Friday, April 24, 2015

U of M will retire Netfiles in April 2016

The Twin Cities has announced the retirement of Netfiles ( in April 2016.

The Netfiles software and hardware are very outdated, and upgrading them will be prohibitively expensive. Since the University offers other storage options (Google Drive, Active Directory, etc.) it is in the best interests of the University to retire Netfiles. Please plan over the next 12 months to migrate your files off Netfiles to other locations.

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 CV on Netfiles, or your department may link to forms available on Netfiles. (In both cases, 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.

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.

Reminder: U of M is retiring UThink Blogs

I wanted to share another reminder about UThink blogs ( going away in June.

OIT and the TC Libraries are retiring the UThink blog service in June. This has been pushed back a few times to give more time to faculty who needed to move content and personal blogs off of UThink to more suitable locations such as Blogger or Moodle.

Existing blogs on UThink are still accessible, including editing capabilities, until June.

Over the last year, we have directly communicated with everyone using UThink, and we have shared several reminders and updates(1)(2)(3). We have helped several faculty and staff to migrate their blogs. We don’t believe any Morris faculty or staff still use the UThink blogs, but wanted to send another reminder just in case.

If you are still using UThink blogs at, please let us know so we can help you to transition your blog to a new service.
image: UThink

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Analyzing rhetorical texts made easy

If you saw the DICTION demonstration at this week's open house technology showcase and want to learn more, join me on Tuesday April 28, 4:00-5:00 in the HFA Media Lab!

What is DICTION?

If your research involves analyzing texts, DICTION can help you! DICTION is a computer-aided text analysis program for determining the tone of a verbal message. Conceived by rhetorical analysis scholar Roderick P. Hart, DICTION generates a "fingerprint" about rhetorical texts based on several key variables.

MaryElizabeth Bezanson and I have been working with DICTION for the past year - and this Spring, Dr B has used DICTION as a tool in her Speeches That Changed the World class, to help students analyze rhetorical texts.

The power of DICTION is comparing multiple texts at once. Here's an example analysis of the speech style of Queen Elizabeth II, for all her Christmas addresses 1952-2014: (I added the notes)

(click to enlarge)

DICTION processed these speeches in 15 seconds, giving the researcher a jump-start in analysis.

DICTION can be used to analyze all sorts of texts: speeches, novels, political ads, inaugural addresses, court opinions, etc. If you can put it into a text file, DICTION can analyze it!

Join me on Tuesday afternoon to learn more!

Improved wireless networks on campus

It is my pleasure to share that we have upgraded the wireless networks in several campus buildings, as of this week. These buildings include:
  • David C. Johnson Independence Hall
  • Humanities
  • Camden Hall
  • Dining Hall (entry)
We listen to campus feedback about what areas need additional wireless networks, and we continue to work closely with Facilities Management and the Office of Information Technology to do these network upgrades. During the summer, we plan to continue the campus network upgrade in these buildings:
  • Dining Hall
  • Campus Apartments
  • Briggs Library
I would like to thank Mike Miller, Robert Thompson, Dave Savela, and our partners in the Office of Information Technology for their work on this phase of the ongoing wireless network upgrade.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Making wise purchases

A recent issue of Destination CRM discusses How to select a CRM system. For those who don't know, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and is a powerful tool in fields such as marketing and sales—and on university campuses, admissions. The article shares advice from industry experts on selecting an organization's first (or perhaps new) CRM system.

I wanted to take the article a step further. These steps aren't just how to choose the right CRM system, but how to make any wise project decision. A few of these lessons are paraphrased, but overall these reflect the CRM article:

Ensure readiness
  • Conduct honest internal evaluations
  • Involve every relevant department
  • Be mindful of your organization's size
  • Know your customers' expectations
Work with the right vendor
  • Research as much as possible
Maintain your system
  • Set reasonable goals and expectations
  • Plan for success
  • Prepare for failure

Friday, April 10, 2015

On feedback and self-improvement

I recently had an opportunity to participate in a self-improvement survey, focusing on emotional intelligence, or EI (sometimes called EQ, as a reflection of IQ). In his 2004 article from Harvard Business Review, “What Makes a Leader?” Daniel Goleman lists five components of emotional intelligence:
  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skill
Comparing myself to this list, and matching to my own survey results, I consider myself strongest in Motivation and Social Skill. For example, Goleman attributes a socially-skilled leader as persuasive, maintaining an extensive network to influence change. Building a relationship network is an important part of leadership. Relationships are currency; leaders sometimes need to use relationships to make deals, smooth over conflicts, and generally just get things done.

Referencing my Motivation skill, Goleman describes a highly-motivated person as having a passion for work and new challenges, and unflagging energy to improve. I enjoy finding new challenges and opportunities to stand out. Although this needs to be taken in moderation, to avoid overload.

I consider Self-awareness to be my development area. Goleman indicates self-aware people recognize how their feelings affect them, other people and their performance. While I believe I understand how my own feelings affect me, my EI feedback suggests I need to recognize how I affect others.

For example: Before I came to Morris, I worked in the Office of Information Technology at the Twin Cities campus for twelve years. I often leverage that background to inform my decisions. Sometimes in meetings at Morris, I may refer to my experience there by saying “When I was in OIT…” But that phrase sends the wrong message.

My growth opportunity is to be aware of the reputation that precedes me. I am not “OIT” but by continuing to reference OIT in my discussion, I send the message that I am.

Feedback is a gift, and I welcome these gifts. If you observe me using “When I was in OIT…” statements, find a private moment to share that feedback with me.
image: Mark Smiciklas

Friday, April 3, 2015

3 innovations that change how we think

I recently discussed "innovation" with a colleague, and in our discussion we highlighted three innovations that change how many of us approach technology and view the world. I'd like to review them here:

1. Free Software and Open Source Software

Since the computer was first introduced as a business tool, an industry sprang up around the computer to sell new systems and software to go with it. This was proprietary software, a business model where customers could only get improvements to the programs by purchasing new versions from the vendor.

In the early 1980s, Richard Stallman had an idea that software should be free—not free as in “zero cost” but free as in “freedom.” In Stallman’s vision, everyone should have the ability to modify computer programs to add new features or to fix old bugs. Core to this idea was releasing the source code, the instructions that define the behavior of computer software. In 1983, Stallman launched the GNU Project, an effort to produce software that was free for everyone to use, modify, and share. This was the genesis of “Free Software.”

The GNU Project focused on replicating Unix, a specialized operating system. Since Unix was often used in universities and laboratories, both filled with capable programmers who were often equally eager to see new features in the software they used, the GNU Project gained adoption.

While many people used GNU programs, others created new programs that filled other niches. Not everyone agreed with Stallman’s definition of “free as in freedom,” and distributed their programs using a slightly different but similarly free model. In 1998, Eric Raymond coined the term “Open Source Software” to describe any program where the source code was available to end users. But under the Open Source Software model, programs could be sold or shared under conditions that were more flexible for commercial businesses.

Free Software and Open Source Software aren’t technical innovations; they are cultural changes rooted in technology. Through the Open Source Software model, many programmers can work together to improve computer software: fix problems, add new features, and make the program more efficient. This cultural exchange means that programmers can improve software at a pace previously unheard of in the computer industry. Without the innovation of Free Software and Open Source Software, computing might still be stuck in the era of DOS or the mainframe.

Much of our modern technology is built on Free Software and Open Source Software, although we may not realize it. The popular Apache web server supports most popular websites. Google’s Chrome web browser and the Firefox browser are both based on Open Source Software. Windows and Mac OS X use components derived from other Open Source Software programs.

2. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices

Mobile phone companies provided phones that incorporated “Personal Digital Assistant” software since the late 1990s and early 2000s, but it wasn’t until 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone that the “smartphone” market became what we recognize today. In 2010, Apple followed up the success of the iPhone with the iPad, a tablet computing device that used the same software and apps as the iPhone. Other smartphones and tablets using the Android operating system also compete in this market.

The mobile device innovation has changed the computing landscape. We see this cultural shift at the University of Minnesota Morris. Two years ago, only a few of our students used iPads or other tablets in the classroom. Today, they are everywhere, and their numbers are growing. My campus estimates about two-thirds of our students use a mobile device to interact with the university. This trend is reflected in other institutions, too. According to a November, 2011 study by research firm Nielsen, two-thirds is typical of mobile device adoption with 18-24 year olds in general.

3. Streaming media

It wasn’t too many years ago that the usual way to watch movies at home was on VHS tape, played in a VCR. The DVD replaced VHS in the mid-1990s. Offering higher quality and greater longevity, the DVD quickly became the de facto standard for buying movies to watch at home, and many of us re-purchased our favorite movies on the new DVD format. The Blu-Ray released some ten years later provided essentially the same experience as the DVD, but in HD resolutions. Again, many consumers invested heavily in Blu-Ray to watch their favorite movies at home.

Today, the industry is shifting away from content based on plastic discs, moving to streaming media. Many of us are already there. Networks now provide sufficient bandwidth to stream high definition content over the Internet. Movie studios are embracing this trend, at least in terms of releasing streaming media ahead of disc-based media. In September 2012, Fox released the movie Prometheus three weeks ahead of DVD and Blu-Ray.

I feel the impact of the streaming media innovation in my personal life. For example, even if I have a movie in my personal DVD or Blu-Ray collection, I often choose to re-watch the movie via streaming media (Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Instant Video) rather than locate the plastic disc from deep in my entertainment center shelves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Coming soon to classrooms

I was among the first in line when Google released the Chromebook, an ultra-portable low-cost laptop that instantly connects you to the Internet. The idea behind the Chromebook is that we don't really need to store things locally anymore. Instead, we use the Cloud for email, documents, collaboration, video, and pretty much everything we do. So the Chromebook's goal is to get you online as quickly and easily as possible, and connect you to those Cloud services. As suggested by the name, the Chromebook comes pre-loaded with Google's Chrome web browser.

At work, I often use a Chromebook, especially when I need to be portable. While I have a traditional laptop from Dell that boots both Windows and Linux, much of my work is done via the U of M Google Apps, such as Gmail and Docs. We purchased this Chromebook with department funds so we could loan it out; if you are faculty or staff at Morris, let us know if you'd like to borrow the Chromebook.

Chromebooks have been used in education since they were first introduced. The low cost of the Chromebook (about $250) means universities and schools can purchase more Chromebooks than traditional desktops or laptops, for the same cost. A single Dell laptop might cost around $1200, but schools can purchase almost five Chromebooks. And because everything is stored in the Cloud, there are few security concerns if a Chromebook is stolen or lost.

Along the same lines, Google introduced the Chromebox. This is the desktop equivalent of the Chromebook. Connect your own mouse, keyboard, and HDMI display to the Chromebox, and you are up and running within minutes. The Chromebox represents the changing face of the desktop, another option that organizations might use to support the needs of their users. And at $200, I foresee the Chromebox as a wise investment by universities and schools, particularly as classroom computers. As you plan your organization's IT future, consider if the "classic" Windows or Mac desktop is really what you need. Especially if you find yourself using web-based applications, as many people now do, maybe it's time to take next steps with a web-enabled device.

ASUS is following up the Chromebox with a new device later this year. The Chromebit looks like a large USB fob drive, but actually runs the same system as the Chromebox. Just plug the Chromebit into an HDMI display, and pair a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, to instantly get to work. C|Net has a brief review and highlights the Chromebit will be available this summer for $100. Our department will plan to purchase a Chromebit to experiment with. I'd love to explore this tiny device as a possible classroom computer, or even a lab computer in spaces that don't need specialized software. (In future, I'd also like to leverage virtualized applications or "VDI" to make specialized software available in all our labs—and possibly to small devices like the Chromebit—but I'll describe that plan in another post.)

photo: Google