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Committee on Information Technology

Minutes of the December 5, 2007 meeting of the
Committee on Information Technology

Minutes of the December 5, 2007 meeting of the Committee on Information Technology

Present: Delphine Masse, Luis González, Patrick Morton, Jeff Muday, Anne Bishop, Rick Matthews, Paul Escott, Jonathan Christman, Deborah Best, Eric Mitchell, Wei-chin Lee, Hugh Howards, Ching Wan Yip, Jolie Tingen

The first agenda item was looking at alternatives for reducing the size of the standard load (Patrick Morton, and Anne Bishop).  Pat has been asked to look at reducing size of standard load.  He distributed a list of software for the committee to consider for omission on the standard load.  Pat said that the software on the ThinkPad standard load is determined by CIT and academic input.  He said that it is easier to install some software up front.  An application may be large or cumbersome to install and automating an installation can be difficult.  He also argued that faculty members don’t know what software is available to students if a program is not on the standard load.  Another issue is that students won’t necessarily follow through with obtaining software installation for a class.  Pat argued that the less students and faculty have to think about the computer and software installed the better.  He also pointed out that reduction in the software load won’t solve boot up times.

Pat has looked at convenience items that departments could possibly install on their own.  The language packs for Microsoft Office are installed on the standard load because they are difficult to install.  It is easier to remove the language packs than install them.  Pat noted that freeware is more difficult to deal with because of marketshare and download logs.  Companies who produce freeware rely on download statistics.  Paul said that redundant and underused are very different categories and that some underused programs may be very important to some.  Delphine asked how Pat determined that Dreamweaver is underused.  Pat said that he polled the ITGs and the Library.  Delphine said that she knows a lot of people that use Dreamweaver.  Pat said that the price of Dreamweaver is skyrocketing and we won’t be able to afford it soon.  He suggested we should look at alternatives.  Delphine asked if we can keyserv Dreamweaver.  Pat said that with the new license for Adobe products it will cost more to keyserv Dreamweaver.  He said that the price for 250 copies is more than 8000 copies.  Jonathan asked about alternatives.  Pat said there are alternatives like Nvu.  Rick said that he is a fan of open source but Dreamweaver is ahead of everything.  He added that Dreamweaver supports Ajax, creating menus for navigation as well as many other advanced features.

Jeff mentioned that our network doesn’t support many simultaneous software installations.  He also suggested that moving installations to users creates more work.  Yip added that troubleshooting installations takes time as well.  Delphine argued that students getting experience using the programs such as Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Illustrator is a reason to keep them on the load.  Pat agreed.  Pat asked about looking at Adobe licenses and cheaper alternatives.  Yip suggested that we consider purchasing products through a suite instead of piecemeal to save money.  Pat said we need to ask if that option is available through the consortium from which we purchase.  Jeff asked if we can leverage pricing/licensing by collaborating with the medical school.  Pat said the university is looking at that.  Luis suggested the possibility of approaching this as a cost savings initiative like we did with the ThinkPad.  Delphine observed that this situation is different because there is no product competition.  Wei-chin asked why we are looking at this issue.  Pat said that as prices go up, he re-evaluates items on the load.  We-chin observed that we are we primarily looking at Dreamweaver.  Pat said we’ll have to keep it in mind if we can justify the cost of Dreamweaver being on the load. Delphine asked if this will apply to existing copies and Pat said no.  Only once the contract is renegotiated, those copies will be affected (new versions).  Anne said that IS needs a recommendation from the CIT to not reduce the load because they are under pressure to do so. 

Hugh asked what does take the computers so long to boot if it’s not software installed.  Pat said that having a computer joined to the domain increases boot time.  Pat and Yip are working on the issue with networking personnel.  Antivirus software also slows the boot time.  Delphine observed that we need to connect to the network and use antivirus software.  The suggested list of software is insignificant in terms of hard drive space.  Rick observed that having a stable load with as many applications as we have is truly extraordinary.  Our faculty are used to students showing up and using an application and it just works.  At other universities it is a hurdle and challenge.  He thanks colleagues that make this happen for their hard work. 

Paul said the committee through discussion has agreed that software load reduction is a non-issue.  Pat suggested that the committee wait to make a decision.  Luis said that the committee will look at the issue again in January.

The second agenda item was up updating the CIT website with current members and password protection for access to the meeting minutes (Jolie Tingen).  Luis said that we need to look at the members of the CIT.  We are missing one of the two student representatives.  Deborah said that the Dean’s office can take care of this issue.  Her office will look up the representatives and provide that information.  Deborah said that she will look up the bylaws to see who should be on the administration members list.  Delphine will talk to Lorna Moore about participating on the committee.  Luis agreed that links to e-mail addresses on the website aren’t necessary.  Jolie asked the question if the minutes should be password protected or if an IP address restriction for the WFU campus network would be sufficient.  Delphine said that the wfu.edu username and password would be best so that guest users on the network could not access the minutes.  Rick agreed that WFU username and password should be required to access the minutes on the website and the committee concurred.  Jolie will make that change.

The third agenda item was whether or not the committee should consider Windows Live, a competitor to Google Mail, in looking at e-mail alternatives for students (Jeff Muday).  Jeff previously presented information about alternate e-mail procurement for students.  He has presented information to the committee about Google Apps for education.  Many universities he has spoken with regarding Google Apps have given favorable responses.  He is now looking at Microsoft Live.  Both offerings are 5 GB quota.  Jeff said that what we are offering is even behind community colleges and we give our students the “heave ho” when they graduate.  We can move into a pilot scenario with Google Apps at no cost as early as January.  The service could be a forward to wfu.edu or a new service.  Jeff prefers Google over Windows Live because they are offering more services and are more geared toward education.  Microsoft Live is more like Outlook.  It does not have POP3 support which Rick said is very important.  Microsoft is supposedly in the process of adding POP3 support.  Microsoft Live doesn’t have redirect capabilities which is a drawback to that service.  Another problem with this proposed pilot is that we are taking our mail offsite.  Jeff said we might have FERPA issues if we move faculty and staff onto a service like Google Mail.  We would have to spend anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000 to move completely to a Microsoft Exchange e-mail solution. 

Anne said that the project proposal would have to go through a security review before we could do a pilot of Google Mail.  Jeff said that at least 25% of the students are already redirecting their mail without this security review.  Luis said that he is concerned about alumni paying to not to get advertisements because we would be asking them to subscribe to a service.  Rick said there are three options: pay without ads, not pay and get ads, and stick with the current scenario of e-mail forwarding.  Rick said that we may be able to offer students a forwarding service even without an e-mail address change.  Rick said that we have a real crisis; that some students who are opting-out and forwarding to Google mail may be missing critical e-mails.  Pat said that he agrees but he is concerned about who owns the data and what happens if the service becomes for fee.  He asked if Google considers anything that goes through their server as something they own.  Pat is also concerned that Google is a target for hacking.  Wei-chin said that as soon as we initiate the solution at the institution level, we are responsible rather than students who are doing this on their own.  Paul observed that our storage system is so bad that in a few years all students will be using Gmail.  Paul said that we don’t need to do anything other than offer forwarding.  Jeff said that if we only offer forwarding that we are missing the web 2.0 movement.  We are not keeping up with what other universities are doing.  Jeff said that we can’t afford not to look at this opportunity.  We are not ready to go into an implementation phase.  He argued that we are in a position to delay the cost of other solutions with little risk.  Delphine observed that students would not be a hostage to the service because they can get their e-mail through POP3 to avoid advertisements without paying.  Delphine thought that students would not be upset to use Google Mail.  Jeff said that the movement of schools to offer Google Mail was prompted by students.  Wei-chin said that we need to proceed cautiously and have an exit strategy.  He also suggested that there might be a compromise for a security and legal procedures to expedite a pilot.  Paul moved that we should ask IS to look over the project proposal.  Anne said that there is a project initiation phase, then it will go to project management, then the administration will prioritize projects (higher than IS).  Paul asked if legal will be involved because they are slow.  Luis asked if we need to proceed this way or if Jeff can do this on his own.  All Jeff needs is an MX record to proceed with a pilot.  He does not need a server.  Anne asked if someone will need to sign a contract and Jeff said yes.  Anne said she will work with Jeff on how to proceed with an e-mail pilot.  Jeff said he can find volunteers.  Jeff asked who would be empowered to sign the contract.

Luis asked if we can meet at this time next semester and everyone said yes.

Respectfully submitted,
Jolie Tingen

 


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