Friday, August 31, 2007

Move-in day tomorrow

It's one of the busiest days of the year at I&TS: the day freshmen move on campus. We're expecting nearly 900 new students, all wanting to make sure they can get on the Internet.

I&TS will have help in the residence halls: special student consultants will be wandering, checking to make sure there are no problems hooking up computers and phones. Look for the people in lime green shirts. In addition, there will be a consultant in the lounge to help dispatch workers if you need someone and they're busy elsewhere. Also, I&TS staff will be available for more complex problems that require more computer expertise. Finally, you can always phone the helpdesk at 783-2573 to get help.

Some of the more common connection problems are simply fixed. You need to be aware of the following:
  • Make sure you have the correct cable. A network cable is different from the telephone/modem cable that came with your computer. Network cables are almost never part of the computer package; you need to buy them separately. They are available at the college bookstore or from any store that sells computers.

  • You will be required to log in. Make sure you get your login correct. See the Student Computing Guide if you have questions, but it's the same login for your e-mail (do not include the "").
  • Make sure your antivirus and operating system are up to date.

I'll be around to help along with everyone else. Hope it all goes well. I also may be blogging a bit during the move.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

IMPORTANT: Update your computer before coming to campus!

To avoid problems when connecting to the Internet from the Residence Halls, you must have up-to-date antivirus and operating system patches.  This includes Macs.

If you haven’t used your computer for a while (or at all), turn it on and leave it on for a day or so, connected to the Internet to download the updates automatically.  You can also update manually by going to and installing the updates.

Similarly, update your antivirus by clicking on the update menu item or button (depending on the type of antivirus).  Again, leaving the computer on and connected to the Internet can do this automatically.

We require up-to-date antivirus for Mac users.    You can download ClamXav for the mac at

Please take a few minutes to make sure you’re updates, and it will save time when you make it onto campus.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Educational Technologies at Siena for 2007-2008

Over the summer, I&TS has been adding new options and opportunities for faculty and staff. Some of these include:

Direct link to Faculty/Staff Technology page

We’ve set up a link in the new website for technology topics for faculty and staff, the equivalent of the old button on the technology pages. will take you directly to links for faculty and staff.

I&TS Blog

Our new Blog, Technology Goes to College, will discuss technology with an eye to how it’s used at Siena. We’ll also be using it to put out announcements via RSS feed, so you may want to subscribe to it. The address is, or see the link at

iTunes U

This is an effort in cooperation with Apple Computer to provide a location for podcasting. Audio and video files can be uploaded and can be accessed from anywhere using the free iTunes software. There can be public files, or files can be protected so only the Siena community or a particular course can access them. We are currently finalizing the contracts, but expect to have things settled soon.


We are providing support for podcasting, both through iTunes U and through other methods. Contact I&TS is you are interested in setting things up.


We have a site license for this software, which converts PowerPoint presentations into lean, web-ready presentations that don’t require students to have PowerPoint in order to view them. Presentations are also smaller, making them easier to e-mail them. They also can be uploaded directly into Blackboard. If you’re interested, contact I&TS.

Office 2007

We will not be installing Office 2007 on faculty/staff computers. However, if you wish to try it out, log on to Citrix and use the Office 2007 icons. We have configured Office 2003 (our current version) so that Office 2007 files can be read. The one exception is Access 2007; if you need to read files in Access 2007, ask the person who created them to save in Access 2003 format.

Two-Sided Printing

The printers in the I&TS labs (Hines Hall and the Library) are now set up for duplex (two-sided) printing as the default. This will result in a considerable savings of paper. Students can choose to print one-sided if they wish.

More Wireless

Wireless has been added in the Standish Library, in addition to connections in Sarazen, Serra Hall, and in selected lounges in the residence halls. A map can be found at


You’ve heard about Wikipedia, which is an encyclopedia that allows anyone to edit, collaborating on creating articles. But Wikis can be used for any collaborative purpose. Students can, for example, work together on creating a project or paper. If you’re interesting in using this for your teaching, contact I&TS.

Second Life

A “life” simulation, Second Life ( lets users interact in a virtual world. You’ll probably be hearing a lot about it in the next few months – the hype is about to hit – but it does have some nice educational uses (for instance, Vassar College has a virtual Sistine Chapel for people to view). We’ve already set up a Siena College group in Second Life; search for “Siena” in your groups and you can join.

For information on these and other new technologies for the classroom or for non-classroom teaching, contact I&TS at x2573 or at, or look at the Faculty/Staff Technology page at

Monday, August 27, 2007

Clip show (

I probably use copy and paste a dozen times a day; it's one of the most useful option on a computer.

But I sometimes have things I want to copy from one computer to another. That usually requires saving the file and moving it via e-mail or other media. is a neat way to transfer data or files from one computer to another via the internet.

It's actually so simple that it's confusing. You can go to their main page for instructions, but the general method is to create your own page on the fly. Just take your web browser and type an URL: for instance, This creates a web page for your files.

It works like a word processor. You can paste text into the blank space. You can also upload files (up to 2 Megs). Then, anyone who goes to the site your created can see and download them. And this is anyone who can find the URL, so it's not good for sensitive materials. But as a quick way to transfer information, it's a nice little service.

You can just paste text into it, and then get it

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Siena I&TS Newsletter Online

The Siena College I&TS Fall Newsletter is now online at

Articles include:

  • Information about iTunes University
  • New Technologies at Siena
  • New features in Citrix
  • Avoiding fake websites
  • Info on the Electronically Enhanced Classrooms
  • The I&TS Blog
  • Handy I&TS information

There is also a link at the Technology page (

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No Forwarding Addresses

I have one general rule for any e-mail that's mass forwarded: It's a lie.

I'm sure you get these every once in awhile. A friend forwards you an e-mail. When you scroll down to the bottom (because there are forwards upon forwards upon forwards of names and little >>>>>>'s down the left side), you find some dire warning or call to action. Maybe it's the worst virus ever. Maybe Bill Gates is going to give you $1000. Maybe Congress is going to pass a law outlawing toenails. In any case, it tells you to forward the e-mail to everyone in your address book (often with the line, "I'd rather get this twenty times than not at all").

It's a lie.

Something about e-mail leads people to believe anything sent is the truth. This tendency has been noted, leading to such things as the Gullibility Virus warning (I shouldn't have to tell you that this is a joke, but one never knows). And with Google and other search engines, it's very easy to check for real viruses. If Microsoft calls a virus "the worst yet," you can bet it will be mentioned on,, or other news websites. It only takes a minute to check.

But, as a general rule, if you get a message that insists you forward it to all your friends, "It's a lie" is a good rule to follow.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Howling Kommando

I don't usually subscribe to e-mail newsletters. The clog the inbox and usually have nothing of note. But one I do subscribe to is the Kim Kommando Site of the Day.

Kim Kommando bills herself as "America's Digital Goddess," and has a weekly syndicated radio show in the US where she talks about computer issues (I haven't been able to catch it, but judging by her other materials, it's a good one). She also has several e-mail newsletters.

I do like her Site of the Day. It highlights both websites and software and barely a week goes by when I don't find something worth saving. It's an eclectic list, and you will probably find suggestions you hadn't seen before.

Kim also has other daily and weekly newsletters, and downloads of her podcasts. There's a lot of good information there.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You can't get good help nowadays (A Rant)

I often have to deal with technical questions from users, and I must say, it's next to impossible to get good online help.

My case is probably unusual. Even years ago, when I called a helpdesk for support, I had already tried all the obvious solutions and had to slowly explain to the support person that, yes, I had rebooted and reinstalled and done all of his first five selections. I understand they need to go over these, however, and am pretty patient.

Now, however, it's hard to get actual manufacturer support. Some of this is understandable: if you're giving away software for free, you don't want to hire people to tell people that you have to actually click on the icon to install the program.

The trouble is when you have a very technical problem. Without formal help, you're stuck with a discussion board. With me, you get two types of answers:
  1. Answers that solve a problem I haven't asked about. The responder picked out a couple of words from my post and wrote some answer.
  2. Dead silence.

If there's anything technical, you're on your own. I recently was looking for a way to push out iTunes (good software, but it has another peeve of mine: software that thinks it knows better than you do what you want) and needed to know where certain configuration data resided. The boards at Apple were no help, and I finally had to check with trial and error (and some nice freeware that I discovered) to figure out the information. What should have taken me a day if a real technician were involved took me over a week to track down.

I don't know if there is an answer, but it would be nice if software companies put a technical manual online that indicates what files are created and changed during installation and what data resides in them. It'd also be nice if the date were readable and editable.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Essential Freeware: Hotkeycontrol

There are some things where a mouse is the perfect input device. There are other things where the keyboard makes more sense. Good software should give you the option, but otherwise good software sometimes doesn't.

I don't know about you, but I find that having to move the mouse to the system track, click on the speaker icon (assuming it's not hidden), and move the mouse a slider every time you want to adjust speaker volume (or to mute the speakers) is a complicated process for what should be a simple task. You can adjust your TV volume by pressing a button on a remote, or the volume on your iPod by touching the control.

Even within a program, it's a pain. You have to click on the program window, find the slider and move it. If you want to mute speakers because you got a phone call, this is awkward.

That's why I find Hotkeycontol XP essential. It runs in the background and you can set up key combinations to adjust or mute volume. Ctrl/+ makes things louder, while Ctrl/- makes it quieter. I also set Ctrl/Backspace to mute. One touch of a keyboard, and I can adjust things. Phone call? Just press Ctrl/Backspace and the speakers are muted.

That's just the beginning. You can also use Hotkeycontrol to open files, shut down your computer, and perform other tasks. For instance, I often need to bring up the calculator. Instead of clicking on "Start," "All Programs," "Accessories," and "Calculator," I hold down the Windows key and press "C." Up comes the calculator. Very handy. And you can use this for any program or folder you want.

It's a nice tool that saves time.

Monday, August 13, 2007

IM the Urban Spaceman (Trillium)

Most people are on AOL's instant messenger, despite efforts by Yahoo and Microsoft to have similar programs. But everyone sticks with AIM simply because it has the largest base of users and because you need to be on AIM to contact them.

There was talk about setting up interconnectivity, where you could IM people on any system much in the way you can e-mail anyone. AOL even promised it at some point, but hasn't bothered on following through. Why should they give up their advantage?

For the time being, though, the best solution is Cerulean Studios' Trillian. It allows you to log on to AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and ICQ at the same time and talk to people on all four networks. Once configured, you can check who's online. Even better, you'll be online on all these networks (and others) for friends to contact you.

And "Cereulean" is such a nice word. :)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Set the Wayback Machine, Sherman

The Internet is in a state of constant change. Sometimes, you may want to see what a web page looked like in the past. Maybe there was a different link that's gone. Maybe you just want to see what the design looked like.

That's where the Wayback Machine at comes in. If you go to the site and enter a web page, you'll be able to see earlier versions of that page. For instance, this is the search page for Siena's technology website.

Here's a look at the earliest page available. Compare this with the current page.

Not all pages are archived (site owners can refuse to allow it), but it is a nice way to look things up. Here are a few well-known websites in the old days:

Give it a try.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Essential Freeware: Rocketdock

I discovered this a few months ago, and found it a nice little addition. I use a lot of software, and going to the Start Menu and clicking gets to be awkward, especially when the icon is buried in "All Programs."

There are various built-in ways to access. The quick launch toolbar is nice, but starts eating into space on your taskbar. Pinning to the start menu works well, but I never like to use two clicks when I can do things with one.

That's when I discovered Rocketdock. The software is based on the look and feel of the dock on a Macintosh, their attempt to come up with a substitute for the Windows Taskbar without giving in, admitting it's better, and putting one into their OS. The Mac Dock is a definite improvement, but still isn't as useful as a taskbar (notably because it lists programs that aren't running mixed in with those that are).

But as a program launcher, it's a pretty good design. Rocketdock is a version of the dock for the PC. It can be pinned to the top of the screen (so it's far away from the taskbar) and can be set to autohide. You then put programs onto the dock and use it as a location to start and run them. Nice and slick, especially for programs you don't use daily and don't want on the taskbar or pinned to the Start Menu.

It's very configurable, with icons for such things as "My Documents," "My Computer," and the Control Panel. As a matter of fact, you can use it to link to anything that has an icon.

It's a very nice bit of software.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Spy Hard (hijackthis)

Spyware is not the problem it was a few years ago. This is mainly because the antivirus software vendors wised up. For a long time, they ignored spyware, saying it wasn't their area (and the definition of spyware is tricky and they didn't want to be blocking perfectly good software in error). Now they're selling total protection, which includes protection against spyware.

Still, though you're less likely to be infected, you're more likely to have a hard time removing anything that does get through. There is never a simple solution, but there are two tools that can help.

The first is Hijackthis. This software was originally developed by a Dutch computer expert named Merijn Bellekom. Merijn also developed other software tools against spyware but had to abandon it. At one point, he announced it was to get further training. This is true, but, really, if he showed up at a job interview with the invention of Hijackthis on his resume, he'd get the job.

Now, Hijackthis is distributed by TrendMicro. It is an analysis tool. If you download it and run it, you will get a log of all potential virus entries.

It's important you don't try to analyze these yourself. Many of the entries are necessary for your software to run and if you mess with things you can have a mess.

What you can do is post the log for others to examine. I'm partial to They have standards before you can start giving advice (you need to pass a test) and you can count on getting good advice. Once you hear from them (it's a bulletin board, so you need to check it), follow their instructions and you should be able to clean even the most stubborn bits of spyware.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Getting a good start (Startup Delayer)

If you're like me, you have a lot of software that insists on running at startup. And it seems to take months for your computer to start up.

Part of that is how software is designed. At startup, Windows tries to run all programs designated to run at startup. Essentially, this means that all programs are trying to run at once, clamoring for memory space like a crowd of old hippies clamoring for free tickets at a Stones concert. Things get messy and everything takes too long to start up.

So, paradoxically, the way to quicker startups is to delay startup. If some programs wait a minute before starting, and the programs start in an orderly manner instead of a mob scene, then the total time is less.

It took me some time to find it, but it looks like Startup Delayer is your best bet. You can run it and choose to delay software for a few seconds to a few minutes. It's a neat trick.

However some software is uncooperative. AOL's Instant Messenger is a prime culprit: if it doesn't run immediately, it "fixes" the registry so it will the next time, no matter what you want. You can't wait 30 seconds for AIM to run, after all. Some other software will do this, so once you have set up Startup Delayer, restart the computer a few times and take a look at the entries; anything listed twice is software that does this (on the principle that they know more about what you want then you do). You'll have to forget about the delay for these, alas.

However, it can be a big help, especially if you want to get to work right away.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

No thanks for all the Phish

You're probably aware of this, but I thought I'd mention it: beware of phishing.

This is when scammers pretend to be a bank or other financial institution and send you an e-mail with a link. Usually, they give a seemingly urgent reason to go to the link and log in.

The entire goal is to get your login. From that point, they can go to the real site and log in as you and do whatever they want with your accounts. And, they aren't going to deposit money into them, that's for sure.

Banks don't send e-mails to their customers for anything important. If there were an issue, you'd get a letter or phone call. And don't be fooled because the website looks authentic; any web designer could do that in his sleep.

So never trust any e-mail from a "bank" (or from "Paypal" or "eBay") that urges you to log in (especially when there are spelling and grammar errors). If you have any questions, call the bank, or type their web page directly into your browser.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I am the virus (

The first rule of virus safety (well, maybe the third) is never open an attachment if you don't know what it is. Even if it seem to come from a trusted source, any unexpected attachment should be viewed with suspicion.

Now there are many attachments that couldn't contain viruses if anyone wanted to. However, it is good policy to still be wary. A file may look like a innocent text file, but may could actually be disguised with the double extension trick (naming the file "file.txt.exe" would show up as "file.txt" on many computers, but run as a program).

It may also be hidden inside a .zip file. Some viruses are sent in an encrypted .zip file with the password in the body of the message. This often cannot be scanned by antivirus on the way in, and thus gets delivered to your mailbox.

However, there may be times when you want to be sure about the file. That's when Virustotal is worth using.

Virustotal is simple: you upload the suspecte file into their system. It is then checked against several antivirus software vendors records. This is useful: when a virus is new, not all antivirus detects it.

A few months ago, I tried this on a suspected virus. It was indicated as a virus by about half the vendors. A few hours later, I tried again; this time everyone detected it.

It isn't foolproof, but it's a good way to check if you're not sure.