Information Systems

Tech Talk

  • Pretty Please Use the Online Ticketing System

    Posted September 17, 2014

    Given the current and anticipated growth in the number of people, spaces, and resources we need to support, IS is looking to be as efficient and consistent as we can in recording and tracking all incoming help desk requests. Using the online ticketing system is the best way to achieve this goal. We ask that you use the ticketing system to submit your requests as often as possible.

    It's not that we don't enjoy talking to you on the phone or in the hallway, because we do. But we also want to be fully transparent and accountable for a well-run help desk operation, and the more loose ends there are from hallway stops, phone calls, and "as long as you're here" requests, the harder it is to keep track of things. When tickets come into the online system, we all see them and can communicate with you from inside the ticketing system rather than have random emails flying around.

    The fastest way to send in a ticket is via e-mail. Instead of e-mailing the IS address, send your e-mail to webhelpdesk followed by the usual at ucls dot uchicago dot edu (the address is spelled out here to avoid attracting spam since Tech Talk is posted on the world-readable IS web site). The system will know who and where you are and create a ticket from the body of your e-mail.

    The other way is to go to the web page at and enter information into the form you'll find there after you log in with your LabNet ID.

    If you have questions or comments about your support ticket, you can enter them directly into the Notes portion of the ticket; just remember to hit the Save button in that field when you're done. If we have status updates for you, you'll find them there, too. Please don't enter a second ticket to ask about the status of an earlier ticket containing the same request. Use the Notes field in the ticket you opened.

    We recognize that the kind of problem you're having may preclude your going to the online form or sending an e-mail, so report those kinds of items via phone or in person as needed. Thanks for considering this change in what for many is a long-time behavior. If you would like an in-person demo on how to use the system, we're happy to provide it. Let us know.

  • Using the Everyone List: A Plea for Prudence

    Posted September 17, 2014

    Like all internal mailing lists at Lab, the "everyone" list is for conducting the day-to-day business of the Schools. Though defining what that means can be elusive at times, it has been suggested by some that there might be room for senders to exercise more restraint when considering what to send to that list.

    Some sent items clearly do not belong on any other list besides Open Forum: puppies to give away, tickets to sell, solicitations for charity events not connected to the Schools, and so on.

    Other items are clearly school business: water shut downs, broken elevators, personnel changes, notice of school events, and so on.

    However, a number of sent items in any given week fall in a gray area in which the content is surely of concern to some, but probably not everyone. Or perhaps the connection to our daily school business is there, but is less direct or harder to discern by a critical mass of people who receive it. These are the messages that tend to trigger the complaints Curt gets in his default role as e-mail traffic cop, and lately he has received several.

    Clearly, these are judgment calls, and it's hard to imagine a set of rules or a policy that would address all the use cases out there. Also, part of the list's value is its immediacy; if we were to moderate the list, someone would have to play gatekeeper, which creates a bottleneck no one really wants.

    So before you send a message to the everyone list, kindly take a moment to be sure its contents really are of sufficient urgency and importance to have it show up in the inboxes of every teacher, administrator, and staff member. Consider sending to Open Forum first to see if you can achieve the goal for your communication without involving everyone. About 120 people use that list, so you're getting the word out. Another option is to send your message to a list that is a subset of the everyone list; each division has its own alias for this, and there is one each for all faculty and all staff. If you want those addresses, let IS know, but we can't post them on Tech Talk, which becomes a world readable page on LabNet once it's published.

  • Printer Upgrades Coming

    Posted September 17, 2014

    In addition to the now-completed replacement of existing MFDs with Canon machines, we have also made a significant investment in a number of new Kyocera stand-alone printers to replace our oldest HP models. We could not stretch the budget enough to replace all the stand-alone printers we have along with the MFDs, but that is our eventual goal, and this year's acquisition will put a big dent in it. Rob and the help desk team will begin those replacements soon.

  • A Service You Didn't Expect from IS

    Posted September 17, 2014

    With a few avid cyclists in the IS group, please be aware that for faculty and staff, we always have a bicycle pump and tire levers available if you are running a little low or need help changing a flat on your bike (we don't have tubes, though). Schrader or Presta valves are the supported pump platforms :-)

  • Spam and Phishing

    Posted September 5, 2014

    Toward the end of spring quarter, a number of e-mail users reported a spike in the number of spam messages reaching their inboxes. System Administrator John Krug's initial steps to address the problem helped, but fell short of what he'd expected. After extensive research with Barracuda, the company who makes and supports our spam filtering appliance, John was able to identify the problem and make the necessary adjustments. No new excessive spam reports have come in since that time, so we have reason to believe things are back to normal. However, if such is not the case for you and your Lab e-mail account, let John Krug know by e-mailing the help desk at

    If the occasional "phishing" attempt finds your inbox -- you know, the terse, strangely threatening, not very well written request for you to click on a strange link -- there is no need to alert IS to it unless you inadvertently share your log-in credentials. In that case, we will help you reset your password. Otherwise, just delete them. If it seems "phishy" to you, it is. Delete and move on.

DIT Bits Blog

  • A Whirlwind Start to a New School Year

    09/20/2014 11:31 AM

    Whew! This is the first day I’ve had a chance to catch my breath between the end of my vacation and the opening of school. 

    In addition to the usual challenges of opening school, the IT team has had its share (as have so many others in our school community) of extra challenges to meet:
    • The record number of new employees tested our “onboarding” process (more about this awful word later), so we have some work to do to tighten that up to serve 30+ folks a year. With the lower numbers of past years, we could get done what was needed in person in the time available, but we are clear now that it needs its own dedicated web presence that includes as much as possible in a "one-stop shopping" experience. The trick is to get that done now while it is still fresh in our minds. 
    • Ongoing renovation also meant lots of interaction with UC IT Services, the construction team, principals, and our Facilities team. As the west side of Blaine and the other work in Middle School near full completion, keeping track of the current status of networking, hardware, and audiovisual projects has consumed a fair amount of time and attention. A number of items are on backorder, which hasn’t helped. The good news is that nearly all the projectors should be installed within the next couple of days. 
    • We also chose to seize an opportunity we didn’t anticipate to change our managed print services vendor earlier than scheduled, which meant replacing all the large print/copy/scan machines with a new make and model, doing user training, pushing out drivers, and so on, just as teachers were returning to school and office staff and administrators were putting the finishing touches on new year preparations. It was hectic, but the two project leaders on the IT team did a great job of getting this done in spite of a few bumps along the way. Making this move will remove a big thorn from our side and free up a lot of IT staff time we had been spending managing our former vendor. That’s always a win despite a little extra short-term pain. 
    So, following up on “onboarding” and its evil twin “off boarding:” these are not real words, and even if they are, they should not be. The jargonistas invented these for reasons unknown, and as educators, we should shun such abuses of the language. “Welcoming” and “departing,” “moving on,” or some more appropriate real words seem much more dignified and do not have the connotations depicted below. Can't we do better? 

                Onboarding                                                                   Offboarding