Friday, September 28, 2007


Microsoft PowerPoint is so commonly used as presentation that its in danger of losing both capital letters. It wasn't always that way, of course (Anyone remember Harvard Graphics? I was actually surprised to find out they were still in business), but by packaging PowerPoint in Microsoft Office, it introduced people to presentation software and quickly took over the market.

Now, there's an alternative. And, not surprisingly, it comes from Google.

Google is using its Google Apps to challenge Microsoft. These are Web-based word processing and spreadsheets. They are nowhere as flexible or powerful as Office (There was a story a few weeks ago that even Google doesn't use them that much), but have some nice features: you can work on files from any Internet connection and you can share your files with others, allowing multiple people to work on a file from multiple locations.

Now I find that sort of thing somewhat useful, but not a killer app. But with Google Presentation, it's a big leap in utility. After all, you often have to do presentations on the road. If it's on Google, all you need is an Internet connection. No need to bring a laptop or flash drive, or worry about compatibility.

In addition, Google Presentation has a chat feature. You could put up a presentation, have people see it and comment. You could also paste a narrative.

It is limited -- fewer fonts, fewer templates, fewer bells and whistles. But it seems set up to take some of the thunder away from powerpoint.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jing All the Way

Here's some software I just discovered: Jing.

Jing is quick and easy screen capture software, created by Techsmith. Their giving it away right now as sort of an open beta in order to get feedback and work on features.

Jing is fun to use; it resides in memory, but once you want to capture your screen, you click to activate it. It captures both images and video and lets you share it online by creating account on Techsmith's Screencast site. Once uploaded, you can send a link to see the video or image.

It's especially handy for giving instructions. Instead of having to describe everything over the phone, you can screen capture what people need to do and send them a link. There's even annotation and audio.

I don't know how long this will be free, but you might want to check it out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Goodness of their Hearts

If you're a student, and you want to upgrade your Microsoft Office to 2007, this is the time.

Microsoft is offering "The Ultimate Steal." They're selling copies of Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate to college students for just $59.95. This includes:
  • Access™ 2007
  • Accounting Express 2007
  • Excel® 2007
  • InfoPath® 2007
  • Groove 2007
  • OneNote® 2007
  • Outlook® 2007 with Business Contact Manager (requires separate download)
  • PowerPoint® 2007
  • Publisher 2007
  • Word 2007

A quick google shows this package is selling for over $250 on the web.

The catch? Well, you do have to be a student (with an .edu e-mail address like And Microsoft will look for proof that you're taking classes. But their main purpose is to get you used to using their products. Sneaky, but that's common with other software companies, too.

Staff and Faculty members: you can't take advantage of this deal. If you're interested in using Office 2007, contact I&TS.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Remote Desktop

Here's a nice little tool: Remote Desktop. It lets you connect to a computer from another computer on the network. We've been using it here at Siena I&TS to install software remotely, but it can be used by faculty and staff to access their own PCs from any of the classrooms.

Why? Well, if you have software running on your computer that you want to use in class, it doesn't have to be installed on the classroom computer. This can make the process of using it easier: you don't have to request installation, and there's no issue if you change classrooms.

Once you log in, it's just like logging on to your own computer -- only remotely. Instructions can be found at Siena's Technology Pages.

Note that this can only be used on-campus on the I&TS network; for security reasons, we limit off-campus access. School of Science computers are on a separate network.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Incredible Shrinking Hard Drive

Here's a neat little comparison: a look at a 20 Gig hard drive 20 years ago, compared to one today.

That big circle thing on the left is 20 Gigs. I don't think you'd want that in your laptop.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I'll admit it. I like software. If I find a new program or utility that looks useful, I'll go out an run it to see what it does. And the nice thing about Windows is that there are so many freeware utilities to choose from.

It's hard keeping up, so I let eConsultant do it for me. They keep a list of freeware for download, grouped by function. Want to convert miles into kilometers? There's freeware for that. Just seach for "convert" on the page and find it.

Note: Some of these utilities are designed only for experts, especially if they're dealing with the Windows registry. If you're not sure about one, don't use it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beyond Google

I happen to love Google. I was impressed when I first tried it: it was quicker than I had ever seen (back then, my preferred search engine was Altavista, which has pretty much been forgotten except for their Babelfish translator.)

Google also has some neat features and tips that can make searching easier.
  • Putting quotes around a phrase searches for that exact phrase. It's especially useful when the phrase is made up of common words. Also, it forces Google to pay attention to punctuation: looking for Connect-Ed will only get you the word "connected," but if you put quotes around it, it will go to the Connect-Ed site.
  • The minus sign has Google ignore a word. This can be useful if there are more than one versions of something. For instance, "Once a hero -moon" will focus on the TV show, not the Elizabeth Moon novel.
  • Similarly, the plus sign forces a term to be in the results.

But Google isn't perfect. One issue is that you can never tell about how legitimate a site might be, and they sites you find may not have the right information for an academic paper. There are several options:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Mysterious Message (spoofed e-mail)

I often get questions from faculty and staff about mysterious e-mail messages they're getting. Usually it's some sort of automatic reply:

Your message did not reach some or all of the intended

11/12/2007 11:21 AM

The following recipient(s) could not be reached: on 9/14/2007 12:33 PM
You do not have permission to send to this recipient. For assistance, contact
your system administrator.

< id="28018-01-25">

This, alas, is a routine part of the Internet: the spoofed e-mail address. The reply is a function of two practices, one bad, the other a good idea (that will probably no longer exist).

It has always been trivially easy to fake an e-mail address, and spammers and virus writers have latched onto this. Spam and virus e-mail is almost always sent out with a spoofed address: one chosen at random from the many saved on the compromised computers (you'd be surprised, but there are hundreds of e-mail addresses on your computer -- and not just in your address book). This makes it harder to track down the sender.

In addition, in the old days of the Internet, when people were assumed to play nice, any incorrectly addressed e-mail would generate a message to the sender, with the idea that this will let them know their message wasn't received and allow them to fix the problem. Alas, with spoofed e-mail addresses, the e-mail is sent to someone (you) who isn't even involved with sending the message.

So you get a mysterious message. And you wonder how you could get a bounce message when you haven't even sent an e-mail to the address listed.

It's all in the spoofing. As a matter of fact, the practice of telling people they're using the wrong address is dying out. Not only does it send these mysterious messages, but it allows spammers to harvest e-mail address. (How? Send a million e-mails using random names all to one domain. You may get 999,930 bounce messages. The other 70 are "live" address that can be sold to spammers).

Let's make it clear: if you get the message, it does not mean you have a virus, or that your machine has been compromised. It merely means that some computer that has your e-mail address (which could be any computer you ever sent an e-mail to, or any web page where you ever put up your e-mail) has been compromised. It doesn't hurt to check, but it'd be very surprising if the message chose your address from your own computer.

So what to do? Well, as Estragon says, "Nothing to be done." There's no way to determine the actual sender from the bounce message (the site sending the message could, but does not pass the information along to you). The only thing you can do is delete the message.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Postini fights spam

Siena uses Postini to filter out spam. You can't run e-mail without a spam filter these days; Postini reports that up to 90% of all e-mail is spam (there are some interesting statistics on their web page).

The problem is that the harder you try to filter out spam, the more likely it is that some non-spam messages end up in your inbox. In order to release them, you need to log in to Postini.

Now, when your account was set up, you were sent an e-mail with the password. And I'm sure you kept it and can find it easily. Well, probably not.

OK. Definitely not. It's probably long gone into the bit bucket in the sky. But it's easy to get your Postini password reset:
  • Login to
  • Enter your e-mail address as your username.
  • Enter anything you want as your password. It doesn't matter.
  • Click "Login."

You will get a warning that the password is incorrect. There's also a link that says Forgot Your Password? Click on that and a new password will be sent to your inbox so you can login.

Once you've logged in, find the message you want to release and click "Deliver." You will be asked if you want to accept all e-mails from this person from now on, too.

There are also ways to block a sender, or to approve one. Click on "My Settings" and enter the names.

You can find general instructions at (pdf).

The battle against spam is even more neverending than the battle for Truth and Justice, but Postini is an excellent weapon in the battle.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Often people want to show presentations from their laptops. Siena does have the projection equipment in nearly all classrooms, and the cables necessary. But the main reason people have trouble with the projector is that their computer is not producing the video output.

Laptops all come with a place to plug a video cable, but that plug is not active by default. You need to turn it on -- and every laptop is different.

Generally, you need to press a function key (one of those keys marked F1 to F12 at the top of the keyboard). Few people use function keys any more (they were the main method of activating menus and give program commands in the days before Windows), so they aren't used to using them. And the key necessary to turn on the video output is different on different laptops.

Here are a couple of examples:

Note one key is F4 and the other is F5. It's not the characters that matter, but the icon. It usually shows two screens or a computer and a screen with a slash separating the two (and, of course, it looks a little different on every laptop brand).

But you can't just press the button. You need to hold down the Fn key. This is generally somewhere near the spacebar. Hold it down and press the key with the icon.

But wait! There's more! The display key usually toggles three ways: computer screen only, projector only, and both. It also will take a moment to change. So the proper techinque is:

  1. Press and hold down the Fn key.
  2. Press the display key and let go.
  3. Wait.
  4. If the computer screen goes blank, but the projector works, you can do it that way.
  5. If you want both to display, press and hold down the Fn key.
  6. Press the display key and let go.
  7. Wait.
  8. Repeat until everything is the way you want it.

I really wish they made this more straightforward. Maybe a sensor to active the video connector if a cable is plugged into it. As it is, it can be pretty complicated.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Not so Glorious Spam (KnujOn)

I just discovered this one yesterday (through Kim Kommando). KnujOn (pronounced "nudge on") goes after spam at the source: the companies sending it.

You don't need to join, either (though you can if you want be updated). Just send any spam e-mails to You can include the headers if you want, but they don't require them. There are also other addresses to target specific types of spam.

Knujon takes the information and goes after websites that allow spammers. They have shut down over 30,000 of them.

This won't end spam, but it should help.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood (Citrix Program Neighborhood)

If you log in to a computer in the I&TS labs, you may see a new login screen:

This is the Citrix Program Neighborhood Agent. It lets you log in to Citrix Applications without logging into Citrix itself via the web.

You log in with your network username and password. The domain is always "sienaservices" (no quotes).

You can ignore it, but it may be useful to log on. Once you have, Citrix applications (SPSS, FARS, Fathom, MapInfo, Library CDs, etc.) will display on your start menu. There will also be an icon in the system tray (near the clock) that lets you access your Citrix applications.
The system tray icon will log you in if you haven't done so already.

Eventually, we will eliminate the need to log in at all, but for now, this is a nice shortcut to applications.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Day in the Life

Just to give some idea about life here at Siena's I&TS:

I&TS runs several computing labs across campus. We are always changing things and testing things, but no matter how much you plan and test, unanticipated things go wrong once students return. One example was last week.

Without getting too technical, the labs are set up so that the local printer is set up on each computer at log in. Well, last week we got reports that this wasn't happening. Students were logging on, but no printer was displayed, making it impossible for them to print.

Now the printers in the labs are set up identically. Yet the problem was only in certain labs. Other rooms it worked perfectly.

We had several people all in the labs, logging on, logging off, using different accounts with different permissions. There was even an outside expert called in to go over the logs and scripts for anything wrong.

Finally, we found an answer: a slash character in the name of the lab's computers. Slashes are dangerous: they get mistaken for a path or web address and send the system to the wrong location. We tested it out. At first, it made no difference: the problem wasn't solved. Then, as we waited and the computers looked into their configuration data, things started being fixed. The printers were mapped.

But it took us a long time to come up with the solution. And sometimes, one character can make all sorts of difference -- and you may not notice it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What Snew -- Password Change/Recovery

We've added a new password change system, so you change your password without logging on to a Siena lab computer. We've set up a web page with instructions about how to change it.

Note the login: you need to enter your e-mail address (with as your username.

But one nice feature is the ability to retrieve a lost password. If you have forgotten your password, then you can go to the website, answer a few questions, and be given the chance to choose a new password. But (and this is a big one) you need to register with the system for this to work.

Registration instructions are on our web page. Basically, you log on (using your e-mail address), answer three questions, and save your answers. Once you have done that, you're set. If you forget your password, you can go to the site and get it back.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What Snew -- Wireless

Over the next few days, I'm going to be talking about what's new here on campus with I&TS.

Let's first talk about wireless. We've expanded wireless coverage on campus.

The red areas on the map indicate wireless managed by I&TS, while the blue areas indicate a network managed by the School of Science. For a bigger picture, see

The network does extend outward from the red areas. On Move-in day, for instance, students in Plassman were often able to get a signal from the access point in the lounge. You may be able to find a signal.

Important! Make sure the id for the network is "SienaAir." Other networks may be wireless cards on nearby computers. Connecting to them could cause problems.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Here's a look at how the move-in went. Remember, Saturday were freshman and transfers; returning students came yesterday. Luckily, they are more familiar with registering (having done it before), so there are fewer problems.

As of 7:00 a.m. today, we had 2489 successful registrations. That's pretty close to the total number of students in the residences.

Here are some of the numbers:

Operating system
Windows XP: 1193 computers (60%)
Windows Vista: 497 (25%)
Macintosh: 293 (15%)

Mac OS Version (all OS X)
10.4.10: 182 (76% of Macs)
10.4.9: 31 (13%)
10.4.8: 11 (5%)
10.4.7, 10.4.6, & 10.3.9: 5 of each (2%)

Windows XP Version
Service Pack 2: 1154 (97% of XP)
Service Pack 1: 39 (3%) (I'm surprised there are any of these at all.)

Windows Vista Version
Home Premium: 291 (59% of Vista)
Ultimate: 142 (28%)
Home Basic: 48 (10%)
Business: 15 (3%)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Move in day X

It's all over. I'm home, having showered and had dinner.

It was hectic. I walked about four miles -- all in the same building -- talked with dozens of people, solved problems for most of them (except for that pesky issue where things worked in reverse -- people who have that problem will have the Internet for a little while and then have to register later).

The final call was the roughest. Something had gone wrong with a computer display upon logging on. It probably had nothing to do with registering, but it's hard to explain that. Eventually we found the setting that controlled it, so all was well.

But, ultimately, nearly everone had Internet by the end of the day. That's good.

Move in day IX

Most everyone's set now. You can tell computers are important -- most every room I passed by a few minutes ago had their computer turned on. Often no one was near it; it's left on just as a matter of principle.

Move in day VIII

Quieter now, though we still haven't gotten to the root of that weird configuration issue. But the students are very understanding and no one seems to be complaining about the issue. It will probably fix itself over time. Since everyone has laptops with wireless, there's a little less pressure. People can connect that way.

Move in day VII

My doctor says I should get more exercise, so working today will make her happy.

Things are winding down a bit, as our helpers get more experience, more people are registered, and roommates can advise on the process (since they completed it earlier). The snags are fewer then they were a few hours ago.

Move in day VI

Our first mystery -- people can't register. They can go everywhere on the internet except the registration page. Supposed to work the other way. We're looking into it on the fly.

Always something.

Move in Day V

Lunch is almost over, so I'll be back in the dorms soon. As is often the case, there are things that we hadn't prepared for and will have to come up with work arounds. You can't tell these things until it's move-in day, and you only get one chance each year. Next year, there will be another issue we need to address (especially as software and operating systems change. But overall, it goes well: we end up with nearly all students online by the end of the day, with fewer that have to wait.

I've helped out 8 people so far who had specific problems (not counting dozens more who needed general advice). The student helpers have done similar numbers. And it will probably get busier in the afternoon.

Back to work.

Move in day IV

First break i've had since my last post. Most of the issues can be fixed, though sometimes it's just a matter of the systm catching up with the load. Several problems due to the fact that Dells shut down their network cards while on battery power -- logical but unexpected.

Move in day III

The pace is picking up. I've introduced myself to parents and students and some issues are coming.

Most have to do with being patient. We require students register their computers and when you have almost 900 people doing this over the course of a day, the system goes a little slowly. Some students are fine, but need to wait a bit, and this isn't always obvious. But people understand once you explain.

Also had one computer with a broken network card, so there's not much we can do. Luckly, it was near a wireless access point, so that can be used until the card is fixed.

Move in day II

Things have started. The helpers are in the dorms, introducing themselves. No issues yet , but it's early. No one is setting up anything yet. things should be slow for another hour or two.

Move in day I

I'm going to blog from move in, just to give people a feel for what's going on.

Right now, i'm heading off to the residence hall I will be supervising. Parents and students are already arriving. We have our own student consultants ready to go room to room.