Monday, July 27, 2015

Raise your security game

Google recently shared new research that compares how security experts and non-experts stay safe online. To be presented publicly at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, Google's research shares the results of two surveys: one from security experts, another with non-experts. The results demonstrates the top five practices that these classes of users employ to stay safe online:

Security Non-expertsSecurity Experts
  1. Use antivirus software
  2. Use strong passwords
  3. Change passwords frequently
  4. Only visit websites they know
  5. Don't share personal information
  1. Install software updates
  2. Use unique passwords
  3. Use two-factor authentication
  4. Use strong passwords
  5. Use a password manager

Which list describes your browsing habits? If you find yourself in agreement with the non-experts, you can raise your security game by using a password manager to keep your passwords for you. This addresses several problems. The biggest is that many people use the same password for different websites. They might pick one password that is easy to remember, then use that same password for their email, social media, and news websites. All good until one of those websites gets hacked, and now a bad guy has your password to everything.

With a desktop-based password manager such as KeePass, you can have the program set a random password for every website you visit. When you want to visit that website, you simply copy the password from the password manager, and paste it into the password field on the website. Done!

With a browser-based password manager such as LastPass, you also have the program set up a random password for every website. When you visit that website, you click an icon so the password manager can automatically fill in your username and password. Easy!

Using this method addresses items 2, 4, and 4 in the "Security Experts" list. It is an easy way to make your web browsing safer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reminder: Netfiles will be retired in April 2016

I wanted to share a reminder that the Twin Cities has announced the retirement of the Netfiles online storage for April 2016. At this time, no action is necessary—we just ask that you find time over the next year to transition your data out of Netfiles. This affects both individual users and departmental accounts.

For more information, read Netfiles Retirement at the IT@UMN blog.

We recognize that retiring Netfiles doesn’t just mean moving files. In some cases, this also means changing other things. For example, you may have your vitae on Netfiles, or your department may link to forms and other documents available on Netfiles. (In both cases, note that it is possible to share a document or form via Google Docs so that you can link to it from a website.) The Twin Cities is letting us know about the Netfiles service retirement early in the planning process so that you can have the time you need to prepare.

To prepare for this change, IT has made these account changes effective July 2015:

  • Netfiles storage removed for all account owners who do not have files stored in their Netfiles personal directory.
  • Will no longer allocate storage space to new users.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Network upgrades coming soon

I wanted to share a brief update on our plans to upgrade the campus network. As you know already, we are working on an ongoing project to update the campus network. A few years ago, in partnership with the Office of Information Technology, we modernized the campus network and increased desktop speeds for everyone. Since then, we continue to improve wireless network coverage across campus.

This Summer, we plan to update the wireless network in the Regional Fitness Center, the Library, the Dining Hall, and the campus apartments. This will bring much-needed improvement to these high-traffic areas.

Looking ahead to other projects, we are scheduling work in Pine Hall, Spooner Hall, Blakely Hall, Education, and the MRC. We are also examining ways to provide wireless access to the campus Mall area, and perhaps expanding wireless coverage in other campus buildings such as PE.

Don't see your building on this list? If you think we have missed an area, or simply to put another campus building on our "radar," please let us know! We are always listening to campus needs. We also seek campus input twice each year, as part of our IT planning process. In the Fall, we solicit IT feedback and project ideas as part of the "Big Block of Cheese" week. And in the Spring, we again meet with campus leadership and governance representation as part of OIT's IT Input Cycle. Project ideas are filtered through the TechPeople group, and acted on by various teams in the technology Partnership.
image: Jonathan Briggs

Friday, June 19, 2015

Campus Codefest 2015

I wanted to share this update from Chad Fennell on behalf of Campus Codefest 2015:

Campus Codefest 2015 registration is open. Register now!

What is Campus Codefest all about?
Campus Codefest is an event that allows IT staff from across the University to organize and work together based on common interests and skills rather than upon organizational structures and reporting lines. Primarily, it is about professional development and strengthening relationships within our community. Secondarily, it is an opportunity to explore solutions to cross-organizational problems.

Who should attend Campus Codefest?
Many talents and interests contribute to making a great Campus Codefest. Designers, operations engineers, educational technology professionals, business analysts, aspiring programmers, and anyone else interested in building stuff, documenting stuff, automating stuff, designing stuff, or otherwise helping out with or having ideas for projects are welcome to attend.

What kinds of projects are right for Campus Codefest?
Have a look at a projects from a previous year to get some inspiration. At the same time, don't let these ideas limit your thinking! We are a welcoming and friendly group. Don't be shy, post your idea today!

If you have questions, please feel free to contact one of the Campus Codefest 2015 committee members: Alison Link, Kemal Badur, Michael Berkowski, Chad Fennell, Craig Gjerdingen, or Paul Rubenis.

When and Where
Thursday, August 20, 8:00am–4:30pm Humphrey 50A/B HHHSPA
Friday, August 21, 8:00am–4:30pm Humphrey SPA 50A/B HHHSPA
image: Pablo BD

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thoughts on Low Carbon IT

I wanted to share a few more thoughts about our Low Carbon IT at Morris. The University of Minnesota, Morris is proud to be recognized by the US EPA for the ENERGY STAR Low Carbon IT Campaign!

At Morris, we have a campus culture of a renewable, sustainable education. That statement applies to our liberal arts education, and to our commitment to green energy and responsibility to the environment.

When we were asked to commit to low carbon IT, that was a no brainer for us. Just being part of Morris means we think first about how our decisions affect the environment. Everyone I work with at Morris thinks that way. When we purchase new computers, or look at new ways to apply technology, someone always asks "Is this sustainable?" or "Is this green?" It's part of our campus life to be low carbon.

So low carbon IT was something we were already doing. For example, one of the first things we did when Morris adopted Active Directory for computer labs and faculty and staff computers was to put computers into a low power mode when they weren't being used. This makes a big difference in our computer labs; when a computer isn't being used for a while, it just shuts down.

At Morris, we have two wind turbines that augment our electrical energy for the campus. We also have a biomass facility that provides much of our hot water.

Over the last year or so, I've been working on a research project with computer science students and faculty to monitor energy usage. The long term goal is to help our students better understand how they use energy. Our students are the kind that will wait half an hour to do laundry if it means running the machines from wind power.

Eventually, this project will produce an app or mobile website that shows the current energy usage for the campus, how much energy we generate from the turbines, and - most importantly - what our energy footprint will look like in the near future. We also want this to educate people about time of day pricing - how the cost of energy changes throughout the day.

The energy monitoring project is currently looking at energy and water consumption in our Green Prairie Living And Learning Community residence hall. Working on this project, our students are learning a lot and gaining a ton of new experience that they can apply to their lives and careers after graduation.
image: ENERGY STAR Low Carbon IT Campaign

Friday, May 8, 2015

ENERGY STAR Low Carbon IT Campaign

I am proud to share that the US EPA has awarded the University of Minnesota Morris in recognition of our commitment to improving the environment as part of the Low Carbon IT Campaign.


Morris is proud to be an ENERGY STAR Low Carbon IT Campaign Participant, part of EPA's ongoing efforts to help save energy and money. The ENERGY STAR Low Carbon IT Campaign is a nationwide effort to assist and recognize organizations for reducing the energy consumed by computers. Learn how you can reduce your carbon footprint and save up to $50 per computer annually by going to Low Carbon IT.

The Morris campus is committed to renewable, sustainable energy. As partners in technology, we contribute to that. For example, we have been working with student- and faculty-researchers on an energy monitoring project, to examine energy use on campus.

We are proud to be recognized by the US EPA for our commitments to green energy and promoting the environment!

For more information about our sustainability programs, visit Sustainability.

Looking back: DICTION software

This weekend, the University of Minnesota Morris will graduate more than 300 seniors. At the end of the academic year, I find myself reflecting on some of the great things we've achieved at Morris since the Fall.

This semester, I have been working alongside one of our faculty in her classroom, teaching students the DICTION software package to help them analyze rhetorical texts. DICTION is a computer-aided text analysis program for determining the tone of a verbal message. Conceived by rhetorical analysis scholar Roderick P. Hart, the DICTION software analyzes the words in the speech and does a categorization of each word used. We use five "master" variables to build a "fingerprint" of the speech: Activity, Optimism, Certainty, Realism and Commonality. This provides a jump-start in analysis.

This is rhetorical analysis made easy. DICTION can be used to analyze all sorts of texts: speeches, novels, political ads, inaugural addresses, court opinions, etc. DICTION supports texts in Word, ODT, PDF, and many other file formats. If you can put it into a file, DICTION can analyze it!


During the April 21 open house technology showcase, you probably saw Ron K's demonstration of the DICTION software. I also hosted an April 28 special demonstration of DICTION. If you are interested in using DICTION in your classes or in your research, please feel free to contact me.