Things slow down for some departments immediately during the summer (especially after the June session), but not Technology! For those who are super curious about all of the little technical details, here’s what we’ve been up to for the last two months.
We doubled the number of wireless access points deployed in classrooms during the June intensive, and were able to provide a more robust Internet pipeline than we ever have before (even though we lost an access point mid-session due to hardware failure). Being in control of the wireless networking hardware
in every classroom has made a big difference in what we’ve been able to provide to students and faculty. We are planning to replace older hardware being phased out with new managed access points from Ubiquiti networks, which is going to make getting them installed much faster. It will make the network more reliable as we can monitor network congestion and see if we need to install more hardware in specific places. And finally, the central-management aspect means that replacing a troubled piece of hardware will take far less time because the new hardware won’t need tedious customized setup.
Credit Card Processing
We updated the method we use to interact with Authorize.net, our credit card payment processor, for handling certain kinds of payments and donations. Credit card transactions are more reliable and faster than ever, because they now make use of the Akami content delivery network.
We made some end-of-fiscal-year purchases to fill some gaps in our tech “pantry.” We have new photo/video equipment (a Sony Alpha 6000 with two amazing lenses) to handle on-campus photography and a assist in video capture. Along with the new camera, we were able to acquire a new tripod (we know this one is way better because the vertical shaft is actually plumb, rather than about 7 degrees off-axis) and fluid head. Our ability to share media is growing, and we’re excited to have equipment that will help us capture better material to publish. And not just equipment—we’ve got some new video editing software, too, that used to publish most of the June 2015 videos you can see on our Youtube channel.
We also purchased some higher powered audio monitors for use in classrooms. We’ll be gradually phasing those into every classroom over the next few sessions. For this round, we purchased two sets of M-Audio Studiophile 40’s which will offer students much richer, more powerful, more detailed sound to accompany their faculty presentations. For larger gatherings, we have a new portable sound system that uses a compact line array. We think that will be of a tremendous benefit for medium-sized gatherings on campus during sessions (like the Worship Seminar) and for inter-session events as well.
We took the opportunity as we prepared all this new gear for use to begin revamping our entire A/V/Technology inventory.
Media was mentioned above already, but dozens of hours went into processing audio and video from the June intensive. Because of some technical glitches during the session, we didn’t get to capture quite as much material as we had hoped. We captured audio in a multi-track format for the first time. We’ll expand on that in the future to allow better capture and rendering of musical performances (for example), but we got to produce a nice track based on Marty Reardon’s Prayer of St. Francis. Going multitrack even made chapel and practicum audio better because we can correct small mistakes like missed mute cues.
We improved the sync between Populi and Moodle with two small bug fixes.
- Occasionally, active students have reason to legally change their name and request that their username and email address reflect that change. That process is now more automated and less likely to lead to a student getting frozen out of their Moodle account.
- It was theoretically possible for a change in directory information made in Populi to not sync to Moodle because of a timing mistake: If a change was made in Populi after a sync with Moodle started but before it finished, it might never get transferred. That sync usually only takes 2-3 seconds, but over one hundred sync sessions run every day, we didn’t want to take the chance. No data was ever at risk of being lost.
Alumni Photo Directory
A new photo directory was developed in July to replace a feature we lost during the transition to Populi a few years ago. It uses the profile pictures stored in Populi so that staff don’t have to do any additional work. The new photo directory is available for beta testing to Alumni and Faculty as of the end of July.
iws.edu got to migrate to a faster virtual private server through a technology called KVM. iws.edu and our related websites are hosted at Linode, and we have been thrilled with how reliable and performant our service has been since migrating about two years ago. Migrating to new server hardware and booting on the new device resulted in less than four minutes of downtime.
Improvements to Mailchimp
We made some improvements to the way our Populi database syncs to Mailchimp so that we can keep better in touch with our community.
In our spare time, we deployed the usual round of maintenance and security patches to our webserver, CMS, and Moodle.