This column is devoted to issues related to technology at the University of St. Thomas. It is a joint effort of Computing and Communication Services, Instructional Support Services and the university libraries. Please send your comments to tech_column@stthomas.edu.

From Computing and Communication Services

Summer is coming and with it, changes to campus computing technology. Keep reading for information on some of the changes we have planned between June and September this year.

Remote desktop administration
The number of desktop computers on campus is rising, campuswide software rollouts are becoming more regular, the need for quick distribution of security patches is growing, and demand for all sorts of support is up. How can we keep up with these demands? Remote administration of desktop computers is one answer.

Over the summer, we will be implementing Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) on campus PCs, and Apple network Administrator Toolkit (ANAT) on Macintoshes. Deploying SMS and ANAT will allow CCS support staff to perform a wide variety of tasks remotely. With this software, if a security hole is discovered in Internet Explorer, we’ll be able to automatically apply that patch to everyone’s computer — without making office visits. This software also allows us to inventory hardware and software (making it much, much easier to determine whether we’re in compliance with licensing agreements).

Finally, this software provides remote viewing and remote user assistance capabilities. With these tools, a technician or Help Desk specialist can — with your permission — bring up on their screens an image of your own screen. They’ll be able to see exactly what your computer is doing. They can even — with your permission — move your mouse pointer or type commands to your computer. This will allow the Help Desk to resolve more problems with the initial call.

We expect SMS and ANAT to help us provide faster and more efficient service to both PC and Macintosh users all over campus.

Summer computer upgrades
You probably already know if your desktop computer is scheduled for an upgrade this summer. In any case, everyone scheduled for an upgrade should be receiving a letter next week. If you’ll be gone over the summer, you should make a backup of your files before you leave, and provide CCS with the media for any non-standard software you want installed; this will allow us to have your computer up and ready for you when you return.

The new computers that we’re ordering will have the following minimum specifications (these specifications were updated at 10:45 a.m. May 12):

  • Desktop PCs: 533 Mhz processor; 256 MB RAM; 13.6 GB HD; 250 MB Iomega Zip Drive; CD/DVD-ROM drive; Windows NT 4.0; 17″ display.
  • Laptop PCs: 400 Mhz processor; 128 MB RAM; 10 GB HD; 100 MB Iomega Zip Drive;CD/ DVD-ROM drive; Windows NT 4.0; 14.1″ display.
  • Desktop Macs: 450 Mhz processor; 128 MB RAM; 10 GB HD; 100 MB Iomega Zip Drive; CD/DVD-ROM drive; Mac OS 9.x; 17″ display.
  • Laptop Macs: 400 Mhz processor; 128 MB RAM; 6 GB HD; 100 MB Iomega Zip Drive; DVD-ROM drive; Mac OS 9.x; 14.1″ display.

Desktop computers also will be equipped with speakers. Please note that Macintoshes no longer come with floppy drives.

New computers also will be installed in several computer labs and classrooms, including those in the Residence Halls, O’Shaughnessy Science Center and Owens Science Hall.

MacNet
To improve Macintosh access to the UST network, we’re installing MacNet software across campus this summer. This software gives campus Macs the same network functionality that campus PCs have. After starting up your Macintosh, you’ll be prompted to log in to the network, and two drive icons will appear on your desktop: My Storage and My Web. These drives contain your 30MB of central storage and your 10MB of Web space. This will give you the same instant drag-and-drop access to these directories that PC users have.

If you had an office Macintosh installed last summer, you may have had shortcuts provided to these directories, but this was not done in a consistent or uniform way. Starting in the fall, all Macintosh users will have quick (and recognizable) access to these directories.

This also means that if you’re a Macintosh user, you’ll have to log in when you sit down at your computer (as PC users do now). You’ll use the same username and password that you use for all your other campus resources (like e-mail).

Office 2000
Office 2000 is being rolled out in all CCS-supported labs this summer. A pilot project to test the software for individual use has been scheduled for early summer. A decision on full campus rollout will be made once this test is complete. If no major problems turn up in the pilot project, this software probably will be rolled out in the fall, with department-by-department software installations much like the e-mail rollout.

WebCampus
We are making a variety of improvements to the WebCampus applications over the summer. WebCT will be upgraded, a server will be installed to provide streaming audio and video, and more resources will be provided to help you use Web resources to enhance your courses.

The WebCT upgrade provides NT authentication (so you and your students will be able to use your standard UST username and password to access courses and resources), enhanced course listings, a streamlined method to map SIS courses to course URLs, and better integration between WebCT and library databases. It also will be easier to request the creation of online courses and to reset a course for a new group of students.