May 2013 Computing Update

There are several projects and changes in the works for computing and technology in general over the summer months and beyond. Though we are excited about the possibilities these changes and projects will bring, we also realize that some of these may have lasting effects on people’s workflow and daily activities. We are doing all we can to minimize any negative effects these changes might have while still moving our technology forward to best meet your needs.

Windows XP
If I were to tell you there was bad news in this message, Windows XP would be it. Microsoft is planning to discontinue updates to Windows XP in April of 2014. That’s next April, fortunately. The unfortunate aspect is that when that happens, they will no longer be making security updates available. A close reading of the University of Maine System’s Information Security Policy (http://www.maine.edu/system/policy_manual/policy_section900.php) will reveal that we cannot run computers on the network that are not “current.” Current being defined as getting security updates and maintained by the vendor. This means we will be working actively with you over the next year to help you replace or upgrade Windows XP computers before next spring. Replacing older computers would be our preference, but knowing the financial situation we are all in, we will be as frugal as possible and upgrade where replacement is not possible and the computer is able to run Windows 7 (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/system-requirements).

Short Version: Windows XP computers need to be replaced or upgraded by April 2014.

Windows 8
We have had numerous inquiries about Windows 8 and when we will be deploying it on campus. The short answer is, no time soon. The overall tone in the enterprise computing community is that Windows 8 is enough different from it’s predecessors to hesitate on it’s adoption. There is new functionality but none of immediate need to the majority of our community. Of course, this may change and we will surely update you if and when it does.

Even though we are not looking at deploying internally, our helpdesk, resnet, computer labs, and media services staff are aware of Windows 8 and receiving ongoing training to assist our students who arrive with these computers from off-campus. In addition, the boom in tablet computing will likely be bringing some Windows 8 questions along with it.

Short Version: We have no immediate plans to deploy Windows 8 on university owned equipment.

Microsoft Office 2013
Microsoft Office 2013 is now available for installation on university owned Windows 7 computers. To install, simply go to the Windows Button, More Programs, USM Apps, Productivity and select the Microsoft Office 2013 installer there. You will be asked a few questions along the way. This will uninstall previous versions of Microsoft Office and it is not easy to go backwards, so please proceed with appropriate caution and knowledge. There are no changes for Apple Macintosh computers for which Microsoft Office 2011 continues to be current and available.

Beginning July 1, 2013 all new Windows based computers will be delivered with Microsoft Office 2013. Currently we are delivering these computers with Office 2010, you can upgrade at will (as above). Unfortunately Office 2013 is only available for Windows 7 computers. It is not available for Windows XP.

Short Version: Microsoft Office 2013 is available now for Windows 7 and will be the default after July 1, 2013

Disk Drive Encryption
As you may already know, we are encrypting all laptop computers. Starting immediately, we will also be encrypting all laptops that come in for service and require “re-imaging.” Re-imaging is the process we use to wipe and reinstall a computer when fixing problems will take more time to resolve than simply reinstalling the whole thing.

In addition we have been accepting requests to encrypt desktop computers and resolving them on a case-by-case basis, giving priority to locations that work with compliant data. We are evaluating the cost and other effects of encrypting all computers that are delivered.

Short Version: All laptops will be encrypted on delivery and when re-imaged as part of routine service.

Novell File Storage and Printing
For over two decades we have utilized Novell NetWare as the core of our shared file (network drive) and print services for the University. Two years ago, Novell Inc. was “broken up,” with portions of the company sold off. The NetWare and GroupWise products are still available but are less and less meeting our ongoing and future needs. Last year we changed our licensing relationship with Microsoft to more of a site-license style arrangement to fill these gaps. These two are related in that they were the beginning of our internal shift from Novell to Microsoft for our file and print services.

Over the summer this shift will accelerate and become more apparent to you. Our next step is organizing a timeline that allows us to make the change with minimal effects on you. This is a rather complex project and we are working to coordinate some of the changes with the larger system (and other campuses). We will send out another update when we have a less fluid timeline and some concrete examples of how this will effect you and when.

Short Version: Novell File and Print services will be getting replaced with Microsoft equivalent services.

Novell GroupWise
The astute reader will be wondering about GroupWise, our email and calendar system, and how it is affected by these changes. We have no immediate plans to replace GroupWise. However we are looking at alternatives and working with our counterparts across the system to determine the best plan for USM’s faculty, students, and staff in regards to email and calendaring.

Short Version: No immediate change for GroupWise.

Blackberry Services
Android and iPhones have all but taken over the market for mobile devices with our Blackberry usage quickly dwindling. There are still a handful of adamant Blackberry advocates on-campus, but alas, only a handful. As we look at what we do with GroupWise, the primary connecting point for these mobile devices, we will also be considering dropping Blackberry sync support. This may change the level of service and how you would use a Blackberry to connect to our email and calendar system, but we will not be doing anything that would actively prevent one from connecting.

Short Version: Blackberry synchronization will likely go away by next year.

Web CMS and MyUSM Portal
We use an open source product, Drupal, for our website (usm.maine.edu). We have been running version 6 since our launch and are working diligently to upgrade this to version 7 over the summer. We have been communicating with the web publishers on campus about some of the changes and future plans. Many of the features we have been wanting to add (mobile and responsive designs) are easier to implement in this newer version. Not everything will be there “out of the box” but after we get the version upgrade done we will be in a better position to add them. Also we hope to address some internal performance problems and avoid future outages of our website.

We will continue to flesh out the MyUSM portal (https://my.usm.maine.edu), with hopes of integrating more single-sign-on applications, advertise more to students, and build communities within it. The UMaine School of Law will also be working to implement the same portal technology for their students, faculty, and staff.

Short Version: New WebCMS version with minimal changes for web publishers and browsers.

AntiVirus Software
Along with the changes to our Microsoft licensing we have discontinued the use of Symantec AV for Anti-virus software in favor of Microsoft’s System Center Endpoint Protection. This software provides similar functions to Symantec AV and is included in our license costs. This change was made several months ago and deployed on numerous computers already. We have had no serious problems with this change, in fact it has solved some incompatibilities we found over the years, and wanted to formally let you know about it.

Short Version: We are deploying Microsoft’s Anti-virus software instead of Symantec.

There are numerous other projects in computing and information ant technology going on this summer. This message just hits some items that have broad effects. Please feel free to contact the helpdesk at 780-4029 or helpdesk@usm.maine.edu for more information or help on these or any other computing problems.

Stephen Houser
Executive Director for Information and Technology
University of Southern Maine

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 at 10:05 am and is filed under blackberry, email, news, printing, security, web, webcms, windows7. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

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