Group Email – Hints and Tips

mailinglistEmail has become an integral tool for business communications.  However, using email to communicate among a group can be challenging.  Here are some ideas for more effective communication and collaboration within a team or other UCI community.

For small groups and short-term issues, a simple cc: list and “reply all” can get the job done, but when the number of recipients grows, communication becomes disjointed as people reply to different messages in a chain, respond to different drafts of a document, accidentally share comments intended for one recipient to the whole list, and other inefficiencies.

Mailing lists (provided at UCI by the Mailman software) are a convenient method for communication among a large group or interest community.  Lists can be configured to be for announcements only (list members see official postings but cannot reply), moderated (anyone can reply but the list administrator has to approve a reply before it is distributed), or open discussion.  You can request a new mailman list on the OIT Web site.  Administrators can build a list of recipients, or potential subscribers can add and remove themselves from a list as interests change.  Recipients are spared a chain of “Please remove me from this list” email messages which can result from using cc: addressing.

Beyond simple group communications, there are collaboration tools such as UCI Google Groups.  With collaboration software, you don’t have to send email attachments around – teams can work on a single on-line copy of a document together, discussing ideas in email, or attaching comments directly to the document.  Access to the document is tied to membership in the group, so as people join and leave the team, the ability to participate in discussions or change team documents follows in parallel.

If you have questions or wish assistance in using group communication tools, please contact the OIT Help Desk.

 

Retiring Windows XP

No Windows XP
Microsoft will officially retire Windows XP next week.  This means Microsoft will cease development of security patches for this product. Systems running XP after April 8 will be open to attacks which present significant security risks to individual computers, to any network to which they are connected and to other computers on that network. In almost all cases, UCI systems and any others connecting to UCInet should be upgraded to Windows 7 or Windows 8 or should be removed from service.

In the very few cases where business necessity dictates continued use of Windows XP on UCI systems, suitable measures should be taken to protect other systems and users of UCInet. This may involve configuring the XP system’s network connectivity or, in some cases, disconnecting it from the network altogether.  Such measures will depend on the particular system’s situation.  Owners should consult with their local computing support for departmental recommendations.

Those wishing to migrate to a more current operating system can find a discussion of issues and options on OIT’s XP retirement web page.

Update from Windows Services Group

Microsoft Windows
OIT’s Windows Services Group (WSG) provides Windows Server system administration and related application support.  Here are some of WSG’s efforts over the last year.

Windows 7 Migration

As OIT’s Desktop Support has been guiding departments through the transition from Windows XP to Windows 7, WSG has been working behind the scenes to create a productive environment for users, including server support for user profiles (i.e., seeing the desktop and preferences you expect when you log in – at any supported machine), departmental shares (network disk drives), and group policies (such as security features.)

Remote Administration

Remote administration refers to systems that allow for efficient distribution of standardized software and desktop configuration from a centralized location.  WSG has worked with Desktop Support to transition remote administration from LANDesk to BigFix and Microsoft System Center resulting not only in flexible and efficient support for user desktops, but saving UCI tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Lync

WSG has pioneered deployment of Microsoft Lync services for UCI. Lync is a hosted service that lets you connect with others through instant messaging (IM), video calls, and online meetings. Lync is integrated with Exchange so that (for example) free/busy information from your colleagues’ calendars is visible allowing you to see who among your collaborators is available through the work day or to schedule conferences.

New Zotmail System

ZotmailAdministrative Policies and Records, working with OIT, has developed and released a new edition of Zotmail, the campus system for sending email announcements to faculty and staff.

Features

Among the many features of the new Zotmail system are an easy-to-use interface (senders can more easily create and customize messages; everyone else can more easily control which Zotmail messages they receive) and a searchable archive for looking up past Zotmail releases.

Zotmail Lists

All employees are added to the Zotmail system as soon as their payroll records are created and the employee has selected an email service (“delivery point”).  Employees are automatically enrolled in a core set of official communications channels related to their affiliation (e.g., faculty, staff, main campus, School of Medicine), lists for Schools and other campus units, and certain other informative lists including:

  • Staff Assembly
  • UCI Brief
  • UCI in the News
  • UC Irvine Magazine

Employees can then use the Zotmail system to modify the lists they receive messages from.  There are certain lists (emergency communications and mandatory information relating to employment at the university) from which you cannot unsubscribe.

Mailman Lists

Many of the lists that were part of the old Zotmail system are now supported by the Mailman service, which is better suited to special-interest forums such as:

For more information on Zotmail and campus mailing lists, contact oit@uci.edu or call x42222.

Windows 8 Is Here

Microsoft released the latest version of its Windows operating system, Windows 8 (Win8), last fall.  New computers are shipping with Win8, and devices are being developed which will exploit new features of Win8.

Win8 introduces a new user interface (UI) called the Modern UI with a diverse collection of tools and utilities, and which is designed to work well with touch-screen devices such as tablets and phones.  Win8 also includes the Desktop UI which is similar to the Windows 7 UI and supports all Windows 7 apps, such as Microsoft Office. Win8 features enhanced support for cloud computing and a new app store called the Microsoft Store.

Should you use Windows 8?

Check with your local computing support office for its recommendation. Whether you should use Win8 for university work depends on a number of factors, including the extent to which Win8 is supported within your department. As with any new operating system, verify that existing software and peripherals will work with Win8.

More information on Windows 8, including licensing options and links to official information from Microsoft, can be found on OIT’s Windows 8 page.