Report: January 16, 2008

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO MISSISSAUGA

Report of the meeting of the COMPUTING COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 3:10 p.m. in the Ante Room, #3129, S.B.

Present: J. Lim (in the Chair), R. deSouza, J. Hu, A. Akers, A. Wensley, D. O’Day, A. Vyas, C. Mejia, S. Senese, J. Sills, T. Al-Sarraj, H. Stevens
Regrets: D. Kreuger, R. Gerlai
In attendance: Simone Laughton, Instructional Technology Liaison, HMALC, Kevin Lee, Computing Services Manager

1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting (November 21, 2007)

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved.

2. Report of officers:

a) Demonstration of UTM Dropbox Application, developed by Computing Services – Joe Lim, Chief Information Officer

Mr. Lim explained that the UTM Dropbox application was developed in response to the UTORID migration, since there was a problem with the size of email attachments. The application groups users into an external (no UTORmail account needed) and internal user. This website allows a user to drop a file that somebody can subsequently retrieve.

Mr. Lim conducted a live demonstration of the application. He explained that there was no limit to how large the file attachment could be. The recipient would automatically receive a email message with a link directing them to the website that will allow them to download the file, without the need to log in. Mr. Lim noted that the application is very secure. Recipients need the email message to be able to download the file. Senders can choose the option of being notified when the recipient picks up the file.

Regarding system storage, Mr. Lim explained that the application does not keep a record of transactions; only one copy exists in the system that many people can download. If the information is sensitive, the sender can delete his/her posting once it has been downloaded. Mr. Lim noted that an extensive help menu was available with the application.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

In response to a member’s question about spam, Mr. Lim explained that the application would be monitored for spam on a regular basis.

Mr. Lim noted that the application was still in the development phase and that its launch would be announced campus wide in the near future. He asked that members email him with any feedback about the application.

b) Report from the Chief Administrative Officer – Ray deSouza

The Chief Administrative Officer announced that the university’s new Chief Information Officer position information had been finalized, with the next step being a national search. The university’s CIO is expected to start by May or June of 2008.

Mr. deSouza reported that the upcoming spring and summer seasons would be extremely busy for UTM in terms of capital construction, resulting in some unavoidable system outages. These projects include the Storm Water Management pond, the Medical Academy and the South Building renovation, which will begin in the fall. Networking services relocation and new ductwork are needed for some of these projects. He noted that there will be notice given in advance to the campus community to warn of possible disruptions; he added that in most cases disruptive work would be done early on during the weekends in order to minimize disturbance during business hours.

3. New Business:

a) Scheduled system outages – Kevin Lee, Computing Services Manager

Mr. Lee reported that the time between 5 and 9 p.m. on every third Friday of every month, will be designated as scheduled maintenance time. During this time computer services could be down, including web, database services and UTM applications. Email reminders would be sent regarding each scheduled downtime that will note which servers would be unavailable. Mr. Lee added that this would not affect Blackboard.

b) Report from the learning management team – Simone Laughton, Instructional Technology Liaison, Library

Ms. Laughton reported that the purpose of the learning technology team was to provide an informal forum for discussion and exploration of best practices in the use of learning technologies and teaching activities; to investigate and provide input regarding current and emerging learning technologies and how they may be effectively implemented and integrated into learning and teaching activities; and to work and communicate with other groups on campus and within the broader university community to promote the appropriate and effective use of learning technologies to support learning and teaching activities. The membership of this group consists of professionals who use and support learning technologies at UTM.

Ms. Laughton gave a summary of meetings held since the beginning of 2007, which included issues on campus related to technology and pedagogy, various events and conferences and symposia.

She noted that the strategic focus of the next meeting would be on i>clickers; faculty who are currently using i>clickers will be invited to present information sessions about how they use the technology in their classes.

Ms. Laughton also distributed a handout on IT assessment initiatives. The handout gave details of a demographic and information technology questionnaire conducted in January of 2007, which gathered information to provide input into the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences planning process. The information technology questions were designed to identify and measure student preferences, attitudes and experiences with technology. Detailed information on the results of the questionnaire are attached hereto as Appendix A.

c) Web server logs: Jenny Hu, Webmaster

Ms. Hu reported that the UTM central web server (www.utm.utoronto.ca) writes an entry to a log file for every request it processes. The log files are large, usually over 1G per week. Since the log files are large, they are compressed and stored on the log server. Years of log files can add up to hundreds of gigabytes and are taking up space which could be allocated for other use. Therefore, it is proposed that web log files be kept for one year, but not longer.

She explained that each Monday, the log files for the past week are processed to produce statistical summaries. The statistical summaries contain information that is useful for web administrators, including the following:

- Internet address of computer or device
- Countries of the visitors
- Type of browser used
- The operating system of the computer or device
- Web pages requested
- Referring web pages
- Time spent on the site
- Search engine hits and keyword phrases

The summary reports are updated weekly. Ms. Hu noted that users who wish to receive web statistics reports for their websites can submit a request to webservices@utm.utoronto.ca. Computing Services can provide web statistics reports dating back to the previous year. If users wish to keep statistics reports for archival purposes, they should download the contents to their local computer.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

Mr. Lim noted that system logs are a big problem in that they take up a large amount of space that could be used for other purposes such as backup. Such data includes things like the number of times a user has accessed an IP address.

A member noted her concern that deleting these logs may preclude historical analysis. Ms. Hu explained that log reports are produced every Monday based on the statistics of the previous week, but if members are looking for a yearly report, these will be retained for years; she emphasized that it is the raw log file texts that would be deleted.

d) A member asked whether there is a plan to give a summary of UTORmail transfer errors at a future meeting of the Computing Committee. Mr. Lim answered that currently the problems with UTORmail consist of issues with large ISP’s, for example Sympatico, Roger, Hotmail, and Gmail. These internet service providers are claiming that ‘utoronto.ca’ is spamming them with unwanted mail messages. He explained that what is actually occurring is that U of T is sending mail to invalid Sympatico email addresses. U of T will therefore try and disable accounts that are being forwarded to an invalid email account. He acknowledged that there was a need to our own accounts better, in order to create better relationships with these ISP’s.

Regarding submissions within the university’s server, Mr. Lim would bring a report to the Computing Committee’s next meeting.

e) A member suggested that there should be a policy around access to activity logs on Blackboard, because of arguments around submission of assignments. Mr. Lim would look into existing policy on this matter.

f) Mr. Lim gave an update on expanding the wireless coverage for graduate students. He noted that the cost quotation for the required hardware had arrived, with the electrical contractor quote for running cables still in the waiting stage. He would keep the committee updated on the progress of this project.

The Chair announced that the next meeting of the Computing Committee will be on Wednesday, February 27, 2008.

The meeting adjourned at 4:15 p.m.

Secretary ____________________________ Chair ________________________________