Welcome (back, for some of you) students at Grays Harbor College for Fall quarter, 2010. We’ve made some changes to the computers and systems, and thought we might as well share ‘em.

First off, we’re no longer using Novell for logins. Windows now just shows the Username & Password box – no Context, Tree, or Server fields. We made it as simple as possible.

Two, you can save directly to your Desktop and My Documents folders – and get access to them from any other computer on campus. Those two folders are actually redirected to a big file server, available from any other computer on campus. We’ve invested in a substantially larger storage space, so you have access to 25 times more storage.

Third, we’re using Volume Shadow Copy to give you access to backups of your files. Simply right-mouse click the My Documents folder or Desktop, and choose Properties >> Previous Versions. Now you can go back in time to before you deleted that important paper.

We’ve extended this to most student-facing campus computers; they’ll all be on the new network by the end of Fall quarter.

We’re pretty happy about the changes we’ve made, and expect to make more positive improvements in the campus infrastructure in the future. Again, welcome back Chokers. Here’s to a great next year.

Two years ago I shared a server config template; today, by request, I’m sharing the IT Action Plan template. This Microsoft Word template is useful for putting together your implementation plan for a larger project, one where you have several angles to consider and differing audiences who want to know you’re on top of things.

There’s two main goals this accomplishes:

1) Your heavy thinking is done on paper, before you begin doing anything
2) The approach to the project will get more support from your peers and supervisors, which potentially provides you more resources

Have fun, kids.

IT Action Plan.dot

I run Windows 7 on a Dell Latitude 64-bit E6400 notebook. It’s nice, but one thing Dell doesn’t provide is a software suite to run your webcam. I mean, the webcam works, but going to Cameroid.com to take snapshots isn’t my idea of easy to use.

A quick view to the Dell Community Forums turns up much of the same complaint as I have – the camera driver works, but there’s no built-in software for videos or snapshots.

Fortunately, I rolled up my sleeves and figured it out.

I downloaded the version of the Dell Webcam Central software that most closely matched my system – the version for 32-bit Vista. When I ran this installer, it tells me that it can’t detect my web camera and aborts the install.

Well, no big deal. I have free, open source WinZip replacement 7-zip. Right-mouse click on the installer, choose 7-Zip >> Extract to DellWebCamSW and extract the .exe file. Open the DellWebCamSW folder, and you’ll see another folder called DWCentral; open it and run setup.exe. It should install with no problem, and you can run the Dell Webcam Central (again).

Earlier this week, we purchased additional bandwidth for the student wireless network. This is good news! Here’s why.

During Nov & Dec 2009, we max at around 50 students using wireless between 8am and 1pm. The wireless network gets exactly 10% of all campus bandwidth, or 1024 Kbps.

1024Kb ÷ 50 = 20.5 Kbps per student

Remember 56k modems? This is less than half that.

Further, the number of students doing high-bandwidth activities such as peer-to-peer filesharing, flash video from sites like YouTube, or personal file cloud-based backup software (like Carbonite) consumed an unfair amount of the network.

Earlier this week, we doubled the student wireless bandwidth – to 2048 Kbps – and introduced some filtering software to discourage those high bandwidth activities. The result is a much improved, usable wireless network for students. We’ll continue to work on the system with an eye towards making it more useful.

UPDATE 2 (12:54 PM 11/19/2009): We’re back up, but expect a few more short term outages before we’re ‘officially’ back up with wireless. Thanks!

UPDATE: Looks like our new controller arrives today via FedEx.

We had a storm Monday night that took out power and internet to the campus. Although we had power restored early that morning, and internet was restored by noon, wireless access has still not been restored. We expect to have wireless access 100% functional by Friday, Nov 20th.

Wireless on campus is controlled by an Aruba controller, which suffered a blow to the power supply during the storm. Since this is a non-serviceable part, we’re in the process of exchanging the entire controller for a new one. After we receive it, we’ll need to put our configuration on the controller, and run some tests to make sure it’s functioning normally. Assuming it is, we’ll turn it on as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, we’ve posted some signs in the major areas on campus where wireless is accessed letting people know it’s not currently working.

Sorry for the inconvenience! We’ll get it back up as soon as we can.

I’ve been using Windows 7 for a while now, even though it doesn’t get released publicly until Oct 23rd 2009 or so. Still, it’s been a mostly pleasant ride.

Today, I’ve been exploring using the XP Mode that comes with Windows 7. XP Mode is well explained by Raphael & Paul, which basically explain that its XP running in virtualization mode under Windows 7.

What I’d initially missed is that it lets you run applications and hides the XP VM in the background. So I set out to run Novell in Windows 7 this way.

  • You must have a CPU that supports virtualization
  • Install Windows 7
  • Install Virtual PC RC (link here)
  • Install Windows XP Mode (link here)
  • Boot into XP Mode, & install Novell client (I used the 4.91 version, since that’s what my campus uses)

At this point, I noticed that the Novell Client now appears in my Start Menu list under XP Mode Applications. So I booted back into the XP VM, and unzipped the Novell Console One app.

Another reboot, but ConsoleOne wasn’t showing up in the Start Menu. Until I moved the shortcut into the Start Menu under Novell. Then I shutdown the VM, and checked my Win 7 Start Menu again. Voila! It’s there now.

But you can’t natively browse Novells shares in Windows 7. So I dragged a shortcut to the XP Mode “My Computer” icon to the XP Mode Start menu under Novell (Common).

It worked. It’s more like a peek into the XP machine, though – there’s no drag & drop between windows, an apps installed on Win 7 (MS Office, for example) can’t access XPM files – you’d have to install Office on the XPM machine, for example.

But now I can browse Novell shares and admin the Novell directory from Win7. It’s not fast, but it beats running another system.

Welcome to all students back to GHC for the 2009-2010 year. Over the summer, we chose to give a little more to our Chokermail email program. We’ve got more work to do, but here’s what we’ve come up with so far. Current students:

  • More storage in Chokermail. Start with 5 GB, and watch your storage grow, as you need it.
  • More themes in Chokermail (including some that change based on time of day or weather)
  • Quickly add maps, directions, movie times and more to e-mail messages. It makes planning a night out so much easier.
  • Create e-mail signatures in HTML. Get as fancy as you want to be.
  • The People page has been re-organized.

If you’re a new student, in addition to all that jazz up top, you have a new way of creating your address. Visit http://chokermail.ghc.edu, and click Get Started. After your address is confirmed, you’ll be able to log in. As always, I’m here for your feedback and to help with any problems you might run into.

I’ve been using AMP Font Viewer lately to manage my fonts in Windows. It’s not Font Book, but it does let you manage fonts by categories, and install / uninstall fonts on demand. It backs up uninstalled fonts so you can see them easily. It’s nice.

download via ampsoft.net @ Font Viewer

found via lifehacker.com

Lifehacker recently pointed out Glary Utilities, and they’re right – it’s a fabulous, and free, way to clean up Windows startup items. To get there, go to the 1-click maintenance tab after installing it. Check only the boxes on the things you want to run, and then click Repair Problems. Repeat as necessary.