Help us help you–participate in the ECAR survey

Many WSU faculty (50% of them, to be precise) have been receiving requests to take part in a national survey of faculty attitudes towards technology at the university. The survey is being run by Educause, the national educational IT organization. This is the second year this survey has been run, and last year’s survey produced some interesting results about faculty interests and desires around everything computing-related.

Last year’s results, which are available in ‘infographic’ format here:

http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ers1407/eig1407.pdf

Some relevant findings from last year:

  • Nationally, fewer than fifty percent of faculty are satisfied with IT support for research.
  • Opinions on the use of smartphones in class are mixed, with about half of faculty banning or discouraging them and only a third encouraging or requiring laptops (I myself don’t see how I could ban smartphones, and I’ve taught classes where laptops were required because we were all learning how to use some online tool).
  • Many faculty feel they could be better at using web-based content and online collaboration tools in their courses, but there was less enthusiasm about social media as a teaching tool.

There are two versions of the survey, one that takes about twenty minutes to half an hour, and another that takes only ten minutes. Whichever one you choose, your participation will be greatly appreciated, and will help C&IT plan our investments for the next couple of years.

Look for a reminder and your personalized invitation to join in the survey tomorrow. If you don’t get one, you’ll be asked to participate in a more general survey of IT satisfaction that all other faculty, staff and students will take part in later this semester.

Bruce Schneier says 1984 is already here

Bruce Schneier is a well-known security guru. He started out as a specialist in computer-based encryption, wrote a book for non-computer scientists about how public-key encryption worked, then became interested in the whole notion of security, both computer-based and physical, and finally, has just published a book on how society manages bad actors–in fact, how it defines them in the first place. I’ve met him a few times (he gave a talk here a few years ago) and I’m going to write a review of his latest book here in a few weeks.

But last week he had a scary article (CNN website) about how we’re already living in the surveillance state depicted in Orwell’s 1984  that I think everyone should read, so I’m (kinda) retweeting it

here

As always, any thoughts would be appreciated.

 

 

Are we doomed?

I don’t often just post somebody else’s blog, but this is radical enough, and intersects with my interests, so I thought I’d just point to it.

If you have your own comments, you might add them below.

HASTAC Website

More on the tragedy of Aaron Swartz

Yesterday I wrote about the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz, who was being prosecuted by the feds for publishing articles he downloaded from JStor,  even though JStor declined to press charges.

Just found out that he was one of the leaders of the movement to oppose SOPA, the ‘Stop Online Privacy Act’ that I blogged about earlier. Below is a link to a brilliant talk he gave in June about his role in this fight. I don’t agree with all his political asides, but generally he was right on, as far as I’m concerned. It’s about 25 minutes long, but you can run it in the background, as it doesn’t have any graphics–just a talking head.

Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?

Those of you familiar with British sitcoms might be aware of the show The IT Crowd, about an IT support office for a huge but mysterious company. Their catchphrase is the title of this blog. The reason I’m bringing this up is that C&IT is going to do just that this coming Sunday. Everything you know and love will go away from midnight Saturday night till 10 AM Sunday morning, and this blog is intended to provide a sense of why this is being done and what effects it will have.

As you might imagine, C&IT has hundreds of servers, running Pipeline, Blackboard, Banner and even each other. The last bit is because much of the C&IT infrastructure runs on virtual machines rather than having one operating system per machine, and there is also complex load balancing going on. When there are thousands of people visiting Blackboard at the same time a ‘traffic cop’ assigns them to different routes to the basic Blackboard files.
Consequently, the electrical power demands of these hundreds of units are very large, and require  a very elaborate system to assure continuous power. The system includes an enormous battery back-up system, and beyond that, a natural gas-powered generator to power the entire building independently when power problems occur. All this is necessary to deal with the vagaries of electrical supply in the city of Detroit, especially during the peak-demand summer months.

The electricity comes into the primary room to the un-interruptable power supply (UPS) system and is then routed to power distribution units (PDU’s) where the power is transformed from 480 volts to 208 volts before being distributed through panels that are similar to the circuit breaker panels in your basement. Over the years the number of servers has increased, and it’s time to rewire the PDU’s  in order to make sure that servers are connected redundantly to the PDU’s and subsequently the breakers. But, as you know if you’ve ever thought about doing this at home, you need to shut off the entire power supply before you touch anything. So, early on Sunday morning (specifically 12:01 AM) we’ll start shutting down all the computers. Because they are all interconnected, this is a complex and slow process. Then the electrical guys will do the rewiring, and finally we’ll turn it all back on again, which is again, a very slow and careful process. This is why we’re allocating ten hours for the complete change. It’s possible it will take less time, but just to be sure, we’re being very cautious.

So, everything you normally use (Blackboard, Pipeline, Banner, Wayne Connect email…) will be turned off between midnight and 10 AM Sunday morning. We’re hoping, because the university is closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day, that this will not be too disruptive.

Welcome to Proftech!

Geoff Nathan is a Professor of Linguistics in the English Department, and the Faculty Liaison to C&IT, a dual role he has held since 2002. For almost fifteen years he has schooled himself in the technology, politics and sociology of university computing. In addition to serving on the C&IT Leadership Team he is active in the national university computing organization EDUCAUSE.

ProfTech will have several goals. I expect to serve as a conduit to and from C&IT on issues of importance to Wayne, and especially with respect to faculty. I hope to highlight aspects of C&IT’s services that might be of interest to faculty, explore new technologies and also convey your concerns in these areas to C&IT’s management team. In addition I will talk about some of the issues facing IT nation- and world-wide. Many of these issues have larger ramifications in philosophy, politics and lifestyles, and I follow these developments and wory about how they affect academia.

Under most circumstances I will welcome comments on my blog, with the sole restriction being that civility should be maintained.