OIT News – November 2013

OIT News
Monthly news briefs, information and announcements
Office of Information Technology, NC State University
Issue 73, November 2013

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Follow OIT on Twitter @ncsu_oit
For up-to-the-minute reports on OIT systems, see SysNews
For help with computing problems, contact the NC State Help Desk

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01: Major Data Center 2 renovations coming spring 2014
02: NC State to end support for Windows XP
03: Budget reductions impact OIT services
04: Google to release dynamic groups and calendar invites
05: Google rolls out new task bar
06: IT Accessibility releases Color Contrast Analyzer for Chrome
07: NC State 2013 World Usability Day Website Challenge winners
08: OIT to offer Google Apps, Photoshop and WordPress training
09: SAR training scheduled for Dec. 4
10: Phishing attacks take new form

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01: Major Data Center 2 renovations coming spring 2014
In spring 2014, Facilities and OIT will oversee power and cooling renovations in Data Center 2 (DC2) that will impact many campus IT services. These renovations, which will help mitigate risks of future outages in DC2, include:

  • Installing a backup supply of chilled water to reduce the data center’s reliance on a single primary source of cooling.

  • Installing an independent backup generator to reduce the non-data center loads on the existing generator.

  • Replacing the remaining air cooled climate control units with water cooled units to reduce data center power consumption for cooling.

Project impact

During this renovation, the campus community will likely experience one or more periods of service outage or degradation of OIT services.  

During periods of highest risk, OIT plans to bring down non-essential services in an effort to reduce DC2’s overall heat and power load. This action will help the data center weather temporary potential power and cooling losses. In the event that these preparatory actions prove insufficient to offset a loss of power or cooling, OIT may need to bring down additional services.

All efforts are being made to minimize the project’s impact on OIT services; however, please be aware that it is not possible for OIT to mitigate all risk to its services during the active phases of this project, and OIT will not have complete control of when the work will occur.

Next steps

  • The project team has selected the contractor for this renovation and will begin to generate a detailed timeline for completion of the renovation.

  • OIT will publish in early January a follow-up OIT News announcement with further project details and will seek your input as it schedules necessary periods of potential service disruption.

OIT greatly appreciates your understanding and flexibility regarding this important project.

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02: NC State to end support for Windows XP

(Editor’s Note: This article was updated Monday, Nov. 18, 2013)

Effective April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide the following support for Windows XP:

  • security patches

  • additional new or enhanced device support

  • software functionality and compatibility upgrades

See What does it mean if my version of Windows is no longer supported.

As a result, NC State plans to remove these machines from the campus network on April 30, 2014.  There is an exception process under development for instrumentation or critical systems that must utilize Windows XP.

Departments should immediately begin identifying and upgrading their computers running Windows XP or any earlier versions of Windows. OIT will provide information to assist with the identification of these machines along with detailed information for the exception process by the end of January 2014.

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03: Budget reductions impact OIT services
As a result of the 2013-2014 state budget reduction, OIT absorbed a $1.1 million recurring appropriated budget cut, resulting in the prioritization and realignment of its resources, including a loss of 10.75 positions. This budget reduction and accompanying loss of positions will have a lasting impact on the organization’s ability to provide timely responses to requests for various campus services.

Campus-wide services immediately impacted by this budget reduction include:

  • Antivirus software: The campus-wide license for antivirus software is being evaluated and will likely be reduced to cover only university-owned computers. The Antivirus/Malware Strategy Working Group (comprised of campus representatives and led by OIT) is evaluating free or low-cost alternatives for students and employees to use for their personally-owned computers.

  • Virtual Computing Lab (VCL): Campus will experience longer times to resolve problems and for delivery of new VCL research and teaching environments and new VCL features.

  • Optical Mark Reader: During periods of heavy usage (i.e. midterm, final exams), the turnaround time for processing the university’s Scantron-based (bubble sheet) exams and quizzes will be approximately 48 hours. The processing time for faculty and course evaluations will now be five to seven business days. Faculty and staff who use these services should plan accordingly.

  • Help Desk: Response times to resolve problems pertaining to business applications and managed desktop development and service maintenance may be extended.

  • Realm Linux: There will be reduced programming support for the enterprise, academic and research Realm Linux environment components (such as monitoring), resulting in a noticeable impact to stability and addition of features and updates in these environments.

  • Gartner Services: This subscription service, which provided access to Gartner analysts and research tools for decision-making and strategic directions, was discontinued Aug. 31, 2013.

With the ongoing development of the university IT strategic plan, OIT looks forward to forming new partnerships and IT strategies to maximize its resources to help achieve the university’s vision and strategic priorities.  

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04: Google to release dynamic groups and calendar invites
In the next few weeks, Google Inc. will roll out a change to make it easier for you to add or remove Google Groups members from Group Calendar invites.

Essentially, if you send a Google Calendar invite to members of your Google Group, the attendee list will automatically update as you add or remove people from the group. Also, if you join a Google Group, you will be invited to all of the Group’s meetings, and when you leave the group, all meetings will be removed from your calendar.

This change applies only to new calendar events created after the rollout. To apply it to existing calendar events, simply re-invite the group. For more information, see Calendar events that update when Google Groups change.

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05: Google rolls out new task bar
Google Inc. rolled out a new version of its Google bar to the Google Apps @ NC State environment on Nov. 1.

The new Google bar provides you with a consistent interface for Google Apps whether you are working on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. The Google Bar includes notifications, a Google+ sharebox (if you signed up for Google+), and a new Apps Launcher (Grid) with links to other products.

Users will see only the apps that are available in the NC State domain; other Google services will appear under the “More” section in the new Apps Launcher. For more information, visit Google Apps at NC State.

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06: IT Accessibility releases Color Contrast Analyzer for Chrome
NC State University IT Accessibility Office has developed a free Color Contrast Analyzer for Chrome to help you analyze textual color contrast in Web pages to meet accessibility requirements.

Analyzing the color contrast between the text foreground and background colors can be challenging when text is:

  • placed on top of an image or color gradient

  • rendered inside an image

The Color Contrast Analyzer for Chrome handles these cases by treating online content as an image and performing pixel-by-pixel analysis of the image. For additional information on how to get and use this tool, see the NC State University IT Accessibility Blog and the Color Contrast Analyzer for Google Chrome YouTube video.

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07: NC State 2013 World Usability Day Website Challenge winners
NC State University IT Accessibility Office is proud to announce the winners of the 2013 World Usability Day Website Challenge, which was held Oct. 15 through Nov. 13. NC State Web developers were challenged to:

  • address general usability by correcting the most website accessibility errors

  • add a “skip to main content” link on at least 80 percent of their Web pages

Campus Web developers have corrected a total of 416,196 accessibility errors for this challenge. Since the Accessibility Scan service began in March 2013, they have corrected a total of 1,188,908 accessibility errors.

The winning sites — those with the largest percentage of accessibility errors corrected in their respective category — are:

  • Large Sites (1,000+ pages): WolfWare, 89.91 percent

  • Medium Sites (100-999 pages): Student Media, 79.93 percent

  • Small Sites (1 – 99 pages): Admissions, 99.37 percent

Other sites with notable improvements include:

  • Mathematics, 75.14 percent

  • Horticultural Science, 68.36 percent

  • Textiles, 44.78 percent

  • Libraries, 22.45 percent

As a result of this challenge, a total of 128 campus websites now include a “skip to main content” link on at least 80 percent of their Web pages. You can view a list of these sites plus other websites with at least 20 percent of their accessibility errors corrected at NC State 2013 World Usability Day Website Challenge. The University IT Accessibility Office determined the top websites and all ratings based solely on automated accessibility tests.

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08: OIT to offer Google Apps, Photoshop and WordPress training
Upcoming OIT workshops include:

  • “Google Apps: Calendar” will be offered on Wednesday, Nov. 20 from 9 a.m. to noon in the  ITTC Lab 2 of D.H. Hill Library and Wednesday, Dec. 11 from 9 a.m. to noon in Room 110 of the Avent Ferry Technology Center. If you’re comfortable with the basics of Google Calendar and are ready to use more of its features, this hands-on workshop is for you. It will focus on appointment slots, event attachments, maps and directions, sharing and embedding calendars, labs, quick add, search options, mobile notifications, and more. To register, visit Classmate.

  • “Photoshop: Introduction, Part 3: Layers & Retouching” will be offered on Tuesday, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 110 of Avent Ferry Technology Center. This workshop is the third in a four-part series that will introduce you to the robust capabilities of Adobe Photoshop. In this series, you will learn about the Photoshop software as well as about print and photography design concepts. By the end of this workshop series, you should feel comfortable finding the tools you need to use within Photoshop to open, edit, transform, retouch, and export images. The workshop prerequisites are Photoshop: Introduction Part 1 and Part 2. For more information and to register, visit Classmate.

  • “Beyond the Basics: Gmail” will be offered on Wednesday, Nov. 27 and Tuesday, Dec.17 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Room 110 of the Avent Ferry Technology Center. If you’re comfortable with the basics of Gmail and are ready to learn more advanced features, this hands-on workshop is for you. You will learn about labels, filters, canned responses, and more. If you would prefer using your own laptop or other mobile device feel free to bring it. It is not necessary to use the PCs installed in the training rooms. To register, visit Classmate.

  • Photoshop: Introduction, Part 4: Type & Advanced Features” will be offerd on Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 110 of Avent Ferry Technology Center. This is the final workshop in a four-part series that will introduce you to the robust capabilities of Adobe Photoshop. In this series, you will learn about the Photoshop software as well as about print and photography design concepts. By the end of this workshop series, you should feel comfortable finding the tools you need to use within Photoshop to open, edit, transform, retouch, and export images. Part 4 will cover typography and advanced features such as content-aware tools. The workshop prerequisites are Photoshop: Introduction Parts 1, 2 and 3. For more information and to register, visit Classmate.

  • “Google Drive: Forms” will be offered on Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 110 of the Avent Ferry Technology Center. Are you looking for a way to easily create surveys, plan events or gather data? Are you interested in learning more about specific apps available in Google Drive?  If so, don’t miss this interactive session on how to create and collaborate using Google Forms. In this workshop, you’ll learn the basics of creating forms and viewing responses, while also learning several advanced features (embedding forms in websites, adding page breaks and incorporating question validation). If you would prefer to use your own laptop, feel free to bring it. It is not necessary to use the PCs installed in the training rooms. To register, visit Classmate.

  • “Google Apps: Gmail Training” will be offered on Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon in Room 110 of the Avent Ferry Technology Center. This workshop is an overview of Google Apps @ NC State and will cover many features of Gmail and will include additional helpful resources. To register, visit Classmate.

  • “Basics of WordPress” will be offered on Thursday, Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 110 of the Avent Ferry Technology Center. Have you heard of “WordPress,” a popular content management system and blog tool and want to see what it’s all about? Learn everything you need to know to get started using WordPress here at NC State. Workshop topics include: setup, configuration, themes, plug-ins, settings, options, and management. To register, visit Classmate.

  • “Introduction to Google Hangouts – Laptop/Desktop Application” will be offered on Thursday, Dec. 5 from noon to 1 p.m. in Room 110 of the Avent Ferry Technology Center. Join this fun and interactive workshop to learn about Google Hangouts, a free Web conferencing tool that allows you to communicate with others on campus or around the globe via video, audio and text messaging. Learn how to use the Hangouts platform to share your screen and documents, add a personalized banner and download apps that offer additional helpful features. To register, visit Classmate.

  • “Create and Collaborate with Google Docs/Drive” will be offered on Thursday, Dec. 12 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 110 of the Avent Ferry Technology Center. In this hands-on workshop, you learn everything you need to know to get started using Google Docs/Drive at NC State. You will learn how to use Docs/Drive in a collaborative environment, including editing a file simultaneously with other people, securing a document through file sharing permissions, and creating files for use by a group of colleagues or friends. For this workshop, you will need to have an active NC State University Unity account with access to Google Apps at NC State. If you would prefer using your own laptop or other mobile device, feel free to bring it. To register, visit Classmate.

Check the Classmate training calendar for other available workshops. If you’re interested in custom software training for your department, unit or classroom, please complete the Custom Training form. If you have any questions about OIT training, please contact Katie McInerney, OIT training coordinator, at 513-4091 or via email at classreg@ncsu.edu.

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09: SAR training scheduled for Dec. 4
Security Access Request (SAR) training for campus requestors and approvers of access to secured university data will be held Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the ITTC Lab 2 of D.H. Hill Library. Please visit Classmate to sign up for training.

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10: Phishing attacks take new form
Since Nov. 1, hackers have sent approximately 5,000 emails containing links to fake Google Drive or Docs login websites to many @ncsu.edu email accounts in an effort to steal users’ account passwords. Twenty NCSU Unity accounts have been compromised so far by these new phishing attacks.

The phishing email has a subject like “Important Document” and includes the standard Google doc sharing message like, “I’ve shared an item  with you,” with an enclosed link that directs users to a fake Google login Web page.  The phishing attack often starts with one user account being compromised and then the attacker sends phishing emails to the contacts of the compromised user.

These “look alike” Google Drive or Google Docs login websites feature Google’s logos and colors. But if you look closer, the URL is not google.com. By hovering your mouse over the link, it is possible to see where the URL really goes. If a link doesn’t start with https://drive.google.com or https://docs.google.com, it is a fake. Often the links to phishing sites are not secure and start with http:// and not https:// (i.e. secure site).

To help you recognize these types of phishing attacks, Security and Compliance have provided examples of some phishing sites at Google Docs Phishing Gallery. In each image, the URL is clearly not from Google.  

If you receive a phishing email, please forward it to abuse@ncsu.edu or call the NC State Help Desk at 515-HELP (4357). The Help Desk staff will never ask for your password via email or over the phone.

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