Category Archives: FAQ

FAQ: Group Blogs

What is a group blog?

A group blog is just like a regular blog except more than one person can make entries. Group blogs can be used by professors for classes, by student organizations for publicity, by a group of friends for fun, or any other non-commercial purpose.

Who can start a group blog?

Anyone at WOU can start a group blog. You just need to contact and request it; be sure to include a title for the blog and a list of members, along with any other requests such as privacy options. The blog will be created in your public_html folder, but separate from your personal blog. When you log in to the blog admin system at you will see the group blog along with your personal blog.

Who can be a member?

Only people with valid WOU email accounts can be part of a group blog. The blog creator needs to provide a list of WOU email address or ID numbers (V numbers) for each person they want to be a member. Unless you are a faculty member creating the blog for a class, each member will be contacted and asked for their permission to be included in the blog.

What can members do?

Most members will just be able to post entries, and edit or delete entries they have made. The creator of the group blog can request that certain members be given administrative rights, which means that they can do anything the creator can do: edit or delete any entry, accept of delete comments, change any setting, etc. Either way, members need to log into the blog admin system, just as they would to post entries or make changes to their own personal blogs.

Can I keep the blog private to the group?

Yes. Any blog (not just a group blog) can be made private. Normally you wouldn’t want to do this, because most blogs are meant to be public, but if your blog is intended for a particular audience, you can require a password to view it.

What privacy options do I have?

You can provide a list of WOU email addresses or ID numbers of people who should be allowed to see your blog; in that case they will log in with their email username and password. You can also set up a single username and password that will allow people to view your blog; you can then give that password to anybody you want, even off campus. And if you want, you can set your blog to be viewable by anybody who has a valid WOU email account.

Can I change blog members or privacy settings?

Yes; just contact with your requested changes. You can add or remove members (again, unless it is a class blog, they will be asked for their permission) or change privacy options. Please do not ask us to change normal blog settings for you; you can do that yourself in the blog admin system.

FAQ: Blog Server Upgrade

Hello, everybody–

This week’s I’ll talk about the new features available since the upgrade of our blog server earlier in the week.

What’s the blog server?

Um, right, I guess not everybody knows that. The blog server is a system where anybody at WOU can keep a blog; if you aren’t familiar with the idea of blogging, please take a look at the FAQ at If you’ve never used the blog server before, you probably want to take a look at the original blog server FAQs; part one is at, and contains a link to part 2. Both have been updated for the new blog server version.

So will I have to relearn a bunch of stuff?

Not really. The new version added a bunch of features, but didn’t change or remove much that was already there. The most notable new features are the spam filters, improved list handling, and improved searching.

Spam filters, you say? Why would I need a spam filter on a blog?

A few of you of you are probably laughing bitterly at this question, but bear with me. Some blogs, especially those with a lot of activity, attract spammers who post comments that have nothing to do with what you’re blogging about. This is generally different than email spam; the main goal of blog spam is to get many links posted, to affect search engine rankings for spam websites. I’m not going to try to explain how this works, but trust me, once it starts happening to your blog, you will be glad to have a spam filter! Also note that everything I say about comments applies to trackbacks too, if you have them turned on.

I already get a ton of spam on my blog, so how do I turn on the spam filter?

It’s already on. The upgrade process was supposed to sort through all existing comments and junk any that looked like spam, but this didn’t work for any of the blogs I checked. However, it works great for new comments coming in since the upgrade; it has cut the spam level in my blog from several hundred a week down to just fifteen in the three days since the upgrade. If you have turned off commenting in your blog because you were drowning in spam, you might want to turn it back on again now.

How do I change the settings of the spam filter?

The default settings are pretty good, so most people won’t need to mess with them. but if you know what you are doing, or just want to look at the current settings, here’s how to find them. Go to the blog administration toolbar and click settings. Below the page setting you will see two tabs: Settings and Plugins. (You’ll also see a link named “Switch to Detailed Settings”, which gives you more tabs, but you don’t need to click it if you don’t want to.) Click the Plugins tab, and scroll down. There are actually three spam filters; one that uses a blacklisting service, one that checks links in comments, and another that checks keywords. I won’t describe them in detail here, but feel free to take a look at them.

What happens to spam comments caught by the filter?

In your comments list, you’ll see a new tab: Junk comments. Clicking on it shows a list of all comments judged as junk by the spam filter, and gives you a handy button to empty the junk folder without having to select them all and hit delete. It also seems like many spam comments simply aren’t showing up at all, even in the junk folder; I have no idea why this is, but as long as it means I’m getting less junk, I don’t care very much.

I still have a bunch of old spam comments in my blog. How do I get rid of them?

This is where the second feature comes in: improved list handling. You can go to the Comments page (via the link on the blog list page, or in the blog admin toolbar) and see the list. Before, this would automatically list all comments, which could take a while if there were a few hundred (or thousand as happened sometimes.) Now, it lists a more manageable number. By clicking the “Show Display Options” link at the bottom of the list, you can pick from several different numbers of items to show per page, or even pick your own by choosing “Another Amount…” There are other miscellaneous options in the display options box as well, and you can close it by clicking the “Show Display Options” link again when done. These options are available for all lists; whether lists of entries, lists of comments, lists of blogs, etc.

But that doesn’t help me get rid of my old spam comments?

It does help you manage the list better. But here’s something that really will help you get rid of that ton of old spam comments. You’ve probably already noticed that at the top of the column of checkboxes at the left side of the list, there’s a checkbox that, when you click on it, selects every item shown in the list; this makes it easy to delete the whole list.

That would be useful except that I’ve got some comments I want to save, so being able to delete the whole list doesn’t help.

If you’ve used the Display options to break your list down to a manageable size, you can delete a screenful at a time. Or if you’re like me and you have your display options set to show the whole list on one screen, you can use another method of list handling: a filter. Filter options are at the top of every list. Often there will be a “quickfilter” link you can click on to apply a commonly used filter, such as showing unpublished comments only in a comments list; this makes it easy to find and delete spam without accidentally deleting comments you’ve already approved. Each list has several filter options; feel free to play around with them. When a filter is active, there will always be a “reset” link to the right of the filter options, which will remove the filters.

OK, enough about this geeky list management stuff! Didn’t you say something about searching too?

Right, that’s the last topic I’ll cover this week. Any page with a list also has a search bar that lets you look for specific text within the list. But the really powerful new search stuff is available when you click “Search” in the blog admin toolbar. That takes you to a screen with all the search options in one convenient place. Use the tabs to control the type of object you are searching for, and the checkboxes below the search box to apply various options. The “Limited Fields” checkbox is especially useful because it lets you restrict your search to only the title of an entry, for instance, or only the name of a commenter.

Really, why should I care about all this stuff?

Because blogging can be an effective and fun way of expressing yourself. Plus, more professors are beginning to use blogging in their classes, so if you know your way around the blog server, you’ll be a step ahead. Don’t forget, everybody at WOU has a blog you can start using whenever you want; just read the FAQs listed above to see how to get started.

To help get the word out, I’m going to be creating some pages that show the most recent blog entries made, and keep track of the most active blogs. If you have a blog but do not want it listed in anything like that, be sure to let me know! The WOUPortal will also soon be able to view blogs, to save you the effort of checking multiple blogs to see if anything is new there.

And I just realized this is the fiftieth FAQ I’ve done here. So, a really big thank you for all your time and attention in the last two years!


FAQ: new WOUPortal!

Hello, everybody–

This week we’re announcing the beta version of the WOUPortal! It’s available for use by anyone in the WOU community.

What’s the WOUPortal?

It is a web portal, which is a customizable page designed to make many web resources available in one place. The home pages of and are good examples of portals; they include lots of information, links and resources, and if you log in, you can customize them to show what you want, and hide what you don’t want. The WOU Portal is available to anyone with a WOU email address, and just like other portals is customizable so you can see the links and information you find most useful. The goal is to make so many useful features available here that you’ll want to use it as your browser’s start page.

How do I get there?

The address is It will take you to the login screen; use your email username and password to get in. If you can’t log in, or you don’t remember your password, a link to the account lookup system is provided. The first time you log in, you will see a short explanation of the different parts of the portal; on later logins, you won’t see the page automatically but you can get back to it by clicking “WOUPortal Help” in the Programs for Everyone section. Click OK at the bottom of the help screen to go to the main portal page.

What are the different sections for?

On the main page there are three main sections: My Programs, My Connections, and Programs for Everyone. There is also a My Preferences tab, but I’ll talk about that separately.

The My Programs section is for programs that you have special access to. If you’re part of a group that uses a portal-enabled program that isn’t available for everyone, you’ll see a link to that program here. For now, most of you won’t have anything in this section.

The My Connections section is for links; through the My Preferences tab (see below) you can add any link you want here. It also includes space for portal-enabled tools; right now we have a dictionary lookup, a weather report, a language translator, and a map search. There won’t be anything here when you first log in, but you can add links and tools by customizing the WOUPortal.

The Programs for Everyone section shows options that are available to everyone, which currently is the WOUPortal help and the communication log. If you have enabled the advanced features (see below) you’ll also see links to your email, calendar and other services.

What is the communication log?

The communications log is designed to make it easy to get information out to a group of people. Anybody can set up a group and give them messages, which they will see when they check the communication log. You will be able to see how many of the recipients have read each message. Currently, this is used by several sports groups, plus student workers and their supervisors, but anyone can start a group and use it for any purpose.

How do I customize the WOUPortal?

Click the My Preferences tab at the top of the page. In the top section, you can change your nickname and enable advanced features. There is a brief explanation of the advanced features here, but I’ll cover them in more detail below.

In the next part of the preferences page, you can add and delete the links that show up in the My Connections section of the main WOUPortal page.

In the third part, you can hide or show items in the My programs section, and enable or disable any of the four tools currently available. Note that it says that “My Feeds” is coming soon; this feature will let you subscribe to RSS feeds, which let you view things like news and blogs directly in the portal without having to go to other pages.

When you’re in the Preferences tab, you have an additional tab available; you can use it to give feedback about the portal. Praise, criticism, feature requests… whatever you want to say.

So what about these advanced features you keep mentioning?

If you have enabled the advanced features, the Programs for Everyone section will include links to your email and calendar pages in Communications Express, and to your Banner Web page (either Web for Students or Web for Employees, depending on which you are) and your blog. The WOU forums server will soon be connected as well. The really cool thing here is that once you have logged in to the WOUPortal, you can use these links without needing to log in to each service separately. Just don’t forget to log out of the portal when you are done.

When I enabled advanced features I got a warning about not holding WOU responsible for data loss? What’s up with that?

Because of the way the WOUPortal logs you into external services like Communications Express and the blog server, you need to specifically log out when you are done. Even if you quit the browser completely, someone else could still open it up again, go to Communications Express, and read your email.

This can be completely prevented by logging out of the portal, so it is crucial that you do that every time; that warning message is there to remind you that the advanced features really are optional, and that you agree not to hold WOU responsible if you forget to log out and somebody does something bad with your account. Personally, I do use the advanced features; I believe the extra convenience of not having to log in multiple times outweighs the (very small) risk involved.

Wasn’t there another FAQ about a portal last year or something?

There was. But that portal was never widely used, and was not as flexible as we wanted, so we made our own. Michael Ellis did most of the heavy lifting; if you like the portal. he’s the one to thank, and if you want changes, use the Give Feedback tab in the Preferences, and he’ll get the message.

You said this is a beta version of the WOUPortal?

That’s right; it’s a work in progress. However, it is a very stable beta version. Some people, notably Housing and Dining staff and student workers as well as students in the residence halls, have been using it for months already. We expect to add new features and programs every few weeks. The visual design is also open to change.

That’s all for this week; remember to use the “Give Feedback” tab in the WOUPortal preferences to send any kudos, comments, questions, or concerns about the portal. Feel free to contact me at as well.

Thanks as ever for your time and attention,


FAQ: P2P and the RIAA

Hello, everyone–

Since last week’s FAQ on peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, we’ve gotten some new information. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is beginning a crackdown on illegal file sharing at universities, and we’d like to pass that warning along to you, as well as tell you about an alternative source of free and legal music for students.

Who is the RIAA, anyway?

The Recording Industry Association of America is a group that includes all of the major music recording companies, representing well over a thousand recording labels. In recent years they have strongly focused on preventing illegal distribution of music, and one result of this is lawsuits against people found to be illegally sharing copyrighted music through peer-to-peer software. You can see their website at Note that a similar organization, the Motion Picture Association of America, fills the same role for the movie industry, and has been suing people who illegally share movies.

So what exactly does this “crackdown” involve?

We have been warned by the state Attorney General’s office that the RIAA is beginning an extensive new program of lawsuits targeting students. They intend to pursue hundreds of cases per month nationwide. You can read more about this program on the RIAA website, and we are also making available a copy of an explanatory letter sent to all university presidents; find it at As part of this program, students found illegally sharing music will be offered a chance to pay a settlement fee to avoid the lawsuit.

How does that settlement work?

As mentioned in the previous P2P FAQ, the RIAA will not know exactly who has been sharing their copyrighted files, but they will be able to track the illegal activity to WOU’s network and get the IP address of the computer from which the files are shared. Under their old policies, they would then send us a takedown notice, and we would act on it because WOU as a whole could be sued if we did not.

But now these warnings will also come with a pre-lawsuit letter; you can see an example at (Note that the example letter was received at another institution; WOU has not yet received any of these letters, but believe it is only a matter of time until we do.) We will forward this letter to the individual who owns the computer whose address is given in the takedown notice. If that person chooses to accept the settlement offer, they must contact the RIAA as stated in the letter, and will be given further instructions. We will not give any student’s identity to the RIAA unless legally compelled, but this may well happen if a lawsuit is filed.

If someone gets one of these letters, should they accept the settlement offer?

We cannot make a recommendation on this matter, other than that the recipient of the letter should consult an attorney, or at least educate themselves as much as possible, before deciding. Please be aware that there is a lot of contradictory information about RIAA file sharing lawsuits, and many sources are biased one way or another, so it is difficult to find reliable advice online. Wikipedia’s entry on the RIAA at is a good starting point. Whether or not a student accepts the settlement offer, WOU will continue to follow our current judicial policy, including temporarily disconnecting that student’s residence hall network access.

You said something about a new source of free and legal music?

We are looking into a program called Ruckus, which offers a catalog of over two million songs free to any current student with a valid .edu email address. They make money though advertisements, and by charging fees for additional services and to non-student users. You can take a look at them yourself at We are investigating the possibility of getting a local server for their catalog, which will make download times faster and grant access to some additional material such as movies, but any student can use their service even if WOU does not make such a deal with the company.

That’s all for this week. Please feel free to send me any questions about this topic, or anything else you’d like to see addressed in an FAQ, at

Thanks once again for your time and attention,


FAQ: Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing

Hello, everyone–

This week’s topic is peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. It’s been in the media a lot recently, and unfortunately there’s a lot of misunderstanding about it, and about WOU’s policies towards it.

What is peer-to-peer file sharing?

Every computer running a P2P file sharing program (such as LimeWire, BitTorrent, or iMesh) acts as a server so others using the same program can download files from it. It also lets the user search for and download files being shared by other computers running the same software. This is a benefit when legal files are being shared, since there doesn’t have to be an expensive central server that everybody downloads from. But if the shared files are illegal, this is a drawback, because there is no single source to shut down.

Is P2P file sharing bad?

There has been a lot of hype in the media about P2P file sharing being bad. It’s not so simple, though; it’s only wrong when you share stuff that you don’t have the rights to. We do not ban P2P software on campus, because there are legitimate uses for it; think of it like owning a gun. Guns are not banned simply because people might use them to commit crimes; only the crimes themselves are banned. The entertainment industry is very much against P2P file sharing, because as copyright holders, they are the main victims of illegally sharing files. However, musicians and actors are also hurt by illegal sharing; every album or movie that is illegally downloaded instead of bought means fewer royalties for them. On the other hand, many amateur musicians embrace P2P file sharing; by releasing their songs to be legally shared, they hope to gain popularity. Some software companies also make use of P2P to share free or trial versions of their products, so they don’t have to maintain expensive centralized servers.

How do I know if I’m allowed to download or share something?

If you created the file yourself and have not sold the rights to it, it belongs to you and you can share it as much as you want. If a file is in the public domain, or the owner has given clear permission to share it, it is also OK. But if you cannot find any legitimate notice that a file is OK to share, then you should not download it or share it with others, because that would be stealing.

Why is UCS concerned about P2P file sharing?

We care about file sharing for two main reasons: bandwidth and legality. Since p2p programs are mostly used for music and video, which have large file sizes, they tend to take up more than their share of our Internet bandwidth. If people all over the world are downloading the latest blockbuster movie from a computer in our residence halls, that adds up to a lot of traffic, and other people on campus may have trouble doing legitimate academic work. This is true whether or not the files being shared are legal or illegal.

Why does UCS care about the legality of file sharing? Isn’t that solely the responsibility of the person sharing the files?

When copyrighted files are shared from a computer on campus, the owner of the copyright usually can’t identify who owns that computer. But they can easily discover that it is coming from someplace on our campus, so they often come to us with their complaints. According to the law, if we have been warned of illegal file sharing on our network, we are liable for criminal charges if we don’t take action. These complaints average about once a month, but sometimes they come in groups; in one single day last year, we received complaints about ten different people illegally sharing files. The rate is increasing each year.

What does UCS do when you get a complaint?

Using our internal records, we are usually able to trace the owner of the computer where the files were being shared. If that person is in the Residence Halls, they will lose their Internet access for ninety days, and will be removed from the halls entirely on the second proven offense. If you have any questions or complaints about this policy, please contact Residential computing at (503)838-9201.

I was running LimeWire and Residential Computing uninstalled it when I took my computer in for help! Why is that?

LimeWire is one of the most popular P2P programs currently out there. Unfortunately, we have frequently seen it install spyware and adware. We have also seen it continue to run even after supposedly being uninstalled. When we see LimeWire on a computer, it will be deleted. Not all P2P file sharing programs include spyware, though; we won’t automatically install them unless we get confirmation that they are infecting your computer with bad stuff.

That’s all for this week! Thanks once again for your time and attention.


FAQ: Safe data storage

Hello, everyone–

This week, we’re going back to basics. We’ve had more than the usual number of questions lately about saving files, and where to put them, so that’s this week’s topic.

Help! The computer crashed and I lost what I was working on! Can I get it back?

You can only get back the part that was saved. For the sake of speed, unsaved data is only stored in the computer’s memory, which is completely reset when the system crashes or is rebooted. When you save a document, this writes it to some form of more permanent storage, such as a network drive or flash drive. Needless to say, you should save often when working on a document. In fact, the very first thing you should do when you start a document is save it.

Why should I save a document before there is anything in it?

Because that makes it much easier to save often. Many programs (including Microsoft Word and Star Office Writer) automatically save documents every few minutes… but only if the document had already been saved once, so it has a name. Even if you’re working with a program that doesn’t save automatically, you can usually hit Control-S (or Command-S on a Mac) to save a document. If you’ve already saved it once and given it a name, hitting Control-S won’t pop up any boxes, or do anything else that will break your train of thought; you can just get into the habit of hitting that key combination every couple of paragraphs. (Like I just did, since I’m composing this in a text editor.)

Where should I save my documents?

First of all, you should not save it on the desktop or C: drive of any machine in the labs. If you have your own machine this is OK, but the lab machines are wiped and rebuilt regularly so any data saved on them will be lost. Instead, we recommend a flash drive and/or your private network drive (AKA the H: drive if you are on a Windows machine.) You can get flash drives for reasonable prices at the WOU bookstore or most any office supply store; they are much better than the old floppy disks because they hold much more, aren’t vulnerable to magnets, and don’t lose their data. You do need to be careful not to lose them, since they are so small, and you should never, ever, pull them out of a computer when their light is blinking. It’s best to click the little green-and-gray “safely remove Hardware” icon on the windows taskbar near the clock; that is safer than just yanking the drive out, because it will warn you if anything in the drive is still in use.

Why should I save stuff on my private network drive if flash drives are so good?

One word: Backup. We back up the storage system to tape every night, so if you ever delete a file by mistake, you can call the Service Request Desk and get it back. Well, at least you can get the previous night’s version back; this is usually far better than nothing. It takes some time to restore a file, so you still should be careful, but it’s nice to know that safety net is there if you really need it. If you normally store things elsewhere, it’s still nice to keep a second copy on the network, so if you accidentally put that flash drive through the laundry, for instance, you’ll be able to get your stuff back.

How do I get to my private drive?

First you have to log in to the domain. For faculty and staff, this happens automatically when you start up your machine and type in your username and password. For students it is only automatic if you’re in one of the labs; otherwise it is a bit more complicated, and I’ll cover that in the next question. On a Windows machine, after logging in, go into “My Computer” and double-click on the H: drive icon. On a Macintosh, there are no drive letters, but you can get to it by double-clicking the “Personal” icon on the desktop.

OK, you said it was more complicated if I’m a student and not in a lab. Just how complicated are we talking, here?

If you are off-campus, see the FTP and Remote Desktop FAQ at In the residence halls, follow these steps if you have Windows:

  1. Right-click on “My Computer” (this may be an icon on the desktop or an item in the Start Menu) and choose “Map network drive…” which will pop up an options box.
  2. Choose a drive letter from the Drive menu. For your personal folder, this should be H:.
  3. In the Folder text box, type in “\\cougar\MyDocuments”.
  4. Make sure the “Reconnect at logon” box is checked; that way you won’t have to do these steps every time you log in.
  5. Click the OK or Finish button; you will then be asked for your username and password.
  6. Instead of just your username, enter “mash\username”. Example: “mash\jdoe”. Remember, leave out the quotes and use a backslash (usually found above the Return or Enter key), not a normal slash (found on the same key as the question mark.) Enter your password as normal.
  7. Click OK; a window should open, showing the contents of your personal folder.
  8. If you need other drives such as P: (personal website) or K: (class folders), repeat steps 1-7; for the Class drive, use drive letter K: and folder “\\cougar\class”; for the Apps drive, use drive letter V: and folder name “\\cougar\public_html”.

You should only need to do this process once for each drive you need, as long as you remember to check the “Reconnect at logon” box for each one. However, every time you start up your machine, you will have to enter your username and password again the first time you click on the H: drive, or any other network drives you may have. It may already have your username filled in for you, but if you have to enter it again, remember to put “mash\” in front of it.

If you have a Mac, the process is actually easier. Here are the steps:

  1. In your Go menu, click “Connect to Server”.
  2. In the box that comes up, find the address field.
  3. Enter “smb://cougar/MyDocuments”. If you have done this before, you can find the address in the favorites box; just click on it instead of retyping.
  4. Enter your username and password if requested.
  5. Click OK and you are good to go!

If you live in the residence halls, you can call Residential Computing at extension 89201 if you want help connecting to the network.

What can I do with my private drive on the storage system?

You can store pretty much any kind of file you want to save. We have a lot of storage space, but please remember that there are about six thousand users of our network, so if you start storing many large graphics, music, or video files, you are probably taking more than your fair share. There should be enough space for all your legitimate needs, however.

What’s that “public_html” folder inside my private folder?

That’s your own personal piece of the WOU website. But you actually should not use that folder to upload anything, or else you will see “403 Forbidden” errors on your personal webpage. Instead, please use the P: drive. It leads to the same place, but because your computer sees it as a different drive, we can apply different security settings; anything copied to the P: drive is marked as public and will we available on the Web without those annoying “Forbidden” errors.

Anything you put in your P: drive will be accessible on the web at For instance, if your username is jdoe and you put a file named mypage.html into your public_html folder, anyone can access it at

What are all those other network drives for?

On a Windows machine, you’ll see more drive letters such as I:, J:, K:, or V:; a Mac will have drive icons such as Groups, Shared, Class, and Apps. Not everybody will see all of them. Here’s a list of some of them and what is in them:

– I: (Groups): files for individual faculty/staff departments, available only to those in that department

– J: (Shared): files shared among more than one faculty and/or staff department

– K: (Class): files for students in specific classes

– P: (Personal Web): your personal web folder

– V: (Apps): specialized programs used in the labs and by certain departments. Only available to licensed users.

That’s it for this week; thanks once again for your time and attention, and have a great weekend!


FAQ: Communicating with University Computing

Hello, everyone–

After a year-long hiatus, the Friday FAQs are back! In case you weren’t here when we last sent these out, the basic idea is that we take one technical topic per week and work through it in as non-technical a manner as possible. For more information, including why we call these documents “FAQs”, please see the FAQ archive at “ Some of you, of course, are reading this on paper; since we wanted as many people as possible to see this particular FAQ, we are sending it out by multiple methods.

This week’s topic is communication with UCS; how you talk to us, and how we talk to you. At the end is a link to a survey so you can give us feedback.

I have a question for UCS. What is the best way to make sure I get a response?

That depends on the question.

– If you have a new problem to report, or want an update on an existing problem, please contact the Service Request Desk (AKA the help desk or the SRD) at or extension 88925.

– If it’s about something where you’re already working directly with someone in UCS, you can ask that person about it; however you may get a faster response by contacting the Service Request Desk. This ensures that your request is sent to an alternate person if the primary technician is not available right away. This is especially important with student workers, who are not on duty full-time.

– If it’s a general question about technology, or about UCS policies or practices, feel free to send it to me at; I will do my best to answer questions either individually or in one of these FAQ documents, and if I can’t answer a question, I will refer it to someone who can.

– If it’s about a virus, or email spam, or spyware, or fraud, or any other such nastiness, send it to That also happens to be me, but those questions might not always be my job, so please use the virusinfo address so your question gets to the right person.

– If you’re not sure where to send a question, the Service Request Desk will be happy to help you! When in doubt, just call 88925.

Why should I contact the Service Request Desk instead of directly calling a UCS worker I know?

The Service Request Desk is the best way to make sure your request gets to the right person as quickly as possible. We sometimes rearrange job responsibilities among our staff, so (for instance) the person you talked to about an email list last year may not be the correct person to call now. The people answering the Service Request line can make sure your request gets to the right person. If that person is not available, the SRD can often find someone else to solve the problem.

Going through the SRD also means that your request is documented. We are all human, and sometimes forget to write down things we are told over the phone or in face-to-face conversation, so having documentation helps remove the human-error factor.

Why is it called the “Service Request Desk” anyway?

We used to call it the Help Desk, but we found that created some unrealistic expectations. The Service Request Desk exists to take your service requests and direct them to the person who can help you; we can’t possibly train all our student workers to provide direct help for every situation.

What happens to my request once I give it to the Service Request Desk?

The worker (generally a student) who takes your request will enter it into our Service Request System, and assign it to a technician, who will immediately be emailed a notification message. Wherever they are on campus, the tech can log into the Service Request system and take action. Once the request is handled, the tech records that fact, and may include any notes on the issue to help other techs who may have to deal with similar issues in the future.

The Service Request System also lets us track how well we are doing. These statistics are available publicly at “

OK, so what about your communications with us?

Right now, our main method of communicating with faculty, staff, and students is through the and email lists. We use this both for urgent messages, such as emergency server maintenance or scam warnings, as well as for more routine communications, such as announcements of planned upgrades; basically anything we need to announce to a large part of the WOU community will go out on one or both of these email lists. We recognize that this does not necessarily work for everybody, especially considering the amount of traffic on those lists, but we have not found any obviously better alternatives. We are always open to suggestions, though!

What about all these blog posts I see links to in my email? Am I supposed to be reading all those UCS staff blogs?

Everyone on campus has a blog, if they care to use it; most UCS staff use ours to talk about what we are working on, and sometimes to explain technical issues or policies. An example from Bill’s blog may be found at “ However, you need not feel obligated to follow everybody’s blog. Whenever any critical information is posted in a blog, there will be an announcement with a link to that post, so that everyone will have a chance to see it.

What about other means of communication, like the wiki server and forums server?

Both the wiki and forums servers are open to any member of the WOU community. Currently, they are used by several departments for various purposes; if UCS puts anything there that is critical for the whole campus community to know about, we will notify you via email.

What if I don’t read my mailing lists? Shouldn’t you make more of an effort to get critical information to me another way?

Well, we are sending this one out on paper as well as by email list and blog, so you can see it even if you don’t read the email lists. However, don’t expect all communications from UCS to come this way. If email lists just plain don’t work for you, and you feel UCS should use another channel to communicate with you, now is your chance to tell us so. We’re looking over our communication practices to make them as effective as possible, so if you want a change, please fill out our survey and let us know!

Ideally we will settle on one or two communication methods for critical information, and then we will clearly state what they are. It will then be the responsibility of everyone on campus to pay attention to announcements made via those methods; that will ensure that everybody knows what they need to know and is caught by surprise as seldom as possible. Of course, some surprises are inevitable when dealing with technology; but when we have any advance notice of something important, we will do our best to pass it along when it can still make a difference.

So what about that survey you mentioned?

Now for the survey. This is mainly intended for faculty and staff, since we’ve gotten the most feedback from those groups, but students may respond as well. If you are reading this on paper, it should have come with the survey; if you are reading this online, you can get the survey in Microsoft Word format via this link:

This is a printable Microsoft Word document; if it does not load when you click the link, try right-clicking it and choosing “Save As…” or whatever equivalent your browser or email program offers.

That’s all for this week! Upcoming FAQ topics will include phishing and scams, the use of the Thin Clients, and the new website system. Feel free to suggest additional topics by emailing me at; I also recommend checking the FAQ archives at “ to see if your question has already been answered.

Thanks for your time and attention,


Future FAQ topics

Just so you know, next week’s FAQ will be about the Sophos Antivirus program we bought over the summer, including instructions for home use. (It’s free to members of the WOU community, just as Command Antivirus was.) The one after that will introduce the calendar that’s built into Communications Express. I’ll probably be on vacation the week after, so there won’t be a FAQ that week, but they should continue on a weekly basis after that.

WOU Blog Server FAQ, Part 2

This is a reprint of the FAQ sent out on Friday, May 20. Please feel free to comment or email me questions!

Hello, everyone–
We’ve gotten some more questions about running blogs on our new Movable Type blog server, so this week I’ll address them, and say a bit more about some features that may be of interest even though people haven’t asked about them.
* I saved a blog entry but it doesn’t show up when I view my blog! What’s wrong?
Most likely, you saved it as a draft. All entries default to draft status, which means they don’t show up even after you save them; this is useful when don’t have time to finish an entry and want to add more later without posting it right away. When you are ready to add text or change the entry’s status from draft to Publish, you can edit the entry.
* How do I edit a blog entry?
Whenever you save a new entry for the first time, you are automatically taken to the edit page for that entry. You can get back to it later by clicking the “Entries” link on the sidebar of your blog control panel. (Remember, you get to the control panel by clicking on your blog’s name after logging in at
The edit screen is basically like the entry screen, only with a few more fields at the bottom. The most important is Post Status, where you can change the entry from draft to publish, or vice versa. (The Future option in this menu also prevents the entry from being displayed.) The other important ones will be covered below.
* How can I notify people when I have posted something to my blog?
At the bottom of the edit screen for any saved entry, you can choose to send a notification to your predefined notification list. You can type in extra text if you want, and choose to include the entire text of the entry, or just an excerpt. All users in your list will get an email notification when you click the Send button.
* Who is on my notification list?
Click the “Notification” link on your control panel’s sidebar. At first, your list will be empty, but you can use the form on this page to add email addresses. Unfortunately, you can only add them one at a time; we understand that this makes it difficult for professors to add all their students, and are working on a way around this. You might also consider contacting Paul Lambert ( and getting an email list created, and just entering that address into your notification list.
* What if I want to keep people from commenting on a specific entry?
Near the bottom of either the new entry or edit entry screen, you will see a “Comments” menu. Normally this is set to “Open”, meaning that readers of your blog will be able to both read comments and post their own. “Closed” means that no more comments may be added, but any comments already left are still visible. “None” hides all the comments and prevents any from being added. For a new entry, set this to either “None” or “Closed” to prevent all comments.
Note that there is a way to force people to leave a name and email address when posting comments, and to be notified whenever a comment is left; these and other options will be discussed below.
* How do I delete a comment I find offensive or inappropriate?
When you edit an entry, near the bottom of the edit page you will see a list of all comments that have been made on that entry. From here you can delete any comment.
* How can I post links that stay on my front page?
You can do this by editing your index template. This requires some HTML knowledge; the better you are at HTML, the more things you can change. It is possible to change the look of your blog in almost any way, but that is beyond the scope of these FAQ’s. However, in my blog, I have posted a fairly simple way to add links to your blog’s sidebar. You can see this here or just look for the entry titled “Sidebar Links”.
* How can I change the colors or font of my blog?
This can be done by editing your blog’s stylesheet; again, the more you know about stylesheet code, the more you can change. The possibilities are almost limitless, but I don’t have room to talk about them here; I intend to post some basics in my blog fairly soon, probably early next week.
* How can I change the name of my blog?
After the last two questions, you’ll probably be relieved to hear that this does not require any HTML or CSS knowledge. First, click the “Weblog Config” link in the control panel sidebar. As you might expect, this takes you to the Weblog Config area, which has many options. The first page you will see is “Core Setup”; the first item there is the name of your blog. Please note that it is extremely dangerous to change any other settings on this page! They can completely mess up your blog. (Well, all right, you can change the time zone if you really want, but there’s no reason for it to be anything other than Pacific Time.)
* How can I change the description of my blog?
If you are already in the Weblog config area, just click the “Preferences” link near the top of the page. The Preferences page has many more options than the Core Setup page, and they are much less dangerous; however, you should still not change anything if you don’t understand what it is even after reading the help text.
The very first option is the description of your blog; you can change it to anything you want, but I recommend keeping it fairly short.
* What other preferences can I change here?
Well, any of them, really, but I don’t recommend mucking about in here unless you know what you are doing. If you do change things you aren’t sure about, make sure you make note of the settings that were there before, so you can change things back if they have an effect you don’t like.
One setting that might be useful is the “Default Post Status”; if you find yourself saving entries as drafts too often, and having to go back and edit them to make them visible, you can change this setting. Just remember that this can lead to the opposite problem of saving things in publish mode by mistake when you meant to save them as drafts!
Other useful settings can be found near the bottom of the page, in the Comments section. You can make people leave a name and email address wen commenting on your blog, control the way comments are displayed, and get email notifications whenever someone comments.
* Where can I go for more information?
I already mentioned this last week, but you can find the Movable Type user manual at Also, look at my blog at; I will post more tips and tricks as I discover them!
That’s it for this week; feel free to post questions as comments on my blog, or just email me at
Thanks as ever for your time and attention!

WOU Blog Server FAQ

This is a reprint of the FAQ on the WOU blog server. It was originally sent out on Friday, May 13. (And no, I’m not superstitious.)

Hello, everyone–
The Movable Type blog server is now up and running, so this week I’ll talk about how to get started with it. This will be a fairly short FAQ because my week has been filled with other urgent projects, but luckily there’s not much you need to know to get going!
* So what do I do first?
First, you need to send a message to Paul Lambert at and request that a blog be created for you. Eventually, we will tie the blog server in with our other systems and automatically create blogs, but for now you must request it.
* Can I choose my username, password, title of my blog, or anything else?
Your username will be the same as your WOU email username, and your password will be a standard one, which you should change as soon as you log in the first time. You can choose whatever title you want for your blog, within reason, and also a short descriptive phrase, one line of text or less. These can be changed later.
* Where do I log in?
Go to, and enter your username and password. The next screen is the main blog administration page; you will see a list of all the blogs you can post to; at first, this will just be one. Later on, some users may be able to post to multiple blogs; for instance, their own and another one that is written by a group. For now, though, you will see only the blog you just requested.
* How do I change my password?
This is the first thing you should do. Look on the right side of the page, and you will see a box labeled “Shortcuts”. One of the links there is called “Edit your profile”; click on it to go to the profile page. You can change any of the options here, but we do not recommend changing your username. To change your password, enter the new password in both the “Password” and “Confirm Password” boxes.
* Why does it ask me for my birthplace on the profile screen?
If you want, you can enter your birthplace for the purposes of password recovery. If you don’t, the “forgot password” link on the login screen will not work. You must also make sure that your email address is listed correctly in you profile, because the password recovery system sends the password to that address.
* How do I get back to the main page from the profile editing screen?
Click the “Main menu” link near the top, or select your blog’s name from the menu at the top of the screen and click the Go button.
* How do I actually post to my blog?
To the right of the blog name on the main page, you should see a “Create Entry” link. Click it, and it will take you to the “Create New Entry” page. This page has a lot of options on it, but luckily there is a fairly good help page available; just click the question mark button next to some of the field names. I’ll still cover the basics here, though.
* So what are the basics?
You’ll need to fill in the Title and the Entry Body fields; the rest are optional. Notice that you can choose categories for your posts; there’s no need to worry about that now, though. If your entry is long, consider putting the bulk of it in the “Extended Entry” box; that will hide that part Down at the bottom are some more options, but the only one you need to worry about right now is the Post Status menu. When you are done with your entry, you should make sure that menu is set to “Publish” rather than “Draft” or “Future”.
Go ahead and hit the Preview button at the bottom. Naturally enough, this will show you a preview of what your entry will actually look like to readers. You can choose to re-edit the entry if you want to make changes, or save it now if you are done.
* What can I say in my blog?
Pretty much anything you want. Because the blog server (like every everything else here) is owned by the state, blogs are subject to the standard limitations spelled out in the Acceptable Use of Computing Resources Policy, available at This really isn’t any different from the rules on email or anything else; you just can’t use your blog for any sort of commercial business or criminal activity, and you agree to take sole responsibility for what you say.
* Where do I go to view my blog? Or anyone else’s?
Your blog is stored in the public_html folder on your H: drive in the folder called “blogs”. You should not try to edit anything in this folder by hand, unless you really know what you are doing. Since it is in the public_html folder, it can be accessed at “” (substitute your actual network username for the “username” part; and don’t forget the tilde “~” before it!)
This address will be listed below the blog name in the main menu page of the blog server. Anyone else’s blog, if they have one, will have a similar address. If you have a home page, I recommend putting a link to your blog somewhere on it as well. You can find my blog at Feel free to post comments there!
* How do I post a comment?
Click on the “Comments” link at the bottom of any blog entry (that number beside it is the number of comments already left, by the way) and you will be taken to a comment form. Just fill it out, preview it if you like, and save it!
* Where do I go for more information?
Movable Type has a good user manual; you can find it at
That’s it for this week; feel free to email me with any questions, or post them as comments on my blog!
Thanks once again for your time and attention!