Looking after your Passwords

I’ve already written recently about passwords, but the headlines this morning about the cyber attack on TalkTalk’s web site are a timely reminder again to all of us about the need to think carefully about how we use passwords online. It may be a while before they find out exactly how the attack happened, and what information the hackers may have got their hands on, but I thought that the Chief Executive, Dido Harding, provided this morning very sound advice to their customers in the circumstances.

One piece of advice related to passwords. Most of us now use so many online services that it is just not practical to have an individual password for each one – nobody is going to remember that, and you’d end up writing them down. Probably not very smart. However, the other extreme – using the same password for everything – isn’t particularly smart either, especially if you also use the same username (which might, for example, be an email address).

If you use the same password across many web sites, then if any one of these is successfully hacked it is possible that hackers will be able to find your password. Once they’ve done that, it’s an easy task for them to try out your password on other sites – your email for example. If they manage to gain control of your e-mail account they can start to impersonate you and cause all sorts of mayhem in your life. It can be very hard to get control of your email account back in this circumstances – most of the major email providers allow you to provide a backup email address and mobile phone number for these situations, so make sure you have these registered.

This can also present a security risk to University systems. If you use the same password to access your University IT Account and lots of other personal accounts, then you could be putting your University account at risk. If one of your personal accounts was hacked, and the hacker knew (or just guessed) that you worked at RGU, they could gain access to your RGU details. Might be a long shot, but I know an organisation where something very similar to this happened.

It may not be practical to have different passwords for absolutely everything, but think carefully about what is really precious to you and use a range of passwords. I would recommend, unless you’re not bothered about losing money, that the passwords you use for any online banking or investments are unique for each account and not used anywhere else. I would also recommend that you at least use a unique password for work, and a unique password for your personal email account and things like Facebook if you use them regularly. Money, work, and your core means of identity and communication – these things are important.

Beyond that it’s up to you – there will be many accounts where you are happy to reuse a password where the risks are lower. Have an Interflora account? Well, maybe a hacker will send a bunch of flowers to their granny – that’s not quite as bad as losing your life savings. Of course, even in these cases, if you think one of them has been breached it is important to change the password you use but at least the stakes are lower while you go about this.

It’s a good idea to keep a list of all your online accounts somewhere to jog your memory. If you really had to change all your passwords, can you really remember everything you’ve signed up to? And if you are finished using any online service – delete your account. It’s one thing less to worry about.

IT Help Desk – Happy to Help!

The IT Help Desk has a new home this year. Actually I think it’s had a new home every year for the last few years on the back of all our moves and changes to Campus buildings! It’s now located in the new Georgina Scott Sutherland Learning Centre in the Aberdeen Business School – the area that used to be the Library for those of you who have been here for a while.

You will see the Help Desk located in the middle of the Learning Centre. At the time of writing, they are using temporary furniture but we are expecting a proper counter and some new partitioning in the next few weeks to smarten it all up. Please do use the Help Desk – they are there for staff and students, and will be very happy to help you and provide advice on use of the University IT services. If in doubt – ask! If you are having problems, it really helps us to know so that we can identify commonly occurring issues and sort them out – not just for you but for everybody else.

You can visit the Help Desk, or call them on 2777, or email them at ithelpdesk@rgu.ac.uk . Remember you can also find information and guidance on the IT Help Desk Pages.

The Help Desk is open:
10am to 8pm, Monday to Thursday
10am to 4.30pm, Friday
10am to 2pm, Saturday
12pm to 4pm, Sunday

That’s the main Help Desk. The start of Session is always a busy time, so this year we are also running with “pop up” help desks for a few weeks. You will see these “popping up”:

– In the Library on level 5 which we hope to keep manned Mon – Fri, 10am to 12pm
– in Scott Sutherland manned on a Mon, Tue and Thu, 9.30am to 12pm near the reception area

If you want to know what a popup help desk looks like – here’s one in action yesterday in Scott Sutherland!

IT PopUp Help Desk

Printing on Campus at RGU from your own laptops and tablets

In my previous post I explained how to connect your own device to our Wifi service and where to find further information and assistance. I hope that has helped you to get online. A common request from students once they are online is how to print from their own device. You’ll be pleased to know that our “Print@RGU” Service allows you to do this.

Full instructions on what to do can be found on the IT Help Desk pages.

We also have information on print charges and how to pay.

Just as a reminder, our print service is designed so that you send your print to one, single, University-wide print queue called ”Print@RGU.” Once your job is in the print queue, you can visit any printer on campus and use your ID card to log in to the printer and print off your print job. You can pay for your printing online, or by cash at one of the print kiosks you will find around the Campus.

The easiest way to print from your own device is by using the “MyApps” service. This gives you access to your core desktop applications including Microsoft Office. (For licensing reasons, Microsoft Office is only available to students when you are on Campus and connected over the University’s Wi-Fi system. For students who are off Campus, we provide Open Office through MyApps. This has similar features to Microsoft Office.) You can access MyApps easily from a web browser on your laptop by going to http://myapps.rgu.ac.uk – see also the IT Help Desk web site for information on how to use MyApps for the first time:

Enter your normal user name and password and you will be taken to a secure web page from which you can access your desktop applications and your “H:” drive. You can open your documents just as you normally would, and print them just as you normally would from a University desktop by using the “print” menu in the application.

On a mobile device such as an iPad or Android, instead of using a browser to access MyApps, you will need to download a free App. The App you need is called the “Citrix Receiver.” Once you have downloaded it, configure it to access the MyApps service by following the instructions on the Help Desk web site. When you have done that, you should be able to open the app and you will be able to access your desktop software directly from your mobile device and print as you normally would.

When you are on Campus, you can also print by using a simple web page to upload documents to print. Simply go to the “everyoneprint” web page, log in as normal with your username and password, and upload the document(s) you wish to print. It is also possible to use this service from a mobile device such as an iPad or Android. It’s a bit fiddly on an iPad or other IOS devices because they don’t have a file system and you cannot upload files from the normal browser. As ever, there are some apps that can come to the rescue. “iUploader” is one, which has a free version, and allows you to upload files to web sites.

You can if you wish to be more adventurous set up a print driver (“EveryonePrint Driver Print”) on your laptop so that you can print directly from software which you have on your laptop. Full instructions again can be found on the IT Help Desk pages. Note – this is only for setting up the print driver on your own laptop, not University desktops.

Wi-Fi Access for the new Session at RGU

It’s now the beginning of September and time to restart the IT Blog after a bit of a break over the summer. It might have been a break as far as the blog is concerned, but it has been a busy period of time for IT Services. For the first blog post of the new Session I thought I would update you on some of the changes we have been making to the Wi-Fi system on Campus.

Last year we rolled out a new system, based on “eduroam”. For many people it worked well from the outset, but we know from feedback that others had problems connecting to Wi-Fi, especially in the earlier part of the Session. We also know that we did not have sufficient Wi-Fi cover in all parts of the campus and this was frustrating for people trying to connect in areas where there was a poor signal.

I’d like to start with a reminder on how to connect and the key benefit of “eduroam.” If you look at the Wi-Fi networks available on campus you should see two in particular:

RGU_Connect
eduroam

The very first time you connect any device to our Wi-Fi, you should use RGU_connect. This will ask you to enter your RGU username and password, and will guide you through a series of steps to automatically set up your device to connect to the eduroam Wi-Fi service. Don’t try to set up the eduroam service manually – it won’t work.

After you have done this, you should not normally need to use RGU_Connect on that device again. Please don’t try to configure RGU_Connect to use as your main Wi-Fi network- it is not designed for this, and you will prevent others from being able to log in. Once you have completed the initial setup, your device should from then on automatically connect to the eduroam service. If you have more than one device, then you will have to go through RGU_Connect once on each device you wish to use.

You will find full instructions for all the main device types in the IT Help Desk website.

You may find when moving around the Campus that eduroam occasionally drops the signal so that it can reconnect to the Wi-Fi access points in your new location – sometimes this can take a minute or two but it should connect again automatically. If your device for any reason is not connecting, try turning Wi-Fi off for a minute or so and then back on.

If you find that your device does not automatically connect to eduroam or you are having persistent problems connecting, then please do contact the IT Help Desk for assistance. It’s important for us to know if people are having specific problems so that we can resolve them.

Eduroam is an International service used by Universities and Colleges across the world. This means that once you have successfully set up your device to connect to eduroam at RGU, it will also automatically connect to eduroam at any other University or college in the UK or the world that uses eduroam. You don’t need to do anything else to set this up. In summary, eduroam is your normal Wi-Fi service when you are on our Campus or visiting another institution.

We are aware that some “apps” on mobile platforms do not work fully across our Wi-Fi system. We do not block any apps deliberately, but we believe that the design of some apps is such that they do not operate across some of the network management tools that we use, in common with many other large organisations. We are continuing to look at what we can do to alleviate this.

As far as coverage goes, we have been installing additional access point across all of our campus buildings. This is a major piece of work which has been taking place over the summer, and should be completed by the start of Semester. This means that you will get a good wireless signal inside most areas in our buildings.

Update on Wireless Service

First of all, a Happy New Year to all staff and students at RGU! This blog has been a bit quiet last few weeks so new year resolution is to put more out on the blog.

Back in August, I gave an update on our plans for improving the wireless service on our Garthdee campus. Our plan then was to install the new service, based on “Eduroam”, in Riverside East and the refurbished space in Aberdeen Business School, followed by a rollout to the rest of the Campus to replace the previous system. We had hoped that the previous system would have been able to operate for an interim period of time until we completed the full rollout of Eduroam, but unfortunately it continued to cause problems from the start of Semester.

So, we decided to quickly replace all the wireless access points on the old system so that Eduroam is now the only wireless system on Campus. We also installed additional access points in the refurbished ABS Foyer and that has greatly improved the cover there.

However, we don’t yet have wireless coverage across all areas on Garthdee and we are working to extend this over the next few months. At the moment, the whole of Riverside East is covered, the open central areas in Aberdeen Business School, and Faculty of Health and Social Care are covered, Sports Centre and a number of open areas and meeting rooms in the other buildings. Until we get the cover extended, you may find some rooms where the wireless signal is not strong enough to give you a good connection – it’s not broken, it’s just that we haven’t yet brought the new system to these areas.

We know that WiFi is an important service for our users. Students, as usual, have a wonderful way of expressing their service requirements and one of the Class Reps shared this little pyramid with me – thanks!

WiFi

IT Services can see from the system logs that many people are using WiFi without any difficulty, but at the end of last year there were a number of people reporting some problems. Remember, there’s good support material which you can find online on the IT Helpdesk’s support pages.

We made a change in December as recommended by the supplier to address some problems in connectivity and “roaming”. What’s “roaming”, you may ask? Well, when your device connects to a wireless network it connects to a wireless access point (transmitter) close to you. If you move around the building, the system has to release you from the original access point and connect you to another one. Technically, that’s a complex process and sometimes, it can take a minute or two for that to settle down, so if you are finding problems with WiFi as you move around, allow the system a bit of time.

Some people have been confused by “RGU Connect” – you only use RGU Connect once, and what it does is configure all the settings on your device. Once you’ve done that, your device should automatically connect to eduroam from then on. Please don’t try to use RGU Connect as your main WiFi – it causes problems for other people trying to connect, and anyway won’t work very well.

IT Services also found last year that some devices worked better than others – this appears to relate to the manufacturer and the operating system – whether its Microsoft, Android or Mac. IT Services hope that the change made in December will have improved these issues but are continuing to monitor and work with the supplier on this.

Some apps that have worked in the past aren’t working fully. Some of these IT Services have been able to fix, others, are more difficult to diagnose. I am aware that Facebook Apps work on some devices but not on others – this is not a University policy to block Facebook!!! IT Services are continuing to work to resolve these issues, although some of this is dependent on getting information from the people that wrote the apps.

When you visit other eduroam campuses (in Aberdeen you can access it at Aberdeen University and NHS teaching hospitals) you will need to turn off “proxy” settings to allow you to use the service there (remember to note what they are before you turn them off!) then switch the proxy settings back on when you come back to RGU – they are normally “proxy.rgu.ac.uk”.

And finally (!) – if you are running a conference or event, remember that IT Services can provide guest logins for the WiFi. Only guests from other Universities will be able to use eduroam, and even then only if their University supports it.

Digital Curation

Unless you are devoid of any sense of wonder, you should marvel at the news that Voyager 1 has now officially left the solar system and has reached interstellar space. On the off chance that this fragile craft may one day be retrieved intact by intelligent life forms, NASA placed a “golden record” on board. This record includes samples of music, bird song, whale sounds, greetings in many languages, black and white and colour images of human society, our planet and the solar system.

They did not, however, include a record player in the spacecraft to playback this disk, and anyway that would only have helped for the sound tracks and would have relied on the unlikely possibility that alien life also uses a mains electricity supply of 120V 60 Hz with a type A electrical plug.

They did helpfully provide a stylus to get any alien started and a comprehensive set of instructions. This Wikipedia article explains how the instructions are meant to be understood, and you can look at / listen to some of the material here .

All this nicely illustrates one of the key challenges of digital curation – with our world being so dependent on digital material today, how can we preserve important digital assets and ensure that they will be accessible in the future? This is potentially a massive challenge for society and in the UK, the Digital Curation Centre has been established as a centre of expertise – a look at their web site illustrates the breadth of the challenge.

Of course, it’s not just long term digital curation that presents access challenges – ensuring at a basic level that file formats we publish are accessible across the exploding range of electronic devices is important. One great format is good old PDF – and given that the initials stand for “Portable Document Format” this should not be a surprise. Put a document into PDF format, and it is immediately accessible on Windows, Mac’s, Linux, IOS devices, Android and any web browser. Anyone using an iPad or similar is likely to have discovered a whole range of “apps” that also allow you to annotate PDF documents with comments, ink and even audio. On campus at RGU, Adobe PDF is available as standard on University PC’s and will allow PDF documents to be created and annotated.

Even better, although PDF was originally a proprietary format launched in 1993, it is now an open standard governed by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). It’s history spans 20 years so far – I can’t actually lay my hands on an original PDF version 1.0 document, but I’m sure if I could it would still be accessible with today’s PDF readers.

PDF of course does not cover all digital formats, but we should use it wherever possible in published material and documents to be stored long term. That may merit some policies and further guidance, but you don’t need to wait for that!

Of course, there’s also something ironic about a 1970’s spacecraft carrying an almost obsolete recording format into interstellar space. I have no idea how they would have put a PDF file onto Voyager 1 if PDF had been around at the time, never mind how to instruct an alien in its use.

Wi-Fi and Eduroam

Commissioning of the Wi-Fi system in the Riverside East building and Aberdeen Business School started on 14th August and will continue through to the 27th September. The service will initially be focussed on the Library tower, followed by the rest of Riverside East and finishing with the redeveloped are of Aberdeen Business School.

The initial service will cover Windows devices and apple phones and mobile devices. Other devices (e.g. android and Macs) will be added as commissioning continues.

Further details on the commissioning of wi-fi are available on RGyoU. Follow the link and enter your username and password to access the page.

Staff and students at RGU will be pleased to know that as part of implementing this new Wi-Fi system we will be implementing “Eduroam”. What is Eduroam? Very simply, it is a worldwide arrangement whereby staff from one academic institution can, when they are visiting another academic institution, log in to the wireless network at the other institution, but do so using the username and password they normally use at home. So, staff or students at RGU can visit other participating institutions and log in with their RGU username and password.

Likewise, visitors to RGU from other participating institutions can sign on to the RGU wireless network using their own username and password.

The key benefit is that when you are visiting another institution, you don’t need to request a “guest” username and password, you can just log straight in. It works on laptops and mobile devices, and some institutions may allow you to connect to their wired network as well if you need to.

We are implementing Eduroam as part of the implementation of the new wireless network this summer. This wireless network will be implemented in Riverside East first, and then Aberdeen Business School as part of its refurbishment, and then later in the year in the rest of the Campus. When the new wireless system is up and running, the SSID will just be called “eduroam”. This means that we will also be using Eduroam for the normal wireless access for our own staff and students on Campus – it’s easier just to have one system.

For a few months, we will be operating with two wireless systems. Buildings other than Riverside East and Aberdeen Business School will continue to run the current wireless system until it is fully replaced. However, as soon as Eduroam is available in Riverside East you will be able to use it at other participating institutions if you happen to be visiting them.

Before you can actually use Eduroam, there will be some things to check and configure on your own equipment, you will need to comply with Eduroam and institutional policies, and you’ll need to enter your username in a particular way – but more details of all of that will be issued nearer the time. There’s loads of information available about Eduroam, but a good place to start is on the Janet web site .

If you are looking to see where you can use Eduroam, you will see that each institution can be listed as a “Home” or “Visited” institution, or both. You want to look for institutions listed as “Visited” – these are the ones which will allow you to log in when you visit them.

There’s also an amusing animation which you can view to get an easy understanding of what Eduroam is about.