Public access sites get upgraded service

Through the City of Seattle’s agreements with the cable providers in our area, we are able to offer free Broadband Internet service to non-profits that provide technology classes or public computer usage to the City’s under-served residents.

Under the new agreement with Comcast, recipients in their service area will be providing second tier service, which means you should be receiving speeds up to 50 Mbps and be eligible for basic TV service.  If you are already a Comcast free internet recipient through our program, your speed and TV service will be coming soon.

For more information go to: http://www.seattle.gov/tech/cable

Comcast has recently upgraded or installed these sites:

  • Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHS):  CHS provides access to residents and provides internet capability to help residents with online applications, employment searches, social media connecting individuals with families back home, and basic computer literacy skills in their computer lab.
  • Frederic Ozanam House:  Uses this free service to their residents to increase the availability of internet access, allowing for easier access to online resources residents use to secure housing, benefits, and other services without having to wait for assistance by one of the staff members.
  • Southeast Effective Development (SEED):  SEED is able to present residents with opportunities for career advancement and radio involvement, engage Seattle’s at-risk communities, empower individuals and families with practical technical and radio broadcast skills that they may use in differing professional, personal and civic contexts for many years to come. This project is also building the number of internet savvy volunteers who can segue into key roles at RVR.

Youth build skills and a voice

Stories of families arriving in Seattle need to be heard from the families themselves. Bilen is a youth blogger with the PugetSoundOff.org, a  site and project run by the YMCA. She’s writing and speaking up about her experiences coming to the United States. Her messages, along with others blogging, are about respecting culture.

Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller, Joel Farris from the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation, and David Keyes of the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) Community Technology Program, dropped by recently to hear from Bilen and other youth in the program. It led to a rich discussion about tech jobs, digital equity efforts, and technology and policy in Seattle. In discussing the upcoming Seattle.gov web redesign, students shared their real world experience helping family members find and translate online info into English. They shared some of their posts and plans.

Funding from DoIT and grants from others, including the Department of Neighborhoods and Office of Arts and Culture, has supported training, the online platform, and most importantly, opportunity for youth voice.  These include videos like “How Technology is Changing Seattle,” and “Here,” perspectives on what it’s like to be LGBTQ in high school, produced by the Chief Sealth International High School’s Gay Straight Alliance with the support of PugetSoundOff.org staff.

The City of Seattle DoIT funding in 2015 enabled digital literacy skills training for 174 teens, including 26 digital media internships. Project Director Kate Schneier explained that building self-confidence and civic voices goes hand-in-hand with development of their technology skills. Students learn to write blogs and take pictures that illustrate their messages. Video production training offers another outlet for creativity and message making. Through this, they practice articulating their points of view, talking to others about it, and learning to be more comfortable asking questions of others and discussing different views.  A milestone for them last year was working with other groups to host a Youth City Council Candidates’ Forum.

Their efforts also pay off in stars, or credits, they can earn from different writing and tech skill building activities. Rewards are offered along the way and enough stars earn students their own computer.

One project for this year is a photo narrative project to counter negative impressions of South Seattle with the positive stories of this very diverse community of interesting and caring residents.  Stay tuned to PugetSoundOff.org and follow #seayouth to learn more and engage with the powerful voices of Seattle youth. For more information about the program, you can also contact Kate Schneier at KSchneier@seattleymca.org or 206-549-3055.

Windows 7 vs Windows 8

With Windows XP coming to an end, you may be wondering operating system is best. Both Windows 7 and 8 will be supported by Microsoft until after 2020, but both operating systems’ user interfaces are  different from each other and from Windows XP.

Windows 7: Having installed this operating system in a computer lab, I have found that it’s easier to administrate, as most of the functions are not hidden.  The layout closely resembles that of Windows XP and it is best for network of computers like a computer lab.

Windows 8: This OS has a tile format like cell phones.  This is helpful if you want to use a touch screen monitor.  Using a touch screen monitor is best use if your plan us to have just a KIOSK type computer lab where users click on web pages or graphics and where there will be no true data entry such as typing.

I would recommend  Windows 7 for your lab, even though it is the older of the two systems.  Most users will be comfortable with the layout and it would be easier for you to manage, even if the user has used other products like Linux or MAC.

In either case, when you choose an operating system for your lab or network, you should choose the “professional” or better version of the operating system.  The home version, which comes with most computers, have limited network networking functionality.  If you plan to have a server in your network, then you must have the professional version.

Computer lab network standards

Every computer lab and network should have standards that administrators must follow. If you’re a small organization with no IT staff or you know  little about your technology, you should make sure that whoever helps you follows some of the basics here.  These recommended basics  are good standards, regardless of the computer lab/network type.

Network Type

Be aware of how your network is configured.  When troubleshooting, it is helpful to know what is on your network and how those devices interact. There are two main types of networks: Peer to Peer (P2P) and Client Server (CS).  If you plan to manage or share more than just files it is best to use the Client Server model below.

Peer to Peer

To configure this, you must have a router to provide network access.  Each computer will be managed on its own.  You can have one of the computers become a file server so you can share data.  Username and passwords are not shared throughout your network causing every device that connects to have to enter their information each time.  If you have a really low budget, this is best, however you will spend more time  managing your computer lab and network.

Client Server

To configure this, you would need a server.  With a server you can allow access from both outside and inside your network.  Things a server can do are  username and password, file sharing, email, resource permissions, and much more for both inside and outside of your network.  You would then need to configure the server to provide network access through it to the Internet, or have a router on the same network that has access.

Printers

Printers can be set up where you print through a network resource or directly.  The advantage of printing through a resource, such as a server, is that it would have administrative rights by default to delete large print ques and it can store the drivers, making it easy to install a new computer.

BACKUP, SECURE, BACKUP!

Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you back up your data.  Each computer or device on your network should have antivirus software running on it.  Please note that most free antivirus software are not legal for labs.  For KIOSK type of workstations, I would recommend you install DeepFreeze on those computers.

User types

Most administrative things should be handled by an administrator account.  Each user should have the rights of the previous user.

Users
Normal or shared users of your network:

  • Have access to the computer
  • User access to application but no install rights, i.e., MS Word
  • Internet access
  • Print & and delete their own print jobs

Staff
It is best to have a different user account that has administrative rights that are used only to make administrative changes.

  • Power user
  • Install access of applications
  • Add printer

Admin
You should not have the administrator account be a normal user.  You want to ensure backdoor access to your network that you are aware of,  in case your primary account is compromised.

  • Full rights to computer

Drive Sharing
In a P2P network you can share a computer so that others can access resources.  You would have to manually map each one of these drives.  In a CS environment you can use active directory to auto configure the directories.  For organizational purposes you create drive maps that make sense for your organization.

Legit Sites

Knowing if a site is legit in order to keep your computer secure is a task that you need to be proactive with, regardless of whether you have anti-malware software installed.  Most malware software is only good after the first few people have gotten infected and reports it. Don’t let that be you.

Ensure that you are spelling the website correctly; going to http://www.gogle.com could send you somewhere else when you’re looking for http://www.google.com, (Google owns gogle.com for those who do make this mistake.) When viewing websites from an email, it is best to go to their web page and find the link from there. This is time consuming, but when you are unsure about the email it is safer.  Most spam that carry malware will send you an email that looks like it’s from a trusted site or have a name that is close to the site you seek.

Windows XP End of Life

It was arguably one of Microsoft best operating systems to date.  But like all good things they must come to an end.  Any support from Microsoft with Windows XP comes to an end April 8th 2014.

It is important to note how the following would affect you:

  • Computer will work, Windows XP will continue to function
  • No new service packs, any new major bugs that are found will not be address
  • No windows updates, drivers and minor bugs will cease to be worked on
  • No 3rd party updates, your favorite programs updates may not support the OS

Some computer labs and users still use Windows XP as their favorite program.  With the current versions of windows there have been a lot of changes so I would recommend that you take the time before the expiring date to get familiar with one and upgrade to it.  While Windows 8 is the most current OS, I would current recommend Windows 7 professional in multi user environments.

Other windows OS life cycles

Desktop Operating System 11/4/2013 Current Service Pack End of extended support
Windows Vista Service Pack 2 April 11, 2017
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 January 14, 2020
Windows 8 N/A January 10, 2023

Source: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/products/lifecycle

Sharing your Teaching Computer with the Class

Did you know that it is possible to share what you see on your pc with your class?  Did you know it is possible to monitor what your students are doing to make sure they stay on track from your desk?

There are software solutions available for lab coordinators that can be installed on your lab PC. There is not a lot of lab sharing or monitoring software out there.  Be aware of the following:

  • Is the software compatible with your computer?
    • Windows X, Mac, Tablet, Cromebook, etc.
    • What type of monitoring can be done thru the software?
      • Monitor from teacher’s desk or mobile tablet?
      • Can you share your video monitor across all monitors in the lab?
        • Large labs can affect video speeds.
        • If you purchase the software, are there any ongoing costs?

Unfortunately there are no free solutions, but the two softwares listed below have trial versions that you can try out along with Education or Nonprofit discounts.

http://www.netsupportmanager.com

http://www.interclass.us

TechTip: Password Management

If you’re like me, you have a password for this and a password for that. With most password security you’re forced to change your password once every 45 to 90 days, have eight characters or more with one being a symbol, one a number, and one being a capitalization. Today there are many password systems that you can use to store your passwords. Your main challenge, normally, is the ability wherever you are to access that password you desperately need.

Having a password format for yourself is helpful so that you can remember your password but others can’t.

Play with Words
If your favorite food is a banana, your password can be B@n@Na82013. This is a strong password and it’s hard for others to figure out but easy for you to remember. How?
You make sure the “B” and “N” in the word is always capitalized and your first two “a’s” are replaced with the “@” sign. Now the numbers is easy — just the current month and year. When it is time to change your password you only have to change the month and year to reflect the current month.
Doing this allows you to know you need to only change the month, if you forget.

To make this more complex you can use even months the word “B@n@Na” and odd months can you “@pPle” or something like that.

Month+Subect+Year
Another way you can have a strong password is by spelling the month out and the year at the end like @uguestBanana2013 and when you change it the next month or month after use $eptemberBanana2013. Now I know this is a long password but it helps keep your password strong, unique and most of all easy for you to remember.

How to Improve User Connectivity to your Wireless Network

Allowing users to connect to your network wirelessly can improve your collaboration and reduce your hardware cost needs. If you’re in a dense area where there are many wireless networks around, connectivity to your network can be a challenge at times.

Every wireless connection device (access point) shares a few channels with other access points; this means signal interference can be great. To reduce the interference, it is a good idea to check which channels other devices in your area are using. To do this you can find many freeware applications for either a smart phone or laptop that will show all devices and their channels in your area.

It is important to know your network connectivity speed–which has nothing to do with your Internet speeds. The most popular public network speeds are B/G/N; B is the slower speed with N being the fastest.

It is important to secure your network; this will keep other users from easily accessing your network. It is best to use WPA security instead of WEP; this will help you to get the fastest network speeds on your network.

BYOD or NOT!

Bring your own device (BYOD) to work or not? Most organizations today either have policies in place or don’t mind if you bring your own device to use.  If you are a user of BYOD I believe it makes your life easier not having to carry multiple devices around.

Users of BYOD
  • Make sure you password protect your device
  • Signup with a service that will allow you to wipe your device remotely if you lose it
Administrators of BYOD
  • Have or create a policy regarding BYOD, even if its a simple one.
  • Decide what data can be stored on a non-organization owned device.
  • How will you handle users when they leave?
  • Currently, most document sharing programs allow users to keep data after they leave.
The most common use for BYOD equipment is document sharing.  It is important that both users and administrators think about making sure the equipment stays secure. Allow BYOD equipment to access your intranet, but not download documents.