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Can YOU beat IT Services in the ULSU Food Bank Challenge?

IT Services earned bragging rights last year when the department soundly thrashed Financial Services by collecting the most number of items and largest amount of cash for the ULSU Food Bank! There was a great deal of chest-pounding in all of the ITS offices.Food Bank challenge1

Financial Services has challenged IT Services again this year (to try to redeem themselves we think) – and once again we’re opening the challenge up to ALL DEPARTMENTS on campus to join us.

CIO Mark Humphries says if some departments don’t want to take up the challenge, then IT Services will personally pick up any donations and ensure each get credit. Alternatively, donations can be dropped off in the Solutions Centre in E610 of University hall. Cash donations are very welcome and the amount is factored into the challenge.

Shelley Tuff, who coordinates the Food Bank along with her other duties as Health Plan Administrator for the Students’ Union, says breakfast items are on the top of their wish list. Also greatly appreciated are granola bars, canned fruit, canned vegetables and meats, pasta and pasta sauces. She adds they currently have an overstock of soup but they won’t turn it down. Anything they don’t need can be donated to other food banks.

During these tough economic times, the next few years may be very difficult for students and their families. Your kindness and generosity will make a world of difference for many.

Food bank helpers will be collecting donations December 15th. If your department isn’t able to take the challenge, we encourage individuals to donate items to other departments who are participating. Watch for updates in UWeekly.

And again this year, the prize is bragging rights!

For more information, please contact Shelley at 403-329-2039 or at food.bank@uleth.ca.

U of L wireless network – hurdles and behind-the-scenes efforts

Last year the University committed $20,000 to upgrade the wireless in some of the older residence buildings which dramatically improved coverage for students there, plus another $80,000 to improve the coverage in classroom spaces, says Jeff Oliver, Network Team Lead in IT Services. “Over the next few months, we will be conducting tests across the campus to determine where other gaps exist.”

Wireless surveys have already been completed in University Hall and Markin Hall which has helped us to identify some issues already. IT Services staff need to physically pace off every space with equipment that measures the wireless signals which then provides visual heat maps of how well wireless signals are reaching offices and workstations. “These heat maps help us figure out where new access points will help, and where they won’t,” adds Oliver.

E8 HeatmapWi-Fi coverage in E8 of University Hall: the darker colors represent good Wi-Fi coverage and are generally closest to the access points. The lighter areas show poorer Wi-Fi signals. The green line indicates where a staff member walked the area and the dots on the line represent ‘pings’ to the access points.

Wi-Fi signals do not penetrate solid materials well, particularly steel and concrete, or fluids. A person standing between a device and an access point can interfere and simply absorb the signals. The more obstacles, the weaker the signals.

Imagine being in a room with 10 radios that are all tuned to different radio stations…

“Noise, also known as an abundance of radio signals, is also a big problem with wireless. The more noise, the worse the connection. Imagine being in a room with 10 radios that are all tuned to different radio stations – can you listen to them all, or pick out just one? Can you pick out an individual conversation in a room where 100 people are all talking at the same time? In the wireless spectrum the same concepts apply. The more conversations going on at the same time, the more noise overall.”

The number of wireless devices brought on campus is increasing every academic year. With each additional faculty, staff or student come one to three or four additional devices, all requesting network access–many at the same time. This means that every access point must support more and more individual devices, and the access points need to be closer together as each one can only service a limited number of clients.

…there are about 25,000 wireless devices on campus of which more than 10,000 can be active and connecting to the wireless network over the course of a day.

Oliver adds there are about 25,000 wireless devices on campus of which more than 10,000 can be active and connecting to the wireless network over the course of a day. “Our maximum concurrent connections this semester so far has been 7,000, and that number can fluctuate wildly depending on the day.” Early in the semester we were alerted to the fact that some of the network infrastructure supporting the Student@UofL and Guest@UofL networks was running at capacity, which prompted us to replace some equipment with newer technology.

So how much network traffic does this number of devices equate to?

Guest student before new router

The graph above illustrates the amount of Wi-Fi traffic on the network during one week in September: it peaked out at 300MB per second. Once the new router was installed, the higher demand was easily managed as shown in the graph below and no longer has “flat spots.”

Guest student after new router

Network staff have been working to add additional access points in 80 classrooms over the past year, and expect to be finished by December. The largest classroom, PE250, will have six access points. The rest will have roughly double what they originally had, which will greatly increase the number of concurrent connections available in classroom spaces. “We are targeting approximately 40 users per access point.”

It isn’t just a matter of attaching an access point on the ceilings, additional wiring must be installed as well as network infrastructure such as switches and routers to support the increase in the wireless footprint. Much of the work must be done when the rooms are not in use.

The demand is not only on campus. Last spring, outdoor access points were added at the stadium to provide coverage in the bleacher and track areas. “The University’s wireless network is in a perpetual state of upgrade.”

The team is constantly planning and preparing for future changes in technologies. Next year about 250 aging access points are scheduled for replacement to keep up with the changing technology used in mobile devices today.

The next time you use wireless on campus, whether it works immediately or there’s a delay connecting, keep in mind the hurdles and ‘behind-the-scenes’ efforts and costs to provide the service. Oliver reminds people to report any issues to the Solutions Centre (help@uleth.ca) so that steps can be taken to correct them.

Updated Network upgrade schedule

Latest upgrade dates as of November 27, 2015  below.

The upgrade work being done on the University’s network has taken some expected twists and turns, and some not so expected.

As a result, the scheduled dates for each of the buildings and areas have been adjusted.

Below are the current (and somewhat still tentative) dates for the upcoming work:

  • University Hall – Substantially Complete
  • Centre for the Arts – Substantially Complete
  • LINC – Substantially Complete
  • Water Building – Substantially Complete
  • CCBN – Nov 30 – Dec 4
  • Anderson Hall – Dec 7 – Dec 11
  • Turcotte Hall – Dec 14 – Dec 18
  • Students’ Union Building (one room) – Christmas Break
  • Markin Hall – Jan 11- Jan 15
  • PE – Jan 18 – Jan 22
  • Students’ Union Building – Jan 25 – Feb 5

Watch for further updates as the work continues.

Read the full story about the Network upgrade here.

 

Take the Food Bank Challenge!!

 

Information Technology Services and Financial Services are in a dead heat to collect the most donations for the U of L Students’ Union Food Bank.

Care to join us??

In the spirit of giving and competition this holiday season, they are challenging other departments to attempt to beat them with the number of items. Now, you need to understand that an open box of granola bars only counts as ONE item – not EIGHT. And also, the Food Bank reps do the counting so they will be fair and consistent. In addition, and although not counted as items, cash donations are gladly accepted in lieu of food.

Last year, Financial Services donated 693 items and $136.05 in cash. IT Services donated 505 items and $613. 25 in cash.

Mark Humphries, CIO, has thrown down the gauntlet to all Deans and Executive Directors. How can your department participate, you ask? He says there are three ways:

  1. ‘The Hard Way’: Ask your department to donate items to the Finance donation box located in the A7 area of University Hall.
  2. The Easy Way’: Ask your department to donate items into the ITS collection boxes that we will provide and deliver (just let us know how many you would like and where you would like us to put them by early next week so your faculties have time to donate).  Let us know when they are full and, on the afternoon of December 12th,  we will collect any donation boxes so that items can be consolidated for counting on December 15th.   As this is a collaborative effort, we will give full credit to all those that participate with ITS in the Food Bank Challenge. Alternatively you can bring any donations for the Food Bank (or Toys for Tots, too! see below) to D570.
  3. ‘The Other Way’: Your department can collect its own items and join the challenge.

Food Bank coordinator Shelley Tuff has some recommendations. “All donations are welcome, but we always seem to be short on breakfast items. Some of the items on our wish list include granola, cereal, juices, peanut butter, jelly/jam, canned fruit and vegetables.” She adds they currently have an overstock of soup and beans, but anything they don’t need can be donated to other food banks.

Food bank helpers will be collecting donations on December 15th and 16th and participation updates will appear in UWeekly.

The prize? Well, bragging rights, of course!

For more information on the ULSU Food Bank, please contact Shelley at 403-329-2039 or at food.bank@uleth.ca.

Last year the Salvation Army distributed gifts to 1,300 children, but had to spend $24,000 on gift cards to make up the shortfall. Toys for Tots donations will be picked up in D570 the morning of December 12th by Country 95/B-93 radio.

Contact Diane Boyle at (403) 382-7180 or diane.boyle@uleth.ca for more information.

 

The coffee’s on Leslie – just in time for ‘phishing season’

 

The next time you see Leslie Gatner, Financial Analyst in Financial Services, the coffee’s on her. Gatner’s name was drawn to win the $25 Starbuck’s gift card for completing the online Phishing and Identity Theft course last month.

“We had a good response to the online course, but in my world, 100% completion would be ideal,” says Kevin Vadnais, IT Services Information Security Manager. He says he realizes it may not be realistic but it’s his goal nonetheless, especially with the holiday season looming.

“We’re coming into one of the busiest ‘phishing’ seasons with the upcoming holidays, so I would like to advise the University community to be vigilant.” Vadnais says the Christmas season logically lends itself to shipping scams by the bad guys. “Typically you will see emails from which you’re invited to download a .zip or .exe file that claims to have tracking information on a shipment. The email uses high-quality logos from companies like Canada Post, FedEx and UPS and, in addition, the grammar is far better than the usual phishing emails we see. Once the user clicks on the attachment, what it actually does is download malware on the user’s machine. The malware can contain a variety of threats: for example, Crypto locker is one that holds a computer hostage until a significant ‘ransom’ is paid, and there’s the threat of data theft. The bad guys can capture passwords when doing online banking, find personal data like social insurance numbers in tax returns, and both can lead to identity theft.”

As in all cases, Vadnais advises users to stop and ask themselves if it makes sense to simply click on an attachment, or go to the sender’s website instead to find tracking information. “Use common sense, if you’re not expecting a package, don’t click on a link that says you have one. One of the easiest clues is to hover your cursor over the link provided and compare it to what url shows next to it, or in the bottom of your browser. If it’s phishing or a malicious file, the destination in the link or image which pops up in the hover will not match what the browser text or image is showing. When that happens think twice about proceeding.”

URL hover image

 

 

 

Vadnais says the Information Security website is a good resource to check out if you’re wondering about an email. It contains some of the most current and common threats. He strongly encourages people to take the Security Awareness and Phishing and Identity Theft courses online, and more than once if required – just to refresh the memory. “They are excellent sources of information for everyone.”

Also contained on the site is a form users can complete to report a phishing attack. “The phishing messages we’re concerned about are those that appear in our inboxes, or slip by filters without the ***PHISHING MESSAGE*** alert in the subject line. We can take a lot of those sites down if we report them to the company whose image is being falsely used and alert organizations when we see one of their accounts being abused. This provides us an opportunity to take preventative measures to stop our accounts from being compromised.”

For more information, or to arrange a security session for your unit or department, please contact Kevin Vadnais at kevin.vadnais@uleth.ca.

Wrapping up Google Apps

Welcome to Google Apps! Through May and June, more than 26,000 email accounts were migrated to Google Apps for Education.

“We had some minor delays with the migration, but all in all, it’s been a successful project,” says Chris Roberts, Information Technology Services (ITS)Project Manager. He adds that some administrative work, and a few loose ends still need to be tied up.

apps_logo_3D_online_medium

Roberts says most people, students and alumni, had no difficulty changing over to Google Mail. “From a user perspective, it went very well. The vast majority are quite happy with the new service.”

From an implementation perspective, the project was a success. “We met our deadlines—in fact, even with the delays, we finished the migrations ahead of the June 30th deadline.”

If you would like to learn more about our new Google Apps service, please visit our “Welcome To Google Apps” site.

Questions? Contact the Solutions Centre at (403) 329-2490 or at help@uleth.ca.

Managing the U of L’s Buildings through technology

 

The University operates many complex systems on campus which are responsible for managing life safety, internal environments, room scheduling and many others. When any major system needs an upgrade, it can create a cascade effect on other services, and is no small undertaking. Last year, the Building Management System, or BMS, was scheduled for an overhaul.

At any given time, Facilities monitors roughly 35,000 measurements throughout the campus ranging from thermostats, baffles and ventilation equipment, numerous lights and fans, to the University’s boiler plant and its associated pressure and temperature equipment. In addition, approximately 85 rooms on campus are accessed through card swipes by students, faculty and staff. All are controlled by the BMS.BMS HVAC image

Information Technology Services (ITS) was brought in to assist with the software upgrade, and to provide consultation around possible improvements. Wim Chalmet, ITS Application Support Analyst, says the HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning, was tackled first.

“A big concern Utilities had was a lack of redundancy. Since utility operators are able to manage and monitor the environment on campus from their computers, if a server went down, the software providing status updates on the systems would quit reporting,” says Chalmet. “Operators would be blind to how everything was functioning and consequently would have to physically patrol to monitor the most critical points. During cold snaps in the winter pipes can freeze within hours so staff would have to be on call at all times day and night.”

In addition to consultation, ITS upgraded all affected desktop machines and was able to repurpose two additional servers for the BMS. “This provides failover protection so that if one server goes down, another takes over and continues to provide status updates to operators.”

The Card Access system for the campus was another component of the BMS upgrade. “We have a number of classrooms that can be accessed by card swipe,” says Chalmet. “If a student registers in a course that is scheduled into one of those rooms, they get card access automatically.”

Chalmet adds that in order for this to occur, a custom designed interface is needed which permits the BMS system to automatically talk to our databases, such as Banner in this instance. “ITS has done an analysis of the entire structure to determine exactly how this interface currently works and recommended significant improvements to integrate the tool with the new software of the BMS environment.” Completion of the project is expected before September.

 

Huge Adobe software package available to U of L employees

U of L faculty and staff can benefit from a new software package made possible by an agreement between the University of Lethbridge and Adobe Systems Inc.Adobe Creative Cloud

The enhanced Adobe Creative Cloud for education agreement provides a full suite of software, free of charge, for use at work. The agreement also offers a work-at-home package for only $11.25 per year for personal Windows and Apple computers.

The Creative Cloud suite includes, but is not limited to Photoshop, InDesign, Adobe Edge Animate, Acrobat XI Pro, Illustrator, and a variety of other Adobe products. “The retail value of these products is enormous,” says Chris Robinson, Client Services Manager.  “Photoshop alone is around $700 and up, depending on the version.”

IMPORTANT: For University-owned computers, faculty and staff should contact the Solutions Centre to request installation.

To purchase Creative Cloud for home computers, there are some important details interested buyers should know ahead of time.

  • The work-at-home software is for personal and professional supplement purchases only.
  • To download, go to https://www.uleth.ca/information-technology/store
  • Click on Take Me to the IT Store button. You will be required to log in using your U of L username and password.
  • Click on the Kivuto button.
  • Click on Start Shopping. The Adobe Creative Cloud icon can be found under the Adobe tab.

Both the download and installation steps can take up to one hour each. It is recommended that the download take place on campus if home internet bandwidth is not high-speed.

“The best options are to either bring their laptop onto campus to download the software, and then proceed with the installation at home or, if they have a desktop computer at home, download it onto their work computer and copy the installation file onto a 32GB USB key that has a minimum of 16GBs of free space,” says Robinson.

Any questions or concerns should be directed to the Solutions Centre at (403) 329-2490 or help@uleth.ca.

Student email moving into the 21st century

Google Apps for EducIf you had a parent attend the U of L, they may have used the same old email system that’s still in place today.  That is about to change, thanks to a new project that will be migrating students’ email service from the old email system to Google’s mail offering.  The highlights include 500 times more storage, a vastly improved user interface, address book as well as an integrated calendar system, just to name a few.

It has been no small project to undertake. To make this decision, ITS has spent the last year consulting with students, staff, faculty, legal advisors and other institutions in order to gather as much information as possible.

“The Google service being implemented is specifically for educational institutions and, unlike Google’s Gmail service that is targeted at the general public, this service will use the same @uleth.ca email addresses our students already have, and will not display any advertisements on student accounts,” says Darren Schell, Director of Transformation in Information Technology Services (ITS).

The migration of just under 10,000 accounts is expected to be complete by early summer.

Faculty and staff email accounts will not be impacted by this change and will remain on the University’s in-house Microsoft Exchange email system.

SU Food Bank Challenge – Results!

In December, IT Services and Financial Services competed (for bragging rights) to collect the most number of items for the Students’ Union Food Bank.

Spies made reconnaissance visits to both departments, fueling the challenge. Competition became heated during the two-week endeavor and reinforcements were brought in as supporters from other departments joined the fray. Finance was assisted by Human Resources, Risk & Safety and Materials Management. IT had various and sundry folks in U Hall drop in with contributions.

The winner? The Students’ Union Food Bank! Michael Kawchuk, Vice President Operations & Finance, said both departments were winners. “I am happy to say we were able to raise a total of $750 and nearly 1200 items for students in need. I know it was a competition, but I am happy to say each department won.”

For cash donations, IT Services raised $613.25, followed by Financial Services with a total of $136.05. However, Financial Services donated 693 items, followed by 505 items from IT Services.

IT also collected a great assortment of gifts for the Salvation Army’s Toys for Tots program.

We’d like to thank everyone from both departments for their enthusiasm, generosity and support – particularly those from other departments who joined in and dropped off their donations in IT.

We’re looking forward to another spirited (and merciless) competition next December!

Food Bank2

(Okay, so this isn’t us – but we were close!)