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ICC Meeting:

IFAS COMPUTER COORDINATORS
(ICC)

NOTES FROM August 11th 2006       REGULAR MEETING


A meeting of the ICC was held on Friday, August 11th, 2006. The meeting was chaired and called to order by Steve Lasley, at 10:01 a.m. in the ICS conference room.

PRESENT: Twenty-two members participated.
Remote participants: Ben Beach, Bill Black, Francis Ferguson, Chris Fooshee, Chris Leopold, Joel Parlin and Mike Ryabin
On-site participants: David Bauldree, Dennis Brown, Dan Cromer, Marion Douglas, Diana Hagan, Joe Hayden, Tom Hintz, Chris Hughes, Wayne Hyde, Dwight Jesseman, Winnie Lante, Steve Lasley, Ligia Ortega, Mark Ross, and Joe Spooner.

STREAMING AUDIO: available here

NOTES:


Agendas were distributed and the meeting was called to order at shortly after 11 AM. We experienced the same problem as last time in that we could not send our camera output via Polycom and still see Steve's projected desktop locally. To compensate, local folks went without seeing that. Remote participants reported all went well, although folks are reminded that rustling of papers, etc. near the microphones is annoying for remote participants. Steve will consider relocating the snacks to help with that problem. Next time we will either use the MCU in McCarty-G001 and try the People+Content for real, or Steve will bypass the Visual Concert connection so he can show his desktop locally w/o issue.

Report from the chairman

New members:

Steve mentioned that he had been examining the IFAS if-admx accounts and the permissioning for those on OUs. From that investigation it looked like having an if-admx account is essentially equivalent to being an OU Admin. That had surprised him, because he had believed there was a distinction. Chris Hughes said that there were a very few exceptions, but for the most part that was true. We may want to consider our processes for handing out such accounts. Steve is particularly concerned that those folks get plugged into the ICC, for example.

In any case, in doing all this, Steve noticed that there were 15 people with if-admx accounts who were not listed as ICC members. Consequently, he sent an e-mail inviting them to join. From that, he has so-far recruited two new members.

The first was Rhiannon Pollard, a Program Assistant with the Soil and Water Science department. Steve could not provide any background on Rhiannon at this time, other than to say that her position doesn't appear to be specifically IT-related.

The second person was Joe Bess, IT Specialist with the IFAS Dean for Research. Joe Bess has apparently been with IFAS prior to his current position, and Joe reports that he is currently involved in trying to learn about distributed applications development. Joe is a musician as well.

Recap since last meeting:

As per his usual procedure, Steve pointed folks to the notes of the last meeting, without going into any details.

Annual ICC elections due next month:

Steve pointed out that, according to IMM 6C1-6.150-2, the ICC is due for elections next month. Steve asked if there were any members who wished to take over as chairman, but received no volunteers. Steve left nominations open, but stated that he and Dennis Brown would be willing to continue as chair and co-chair should no competing candidates surface.

Upcoming ITPAC meeting on August 22nd:

A question had been raised about continuing financial support for AD. At an ICC meeting last year, it was stated that there were a number of items (e.g., 14 additional DCs) from the original AD budget, that would be deferred indefinitely due to shortfalls. It had always been Steve's understanding, however, that renewal of the leases on the equipment which we did have would be accepted as a continuing cost. Steve asked Dan Cromer if the leases for our DCs were in any danger of not being renewed due to fiscal shortfalls.

Dan responded that it was his intent, and in fact a requirement, that the leases which we currently have be continued. Dan related that the overall budget situation is not good in that we spent $603,000 last year--not including some special projects such as the upgrade of the UPS in the IFAS server room, and network switch upgrades. Due to rising costs, we asked for about $640,000 this year on a continuing costs basis, but actually were allocated only $579,000. This leaves us with a roughly $80-100 thousand shortfall from what we thought we would need to continue. Some of the funds in there are deferrable, e.g., $40,000 for computer purchases, $12,000 for laptop purchases. Some other things cannot be deferred.

Note from future: Dan has now provided the IFAS IT budget as submitted to the VP for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

Dan will be seeking information from Chris Leopold's staff to see exactly how much we need to spend so we can best allocate the monies that we do have. From there we may have to go back to administration and report that we can't continue at this level of funding w/o cutting back on services and see how that is handled. To make matters worse, we spent about $86,000 last year from salary savings, and we don't have that this year. All the salary savings from positions for those who work beneath Dr. Joyce have gone back to the VPs office.

Steve asked Dan if he felt it might help for the ICC to make a recommendation at ITPAC regarding IFAS IT budget funding. Dan was of the opinion that this couldn't hurt. Consequently, Steve said that he would draw up a draft recommendation for consideration via the ICC-L prior to the upcoming ITPAC meeting.

Dan added that IFAS is planning to make another special request to the legislature the 2007 fiscal year for roughly $2.6 million, and about $1.4 million of that is recurring costs for increasing our networking infrastructure across the state (primarily for communication links and Polycom equipment replacment). Steve mentioned that this is similar to the request made last year, none of which got funded; but Dan said that this year it will be third in priority rather than last.

HTML e-mail:

Discussion turned to the issue of allowing HTML formatted e-mail for specific listserv lists. Dr. Mark R. McLellan, Dean for IFAS Research had requested that HTML formatting be allowed on the following lists:

  • IFAS-Center-Directors-L
  • IFAS-Department-Chairs-L
  • IFAS-Faculty-L
  • IFAS-Research-L
  • IFAS-Sponsored Programs
  • IFAS-Administrative-Council-L
  • IFAS-Research Admin

This issue arose when Dr. McLellan asked Joe Bess to compose a template for a newsletter with the goal of disseminating information and promote their website. Joe Bess had related that the template only includes links to images, is about 4 KB, and the newsletter would probably be no larger than 20-50 KB itself.

Most ICCers were aware and in agreement that enabling HTML for even specific listserv lists is not a good idea. Although space requirements had been mentioned originally as a concern by Dan, there are greater concerns with security (possible malicious code injection) and with readability guarantees (not all clients can be or are configured to handle HTML reliably). Steve had provided a link on HTML e-mail issues to the ICC prior to the meeting and Ligia Ortega provided others afterwards from the Caltech Help Desk (see the section on HTML e-mail) as well as, perhaps, less tactful sources, including a link on 7 reasons why HTML e-mail is EVIL!!!.

Dwight Jesseman was concerned that the dean did not understand the issues involved and believed that this points to a user education issue of concern. Steve agreed that it is partially a training issue, but he feels another aspect is that we do not have a simple and easy alternative. It is true that a person can compose an HTML e-mail, use "File, Save-as" to save to a network location, and then send a link to that location via text e-mail. While that process is very much doable under our current configuration, it is itself a considerable training issue; a simpler solution could solve many problems at once, but currently resources do not lend themselves to doing any of that.

Dan wants there to be an unemotional thoughtful discussion on this with the various options and their costs being presented. Dan would like to have an easy collaboration method which would obviate the need for HTML e-mail or for file attachments. Mark Ross felt it important to separate the issues of collaboration and notification. Mark feels e-mail is extremely poor at the former and only good at the latter in as much as guaranteed readability is ensured. He pointed out that even an e-mail with links is not necessarily going to get an important notice out, because not all devices (mobile ones come to mind) can handle it well. Consequently, Mark did not want to muddy the issue by raising the collaboration matter. We may need to specifically ask the dean what his purposes are to see what solutions we might be able to provide for that. HTML formatted e-mail is not deemed the solution in any case.

Steve asked Dan if Bill Brown, the research dean's representative to ITPAC, would be at the next ITPAC meeting to discuss this. Dan believes that George Hochmuth, Associate Dean for Research, would be replacing Bill in that role. Steve mentioned that both Dan and he planned on being at ITPAC to address the concerns and that if any other ICCers wanted to be there as well, they were welcome.

Dwight felt that this still boiled down to an end-user education issue and wondered how we might address that. Ligia suggested that the listserv message which is returned when one tries to send an improperly formatted message ("rejected due to an unapproved attachment") might be edited to assist in that by either spelling it out right there or by providing a link to a webpage which described the reasons why HTML formatted e-mail is not permitted on our listserv. Dan believed that Dwight could work with Dean to see if we can implement that. If that can be done, the documentation itself can easily be garnered from various sources, including those listed previously.

Winnie Lante asked what attachments were currently allowed on our general listserv lists. She mentioned that practically anything can be converted to PDF. According to Chris Leopold, the allowed listserv attachments include:

  • Attachments= application/*htm
  • Attachments= application/*msword
  • Attachments= application/*pdf
  • Attachments= application/*rtf
  • Attachments= application/vnd.ms-excel
  • Attachments= application/vnd.ms-publisher
  • Attachments= application/vnd.ms-word
  • Attachments= application/*wmz
  • Attachments= application/*wordperfect5.
  • Attachments= application/*wpd
  • Attachments= application/*xls
  • Attachments= application/*x-msexcel
  • Attachments= application/*x-stuffi
  • Attachments= application/*zip
  • Attachments= image/bmp
  • Attachments= image/gif
  • Attachments= image/jpeg

Dan is still concerned with the size of attachments and how quickly that expands with multiple target addresses such as the listserv generally entails. Dwight mentioned that Exchange has a 30 MB limit on attachments, but that the listserv can impose limits as well. Allowed attachments can be controlled on the listserv by list additionally.

Policy

IT Governance sub-committee status report

Chris Hughes reported that other duties had been preventing any action on this matter.

Recommendation: autogroups for *selected* roles

Steve had heard no new comment on this from ICC members, but wanted to refer them to earlier discussion so they might consider this as time allowed.

Projects

IFAS Remedy System

Steve mentioned that he still had no response from Dan Christophy on the issues with e-mail notification. Winnie mentioned that she received her first e-mail notification on a ticket the other day, but when she went into the system, there were a number of other tickets from her users for which she had not been notified. Portions of this system would appear to remain broken. Steve expressed his frustration concerning the lack of movement on this issue.

IFAS WebDAV implementation

Steve asked about the status of this project. Dwight related that it is in its final stages and that ICCers can test it at https://files.ifas.ufl.edu. There is no documentation on this yet, but you are encouraged to try it out and to report any issues which you may find. To use this, you must launch Internet Explorer and click on "File, Open", there is a little checkbox that says "Open as Web Folder". There you specify the desired location within the \\ad.ufl.edu\IFAS DFS share. Your permissions on all the DFS shares must be enumerated, so accessing a folder near the root can take a while (you will see a flashlight hovering over the display). Targeting a folder at a specific end node (for example, your own unit's folder), however, should be much quicker. Chris Hughes mentioned that he would appreciate it if folks looked particularly for things that are available via the web which perhaps shouldn't be.

Vista TAP and Vista Deployment via SMS and WDS

Chris Hughes reported that Erik Schmidt of UFAD has taken over managing the Vista project. There is a lab set up at the UF Eastside Campus on Waldo Road. Dan Cromer announced that, whereas this was previously open to just a few, it has now been opened up to all and everyone who wishes to participate is encouraged to become involved in the testing. They are particularly interested in finding and testing any applications which may be needed on the new platform. There are meetings each Tuesday at 9 AM which you are encouraged to attend. The past problems with the lack of MS participation at those meetings has supposedly been corrected. Torrance Zellner from the Help Desk is supposedly attending those, but Chris Hughes has been too busy with the web migration to continue his previous close contact with that. Chris is still trying to get the specifics of the IFAS commitment to this program--in regard to the number of seats we need to deploy at each stage. There will be a RC1 release in approximately the September timeframe that will support WDS and which we should be able to make available via that means.

Steve mentioned having loaded the Office 2007 beta on his Vista test machine and how extremely different the user interface is from previous versions. Dwight wondered if there were any plans for end-user training on that. Dwight feels it important to be proactive there. Tom Hintz was asked about his plans in that regard. Tom was not at all anxious to suggest a quick or early rollout of that software. He will have training available when the demand warrants, however. Most seemed to agree that they would not suggest any foreseeable deadline for implementation, but rather they are concerned at being ready when it begins its slow creep into our users machines. Steve said it is clear that the uniformity of platform which we have enjoyed lately (WinXP and Office 2003) will soon be a thing of the past. Diana Hagan suggested that this could be handled gradually by facilitating communication among early adopters.

Removal of WINS

Chris Hughes has discovered some problems in removing WINS with regards to our DFS configuration. A Microsoft Knowledgebase article addresses this issue. In a nutshell, there is a registry hack that allows servers to participate in a DNS-only DFS configuration, but that key should be set prior to joining a server to the DFS namespace and there are issues with fixing this after-the-fact. Consequently, the prospects of removing WINS is slipping still further onto the back burner.

New IFAS IP Plan

Chris Leopold gave a status update on this project. Progress is being made and the plan is to move a couple of buildings every Tuesday. Chris will be contacting the local administrators to make that happen.

Move to IF-SRV-WEB

Chris Hughes has been busy moving IF-SRV-WEB02 to the new web server. Chris reported there are 29 sites remaining, two of which will take about one day each.

Exit processes, NMB and permission removal

Prior exit procedure discussion. Dan Cromer said he had talked again to Dale McPherson, but mentioned no concrete progress from that vantage point. Dan also said that this was discussed at a recent ITAC AD meeting. The GatorLink Administration Management (see the GLAM site for details - contact George Bryan for access) project is supposed to be completed by October 16th. This includes the 16 character Gatorlink usernames, but along with that, the entire management process is being renovated. Part of that process is that, anytime a personnel action takes place from PeopleSoft that affects the directory, a message will be sent to BizTalk which will then send the messages out to consumers. Dan believes we eventually will be able to receive notification of people leaving or changing roles via this mechanism. Steve asked if we have the resources and expertise to make use of that and Dan responded that we will have to learn. According to Chris Hughes, the messages will be defined through a web service that is documented on the GLAM site. We would need to create a web service that consumes the SOAP packets from BizTalk, store the results in a database, and queue actions off of that. Consumers must be registered and communications will be secured via SSL. Steve asked Dan if this was something that might be on the plate for the business software group and Dan replied in the affirmative, but also indicated that there has been nobody on his staff assigned to investigate that task as of yet.

Listserv confirm settings

Dwight related that Jordan Wiens has been in contact with him and that we are being reported to Spamcop because of our listserv and the fact that we have open lists. This raises the danger of IFAS or UF being blacklisted due to the way our listserv currently functions. When one looks at the last mailer that touched the message, we appear to outsiders to be the source of the spam. This strongly suggests that further postponing the implementation of confirmation on our lists may be unwise.

Dan Cromer said that he had been asked by administration to look into all possible options before implementing confirm settings. He wanted to investigate adding a front-end that would do an SMTP lookup to confirm that the message was being sent from a valid address. Chris and Dwight are of the mind that such a method would be ineffective because of spoofing and our need to accept valid addresses from any domain. Also, checking addresses outside our domain for validity may actually trigger others to suspect that we may be spammers, because doing so w/o sending an actual message is a known spammer technique for validating addresses. Dan conceded that, if we could provide documentation that this it would not be useful, then he could plead the case further to administration.

As a side note, Joe Hayden reported that our listservs are already blocked by Pinellas County.

Re-enabling Windows firewall

Steve realizes that this is waiting on the IP renumbering, but he did note that all sorts of reputable sites, including Microsoft's own, recommend a software firewall. Steve suggested that it may become more commonplace that our users implement their own solution in the absence of us providing one. Wayne Hyde reported that there are currently only seven ZoneAlarmassis users within IFAS, so perhaps the problem is not too great at the moment.

Operations

IF-SRV-FILE01 migration complete

All file have been migrated to IF-SRV-FILE02. The machine is still running, but is no longer providing production file service.

OU Admin Training: who wants it and who will do it

Dwight had mentioned to Steve that at least three people had requested OU Admin training. This came to the forefront via the fileserver migration. There are a number of departments like Budget and Finance, Research, SWS, SNRE, which basically do not have an OU Admin, but which do have individuals willing to step up into that role if given sufficient assistance. Such people may be the ones currently handling NMB for their unit, but perhaps should also be able to create groups and control permissions to file shares.

After some discussion it was decided that there was enough interest to warrant a special peer-to-peer workshop 1-2 times yearly. Dan Cromer suggested that particular questions be requested prior to those in order to help prepare.

Steve agreed to organize those with the understanding that it wouldn't just be him one-on-one with new admins; rather Steve would like a number of our more experienced admins (and hopefully at least one admin from IT/SA) to also sit in to assist, as well as refresh their own understanding. Steve feels that this would help him focus attention on improving the IT/SA Service documentation (ufad\if-admn credentials required) and could help make that more useful for all.

IFAS Office install point revamped

Steve announced that this install point is now being maintained by Mark Ross and himself. All known issues have been fixed and its use has been documented at http://icc.ifas.ufl.edu/ITServiceDocs/File/office.htm (ufad\if-admn credentials required). The installation is already up-to-date with this Tuesday's patches. You do not have to use the default install, but can easily create your own transform and retain that and an installation link on a site which you control more directly. Please consider using it and let Mark or Steve know if you have any questions or problems.

Steve also mentioned that the site is currently permissioned with read access to all IFAS. Were installation done solely via GPO, these permissions could be tightened considerably.

IE7 via Automatic Update

In the Vista Deployment discussion earlier in the meeting, Dan had mentioned how IE7 was going to be made available as a high-priority update via Automatic Updates and the Windows Update and Microsoft Update sites shortly after the final version of Internet Explorer 7 is released (planned for 4th quarter of 2006). Dan felt, as do we all, that we need to be prepared for this. There will be methods to block that via GPO, should we decide that is best. ICCers are advised to consider this IE7 rollout and to try and decide how best to handle user education issues and to manage its adoption. While Dan and others mentioned using the beta currently with their production desktops, there are some issues (for example with installing or uninstalling) that may suggest it best be left off production machines until release.

Installing the Volume Shadow Copy client via GPO

In case you had not noticed, this is now being done at startup for co-managed computers. A message indicates that prior to the logon screen coming up.

Should file type filtering be instituted on the IFAS Fileserver

The MS quota system, as demonstrated at our last meeting, also provides the ability to filter files by type and thus not allow particular file types to be stored in various folders. Chris Leopold had seen that CLAS is prohibiting various file types, including:

  • Music/Video files (.MP3, .WMV, .MOV, .MPG)
  • Executable programs (.EXE, .COM)
  • Large image files (.TIF, .TGA, .JPG)
  • Archive files (.ZIP, .RAR)
on the CLAS HOME volume (with exceptions for legitimate academic need). Dwight wanted ICCers to at least be aware that this capability existed and could be customized per folder. If some unit wished to implement that on one or more of their departmental folders on the IFAS file server, Dwight could assist with that.

Steve pointed out that he is now getting daily e-mails of the nine possible reports available from the MS quota system. This can provide an OU admin with information on current quota settings and use. If your department is using the IFAS file server and you wish to arrange getting those for your unit, please know that Dwight intends to get with each admin and get the quota system configured for your use. The default will be to e-mail the OU Admin whenever someone exceeds quota and when the unit gets up to 100%, both Dwight and the OU Admin will get notification. The other daily (3 am) reports will be optional.

Dwight also wanted folks aware that he is not backing up any .pst files on the file server--mainly due to the fact that many of these are kept in a continuously open state. Such information should either be left within Exchange or carefully archived separately by the user. Dennis asked if Volume Shadow Copy has access to .pst files, and Dwight confessed that he did not know the answer to that but would check.

Dan Cromer related that currently the space on our server (not counting the fairly expensive backup component) runs approximately $3 per GB per year.

Replacing NetMeeting: Windows Collaboration, Microsoft Live Communications Server, Oracle Collaboration Suite, and other options

Steve related that this matter was moved to the end of the agenda when Trish Capps, who originally brought up this issue to the ICC, was unable to attend. She did provide the following information, however, which Steve wanted to relay here:

Since the last ICC meeting, there have been lots of folks stepping up and giving 
graciously of their time and energies to sort out the video conferencing issues 
from the usersí (studentsí) perspective.

Tom Hintz and Claude King have been extremely helpful and Dan Cromer has lent his 
support. Justin Stone and Ron Thomas have been constant with their attention. I 
attribute the success we have had so far to the pooling of information and 
cooperation with everyone focused on the studentsí experiences.

Last week, our sister institutions posted some distance education enrollment 
numbers that were staggering.

When the University of West Florida began its distance education program in 1999, 
they had 1 program and 100 students. Today, they have 3,200 students enrolled in 
31 undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs. At PJC, there are 1800 
students in 2 degree programs, 1 certificate program, and 55 on-line classes.

How might those numbers impact our enrollment?

If we theorize that 1% to 5% of those numbers might be interested in agricultural 
careers given the opportunity to pursue them with distance education, we would 
increase enrollment in the Panhandle by 32 to 160. (I am not factoring in PJC 
since those students feed into UWF)  If we use a very conservative number to 
calculate FTE and divide by 4, we grow by 8 to 40 FTE. One might also theorize 
that similar numbers could be generated throughout the state. (Provided that my 
math is correct)

Chris Hughes shared that Microsoft is coming to campus sometime in September to provide a demonstration of SharePoint 2007. Chris said that he will e-mail those dates to the ICC once it is finalized.

Steve asked Tom Hintz about the likelihood of the Radvision supporting People+Content. All Tom could really say there is that it does not work currently and that, even if it did, it would exclude the use of our current iPower systems. Using the built-in Polycom MCUs, People+Content can work with all our FX, VSX and iPower equipment.

Steve added that using the Visual Concert connection with mobile setups--such as exist in Entomology, and Fifield--is a rat-maze of cabling that will defy almost any end-user to manipulate without assistance. Such setups really only lend themselves to permanent installations where someone can walk in, hook their laptop up to the Visual Concert just as they would to any computer projector, and proceed.

IFAS is obviously putting quite a few resources into the Radvision solution (1.5 FTE). Steve asked whether this seemed to be helping things, and Dan countered with a query as to what we thought. Steve mentioned that we now get e-mails concerning scheduled conferences that list all the sites as well as the conference ID to use in case automatic connection fails for one reason or another. The forms for scheduling conferences are still awful, as Patrick is well aware.

Mark Ross mentioned that he has regularly been in Radvision meetings where the connection is dropped and then reconnected automatically again ten minutes or so later. Steve hadn't seen that, but did have the problem with folks trying to connect directly via IP during a Radvision conference. Another issue is in not being able to control a session from the primary site--something that was allowed in the early days, but has since been unavailable except to Video Services. Steve did note that Tom's IFAS video site is a wonderful resource, but that we still have quite a number of issues left to address in using this equipment efficiently.

Form to E-mail Processor

Joe Spooner spent a very brief time mentioning a form to e-mail processor they've written for IFAS and CALS. "Simple, useful, validation included. In BETA now." Information about this may be examined at http://formprocessor.ifas.ufl.edu. Joe would like everyone to check it out and provide feedback; it is not ready for production, however.

Fire at Balm

Joe Hayden related the story of a recent fire at Balm. Lightning struck a facility there on Saturday night at 7:30 PM and caused over $22 thousand in equipment damages. Joe urges folks to consider APC UPS's to protect all computer equipment--equipment supplied by such a device that has been registered with APC is covered against surge damage. Also, Joe mentioned that if a piece of equipment has a decal, then IFAS insures it; if not, then you aren't covered. This is something to think about when trying to price a component down under $1000 so it can be purchased on a P-Card. Such decisions may not always be the wisest..

The meeting was adjourned on time at about 12:00 p.m.