Tech Report

Date: September 20th, 2010
To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Subject: Tech Dept. Executive Summary

I realize it's the usual cliche about being busy at the start of the year but I've been struck this time by the unfortunate (and unavoidable) timing of things for the guys in the Tech department.  They have a busy and productive summer without much time off with pressure building in August as folks start to come back, culminating in our busiest period in September/October as suddenly a myriad of things need to be taken care of seemingly all at once!  The guys though are continuing to push through and work hard, and arranging to cycle through a bit of much needed time off.

That said, despite being busy and lots of small things needing attention it has been a relatively smooth start to the year, I think most if not all of our employees and students have been able to utilize the technology as they've needed in a timely manner.  Reflecting back a bit over the last few years we've undergone significant expansion both in terms of hardware (probably nearly 30% more computers now than 4 years ago) and in terms of the software we either provide or support.  We've had years where we've pushed out completely new technologies (to us) like Linux servers, the mac based security and VLAN assignment through the network, the thin client infrastructure, which have taken time to establish and really bed in.  These are all much more familiar now and just involve small incremental changes which is far less of a shock to the system.  A lot of this summer has been about building on these and continuing small improvements. 

The one area where we are in new territory is with Windows 7, and that is causing us some issues right now with regard to slotting it into our existing Windows policy structure, and some hardware/driver problems on certain new network adaptors.  We only have a limited number of these out at the moment though, so we have an opportunity to figure these things out gradually without adversely affecting too many people.

Travis from our department helped kick start John Shoup's C++ class this semester.  It's a whole new language for John, with a new IDE (Integrated Development Environment - the editor, compiler and debugger in one integrated package) for him and the students to work in and so Travis has been at hand to help familiarize folks with that.  I believe John has been very happy with the new course and his students progress.

We seem to be a bit of a victim of our own success with Sips as at the start of this year we've already had at least 3 more requests for extra functionality with deadlines between now and mid November.  It's rewarding that people are finding it useful and want more from it.  It was also very rewarding to see Mo Anderson being able to sort and populate her Reading groups and print appropriate reports at the start of the year through it, thus avoiding her usual grapple with enormous and unwieldy spreadsheets.