO.shamrock

Computing Committee Survey.
In late November, I asked the Computing Committee to discuss how they thought CIS is doing, while I was out of the room. The committee decided to run a quick three question survey and got a large faculty response. The short version: CIS has made many improvements (we got a B- grade at Harvey Mudd College!), but there is still work to be done. For more about the survey and a link to the discussion of the results read Faculty Computing Survey Results.

ITIF
In January the Board of Trustees approved policies creating a new Information Technology Infrastructure Fund (ITIF). This is an important development because it will allow us to plan more consistently for improvements and renovation work on the campus network. We are currently creating an “inventory of need” which we will use to prioritize infrastructure projects over the next five years. We will be designing the network architecture to address security, reliability and speed of the campus network.

SIGMAnet wired network report.
As I reported in the Fall, we contracted with a local company, SIGMAnet to conduct a review of our wired network. The report came in on January 10 and I updated the PPCPC Trustee Committee later that month.

The network assessment highlighted several key hardware and configuration risks. Twelve major concerns were listed that can be broken down as follows:

  • End of life and end of support equipment in use. This equipment presents risks on two fronts, security and potential down time due to equipment failure.
  • Security risks in network switch access methods and quality of switch passwords.
  • Design gaps such as lack of redundancy in connections between network switches.
  • Software configuration inconsistencies.

The report goes into detail and will be invaluable in the development of our comprehensive plan, which will address all of the issues. If you are interested in reading the report or contributing to the planning effort, please get in touch.

Core Switch upgrade.
One of our first ITIF projects! Early in the morning of Saturday, March 16 we will be upgrading the HMC network core. The network core is responsible for aggregating all of our campus network connections and linking us to the wider intercollegiate network and the internet. It has to be fast, powerful and reliable. CIS staff will be working in partnership with engineers from SIGMAnet to replace our aging core. The end result will be aprodcut_bulletin_c25-688075-1 much improved arrangement, with a pair of Cisco Nexus 7000 switches at the core. In the near future, we will move one of the pair out of the A-room in Parsons to either Platt or the TLB. This will give us both redundancy (“more than one”) and diversity (“not in the same place”) at the network core. There will be some network downtime associated with the work on Saturday morning, but the end result will be worth it.

Thuban retirement.
As well as rolling out new things, it is important for CIS to manage the retirement of services, to make sure we are making the most of our limited resources.  Thuban, a VMS system, is a case in point.  Most infrastructure services (such as DNS and DHCP) have been moved off of Thuban. Fewer than 20 people are still using the email system on Thuban and we are actively moving their accounts to either Google Apps for Education or Office365.  A number of faculty still have static html sites on www2, which is hosted on Thuban.  We are exploring options for moving them.  One of my favorites is to host them on Google drive. (did you know you could do that?).

TLB updates.
The TLB is 120 days away! I’m sure, if you’re on campus, you can’t help but notice the speed at which things seem to be happening. Weekly telecommunication meetings began this week  They are starting to pull cable for the network and electrical systems; wireless access points (86 of them, compared to 134 on the rest of campus) and network equipment have arrived and will soon be installed. The Audiovisual plans are in place. Much of the furniture has been chosen. The cafe is taking shape…They will be starting to prime and paint the basement this week.  It’s real!

Canvas pilot.
In the Fall, a group of Computer Science faculty presented a Bite of Learning on their use of Piazza for class discussions. Elizabeth Hodas and I were discussing afterward how we needed to keep up with developments in the learning management system (LMS) world.  Sakai is the LMS currently used by the Claremont Colleges but there are some interesting new ones, like Canvas.Canvas It is not like Sakai is going away anytime soon, but we do want to understand our options. So we decided to ask the same group of faculty if they’d be interested in running a small pilot of Canvas. Ran Liebeskind Hadas took up the idea and is currently teaching CS 140/Math 168 using Canvas.  We’re looking forward to hearing about this at a Bite of Learning session on April 17.

Other articles on the IT News site.
There are a few other articles on the IT News site that you might find interesting. Cindy Abercrombie provided an update on student printing. Elizabeth Hodas wrote about a variety of audiovisual improvements we will make over Spring Break in big Beckman and Hoch-Shanahan, complete with a photo of the instructor station, which is the same as the ones chosen for the TLB.   And we have an update on the Portal Advisory Group.

So, while you faculty and students are away, the CIS mice won’t be at play.  Have a great Spring Break!

 

Update on Portal Advisory Group

Screenshot from 2013-03-14 17:30:10I’ve written about the Portal Advisory Group before.  Affectionately known as PAG, it’s a group that will assist us with setting priorities for the Portal, starting from the premise that the portal is a tool which we know HMC has not used to its full capacity. The group will guide CIS and the College in improving and expanding use of the portal.

The following people have all agreed to participate and I am grateful to them.

Mark Ashley (Registrar, Chair)
Lauren Kim (Assoc Registrar)
Susan Selhorst (CIS)
Cindy Abercrombie (CIS)
Paul Steinberg (HSA)
Vatche Sahakian (Physics)
Tim Hussey (OCA Communications)
Jennifer Greene (OCA Communications)
Guy Gerbick (DOS)
Scott Martin (BAO)

We are also seeking one or two students to help with this initiative.

The first meeting is being scheduled for just after Spring break.

I look forward to good outcomes!

Spring Break Audiovisual Renovations

Teaching StationOver Spring Break the Audiovisual staff will be working with Facilities and Maintenance and our vendor DJL to implement several renovation projects. In the Beckman Auditorium, Beckman B126, we will be installing a new main screen to replace the rear projection screen. We will also be installing a new video projector in the ceiling. We will be removing the old podium and putting in a new teaching station like the one chosen for use in the new Teaching and Learning Building. The audio equipment and DVD/VCR player will be installed into the new teaching station.

In the Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons we will be installing additional audio speakers to improve the sound quality on the west side of the dining hall during events held in the main dining hall.

We’ve also been working on some colorful instruction sheets to be installed in the Green Room, the Aviation Room, and other rooms to make it easier to use the control systems and audiovisual equipment in those rooms. Those should be installed over Spring Break as well.

Faculty Computing Survey Results

survey-300x224In late Fall 2012 the computing committee ran a survey of faculty, asking three questions about information technology at HMC.

About 50 faculty responded to the questions, and almost everyone wrote a few lines of comments in response to each question – in addition to giving scores.

Question 1: How satisfied are you with the current teaching services provided by the CIS (e.g. Sakai, portal, classroom support, labs, etc…)?

– Average letter grade: B- (2.57/4.00, 54 respondents)

Question 2: How satisfied are you with the other services offered by the CIS (email, research related services, laptop/desktop support, etc)?

– Average letter grade: B- (2.69/4.00, 55 respondents)

Question 3: How satisfied are you with the current computing services offered by your own department (e.g. email, website, lab, course support, etc)?

– Average letter grade: C+ (2.35/4.00, 49 respondents)

The spread of each score was roughly 0.50/4.00, with a bigger spread for the third question.

The committee summarized by saying that things have improved and are going in the right direction, but that there is still work to be done.

The computing committee members this year are:

Vatche Sahakian (Chair)
Alfonso Castro
Weiqing Gu
Jacob Bandes-Storch ’14
Joseph Vaughan

The committee made four recommendations of its own and added more recommendations coming from the Faculty Executive Committee. You can read the full report, with my responses to each recommendation at the following URL (HMC Credentials required to access the document):
http://goo.gl/oqxiF

MathWorks MATLAB Seminar at HMC for The Claremont Colleges

matlab_logo_smallWe are excited to announce a free half-day MathWork Seminar at Harvey Mudd College for The Claremont Colleges. Please join us on Friday, March 8th from noon to 4:00 pm in Math Seminar Room on the 3rd floor of Sprague. A light lunch will be provided. Seats are limited, so please register online at http://www.mathworks.com/HMC2013. Details below.

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Technical Computing with MATLAB at Harvey Mudd College
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—Register now—
Register at http://www.mathworks.com/HMC2013

—Agenda—
Presenter: Saket Kharsikar, Application Engineer
12:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. Registration and Lunch
12:30 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. What’s new in 2012b?

Highlights include:
• New MATLAB Desktop
• Packaging and Installing MATLAB Apps
• Redesigning help
• Import tool enhancements for text files

1:15 p.m. – 1:40 p.m. Break

1:40 p.m. – 3:40 p.m. Mathematical Modeling with MATLAB
Mathematical models are critical to understanding and accurately simulating the behavior of complex systems. They enable important tasks such as forecasting system behavior for various “what if” scenarios, characterizing system response, and designing control systems.

This session will show how you can use MATLAB products for mathematical modeling tasks, including:

• Developing models using data fitting and first-principle modeling techniques
• Optimizing the accuracy of mathematical models
• Simulating models and post-processing the results
• Documenting and sharing models

You will also learn about different approaches you can use to develop models, including developing models programmatically using the MATLAB language, deriving closed-form analytical equations using symbolic computation, and leveraging prebuilt graphical tools for specific modeling tasks such as curve and surface fitting.

Q&A 3:40 p.m. -4:00 p.m.

—Register now—
Register at http://www.mathworks.com/HMC2013