Mail From Address

It appears CE/Vista has several locations for defining the email addresses it uses for SMTP.

  1. $WEBCTDOMAIN/config/config.xml:
    mail.from=
    From address for messages sent.
  2. $WEBCTDOMAIN/customconfig/startup.properties:
    WEBCT_ADMIN_EMAIL=
    Some internal errors have a mailto: prompt to contact the server administrator.
  3. $WEBCTDOMAIN/serverconfs/log4j.properties:
    log4j.appender.EMail.To=
    Report fatal errors.
  4. $WEBCTDOMAIN/serverconfs/log4jstartup.properties:
    log4j.appender.EMail.To=
    Report fatal errors.
  5. $WEBCTDOMAIN/webctInstalledServer.properties:
    WEBCT_ADMIN_EMAIL=
    Installer picks up this value for populating #2 and possibly #3 and #4.
  6. $WEBCTDOMAIN/webctInstalledServer.properties:
    MAIL_ORIGIN=
    Installer picks up this value for populating #1.

What really disturbs me is the Vista 8 installer created log4j properties files with the  SMTP server set up for miles.webct.com and sending from vista.monitor@webct.com? I cannot seem to find anything in the Vista 8 documentation or wiki or Google index about the “Vista Trap Notification” subject line, from address, or SMTP address which the log4j appender appears to be designed to send.

This Vista Trap Notification appears designed to send an email to the address any time a fatal error is encountered. That’s fine. Just use the smtp host and From address requested in the installer.

Don’t get me started about giving end users a mailto: prompt to report errors.

Bb Suggestions

WebCT used a suggestion form to collect product improvement ideas from the various users (instructors, instructional technologists, administrators, etc.). I’m not sure if the switch to opening enhancement request support tickets under Blackboard was something new to improve the support model overall or just a change for former WebCT customers as support integrated. Interestingly, Blackboard recently returned to the suggestion form.

So… Send in your feature requests. I am too busy working on getting the bugs fixed to work on new features.

The Digital Switch

The Long Tail claims consumers, given more options, will reflect their widely varied interests. Physical stores cannot fill all of the demand, so bytes stored on disk are the fastest, cheapest method for getting stuff to consumers. We see a mostly example of this shift in the shift to digital music.

Vinyl records were the first physical music media form I used. Later, cassette tapes (1980s) and compact disc (1990s) achieved dominance. In 2001, I started the transition to digital music. There were some stumbles along the way because of technology changes and trusting vendors saying Digital Rights Management is good for consumers. At present, I only listen to digital music when using my own collection.

Digital video seems more complicated. Web sites streaming and on-demand television have the potential to fit the Long Tail model where consumers have access to insanely varied content when they want it. DVRs neither fix the when (just shift the airing to another time) or the insanely varied content. Movie rental distributors like Blockbuster and Netflix are moving toward distributing digital movies and TV shows in setups similar to on-demand. Nothing has even come close to winning.

Digital books may yet get some traction. Computers screens cause eye strain. Laptops don’t feel like a book. PDAs, Blackberrys, and other handhelds with small screens require a ton of scrolling. A recent solution to this is “epaper” which doesn’t constantly refresh. The Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader are the biggest players. (The Long Tail is not available for the Kindle but is for the Reader. WTH?)

Remaining issues for me:

  1. Ownership is dying.
    • I really like the idea of playing music on my iPod or from CDs. I play DVDs on my computer because I can’t play my DVR stuff in a hotel. So streaming and on-demand only solutions bother me as long-term solutions. If it is easy for distributors to store it because it is just bytes, then it is easy for me to do so as well.
    • I have books from 20 years ago I can still read. Technology changes too much to depend on something I buy today working tomorrow. So maybe “renting” is a way better approach for digital media?
  2. The black markets for music and movies prove consumers want everything any time. Companies must embrace consumer demand and make it easier for consumers or suffer. I think companies changing to accommodate consumer demand is the only reason the music companies have survived. Litigation cannot solve it.
  3. Hardware investment gets expensive every few years.

My solution? Wait and see.

Most Wired Teacher

“Who is the most wired teacher at your college?” (A Wired Way to Rate Professors—and to Connect Teachers)

Although the university runs workshops on how to use Blackboard, many professors are reluctant, or too busy, to sit through training sessions. Most would prefer to ask a colleague down the hall for help, said Mr. Fritz.

Professional support is too intimidating, cold, careless. Support fixes the problems of others who created problems for themselves:

  • choices made in software to use
  • configuration choices
  • mistakes logic in processing

The concept of identifying the professors who most use the system is a good one. We already track the amount of activity per college or university in the University System of Georgia. The amount of data (think hundreds of millions of rows across several several tables)  would make singling out the professors a very long running query. Doesn’t mean it is a bad idea. Just don’t think it is something we would do with Vista 3. We probably could with Vista 8 which uses a clean database.

I’d like to see two numbers:

  1. Number of actions by the professor
  2. Number of actions by the all classes the professor teaches

Ah, well, there are lots of other reports which need to be done. Many more important than this one. 

Some questions from the article: “Will colleges begin to use technology to help them measure teaching? And should they?” At present, to create such reports, IT staff with database reporting or web server skills are needed. Alternatively, additonal applications like Blackboard Outcomes System can provide the data. The real problem is the reliability and validity of the data. Can it really be trusted to make important decisions like which programs or employees are effective.

The DVR Trap

Recorded an episode of Psych because I know people who like it. Its okay, but I probably won’t make a season pass for it. 

Skipping past the commercials, I recognized the characters, so I stopped. Only to find myself watching a commercial featuring the show’s characters.

That is SO wrong. Smart way to catch those of us skipping past the advertisements. Guess I’ll just have to get better as skipping with the TiVo.

Higher Ed Twitter List

Karlyn Morissette posted her Master Higher Ed Twitter List. Other than @eironae and @barbaranixon, I didn’t know anyone on the list. So I thought to post a list of higher education professionals I follow categorized by primary expertise.

Blackboard twitterers might be another post.

Those in bold are coworkers.

College / University / Departments

@atsu_its – A.T. Still University – IT Help Desk & Support
@BC_Bb – Butte College Blackboard System
@CTLT – Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology @ Goucher College
@GeorgiaSouthern – Georgia Southern University
@ucblackboard – University of Cincinnati Blackboard Support

CE/Vista

@amylyne – Amy Edwards – CE/Vista DBA
@corinnalo – Corrina Lo – CE/Vista Admin
@elrond25 – Carlos Araya – CE/Vista Admin, Dr. C
@jdmoore90 – Janel Moore – CE/Vista Admin
@jlongland – Jeff Longland – CE/Vista Programmer
@lgekeler – Laura Gekeler – CE/Vista Admin
@ronvs – Ron Santos – CE/Vista Analyst
@sazma – Sam Rowe – YaketyStats
@skodai – Scott Kodai – former Vista Admin now manager
@tehmot – George Hernandez – CE/Vista DBA
@ucblackboard – UC Blackboard Admins

Faculty

@academicdave – David Parry – Emerging Media and Communications
@amberhutchins – Amber Hutchins – PR and Persuasion
@barbaranixon – Barbara Nixon – Public Relations
@captain_primate – Ethan Watrall – Cultural Heritage Informatics
@doctorandree – Andree Rose – English
@KarenRussell – KarenRussell – Public Relations
@mwesch – Mike Wesch – Anthropology
@prof_chuck – Chuck Robertson – Psychology

Information Technologist / Support

@aaronleonard – Aaron Leonard
@Autumm – Autumm Caines
@bwatwood – Britt Watwood
@cscribner – Craig Scribner
@dontodd – Todd Slater
@ECU_Bb_Info – Matt Long
@ekunnen – Eric Kunnen
@heza – Heather Dowd
@hgeorge – Heather George
@masim – ???
@mattlingard – Matt Lingard
@meeganlillis – Meegan Lillis
@soul4real – Coop

Assessment / Library / Research

@alwright1 – Andrea Wright – Librarian
@amylibrarian – Amy Springer – Librarian
@amywatts – Amy Watts – Librarian
@elwhite – Elizabeth White – Librarian
@kimberlyarnold – Kimberly Arnold – Educational Assessment Specialist
@mbogle – Mike Bogle – Research

Web Design / UI

@eironae – Shelley Keith

Director

@aduckworth – Andy Duckworth
@garay – Ed Garay
@grantpotter Grant Potter
@IDLAgravette – Ryan Gravette
@Intellagirl – Sarah B. Robbins
@tomgrissom – Tom Grissom

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How Not To Break a Frame

Correct:

<script language=”Javascript” type=”text/javascript”>
if (top != self)
{
top.location = window.location;
}
</script>

Incorrect:

<script language=”Javascript” type=”text/javascript”>
if (top != self)
{
top.location = “/webct/urw/lc18361011.tp0/logonDisplay.dowebct”;
}
</script>

The problem with incorrect is the address used here is not the address in the location bar.  The one in the location bar has the values required to login. Instead I get something which causes users to be unable to login. Example: So we send someone to http://westga.view.usg.edu. They get redirected to another address in which we provide the glicid, insId, and insName. Correct breaks the frame and gives the browser back the same address. Incorrect breaks the frame and gives the browser back a different, non-functional address. Bad. Bad. Bad.

WebCT Vista 3 used the Correct JavaScript which just passes back the address used. Blackbord Vista 8 for some reason changes what worked to Incorrect.

Yay for first day of classes.
🙁

UPDATE 1:

It gets better… Bb Vista’s Custom Login and Institution List pages are unaffected (aka use the Vista 3 style JS). Only going to the generated logon page, loginDisplay.dowebct, has the issue.