Winter Storm Alfred vs. ITS
When most of the state was powerless, including the Wesleyan campus, the data center on the 5th floor of Exley Science Tower kept on going. The data center is connected to a gas-powered generator that takes over in an outage, allowing us to keep core systems running. All critical equipment in the data center (which is the vast majority of it) is on two circuits. The A circuit is protected by a UPS (battery power supply) and the generator. The B circuit is also backed by the generator, but not the UPS. In the event of a power outage, the B circuits lose power for a minute or so while the generator spins up. The UPS on the A circuit keeps all equipment running in the meantime.
The system isn’t perfect, however, and a critical portion of the data center did lose power. Five and a half hours after power was lost to campus, a main breaker tripped, preventing the UPS from continuing to supply power. The B circuit kept the vast majority of the equipment running, but the inrush of power from the failed breaker caused a few power distribution units on the B circuit to trip, cutting power to a few critical devices. This included our gateways to the Internet and our networked storage. As soon as safety allowed, ITS staff members were restoring power to the data center and had service almost entirely restored within several hours.
ITS is now working with the vendors who designed the space and Wesleyan’s own Mike Conte to determine how to prevent this from happening again. Services were down during a period in which no one on campus had power, and were back online more than 24 hours before the campus began regular operations. While the space became quite hot – 2 of 3 cooling units go offline when on generator – only non critical test and development systems needed to be powered down during the long outage. A few additional fans helped circulate air flow.
Tips and Tricks
Free Software Recommendation of the Month
Front Door Software: Laptop Theft Prevention
ITS and Public Safety have teamed up to provide faculty, staff and students with a laptop theft prevention tool called Front Door Software, downloadable for free at http://www.frontdoorsoftware.com/wesleyan/
The application works on both Mac and PC and is simple to install. Users create their own login on Front Door and this will allow the user to lock down and put their machine in stolen mode that will make it play a loud alert message when started. These simple methods often deter petty theft and the thief will often drop the machine and run. Front Door includes location tracking that can be used in conjunction with police or Public Safety to aid in recovery. Installation is available for both Wesleyan-owned AND personally-owned machines and there is no limit to the number of devices registered. Install on your own or ask a Desktop Support person for assistance.
Time-Saving Website of the Month
If This then That (IfTTT) lets you sync the web to “work for you”. By creating “recipes” following the if this then that formula, you can automate connections between web services you already use. For example, you can make a link from a weather website to your email and have IfTTT automatically send you a note if it’s going to rain, or be below 50 degrees. If you’re looking to buy something off Craigslist, you can have IfTTT constantly scanning for a new post advertising the product you’re looking for and then drop a reminder note for you to email the seller into your Evernote (last month’s software tip) area. Let it watch the stock market for you and alert you via text message if any of your stocks go above or drop below a certain threshold. Set up phone call reminders for things you do regularly. The possibilities are robust and decidedly worth exploring, and the service is free to use; it simply requires setting up an account.
Keyboard Shortcut of the Month
Accidentally closed a tab you really needed in your web browser? Hit Ctrl+Shift+T (Mac: Cmd+Shift+T) and you’ll revive the last browser tab you closed. Keep hitting it to cycle back all the way to the beginning of your browser session, if necessary. Special note: This tip is different for users of the Safari browser. In Safari, use Cmd+Z instead, but note that you can only go back to the most-recently-closed tab.
Spotlight on… Password Security
Passwords are a simplistic yet powerful tool when it comes to computer security. Some of us take them very seriously while others abhor passwords and see them as an obstacle. With hundreds of thousands of services across the web requiring unique credentials, the act of maintaining a password inventory can become cumbersome to the typical end-user. This leads to using the same credentials for sensitive information, like bank accounts.
This is a dangerous, naïve practice that is becoming even more dangerous in today’s internet landscape. More and more websites and services with large scale userbases are becoming targets for sophisticated and coordinated attacks that have one primary goal: harvest user data. Gawker Media (owner of popular blogs such as Lifehacker and Gizmodo) servers were compromised last December and the usernames and passwords of 1.4 million registered users on their community of tech blogs were leaked all over the internet. All users were notified and required to change their password, but they were also warned to change their password if it was the same or similar on any other website. The online gaming network for Sony’s Playstation was the target of a major compromise which leaked not only user credentials but credit card information, affecting 77 million users. With password reuse plaguing the web, enterprising individuals could run the user credentials from Gawker Media or Sony against popular banks, e-mail and social media sites – even against Wesleyan’s systems – and encounter a surprisingly high level success rate of logging in and getting access to even more information. By using the same credentials across multiple locations, you reduce your personal security to a single point of failure.
While the aforementioned service providers have an obligation to take measures to protect our data, we need to take measures to protect ourselves! As users, how do we go about protecting ourselves from password reuse? The easiest method leveraging today’s technology is a password manager. Such systems are based on the principle of saving all of your unique passwords, encrypting them and protecting them with a strong (but easy for you to remember) “master” password. The password manager remembers and fills out everything for you in the browser, making personal password security a breeze. Even if you feel like a password manager is too much for you, simple strategies like creating a base password and using variations of it (adding #/!/numbers) can go a long way to leaving you less exposed in the event of a breach of your data. Remember, while passwords may seem cumbersome they can be the greatest tool or the weakest link when it comes to securing your data.
Cascade is our Web Content Management System or WebCMS. Over the next several months all of the sites located on the university’s main web server (www.wesleyan.edu) will be moved into Cascade. As sites are moved to Cascade site owners are given login access to Cascade and the ability to set their personal preferences. One preference users can set is the homepage they see when they login – this is their Default Site.
Setting Your Default Site
- Cascade separates the different parts of the Wesleyan web into sites
- You only have access to the sites you will be updating
- The sites you have access to are listed in a dropdown at the top of your dashboard
- When you first log in you are in the Global site
- the global site is currently not being used
- the future use for this site is to store common elements that can be shared by users
- Setting your Default Site
- You can change your preferences to set the site you go to upon login
- Go to My Settings – located at the very top of your dashboard, to the left of the Log Out
- If you currently have a default site it will be listed next to Default Sitewithin the square brackets
- The example above does not have a default site set
- To change/set your Default Site click on the square site icon
- You will see a window with a list of the sites you have access to
- Select your site by clicking on a site in the left pane
- Confirm your selection
- Your Default Site will appear in the brackets next to Default Site on the User Preferences window
- Submit your changes
- At your next login you will go directly to the site you selected