Lynda.com’s New Course Page: What to Expect

lynda.comAs you may have heard, SMU recently began offering full Lynda.com access for all students faculty and staff. Already, hundreds of you have logged on and began learning new things! As Lynda.com continues to improve, they have recently announced that as of November 30, they will be gradually rolling out a new look for their courses. To keep you in the loop, here are a few of the differences you can expect once the new format hits your account.

Download-View-Offline-tip

 

If you need to download exercise files, add a course to your playlist, or if you would like to share the course with someone, all of these options have been moved to the top right of the screen so they are more easily found. Don’t forget that there is now an option to download courses for offline viewing!

 

Keyboard-shortcuts-more-tip

 

Lynda.com has also added keyboard shortcuts to make navigating a course easier, which means you can focus more on learning! A detailed list of the shortcuts can be found by clicking on the icon next to the share button in the top right corner.

 

Toc-and-notes-tips

 

Video transcripts have always been a great way to keep track of where you are in a course and can also help if you simply want to read the directions given. Now, Lynda.com allows you to type notes alongside the transcript totally within the course, so you don’t have to have a separate notepad.

 

With these new features, Lynda has made it even easier to work within their courses! Again, it’s all free for students, faculty and staff, so log in and learn.

Should You Upgrade to Windows 10?

Windows 10Windows 10 has been out in the wild for about three months now. A frequent question we get here at OIT is “How is it?” and “Should I upgrade?” In the IT industry, we always like to thoroughly test things out before putting our approval stamp on it. After a few months with Windows 10, we can now make some recommendations.

The familiar Start menu is back
Windows 10 brings the familiar Start menu back but in a new way that allows you to customize it with the things that are most important to you – your favorite apps, people, and files.

As many people know either by personal experience or word of mouth, Windows 8.1, the previous version of Windows, was a very divisive iteration. The Start button evolved into the Start Screen, a strange mix of menus and giant colorful buttons that left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Windows 10 has backed off of the Start Screen and tile concept, bringing back the good ‘ol Start button and start menu, albeit with some changes.

One feature that has carried on from Windows 8.1 is the recommendation that a Microsoft Account be used to log into your computer. This allows the majority of your computer settings, from font sizes to wallpaper, to be synced to all of your computers and devices that also use your Microsoft Account. Your settings will even carry over to a friend’s computer if you use this account. If this type of feature isn’t your cup of tea, you can always create a regular local account like you could in Windows 7 and versions previous.

Microsoft Edge
The all-new Windows 10 browser that takes you beyond browsing to doing. One that is personal, responsive, and productive – for getting things done online.

A very noticeable change from previous versions of Windows is the web browser. Gone is the ubiquitous Internet Explorer that has graced Windows since 1995. The replacement is Microsoft Edge and has a familiar looking blue E for its logo. Although the logo may be similar, the two browsers couldn’t be more different. Edge is a very lean, stripped-down browser. It’s fast and simple to use but has significant drawbacks in that it has very little customization features and does not currently allow add-ons like IE. Microsoft intends to add back the add-on capability next year. In the meantime, we recommend using a different browser like Firefox or Google Chrome if you need a little bit more flexibility.

Other cool features include better multiple display support, Cortana; a voice-activated search tool and “personal assistant,” as well as improved built-in programs for e-mail, paint, etc.

Another huge factor in recommending Windows 10 is its reliability. So far, we haven’t found many major issues regarding program compatibility or glaring bugs that would negatively affect the user experience. Issues that you may run into could include hardware driver compatibility problems if the manufacturer has not provided a Windows 10 compatible update for your particular device. Apart from this, there have been few issues that would be considered severe.

Overall, Windows 10 has proven to be a solid and enjoyable experience in its first few months of life. If your machine meets the minimum requirements, you can upgrade without much worry. If you use Windows 8 or 8.1, we definitely recommend the upgrade in order to revive much-needed usability.

Protect Yourself: Methods to Protect your SMU Accounts and Data

We’ve all been there. After a long busy day in classes you rush to print out that big project at the library. Your class is just five minutes away, so you rush away without logging off of the public computer. We always like to think of our fellow classmates as trustworthy and caring people, but with security breaches on the rise, it’s best to take every precaution possible when using your SMU account.

News articles constantly talk about “hackers” gaining passwords to an individual’s account. One of the most recent victims was none other than CIA director John Brennan. The high-schooler that “hacked” Mr. Brennan’s personal AOL account didn’t really use any hacking or technical expertise to get access to the account; he just simply acted as if he was Mr. Brennan during a fake technical support call. Many other examples include nefarious individuals simply calling people asking for their passwords. This makes it extremely important to keep your personal information private and to never offer it to others.

The best way to keep your SMU information yours is to always fully log out of any services you use when you’ve finished using them. Always log out completely from any public computers on or off campus to prevent anyone from walking up and accessing your information. Most public computers on campus are set to completely wipe any information saved on them when restarted.  Restarting the computer, if possible, would be the most secure option.

Here’s a few other quick tips that can make your account more secure:

  • Use a PIN or touch pattern to lock your smart phone or tablet. The longer and more complex the better!
  • Use a password manager like LastPass, 1Password or KeePass to save your passwords securely and to generate random and secure passwords automatically.
  • NEVER give your password to anyone, even if asked by someone saying they provide technical support.
    For example, the SMU Help Desk will never ask you for your password, so if anyone claims they are from SMU and asks for your password, end the conversation and contact the Office of Information Technology immediately!
  • Don’t leave your personal devices logged on and unattended. Not only could the devices be physically stolen, but the perpetrator can also steal your information. If you must leave your device, make sure it’s at least locked.

By following these tips, you can help make your information even safer from the threat of cyber attacks. If you have any questions on how to stay secure, call the Help Desk at 214-SMU-HELP or drop us a line at help@smu.edu.

Get it Together: Conquering the To-Do List

As finals quickly approach, it can be a real pain to keep all of your tasks, both personal and school-related, organized and on their way to completion. Sometimes, things fall through the cracks and throw your life into chaos.

Everyone has their own methods of managing their tasks, but if your methods don’t seem to be cutting it for your needs, you may want to switch it up with some digital methods!

A very common way to keep it all together is to have a to-do list. For ages this has been done with pen/pencil and paper. But what happens if you lose your list or it gets destroyed by an eager and hungry canine? All that work is gone! For online storage and syncing of your to-do list, there are loads of awesome tools for you to try.

Wunderlist LogoMy personal favorite has been Wunderlist. Wunderlist is a free to-do list platform (with a premium pay service available) that makes creating your to-do list and syncing it with all of your devices painless. With apps for not only your computer but also your smartphones and tablets, your tasks are only a couple of taps or clicks away! On top of that, it has a satisfying “DING!” when you finally check those tasks off of your list!

Wunderlist is available for iPhone, Android, Kindle Tablets (FireOS), Windows, and Mac.

Some other great services include Remember the Milk, which has apps for most mobile platforms as well as the ability to connect to your Google and Evernote accounts. Speaking of Evernote, it can also be a great way to keep a to do list on top of its stellar note-taking capabilities.

imagesAnother good option for a to-do list across all of your devices is Todoist. Also free with a premium pay option available, Todoist has apps and clients that are available on fifteen different platforms! Todoist would probably work best if you’re more business-oriented, since it also includes a lot of team collaboration features that aren’t found in other services.

Apart from finding the best to-do list service for your needs, another important part of managing your tasks is to get into a routine and stick with it! You’ll be surprised how much more work you can get done.

Office 2016 for Mac is Coming!

Mac users seem to have been forgotten by Microsoft Office developers since the last version was released in 2010. However, the folks in Redmond have finally announced that a new version of Office is on the way! Office 2016 is rumored to be released sometime this fall, and should also become available in our Office 365 offerings at that time, as well. Check out some of the features and improvements that will be coming in the new version thanks to some early screenshots from Microsoft:

Office-2016-for-Mac-1-1024x588One of the biggest additions to Office is deep integration with Microsoft’s cloud services, including SMU’s OneDrive service! Now your files can be accessible from anywhere without the difficult setup that was required in Office 2011.

Office-2016-for-Mac-5-1024x600If you would like to use Outlook as your e-mail client but never liked the look and feel of the Mac version, the new version of Outlook for Mac mimics the look and feel of the Windows version, so you no longer have to learn how to use multiple interfaces if you use both PC and Mac.

Office-2016-for-Mac-3-1024x600Excel is greatly improved as well, not only looking more like the Windows version but also providing better compatibility with functions from the Windows version. There will also be more analytical functions available, as well.

Office-2016-for-Mac-4-1024x600

As for PowerPoint, it also sports a whole new look and the addition of a “control center” for your presentation that can display your notes, upcoming slides, and the current slide on your laptop’s screen while only the current slide is projected to your audience.

And the best part about the new Office for Mac, the feature we’ve all been craving…OneNote for Mac! The beloved note-taking software that has graced Office for Windows for years finally makes its Mac debut. This is an excellent addition for any digital note-taking addicts.

 

Office 2016 for Mac has been released to a select few so far for testing purposes, but should be released to the public, along with Office 365 users, later this year.

Free & Easy Cloud Backup Solutions

As each semester comes to a close, I like to take stock of all of the documents I’ve written over the last few months and make sure they are backed up. There are plenty of options available to backup and sync your data between multiple computers and mobile devices.

You’ve probably seen the commercials on TV or on the radio for paid cloud backup services like Carbonite and BackBlaze. Those services are all well and good, but sometimes the monthly fees can add up, and you may not always need all of the bells and whistles they provide.

Luckily, there are quite a few free solutions that you can use to back up your data as well as have it available from anywhere! Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular choices.

Dropboxdropbox-logo_stacked_2

Dropbox is probably the most popular choice out there. The starting package is completely free and gives you 2GB of space. Since the amount of starting space is so small, Dropbox would be best for those essential smaller documents and files that you use frequently or need access to at multiple devices.

Boxbox-icon

Box is quite similar to Dropbox, but with more options once you get into the pay levels of service. The free version includes more space than the free version of Dropbox, but expect to be persuaded into purchasing a plan.

OneDrive

OneDrive-logo100x100OneDrive is Microsoft’s first big foray into the cloud storage game. If you have a Hotmail, Outlook.com or another type of Microsoft account, you may already have it! You get 7GB as the default for free plans, but you can earn extra space by backing up your cell phone photos, purchasing Office 365 (which is soon to be free for SMU students) or referring friends.

Google Drive

google_drive_logo_3963If you’re more of a Gmail kind of person, Google has you covered, too! Google provides 15GB for free to those holding Google accounts, and more is available for a charge. Of course, Google Drive storage seamlessly works with Google Apps, too.

(Faculty & Staff) CrashPlan Pro

crashplan_clouds eThe University uses CrashPlan Pro for all primary computers. It makes a complete back up of your profile and file folder structure. The above options are great for personal storage, but make sure you’ve installed CrashPlan Pro on your University machine. It could save you a big headache if your machine ever crashed! For full details, visit http://www.smu.edu/BusinessFinance/OIT/Services/Backup.

Firefox 29 Is Here…and Very Different

Firefox LogoYou may have already noticed that as of today, your Firefox browser looks a bit different than before. That’s because the Mozilla Foundation has now unleashed the latest version of Firefox – version 29 – to the masses. It’s been in the works under code name “Australis” for around two years. Don’t have the latest version yet? You can upgrade by doing the following:

For Windows Folks:

  1. Click on the orange Firefox button in the top left.
  2. Click on the small arrow to the right of Help.
  3. Click About Firefox.

For our Mac folks, you can update by clicking on Firefox next to the Apple icon and selecting About Firefox. This will automatically begin the update process.

Firefox Menu
The “Hamburger” Menu

Now to talk about what’s different about Firefox 29. This is easily the most drastic change in Firefox’s look since the Mozilla Foundation decided to release updates to Firefox every six weeks. If you have ever used Google Chrome, you may notice that this new Firefox looks very similar. The majority of menu options have been moved from the orange Firefox button to a “Hamburger” icon made up of three bars in the top right-hand corner; just like Chrome. You can also click and drag icons on this new menu as well as add additional icons to suit your tastes by clicking Customize. But, if you still prefer your regular File menu at the top of the screen, just press Alt to have it return for you.

Another big new feature in Firefox is its streamlined sync system. Before this update, Firefox’s bookmark and settings sync service were clunky and borderline unusable. Now, it’s as simple as entering your e-mail address and a password to create a sync account. You can then specify what you would like to sync between your different computers and devices that use Firefox. No longer do you have to use several different apps to sync bookmarks, settings, and open tabs!

This new version of Firefox signals a huge shift in the design language and functionality of one of the world’s top internet browsers. Hopefully this means a much more enjoyable web experience for the rest of us!

The Next Big (or Small) Thing: The Best of CES

Last week, the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, took place in Las Vegas. CES is the center of what’s new and upcoming in the world of gadgets, and this year was no exception. Each year seems to showcase yet another new trend, and this year was certainly the year of wearable tech.

pebble_closeup_2The term “smartwatch” may have been the most spoken word at this year’s convention. Companies big and small displayed their latest devices/fashion statements. One of the most talked about came from Pebble, a fairly new company that rolled out their new, much more watch-looking Pebble Steel smartwatch at this year’s CES.

The Pebble is capable of synching wirelessly with your iPhone or Android smartphone to provide you with notifications, basic information, as well as data connectivity for apps written specifically for the watch that can do everything from tracking sports scores, to tracking your workouts, to playing your music. Other wearables unveiled last week include the LG Life Band, Razr Nabu, and the Sony Smartband.

Outside of the gaggle of wearables this year were the usual swarm of entertainment medium01agadgets. One of the more interesting innovations was the Clearview Clio, a completely transparent glass speaker. A strange yet promising new type of television also made it’s way to the show this year. Both LG and Samsung have introduced UDTVs (yes, we have already surpassed HDTV) with curved screens. Both companies claim that a curved screen will improve viewing angles which in turn provide better picture.

This improved experience doesn’t come without a steep price tag, however. The largest models have a suggested retail price of around $70,000, with the budget models topping $10,000.

From smartwatches to virtual reality, there was something for everyone at this year’s CES. Who knows, maybe this time next year we will finally get a cell phone that does the dishes.

Digital Note Taking: Tips and Tricks for Keeping Track

by Zach Peterson

The whirlwind hustle and bustle of the new semester is behind us, and everyone is starting to settle in and focus on their studies. Whether you take notes on paper or digitally, your notebooks can get awfully cluttered and confusing as the semester rolls on. Once finals come around, you’re lost in a sea of information.

Taking notes shouldn’t have to be a pain! Since it is one of the most critical parts of a successful college career, it’s important to find a system that you’re comfortable with and one that is helpful when review time comes.

The Cornell Systemcornell system

If you’re a fan of the tried-and-true pen and paper, the Cornell System can make your note taking much easier and useful. It was first created by Cornell education professor Walter Pauk. It’s a simple method of splitting a single page into three sections; one for general notes, a small sidebar for keywords, and a small bottom strip to summarize the notes on that page. For more info and a template to take it for a spin, Lifehacker has you covered.

Evernoteevernote

One of the most popular web-based note taking applications out there is Evernote. It has applications available for PC, Mac, Linux, and most mobile devices. They can all sync to your account, so you’ll never be far away from your notes. You can also add multimedia and share your notes quickly with others. There are both free and paid versions of Evernote, with the paid version providing more features and storage space.

OneNoteonenote

If keeping your notes in the online cloud isn’t your bag, Microsoft has a great solution for Windows users that you may already have on your computer! It’s called OneNote, and it is included with most versions of Microsoft Office. OneNote is a powerful system that allows you to create multiple notebooks for different classes, projects, or anything else you may need. It’s super easy to edit text and insert multimedia like images, videos, and audio. OneNote also is capable of sharing notes with others. For Mac users, a good alternative to OneNote is called Outline.

Livescribe Penslivescribe-echo_0

If you like a mix of both the old-fashioned and the high-tech, an option for you could be a smartpen. Using specially-designed paper notebooks and an infrared camera, smartpens are able to save a digital copy of your handwriting for storage and searching. In addition to saving your writing, the pen can also save audio recordings and sync them with your handwriting, allowing you to tap on any portion of the page and replay audio. Just be sure your professor is okay with it before recording! These pens start at around $100 and can also work in conjunction with Evernote.

No matter what method you choose to take those notes this semester, it’s just important that you do!