PSU Support for Macs

Q – I recall hearing that ITS is no longer supporting Macs on campus. Can you give us an update?

A - This year marks the last year of central support for Macintosh computers. We are a Windows-centric campus. So is the world, at least for now. It doesn’t mean Macs aren’t good computers or that we don’t like them. It simply means that we can’t be all things to all people.

Over the past two years, many former Mac users have made the transition to Windows. Some remaining Mac users may be holding out on principle and/or simple preference. I empathize. I, too, am a fan of Apple and what they bring to the industry. I learned computing on Apple computers and had several before transitioning to Windows nearly a decade ago. Yet putting that personal preference aside, we need to do the most good for as many people we can with finite resources. Long gone are the days of customized computers on a large organizational network.

Our priority now is to make sure you have a fully functional, PSU-ready, network-protected, wireless-enabled computer. We want you to access all the software and resources site-licensed by PSU, along with the ability to read and recognize documents distributed at PSU.

And the bottom line…economy of scale. It simply costs more per computer for non-Windows computers…the computer itself, the software and the support.

Much of the zealousness in the debate of Macs and Windows has died down. In fact, the web is changing all of this. In a web-centric environment, the computer type is less important a factor. Who knows, if things continue the way they seem, in a few more years it won’t matter what you use for a computer…everything will be on or accessible through the Web.

Some of the old Macs are being used in academic departments for stand-alone, off-network use. Good. However, others continue to be used as primary desktop computers. If your computer is more than 3-4 years old, it is likely to experience component breakdown sooner or later. You may or may not lose data. (When’s the last time you backed up?) If and when it does, you may be pressed to do an un-planned computer transition, never a pleasant experience in the middle of a semester. This is not in the best interests of your students, either.

There were some exceptions. If any department could demonstrate a requirement in their particular industry for a non-Windows computer, and they agreed to assume costs for support and maintenance, then they would be granted an exception. Exceptions are granted by the Associate VP for Undergraduate Studies and the Chief Information Officer (me). To date, three departments have submitted requests for a waiver: Graphic Design, Music Technology and Public Relations (their graphic designers).

For now, hanging on to an old Mac based on principle may be cutting off your nose to spite your face. Give us a call, we’ll help sort through the options.

A changing PSU Web page...

The PSU Web pages will undergo a subtle but steady transition over the next year. Why? The Web is changing all around us, driven by how young people use it. And they are who we target.

It’s tough business putting a university web page together. Georgina Hibberd wrote about University Home pages, a thankless task.

We first made the web for fun. It was a novel experience to be able to write and publish pages to the World Wide Web. We used hypertext code to make pages come alive. Then every school had to have a Web page. IT shops handed over their early Web pages to PR, professionals who could manage the image. The web became an essential marketing tool.

In the past few years, nothing has changed information and the Web like Google. They are literally transforming the Web to place information and resources at one’s fingertips. Additionally, more and more people are networking socially on the web. Services like mySpace, FaceBook and others are magnets for today’s youth.

I could go on. But the real evidence lives in my house. Two teenage girls who spend more time online than in front of the TV. They navigate and engage online with those they know from school. It’s their world, it’s how they communicate.

So as we roll out new versions of the web pages, the first thing to understand is that this is not for you…it’s for them.; tomorrow’s prospective students.

How we maintain the content on the Web will also change. Many of us will use new tools to write, submit and maintain content of web pages. If you want to keep your pages lively and current, you have all the power to do so. Conversely, if you have pages that are no longer current, they can be timed out until your information is current. It’s called a content management system.

Insiders have myPlymouth. If you haven’t noticed lately, take a look. Have you customized your page? Do you know some of the information channels available besides just the defaults? Have you seen the new student polling area?

Bah, you say? Don’t see the use for myPlymouth?

Think again. When we place announcements on myPlymouth, student responses are extraordinary. If we conduct a survey, we get data. myPlymouth has eyeballs of students.

Allemp Run Amok?

Originally posted Spring 2006

I just returned from a beautiful, disconnected week away. Upon return, I found a passel of allemp email [email to all employees] waiting in my InBox.

In the past seven days there have been 29 emails sent to all employees. Along with a flurry of campus announcements, we've had discussions on Women in Action in Nicaragua, CIA involvement in Afghanistan deaths and a boycott of Exxon Oil. This is the typical end of semester flurry of events and activities announced through allemp.

Without venturing into debate on the content, I suggest we have an outdated communication strategy.

Sending an allemp is like sending announcements over a loudspeaker system. Everyone gets the news. Not everyone listens, and the more announcements, the less captured their attention. Still, allemp provides a vehicle to get the word out to all PSU employees.

Having full fledged discussions on allemp, however, is like using the loudspeaker system for online dialogue. Think about it. Would we do this if we had a PA system? No, we'd post a notice and invite those interested to join in at a designated place.

To know and love allemp is to have been at PSU for a while. It has roots in the PSU community and many people truly appreciate the ability for any employee to send all employees emails without moderation. It's about culture, history and pride. Lots of valued conversations about our community have occurred, so I'm told. In fact, I like some of it myself. Having come here almost three years ago, I've learned a lot about a lot at PSU through allemp.

However, technology tools for communication have changed and we need to change with them. It starts with the premise that while allemp (the loudspeaker) is appropriate for making fellow employees aware of news and events, it is not appropriate for online community discussion.

I'd like to propose a slightly more evolved campus communication strategy. Heres what it might look like.

1. Create a new email listserv for the campus. Call it PSU Announce. This list is the official campus communication via email. Same news will go to myPlymouth Portal. Select campus offices and individuals will post. Guidelines will be developed, but consider it important news, the official stuff.

2. Maintain allemp with one modification. Allow individuals to opt out if they so desire. At the very least, provide good instructions on how to filter their mail. Keep allemp informative.

3. A Campus blog. Yeah, a 'web log' Some of you know and visit blogs, others have probably heard the hype. (I have my own misgivings with the blog hype) However, this is exactly the type of tool people use for engaging online. We can create a campus blog where anyone can post. Those who visit and engage regularly will keep it alive. Discussions live and die by their own means. Any level of engagement--or none--is possible. And, if you want to seed conversations, you could post a teaser note to allemp. Invite people to join your conversation.

If you wonder what drives me to this topic, consider this. For every flurry of online discussion, I get emailed from people throughout the campus. 'How do I opt out?' they ask. 'Stop the madness!' they plead. I also have a team of talented individuals around me who have entered the world of online discussions and interaction, much like our students, and they laugh at our follies on allemp. It's so dial-up.

Allemp can also be a security or liability issue. With no controls in place, a new virus or other 'internet nasty' could be quickly distributed campus-wide. An individual could send something offensive and place the University at risk.

I'm not suggested elimination or censorship of campus communication. Rather, simply a bit of refinement.

Thoughts? Ideas? I'd like to hear from you.