• July 2008
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Preparing 2000 College Computers for Next Semester


At College of Southern Nevada, I’ve often wondered if students, faculty, or college administration have ever thought just how the heck their college computers have received their updates, configure themselves, install software, etc.  I mean, someone or something has to do it, right?  Well, I am one of the three main Sungard employees who are actually responsible for getting this done before the start of every semester.  This blog will try to explain in layman’s terms how the College of Southern Nevada’s OTS department goes about preparing for each semester.

It all starts with three to four specifically trained computer technicians called “Imagers”.  We call ourselves Imagers because that is the process that allows us to successfully prepare 2000+ computers each semester.  Think about it.  Every month new computer updates come out.  Windows updates, the new Firefox browser release, upgrades to online learning environments like MyITLab, etc.  The list goes on!  Our job is to keep CSN up to date with the most recent versions of software.  Most of the software is requested by the instructors who use it to teach, and our faculty have always prided themselves with keeping up with the latest and greatest.  It is our job to make sure this happens.

Building images

Building images (Rob F., James, and Rob S.)

Each Imager from the three main campuses of CSN, West Charleston, Cheyenne, and Henderson, get together around this time of year to build what is called the “base image”.  An image is just that, it is a snapshot of a computer’s hardrive.  That image is then transferred to the hardrives of all of the other 2000+ computers at CSN.  Each image has to be ready at least two weeks before the beginning of the semester in time for it to be deployed to the 2000+ computers in the labs and classrooms.  We call these last two weeks, “crunch time.”

The base image is created and configured with each of the lead Imagers agreeing on what needs to go in, and how it is configured.  Every step in the installation and configuration of software is meticulously documented.

Once the base image is done, a few more “large” images need to be created.  First, we build the Oracle image.  Although Oracle is only taught on a few campuses, it must be available at all computer labs for students.

Prototypes

Our Prototypes

Next, we build the mighty CET image.  The CET image this semester includes several versions of Visual Studio, Adobe Creative Suite CS3, VMWare with a working Windows XP virtual machine, and a plethora of programming and computer teaching related tools.  After the CET and Oracle images are complete, we create another massive image for the newest version of Autodesk, ArcGIS, and lastly a Nursing image that contains specialized software for the nursing department.

Once all of the base images are done (a process that takes us around two weeks), we return to our home campuses, and begin building specific images for each computer lab pod, each computerized classroom, and smart classroom (a classroom with a projector, computer, and usually some telemedia equipment).

This process is a long one that takes months of preparation.  Often mistakes on our part, and with last minute requests from faculty, we are required to go back, reconfigure our images, and redeploy them.  Deployment of an image to a classroom usually takes around an hour or two for each room.  Depending on what else needs to be done, it may take an additional twenty to thirty minutes to finalize the classroom for use by students and faculty.  Between dozens of computerized classrooms, six large computer labs, and hundreds of smart classrooms spread out among 15 campuses, we have our work cut out for us!  I was debating about including this next picture, but it sort of displays the mental fatigue that can set in after hours of staring at a bunch of computer screens.

Time to go home

Time to go home (Rob S. and me)

Currently, the OTS department is making leaps and bounds in the implementation of new technology.  The Imaging team is no different.  We are currently in the process of implementing LANDesk Management Suite

The LANDesk Console

The LANDesk Console

to help us maintain the computerized labs and classrooms at CSN.  With this new tool, we will be able to handle the different computer hardware we have in place, use remote control to assist students and faculty with their computer problems, assist with inventory and software license tracking, and deploy software en mass upon request from faculty.  I am really excited to be a part of the planning and implementation process of the LANDesk Management Suite!

Hopefully this post has been insightful.  I know that I have enjoyed working for CSN’s “new” IT department.  Many changes have happened to us in the past, some of which were not always easy.  However, I think things at the college are working out, and I look forward to what comes next!

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2 Responses

  1. Ah DDP, always hard at work! Glad to see you in the WordPress world, I added a link to your blog from mine. By the way, it’s: domejohnny.wordpress.com

    I’ve been doing it since the end of June trying to see how long I can go without giving up on it.

    John-

  2. I’m not sure that landesk would be the right choice for such environment.
    We had had some experience using this tool in more than 1000 desktops environment. It lacked in many things and their support was unable to solve this.
    As a result after some time we decided to get rid of this solution and switched to scriptlogic’s desktop management system called desktop authority http://www.scriptlogic.com/products/desktopauthority that worked pretty well for us with a great feature set and intuitive interface.
    As for the price – it was much cheaper as well.

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