November 2010

Hamilton CollegeITS Newsletter Logo

In this Newsletter:

From the Editor

Divining the Future: Mobile Technologies at Hamilton College

SiteManager Update

Web Browsers 101

HillConnect News

Netbooks vs. Notebooks

ITS Help Desk & Computer Lab Holiday Hours

ITS Newsletter Archives

Need assistance from ITS


(315) 859-4181

Help Desk Hours:
8:30 a.m. - 10 p.m. M-F
10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sa-Su

Audiovisual Services
(315) 859-4120

Tech Check

Stop by the Information Commons desk on Friday, December 3 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Staff from the Help Desk, Instructional Technologies, and the Library will be on hand to help you with your technology problems.

From the Editor- Maureen Scoones

The holiday season is upon us and with it comes changed hours for our services and some holiday shopping advice. Wishing everyone a safe and enjoyable break!

Divining the Future: Mobile Technologies at
Hamilton College
- Mobiletech Committee

"I see a nose on every face," claims Al Perkins in The Nose Book, "I see noses every place." Were he to visit Hamilton College, Al would probably see mobile devices most every place as well. Portable devices that provide access to electronic media are essentially ubiquitous. For example, 65% of the Class of 2014 own a smart phone or other mobile device capable of accessing the Internet. Tablet computing devices are also unquestionably in vogue. Additionally, the pace of technological development in the mobile sector is rapid and unceasing. The trend, therefore, is clear: mobile devices will be seen in "every place" and will be examined by almost "every face" at Hamilton College. In order to effectively engage with the burgeoning personal and pedagogical interest in mobile devices, ITS has assembled the Mobiletech Committee.

Comprised of members from ITS, the Library, and Communications & Development, the Mobiletech Committee is charged with researching and developing the theory and praxis of mobile technology at Hamilton. Our efforts are broad—we intend to examine the use of these devices in the personal, professional, and pedagogical endeavors of all citizens of the community. Our goal is to develop an effective, proactive, future-oriented, community-centric strategy for engaging with mobile technology. We realize that these devices offer tremendous value to the community by virtue of their unique properties and want to explore this potential to the fullest extent possible.

We need your help to accomplish this task! Your participation is vital to the success of this project! We have divided the committee's efforts into three "thematic" groups: Teaching, Learning, and Support. Each group will examine how mobile technology can change, enable or enhance our environment for all members of the community. Preliminary work is already underway and we anticipate being able to convene these groups in January. If you are interested in participating in one of these groups at any level or have ideas to share, please e-mail Jim LaVere at jlavere@hamilton.edu. The Mobiletech Committee members include: Jim LaVere (chair), John Benson, Ryan Coyle, Graham Espe, Ted Fondak, Chris Forte, Ken Herold, Reid Larson, Carl Rosenfield, and J.D. Ross.

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SiteManager Update - Maureen Scoones

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. Check out the December and January class and working session schedule. For editors of official college pages, a SiteManager class is a prerequisite for attending a working session.

Webpages created using SiteManager include: The Spectator, Mock Trial, and a faculty page.

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Web Browsers 101

Web Browser: Companion and Interloper - Ted Fondak

Ask yourself this question: “What is the most frequently used application on my computer?”  I’m willing to bet that your answer will be “my browser.”  Irrespective of which you use--Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Opera, or many others--browsers are electronic conduits that connect you with the outside world.  They are an integral entity in our everyday existence but are among the least understood.  For example: did you know that all browsers behave--to varying degrees--differently?  Designers of web browsers attempt to make them conform to accepted standards as closely as possible but latitude still exists.  The staggering complexity of the Internet ensures that some pages will work properly in one browser but not another.  The iterative nature of browser development also means that compatibility can (and does!) change over time.

To combat this entropy and ensure that you have the most trouble-free browsing experience possible, the ITS Browser Committee regularly tests the major commercial browsers I mentioned above on our internal Hamilton webpages.  At the conclusion of every round of testing, the Browser Committee certifies the most compatible browsers and recommend that they be “fully supported,” i.e. ITS is confident that they are compatible with most, if not all, Hamilton web resources.  As of today, our fully-supported web browsers are Firefox and Internet Explorer.  Other browsers will render most Hamilton webpages properly, but we cannot guarantee they will work with every web resource we offer.  

Unfortunately, despite our efforts, even Firefox and Internet Explorer can be incompatible.  In these situations, ITS strives to ameliorate the incompatibility and develop a work-around to ensure trouble-free access to the resource.  The current major incompatibility is between the new version of SiteManager and Internet Explorer.  Internet Explorer is not recommended to edit pages in SiteManager.  You must use Firefox to edit your webpages.  You can use this work-around immediately: Firefox is installed by default on all Hamilton College computers.  It is located in the Applications folder on a Macintosh computer or in the All Programs list on a Windows machine.  Should you need to install Firefox, it can be downloaded at http://www.getfirefox.com.  If you are are unsure how to use Firefox, please feel free to call the Help Desk at (315) 859-4181 or e-mail helpdesk@hamilton.edu for assistance at any time.

Private Browsing - Ryan Coyle

Have you ever sat down at a public computer and had concerns about people snooping through your web history? Many modern web browsers have a feature that is called private browsing.  This feature turns off any web tracking features that are used and allows you to browse websites without any personal information being saved to the computer you are on.  It will not store any websites in your History, any passwords, cookies or temporary Internet files.  This can be especially useful when you find yourself at a public computer and need to check a bank balance or log into a secure website and don’t want to worry about the person who sits down after you snooping into where you were.

While using this prevents you from saving personal information to the computer that you’re on, it does not make you anonymous.  It only prevents the retention of information on the computer that you are logged in to.  Any sites that you visit and log into will keep their own records.  It is also not a substitute for good anti-virus protection.  Your computer is still vulnerable to malicious software even if you have this feature turned on.

To enable In-Private browsing in Internet Explorer 8, open your browser and hold down Control+Shift+P to open a Private Browsing session, or by clicking on Safety and then Selecting InPrivate Browsing.  To access Private Browsing using Mozilla Firefox click Tools and then select Start Private Browsing, or hold down Control+Shift+P. 

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HillConnect News

HillConnect (Google) Mail - The Importance of the All Mail label/folder - David Swartz

Whether you use an e-mail client like Thunderbird, Outlook, or Apple Mail, or if you just use a web browser like Safari, FireFox, or Internet Explorer to access your e-mail, you have probably seen a label or folder called All Mail. Recently it has come to our attention that not everyone is aware of this label/folder's purpose; in fact some people have tried deleting the contents of this folder with very undesirable results. This label/folder is where Google stores all of your mail, it doesn't matter how many other labels/folders you've created and assigned e-mail to, everything still lives in this label/folder. In general you should leave this label/folder alone. If you have inadvertently deleted this folder, or have any questions please let ITS know.

Enhancing Collaboration – HillConnect Docs - Dave Smallen

When Hamilton began exploring the move to Google Apps for Education (in 2009) the motivation was initially saving money. However, as we began using the product it became apparent that there were going to be many additional benefits for the Hamilton community, including integration with mobile devices such as smart phones, improved capabilities for calendaring and e-mail and new ways of supporting collaborative work and improving efficiency. It is this last capability that I discuss in this article.

HillConnect Docs (the Hamilton name for Google Docs for Education) provides faculty, staff and students with an easy way to collaborate on the creation of all kinds of documents (word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations). Prior to using HillConnect, individuals who wanted to work together on the creation of a document would typically e-mail each other attachments, showing revisions to the document as it progressed. Alternatively, they could put the document in a central place but only one person could work on it at a time. Given the asynchronous nature of the process, one person had to take responsibility for keeping track of the changes and making decisions about what to include and when/who would have access. The old process took a lot of time to manage the changes.

With HillConnect Docs everyone can access and modify the shared document, located in one place, and even at the same time! For example, in July the Hamilton Emergency Response Team (HERT) used HillConnect Docs to keep track of all the decisions made during the statewide emergency drill conducted on South Campus. There were six individuals updating the same document, sometimes simultaneously, while the document was projected on a screen for the entire team to see. At the end of the exercise we immediately had a written record of our collective decisions.

Any group of individuals can set up a HillConnect Doc, with each person being assigned rights to view and/or edit the document. You can even include people who are not part of the Hamilton community in this collaboration. And there are opportunities for substantial savings of time!

To illustrate the potential efficiencies, in ITS, the team leaders meet as a group (7 people) every week for up to two hours. The results of the meeting are distributed to the entire department. We used to have our department assistant take notes, then circulate a draft to the team leaders for correction and finally send the edited document to the department. This collectively took about 4 person hours of work each week to manage the process and create the agenda for the following week. Now, when we meet most members of the team come with their laptop computers and the document is modified as we go through the agenda. Any final changes are made quickly, right after the meeting and we send the link to the document to the entire department for viewing. The saving is approximately 3.5 person hours per week (88% of the previous time!!). In addition, our meetings have been shorter, in part because HillConnect Docs has enabled us to be better prepared for the meeting discussions by collaboratively creating the agenda.

HillConnect Docs provides an incredible opportunity for enhancing collaboration and improving efficiency for the entire campus. Try it!

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Netbooks versus Notebooks - Debby Quayle

Netbook computers are very affordable. With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, sale prices may tempt you to snatch one up. Before you purchase one, it will help you to know how it differs from a notebook computer. They are similar, but not the same. The following specifications are typical of a Windows based netbook. Apple's new MacBook Air is a slightly larger netbook class computer with similar characteristics. Differences are noted.

What a netbook is:

  • Ultra lightweight (generally 2-3 lbs) and highly portable
  • Low cost compared to a full size notebook (typically $250 - $400, some higher) MacBook Air ($999+)
  • Long battery life (6-11 hours) makes it is possible to use most of the day on one charge. MacBook Air (5 hrs – will last longer with wi-fi off)
  • Compact size with a small screen (7-10" diagonal). MacBook Air, 11" (13" available at a higher cost)
  • Smaller hard drive (typically 150-250 GB). MacBook Air (128 GB solid state drive)
  • Slower processor than their notebook counterpart and often with less RAM as well
  • Best suited as a second computer

Benefits and typical uses include:

  • Good for taking notes at a conference, in meetings and in classes
  • Reading and responding to e-mail
  • Editing and reading documents when you're on the go (you can use the full version of MS Office)
  • Surfing the web and watching web-delivered multimedia (with your favorite web browser)
  • Multi-tasking (keep your e-mail open while taking notes in Word)
  • Wired and wireless. Standard ports: monitor, headphone, microphone, USB. Some come with a webcam.

Limitations include:

  • Keyboard is compact. If you have large hands/fingers you should try one first.
  • No optical drive (CD/DVD). Software is typically installed via the web.
  • Impractical for storing your entire multimedia library (videos, pictures, music) due to its smaller drive
  • Some web pages may not display well on smaller screens
  • The operating system may be older (Windows XP) or scaled down (Windows 7 Starter). Upgrades are available at a price. MacBook Air (OS 10.6 – full version included)
  • Not suited to performing processor or image intensive tasks (e.g. gaming or video editing)

Netbook computers can be great for their intended purpose. If you're looking for something ultra portable that uses your favorite programs for e-mail, surfing and note taking, it can be a worthwhile addition to your full size computer. When in doubt, visit a local retail outlet to try one out or speak to a friend who owns one.

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ITS Help Desk & Computer Lab Holiday Hours

ITS Help Desk

Fri., Nov. 19: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Sat. & Sun., Nov 20-21: Closed
Mon. - Wed., Nov 22-24: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Thurs. - Sun., Nov 25-28: Closed
Mon., Nov 29: Resume regular hours 8:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Multimedia Presentation Center (MPC)

Fri., Nov. 19: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sat. & Sun., Nov 20-21: Closed
Mon. - Wed., Nov 22-24: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Thurs. - Sat., Nov 25-27: Closed
Sun., Nov 28: 1 p.m. - 12 a.m.

Camera Loans

Any cameras on loan the week prior to Thanksgiving break must be returned by 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 18. No cameras will be loaned for off campus use over the break.

Fri., Nov. 19 - Sun., Nov. 28: Closed
Mon., Nov 29: Resume regular hours 5 - 7 p.m.

Digital Arts Lab (DAL)

Fri., Nov. 19 - Sat., Nov. 27: Closed
Sun., Nov 28: 1 p.m.-12 a.m.

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ITS Newsletter Archives

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

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