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May 2011 Newsletter
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Hamilton College




May 2011

In this Newsletter:

From the Editor

Beware: Viruses and Spyware Attack Macintosh Computers!

Wireless Upgrade in the Residence Halls

Extending Your Notebook Battery Life

Just in Case or Just in Time? Implications for Institutional Resources

Mobile Apps for the Adventurous User

Learning Opportunities - Nearly Limitless Possibilities!

Summer Computer Lab Hours

ITS Newsletter Archives

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Sa-Su : Closed

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From the Editor- Maureen Scoones

The dog days of summer are just around the corner (we hope). A time for ITS to deliver new equipment to you, upgrade software, and clean, repair and upgrade equipment in spaces around campus. Some of what we are working on is highlighted in this issue and more information will be provided next month. Wishing everyone a safe and enjoyable summer!

Beware: Viruses and Spyware Attack Macintosh Computers!- Debby Quayle

I’m about to be the bearer of bad news.  Your Macintosh may be a lot of wonderful things – it’s cool, it’s friendly, it has great apps.  The one thing it is not, however, is immune to viruses and spyware.  This past week, the ITS Help Desk has removed spyware (yes, real spyware) from at least four Macs.  We are also aware of reliable reports of live Macintosh viruses “in the wild” (spreading through the Internet).

You may ask, "Why now, after so many years of virus-free living?"  There are two key factors that have come together.  The first is that spyware and viruses today are primarily written by professional programmers who have gone over to the dark side (organized crime).  Viruses of old used to play nasty tricks on your computer for the amusement of some 15 year old with too much time on his hands.  Today, however, viruses and spyware are all about money.  Aside from dragging down performance, most of them rarely damage their host computer.  Instead, they lurk in the background gathering e-mail addresses and personal information, which will then be used to send spam and break into bank accounts.  The second important factor in this equation is “market share.”  If you’re in business to make money (even if it is acquired illegally), you still want the biggest bang for your programming buck.  Until recently, there simply weren’t enough Apple devices world-wide to make the effort worthwhile.  The recent rapid rise in popularity of “all things Apple” has changed everything.  Apple is now a lucrative target for the bad guys and you can bet they’re licking their lips. 

If you are still unconvinced that you need to protect your Macintosh now against the threat of viruses and spyware, consider the fact that in March of this year, Apple OS 10.6 was hacked in five seconds flat (through a vulnerability in a fully patched version of Safari) at the annual hacking competition called Pwn2Own

ITS has always known this day would come, which is why all college-owned Apple computers have long been protected against viruses and spyware with Sophos anti-virus software.  In addition, employees are allowed to install Sophos on their home computer as well.  The good news for students is that Sophos just released a free Macintosh version for the general public.

To install Sophos on your home Macintosh computer (employees and students)
Please visit the ITS Virus Protection web page and click to download the appropriate installation instructions.

Additional reading
Why we’re seeing Mac attacks now
Examples of a Mac attack

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Wireless Upgrade in the Residence Halls - Dave Roback

ITS is pleased to announce that the wireless network in all residence halls will be upgraded to the the 802.11N standard. The 802.11N system is the latest production wireless environment providing greater speeds and more access frequencies improving both range and coverage.  The hardware upgrade also allows for improved interference management.

To take advantage of the 802.11N benefits, students will need an 802.11N compatible network card.  The system is also backward compatible so your existing wireless card will work as it always has.

The project will begin once the residence halls are vacated and will be completed by August 2011.

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Extending Your Notebook Battery Life - Ryan Coyle

As we come up on another batch of computer replacements, many of you are making the move from desktop computing to more mobile notebook computers (especially those slick 13" notebooks). One of the biggest benefits of going mobile is untethering you from the wall and roaming free, whether it be working from the Quad or more likely the conference room down the hall. To enjoy the benefits of that freedom, however, you're going to need a battery that will support your newfound independence.

The Li-Ion (or Lithium-Ion) battery that comes with your new computer should last you two to three years providing there are no manufacturing defects with it, you don't play DVDs on it, and you don't use the battery all the time (it's OK sometimes). That being said, how can you squeeze more juice out of it so that you don't have to continually replace it and that it lasts more than 30 minutes. The best answer is to discharge the battery to 40%, put it in a plastic bag and stuff it in your freezer. No, I'm not kidding. I'm sure someone in Chemistry could tell you why that's the case, but I'm not that guy. Instead here are some practical alternatives to get the most out of your battery.

  1. Keep it cool man - The number one killer of battery life is prolonged heat. Make sure that when you have your computer running that the ventilation (left side and rear for Dells, rear for Apples) is not clogged or blocked in any way. The hotter the battery runs the faster its going to die.
  2. Unplug the external resources - When running on battery power, try to keep the external devices to a minimum. These include external mice/keyboards, phones, iPods, USB keys, etc. All of these devices consume power and put an extra strain on the battery when running.
  3. Turn off the wireless - While this might seem counterproductive there will be times when you have your laptop unplugged and you won't need network resources. The wireless antenna is a huge sucker of battery life as it's constantly on and scanning, looking for new networks while you send your important e-mails and pictures of Aunt Suzy.
  4. Don't leave disks in your DVD drive - Even if you're not using them, when you open Explorer or Finder the drive will spin up on occasion and this sucks a considerable amount of juice every time it happens. Corollary to that, copy files that you need from the optical drive if you can and run them locally. Your battery will thank you.
  5. Save the power - Your computer has built-in power schemes for use depending on how aggressively you want to save power. When you're going to be disconnected from the AC for awhile, switch to a power saver profile. This will automatically ramp down your power consumption by turning off some services as well as dimming your display. Don't forget to turn it back up once you're back on AC power as this will impact performance.
  6. Hibernate instead of Sleep - Sleeping (or Standby) turns off the hard disk and the display, but keeps RAM powered. This is a drain on the battery. Hibernation saves the contents of RAM to disk and then reloads it when you bring it back up. Hibernation shuts the machine down completely so you will save quite a bit of power here.
  7. Avoid multitasking - It goes without saying but the more applications that you have running the more battery they take. Avoid video intensive applications if possible as they're big battery killers. Keep it to one or two applications open at a time.
  8. Dim the lights - You can save quite a bit of power by lowering the brightness of your display as much as possible while on battery. Look for the F1 and F2 keys on your Mac and the Fn + arrow keys on your Dell to adjust the brightness.
  9. Pause the scheduled tasks - If you have any jobs that run automatically or a virus scan that runs at a certain time, make sure you're on AC power when those happen. Otherwise pause them and run them later when you are not on battery.
  10. Use the right adapter - the one that came with your computer is the best one to use to keep your battery charged. If you decide to get a second one or replace the one you have, make sure that the wattage of the replacement is correct. Having one with too high a wattage or too low can cause significant damage to your battery and possibly your computer. If you're not sure, contact ITS and we'll be happy to help.

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Just in Case or Just in Time? Implications for Institutional Resources - Dave Smallen

This past year ITS changed its approach to supporting the showing of films on campus. Previously, a student worker was assigned to deliver and show each film. The students stayed through the showing just in case a problem arose.   Now, most films come on DVD and are shown in spaces equipped with highly reliable DVD players that are no more complicated than the technology most people have at home.  After discussions with faculty, we changed the model to one in which the film is delivered (and started if necessary) and if a problem arises a call can be made to ITS and a person can come to the room to help just in time. The number of staff needed to support this second model is substantially less.  As long as equipment is reliable, the number of problems is minimal and the quality of service remains high.  Given the number of films shown on campus the annual savings in students and professional staff was over $50,000/year.

There are many other examples of these two models in use at Hamilton. Here are just two:
The Library acquires and maintains print books just in case they are needed by faculty and students at some point in the future.  The Burke Library currently houses approximately 500,000 such monographs.  At the same time, the Library subscribes to an Inter-library Loan (ILL) service that allows members of the College community to order a book that is not in the Hamilton collection.  This just in time service results in the book being borrowed from another library and delivered, generally within 24-48 hours. The future promise of having more books in electronic format portends reducing this time to seconds or minutes.

Student learning can be thought of as a process of acquiring knowledge. A traditional view of student learning was one characterized as transferring knowledge from the faculty member and books to the student just in case the student might need to use that knowledge in the future.  Memorization played a large part in the process and most of what was memorized was soon forgotten.  As more information is accessible through the Internet, the focus has shifted to teaching students the key thinking skills that help them acquire and evaluate information when they need it.  These skills are part of what is currently called “information literacy.” With the increasing use of highly mobile devices (such as smart phones) this information can be available just in time.

The major cost of providing a service is usually the people who deliver that service.  Of the two models, just in case is generally more expensive. Sometimes the additional cost can be justified by the quality of the service that is provided, but we should be open to considering both approaches.

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Mobile Apps for the Adventurous User - Nikki Reynolds

This is the article in which ITS offers some assistance in identifying potentially useful applications for your smartphone or mobile pad-like device. We are targeting the “Adventurous User” who is ready to use technologies that ITS, for one reason or another, is unable to support. When we last checked, that covered quite a lot of the campus population. This month, we offer some Android OS applications. Note that we haven’t tested all of these, and we don’t support any of them. Nonetheless, we hope you will find this information useful.

This month, a couple of Android applications we garnered from “ProfHacker,” in this instance by Mark Sample, in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Dropbox, RunKeeper by FitnessKeeper Inc., and Astrid, by Astrid & Co.

Dropbox is an essential application for bringing your important files with you on your smart mobile device. The Android version will support editing those files, as well as sharing across multiple mobile devices with different operating systems. You can have the same files on your office or personal laptop, your Android smart phone, and your iPad. Yes, there is a “Dropbox” version for the iOS, as well as for the Blackberry.

Dropbox can also be used as a mechanism to make “off site” backups of your really important files. You know the ones: “those files are my whole life” (or the last five years of research) and “if Hamilton College burns to the ground I’ll be all right if I have these files.” Not that we envision an apocalypse, but I expect most people don’t, until it happens.

RunKeeper is an Android app for the serious fitness runner (or walker). It uses the phone’s GPS capabilities to help you track and record your fitness activities. (There is also a “RunKeeper Community” on the web.) It can provide interval workouts and will let you keep a manual log of your workouts on cardio equipment like treadmills. It will even connect with some heart rate monitors.

Astrid is a free “To Do” or task manager that works well with the free version of “Remember the Milk” or with the Google Tasks found in your online e-mail account. It includes the ability to set reminders, and to attach tags to tasks, which in turn makes it possible to filter your tasks, seeing only those that match a certain tag. It can also be “location aware,” filtering your task lists to match where you are in the moment. If you have a paid membership in “Remember the Milk,” you will probably like their Android app better, but if you prefer the lovely word “free,” Astrid is a good bet.

Next month: The iPad 2

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Learning Opportunities - Nearly Limitless Possibilities! - Maureen Scoones

On-line Learning Opportunities

Students - do you need to learn a new computer skill for a summer job or your new job after graduation? Employees - do you need a refresher course on an application that you don't use on a regular basis?

ITS subscribes to an online training library, Lynda.com, that contains over 1000 video tutorials you can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. According to Lynda.com:

  • Learn software from Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and more.
  • Classes for beginners to experts.
  • Learn at your own pace: Play, pause, rewind.
  • Watch one tutorial at a time, or a whole course.

Please contact Maureen Scoones (mscoones@hamilton.edu, x4178) if you are interested in accessing these tutorials or have any questions about this service.

Hands-on Learning Opportunities

SiteManager classes and working sessions continue to be offered. Whether creating a page for your administrative office, academic department, student organization, or your own professional page, SiteManager, Hamilton's own web editing tool, can be used to create your web presence.

Creating Forms: Our web pages are filled with forms in all shapes and sizes e.g. web forms, Word forms, and PDF forms. A variety of tools exist to create forms and during this session, you'll learn about the tools and how to to decide which tool to use and when.

What else are you interested in learning this summer?

Please use my handy form to tell me about the projects you are working on, the technical challenges you are facing, and how I or others in ITS can help you.

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Summer Computer Lab Hours

Multimedia Presentation Center (MPC) May 16 - August 24: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Burke 001 Closed
Camera Loans Closed
Digital Arts Lab (List 220) Closed

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ITS Newsletter Archives

All past issues of the ITS Newsletter are available on our website.

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