IT Services's blog posts for June 2015

Apps: When they're good (at uni, when you need organising) and when they're not (at festivals, when you don't)

Jun

25

Today I’ve been thinking about music festivals… how could I not?  The day before yesterday the radio was talking about people already making their way down to Glastonbury, and the music doesn’t even start until tomorrow.  So Glastonbury now starts 96 hours before it starts, apparently.  Anyway, I digress.

I used to be one of them, you know.  I went to several Glastonburys consecutively, the last being in 2005.  It seems like it’s changed a little … and it had already started when I last went, what with phone charging tents appearing.  Most people back then were appalled.
No battery?  Who cares.  No signal anyway.
No battery? Who cares. No signal anyway.

“What is this nonsense?!” we said.
"What do you need a phone for HERE?” we said.
“What a waste of time, queuing in a phone tent,” we said.
"There's not even any phone signal here down on Worthy Farm," we said.    

Glastonbury was about entering an exclusive territory - a bubble of an alternative reality with a group of amazing buddies around you and no need, frankly, to communicate with anyone else outside of the bubble because they just weren’t exciting enough to be involved.

Ahhh… how things have changed.  Phones seem integral to the festival experience - smartphones, that is.  Because now, of course, there’s an app for that. (TM iPhone 2004 yes yes yes).  There’s an app that allows you to not only see the programme of the festival, but see which bands your friends are going to see (so you know who really is the coolest, or who to not invite next year because they went to see Kanye and not Pharrell and well, who would do THAT?!).  There’s also a map function so people know where you’re camped (and you can find your way back to it at 3 am when your senses are, let’s say, dulled.

 

mobile-phone-charging-station-coachella-valley-music-arts-festival-2012

To keep this up all weekend, there’s not just a phone-charging tent.   You can register for a power service which keeps you going by basically swapping a dead power pack for an alive one when you need it.  If you forgot to register, you can charge your phone at one of billions of charge points in a tent… which has had DJs drafted in to make it a party tent.  Now even charging your phone is part of the fun.

 ANYWAY.  I digress.  Again.  Well, sort of.  The point is… everything: there’s an app for that.   

I was in an IT meeting yesterday when we were talking about the Sussex Mobile app which, I have to say it, is a pretty awesome tool for students.  Back when I was a student at Sussex (even before that last Glastonbury), we had to really search our our useful info, and it took quite a bit of effort to know where we had to be when - and you had to go to quite a length to double check everything.  Now, it’s all there.  In this thing that we carry around with us, everywhere.  Your timetable is there, your library account info is there, upcoming deadlines are there, you can find out where there are spare study rooms to go get some work done in peace, and there’s a campus map that can show you where they are.

sussexmob-web US logo 

I’m just sorry that we don’t have a charging point with DJs throwing a party - only if we were to accurately translate the analogy, it would probably be a room full of professors giving lectures which doesn’t have quite the same vibe.  (Oh, and loads of lecture theatres have power points now anyway so … )

 

If there isn’t a handy app for that, something that helps us be where we need to be exactly when we need to be there, something that makes our lives at that minute just *that* much more easy, well, we think why not?  And someone else more inventive is already making it.  Is it OK then, that I think the Sussex Mobile app is awesome and useful and organisey-brilliance, but the Glastonbury app is well… superfluous to need?  Leave the phones at home, get your tent up and leave the timetabling to term time!!!

 

(And while I've got you here, download the Sussex Mobile app from the Play Store or the App Store.)

peace-love-hippie

Make the most of LinkedIn

Jun

12

Social media that works for you

transparent-Linkedin-logo-iconIt might be that you’ve just graduated or that the idea of approaching your final year is making you think about what’s going to come next.   Or maybe you’re considering graduate opportunities, summer internships and doing what you can to begin shaping your post-university career.  You might be well-versed with Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, but LinkedIn may just be hovering around in your peripheral vision. Perhaps you’ve set up a profile already, but it’s lying dormant and underused.  Because let’s face it, LinkedIn is many things, but it’s not much fun.  It’s not where you go to see a string of photos of friends embarrassing themselves and each other, or to pass round the latest and greatest viral video.

Looking through your homepage on LinkedIn, (if you’re not doing it right, that is) is like the worst staff meeting EVER.  It’s full of professional backpatting, and the most flagrant and obtuse display of credentials and achievements that you can hope to thumb through during a toilet break.  But used well, LinkedIn can really become a very useful and active partner in the shaping of your future career.  Now that most companies have a very active LinkedIn presence (it’s the third most visited social media network, after Facebook and Twitter) it’s a great place to focus on your interests in a way that could hook you up with future employers.

What’s it for?

For a moment let’s pretend you’ve not heard of LinkedIn at all yet.  It’s basically Facebook but it operates in a purely professional realm.  It puts the emphasis on the networking of the social network; it’s about making professional contacts and reinforcing those you’ve already made.  It’s to see who your existing contacts know and who they might be able to introduce you to, and slowly but surely, it’s becoming a really useful, and potentially quite exciting, tool for job hunting.  Many companies are advertising positions on LinkedIn and you can apply to these directly through your profile.  Not only that, but recruitment agencies and headhunters are on the prowl for people who fit their spec for vacancies.  If you use your LinkedIn profile well, the chances are your next job may just come to you.

Your Profile

Your profile isn’t just your profile; it’s your online CV.  Present it well, as you’d like to put yourself across to future employers.  This doesn’t mean be drab and serious – nobody wants to have dull colleagues – but it’s not the best place for wacky profile shots.  Like the picture, the tenor of your profile should be professional, for the most part, but also engaging.

One recently added feature called Resume Builder takes all the information from your profile and, using one of several available templates, turns it into a PDF version of a CV.  How good is that?!  I for one hate the constant CV updating, the writing in of dates and responsibilities and grades, and to have something which does it for me is a dream come true.  However, it’s not perfect yet. Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 13.34.08 I think it’s a shame that you can put things like interests, causes and volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile but these don’t (at the moment) show up on the CV.  Also, it’s very literal in the translation of your profile to a CV so make sure you check the formatting thoroughly.  I’m not sure that this tool is quite well developed enough to *completely* make CV-writing a thing of the past, but with a few tweaks it may well be.  Basically, what I’m saying is don’t rely on it 100% just yet, but keep checking back for updates.

Active profiles will attract the most attention, but remember to keep any posts you make relevant to your fields of interest.  With the feed becoming more similar to your standard Facebook view with our trusted friends “like,” “comment” and “share” accompanying each post, people are getting frowned upon for sharing more trivial posts, those that are more suitable for a Facebook feed and that detract from the professional focus of the site.  To post a cheesy and emotive career-centric motivational quote may just make the grade, but to post statuses on evening-time escapades and videos of babies giggling … well, it’s just not good LinkedIn etiquette.

Putting yourself out there

The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can really interact with and immerse yourself in the field of employment that you’d like to move into.  You want to work in TV?  Well, there are many ways on LinkedIn of connecting with people who already do.

Whilst some people may allow you to “connect” with them without , others you may be able to “follow” instead.  There is nothing stopping you – depending on their account settings – from directly contacting potential employers or people who you think might be a good connection for you – but be careful as LinkedIn doesn’t approve of people being too trigger-happy with the connect button.  You’ve only got a limited number (albeit 5000) of times you can connect with people, and you’re encouraged to only connect with people you actually know… but you can try circumnavigating this with a polite message about your interest and the reason for your connect request.

Another way to connect with people is to find and join groups that are relevant to your targeted area; again, using TV as an example, you can search in the Groups section for TV or Television, or be more specific such as TV editing, TV production and so on.  There will be a number of groups that are designated as only for established professionals, so if that’s not you yet, use the tools to refine the search to open groups only.  There’s no harm done by requesting to join the closed groups, though.  You’ll also find in most groups that there’s some sort of thread on which those who are happy to make new connections can say so, providing an arena for new, off-piste connections.

Finger on the pulse …

Influencers Q1_2014Yet another way to immerse yourself in the professional world of your potential future peers is to use the section of LinkedIn that’s called Pulse, which is currently nestled under the “Interests” tab.  Pulse is a publishing platform that’s a relatively new feature, and it acts simultaneously as a place to blog and get your own thoughts and ideas published as well as reading a vast array of articles written by other LinkedIn members in addition to articles from online news sites.  You can tailor your Pulse feed to your interests by choosing relevant topics to follow.  LinkedIn have their own selected board of “InFluencers” who used to be the only LinkedIn members who could contribute to this section of the site, but now it’s open to anyone and it’s a really great tool to get to grips with.  By posting thoughtful pieces of writing on Pulse, you exponentially increase your reach on LinkedIn; you can, again, really increase the attention you get from others in your field of interest.  And this works – a friend of mine has recently started publishing short articles and as a result, she’s actually getting more recruiters contacting her regarding potential employment opportunities.

Using LinkedIn well really is about being a go-getter – the contacts are out there and this network brings them all much, much closer.  It’s a great time to sign up as well, as LinkedIn is developing new features all the time and amongst the current 350 million members, you’re bound to make some great new links and you could find your life as a graduate gets off to a great start.

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Northfield Wi-fi Upgrade

Jun

03

wi-fi graphicWhen Northfield opened its doors to students in 2011, it instantly became, by a huge margin, the biggest of the on-campus residences.  It has over 1,000 student bedrooms which are all parts of larger flats, and there are some family flats as well.

With such a large residential population, providing internet access to so many rooms hasn't always been easy we'll admit, and we regularly received feedback that the wi-fi at Northfields just wasn't up to scratch.  It had a lot to do with the intensity of use, but also the physical internal structure of the buildings (the heavy fire doors, for instance) significantly disrupted the wi-fi signals.

Improvements were authorised and more than 150 new wireless access points were installed which have all now gone live, so we're now confident that Northfield residents are happier - about their internet supply, anyway.

We'd be really interested to hear from residents about these improvements, so if you have anything you'd like to let us know, write in the comments or contact us.

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A New Person in IT (Me)

Jun

03

I entered the behind-the-scenes world of IT Services a whole week ago, after leaving my post as research project coordinator in the School of English. It was a big jump to make, conceptually further than in the geographical sense, obviously. (When new deskmates said to me “Where have you come from?” and I answered with “Arts B”, I sensed a vague disappointment that it wasn’t somewhere far more exotic.)

I had been working on a research project that fell more under the umbrella of cultural studies than English, and was closely aligned with my academic interests (for my sins, I’m also doing an MSc in Social Research Methods), so IT Services probably seemed like an unlikely place for me to land, or maybe I was possibly a rather unlikely person to land in IT Services, with technical IT stuff conspicuously absent from my CV.

macintosh

Mind you, I’ve always been a bit drawn to gadgets and technology, since a tiny age and we had our first little cuboid Mac – obviously from the days before Mr Jobs started having his REALLY GREAT ideas. I’ve got a brain which causes me problems by not really liking to not understand things, especially languages and codes, which ignited an interest in HMTL and its friends, so I’m vaguely literate in those areas. I’m a bit like someone who goes to France knowing how to say “Ou est la banque” and “J’aime jouer au football” because that’s all that got engrained from the pre-GCSE classes, but can fluff my way round with a dictionary (pffft, Google Translate, blatantly) and general experience in how languages get put together.

But I managed to land this role because of my experience of doing things like this; disguising a love of writing (or generally verbosely communicating with either pen, keyboard or actual noise) as something which now gets a job title of its own: Communications Officer. Hurrah!! Honestly, it’s like being told that a childhood hobby and something that you’re quite good at and like doing – building sandcastles, maybe – is actually now a real life grown up job. So with a pretty solid line up of using computers to do good things for small businesses and little ventures and big research projects, I’ve landed at this desk.

What goes on behind the scenes at Shawcross is pretty extraordinary, actually. I mean, there are actually enough computer screens to take over the world. When one desk would normally have just the one, several people here have between four and hundreds.   Keeping the university’s IT systems afloat is a preposterous task when you think about it, because they’re not just treading water, they’re Rebecca-Adlingtoning it down the pool, adding new services all the time and dealing with about a trillion things at once.

NOT IT Services

The fact that it doesn’t resemble the London Stock Exchange with people screaming at each other all the time is remarkable. In fact, it’s like the Stock Exchange on a zen meditation retreat; it’s got all the computer screens but it’s, like, totally chilled.  That said, nothing has gone seriously wrong in my first week so I’m yet to see what a meltdown might look like.

So far, my first week has involved reacquainting myself with the world of Apple; since leaving home my choice of hardware has been constrained to a budget and therefore excluded me from the iExcitement (that should actually be a thing) but now I’m working on a beautiful big elegant Mac (that I managed to really upset yesterday and it wouldn’t work for the whole afternoon, but we’re friends again now).  I've also been writing some blog posts, planning some info leaflets and eating cake with colleagues (THERE IS SO MUCH CAKE).

As communications officer, my role is really going to be about this kind of thing – basically getting over to you, the students and staff here at Sussex, the wonderful things going on in IT Services and the ways in which you really should be taking advantage of us. We are all around you, after all. (Creepy, yes?)

The main thing I’ve taken away from this week is just how much IT Services actually does, and how much there is for you to use. There’s just loads of bits of software there for you to download so take advantage of it – new things are being added all the time (and they’re not all work/study related…). I’m actually really impressed with what Sussex offers, but I’m not in a position to know how it compares to other places. It’s 10 years since I was an undergraduate at a different university and, in terms of IT … well, there wasn’t a VLE and there wasn’t anything jazzy in the lecture theatres (well, besides Prof Whittle’s trousers). If any of you have any comparisons to make, I’d really like to hear what you have to say. Well, in general what I’d really like is a bit more student interaction with IT Services – we’d like to know what you’re using and how, so tweet us pictures (keep ‘em decent, folks) and talk to us on Facebook. The majority of the IT team are behind these big doors that you can’t get through in actuality, but we’d still like to know what your thoughts are.

 

the-it-crowd

Now I’ve ably demonstrated my propensity to pen a long rambling blog post, I’ll sign off until the next time, but not before I congratulate myself for not mentioning The IT Crowd even one tiny time, because that would just have been too obvious.

 

 

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PS: I didn’t take any of these pictures, to be honest. They’re not mine. I found them at:

  1. http://oldcomputers.net/pics/macintosh.jpg
  2. http://www1.nyse.com/images/about/BrightHorizonsTF.jpg (more info: NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25:  Chief Executive Officer David Lissy, joined by members of Bright Horizons’ leadership team celebrate their IPO at the New York Stock Exchange on January 25, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/NYSE Euronext)
  3. https://salierishistoria.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/the-it-crowd.jpg

 

Access Office anywhere and get 1TB free online storage

Jun

03

Office 365 Logo

The first draft of this blog post was written in the cloud, in a handy version of MS Word that goes by the name of Word Online and follows us around from computer to computer, hanging above us in the webosphere.  When you log in to Microsoft's (relatively) new Office 365, you have access to applications from the Office suite such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  The full range depends on from which platform you access Office 365, but whether it be Windows, Mac, iPhone or Android systems, you'll find the apps to be satisfyingly complete and without drastically reduced functionality. As well as accessing Office online, you can also download Office for Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android, giving you the option of using Office online or downloading it for use on your device or computer.

Download software or access Office online

Every student and member of staff at the University of Sussex can now download and use Office for free, and along with that comes the added benefit of being able to sign in to Office 365 from any web browser and create, edit and save documents.  (You'll also be pleased to know that I've just learned through experience and if you accidentally close your browser following a badly placed click of the mouse, the autosave is up to scratch and the document will be there waiting for you, even if you hadn't initially saved it.)

Screen shot of Office 365 home

Receive 1TB online storage for free

Our students and staff are allocated a massive 1 terabyte of cloud space through OneDrive, Office 365's integrated storage facility.  Documents can be uploaded from your computer or saved directly from Office apps such as Word Online; they can then be shared widely, including with contacts who do not have the same access to Office 365.  Incidentally, it's not just MS Office files that OneDrive supports - you can also store pictures, music and videos which you can also open and view/hear/watch from where it is without downloading it. You can also link Office 365 to your Dropbox account which, for example, makes it easy to open and edit Word documents that you already have stored online.

Visit the IT Services Office 365 page to find out how you can download the Office 2013 and access it online here: sussex.ac.uk/its/freeoffice

We'd love to hear about your experiences using Office 365 and how you are making it work for your personal and academic needs, so do leave comments below.

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Record levels of printing on campus

Jun

03

Last Monday saw a record level of printing on campus for most sheets printed in a single day.

Whilst some students have been able to shift over to the e-submissions system and online facilities now minimise the need for printing generally, 145,729 sheets of paper were printed on Monday 10 May. This is over three times the average which currently reaches around 45,000 sheets daily. The previous high for the current academic year was recorded last October at 81,899.

Of course, this date coincided with the handing in of dissertations for our undergraduate finalists which prompted the last-minute surge in printing.

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110 bibles, 74 complete sets of Harry Potter novels, 0.03% of Wikipedia, 7 trees.
What do 145,729 pages look like?