- Information TechnologyInformation Technology
Tell The CIO Responses Archive
10/22/13: We have a blazing fast fiber optic internet connection. But our wireless connection is honestly terrible in many buildings including libraries. The wireless connection also often disconnects VoIP and video calls. I think we should have a better coverage and QoS on both wireless and wired connections for streaming data, though this just may be poor connection. Thank you!
GB: This is indeed worrying. Unfortunately, we can't troubleshoot without specifics like date, time, location, and generally what you were trying to do. Whenever you have issues like this, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with those details. We have monitoring tools which can be used to identify the source of the problem, and we continuously add new wireless access points as we become aware of weak points in the network.
10/18/13: I'm in the AAS and I have had a couple of students propose an interesting idea: a mobile printing station in Valentine Dining Hall. I know there are some logistical constraints, but for example, the study room across the Ombudsman's Office is a nice, calmer location more accessible to students. I would also like to know the usage data for the printer in Keefe, I think it would be much more helpful if it was relocated to Valentine.
GB: We need to give the printer in Keefe some time, to see how well it works out. The challenge in locating a printer has to do with support and there isn't anyone in Val that we could ask to provide support and oversight so I don't think that would work.
10/2/13: I am a senior at Amherst and as I look through jobs for next year, I realized how helpful it would be if IT could offer workshops on basic types of computer skills and programs. For example, Quick Books, Photoshop, and other programs employers often require proficiency in. This would be cool not only for applying to jobs, but just for learning how to use different kinds of software.
GB: Thank you for writing. IT offers unlimited access to training courses from Lynda.com. Lynda.com offers comprehensive, in-depth courses on the software you mention, as well as most major software, programming languages, and even cameras and other hardware. IT does offer some in-person trainings, such as in video and audio production, but the Lynda.com offers a far more comprehensive selection than we can provide. The Linda courses are segmented and asynchronous, so you can learn at your own pace.
9/23/13: Hey Gayle, I'm on the ACEMS board of directors and I had an idea about how we can use IT in order to make ACEMS more efficient. ... I was thinking that if IT was willing to work with us, we could install another computer, or tablet (like the windows RTs the post office has), and use it for inventory purposes. We also currently use a paper system for tracking the number and types of medical responses we have. This system makes it very hard to compile statistics for ourselves, and for community awareness. A new computer or tablet would help in this aspect tremendously.
GB: I suspect that the hardware part of this would be easy, and that the software would be the question. For example, we use the library catalog system to track equipment going in and out of the Multimedia Services collection of cameras, etc., but another office asked to use their system and it didn't work out for whatever reason. Let's work together to explore this in more detail.
9/12/13: I'm just wondering if the College has thought about circulating laptops to the AC community.
GB: Multimedia Services has 5 laptops (3 Mac and 2 PC) which may be borrowed briefly by faculty or administrators who need to give a presentation or for Skype. We use them ourselves for events around campus, in the Mullins/Farber Room, Alumni House, etc., so they don't circulate for long-term loan. Also, it's not a simple transaction, as every time a laptop is borrowed, we have to re-image it to protect individual privacy so we don't anticipate expanding the service.
9/8/13: Do we have access to the Moodle Mobile app?
GB: Thanks for your question. The Moodle developer community has been talking about a mobile version for a long time, but it hasn't happened yet. There is a mobile template which we are looking at and may implement. I hear that it isn't very attractive, but that may not be all that important.
8/29/13: Just wondering if there's a reliable way to add funds to a kid's AC dollars account through my bank's online bill paying system. I pay many bills that way, but if I title the account "Trustees of AC" there's no way to specify it for this purpose.
GB: That's an interesting idea, and one we haven't explored. We are within days (I hope) of letting people add funds to AC Dollars using a credit card and we're pretty excited about that. I'll pass your idea along to the Controller's office for their consideration.
8/27/13: I have two requests/comments ... The first pertains to ACDATA ... I am finding that once I dive down within a subject/task (like approving a students preferred course list), there is no menu/easy way to jump to other menu items for a given student. Instead, in order to navigate through ACDATA, one must frequently return to a menu several layers up and then dive back down, creating many clicks and mouse strokes. ...
Second, I have on more than one occasion found it difficult to reach the IT Homepage, which these days has quite a bit of information for both students and faculty. ... Would it be possible to make either a page with the important technology links more prominent (and separate from IT as a department) or make the IT page itself more easily accessible? More than one student has told me they don't know how to find how much money they have on there AC Dollars.
GB: Thanks so much for your great message. The first is harder to address because of the limitations of the underlying toolset, and the second has come up before but not made it to the top of the list. Your email will trigger a new discussion on that topic.
8/25/13: I just wanted to thank you, and the rest of Amherst's IT Department, for all the improvements you've made over the last year. Quite simply, I finally feel like I'm attending a college taking advantages of 21st century technology. I look forward to seeing what you do over the next few years, and, given the chance, I would love to work with you in anyway I can.
GB: Thank you for your very kind note! It's been fun to add services for students, and we hope to do more so we are always open to suggestions.
6/28/13: It would be great to have an online archive of scholarly works produced by students and staff, like the one maintained by the Claremont Colleges at http://scholarship.claremont.edu/about.html (external link).
This will be especially helpful for researching about past thesis works, as the student will no longer have to go through the trouble of individually ask the author to gain access to an electronic copy of the thesis work.
Guest response courtesy of Kelcy Shepherd, Head of Digital Programs in Frost Library: IT and the Library have been collaborating on Amherst College Digital Collections (ACDC), which will provide an infrastructure for scholarly works as well as the digital images, manuscripts, books, etc., to which it now provides access. In the fall, faculty articles published under the open access resolution will be added to ACDC. College conversations about publishing student theses online in ACDC have begun, and the necessary policies and process are likely to be in place in the next year.
6/28/13: I like the new online apps for AC Laundry and for AC Dollars transaction history.
I would, however, like to request that we take this one step further. The current method of putting AC dollars on our id cards is really inconvenient. I have to go to the nearest ATM (either Keefe or town), get money out, and go to Valentine Dining Services, assuming it is open on that day (not open on the weekends!!!).
If my mother wants to put AC dollars on my account, it takes two days to register, and again, the weekend problem.
Why don't we have a system where---now that I can access my spending history online--- I can simply fill up my card using a debit card?
GB: Thank you for wiriting. We have been working on this issue with the AAS, and are happy to annouce that starting next year, online deposits to AC Dollars with credit and debit cards will be possible. The AAS has generously agreed to cover the credit/debit card transaction fees for the first year.
6/28/13: I think we need printers in other locations such as dorms since they are accessible in the wee hours of the morning before the Libraries open. They are also available at other key times such as last days of school and summer weekends so that people can print their work, boarding passes and other pertinent documents. Any assistance you could give would be greatly appreciated!
GB: Over the summer we plan to install print-release stations at our public printers, which will allow students to use their ID card to release print jobs.This system will allow for mobile printing from tablets and smartphones. We hope to increase the printing options available on campus, and are exploring staffed locations such as the Campus Center for additional printers.
6/5/13 Gayle - has there been any consideration of forming a Project Management Office (PMO) at Amherst? As a PMP coming from a corporate environment, I have seen first hand the value of such a group in providing support to large IT projects and sharing best practices. Given the size of Amherst, this might be a one person/part-time role.
GB: This is an interesting question, and we have talked about it a little. Some groups, like Telecommunications and Networking, run many projects and have good PM skills. In other groups, the chance to lead a project gives us a rare opportunity to give staff in-house professional development. At the moment, our approach is that everyone in the department needs PM training/experience, so we're doing some work with "agile project management." You may be right; it's an important skill set and something we need to keep in mind.
5/30/13: I just wanted to applaud IT for your new Web Laundry service! My only complaint is that I wish this service had started earlier. It's a really convenient feature to be able to check my AC balance online. I can't even remember how many times I went down to the vending machine to swipe my card and cancel just to see my balance. Good work!
GB: Thanks for your note! I'm so glad you find it helpful. It's fun when we get to do something that directly helps students.
5/21/13: Our meeting rooms need improved AV equipment. We currently a TV and DVD/VCR player on a cart from 2003, no screen, speakers, etc. They are used regularly for departmental and office meetings and workshops. How can we go about upgrading our technology capabilities?
GB: The Information Technology budget is sized to support a regular replacement cycle for equipment in classrooms and presentation spaces such as the Cole Assembly Room and Stirn Auditorium. Equipment for department-specific spaces needs to be funded by the department. We are very happy to make recommendations and work with you on the purchase and installation.
5/18/2013: What is the name of the cord that connects the computer to the internet modem? It looks like a big telephone cord, but I can't remember the name of it.
GB: This cord is called an Ethernet Cable. They are avalbile online, and also at places such as Radio Shack. There are many different catagories (for example Cat5, Cat6) - any of them will work fine for you, as long as it says ethernet.
5/16/13: Hi Gayle. I can't add attachment on amherst.exchange.edu while using Chrome. It works on Safari, though. Any reason this issue is occuring? Thanks!
GB: Currently you can’t add attachments to email messages using Web Mail (a.k.a. Outlook Web App) with the latest version of the Google Chrome browser for Windows and Mac. Adding attachments works fine with Web Mail and the latest versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari browsers, just not Chrome. Google released a Chrome update at the end of March and we think that is when the problem started.
5/6/13 Printing Submissions:
1. If people are adamant about keeping the green sheets, my friend has come up with the idea to use blank green sheets to separate print jobs and show the cost info on the computer screen, that way the green sheets can be continually recycled. It would also be a lot better if we knew exactly from which printer to get our print outs from instead of looking through all of them.
2. Can we have at least a printer in each building? It might be convenient to print drafts early in the morning when all the places are closed or I just need a quick hard copy of a reading.
GB: Over the summer we plan to install print-release stations at our public printers, which will allow students to use their ID card to release print jobs. This will allow us to eliminate green sheets while hopefully mitigating some of the confusion that ensues without them. Additionally, this system will allow for mobile printing from tablets and smartphones. We hope to increase the printing options available on campus, and are exploring staffed locations such as the Campus Center for additional printers.
5/6/13 Web Laundry & AC Dollars Submissions:
1.We can get absolutely awesome system for laundry but no emails for packages? Let's do that next! Great job, Gayle.
2. I love the new laundry indicator that is available online! For even further convenience, it would be cool if this were made into an iPhone application!
3. Hi Gayle, just read the email about the new web laundry updates. Thanks so much. Would it be possible to create a platform so that students may add AC dollars online using a debit/credit card? I know a bunch of universities do this. Hopefully, we can too!
GB: I am glad you are enjoying this system, and appreciate your feedback. We hope that these are only the first of a series of enhancements to the AC Dollars/ID Card program. Various departments and AAS Senators are currently working on a solution for credit card deposits to AC Dollars, and we hope to be able to begin next year with a system in place.
5/6/13: I am trying to watch a movie I assigned for my course on Moodle. The Java Runtime does not work on the desktop computer in my campus office. I have re-downloaded it, re-configured it, re-booted it, etc., and tried all of the suggestions that are posted online. I then called the faculty help desk. The young, well-intentioned person told me I needed someone to come to my office to address this and said he would "try to send someone". When I informed him that I needed to know whether or not someone was actually coming and could he call me back--since, as you can imagine, I can't just sit here wondering if someone will eventually show up--he said "yes" someone could call me. That was twenty minutes ago. The delay is unacceptable. I would understand easily if it were the case that no one were available to come see me right away. I know your department is oftentimes very busy. But keeping someone in suspense, when we are ALL very busy, is unacceptable. I should at least know by this point if someone is coming.
GB: I appreciate your feedback about difficulty with a call to the Help Desk. You are correct; the person you spoke with should have returned your call as soon as he checked to see if someone was available to make a house call, or to help by connecting remotely to your computer. This should have taken no more than five minutes. We have talked to the IT Specialist who was on duty about how to handle such a request more effectively.
4/26/13:This is the 2nd time this month that I cannot access Moodle or log in to the Amherst website. As a student, I have enough on my plate with all I have to do. The last thing I need is the worry of: will I even be able to access my homework. I am sorely disappointed with the unreliability of these campus staples and hope that you will make them more secure for the future.
GB: We truly regret the inconvenience the issue with Moodle logins caused. The issue last night originated in the system that handles logging in to Moodle (Shibboleth). Our systems team responded during the night to restore service, and have deployed measures to correct the problem that caused this interruption. We understand the importance of Moodle relaiblity, and are working hard to ensure that there are no further interruptions.
4/4/13: "Good morning, Gayle. ACData seems to have crashed, and it is advising week, as you know. I am eager to get back on it when it comes up. But when I go the IT page to see the status, it says there are currently no outages. How would we know when the problem is fixed or might be fixed. Thanks."
GB: Thank you for writing. The IT staff have a long history of only making public announcements about outages to a limited number of people (the NETSTATUS mailing list) and only for very extended outages. We are moving to a model of more frequent, more public, announcements and the AC Data issue last week was one where we should have provided more information.
3/19/13: "I just wanted to say that I wasn't really happy with the Help Ticket system here. I sent an email several days ago asking if the Windows 8 sold by IT was upgrade only or could install. Unfortunately, instead of simply replying to me, the whole process is taking days since it was made into a help ticket and then someone had to take it. The ticket says it was "taken" but I still haven't got a response. Isn't there some way that simple questions like mine can avoid this whole time-consuming ticket process and just get a simple quick answer?"
GB: "Thank you for letting me know. Actually, the ticket process is designed to speed things up and I'm sorry that wasn't the case in this situation. We track all calls and emails to the help desk so we can see patterns and find ways to provide better service. One thing we are learning is that we need an another layer of oversight to ensure that no tickets get lost in the system."
3/3/13: "I remember at the beginning of the semester Chrome was installed on the campus computers, but was soon removed. As many of the services I used are affiliated with google (mail, text, calendar, etc), the option of being able to use chrome on the campus computers allowed me to instantly sync all my bookmarks and widgets on whatever computer I was on."
"So, my question is, why was it removed? And why is Firefox preferred over Chrome? Is there any way to get Chrome back on the computers?"
GB: Thanks for letting us know that Chrome would be useful to you. It will be on the College library, lab, and classroom computers very soon! It's being added now and will need some time for testing and to be copied to all the public computers.
2/7/13: "Hi Gayle, I wanted to send a quick note to say that I am not very pleased with how the announcement about the Google apps for Amherst came out. I use (had used) my Google account with my amherst.edu log in. I've done that with other .edu accounts for years. Now, with Amherst taking my amherst.edu identity over on Google, it requires a rather annoying change for me (one I would really prefer NOT to have to make). More head's up about it AND more explanation of what would happen to our existing accounts (and how best to deal with it) would be been greatly appreciated.
"Overall I really like what you are doing and so I am sorry to have to write in with a complaint about this issue."
GB: I'm really sorry that this turned out to be such an inconvenience.
For reasons I don't fully understand, Google could tell us about some of the amherst.edu accounts but not others. We wrote to the ones we knew about, but you are one of at least a few people that we didn't know about so you didn't get the special warning.
The announcement time got compressed as we were testing/fixing/testing right up until the start of the semester, but we knew of some people who wanted to use it so we put a lot of effort into getting it ready and then rushed it out the door.
You're right -- it wasn't our finest hour.
1/31/13: "I wish the College's search button (at the top of the home page) worked better. Generally I have to go to the google page and type my search each time. For example "CIO request" didn't pull up this page. But it does come up in Google."
GB: Thank you for letting us know. The Search function is a topic of much conversation, and we'll continue to try to improve how this works.
1/30/13: "When I log into AC Data, I sometimes receive a message that 'The maximum number of cookie values has been reached' which forces me to re-start my browser"
GB: This is an issue with the commercial software that powers AC Data. You can avoid this issue by using the navigation inside AC Data rather than your browser's back button. The software behind AC Data is slated for replacement in a few years time, which should eliminate this issue entirely.
11/15/12: "I am really pleased about the multi-media additions to Smudd. As a Film & Media Studies major doubling in Theater & Dance, I can attest to the need for various kinds of media software, from Final Cut Pro to Photoshop. As a singer, songwriter & producer, I have really appreciated the music tools now installed in Smudd, especially Logic Pro.
"I would only suggest that Reason and Ableton Live be added, if possible. Because there is currently little studio-recording ability on campus, having Logic Pro is great, for creating loop-based music, but not as effective for creating full instrumental tracks or drum-based beats.
GB: I'm so glad you like the changes! Colleen Keenan is going to move four Reason licenses from Smudd 002 to the music-equipped floor machines. They weren't being used heavily downstairs.
10/22/12: "Can we have an online system where we can see if laundry machines are available without having to go to the laundry room with all our stuff? Also, maybe even an alert system for when the machines are done? I've seen other colleges that have implemented this."
GB: Staff from our Systems and Networking group have been in contact with our software vendor to determine the feasibility of implementing a system like this at Amherst. Stay tuned for more information as we further explore this system.
10/19/12: "Hi Gayle, A colleague mine sent me the following message. I'm hoping you can forward it to your staff member responsible for e-mail traffic. My Amherst address is: @amherst.edu. From what my colleague below tells me, it seems like someone is pretending to be me.:
"I wanted to alert you to the fact that I have received several messages presenting themselves as coming from you, but that are in fact sent from the following address: @yahoo.com. The messages usually contain a website link. I once connected to one of the website (not paying attention to the fact that you had not sent the original email) and got some publicity...."
GB: If you encounter any attempts phishing, or using email inappropriately, please email email@example.com or call 413-542-2526 and our Help Desk will help.
10/18/12: "Welcome to Amherst Gayle, I hope your transition is going smooth. I am a relatively new employee working in a technical role in the Advancement office with a background in IT and I was curious to get your thoughts on a few tools and resources I have found helpful in previous jobs. A tool such as Microsoft Lync would be very useful for staff on campus to use for Instant Messaging communication as well as desktop sharing and virtual meetings. Also, I could see a lot of value in a document management and collaboration tool such as SharePoint. Finally, do we have any technical standards, best practices, or lessons learned type repositories that could be shared among technical roles across campus? Thanks!"
GB: We are working to increase the tools available for collaboration and communication on campus. For example, we will soon launch Google Apps on campus, allowing document collaboration in real time. The IT website is currently being redesigned, and will better facilitate access to on-campus resources.
10/17/12: "It would be better if the computers in A-levels are cleaned regularly. The mouse I'm using right now has dirt collected underneath it. The table isn't clean either. While all Amherst students and staff who use it are also responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the computers and the tables, littering of the tables and computers can't be avoided. Hence, more frequent cleaning of the A-level would greatly benefit the students and the staff who use it."
GB: Thank you for brining this to my attention. Going forward we will work with facilities to increase the cleanliness of public computing stations.
10/17/12: "We should make part of Webster into a gaming lab. That way, at least it won't be so deserted."
GB: Since we arranged to have Webster 102 unlocked at night this semester, it seems to have turned into a destination for quiet study. However, SMudd 116 can be used as a gaming lab. Does that work for you?
10/17/12: Two comments on printing:
"One suggestion I have for IT would be to set up wireless printing. I know it would make my life a whole lot easier if I could print something from my computer and pick it up from a printer. ..."
"Hello! When will the libraries have wireless printing for Macs?"
GB: Wireless printing is on our list. I believe the challenge is in getting the print management software (Pharos) to work wirelessly.
10/17/12: "I've noticed that Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, etc) are not working for the PCs on campus. A strange error message comes up (about licensing I believe). They seem to be fine for macs though."
GB: Thanks for letting us know. We found the issue and have corrected it.
10/17/12: "... I have heard several suggestions from my friends on lucrative on-campus or five-college business ventures which I thought would be more successful if there was some mobile application or website as a platform for marketing such ideas/ventures. ... I was wondering if there is a way through which such students could be assisted in actualizing their ideas by developing and managing these sites and/or apps, especially in cases where the students have little or no prior programming background."
GB: Did you know that Lyle McGeoch is currently teaching a mobile application development course? Of course, it requires previous experience in programming. I'm not sure how a startup-incubator type environment might work here but it's an interesting idea.
10/12/12: "I saw the story about you in my alumni e-blast today, and sent it along to my parents! Welcome to the Amherst family!" [from a family friend]
GB: "How nice to hear from you! I hope you will stop in when you are here for reunion."
10/12/12: "I just learned of your appointment through Betsy Cannon Smith's email update. I'm so glad that my beloved alma mater has created a CIO position. ...
"I am an IT professional now. Naturally, I majored in Music at Amherst, and received an advanced degree...in Music. I agreed whole-heartedly with your comments about IT being a great place for creative minds. ...
"Good luck at Amherst. Great, creative thinking on implementing devices like iPads and Apple TVs throughout classrooms. These kinds of devices have endless possibilities for implementation on a college campus, and they're fairly cost-effective, too. Fascinating stuff!"
GB: Thank you so much for writing! The music-IT connection is very strong here as well. You'll be glad to know that we are making it easier for any student (not just those enrolled in certain courses) to create audio and video, as well as do music composition. Stay tuned!
10/2/12: "I would like to point out that the computers in Merrill Science Library have Firefox 3.x installed, along with a host of other outdated plug-ins, extension, and other browser software. The current version of Firefox is on 15.x release, and Google Chrome is on 22.x release. ..."
GB: Thank you for letting me know. We've traced the issue to an incomplete image refresh a few weeks ago, and this should be fixed by tomorrow (10/10/12).
9/25/12: "I want to commend the staff at IT. They are unfailingly helpful, knowledgeable, and offer calm guidance whenever a problem arises. Everyone I've worked with at IT possesses these admirable qualities. ..."
GB: Thank you so much! I agree; it's a pleasure working with this fine group of people.