OIT Technology News: August 2011

OIT Newsletter: Back to School Edition

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Mac Lion, iLife and iWork

Lion, the latest Operating System from Apple has been released.  The OS includes a number of great new features. There also some documented compatibility issues.  As a result, OIT is encouraging faculty and staff to wait on the Lion upgrade until all testing has been completed.

New Features

  • Spell check and Auto Suggest is much more aggressive
  • The Mouse Wheel and Track Pad now allows you to swipe much like the ipad.
  • The sidebar has been redesigned and enhanced
  • Launch Pad now displays applications similar to iPad
  • Mission Control now allows you to see all applications and windows across desktops

Known Issues

  • Safari 5.1 compatibility issue with locker.smu.edu-- The ability to share files and folders does not currently work with this version of Safari This issue is not limited to Lion, but also affects Safari 5.1 on older versions of Mac OS.
  • Adobe applications-- there are numerous compatibility issues with many of the Adobe applications
  • PGP is not compatible
  • Parallels-- you must first upgrade to version 6 in order to use Parallels on Lion
  • Boot Camp only supports Windows 7
  • Office 2004 will not run on Lion. Office 2008 runs but has some compatibility issues.
  • Once Lion is installed, Spotlight performs an initial index of the system.  During that index, performance of the machine is sluggish. However, performance improves and stabilizes once the indexing is complete.

Deployment Plan

All new Macs are coming with Lion installed.  In addition iLife and iWorks will be included as part of the standard load.  Once testing is complete, we will begin accepting requests to upgrade existing systems to Lion.  An existing system must have at least 2 GB of Ram and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor in order to Lion to be installed.

iWorks and iLife are now included in the campus license for all IT Managed Macintosh computers.  Faculty and staff may request the software on an existing Mac computer by emailing the IT Help Desk. Please provide the ITS number of the machine on which it should be installed. Employees in Cox or Lyle should contact their local IT Support team.

SPECIAL EVENT

Come learn more about Lion at a special demonstration given by Apple.  Thursday, September 15 in the Hughes Trigg Forum.
10:00am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-3:00pm

Click here for more information

Blackboard Top Tips for Faculty

BlackboardShortly before the start of the semester, Blackboard (courses.smu.edu) was upgraded to version 9.1.   The following are a few of the top tips for faculty in using Blackboard.

  1. Change your course availability: Courses and enrollment are automatically populated directly from Access.SMU.  However, all courses are initially set to "unavailable" which means the students in the class will not be able to view or access the course.  Faculty may set the course to available when they are ready for the content to be visible.  Simply click Customizations > Properties and set the availability to yes.

  2. Change the course title:  Course titles are automatically set by Access.SMU when the course is created. Sometimes before the term starts instructor assignment changes. The process that names a Blackboard course does not update the course title if there is a change. However, instructors may modify the title as needed. Click Customizations > Properties > and enter the appropriate title.
  3. Trouble opening PDF files:  There have been a number of reports of students having difficulty opening PDF files from Blackboard. This is a Mac browser problem and only applies to the new “Create > File” function. When students attempt to open a file, the browser will display “Missing Plug-in” a grey area of the right frame. To alleviate this issue, faculty should change the default properties when creating this content type. The default setting is to NOT open the file in a new window. Set this to "yes".
  4. Make certain links visible:  Instructors can also select which features to use in Blackboard such as announcements, discussion boards etc.  These links can be hidden from the student's view until the instructor decides to use them. Click on the arrow icons next to the link and select "Show Link" or "Hide Link" as applicable. Be sure to remember this when using the My Grades tool. 

With the upgrade, several new features were added.

  1. Creating media content has been made easier: More options are to come with the Mashup tools that search and embed YouTube videos, Flickr images, and SlideShare.
  2. New Grade Center features: One lets you create favorite view. For example, you can have it display only one group of columns or only things that have not been grades. You can color code grades like a grade below 70 might turn red.
  3. Improved usability: Grade rubrics, lesson plans, more gradable items, numbered questions in test and surveys, cleaner interface, improved My Courses module.
  4. New iTunes U Building Block: We have migrated to the new Vanderbilt iTunes U Building Block. This has added new features (like direct course linking) and support for your podcasts with SMU on iTunes U

If you need assistance with any of the Blackboard features, check out the Blackboard online help guides.  You can also contact the IT Help Desk for support.