Music galore, and Legit!

There are so many options for listening and acquiring music online. While the old business model withers and the RIAA sues it own customers, new business models are emerging that allow you to listen in bulk or buy by the song. But you need to take a look at how they work and what you want to do with your music.

If you live on campus or in an apartment, use your iTunes and set your preferences to share on the local network. Then, when you play your music in iTunes, you'll join those around you in sharing your collection. People from outside the local network cannot see your music and no one can take it. If you want to take it to the iPod, the music file needs to reside on your computer. Either buy it for a buck (if you can find it on iTunes) or ask a friend to burn you a CD.

iTunes, with its requirement to store music files on your computer, is designed to work with their ubiquitous iPod. But there are many other online music models to explore. Many stream their music to your computer. If you want a copy, you can buy most songs for less than a buck. With streaming, however, you don't have to store it; you simply access theirs. And more and more, these services have deepening stores of some pretty good music.

I like Rhapsody. They are getting a lot of traction in the music industry, giving iTunes a run for it's money. If portability is paramount, this may not be for you, although you can buy songs at 89 cents each. But at your computer with speakers, this is a simple, music-rich service is hard to beat. It's set up as a monthly subscription of $14.95, but you can try it free for a two week trial period. You don't own the music, you rent it. Wherever you have internet broadband, you have music.

Ruckus is also an option. Like Rhapsody, this is an online service that requires a download of their software onto your computer. Only this service is free. Once there you can access their music and movie collections for streaming. What they offer for free they compensate with ads. Their target market is college and university campuses, so you may appreciate what they pitch you. Still, they have a fair amount of music and also a cache of movies. If watching movies on your computer works for you, you can pay by the download and have the move streamed right to your laptop.

Both Rhapsody and Ruckus allow you to customize your screens to fit your musical tastes.

Good ole CDs are still available, too. Most artists continue create CDs in addition to providing downloadable files. There is also a considerable generation's worth of CDs in people's collections. Grab some of those or buy 'em cheap through eBay, burn 'em on to your computers and take them where you want.

You can also find excellent buys online and in the stores. The Eagles, a popular group from the 80's, has a new CD offered exclusively through Wal-Mart. This two-CD set is less than $12! In the old days, that same CD set might cost upwards of $30.

There are many other music services. Check them out yourselves. What's nice is you don't have to limit yourself. Try several, see what you like best.

These are legitimate music delivery models. Sure, maybe you pay a little, maybe not. But it beats being harassed, leveraged hefty fines and settlement offers from the music industry as they continue to patrol peer-to-peer file sharing users for their copyrighted material.

How do people respond to an increasingly rapid pace of technology change?

We all respond to new technologies in our own ways, at our own pace.

Some take to the latest and greatest technologies with zeal. They're known as early adopters, techno-enthusiasts at heart. They keep pace with new developments and strive to keep up with the latest and greatest. They speak a language of their own. To call them geeks may understate their passion. They're the ones who stood in line for an iPhone. This group comprises about 2.5% of technology users.

On the other end of the spectrum are laggards. They could care less about the iPhone, if they even know what it is. For them, technology is a burden. They get flustered by it and ask others to set it up for them. Begrudgingly, they learn rote tasks, but their focus in life is on other things. They like things the way they are. Only when a technology becomes truly mainstream will they use it. This group represents about 16% of technology users.

Within that spectrum are early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%) and late majority (34%). You can get a better sense of the groups and how they respond to change on the Innovation and Adoption Curve. These middle groups make up the vast majority of technology users.

On a university campus, IT departments have to play to both ends of the spectrum. We test and play with new technologies, we remain current in our field. We adopt new technologies that survive the initial hype and become new footholds. Once we implement new technologies, we lay out plans to help the early adopters and the majority of users to absorb the new technologies so they can perform their work in new ways. As for the laggards, we hope they come along, but we do not spend an exorbitant amount of time with them. It's not that we are insensitive, we simply have to play to the masses.

Often times, ITS staff are on the front lines of change. We don't ask for software and hardware upgrades. There are times when we want to develop new systems to help you in your work, but most of our change is imposed on us from a hyper-competitive industry that waits for no one. If Oracle, Sungard-SCT or Microsoft upgrade their products, we have little choice but to go along. If there are changes in our systems hosted by USNH and Durham, we need to respond. We are dependent on them. We can bide our time, but sooner or later we're going to have to go with the flow. And we do.

But lest you think we are all passionate geeks that chase new technologies with reckless abandon, take heart. We scrutinize many changes in our industry and assess:

  1. is the technology aligned with our mission as a comprehensive, regional university,
  2. what are the short- and long-term costs, and
  3. do we have a choice?

This semester, many of you are experiencing the fruits of our upgrade labors this summer--for better or worse. Some people roll with the flow. Others are cursing ITS. Banner and WebCT were upgraded. myPlymouth has a new look and feel. Many of the new computers on campus will be sporting Microsoft's new Vista operating system and Office 2007. We also have a new email and online calendar program called Zimbra. Every one of these system changes requires us to do aspects of our work a little differently. We need to learn and adapt to how these systems work.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you curse or thirst for new technologies?

Me, I just want everything to work. 😉

Top Ten Things You Should Know About Technology at PSU

What you need to know about computing, network policy and your personal responsibilities:

PSU has a new email and calendar system...myMail. Last year, a decision was made to replace our aging email system. We selected Zimbra, a web-based email system that has all the bells and whistles of common email applications like Google, Hotmail and Yahoo. You can access your email in, at Outlook users access it through the same mail server. You can also use the calendar, address book and write, store and share documents for online collaboration. Try it. Get to know it and make it work for you. (hint: look at Shortcuts in Options to save time!)

PSU recently adopted a new emergency notification system called PSU Alert. that enables the school to send urgent news to your cell phone. Once you sign up for the service, the school can text your cell phone with timely information about emergencies, snow days, floods or other urgent campus communications. This is an OPT IN service. To register, login to myPlymouth and select the PSU Alert in the My Services sidebar. There you will find FAQs and instructions on how to register.

When you connect to the network for the first time this fall, you were required to update your computer's antivirus and operating system software. This enables you to maintain a secure and protected computer, while keeping our network and PSU information systems safe. We take network security seriously, we hope you do to.

Music and movie file sharing has become a risky behavior. It's been free music for years, but now there is far greater risk to you personally. If you are identified, your computer may be disconnected from the PSU network. Worse, you could be levied a hefty fine. Don't do it! Share music responsibly.

Whether you bring your own or use a PSU computer, you are accountable for how you use your computer on the PSU network. You have high degree of academic and privacy, but know that you leave tracks everywhere you go. All of us are accountable to the PSU Acceptable Use Policy for Computing. Check it out and compute responsibly.

Sunday mornings are reserved for network and system maintenance. We strive to keep downtime periods short, and you can receive text alerts in advance through e2Campus if you would like. Otherwise, we post notices to myPlymouth when work is scheduled.

Protect your portable computer! Never leave it unlocked or unattended. Work out security with your roommates so that you're all covered.

Security is everyone's responsibility. You are responsible for keeping your computer updated with Windows and anti-virus protection. You are accountable for use of your username and password, along with what you do on your computer connected to the PSU network.

Need to send large files? There are limits to the size of attachments in PSU email, but you can go to YouSendIt, SendThisFile, or DropSend, all online services that let you send files up to several gigabytes large for free.

We are a green campus, until it comes to printing. There are valid reasons to print papers, reports and other materials. Please understand, however, that PSU spends an extraordinary amount of funds on paper and toner for student printing. If we all print judiciously and avoid printing whenever possible, we'll be saving money and doing our part to conserve resources.

For questions on these topics and anything else, comment below and/or contact the ITS Help Desk at the Lamson Learning Commons: 2929 or

Dwight Fischer, ITS

ITS Welcomes Amy Berg

Amy Berg is the new ITS Director of Operations. The position, formerly held by Cathy Bates, oversees network, telecommunications, security and the University Computer Store. Amy joins the senior ITS management team of Ken Kochien and Ted Wisniewski, and she reports to Dwight Fischer.

Amy spent the first 22 years of her career at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. There she led Telecom and Mail Services. She has a wealth of business, contract and personnel management experience.

Please welcome her. You'll be seeing her in the months ahead. Amy can be reached at extension 2900 and at

Technology Update: Fall 2007

Welcome back to campus everyone. And new faculty and instructors, welcome to PSU! Here’s what you need to know about computers, information and accountability. Please take a few minutes to review.


1. Where do I get information?
2. What’s new?
3. How does PSU communicate in case of emergencies?

4. Are we still using WebCT?
5. Why so many upgrades and systems unavailable?
6. Are there times we can expect the systems to be down?

7. What is the best way to look up students, faculty and staff?
8. Where do I go for help using technology in the classroom?
9. What are my rights to privacy?

10. Which Windows operating systems are supported? (Vista?)
11. May I bring my own laptop to the PSU network?
12. How do I get software loaded on computer clusters?

13. How may PSU classes are online?
14. What are the technology goals for this year?
15. How are decisions about technology made at PSU?

16. What technologies should we be paying attention to?
17. Where can I get computer help?

Where do I get information? The best source of campus information and communications is myPlymouth. This web application underwent a major upgrade this summer, along with the overall PSU web site. These two sites comprise our INTERNAL and EXTERNAL communications strategy. myPlymouth is where students, employees and constituents will get most of their information and online services. More and more communications will be posted to myPlymouth. The main PSU web pages now target prospective students, parents and everyone else outside of our organization.

What's new? Over the summer, upgrades occurred to Banner, WebCT and myPlymouth. The first two were relatively minor, but myPlymouth got a major facelift. Check it out and customize your myPlymouth page so it works for you. myPlymouth is your primary source of campus information and services. There is also a new email program called myMail. It is designed to work primarily as a web application, helping you communicate, schedule, maintain contacts, and share documents and calendars. Many new computers are being installed with Windows Vista. Also new is our emergency communications system (below).

How does PSU communicate in case of emergencies? PSU has partnered with e2Campus, an online service that students and employees may opt into. e2Campus allows PSU to send emergency alerts, snow cancellations, flood warnings and other critical information as text messages to cell phones, alternate email addresses and/or in customized home pages in Google and Yahoo. These are the communication tools of students and, increasingly, PSU employees. . You’ll hear more soon on how to sign up. This is all part of an upgraded emergency communication plan that distributes communication via multiple channels. PSU will continue to use email and the Web as primary communication tools, too.

Are we still using WebCT as our primary learning management system? Yes. WebCT has been in operation at PSU for the past 6 years. In 2006, Blackboard, an industry competitor, acquired WebCT and plans to support it several more years. Eventually, WebCT and Blackboard will not be separate products. For now, we continue to run WebCT from the Blackboard company. More and more, it will be call Blackboard CE and Vista. See

Why so many upgrades and systems unavailable? Software upgrades have become a way of life. The technology industry is highly competitive and new, updated software versions come frequently. We avoid the bleeding edge, but we keep pace with the changes. That often results in impact to users. Our goal is always to keep you informed, minimize the down times and look for periods during the year that are least disruptive to your work. We plan most of our upgrades during semester breaks. We also have a weekly maintenance window every Sunday morning, 6-10am.

Are there times we can expect systems to be down? Sunday mornings, 6-10am is a weekly time when systems or network maintenance will occur. Not all weekends, and not without advance notice to myPlymouth and the community.

What is the best way to look up students, faculty and staff? PSU publishes a student and faculty/staff directory each year. Like most types of phone books, they're going away. The advertising model that always supported them is no longer effective. The most current directory information will always be online through our main web page directory or within myPlymouth. You can also dial 3333 on any campus extension and speak the person or department’s name in our voice-activated directory.

Where do I go for help using technology in the classroom? Multimedia support is available through the Learning Commons and/or by seeking Equipment Reservations in myPlymouth (left column, see Services). The Learning Commons is available 7 days a week for your support in any number of ways. Stop in, call 2929 or email them at

What are my rights to privacy? The email system, PSU-issued computers and the network all belong to the University. Within that framework you have a high degree of academic and personal freedom. No one tracks your surfing or email. You do, however, leave tracks everywhere you go. And since 9/11, there have been numerous changes in laws that have reduced the degree of privacy. Still, privacy and personal responsibility remain core PSU values. Please read the PSU Acceptable Use Policy. We are all accountable to it.

Which Windows operating system is supported? PSU is rolling out Windows Vista on computer labs and many new computers. Students will also be bringing new computers with Vista to campus. We will continue to support Windows XP, too, for quite a while yet.

May I bring my own laptop to the PSU network? Yes. Like students, PSU employees may log on to the PSU wireless network with an appropriate username and password. They may also plug in to network ports in the library. Your computer needs to be current with Windows security updates and have MacAfee Anti-virus software installed. Personal computers cannot, however, plug in to office ports unless their computers have loaded several more PSU network and security components. This is designed for security and network protection. Those who choose this option should have a fair amount of computer savvy and troubleshooting skills. ITS desktop support for individual employee computers is limited. Service is available through the University Computer Store.

How do I get software loaded onto the computer clusters? Faculty and instructors receive notice every April and December alerting them to submit requests for software to be installed on our network and in computer labs. Because there are so many software applications already loaded, new requests have to be tested for compatibility. If it passes muster, the new software is loaded and made available the following semester. This delicate process constricts ITS's ability to load any software at the beginning or other times during the semester. It poses risk to the stability of other applications.

How many PSU classes are online? This past year, there were 104 classes offered online. That's almost double the number from the year before (61). Most online classes are offered in the summer, followed closely by winterim. More and more classes, however, are offered during the fall and spring semesters. If you would like to explore options for online courses, contact the Frost School.

What are technology goals for this year?

  1. Improve Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans
  2. Enhance academic technologies in the classroom and ensure that PSU has a learning management system to meet the needs of students and faculty
  3. Implement New Email and Content Management Systems
  4. Explore Overall Communication tools for Telephony and Unified Messaging
  5. Manage Online Relations with Varied Constituents: Prospective Students, Parents and alums
  6. Improve Identity Management System: Required to address security, regulatory compliance and campus interoperability
  7. Improve Institutional Reporting
  8. Expand Wireless Access Points across Campus

How are decisions about technology made at PSU? The Technology Advisory Committee (TAG, see myPlymouth Groups for documents and agendas the past several years) meets monthly during the academic year. Made up of faculty and staff (and occasionally students), TAG tackles a variety of technology issues that impact students and faculty. It also creates ad hoc groups and reviews policy recommendations. TAG is led by the senior technology officers: The CIO, Dwight Fischer, and the Director of the Library, David Beronä. TAG recommendations on major PSU decisions flow up to the President's Cabinet. In addition to TAG, there is an Executive Steering Committee for Information Systems (ESC). The ESC includes vice presidents, TAG leaders, Graduate Studies and others as needed. ESC has purview over all aspects of information systems, project priorities, data and network security, major system upgrades or replacements, and regulatory compliance.

What technologies should we be paying attention to? Think about trends more than specific technologies. More and more software is made available as web applications. Email is a good example. Microsoft Outlook, an application that resides on your computer, used to reign. Now our email, calendar and documents can all be on the web with our new myMail system. This practice is far more prevalent with students arriving at our doors. There is, however, a trade-off in your control and local storage. You're good as long as you’re connected. (Good if you live around Internet connections, not so good if you live in the sticks.)

Where can I get computer help? The ITS Help Desk is located in the Information Desk of the Learning Commons in Lamson Library. You may walk in, call x2929 or send a note to The Learning Commons is staffed by students and experienced IT professionals. They work closely with library personnel to integrate our services around information, research, multimedia and support. Don't hesitate to contact them first if you are experiencing difficulties. Chances are you may not be the only one with a problem. And if you are, they can escalate the issues to appropriate ITS staff to get it resolved. The Help Desk, like the library, is open seven days a week.

Best of luck in the new semester. We're here to help.

Dwight Fischer, CIO
Information Technology Services

ext. 2443

myPlymouth Sings

myPlymouth just received a major upgrade. This is no ordinary web portal folks. This is the best!

I'm not blowing smoke. A web portal is an interface to lots of disparate information systems. Email, news, events, calendars, weather, online services, library, information, course management and more. A good portal has 'hooks' to lots of information, all behind a secure, single sign-on gateway. It is built for you, to customize and arrange as you see fit.

I took my new 'home' tab and customized it. I have the directory search and all my bookmarks on the left pane. Down the middle are the PSU announcements, weather (PSU's own!) and any recent activity from groups I belong to. And on the right, I have the headlines coming in from the New York Times, Christian Science monitor and the PSU's CIO blog. This is the stuff of Google and Yahoo.

We have a lot of people in ITS responsible for myPlymouth. They worked with the software vendor to deliver a state-of-the-art web portal for a university. Few others schools have such a well-integrated web portal. Fewer still are the envy of others. Our people have the distinct honor of having earned the highest of praise from their peers and counterparts at schools across the country. They took the vendor-supplied tool and made it sing.

We are proud of the many people in ITS who continue to serve you amidst an ever-changing, ever-upgrading sea of technology. Those who brought us myPlymouth continue a PSU tradition of innovation and rabid quest for doing things better.

Upgrades to email and myPlymouth


As most of you head out for the summer, I thought it a good time to give you a quick update.

Over the course of the summer, ITS is planning on upgrading our email program. We've heard plenty from you about problems with email in myPlymouth, WebMail and a lack of reliability this year. That has caused some of you problems at critical times of the semester. Our regrets. Several ITS managers met with student leaders in April to discuss what students need from an email program. This is what they said:


  • Simple, uncluttered web interface, like Yahoo, Google and HotMail.
  • Calendar that can be shared
  • Easy, intuitive navigation
  • Ability to store contacts
  • More storage capacity for personal documents
  • Ability to send large attachments
  • Reliability!


We explored options, such as outsourcing student email to Google. After careful consideration of the pros and cons, we (and many faculty) felt that driving students to GoogleMail as an official communication tool would compromise some security and privacy. This was not unanimous, nor would we rule it out in future years, but at this time we decided to bolster our resources internally.

When you return in the fall, you will find a new email program that will meet all the needs above. We heard you.





There will also be a major facelift to myPlymouth on Memorial Day Weekend. Think of it as a Botox injection. We think you'll like the new layout. It's less cluttered and more functional. Tighter.

At the same time, the PSU Web pages, with a focus on external audiences, will also be unveiled.





ITS wishes you all a safe and enjoyable summer. For graduating seniors, congratulations! We'll be looking for you in the Alumni myPlymouth.

Dwight Fischer, CIO

Schools outsource email to Google Apps

"40 ,000 [Arizona State] Students Leap to Google Apps"

"Initially offering new e-mail accounts based on Google's Gmail service (but retaining the "" domain) on an opt-in basis, [CIO] Sannier and his team found that students were making the switch at the rate of around 300 per hour. Today, more than 40,000 ASU students and faculty have made the switch, and he expects to shut down the University's in-house mail servers near the end of this term." (

Aquinas College outsourced student and employee email to Google.

What does this mean for PSU? Nothing yet, but as we look at how we spend our valuable technology resources and time, it begs the question of whether we should continue to provide what is fast becoming a commodity service on the web.

There are no easy answers. Google may not provide you the level of service and support you get from ITS staff now, particularly when it comes to retrieving lost emails or important backups. Then again, we all deal with that reality anyway as we use our ISP providers for personal email. Does this change the liability of the University in regard to maintaining records? New laws are emerging that might indicate otherwise.

The core question is this: what is the value of a PSU-provided email, for students and employees? And what does it cost in terms of servers, licensing, and staff time and effort?

Regardless, we need to watch how these new ventures fare.

Trade in Microsoft Office for Google Apps?

An interesting trend is emerging in how basic computer software is delivered. Google has introduced new programs--Google Apps--for word processing and spreadsheets. These new programs are designed to work with several other online Google applications; email, calendars, web documents and photo management. All are types of software we've traditionally installed on our personal computers. Google is offering them as an online service. Your computer doesn't host anything, it connects you to a Google-hosted space of your own.


This piece was written in Google Docs, an online word processing program. It has all the basic formatting, editing and proofing tools, yet it's a lot less sophisticated than the ubiquitous Microsoft Word. And while I've been weaned, trained and reliant on Word for almost two decades, this is an interesting challenge to my habitual self.


Google Apps is 'software as a service.' You don't buy the software as you would with Microsoft Office, you connect to Google's applications online. You save your documents on Google servers. You'll never have to upgrade the software, Google takes care of all that. You just use the application. Log in and write. The same with spreadsheets. The interface is designed with an emphasis on simplicity.


Documents created with Google Apps are sharable. Simply invite others via an email link to join in. The document can be open by several users simultaneously so they can collaborate in its development. That alone is worth the cost of admission.


Ah, but it's free.


This is a shift from software delivery of yore. We used to install and host software on our personal computers. Microsoft was the most common application with their Office suite of products. Veteran users of these products--Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook--have come to rely heavily on them.


Yet here comes Google with their free apps. Software as a service. They want to entice you to use their services. For Google, everything is about getting us to use their search function.


Here are some significant differences in using Google apps.


  1. The applications are only available online. You have to have an Internet connection to access them.
  2. You store your documents (and ideas) on Google servers.
  3. The applications are far less sophisticated than those in Microsoft Office.

For many of us, those trade-offs are too high a price to pay. We prefer to keep our documents on our computers and local servers. Yet Google is playing to a new generation for which instant messaging, mySpace and web-based applications are second nature. They're innate googlers.


The question for mature and sage users of Office: Would we change our personal computer paradigm?


  • Would we buck the Microsoft empire to go with the emerging Google empire?
  • Will we continue to pay a hefty annual sum to Microsoft so that all of our employees can use Microsoft Office?
  • And, the question I hear most, would we store our precious and confidential documents on Google servers?

Ask your own questions. Anyone can google 'Google Apps' and start the process by signing up for a personalized Google account.


I'm thinking about what I want to say to new PSU students at orientation this spring. Many ask about computers and software to buy. I think the best advice is to get a good laptop and hold off the purchase Microsoft Office. Rather, sign up for a Google account. Unless they're writing super-sensitive, personal documents, storage of their work on Google servers isn't an issue. A student could keep all their materials online. Man, would they be dialed in. Drop in at any computer connected to internet and access all their documents.


If I was 18, that's what I'd be thinking.


Your thoughts?

Students, Technology & Trends

A recent study (2004) by the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) shared some key findings about undergrads and information technology.1


  • Nearly all (97.5%) students surveyed owned a computer. More than two-thirds of those computers were one year old or less, and most were laptops. In spite of these numbers, most of the students never brought their laptops to class. They cited heft and theft as key reasons.
  • On average, students spend 23 hours a week online. Guys spend more time online than girls. Engineers and business majors more than others. They prefer broadband connections, and only 10% depend on dial-up access.
  • While students use text messaging and other more immediate forms of communication, 83% preferred email as the official means of communication from their schools.
  • Three quarters of the students surveyed used course management systems (like our WebCT), most several times a week. More than 75% prefer at least moderate to extensive use of technology for their coursework.
  • Most students (70%) use computers for downloading music or social networking (Facebook or mySpace).
  • Use of blogs, podcasts and other forms of new media tend to be used by less. While the use of blogs, podcasts and other forms of new media have grown significantly, they are not used by a majority of students.
  • Respondents ranked convenience as the “single most important benefit of IT in their academic experience.”
  • When asked about their priorities, first year students wanted “more network speed and access to music!” Seniors wanted “more computer labs and IT training.”
  • While a majority of students who make up the ‘net generation’ are fluent and highly adaptive to technology, there remains “an important minority of undergraduates do not appear enamored of IT, and some even appear to avoid it.”

These findings are consistent with our experience at PSU. Nearly all have computers, but demand for our computer labs is at an all-time high. Since we serve a rural region, we probably have more students dependent on dial-up internet access.


Students communicate freely through (Facebook, text messaging, cell phones), but still respond well official emails. They appreciate online services. If surveys or polls are provocative, they respond in significant numbers on myPlymouth. They tend to download music until they are warned that they might be caught. Some chase technology, some could care less. There remain some who are overwhelmed and intimidated.


Students are no longer using phones in the residence halls. Nearly all have cell phones and in spite of 500 free long distance minutes per month, less than 15% are using them. This has significant implications for our campus and how we communicate with students.


What does this mean for us? Some questions for thought.


  1. How do you communicate with students?
  2. How should PSU communicate with students? (in other words, what is the most effective means to reach them?)
  3. If there was a pandemic and students were prohibited from being on campus, how prepared are you to conduct your class online?
  4. How does technology enhance what you do?
  5. How does technology undermine or burden what you do?
  6. What area of technology would you like to learn in the next year?