April 2023 Update from CISMay 8, 2023
New Face at CIS
Our newest technical analyst, Gaylord Fajardo, joined the User Support Services team on April 10. Gaylord is a very experienced technician with many years of work in different companies and institutions. He came to us from Allergan / Abbvie Pharmaceuticals. We are delighted to welcome him to CIS and Harvey Mudd!
To the person who wrote “the Wifi here sucks” on the Shanahan chalkwall, we feel your pain. It’s our pain too. Here’s a very high level view of the current status. Again, there are the access points (white boxes on the ceiling) and the controllers (servers). And each has software. Software has versions. And that leads to the situation. Several campuses upgraded to handle new access points (e.g. at HMC the Shanahan building). We all started to see subtle issues, affecting some people but not others. CMC has reverted back to older controllers, Pomona is still on the old software. Scripps has the newest software but is still seeing some issues. Many pieces of evidence point to things being more stable on the older software, yet Cisco wants us to upgrade to new controllers and the new software. HMC’s newer access points mean that we can’t revert to the older software for all buildings, but we intend to do that for some buildings after Commencement (Sprague, McGregor, Kingston, Galileo, Atwood, Case, Linde, South, North, Sontag). The CIS staff and their teammates at TCCS IT have been working this issue for all they are worth, eliminating hypotheses and simplifying things as much as possible. They have also been talking with Cisco, trying to get them to understand that our evidence seems to point to there being issues with the new software (I mentioned the bug last time). We will make a big push to get this straightened out as soon as we are past Commencement. I don’t agree with the person who wrote “get over it” on the chalkwall: we have to get this fixed.
On the brighter side, our roll out of Kuali Build has been going well. Prof Kathy VanHeuvelen has been kindly forwarding effusive praise from the faculty who are using the new Summer Research forms. And we will soon launch an electronic Tuition Payment Agreement with Student Accounts. Then we can get to a more general roll out, so people can design their own forms.
As you know we ran an exploration of Canvas with 11 faculty and 13 courses during the Spring 2023 semester. The exploration went well; feedback from faculty and students has been quite good. The ARCS team met with each faculty member to help them migrate their content from Sakai into Canvas and set up their course site. We are still working on our transition plan, including with a company that moves sites from Sakai to Canvas. And Elizabeth has asked faculty teaching summer courses if they would be interested in using Canvas instead of Sakai.
Most faculty who participated in the spring semester reported feeling comfortable using Canvas within a week, and students prefer it. We encountered no showstoppers. I encourage you to consider using Canvas this summer instead of Sakai since we will be continuing the transition in the Fall, with the aim of having everyone moved off of Sakai by the end of Spring 2024. All of the other undergraduate colleges have now signed up to use Canvas, although plans are proceeding at different paces at each College.
Google Workspace Storage
Not much news this month, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you that Spring cleaning would be a good idea. Google has some good advice about how to clean up your own stuff. And you can view your own storage information. Some have asked if they can have more space. For now, we are watching the storage and moving people up to the next tier once they get close (about 5GB) to their current limit, so you don’t have to ask. We haven’t worked out a long term approach to storage quotas yet.
Improving Duo security
We need to improve the security of Duo. “But wait, Joseph, when CIS rolled out Duo, you told us that multif-actor authentication (MFA) is very secure!” I did indeed say that, and I stand by it. MFA (something you know + something you have) is more secure than one factor, but not all factors are the same. In particular, SMS text and voice calls have become less secure as a second factor. “Bad actors” can now buy cheap kits that will allow them to intercept SMS messages or voice calls. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) put it this way in 2017: “you can use this puppy for now, but it’s on its way out.” If you use Twitter, Apple or Microsoft you may already have been moved off of SMS. CIS plans to do the same at HMC in the summer. More details to come, but if you can get yourself off SMS and voice calls for your second factor now, please do so. (CIS service catalog entry on Duo)
Every now and then, students wander up to the fifth floor of Sprague to take in the spectacular views on all four sides (but especially toward the mountains on the north side, which have been particularly lovely of late). Seniors, this week is your last chance to do so as a student, and we’re happy to welcome you!
Tips and Tricks
We received some good feedback about last month’s tip, so here are two more:
- The April 4 Bite of Learning “After the Research is Over: Communicating your Scholarship” was full of interesting bits about services the library provides. I made a note to myself “Faculty need to know about these library resources”.
- Want to quickly and easily view PDFs without logging into an Adobe account (and having to update)? Set your pdf viewer tool to be the Apple Preview App, Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. You won’t be able to edit the pdf in those Apps, but that’s a less common use case.
On behalf of everyone at CIS, I wish you a smooth and festive end to the Spring 2023 semester!