GusDay 2008 Reflections (Part Two)

As Diane indicated in her GusDay 2008 Reflections post (part one), I also attended the conference with my fellow early a.m. travelers. It's a well attended and growing event of "Minnesota Private Colleges and like-minded instutitutions". Like-minded is a nod to folks like us invading from a southern border. This year attracted a crowd of over 150 people from 20 different schools and has grown in its scope. The first GusDay in 2000 covered mostly just ResNet and Help Desk topics. Sessions now cover the full gamut of IT services provided at institutions our size. It's good to see the community grow.

I enjoyed the day and the sessions I attended. Below you can find a brief description of each.

A Heterogeneous but Harmonious Approach to Content Management

Jerry Nowel, a web developer at Gustavus, presented this session. He gave a nice tour of a well-rounded approach to fostering content creation on the Gustavus website. Like Luther, Gustavus is using a combination of Active Campus, Dreamweaver, and Contribute to distribute their content creation. They've also put together a few custom content managment applications to manage directory information that ties to personal profiles that faculty and staff can edit. The content from the profiles then populates departmental pages with the information. The information can contain links to other pages, rich media, calendars, and class schedules. In addition, they're using WordPress for personal and departmental blogs and an in house developed events calendar that ties in to departmental pages with tags. Some offices are posting daily and this feeds into prominent pages on the college site. Two things that impressed me most was their use of the Google Search API to search multiple content repositories and present it in a nice looking/navigating tabbed results page, and their use of a RSS feed to easily pull external news articles about Gustavus into the site. The public information office just tags articles and the site links to the feed. Overall an interesting approach to heterogenous content development.

Implementing Windows Vista

Diane described this session in her blog post as well. What I took away from it was that St. Cloud State is in a quandary about the committment they made last year to move forward with Vista in their labs by May 2008, and that other schools are avoiding the decision about whether or not to completely skip Vista and wait for Windows 7. The consensus in the room was that Vista doesn't provide many advantages over XP; probably not enough to warrant a change from XP. Being a Vista user myself, my personal feeling is that its not the big splash that Microsoft hyped it to be but it works just fine and is definitely prettier. I'm enjoy the search functionality on the Start button and the Desktop gadgets most. It's a computer. It works. I guess I'm pretty utilitarian about my computer use. I do like pretty things though.

Imaging Solutions for Windows

This session was a round table on imaging solutions. It is of particular interest to Luther as we are somewhere in the middle of reconsidering/rethinking our Windows imaging and managment strategies. It turns out that many folks in the room are in a similar state as we find ourselves. That is, we recognize that processes should be smoother and more automated, but don't see a clear way to get there. Some schools in the room talked about having different and potentially better tools at their disposal but not yet using them to their potential. It seemed to me that everyone recognized that they were not in the most comfortable of positions and wanted to be making better use of tools. The Universal Imaging Tool and SysPrep both stood out as tools with potential for adoption. Several schools were making positive use of these tools in managing images. Carelton's lab manager talked about using PCRDist in combination with small, basic images. PCRDist pushes software and software updates to workstations by comparing delta changes between the server and the workstation and pushing changes to the workstation accordingly. It sounds very similar to Microsoft's Softgrid. She is very satisfied with this set up, but is concerned because PCRDist is an abandoned free utility. Another good session, but no clear guidance for how Luther User Services should move forward.

Ticket Tracking Round Table

I also attended (presented) in a round table discussion of ticket tracking solutions - sometimes referred to as CRM or Help Desk tracking systems. With the growth of web apps, ticket tracking options have grown. There are definitely more out there than there were 7 years ago when we started courting Track-It! as our tracking replacement for our homegrown MS Access database. I was happy to hear someone in the room say that Track-It! version 8 is a whole new ball game since we are considering getting there in the relatively new future. There were also a few folks in the room that were happy with their use of Footprints, another system we've been considering for a while. When I stated cost as a factor in not moving to Footprints, their comment was that it was for them too until they partnered up with other offices such as Facitilities Services to split up the cost and use the same system. Not only does that provide a cost advantage, it's also been a boon for support since they are now supporting one common system. I still think Footprints could be the way to go if we haven't committed to SchoolDude for Facilities. It's definitely a better, more flexible product than Track-It! All in all, we're at a good place with Track-It! incomparison to other schools in the room, but who wants to be just like everybody else?