When Windows 10 Doesn’t Play Nice with our Networks

We were stumped this week by a Windows 10 computer that had to re-register with our wireless network every day. Turns out it’s a “feature” that was turned on in Windows 10.

Our Wallace network for faculty & staff and Gromit network for students both require that computers using them go through a registration process once a year. To register a computer you enter your Hampshire username and password, and once it is verified your computer is granted access to the network for the rest of the academic year. To accomplish this, behind the scenes we record a unique identifier for the computer so that the computer will be recognized the next time it connects to the network. The unique identifier is called the “Media Access Control” or “MAC” address for short.

Every device that connects to the internet has a MAC address that doesn’t change over the lifetime of the computer; Windows 10 adds a feature that allows the computer to make up a new (fake) MAC address every day. I won’t bore you with the details of why this might be desirable, but if you’re on the run from the FBI or hiding from the NSA you might want to consider it. On the other hand, if you’re on campus and want to use wireless, you definitely should make sure it’s off.

The consequence of this being turned on at Hampshire is that every day you will have to re-register your computer with the Hampshire network. Painful.

If you have a Windows 10 computer and have trouble connecting to our network, you might want to check the MAC address settings:

  1. Open up your Start menu and choose “Settings.”
  2. Select “Network and Internet.”
  3. In the panel on the left click on “Wi-Fi.”
  4. In the panel on the right select “Manage Wi-Fi settings.”
  5. In the “Random hardware address” section and under “Use random addresses for this network,” select either “On” (for a randomized MAC address that will stay the same) or “Off” (to use the computer’s actual MAC address).

Deleting Old iTunes Backups

If you’re concerned about storage space on your computer, consider removing old iTunes backups.

If you’ve ever looked at the Apple–>About this Mac/”Storage” section on your computer, you may have noticed that there is a chunk of storage space being used by “Other” files. One thing that is grouped in this category is old iTunes backups. On a Windows computer it’s not so easy to see exactly how your files are using up disk space, but it’s easy to check in iTunes to see if there are any backups you are ready to get rid of.

Seeing Exactly how Much Space iTunes Backups are Using (totally optional, for the curious)

If you want to see how much space is being used by iTunes backups on your computer:

On a Mac:

  1. Click on the desktop to make sure you’re in the Finder, hold down the Option key, and choose “Go–>Library”.
  2. Find and select (single click) the folder “MobileSync”.
  3. Select File–>Get Info and look at the “Size” figure.

On a PC the backups are stored in “Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup”. To navigate to that folder:

  1. Find the Search bar:
    • In Windows 7, click “Start”.
    • In Windows 8, click the magnifying glass in the upper-right corner.
    • In Windows 10, click the Search bar next to the “Start” button.
  2. In the Search bar, enter “%appdata%”
  3. Press “Return”.
  4. Open up the “Apple Computer” folder
  5. Right-click on the “MobileSync” folder and select “Properties” and look for the folder size.

Checking & Removing Backups in iTunes

When you are ready to remove iTunes backups:

  1. Open up iTunes.
  2. On a Mac choose iTunes–>Preferences, and on Windows choose Edit–>Preferences.
  3. Click Devices.
  4. Choose the backup that you want to delete. If you have several devices or backups, hover the mouse pointer over the backup to see more details.
  5. Choose “Delete Backup”, then confirm.

Cleaning out your Thunderbird Address Book

If you’ve been using Thunderbird for a while it has probably built up a good-sized address book for you. Cleaning it out every now and then is a good practice to avoid making addressing mistakes.

Auto-fill of known addresses is a handy feature, but if you’ve got lots of old addresses hanging around it can cause headaches and mistakes if you’re not paying attention. For instance, usernames at Hampshire should always be unique, but email aliases, which are composed from the person’s first initial and last name, may be re-used. It’s also easier to type the first few letters of someone’s name and home in on the right correspondent if your address book is in good shape.

When you open up your address book in Thunderbird, you will notice there are at least 2: Collected Addresses and Personal Address Book. There may be more, including Mac OS X Address Book, depending on what type of system you’re working on and whether you’ve imported any address books in the past.

Open up each address book, and just scan the list quickly, looking for people who have moved on & with whom you no longer correspond. You can select a name and press the Delete key (Mac) or Backspace key (PC) to remove it. This can be a tedious project, but you can break it into different sessions if need be.

Hampshire Wireless Network Security

iOS 10 gives hints about how to make Hampshire wireless networks more secure. What’s that about?

If you have a device that runs iOS 10 you may have noticed that it offers hints for improving the security of wireless networks, in particular Hampguest, Wallace, and Gromit, but not for Eduroam. There’s nothing you need to do to improve the security, but all of us should understand the basics of the security issue so we can make the best choice.

Limiting Access to Wireless Networks
There are ways to limit who is allowed to connect using wireless networks. At Hampshire we limit access to the Wallace (faculty and staff) and Gromit (student) networks by requiring a Hampshire account be entered to register each device used on those networks; Hampguest is open for the public to use while on campus. This helps us keep our IT infrastructure somewhat protected, as well as helping to keep wireless traffic within our capacity.

Wireless Network Data Security
What simply controlling access to a wireless network does not do is to encrypt the information that you send over the wireless network. Data that is not encrypted is vulnerable to being intercepted by a nearby hacker. Keep in mind, though, that information you send to secure http sites (web addresses that start with “https”), as well as our email system (and hopefully any current email system), are encrypted by protocols enforced by those systems.

Wireless networks that are encrypted protect the information you send from your computer so that an eavesdropping computer cannot decipher them. There are different methods of encrypting, with a WPA2 encryption method being the current standard.

Eduroam is the Encrypted Wireless Network on Campus
Of the Hampshire wireless networks, only Eduroam provides this encryption protection. We strongly recommend that the Hampshire community use Eduroam whenever possible. Eduroam does provide access to file servers and printing for faculty and staff, but there are Hampshire web services that are not currently available on Eduroam; if you run into problems accessing a service, try switching to Wallace to see if it works.

We are planning to eventually discontinue Wallace and Gromit, and switch entirely to Eduroam. It is a good idea to set up Eduroam sooner rather than later, not only to take advantage of its security features, but also because it is available at many other educational institutions.

Learn more about Eduroam

macOS Sierra

If you have a Mac you may have noticed the offer to upgrade to the latest version of the operating system, macOS Sierra. Here’s our breakdown on whether to upgrade.

[Note that with the introduction of Sierra, Apple has changed its naming conventions from “OS X” to “macOS”, similar to their mobile operating system “iOS.”]

New Features in Sierra
Sierra has several new features, but nothing that we have found to be essential:

  • Siri, Apple’ voice-command system, is a part of macOS Sierra. This allows you to talk to your Mac instead of typing in search commands or using menus for basic commands. Apple does tout several other ways to use Siri, but we haven’t integrated those into our workflow. Being able to talk to our phones seems like a really useful feature, but we aren’t sure how helpful it is to be able to talk to our computers, even in a home environment; in an office environment we have not found Siri to be appropriate or useful.
  • You can copy and paste between your iOS devices and your Mac. We haven’t even wrapped our minds around that one, let alone found a use for it.
  • There is support for iCloud storage for all of your Mac desktop and Documents folder files–the idea being that most of the files you use can be synced with iCloud and accessed on your phone or iPad. We do not recommend you use this feature for reasons that are explained below.
  • “Memories” is a feature of Photos that automatically creates albums from your photos. This was admittedly stunning in some instances–family vacations, for instance–but it was absurd in others (we have an awful lot of pictures of computers in our photos that we use to document inventory numbers, damage, repair processes, etc., and Memories includes them right along with our personal photos).
  • There are other enhancements if you use Apple Pay or an Apple Watch, but we haven’t explored those.

Problems We are Aware Of

  • We have read of a serious issue that arose when a user attempted to use the iCloud storage sync feature with two Mac’s and an iOS device: he ended up losing all of the files on one of the computers. Luckily he had a backup of the files, but this tale convinces us that this feature is not ready for prime time, and you should not enable it. Please also note that work-related files of a sensitive nature must never be saved on non-Hampshire devices; see the Hampshire College Data Security Policy.
  • We have not done broad testing of printers, but we have found that some Cannon PIXMA printers do not work with the new system without going through a multi-step work-around every time a document is printed. Hampshire Xerox and HP printers on campus appear to work just fine.
  • Adobe InDesign may have some graphical issues when dragging items around. This problem is purely visual, and other Adobe Creative Cloud applications reportedly work fine.

Our Recommendations

  • We do not find the new features compelling enough to recommend an upgrade. If you do have a strong desire to upgrade, there are no show-stoppers that we have found except for the iCloud syncing feature–use that at your own risk on personal computers, and please do not use it on Hampshire-owned computers.
  • As with any upgrade, you should do a full backup of your computer before you do the upgrade. Our recommendation is to use Time Machine, but if you have another full backup solution that you use, go ahead and use that.
  • Be aware that there may be compatibility issues with applications or printers. It’s always a good idea to do a Google search to see if anyone else has reported issues with key applications or printers and the new operating system.

What to do About a Wet Computer

Accidents happen, and unfortunately often involve liquids and computers. Your best chances include shutting it down immediately and tenting it upside down. Read on for more suggestions, plus what to do with a wet phone.

If your computer does get wet you need to act quickly for the best chance of its survival. So even though your computer isn’t wet right now (right?), read this so you’re ready if disaster strikes:

  1. Unplug it. Electricity and liquid are not something you want to mess with, and having power course through your computer while liquids are there is a recipe for short circuits, which cause further damage.
  2. Do not remove the battery if it involves taking the case apart with a screwdriver. If the battery is intended to be removable by consumers it will be removable without taking the case off, but most computers these days have batteries integrated inside the case. Batteries are dangerous if handled incorrectly.
  3. Tent the computer upside-down. This will help the computer drain the water away from the electronic components, and allow air to circulate to dry.
  4. Don’t take the computer apart unless you are an experienced technician. You can cause more damage than you do good.
  5. Bring it in to us as soon as you can (still keeping it tented upside down if possible). We will be able to take it apart so that it dries more quickly. We will work with you to make a plan to try to recover your data if your computer does not survive. Our hours are M-F 8:30-4:30, except holidays.
  6. Do not turn on your computer until at least 48 hours have passed and the computer appears dry. The temptation is to test whether it still works, the iron is that if it is still working you can render it inoperable by turning it on too soon. Do not yield to this temptation.

If your phone gets wet:

  1. Turn it off immediately.
  2. Put it in a bin of rice to help draw out the moisture. We don’t generally recommend this for computers because they have vents where the rice could enter, but it’s great for phones.
  3. Wait 48 hours before trying the phone I know this is unfathomable, but a new phone is expensive so (at least for me) it’s worth the precaution.

Other things to know about electronics and liquids:

  • Spill damage is not covered by standard or extended warranties, it is covered in special accidental damage warranties if it is offered at all. Apple does not have that sort of warranty
  • Computer manufacturers may put spill detection points in the computer. These will change color if they come in contact with a liquid, and will likely void your warranty in case of a spill.
  • No liquid is good for your computer, but water is better than anything else. Sugary drinks leave a sticky residue, acidic drinks will corrode the components more.
  • Even if your computer is ok after it dries out, there may be follow-on damage from corrosion.
  • It’s heartbreaking to lose a computer to water damage, but for most of us it’s truly a disaster to lose all of our data. We can often recover data from a liquid-damaged computer, but the safest bet is to regularly back up your data, just in case.

New to Hampshire? IT Tips.

If you’re new to the Hampshire campus there are a few things we know might trip you up. Here are some of the issues that we typically see problems with at this time of year.

Having Trouble Printing?
As you may have noticed, Hampshire has several wireless networks; knowing which is appropriate to connect to can help avoid problems accessing services. In order to print or access file servers you must be using either Wallace or Eduroam, or be plugged into the Ethernet. For details on the Eduroam network see https://www.hampshire.edu/it/connecting-to-eduroam-at-hampshire .

Smart Phone Not Accessing the Internet on Campus?
If your smart phone seems to lose internet access as soon as you set foot on campus, it may be that it is trying to connect to the Wallace network but hasn’t yet registered with it. You have a choice: choose the Hampguest network instead, or register your phone with Wallace by using its browser to go to https://netreg.hampshire.edu . Note that if you choose Hampguest instead of netreg’ing, you may find that it switches back to Wallace on occasion all on its own.

Can’t Log into The Hub?
If you are having trouble logging into The Hub and you’re new to Hampshire, it might be because you haven’t completed the short FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) training video and quiz. To take the quiz go to https://hamp.it/FERPA. If you’re not new to Hampshire we encourage you to take it anyway–and we promise it is quick and painless.

New Email Account not Working?
If you have a new email account but you can’t seem to get your email, did you accept the AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) at https://password.hampshire.edu? While you’re there, change your password to something you will remember, and then set up your security questions.

Want to Forward your Hampshire Email to Another Email Account?
Faculty and students sometimes prefer to receive personal and Hampshire email in one place. If that sounds like you, you can set up forwarding by going to https://password.hampshire.edu and selecting “Email Settings.” Just make sure that you pay attention to messages telling you that it’s time to change your password–you have to do that once a year–and at that time go back to https://password.hampshire.edu.

Not Sure if an Email Message is a Scam?
When critical announcements are made to the entire campus, they are both posted on the Intranet and emailed to faculty, staff, and/or studnets directly from the announcement system. You can verify authenticity of these messages by checking https://intranet.hampshire.edu. You should also know that to change your password or check your email quota we would only ever send you to https://password.hampshire.edu. Just remember that web address & type it into your browser if you ever want to check the status of your account–anywhere else is a scam.

Have a Scam Email You Think You’d Better Share with IT?
Scam emails can be sent to phishbowl@hampshire.edu, which will bring them to the attention of the system administrators.

Need IT Help?
The IT Help Desk is staffed M-F from 8:30 a.m. – Noon, and 1 – 4 p.m. If you need immediate assistance give a call to 413-559-5418. For non-emergencies you can email helpdesk@hampshire.edu. To enter an IT ticket go to https://thehub.hampshire.edu.

Looking for Amazing Tech Tips on a Weekly Basis?
Or just need some help falling asleep at night? Watch this space.