Summer updates

To be honest it hasn’t been a great summer – professionally I mean. What should have been quite quiet, with no major upgrades or changes, has turned out to be hectic. For a start we were let down by some suppliers.

Dell, with whom we have worked with for several years, won our annual tender for PCs. Great. We like their PCs as they don’t break. When we tried to place the order there were several delays, then a very shame faced conversation about having used the wrong pricing and would we mind paying an extra 12%… We were left with trying to source 300 PCs and get them delivered in about 10 days.

We went to the supplier who came second on the tender (Millennium Business Systems) and they said ’sure – no problem. Expect eight to ten working days for delivery’. This stretched to 20 days and left us with PCs arriving by the pallet load during enrolment. The technicians have done a fantastic job and have installed the new machines as soon as they arrived. This is the first time we have had Fujistu machines and so far they look pretty good.

Add to this the late delivery of the Adobe license information and a supplier who announced that they couldn’t make the mid-august installation date for some screens and whiteboards so they would be here to install them the second week in September…

Enough of our problems. On you return you will find;

  • Creative and digital PC rooms and other class rooms that will run Adobe software have new and uprated machines.
  • Computers from 2011 (the asset number starts with the year) have mostly been replaced. The rest will be done as soon as we have time.
  • There are no major software changes, apart from the introduction of Adobe Creative Cloud. However, the latest update for Windows 10 (Creator’s edition) means that you will have lost some of your settings. Be prepared for a slow first login. Sorry – this is a Microsoft thing and beyond our control.
  • We have done a lot of work on the ‘slow first login’ problem but haven’t made as much progress as we would have liked. Remember – the first time a you, or a student, log into a computer it will take a couple of minutes. Ask them to login as soon as they come into the lesson. Every subsequent time you, or they, use that computer the login speed should be about ten seconds. If at all possible ask them to sit in the same places each week.
  • The technicians’ time wasn’t wasted while waiting for computers to arrive. All desktop computers have been audited, keyboards and mice checked and replaced if they needed it, projectors checked and cleaned. As always though, things still can and will break or go missing. If you spot a problem it is your responsibility to let the helpdesk team know either by phone (x38666) or by putting it on the helpdesk system (http://helpdesk.sussexdowns.ac.uk).
  • We have a new helpdesk system. We are trying to centralise all support departments on the one platform. So far we have MIS, Network Services, Facilities and Comms on board with other departments coming soon. We are also putting a lot more information in the system’s ‘knowledge base’

Welcome back.

Adobe Creative Cloud

For the first time this year we have access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. The license for this covers all college machines and there is a ‘work at home’ license for staff.  This means that you can have it installed on your own PC or laptop. The license does not cover students having a copy on their own devices. There are student rates available from Adobe at between £10 and £16 per month but they buy this direct from Adobe.  If you need a copy for your own computer then please put a request on the helpdesk. However, please be patient – the licensing process for ‘work at home’ is quite complicated and we are just learning which hoops we have to jump through.

We will be installing the software in most creative and digital teaching rooms, along with some upgraded computers to make sure that the packages run well. In the first instance the rooms have been nominated by your Program Managers. If you need access to one of the packages, and it isn’t available already, then put a request on the helpdesk. This is only just rolling out at the moment so please wait until the start of term before making a request when it should all be in place. There will also be some copies available on machines in the learning centres.

A word of warning; these are very resource hungry packages. Installing all of them could well use up most of the hard drive on your computer. We think that a complete installation will take in excess of 100Gb. Consider carefully which applications you need before making a request. The same goes for your home PC – older computers will probably struggle with some apps.

The complete list of applications available includes:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Bridge
  • Adobe InCopy
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
  • Adobe Dreamweaver
  • Adobe Flash Professional (now called Adobe Animate)
  • Adobe Fireworks CS6
  • Adobe Muse
  • Adobe Scout
  • Adobe Gaming SDK
  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Audition
  • Adobe SpeedGrade
  • Adobe Prelude
  • Adobe Prelude Live Logger
  • Adobe Encore
  • Adobe Media Encoder
  • Adobe Flash Builder Premium

Encryption – protecting our data

We have agreed with our auditors that all college laptops will be ‘encrypted’. This means that if anyone found (or stole?) a college laptop they wouldn’t be able to read the data on there. Our information security policy says that personal data, for staff or students, shouldn’t leave the college. If you need to access EBS, Trent or ProMonitor from outside the college you can do so using the ‘RDS’ portal. That way the data never actually leaves the site.

However, we do recognise that there may be circumstances where this can’t be avoided, and this is the reason for the encryption. Well, that and trying to avoid the newspaper headlines when someone does lose a laptop.

For the purposes of this article there are two sorts of laptop. The ‘Enterprise’ ones (most of the Dells) have a thing called a TPM chip in them. This is used to uniquely identify that laptop so that if the hard disk is removed it can’t be read by another computer. With this in place security depends entirely on your password. Never… Ever… leave anything with a laptop that has the password written on it.

The other sort of laptops that we have are ‘Consumer’ laptops. These don’t have the TPM chip in them. Instead they need a USB drive that you insert when you turn the laptop on. Without the drive being present the machine won’t load. When we encrypt one of these laptops we will give you a USB drive that you need to keep safe. We have some small ones that will fit on your car key ring for example. If you do lose it, we can recover the data on the computer. The thing to remember with these ones is, in addition to not keeping your password with the laptop; Never… Ever… leave the USB drive with the laptop.

All new laptops that we issue will be encrypted and we will have to recall all others over the next few months.

Eduroam and wifi

We have been doing a lot of work recently on our wifi. When we first installed our system the requirements were quite simple. People would want to bring in a laptop or maybe an iPad and connect it to do some work. Now the world has moved on. We normally have about 2000 devices connected at any one time across the college. As I write (on a quiet Friday morning) I can see that;

  • 59% of the devices currently connected to the wifi are iPhones
  • 12% are Android
  • around 3% iPods
  • 2% ipads
  • 3% MacBooks,
  • 4% windows devices
  • around 18% ‘others’

This is further complicated by our international residential users in Caburn House, who use the wifi as the primary means of communicating with home and accessing entertainment from their own culture.

Our original models for how people connect and which services they can access don’t really fit very well anymore and we will be changing them shortly. More on this later when we have finished working out exactly what is required.

However, there are two positive developments that will be available soon. One is that we have been replacing all of our oldest wireless access points. The new ones will cope with the newer, faster standards (802.11n and 802.11ac) and should improve the service quite dramatically. So far Kings Building has been updated, along with some of the Hammond / Construction centre area. The ALC is next, along with Southover in Lewes.

The other development is the introduction of eduroam. Click on the link and watch the video for a good explanation of what this is. In short it is a means of visiting other organisations and using their wifi using your Sussex Downs credentials. This started out in Universities but is now becoming widely adopted in FE and other sectors. Our HE students can connect here and at Brighton without needing two sets of credentials. Visitors from other education providers will be able to connect to our network without a guest account. The pan-Sussex public sector network (LINK) should be rolling it out soon so it should be available in libraries, council buildings and so on. This should be available soon so watch this space for more news.

Technology matters