Security features are regularly updated in browsers, and it’s important that they be installed. Web browsers pass confidential information entered by you to the websites you visit, and their ability to keep that information secure may be their most critical feature. Given that, it’s important to keep your browser updated with the latest security releases.
We are particularly interested in getting the Hampshire community to upgrade to browsers that support a security feature called TLS v1.2. It’s a protocol working behind the scenes to keep your data secure as it is passed from browser to website.
Keeping Firefox Updated
Despite the importance of keeping security features up to date, there is a downside to updating browsers too frequently: websites may not be able to keep up with the changing features. We have seen issues like this with Mozilla Firefox, which rolls out new release every couple of months. Mozilla realizes this is an issue, and they have a slower release schedule that you can follow if you use the Extended Support Release (ESR) version; the ESR gives you security updates on a regular basis, but feature releases only come once a year. We recommend Hampshire computers stay current with the ESR version. Firefox has had TLS v1.2 support enabled since version 27; ESR is currently on version 38, and the general release is up to 44.
To check what version of Firefox you have installed use the FirefoxAbout Firefox menu on a Mac, and HelpAbout Firefox menu on Windows. There is an automatic update option in the About Firefox window, and if it works it’s very handy; in our experience it sometimes fails, in which case you can go to https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/organizations/all/ for the latest ESR release. (A note to Mac users: if you are unable to copy the new version of Firefox into your Applications folder because you don’t have permission, throw the old version in the trash before copying the new one over.)
If you use Apple’s built in web browser, Safari, it will be updated through the Software Update mechanism–these days this is handled through the App Store application. Note that if you are using a version of OS X earlier than 10.9 then there is no version of Safari available that supports TLS v1.2. If you are concerned, you can switch to a different browser or upgrade your system to the current OS–but the latter option comes with its own caveats and may not be possible on older computers anyway.
Microsoft Internet Explorer
If you’re using Internet Explorer, don’t. Internet Explorer 11 does support TLS v1.2, but Firefox and Chrome are both better browsers.
If you’re using Edge you’re pretty much on your own. Literally. Well, Edge does support TLS v1.2 but we–apparently like most of the world–don’t have experience with it or any compelling reason to switch.
For over ten years, Hampshire IT has supported a custom tool, built by students, for generating online forms. Many staff, faculty, and students have used the Hampshire form generator to create online forms and surveys for different purposes. While this system has worked OK for the needs of some, it is lacking in features and has some bugs of its own. Rather than focusing our time and attention on maintaining the Hampshire form generator (and, frankly, rebuilding the wheel) we are embracing other tools that already exist with similar and better features. Enter Qualtrics…
We will be hosting workshops this Spring for folks who are interested in learning more about Qualtrics. In the meantime please contact Asha Kinney with any questions or to request training.
The Future of the Hampshire Form Generator
Hampshire IT has made the decision to slowly retire its custom form generator. The slow retirement will look something like this:
The ability to create new forms will no longer be available as of March 1, 2016. People will still be able to submit responses to existing forms, and owners of those forms will still be able to access and export responses, but nobody will be able to create brand new forms.
The ability to submit responses to forms will no longer be available as of August 1, 2016.
The ability to access and export responses to forms will no longer be available as of September 1, 2016.
What Does this Mean for Form Owners?
If you have any forms in the form generator that need to be active after August 1, 2016, the forms will need to be recreated elsewhere. Unfortunately there is no way to export forms out of the form generator. We recommend creating forms in Qualtrics, but if you find that Qualtrics is too much for your needs and you want a more simple form building tool, please get in touch with IT and we can discuss other options for creating basic online forms.
If you want to save responses to any of your forms you must export that data before September 1, 2016. Here is a quick video that shows how to download form response data.
Start out the new year with an empty inbox and a fresh quota by moving your old messages into Local Folders in Thunderbird. It’s quick & easy, and it’s so nice not to be looking at 3,000 messages in the inbox!
Email is usually stored on the mail server, which provides secure storage and regular backups, but also has limited storage space–you have a quota of 2.5 GB for email. We suggest that at least once a year you archive old messages into folders that are on your computer, which both declutters your inbox and frees up quota space.
There are a few things to consider before you do this:
Messages that are archived in Local Folders are only available on the computer they are stored on. If there are messages that you need to access from multiple devices, don’t store them in Local Folders.
If you don’t have a backup plan for your computer and your hard drive fails you will lose the messages in Local Folders (along with all the other files on your computer).
Local Folders should not be used if your email contains highly sensitive information (see our policy for a description of Level III data) unless your computer is encrypted. If you’re not sure whether it’s encrypted, it probably isn’t.
If you use another mail client, like Apple Mail, there is a similar capability, but the terminology and steps will be different. We may be able to help you with this if you can’t figure it out.
If you use only WebMail to access your email but still want to use this technique, you could set up Thunderbird just to use as an archival tool. We can help with that.
These instructions are for copying a year’s worth of messages into one folder, but there’s no reason you can’t chunk it into a different time period if you like.
In Thunderbird, click on “Local Folders” in the pane on the left.
From the File Menu select “NewFolder.”
Give the folder a name. It’s a good idea to put the year at the beginning of the name, like “2015 Inbox”.
Under “Create as a subfolder of” it should say “Local Folders.”
Click “Create Folder.”
Go up to your inbox, and find the first message from 2015 (or whatever year you’re dealing with), and select it.
Scroll to the last message of 2015, and hold down the shift key while you click on it. You should see the messages in between all highlighted”
From the Message menu select “Move ToLocal Folders”, and select the folder you just created.
Thunderbird will begin moving the messages. There is a status pane at the bottom of the menu that will report the progress, but you can continue to work on your computer while it does it’s thing.
You can use a similar procedure with the messages in your Sent folder–there are often more messages in Sent than in Inbox because we don’t look at it as often.
There, doesn’t that feel better? Now, if only there were Local Folders for my office…
Last semester, the IT department launched a new instance of WordPress to host sites for class projects. WordPress is a versatile and easy to use web platform that can be used for blogs, portfolios, traditional web sites, or combinations thereof. The way a WordPress site looks and feels can vary widely, depending on the “theme” chosen- and some of the newer themes are very slick-looking indeed. Also, since a large percentage of new websites worldwide use WordPress, this is a great skill for students to be learning.
Two classes this past fall used WordPress- the course topics were very different, but the way they used WordPress was quite similar. Both faculty were drawn to WordPress because of its ability to easily let students incorporate visuals and multimedia into their projects.
In Alex Dika Seggerman’s class, Globalizing Contemporary Art, the class focused for a couple weeks at a time on art from a given area of the world. Each week, the students chose a work of art, researched it, and wrote a blog post about it for the class “archive.” The blog posts were then categorized, so someone browsing the WordPress site could view, for example, all the posts related to Korean art grouped together.
Working with blog posts and categories is a great way to let students add content to the site and then display and group that content together in many different ways. It’s also easy to see one student’s work all on one page. A single blog post can contain images, media, links, etc, as well as writing.
Rachel Rubinstein also had students write blog posts about the various themes and topics in her class, The Art of Being Jewish in (Post)Modern Times. We used categories in their site as well to pull posts on a given topic together.
Both classes had a final project assignment which involved creating a digital exhibit. In Professor Seggerman’s class, students chose an item from the Five College Museums collections and created a researched web exhibit about the object. Each student had a dedicated page for this project on the class WordPress site. Some used the single page for their project, while others designed entire new websites dedicated to their art object and simply linked to those sites from the WordPress site. In this class, students had additional guidance from Kress Curatorial Fellow Jocelyn Edens on designing their exhibits.
Professor Rubinstein also had her students complete a final project which was a curated multi-media exhibit about a topic of their choice (relating to the course subject). As above, students each had their own page on the class WordPress site where they built their “exhibits” which included writing, images, embedded media, links and references, etc.
Both of these classes were studying contemporary culture in its various forms, so it made perfect sense to use a contemporary tool. That said, WordPress can work well for any class project where you want to students to collectively build a shared repository of information, or simply share content or ideas with each other. Web publishing is a key skill for students to gain experience in, no matter what their field.
WordPress sites can be kept private to just the class, or just to the Hampshire community, or can be opened up to a wider audience (as long as copyright and FERPA guidelines are taken into account- hence the fact that we cannot share the actual sites with you!).
Asha Kinney in IT and Alana Kumbier in the Library are available to support these projects from start to finish. Here are our recommendations, coming from the experience of the past couple semesters:
Build in class time for students to learn to use WordPress. While most students can get up to speed fairly quickly, it’s essential to block out at least 45 minutes of class time to introduce both the assignment and WordPress itself.
Have the WordPress project be a required assignment for the class that is tied to a key learning goal. While it can be nice to keep a blog on the side for a class, we find that these sites really don’t fully develop unless the WordPress project is fully integrated into the course.
Since completing a successful digital project takes a lot of time and effort, think about substituting in the WordPress project for another project you might have assigned- don’t simply tack it on as an additional project.
Interested in using a WordPress site for a class next semester?