Category: Services (page 1 of 2)

TechTips: BuckeyeBox: New Cloud-based Storage

BuckeyeBox is a cloud-based service provides a simple, secure way to store and share files and folders online that is now available to OSU faculty and staff. It will be available to students  in early 2013.

Similar to Dropbox and other online tools, Buckeye Box consolidates your content in a single location, accessible from anywhere, on any device. You can create files and folders, share them using a direct link, invite colleagues and classmates to collaborate, and continue to revise and review your content. Though similar in appearance to services such as DropBox, BuckeyeBox integrates OSU systems and security. The service will be available to faculty and staff on Saturday and will be opened to students in January.

BuckeyeBox is designed as a collaboration tool appropriate for personal files and institutional information classified as public or internal.  It is not for any institutional data classified as “protected,” “restricted,” or “critical.” As such, Protected Health Information (PHI) should never be stored on BuckeyeBox. See Data Classifications and appropriate data for BuckeyeBox at OSU.

Main features

  • View files of many types, including images and audio/video; for a full list, see Box support’s What file extension types can be viewed by Box’s Content Preview?
  • Access content through all major web browsers (i.e., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) and through mobile devices running iOS, Android, and BlackBerry
  • Access through Microsoft Office applications (Windows only)
  • Share files and folders while controlling the level of access others have, with a range of permissions from view-only to full editing and collaboration rights
  • Comment on files
  • Create simple workflows using assigned tasks
  • Sync files between your desktop and other devices, and access them even when offline

Getting Started / How to Find Help

 

-Eric Schnell

TechTips: Near Field Communication

Anyone that has gone into a retail store recently has likely seen a Mastercard “PayPass” pad at the checkout station. Using a credit card with a special built in chip, the customer makes contact with the pad with the card rather than swiping it. NFCThe technology behind the tap-to-pay devices is call near field communication.

Near field communication (NFC) is a technology allows enabled devices to communicate with other devices by establishing radio communication, by either touching them or bringing them into close proximity of one another. This is done through the use of NFC chips, or tags, which can be custom-encoded or may use the specifications provided by the NFC Forum, an industry association charged with promoting the technology and setting key standards. The tags can securely store personal data such as debit and credit card information, loyalty program data, PINs and networking contacts, among other information. NFC typically tags contain data and are typically read-only but may be rewriteable.

Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are similar to NFC since all three allow wireless communication and data exchange between digital devices. However,  the significant difference with NFC is that it utilizes electromagnetic radio fields while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi utilize radio waves. NFC builds upon Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems by allowing two-way communication and works in the same 13.56 MHz radio frequency spectrum. Unlike RFID, both the NFC device and the tag can initiate the communication.

One application of NFC technology already on the market is the Google Wallet, a mobile payment system that allows its users to store debit cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards among other things, as well as redeeming sales promotions on their mobile phone. BMW is working to allow car owners to use their key NFC  key FOBs to store downloaded event tickets or check out of a hotel. Hospitals can use NFC to monitor patients at their homes. Students cab use their NFC enabled phones to get into their dorm rooms. A fun application of the technology is the Karotz Bunny.

There are many interesting possibilities for this technology:

– Touch a mobile device over display at a local museum or at an exhibit to access more information and multimedia content
– Touch a device at a display or a poster to create an interactive experience
– Could replace the pairing step of establishing Bluetooth connections or the configuration of Wi-Fi networks

As with other such technologies there are concerns aabout privacy and security. Adopters will want to know that all of their vital information is encrypted and that that viruses can’t be passed by NFC.

TechTips: Discounted Apple Mobile Apps

Departments which have deployed Apple devices should consider taking advantage of Apple’s Volume Purchase Program to license mobile apps that support the work of their staff.  This program allows educational institutions to purchase multiple copies of the same Apple app with many of the developers offering up to 50% off of these multiple purchases.

To find out which apps are available through the discount program search  https://volume.itunes.apple.com/us/store/.  Each app’s page details the volume pricing.  For example, if you search Pages it states that the cost is $9.99 ea (1-19 units) and $4.99 ea (20+ units).

To utilize this program one must must have a Program Facilitator account. However,  WiredOut also serves this role and has a simplified process and departments can now order activation codes through them with using an eRequest:

  • go to volume.itunes.apple.com to find an app and figure out the pricing.
  • generate an eRequest to WiredOut ( listed as an internal order / vendor in the eRequest system as WiredOut, The Tech Store @ OSU)
  • once they process the order, whomever is listed on the eRequest will receive an email with a spreadsheet containing download links and activation codes.
  • activation codes work just like a gift card and are entered in the system for each license.

For more information or questions, contact WiredOut.

TechTips: Google Drive

Google has finally released their long awaited competitor to Dropbox, SkyDrive, and iCloud, which they are calling Google Drive. Individuals can get up to 5GB of space for free but a premium service is available for 25GB at $2.49/mo, 100GB for $4.99/mo, and $49.99 a month for 1TB.

Users of Google Docs will find Drive very familiar. In fact, Google Docs is built into Drive.  Just like Docs, one can collaborate with others on documents, can share content with others, and one can add and reply to comments and receive notifications when others have commented on shared items.

Users can attach photos from Drive to posts in Google+ and will soon be able to attach Drive content into Gmail, which can reduced the reliance on the use of file attachments. Work is also underway to allow third-party apps to access the content.

Drive supports a large number of file formats and includes the Google Drive viewer, which allows one to preview documents in 16 formats. Drive also tracks changes made to content so one view the revision history for the past 30 days.

Like other cloud storage services, Drive provides a single location at which to save and store documents and media content that can be automatically synced across multiple devices.  Since Google is also behind Android, it’s mobile version of the service was released first. As of this writing the iPhone/iPad app had not yet been released. Drive also takes advantage of Android’s accessibility features so those with sight impairments can use the mobile app, eyes-free.

The desktop client works just like Dropbox’s.  A folder is created locally which is used to store the content to be synced. One simply has to drag and drop an item in the Drive folder. Also like with Dropbox, the contents of the folder can be managed as any local folder. Since the desktop I first installed the client on is located behind a corporate firewall, Dropbox required the use of a proxy to allow real-time syncing. This was not the case with Drive. After installation, I dragged a file into the desktop folder and it showed up on the web client within 3 seconds.

Those with Google/Gmail accounts should visit drive.google.com/start to get set up. It may take a day or two for your account to be setup. There is plenty of online support available.

Eric Schnell

TechTips: The “Quora” Question and Answer Service

Quora One of the hot emerging social media sites is a service called Quora. Started by former Facebook employeesQuora is a “continually improving collection” of questions and answers that are user created, edited, and organized. Quora aggregates all the questions and associated answers while allowing users to collaborate on any of them.

Yes, question and answer services have already been done to death, such as Google Answers and  Yahoo! Answers. However,  Quora has a much more authoritative tone and has a better understand of the whole social element than the predecessors. Users can follow/be followed buy other users (no spambots!) and one can also follow subjects and individual questions of interest. Since the service does  leverage existing social media spaces such as Facebook and Twitter, new users will quickly see familiar faces, which helps to validate the service. As with other social media outlets, contributors can use the service to establish a reputation within specific areas of expertise.

Once logged in (one must have an account to use the service), users type in keywords to find questions on subjects.  The search bar provides auto-suggestions that helps to identify questions and topics that have already been asked relating to the keywords. The user interface does take a few tries to figure out in part since the label “Ask Question” makes one assume queries must be in the form of a question.

Since the developers would like new question entered into the system to be properly constructed, the system requires new users to successfully identify properly formatted questions before they can pose their first question.  All new Quora users should read this post first before jumping in and answering questions. One of the more interesting features is that any member can edit another member’s question.

Users can not only answer any question as well as comment on the topics attached to the questions and answer other member’s answers. The site suggests that users summarize links and references in a sentence or two. A Digg-like rating system allows the more popular answers to move to the top of the list.

Pundits will likely view Quora as they did Wikipedia in its early days since  Quora also relies on the users for quality control. The primary difference being that the answers in Quora are directly attributable to specific individuals.

As was the case with Wikipedia, Quora has the potential to turn into a useful starting point for any line of query and result in a new type of search engine. Or, it could turn into ” a continuously spamming collection of unanswered questions created, answered, and organized by no-one that uses it”.

Eric Schnell

TechTips: RockMelt: The Social Web Browser

rockmelt logoIf you are a heavy Facebook and Twitter user, you might want to hunt for an invite and try the RockMelt web browser. RockMelt works like any other browser with one big difference: it integrates Facebook and Twitter.

In short, one can use the browser to browse web sites AND keep up-to-date with your friends without opening Facebook or Twitter.

When RockMelt is opened it immediately connects to Facebook. Along the sides of the main browser window are two sidebar ribbons with icons; one on the left showing friends, one on the right displaying  favorite social sites.  In addition to social networking sites, the browser can directly access RSS feeds. When RockMelt  is minimized, update notifications persist on the lower right hand side of  the monitor.

The browser also has built-in support for Facebook chat so one can initiate a chat session from within the browser.  Another handy feature is  that all  settings, notes, preferences, and bookmarks aer saved online so that can be synced between devices. This means one can log into the RockMelt browser on any computer and everything saved on another computer is available. One can also share web site links directly to Facebook or Twitter by a simple drag and drop.

The browser has the same look and feel as Google Chrome since it is built on the same platform (Apple’s WebKit). This also means that all Google Chrome extensions are available to RockMelt  users. The browser is available for Mac and Windows.

The RockMelt effort is backed by Netscape developer Marc Andreessen. The browser went “live” on November 8, 2010.

Eric Schnell   

TechTips: URL Shortening

URL shortening is the process of taking a long URL and turning it into, well, a shorter one.

For example, instead of using the 168 character URL http://library.ohio-state.edu/search~S7/?searchtype=a&searcharg=+gee+e+gordon&searchscope=7&SORT=DZ&extended=0&SUBMIT=Search&searchlimits=&searchorigarg=ae+gordon+gee, one could use the 27 character shortened URL of http://tinyurl.com/geebooks.

The mechanism for resolving a shortened URL is relatively simple. The long URL must first be registered with a URL shortening service. The service either generates a random shortened URL or the user could enter a custom ‘alias.’ The service maintains a database that contains the long URL and the shortened URL. When a web browser is directed to go to the shortened URL, the service performs a redirect of the shortened address and the browser is sent to registered long URL. There are many, many services that create shortened URLs, most notably TinyURL.com.

Shortened URLs are essential in communication channels where there is a limit to  the number of characters that can be used, such as with Twitter. Shortened URLs can be useful when reading longer URLs aloud to customers over the phone, including URLs in printed materials, or when adding URLs to video displays or embedding them within presentations. Shortened URLs are also much easier to enter into mobile devices.

One concern with URL shortening is that the domain of a URL plays an important role in identifying the authority of a resource. Which URL would you trust:  http://tinyurl.com/geebooks or http://osu.edu/geebooks? Simply put, brand/name recognition – the authority of an organization – disappears since the domain is hidden behind the shortened URL. Web users must select the shortened URL and actually visit the redirected site before discovering the site’s authority.

One solution to this authority issue is the growing use of branded URL shortening services. An example is Flickr. Each photo page also get a shortened Flickr URL. The domain flic.kr is owned and operated by flickr.com so the shortening service is as reliable as the Flickr service. Therefore, when someone navigates using a link with the domain flic.kr they know they will get a Flickr photo page, not a redirect to a site containing malware.

Another problem with using cloud-based services is when the services die, as tr.im almost did in August ’09,  all the shortened links would break. The person relying upon the service would have to  re-enter each URL into yet another shortening service, which could also die.  This would be a big problem if the shortened links generated by the service were to be included in printed publications.

Work is underway on an OSU branded URL shortening service that not only helps to promote and support the institutional brand by creating authoritive shortened URLs,  but also increases the chances that carefully crafted custom links will live a longer life.

Photo by schill under Creative Commons license

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: OSU Branded Doodle

Anyone that has had to schedule a meeting with participants across campus departments, or at other institutions, knows how challenging it can be. One emails out a list of possible times and sorts the replies looking for a common time. The process is repeated if no time can be agreed upon.

Well, this has been simplified for members of the Ohio State Community by a new scheduling tool called OSUDoodle.

Account users use this tool to establish a “poll” of preferred meeting times, which are presented in a tabular display of possible time slots. The meeting coordinator then invites participants and enable them to vote transparently and democratically for the best available date and time to meet.

Alternatively, Doodle can also be used to help a large group make a choice among activities or social events.

OSUDoodle is free to the university community. Only users with e-mail addresses ending in osu.edu, wosu.org, osumc.edu, wexarts.org, and ohiostatealumni.org may initiate new OSUDoodle polls within this OSU branded service.

For more information on this service, contact: Ted Hattemer.

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: Xmarks Browser Bookmark Sync

I use several computers and a couple different web browsers during any given day. I bookmark work related resources, articles to read, and any number of interesting sites on my Web browser. But when I use a different computer or change to a different web browser, the links I bookmarked on one aren’t available on another.

While social bookmarking sites like delicious are very usful, having to navigate to their site to access my commonly used bookmarks simply adds in a few extra unwanted steps.  Xmarks (was FoxMarks) is a very handy bookmark synchronization tool that resolves this issue.

Xmarks allows one to synchronize bookmarks between computers and browsers. The use of multiple profiles allows one to to separate your bookmarks into categories — like for work and home. One can to choose which profile to sync on each computer. This way, all those shopping sites don’t show up on the work computer. The other nice thing is that all the bookmarks are also backed up, which comes in handing when an old computer is sent to the recycling facility.

Browsers currently support supported by Xmarks include Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari (Mac OS). There is also an alpha release for Google Chrome. One can also add bookmarks and have them synced to your computers/browsers from any computer using  my.xmarks.com. Xmarks can also synchronize passwords.

Xmarks’ Smarter Search feature add some level of relevance to Google searches. When you perform a search after installing the applicaiotn, Xmarks will highlight the top Google search results for that query, based on how many Xmarks users have bookmarked a particular site.

As with any third-party application, one needs to be mindful of any potential privacy issues. Xmarks does encrypt bookmarks while they are being synced to their server. Individual users’ bookmarks are also kept private from other users.

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: Google Wave

The folks at Google released 100,000 invites today to preview their new model of Web-based communication and collaboration, called Google Wave.

Since it has been in private beta, one has to rely upon others to explain what Wave is. It has been describedas much of a real-time chat room as a platform for editing documents collaboratively. It can also be used as a Wiki, to replace email and IM within an organization, or just to organize a pub crawl.”

A “wave” is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. Each Wave consists of a threaded forum combined with a wiki, IM, and email that are then combined into a single interface.

In Google Wave, one can create a Wave and the add others to it. Everyone can insert content or edit in the Wave.  Since each Wave is updated in real time, others can see content as it is being created. The service can be used for quick messages and persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication.

A playback feature allows one to watch a Wave as it evolved, providing access to edits, who made them, and in what context. A locally hosted Wave server can interact with other Wave servers, but will also have the option of keeping their content private or limited to specific users.

Check out Wave in this 10-min abridged video of this hour presentation:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Itc4253kjhw[/youtube]

If you are one of the lucky ones to get an invite early on, please make sure to comment on your experience.

Eric Schnell 

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