Looking for something fun to do this week? On every page of the UMF portal, you can get quick access to UMF’s upcoming events and excursions. Look at the top-left of the portal. See the Calendar icon? If you put your mouse over that icon, you’ll be presented with a drop down list of the upcoming events and excursions. Click on the event title for more information.
What else can you see using the quick access icons? Occasionally, you may receive a campus message through the portal. The My Messages icon will drop down a list of all your portal messages. If you click on the icon, you can go to a page that allows you to read the messages again or delete old messages. Another, maybe unfamiliar icon, the Community icon, will drop down a list of portal Communities that you belong to.
Web Services Manager
Recently, I had the benefit of a professional assessment from Michael D. Sauda, the Safety and Environmental Manager for the University of Maine System. He and I reviewed my typical workday, work area and concerns about proper ergonomics. Not only did he provide tips that will immediately correct some of my bad posture habits, but he will also be following up with recommendations to optimize my work area for comfort and productivity.
Generally, when I hear the word ergonomics I think about how my workspace and my body should “fit” with each other. The computer screen must be the correct height and distance from me and the keyboard and mouse should be oriented so that my arms are bent at 90 degrees… the basics I remember learning about over 2 decades ago.
Did you know that if you spend hours every day at a desk there are over 20 features to a chair you should look for before choosing the right one? The backrest should be no less than 12 inches wide and 15 inches high. It should also conform to the contours of your lower back. The armrests should be soft, padded and wide enough to support your forearm. Even the front edge of the seat pan should be rounded so as not to cut off circulation in your legs. And these are only a few of many specifications for proper seating.
Apparently my telephone has been on the wrong side of the desk for decades! Until today, it has been to my left, within reach if I extend my left arm fully. While this is not a problem when thinking about grabbing the handset and holding it up to my ear, it’s the twisting of my entire upper body to the left so my right hand can reach the keys to dial… duh! Of course, I could slide it closer to me while leaving it on the left, but that is valuable real estate for writing/working on laptops that I am not willing to give up. The phone will be moving to the right of my computer this afternoon!
Lighting is everything! Reducing the overhead lighting in our area just for a few hours today has not only made my eyes feel so much better, but we have lowered our speaking tone and I even feel more calm. The overhead lights that were turned off during this “experiment” are using more electricity than a 1600 watt hair dryer when in use. Although it may seem too dark to the average person standing in the room, Mike assures us that it, supplemented with “task lights” at our areas when needed, is the appropriate configuration for our use.
Don’t forget to “break it up”. At least once every hour you should change the position you are in. Get up and go for a short walk around the building, go get a drink of water, perform some other task. Mike likes to stand when placing or taking a phone call. Not only does it achieve the goals mentioned in this paragraph, but Mike says that it actually changes the tone of your voice to be more “authoritative”. Not a bad idea. I think the next time I discuss homework with my (almost 6 foot tall, 219 pound) 14-year-old son, I will use this tactic. I’m cautiously optimistic…
While there are several other factors that contribute to a beneficial work environment, the key players for me seem to be properly supporting my body and reducing eyestrain while staring at the computer(s) for hours. I will continue to learn about other ways to work better, and the University of Maine System has many resources to do just that. The best place to start is at hr.umf.maine.edu. There is a section on that page (lower right) on safety, with PDFs on ergonomics for computer workstations. While it may seem a lot to take in, I am already feeling the benefits.
Technology Support Specialist/Desktop Services
Back in another life I was the IT Manager for a company that held security above all else. While sitting through yet another computer security seminar, an interesting slide hit the screen. It was titled “Ten Immutable Laws of Security”. The “laws” were put out by the Microsoft Security Response Center that monitors reports of security vulnerabilities. Some reports were the result of flaws in the software so the Center would then create patches for the software. Some reports were due to mistakes by the person using the software – these could be resolved with training not programming. But many reports would fall somewhere in between these two scenarios – not flaws or mistakes but vulnerabilities due to the nature of how computers work.
But as the report that issued this list of ‘laws” stated, “…don’t abandon all hope yet…” simply being aware of these vulnerabilities is the first step in preventing them. The “Immutable Laws” have been updated since back then to more closely resemble modern computing and they still hold true. Details and explanations can be found on the site listed below.
The 10 Immutable Laws
Law #1: If a bad guy can persuade you to run his program on your computer, it’s not solely your computer anymore.
Law #2: If a bad guy can alter the operating system on your computer, it’s not your computer anymore.
Law #3: If a bad guy has unrestricted physical access to your computer, it’s not your computer anymore.
Law #4: If you allow a bad guy to run active content in your website, it’s not your website any more.
Law #5: Weak passwords trump strong security.
Law #6: A computer is only as secure as the administrator is trustworthy.
Law #7: Encrypted data is only as secure as its decryption key.
Law #8: An out-of-date antimalware scanner is only marginally better than no scanner at all.
Law #9: Absolute anonymity isn’t practically achievable, online or offline.
Law #10: Technology is not a panacea.
Technology Support Specialist/Customer Services
What are you talking about?
Benjamin Franklin famously stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This reference was related to his work establishing fire prevention and insurance in the city of Philadelphia. While he didn’t envision the digital age, the quote is relevant to our digital lives. Often we think about the devices we use, but we often fail to put value on the content we create. It’s easy to buy a new computer, but it’s impossible to recreate pictures from your last family vacation. The value of the data can often be priceless!
An ounce of prevention
It doesn’t matter what your backup strategy is, you just need one! A successful backup strategy needs to follow a few rules; backup strategies need to be convenient, secure, and most importantly you need to be able to restore from it. Convenient backups should allow you to identify the content that’s important, setup an automated schedule, and report any problems. Security in a backup strategy is more than making sure people don’t break in and steal your data. You need to think about having your backups in a separate physically secure location. This will protect you in the event of fires and/or other natural disasters. An effective backup solution should be tested. You should be confident you can retrieve critical data when it matters most.
The Options – Offline vs. Online
Offline backup tools are integrated into both Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Apple’s Lion operating systems. Microsoft has directions for their solution here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Back-up-your-files. Apple has a great howto page for it’s TimeMachine offering here: http://www.apple.com/support/timemachine/. These require you to have an external storage medium such as cd/dvd’s, flash drives, or external usb drives. An offline backup is a little more hands on requiring you to insert or connect the backup storage device.
Online backups are offered by third parties and often are based on monthly or annual subscriptions. Rather than using external storage, your data is sent into the “Cloud”, and is stored remotely with the service provider. For the most part, the only requirement is that you have a high speed internet connection. These backup solutions tend to be far more automated as they don’t require you to swap backup media. The only downside is restoration of large sets of data can take longer, but in most cases having the data is more important than having in immediately. A large number of service providers exist in this arena. Wikipedia has a great chart comparing the various options: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_online_backup_services.
The most important part is to start now and stick with it. My hope is that you find a solution that works for you and doesn’t become a burden. A backup solution should allow you to rest easy at night knowing your documents, pictures, movies, and other valuable content is safe and sound.
Assistant Director for Information Technology Services