The All-in-One iPhone

There's lots of hype around the new iPhone. Credit Apple with their marketing and entertainment strategy. Apple products don't usually do well in large organizations, but from a consumer perspective, there are none better.


People ask me if I'm going to get an iPhone. Probably not, at least for now. Not because I don't want one, and not because it's expensive, but mostly because I'm not sure how much integration I want in my cell phone.


First and foremost, I want my cell phone to work as a phone. Too many times, especially here in the north country, I can't make or keep a call. Or my messages alert me hours after the call was made. Before my phone does anything else, I want that function down pat.


Yet another reason I'm not clamoring for the iPhone is that, well, everyone else is. It's the latest fad. I think I'll let the initial phase blow over and maybe wait for the 2.0 or 3.0 version. Maybe.


Those factors aside, I'm not sure I want my cell phone to be my iPod, my web, camera, photo cache and everything else. I think it would be novel to have all those functions in one, single unit, but I already have conniption fits when I misplace my phone, iPod, or camera. If I was to have an iPhone and lost it, or dropped it, or forgot to take it out of my pants as I jumped in a lake, it would be game over for a while.


I think what Apple has produced is marvelous example of technical innovation. It will influence the market significantly. But for now, no thanks. I don't mind having separate units.


Besides, it's summer, a time to disconnect. I want a few weeks to spend LESS time with my cell phone, not more.

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

Spam, it's getting worse again

Email…what a wonderful tool running amok. Much of our work today is based in email. When you find, however, that your inbox is cluttered with spam and unsolicited intrusions, you start to wonder if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Most of the mail on the internet today is spam. We protect you from most of it. Not all. You have tools at your disposal to block more. Unfortunately, the more you tighten your filters, the more good emails get caught in the nets. (sigh) Thus we are losing confidence in a communication means that used to be very reliable.

In spite of our approaches, new types of spam keep coming through. A year or so ago, we were dealing with multitudes of smut and offers to enlarge. We installed new software to filter that out. Then we had credit card and eBay scams, phishing ploys enticing us to update our accounts and offer up our access codes to financial data. Currently, we’re fending off stock deals, masked by randomly generated names and subject headings.

Consider this from a recent Computer World article:

Computer security analysts who fight spam face the same thankless task as goalkeepers: They don’t get much credit for the unsolicited e-mail they stop, only demerits for the ones that get through. But those few messages that wriggle past increasingly sophisticated filters constitute the greatest threats on the Internet. The sheer volume of spam threatens to bring the Internet to a crisis point. The amount of all e-mail traffic that is spam has recently risen to 85%, according to the Messaging Anti-Abuse Work Group in San Francisco….

Who knows the precise percentage, but those numbers are consistent with our experience.

Fighting spam is difficult in an academic environment. We value academic freedom and are committed to free exchange of ideas. Rarely do we block access to information, and only when it poses a threat to our network.

Yet if the spammers continue to have their way, they may force us to develop new strategies for communicating and messaging. It might mean that we change to another means of messaging. It almost certainly requires resources and ITS time and effort.

Set your own spam filter at This is a free service to the PSU community. Outlook users can also set a second filter under the Tools menu.

ITS will continue to keep pace with developments in the anti-spam industry. We know this is important to all of us.

Should PSU Host Blogs?

There’s been a good debate about whether or not PSU should support blogs. Who among you think this is important for PSU to invest in and support?

Blogs, or web logs, are used more and more for individuals and organizations to publish material to the web quickly and easily. Any individual can set up a blog and write until their heart's content. They can publish their thoughts to the world and with no editor, filter or moderation. If they have good ideas and can write effectively, others take notice. They may also establish a feed from your site. That means every time you post something on your blog, it is pulled to their attention.

Like so many new aspects of the web, water seeks its own level. If you are good, people take notice and your hit count increases. Some may get their 15 minutes of fame. For most, it simply brings the satisfaction of writing and publishing.

Some PSU classes use blogs. Students are required to set up a blog and post materials there as part of assignments. Some students who are less extroverted in the classroom can be more effective communicators in writing. (and vica versa)

Over the past year, PSU has been hosting a small blog server in a pilot study. Several departments have signed on to use them, along with a few individuals. The very blog you're reading now is sitting on that server. Yet we cannot continue to expand its use without investing in more equipment.

With that background, here is the issue. Should PSU host a blog site for individuals or not? Should we invest PSU resources in the hardware to host blogs in the PSU domain? It might cost around $7-8,000, plus someone’s time to maintain and upgrade it in the future. Or should we use and encourage blogs, but use any one of the many blog sites free and easy to anyone on the web. There are two camps of thought.

Camp One: PSU should not only support, but encourage blog use. We are an academic community where free exchange of ideas and thoughts is fundamental to our mission. By encouraging the use of blogs, we can bring more attention to PSU. In a Google Economy, this is muscle. It could also be a marketing boon. $7-8k in cost is nothing considering the larger cost of technologies on campus. PSU can and should invest in this rapidly expanding means of communication. It is core to what we do. Also, by hosting the blog site at PSU, we do not require students sign up for web services outside of our control.

Camp Two: PSU should encourage and support blog use for anyone interested, but why invest in hardware and support when blogs are a commodity readily and easily available on the web? Anyone can sign up for a free blog by establishing a username, password and verification of age. (, for an example) There is nothing overly personal or sensitive in that information. (If you don’t want to give your real birthdate, don’t.) There would be no cost to PSU and the same functionality would exist. Besides, given the rapid pace of change around web applications, we might want to wait this out and see if it’s a fad or a true wave of the future.

I’ve simplified the debate to this core issue. There are pros and cons to each. The crux question to you is whether or not you feel this is important to what we do at PSU? The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) engaged in this debate in their September 2006 meeting. Their recommendation was that PSU should support and host blogs.

It will be presented as a budget priority for next year. It will compete with other priorities for new funding.

What do you think? Do blogs matter to you and if so, should we host or post elsewhere? I’d love to hear from others in the campus community.
(ITS’ers and blog aficionados, let’s give others a chance to chime in first)