Information Technology Services

Drop Shadow

September 20, 2006

Minutes of the IRC Meeting, September 20, 2006

Present were members Karen Reed, Rosy Vacchi, Shahra Meshkaty, Bart Thurber, Nancy Carol Carter, Rich Pickett, Mary Kowit, Chris Wessells, Carole Huston, Jim Perry, Kathleen Kramer, Bill Roecker, Ani Velo, Jack Pope, John Yin, Ed Starkey, and Jerry Ammer. Guests present were Michael O’Brien, Vance Baker, Tina Wing, Indra Bishop, Andrea Saltzman, Liza Peterson, and Mike Somerville.

Apologies for email outage
Minutes of the last IRC meeting were unanimously approved. Chris Wessells began the meeting by apologizing for the recent email outage of last Thursday evening and Friday morning. Part of the problem was a lack of documentation on the cobbled-together email system we have had in place. With the new Mirapoint email and calendaring system coming on board, such problems will be eliminated.

HVAC update
It has been discovered that the cost estimates prepared by Facilities Management and Siemens are way too low for the amount of construction that needs to be done in order to upgrade the HVAC system in the IPJ computer rooms. ITS will try to find the funds elsewhere, possibly by putting the Student Technology Assistant system on hold or reducing storage space for faculty email

Kathleen Kramer wondered whether there’s not another vendor from which we could get an estimate. Chris said that the bulk of the additional costs are construction costs and regardless of the vendor, the work will have to be done. We may seek another estimate.

Computer lease/purchase program
Rosy Vacchi reported that in May 2006, USD negotiated a new contract with Dell. We will no longer be dealing with University Leasing. Our goal is to eliminate leasing university computers altogether in favor of purchasing. University Leasing had a lot of hidden overhead costs related to wiping and packing the returning computers.

We do have a budget shortfall and will not be able to replace all 3-year-old computers. As it becomes possible, we are working to get back on the 3-year replacement cycle. We should be able to do so by FY 07-08.

Chris said that we’re trying to find more money to infuse into the replacement program. Rosy reported that this year we had an $800,000 cost in leases. We will have more flexibility and less paperwork with Dell as the vendor, plus they’ll do all the wiping of hard drives, shipping of returned computers, etc. Chris admitted that Dell support is not perfect but it is scaled to the enterprise. Dell will send us parts and, if needed, technicians.

Rosy said that our techs can diagnose computers and order the parts & a Dell technician can come to repair. Chris commented that Rosy is in a tough spot, attempting to optimize computer systems for the entire campus. A system adequate for an executive assistant may not be adequate for the Engineering Department. With Dell, we do have some flexibility and can negotiate a price break for, say, 25 computers of a certain configuration.

Jack Pope inquired whether we have a lease with Apple also and Rosy replied that we do.

Kathleen Kramer wondered about the impact of the delayed replacement program on her department. Rosy said that replacements could be a year later than originally planned. Chris said that we’re making a commitment to dump more money into the replacement process.

Kathleen said that the ambiguity is the problem. Chris responded that faculty can help by speaking to the administration about the need for increased funding for the computer replacement program. He said that, for example, the School of Education and Leadership Science is adding 50 new computer systems to their number. ITS will be sending out a notice that replacement for other areas is likely to be delayed.

Rosy mentioned that each academic area has a representative, individuals chosen by the deans. A list of reps is posted on the ITS website under “Computer Options.”

Library updates
Michael O’Brien, Library Systems Manager, reported that Microsoft Office Professional is now installed on 30 workstations in Copley Library. There are now 68 public-use PCs available and the printer workstation is now more user-friendly; we’re also adding another printer workstation.

Michael has been working on a new Library website, which has a new look and feel, in compliance with USD website standards, and makes catalog and Circuit searches more readily available. It also introduces federated searching, which searches the USD collection, the Circuit, and the top ten databases in a single search. Also introduced will be an “Ask a Librarian” and a Frequently Asked Questions section.

In response to an inquiry by John Yin, Michael replied that to access the abstract page, the user will still have to go back to the full link. Bill Roecker stressed that many students ask how to get to the Library reserves on the webpage and that a link is really needed on the library home page.

Michael also reported that there are many new Innovative modules coming in, mostly back end. As of now, we’ve updated searching and can now save preferred searches.

Since Doug Burke was unavailable, Michael O’Brien spoke about introducing the Mirapoint webmail and calendaring product. Michael and Vance Baker have spearheading the testing of Mirapoint and also establishing how it interfaces with different PDAs.Vance will be doing much of the Mirapoint training.

Vance provided a demonstration of the Mirapoint webmail and calendaring features. Chris reassured faculty members that Mirapoint should provide USD with a much more stable and usable system. It’s used by many international corporations and other institutions of higher education including Mercedes, AT&T, SDSU, and UC Riverside. It will integrate with our spam filtering system. Installation of Mirapoint should allow us to begin discarding other devices. The target is 1 gigabyte of email space for faculty and staff members.

We can also set it to allow attachments of any size. It works the same on PCs and Macs and with a number of different web browsers. Chris projected that in 5 to 10 years, the university will not be doing email at all but the service will be provided by other entities. We are still evaluating Gmail as an option for students. The costs of Gmail are not yet clear. USD would have to provide a lot of in-house work to support it, whereas everything is built in to Mirapoint.

There were several other questions regarding Mirapoint, and Michael and Vance agreed to get the answers and circulate them to the IRC members. Click here to see the questions raised and the answers provided.

Shahra Meshkaty reported that this semester has been the busiest yet for WebCT. The implementation of the pilot program for WebCT 6 has proven more difficult than expected but the worst seems to be over. There were some roster issues which resulted from syncing a database but we’ve been able to get everything up to speed and it seems to be working well. We’re looking forward to the visit by the WebCT group.

Shahra mentioned the problem of many new faculty members not being aware that WebCT is available on campus and raised the issue of how best to communicate with them. She suggested that perhaps the various departments could assist in getting the word out.

Mike Somerville stated that the transition from version 4.1 to 6 is a big change. We want to make sure we have the systems in place before the rollout of version 6 and make sure that it’s running the way the manufacturer recommends. He also stated that it should be an easy transition when we migrate to Banner. WebCT has a very easy connector. The Network personnel will install application pack 1 next week when the WebCT representatives visit USD.

Shahra said that there are a huge number of training classes beginning in November on version 6, for both veteran and beginning users.

Indra Bishop distributed invitations to everyone to attend the Banner Kickoff. Carole Huston wondered when online registration will be available. She has already been getting calls from students. Rich Pickett said that we have a simple web registration in place now. Administrative Information Systems personnel will be glad to show you how it works. The phone registration system will be disabled. Chris said that before long we’ll have the Luminis system in place and students will be able to register using it.

The $1 million switch deployment is under way and approximately one-third of our network will be rebuilt. USD is migrating to all Cisco equipment. Tina Wing reported that we’re turning the configurations over to Cisco and they are deciding the priority of buildings to be redone. Our telecommunications staff will coordinate with the academic calendar and on-campus events.

Chris said that although the process will be causing some outages and inconvenience, in the end the network will work much better. For example, in the event of a rogue PC such as was discovered recently in Olin Hall, the new switches would have immediately shut down that port. Tina plans to post the work schedule on the USD website.

Chris emphasized that we currently have a system of mixed switches and routers. ITS plans to hire a network engineer. Cisco support is much better than that of the previous vendors.

Tina commented that we’re on an extremely accelerated schedule, beginning October 1 and expecting to finish in January. We’re starting with the classrooms, then the library.

Bill Roecker wondered whether the logout time for having to reconnect to the wireless system could be lengthened. Mike Somerville replied that we’re currently testing Aruba to lengthen the time. As a user, make sure your device is active and not in sleep mode.

ITS Budget
Liza Peterson was present to give a brief overview of the allocation of the ITS budget. Last year the budget was $3.7 million, with much of the money being spent on hardware.

Chris reported that he’s going to be giving a full accounting in his presentation to the Board of Trustees at their annual retreat. He will give the Board a summary of what we’re doing with technology at USD.

He also mentioned that USD is going to be inaugurating a policies committee for ITS. The next phase begins in October and some IRC members may be tapped for membership. The ITS policies need major updating and revision

Ani Velo asked whether the Mirapoint email and calendaring system logs you out. Mike Somerville replied that the user can set the logout time. We’re currently working to make Horde work better.

Minutes provided by Mary Kowit