This month in Information and Technology we have several projects that are moving close to completion and a few that are beginning to pick up steam. As the term settles into its groove we are working behind the scenes to plan out our work for the Spring. Yes we are already thinking about spring and we haven’t even had snow yet. Please read on for more on what we are working on for you.
CryptoLocker Malware (RansomWare)
We have had at least one instance of this particularly nasty computer malware on campus. The software is typically transmitted by email; either an attached executable or malicious link. The malware encrypts documents on your hard disk as well as any documents you have access to on network drives. This is bad. The encryption used is very good, as in so good the NSA can’t break it. Our only recourse thus far has been to restore backups for the affected user(s). As we only back up network drives, data on the local drives are lost.
Short Version: Be extra cautious of links in email, keep workstations updated, report problems immediately.
Work on moving our network services off of Novell NetWare to Microsoft continues. The next steps you will see are the removal of Novell from your workstation, updates will begin to be automatically pushed, and printers will begin to migrate.
The Novell client removal will alter your login experience. The “Red N” login screen will disappear and will be replaced with the standard Windows login screen. The “USM Apps” and other Novell specific menu and desktop items will also disappear. This process should happen automatically and may require a system reboot. Afterwards you workstation should be a bit leaner and quicker. More information is in our knowledge base at: https://webapp.usm.maine.edu/confluence/display/kb/Removal+of+Novell+and+Zenworks+Client
With the Microsoft infrastructure, we also have the ability to “push” verified updates to machines, eliminating your need to continually check for updates. We will begin doing this simultaneously with the removal of Novell from each workstation. This will ensure your systems are as up-to-date as possible and help protect against malicious software. More information is in our knowledge base at: https://webapp.usm.maine.edu/confluence/display/kb/How+Windows+Updates+are+Installed+on+USM+Computers
Along with these two processes, we will be working with you to move your printers off of the Novell printing system and onto the Microsoft one. This process will be a bit less automated than the client removal and update pushing. You may run into problems as this happens, printers may go offline or disappear. We are working to avoid this and will ensure the Helpdesk has the most current information on where work is being performed. A call to them will likely save you time and frustration.
Short Version: Final bits of Novell are being removed from workstations. Migration nearing completion.
WebCMS (Drupal 7 Launched)
Since our last update we have completed the testing and launch of Drupal version 7. This is the updated back-end system for our Web Content Management System (WebCMS). With this update we have positioned ourselves with a flexible site that will allow “responsive” designs that work on both desktop and mobile devices. This is a huge step forward in the technology and we still have steps ahead to leverage it. In addition, during the upgrade the team was able to improve the site performance for a better user experience.
Thank you to the WebCMS technical team and the Marketing and Brand Management staff for their contributions to making this upgrade go so smoothly.
Short Version: From the outside; faster but no visual changes. From the inside; prepared for responsive design.
OS X 10.9 Mavericks
Apple recently launched the next version of their OS X operating system, Mavericks 10.9. The upgraded software is free from Apple through their App Store. We are working with a few non-critical systems to test the upgrade against the most common systems and software you use. For the moment, we are suggesting you do not upgrade on any production workstations. Though we have yet to find any major complications we are a week or more from cataloging potential problems. The problems we and others have found are quirky and may be a major inconvenience for you. We are working on developing work-arounds for those but don’t expect to finish until the end of this month.
Short Version: Hold off on OS X 10.9 upgrade for now. Verification should be complete by end of month.
Blackboard is scheduled to be upgraded to “Service Pack 13,” on the weekend of November 15th-17th. A test system has been running this upgrade for a few weeks now with testing by staff at various University of Maine System campuses, with no major complications found thus far. The Blackboard support site (http://support.courses.maine.edu/) has more information about the details of the upgrade and timing.
Short Version: Blackboard out of service from 5pm on Friday 11/15 to 8am on Sunday 11/17.
Video Bridge Update
The video conferencing bridge used to offer classes and meetings between University of Maine System campuses was upgraded mid-October and then rolled back to the original system. There were technical problems found shortly after the rollout that caused major interruption to classes using the system. The team working on the system has been working to iron those out in hopes of redeploying over the semester break. When we have specific dates, we will pass those along.
Short Version: Videoconferencing bridge will be updated during semester break.
Windows 7 (and the demise of Windows XP)
The vast majority of workstations on campus are now running Windows 7. This puts us in a good position for the impending demise of Windows XP next spring. Not a great position as there are still many workstations out there with Windows XP. Some of these have technical reasons they cannot be upgraded but many are limited by financial resources. You will be hearing more from our staff on an individual basis and working with you and department heads to develop a strategy for these workstations.
Short Version: If you are running Windows XP, expect a call from us.
Executive Director for Information and Technology