Episode 281: MacAdmins In Higher Education

Some of the larger early Apple deployments were in education and many of the more complicated of those were in higher education. This has given higher education deployments a front-row seat to some of the larger challenges in how technology, and specifically the Apple technology, that we manage evolves. We’re stoked to have Jennifer Nieland on the pod this week to help us navigate the hallowed halls of the collegiate technology stack.

Hosts:

  • Tom Bridge, Principal Product Manager, JumpCloud – @tbridge777
  • Marcus Ransom, Senior Sales Engineer, Jamf – @marcusransom

Guest

  • Jennifer Nieland, Information Technology Support for Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University at Ames – nielandj@iastate.edu

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James Smith:
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Tom Bridge:
Hello, and welcome to the Mac Admins Podcast. I’m your host, Tom Bridge. And Marcus, it’s fantastic to see you today. How is the nearly springtime weather in Melbourne?

Marcus Ransom:
It was a fantastic weekend. It was almost like it was summer outside. T-shirt weather, gardening outside, getting my pool trying to stop being green, because it’s starting to look like we might actually want to swim in it again, but unfortunately, it’s just about to start bucketing down with rain here now. So, it was just nature tempting us into pretending that it’s not winter. We’ve got what, two more days of winter, here in Australia. And how is the re-acclimatization going for you, now that you’re no longer in California?

Tom Bridge:
Well, I was going to say it’s no longer 40 degrees centigrade, and so, that’s awesome. I think today we probably got up to 32 here in DC, which is about 90 degrees, 92. And, you know, definitely a lot more humidity in the air, I felt like, that I was swimming through some of it as we got off the airplane today. And I was going to say we’re back to chewing our air because it’s that time of the year, here in Washington. But we’re supposed to get a break in the humidity and that’s going to be fantastic.

Tom Bridge:
The fall is coming. Charlie starts school tomorrow. As we record this, it’s probably about a week prior to when you’re listening to it, and we are ready to start fourth grade, somehow .I have no idea how time works, but except that it moves forward inexorably, and I have no choice over that. But I mean, this is not Tom and Marcus talk about all this stuff, although this does get us started. We’ve got an incredibly awesome guest this week. Jennifer Nieland, welcome to the Mac Admins Podcast. Thank you so much for spending time with us today.

Jennifer Nieland:
Thank you for having me. I’m kind of excited about this. It’s going to be fun.

Tom Bridge:
And just for context, you are the information technology sport for the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University at Ames, and we’re couldn’t be more excited to have you today.

Jennifer Nieland:
Thanks. Thanks a lot. It was really, really, really warm here today, too. It was a little surprising, but it’s been a little bit cooler, but I can definitely feel you on being able to chew your air. That was walking out of the door today.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah, in the last couple of weeks that have just… Dog days August, right?

Jennifer Nieland:
Yep.

Tom Bridge:
I mean, that’s really what it comes down to.

Jennifer Nieland:
Mm-hmm.

Tom Bridge:
But we’re here to talk about a lot of awesome challenges and different environments face, out in the world. And some of the larger, early Apple deployments out there, were in education, and many more of the complicated of those were in higher education, where you are now.

Jennifer Nieland:
Mm-hmm.

Tom Bridge:
This has given higher education deployments a front row seat to some of the larger challenges in how technology and, specifically Apple technology, that we manage every day evolves. We’re stoked to have you on this week to talk about navigating the hallowed halls of the collegiate technology stack, so, thank you so much for joining us.

Jennifer Nieland:
Thanks. Where do you want me to start?

Tom Bridge:
Well, we love to start with an origin story. How did you end up at Greenlee?

Jennifer Nieland:
Well, actually it’s a fun story. I actually was an undergrad at Iowa State. I started my degree at our rival institution, over at the University of Iowa, and needed to make a switch for personal reasons. Mainly, because I was a single mom, at the time and I needed to move closer to family. So I finished up my undergraduate degree, at Iowa State University, in 1996 and then went back, worked on a project on campus for about a year. And then went back to school to get my graduate degree in Intermedia, is what they called it, and basically, what that was, was I decided that I was really interested in how to use this newfangled thing called, the worldwide web, to help people teach and learn how to use different pieces of software or whatever it is that you wanted to learn or teach.

Jennifer Nieland:
So, I did that work and wrote my thesis. And while I was always the kid that was messing with the computers as an undergrad, I actually circumvented the protection on the computers in the labs, at Iowa State, so that I could load my own software and have it still there after a reboot, because it required a driver. And so it was a piece of software called, Infini-D, and I was obsessed with that because computer aid, and art, and design was what I was studying. And I was obsessed with that piece of software and I was using it as part of a project that I was working on. And so Mike, if you’re listening and you might be, you know that I did that, and that’s why you hired me, after I finished my graduate degree. So, I started at the College of Design actually January 3, 2000, and I was there for 20 years and it was awesome. But it was time to make a change and to get to my own area.

Jennifer Nieland:
And basically, what I told him was I said… Because he asked, he’s like, “Is it just you want something new?” When I told him I was leaving and I said, “Basically, this job is how you started, where you’ve got your faculty and staff support for a whole area. And then, you do the labs, too. So it’s basically a wide range of support for faculty, staff, and students.” And I was the lab manager there, like I said, for 20 years. We ran an output center that had a lot of printing, we had some of the first laser, if not the first laser cutter on campus, and the first 3D printer. And I was in charge of those things, including learning how to use them, the software that it took to run them, and eventually ended up teaching online training for laser cutter usage for, oh, let’s see, 16 years.

Jennifer Nieland:
So, 2004 is when we first got our laser cutter and our 3D printer.

Tom Bridge:
Wow.

Jennifer Nieland:
And I was always the person that wanted to geek out about these things. So, took what training there was, and expanded upon it, and then ended up doing in-person training, for a long time. And then, finally it’s like, we had so much adoption by the faculty of these new technologies. We kept adding more laser cutters. We ended up, by the time I left, we had three laser cutters and we were adding more 3D printers all the time. So, about the time I had six hours of laser cutter training in one day and I couldn’t do my own job, that was when I’m like, we have to move online.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
So, within two weeks or within a week, I had everything put online in Blackboard. So, I was able to get back to what I really loved to do, which was to teach people how to use stuff. So I had written tutorials, and for the sake of use, basically, what it was, it was just a few sections, PDF form, that students can download. And then they took quizzes so that I could tell if they got what I was trying to teach them. And then, later I was on the committee there. One thing to know about higher education and at a university level is nothing ever happens just by one person’s decision, you have to definitely work with a lot of different people from different areas on campus. And a few years ago, we were looking at moving to a new learning management system, otherwise known as an LMS, we were moving from Blackboard to something.

Jennifer Nieland:
And so I was part of the committee, luckily, to be part of the committee to help choose what that something was. And we ended up going with Canvas, which I think really ended up saving us a lot of time when we had to move everything online in the spring of 2020. So by the end of my time at design, I felt like I really did a lot of work, but I really wanted to get back to what I was supposed to be doing, which was IT work. You know, yeah, I had the labs, but the labs definitely we had dual boot labs, so every machine then, it was touching it twice and having two different OS’s on it. So, it was really a challenge-

Marcus Ransom:
What’s the bit that joins the OSS’s? So, I used to want to say it’s like having three OS’s, because you’ve got the overlap of the Venn diagram, where neither of them work as they should.

Jennifer Nieland:
Right. And I had this not terribly complicated system for getting everything working. So Winclone really helped a lot. Deploy Studio helped a lot, too. Our labs were closed for six weeks, every summer from the end of second summer session to the beginning of fall semester, and I used every bit of that six weeks, plus whatever, what else in the summer, trying to get everything working and getting all the moving parts, moving and growing.

Jennifer Nieland:
And, you know, at some time when you’ve been doing this for a while, and you’re getting older, you start looking in your thinking. I’ve spent a lot of time at work and I’d like to not. So, that’s when I decided that it was time to move to a smaller area and with a bigger team, and start really working on getting back to doing the stuff that I like to do, which was to help other people learn how to do stuff on pretty much anything. So I used to write tutorials for all sorts of stuff and did that for a long time as part of lab manager stuff. But now it seems like I’m writing tutorials to train student workers, help others in my team learn different technologies. So that’s really fun, and I like getting to talk to people again.

Marcus Ransom:
Well university’s a fascinating place to work at because of the sheer breadth of what goes on there.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, absolutely.

Marcus Ransom:
We think about it in terms of what we do, but then when you start realizing what sort of amazing things are going on down those corridors. Now we’ve got a question here that’s very clearly from Charles, so shout out to Charles for these wonderful [inaudible 00:10:55] like this. We’re hoping you’re doing all right. Now, Charles has pointed out that many of the listeners might not know, but Iowa State University had one of the few pre-World War II computers, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, which is what we might call electromechanical and went on into heavily influenced [inaudible 00:11:14]. And is it Moshley? Charles-

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Marcus Ransom:
Admonish me for how I would pronounce that when they developed ENIAC. So the technology in higher education has been fascinating. So you have departments that are really quite cutting edge. So you were mentioning before the call that computer used to be sitting there at the university.

Jennifer Nieland:
Right. It actually was a replica that there was a big project to build a replica of the computer and it was the first digital computer. So, it was something that had been the theorized. And so a group of people, and I apologize, I’m a terrible Iowa state alumnus for not knowing exactly who did the project, but there was a project in the first part of the two thousands to rebuild that computer, a replica of it. And for a long time, it sat in a specially created space, in Durham hall, which is the home of the computer science department or at one time was, the computer science department. And the building north of that, funnily enough is called, Atanasoff hall, which is it’s named after Atanasoff. And then, about 2010, that was moved to a museum in California, I think it was, I had to double check my memory because once you’ve been here at a place for long enough time, I’ve been here almost 23 years. Time gets really weird. You think you remember, I thought it was coming back. It appears that it’s permanently moved there now.

Jennifer Nieland:
And actually I was kicking myself earlier today for not going over to that building and seeing if it was still gone. And right now, they’re just the benches that used to sit and, so you could sit and look at it. It’s just the benches left and a big diagram and poster plaque type thing, that explains that this is… That’s what it was and here’s where it is now, so I think it’s really awesome that, that’s been preserved and we’re pretty proud at Iowa state for having been part of that. So there are a lot of stuff that, I mean, part of the Manhattan project happened here too.

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
So it’s really interesting. There’s a building that sits where the old nuclear engineering building was and for a long time, until they tore it down, you couldn’t go to the basement because it was still, they were afraid of contamination. So-

Tom Bridge:
Still a little bit radioactive.

Jennifer Nieland:
Still a little bit radioactive, but there’s a really beautiful building there now, it’s our student innovation center. So it’s been long enough, everything was cleared and they put something really innovative and beautiful in that place. So it’s pretty awesome.

Tom Bridge:
Awesome.

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Tom Bridge:
I think that getting back to the modern era of Mac labs and Mac deployment and all sorts of education theme to deployment, would you say that there’s a fairly common technical stack that a lot of your peers in the industry used for management and security and deployment across your workstations?

Jennifer Nieland:
I would say, that it’s definitely a little bit more unified than it was in years past a lot of the tools that we used back in the old, old, old days, pre Mac-less 10, obviously stopped working with OS 10, so we had to, we were a little bit behind, in getting that put into our labs, but about 2003 is when… Actually think I was one of the first ones to try to do labs with Mac [inaudible 00:16:08] 10 on campus. And I used this piece of software called Rad mind, and I was so proud of myself for figuring out how to use that piece of software, except nobody else on campus could use it. So I was basically on my own and that was that. And I used that until Jamp, so we-

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
Started using Jamp, and that’s a story for a little bit later in this podcast, so a lot of times people, we’d use Apple’s disc image to make images and Carbon Copy Cloner, I used that a lot, that was a pretty indispensable tool. So a lot of those things were used by people on campus. And then, I used this little thing called Radmind to keep things up to date. But now basically, in 2015, we had an encryption mandate from the state of Iowa that all state owned computer devices had to be encrypted, which is great and certainly useful, but that there were only a few departments on campus that were using jam at the time. And so we decided that jamp was the place to store those encryption keys for future retrieval. And I went all in, I was like, yep, let me get to that, and I saw it and I’m like, oh my God, this does all everything I thought or everything that I had wished Raddmind can do. So it was really, really useful and I spent a ton of time just going over everything.

Jennifer Nieland:
And it was like, everything was new again and it was exciting, and I was super, super happy, got to take the training jamp two, it’s the equivalent of the jamp 200. It was like the CCT training, so did that in 2015, in September, August. And now, we’re, most of us since we can’t really do imaging anymore, deploy studio was used on campus quite a bit for Mac, and then I would use Winclone to shove out the windows side of things if I needed to, but now, let’s see, I’m using Mac deploy stick, kind of using a little bit of that on the… I’ve haven’t had time to get it working correctly, on the M ones or the Apple Silicon. And, you know, it was working. I had everything all tested and I sent my students out to wipe a whole machine of a whole thing of labs and it failed completely.

Jennifer Nieland:
So I got to figure out what’s going on, but they learned how to get to the installer package inside the application, through the command line. So I’m like, you can still do it, still install it from the external drive, we just got to do a different way to do it. But the Intel one still work fine, we have 122 lab machines over eight labs. So definitely having tools, Mac deploy stick, and jamp, definitely. I don’t know what we’d do without it. So it really would be difficult to be able to maintain machines.

Jennifer Nieland:
As it is right now, you usually only do a full wipe over summer because there’s more time to get everything ready.

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
And ended up having to do one over Christmas break, last year, due to some weirdness with our jamp certificate expiring after 10 years. And let’s just say, I’m really glad that only happens once every 10 years, because it was quite… It sent out the renew MDM command six months early and all the lab machines were still frozen.

Tom Bridge:
Ooh.

Jennifer Nieland:
So they got caught in the loop where they lost their device, device certificate or signature, device signature was broken.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah, no, that’ll happen. And-

Jennifer Nieland:
That’ll happen.

Tom Bridge:
It’s rare. That mean it’s rare that it happened.

Jennifer Nieland:
It was a perfect storm of problems, but we made it. So, yeah.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah-

Jennifer Nieland:
I worked a lot that week.

Tom Bridge:
Oh, I can bet. And those are the stories that really try admins. I think-

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, yeah.

Tom Bridge:
Is a good way to put it. ‘Cause I mean, it’s not something that you ever really think about, because who’s really been with the same MDM for more than 10 years.

Jennifer Nieland:
No. Well, I mean, we have.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah. I mean-

Marcus Ransom:
Developer certificates expiring in another one like that, where you go, oh, that’s those things last for five, seven years, or whatever it is. That’s fine. And then all of a sudden you’re like, oh, that’s next year-

Jennifer Nieland:
So is five, seven years later. Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
Ooh.

Jennifer Nieland:
Well, and if you’re lucky, the same admin’s still there. If you’re not lucky the admin’s gone.

Tom Bridge:
Well, yeah. I mean, that’s a big part of it, right? I helped with an organization, while I was consulting, that actually swapped out their entire PKI chain, which meant their interna, they went from just a single active directory service, to a full ADCS environment with an offline master and lots of signing intermediates and things along those lines. And boy, getting everything into the right place, at the right time, for all of their systems was such a pesky part of the job because most of them, they weren’t really using MDM yet.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
And I was like, you know, if you could just put that out there on through MDM, you’d be done and that’s all that it would take, but they didn’t want to do a full MDM migration, they just wanted to have somebody write the scripts to cram it into the key chain back when you could actually do that, for the system key chain. So I was going to say, I’m glad that we’re past that, at this point.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. A lot of moving pieces part, the goal was to try to get that certificate renewed well in advance after we discovered the issue and it just kept getting pushed back and back because when you’re at an institution like this, there are all sorts of different moving pieces that have to come together to make sure everything works. That certificate for jamp, it also is used, we have the SCCM plugin, so to get our computers into service now, so that piece had to work too. So it’s, kind of, just trying to discover a time that would work for everybody and to make sure everything’s going to work is part of the problem. And then, we ended up having to do it ahead of time anyway, because we discovered a really big issue and it just needed to be done right away. And that big issue was that all of a sudden, all of the computers on campus starting to get notifications that, oh, in seven days you need to renew your certificate.

Jennifer Nieland:
And the help desk went crazy because people are like, what’s going on? And we’re like, yeah, we’re going to do it now. So yeah, it’s got to happen today. We thought we had a little bit more time and it was just a couple of days in advance of what they wanted to do, but it all worked out and we’ve got a really good jamp admins team on campus. And there’s a lot of others of us that are in different areas too. So most colleges have one or two jamp admins that help coordinate all this stuff and do the behind the scenes work and then we have all the site admins, that are also in departments that they may not use jamp as much.

Jennifer Nieland:
There are a few really, really big users of apple technology on campus and it’s English department, music, journalism, or Greenlee school and design. So it’s, and I think biology also, so there’s a lot of areas that use apple technology, but the big, there are a few really big ones. So, and everybody of course does multiple… Has to support multiple OS’s, so I’ve just been lucky that we’re a primarily Mac shop for Greenlee and boy, that has saved our bacon, especially over… When we had to send everybody home in the spring of 2020, we really were able to leverage a lot of our tools that, in many new ways, that we hadn’t even thought about doing before, so.

Tom Bridge:
Well, let’s talk about that a little bit, you know, as part of education, we traditionally think of the classroom model as bums in seats, and a professor in the front, and maybe a TA, and maybe some instructional support folks, and all of those things, all in us crammed into a tiny room and-

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
March of 2020 hits and, suddenly, that’s not feasible.

Jennifer Nieland:
Nope.

Tom Bridge:
So, what kind of work did you guys do to support the transition to online learning, as part of this? I know we talked a little bit about canvas. My son’s school uses canvas, so I’m familiar with the product.

Jennifer Nieland:
Mm-hmm.

Tom Bridge:
There’s a lot going on in there.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh yeah.

Tom Bridge:
What was the process for the technology support teams, as you guys went into the pandemic?

Jennifer Nieland:
Well, basically, I had a little bit of forewarning, our school director, Michael Dahlstrom, came down to see me the day before the Regents met to decide what to do, and that was the Monday before spring break. And funnily enough, I had already been thinking, over the weekend, I was waiting for my boyfriend and his friends to meet me at a brewery, so that we could go ride bikes around Des Moines, which has beautiful bike trail system. And I thought, I got out, I always carry a notebook and a pen, and I got out my notebook and I started making notes, what if we had to do this? And at the time I’d only been at Greenlee six weeks, so I barely knew anybody, and I had a whole new set of student workers and I was trying to keep them…

Jennifer Nieland:
And they’re in journalism, so they’re asking me what I thought was going to happen with COVID and I’m doing the typical mom thing. Well, I’m pretty sure everything’s going to be fine and trying not to freak out these young people. And so I got out my notebook and I started thinking, well, what are we going to need? And luckily, most of our faculty had lab and staff have laptops. So that was, the big thing was figuring out who didn’t have laptops. So we started that Monday, that next day after Michael came to my office and said, Hey, I think they’re, we’re going to send everybody home, keep it on the lowdown. We think we’re going to send everybody home after, at the beginning of spring break. So I’m like, okay, for two weeks. The two weeks following spring break.

Tom Bridge:
Right? So, the two weeks to stand the tide of this spread.

Jennifer Nieland:
Sure. That’s good for that.

Tom Bridge:
Yep.

Jennifer Nieland:
So, we talked and I told him the plans that I had, and we sat down and I came up with some further plans, we grabbed every spare machine we could find, even off the asset recovery piles, to try to figure out. And then, we coordinated with faculty to figure out which students didn’t have computers that they could take home with them, and tried to get as many loaners into the hands of students as we could. And then, I first, had to figure out what faculty didn’t have laptops, and find equipment for them, as well. So basically, my students got a crash course on how to reset machines and how to use, I put everything in self-service and jamp, and said, just click these buttons, here’s how you wipe it, click these buttons, get it set up, don’t join it to the active directory, put a dummy local user account on it. And then we’ll give them the passwords and have them change the passwords.

Jennifer Nieland:
So basically, the way, and then I grabbed a copy of an old contract that they had, we have an internship program and they had laptops for that, so I just grabbed that file, made the correct changes, and came up with a contract quick, for those students to say, it says two weeks, if it has to be the end of the semester, it has to be the end of the semester. We kind of knew that people were not going. And then part of this too is, and then I opened up canvas and I started creating a course or an organization for my faculty and staff for everything IT. And the banner that I used for it was, don’t panic, from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, because I thought, well, you know, they’re going to start panicking. I have, until… We set up a meeting for Friday afternoon to have people come in and I would give them a short course on how to use zoom, how to use WebEx, how to record classes and just anything we could think of, that people would find useful how to get signed up for your soft phone.

Jennifer Nieland:
A lot of… We had gotten, worked with Cisco and we have desk phones, but a lot of people just have soft phones. So how to use, I can’t even remember what it was called and it’s only bent Jabber. How to get your phone set up, so it goes to Jabber, so that you can take calls from home, making sure that everybody had some kind of network access. And basically, the same thing was going on all over campus. People pulling things out of mothballs, to try to get some kind of usable machine, so that classes could continue. Since then, we’ve instituted that students have to… They’re required to have their own laptop, just in case this happens again.

Jennifer Nieland:
And there are a lot of things that we did for example, by the end of the semester, they had or be well before the end of the semester when it was pretty apparent, we weren’t coming back anytime soon, they got the wifi stuff out that they use for game day at the football stadium and set up remote, drive up wifi for students. So they could sit in the parking lot. If they didn’t have good enough wifi at home, they could sit in their car, in the parking lot at Jack Tri Stadium and use the school’s network, in order to do their courses.

Jennifer Nieland:
Most classes, they were supposed to have a shell in canvas and supposed to have something in canvas, even if it was just the syllabus. So suddenly trying to get, some people didn’t have any of their course materials in canvas at all, so trying to help people coordinate with celt, to get those courses, a little bit more fleshed out. Trying to help people know what’s going on at any one time. So the shell, the organization that I set up in canvas, helped connect people with the information that they needed. How do our students get access to SPSS, which was in the labs, how to get access to the Adobe stuff. And I think a lot of people really pulled together and a lot of companies really pulled together to give our students access to what they needed. And then as that summer went on and those things went away, we’ve come up with all sorts of ways to make things work again.

Jennifer Nieland:
And we did start fall 2020 a couple weeks late. I want to say a week. I can’t remember how late we were starting that year. And then we ended at, right before Thanksgiving, instead of the three weeks after, we didn’t want people traveling home to bring COVID back right at the end of the semester. So it was an interesting semester. And to be honest, at that point, I had never had a normal semester in Greenlee. This is probably the first normal semester that we’ve had of university, since I moved to Greenlee. But definitely, you know, we did a lot of things, like 3:30 dance parties for L, E, S, I, T, on zoom. So you’d log into zoom if you needed to pick me up and everybody would talk and then you’d sit there and you’d just do a dance and get stuff done.

Jennifer Nieland:
The important thing was we got our students through that and I set my students to work so I could continue paying them. They documented everything they could remember about their job because we knew nobody would remember when they came back in the fall. And I had only been there for six weeks, so I didn’t know their job. So we got a really, really good, again, another canvas organization for my student employees. So we got everything documented and we didn’t lose that institutional knowledge.

Jennifer Nieland:
The TV studio wasn’t as fortunate. So unfortunately, I’m not a broadcast engineer and it was not well documented, so we’re still… And we’re in the process of, we’re going to be replacing everything, because we have a TV studio in Hamilton hall, for Greenlee, and that’s something where we’re in the process of trying to get somebody to, a consultant, and to figure out how to move into the 21st century or the second decade of the 20, 21st century with broadcasting, so.

Marcus Ransom:
It’s funny hearing you say that. Because at our MIT, we also had a RMI TV, we had a whole television station that was operating in there and they had their own IT department. It was often like a museum going in there, where you’d walk in there and it was like the rules of upgrading hardware and software just did not apply there, and then talking to them about it. That’s like, oh yeah, we’ve got this particular desk and that’s only compatible with 10.4 or 10.5.

Jennifer Nieland:
Right.

Marcus Ransom:
And it’s 25 grand and we don’t want to buy new ones.

Tom Bridge:
When you get into video switching hardware, things get even weirder and really weird, really fast.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. Well, it’s called black magic. We have a device called black magic. It is black magic.

Tom Bridge:
Black magic is a part of that. We used to do a lot of that for Maryweather because they essentially had it in their onsite video department. And so, we would get invited in to lay hands on things and be just like aghast at what we were seeing, because their entire video switching hardware was running on windows XP.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, God.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah. I mean, that was the sound. That was almost exactly what we said was, oh, my God.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
I can’t believe this is still running windows XP. The Osprey codex that they were using for streaming were essentially windows XP embedded machines. And so you could connect a display to them, even though there were just a half wide, half U, half wide box, you could connect to VGA cable in the back. And that was how you did the hardware updates, for those units. And we were very, very glad when we could get them to windows seven, because I mean, again, this was 2016, 2017. We could actually get them off of XP, but I mean, the horrifying part about it was the cabling side of thing of the house.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yes.

Tom Bridge:
Because there were racks upon racks, for speeds and feeds, back there.

Jennifer Nieland:
Mm-hmm.

Tom Bridge:
To just go back and forth, it looked like an old fashioned operator’s phone board back there, just to make all the connections that you need to make. And I had no idea what was happening back there.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
We were just responsible for the fiber plant. We were just like you plug in here and it comes out over there. So layer one was all I had to worry about.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. I talked with a bunch of students. One of my goals when things got a little bit back to normal was, there’s a weather club on weather broadcasting club on campus called, Size Eyes, and they made heavy use of our equipment in our lab. So just talking with… They were having some issues, and so we went upstairs and we just really, I went upstairs before they did, and I started following cable. Trying to figure out where everything was plugged in, and getting things marked, and trying to figure out what controlled what, and it really is just, kind of, it’s…

Jennifer Nieland:
As an IT person, usually I’m very well aware of what everything does, because I’ve either set it up myself, or it’s fairly well contained or marked or labeled. And I mean, that’s not always the case, but just having to go through and trying to pull cable and figure out. And, of course, all the cables were the same color and nothing was marked where it was and everything’s just in a pile. So it was really intimidating. And having the students teach me, what does this do, how do you need to use this? Because if you’re just looking at it, somebody says, well, this isn’t working. If you don’t know how to operate it, then that might as well be Greek to you.

Jennifer Nieland:
And I suppose it’s turnabout is fair play, because a lot of what we do on a daily basis, really, really seems to people like it is well, you’re magic, you just made that work. And it’s like, no, you know, do this, and it works. So it was fun to get to see, but they were just as in the dark, as I was about what a lot of this stuff was doing. And so, we’re really trying to get a consultant into… It was already earmarked for the summer of 2020, and then, of course, we all know what happened. All those plans were put on hold and it’s the old adage. If you don’t write it down, it never happened. So yeah, it’s great to have something awesome like that, but if the person that runs it leaves, then that documentation is one of the things I really, really feel strongly about and try to do a lot of.

Jennifer Nieland:
Fun note, my son’s undergraduate work study job was working in preservation, and he would tell me, you know, they would love to have your notebooks, when you retire. Because I have notebooks going back from that first day, January 3rd, 2000, when I started my job, and it really covers, you know, there’s 22 notebooks or 22, three ring binders, right now. Most of them are at home since I moved offices, so I can go back and say, oh, this was happening then. Or when did we run into that? When did we buy that? And how did we set it up? If something doesn’t work, I can go back and take a look and just trying to…

Marcus Ransom:
It’s great to see you’ve got the redundancy of still having those written in paper. My favorite university story.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, yeah, you know the-

Marcus Ransom:
You needed it. Our IT asset management system, the database corrupt.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
And is there documentation of how to restore the database from a backup? Yes, there was. It was all detailed out, beautifully, and that documentation was stored in the IT asset management system.

Jennifer Nieland:
Exactly.

Marcus Ransom:
And it’s like-

Jennifer Nieland:
I can see that.

Marcus Ransom:
And the person who had written the documentation no longer worked there.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. I mean, luckily, I’m still on campus if design needs anything, that’s why I kept the most recent ones before I left there. They’re not hanging out to dry, but yeah, it’s those things where the ports and everything, that file, if it’s on the server, when it goes down, and the license server and it gets corrupted. License servers were a big thing that I was responsible for, when I worked over in design, and every year we could never remember how we got solid works license manager updated.

Jennifer Nieland:
So, eventually, when I took it over, it was on a, there was a Post It, on the page, from that date and that year. So I’m like, yep. Okay, so then every year I would, when I wrote that down again, I’d put a new Post It and so I could always go back to the previous year and say, okay, in August, when we had to renew this, let’s go look at that, oh, there it is. This is how you get the license manager working again. So, here’s how you get these other things working.

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Marcus Ransom:
So did you run into any weird license server issues, say weird license server-

Jennifer Nieland:
Are you kidding?

Marcus Ransom:
This is only-

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, my God.

Marcus Ransom:
Server issues when everyone went remote, because all of a sudden the idea that everybody’s able to communicate to this windows XP machine with 900 dongles attached to it-

Jennifer Nieland:
well.-

Marcus Ransom:
To be able to ’cause that’s how this software works, kids

Jennifer Nieland:
Well, they all had access to Cisco Any connect, which is our VPN that we use on campus. Well, that’s all well and great, when it’s just a few hundred, you know, couple thousand people off campus, occasionally. When you get 36 thousand students, all of a sudden hammering on that VPN, they learned pretty quick that all the other traffic had to be routed around that. So only calls to the stuff that was physically on campus actually went through the VPN, so that was a big thing. Windows updates were a huge issue. They had to figure out how to get people windows updates. Luckily, we had moved to the cloud for Jamp, the summer before, so we were golden.

Marcus Ransom:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
We’re like, yeah, we already thought about this. And I feel proud that I hammered on that, hard, to get out there, to move to the cloud. And our whole group did. And we were happy to have that in place already, but the windows side of things in Mecum and S, what was used to be SCCM, they had a lot of Hills to climb for that.

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
But yeah, it was interesting. And so we had, connect to the VPN, connect to this pool of servers or VDIs to get access to SPSS. Adobe was kind, for a little bit, and let us, I actually had it so that they could connect to the machines in the labs to use Creative Cloud stuff. And then, we were told about how… Well, your license doesn’t cover that, you need to stop that right now. So I’m like, gosh, darn it. That was a good way to help people, because then, it didn’t matter what specs their machine had, it just mattered the machine they were connecting to. So it was really, a lot of tangles, tangled things about licensing, that really came out when we…

Jennifer Nieland:
We got an education in what our licenses actually got us and what they didn’t cover. So we couldn’t have any Adobe products on VDI because that didn’t, our licenses didn’t cover that. So basically, we took the remnant, the remainder of our named licenses, that we normally give out to just faculty and staff, and we had those temporarily assigned to students during fall of 2020, and spring of 2021. And then, they said, well, you can’t really do that anymore, so, a few of the colleges got together, college of human sciences, college of design and, LAS, college of liberal arts and sciences, which is where I’m at. And we got together, and we bought a pool of licenses, specifically to assign to our students that are required to use the Adobe products in class, so that they can put it on their own laptop if they need to. So right now, what I’ve been dealing with this week is getting class lists in, from faculty who’s in their class, who’s going to need access, and then, getting that added to our security groups so that they can be assigned those licenses.

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
So I’m sure I’ll have a lot of questions next week. Well, now what do I do? How do I get it installed and things like that, or so, and so drop this class about-

Marcus Ransom:
How do you find getting accurate information out of faculty? I know that was something-

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, God.

Marcus Ransom:
Struggle with like, lists of software, list of students that need, which room you’re going to be running this class from, so we can ensure that that software will, indeed, be in that room because we only have enough licenses for one lab.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
How do you find dragging the reliable information out of faculty? What sort of approaches do you take to?

Jennifer Nieland:
Well, I find asking very nicely, usually produces some good results, but basically, as an example, and I apologize if anybody from Greenlee is listening to this, but who know who you are. For example, we had our faculty retreat, the Thursday before classes started, and I gave a little presentation, just to remind them about where IT is located, and send email to the ticketing email so that it gets in the ticket queue, and when you send me your class list, send them to my personal, you know, to my Iowa state email address, and then, I only want their first name, last name, and then their net ID, which is the first part of their Iowa state email address. I don’t want any other information because I knew, based on previous semesters, what would happen, is that I would get the entire class list, which includes their ISU ID number, their home address, their phone number, their home phone number, their address, where they originated, and a whole slew of other information that I don’t need and shouldn’t have. And then I said, I wanted it in an Excel spreadsheet. So I got lists copied and pasted into an email address in a word address, word document-

Marcus Ransom:
Screenshots. Did you get screenshots?

Jennifer Nieland:
I didn’t get screenshots, but don’t give them any ideas because I’m pretty sure that would happen. If they could figure out how to do a screenshot. No, I’m just joke. Just joking. They’re really good, actually, at that.

Marcus Ransom:
Screenshot-ing in an Excel document is always a great one to get.

Tom Bridge:
Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, actually, you can actually make that work.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
One of the jobs I had as an undergrad was digitizing documents. So I’m pretty good with Acrobat Pro. Ask me if I want to do it though. No.

Tom Bridge:
Even just-

Jennifer Nieland:
No.

Tom Bridge:
Live text is pretty solid these-

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. But anyway, the most recent list I got, was the full grade book list, with all of the information. So I’m like, here we go, I got to go find their address, because I have a master document. So I can say, yes, you’ve been assigned, I can look up my last name. Yes, you’ve already been assigned a license and because you’re in this class or whatever, if people, and then I can go follow up, if it’s not working, if they’re not seeing the tile show up in Octa. So it’s really interesting, you can tell them six ways to Sunday, how you want some document something, and let me tell you how many ticket email, how many tickets I got that were emailed to the actual ticket email address, as opposed to the number that came to my regular email address, this last week, and I’m going to tell you, there are only very few that went to the place I specifically told them to email to, so.

Marcus Ransom:
But at the end of the day, having the information in the end, even if, maybe-

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
It didn’t arrive in the way you wanted. It is certainly better than have information at all. Exactly.

Jennifer Nieland:
Well, and then, there was another faculty, and I love this guy, he’s awesome, but he said during the retreat, I don’t want my students to have access to the Adobe products because I want them to use the lab computers. And I’m like, okay, great, that’s awesome. Well, Friday morning, I get three students in a row, coming down, asking to be added to the access list. And I said, are you from Jeff’s class? Well, yeah. I said, well, go upstairs and tell him to email me.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
And then he came down for something else and I gave him a little bit of crap. And I said, if you want your students to have that, just let me know, I’ve got your classes already because of checkout equipment privilege. I have to have a list of who’s allowed to check out our cameras and stuff. And it’s really easy. I could copy and paste in there. And he still hasn’t given me to go ahead. I’m like, well, I’m not taking walk-ups for that, you have to do that. So I might just go ahead and add his students, I think we’ve got enough licenses, but yeah, it’s funny. They will, or they’ll say, this isn’t working. What’s not working. Just getting them to…

Jennifer Nieland:
A lot of it is, everything’s about teaching. It’s trying to get them to learn what you expect, what they have things they want their students to do. So, and it’s the same situation. Please tell me what computer, some of them have more than one computer, which computer’s having a problem. The Apple TV and room eight, isn’t working. So I go in and it’s unplugged and that’s something they could have found if they look. So I give them a list of things, Here’s what you try, check to see if it’s unplugged. Is there power? Is the cable hooked up? Is the projector on the right source? And most of the time, you don’t hear a peep, everything’s fine, it’s golden, and that’s what I like.

Jennifer Nieland:
We test and we work really hard to make sure that things are smooth, from day one, but you can’t control when the person, who teaches ahead of them, unplugs something to plug their laptop in. There’s no way to plan for that, just to say, Hey, they probably will do this.

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
So I have my students pretty well trained, that they can pop up and go help somebody. And the fun story for that, the room eight Apple TV networking, was I didn’t even get back to my office before somebody was coming about the one in another room. And it was completely, still, something was unplugged, but it was HDMI, not power. And it’s like, yeah, this is going to happen, and we put the ticket in, and we laugh about it, and that faculty person remembers to check the next time, and I don’t hear about it again. It all just works. But, yeah.

Tom Bridge:
So when I was doing undergrad, IT support, while I was in college, I worked in the computer labs and spent a lot of time in those labs, and this is the old bad Mac OS nine days. And the Molar shaped G3 all in ones that were just terrible to support.

Jennifer Nieland:
We don’t have any of those.

Tom Bridge:
Oh, yeah, be grateful. They were terrible.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah, they were terrible.

Tom Bridge:
They were the, I mean, those were no question, those are Gill Emilio specials.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
They were complete shit.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. Giblet Emilio is what we used to call them, back in the day. Giblet.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah. I was going to say the Giblet-

Jennifer Nieland:
It’s terrible.

Tom Bridge:
Was all over that. So, I mean, with… Labs are a totally different ball game.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, absolutely.

Tom Bridge:
And they’re a totally different kind of IT support really.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh yeah.

Tom Bridge:
So, what has changed about labs over the course of your career? I mean, aside from everything.

Jennifer Nieland:
Basically, the root of the basic premise hasn’t changed. You need for students, that you don’t know ahead of time, who they’re going to be, they need to be able to walk up to a lab machine, and log in, and do what they need to do. And you have to have a consistent environment, so that teachers know exactly where things are, so that, and they know what software’s on the computer. So everything has the same software, so that they can more effectively teach, and you need for that stuff to work. So we used to, I don’t know how design did this before I got there, but we, and I don’t really remember a whole lot about the couple years that we were still on Mac OS9, before Mac OS10 came out, but with Mac OS10, we had to use, we had to actually modify the login… A login window document to allow for cerberus, to grab credentials from someplace else, from LDAP, in order to get the students to log into the machines.

Jennifer Nieland:
And then, I used Radmind at a logout hook, to compare the contents of the drive, to the contents that were the transcript that was on the server, and then replace anything that had changed. So it’d be reset back to known good state. So you had a log-in hook that grabbed and created the… Copied the user template folder to the new user space, and then, that all worked great and it worked well because you could customize that user space by just putting everything in the, that you wanted, to stay standardized into the user template. Later versions of Mac West don’t let you use that. I mean, we were able to use that for good a 15 years, 14 years. So figuring out how to, and then, when those login hooks started being deprecated and you were no longer able to do [inaudible 00:52:18] login like that, we had to move to active directory.

Jennifer Nieland:
And, of course, I found this out, like, the Friday before classes were starting one year when, because I was always on the… Trying to upkeep everything up to date so that we always had to have the latest Adobe software and design. And we always had to have the latest OS, to be able to support that. And so, of course, it’s a Friday night and I’m have, I haven’t procrastinated, but there’s a lot of work that has to be done. And that login thing, was the last thing you had to do, to make everything work. And to that point, it had been solid and never had a problem past, you know, I always found the problems first and then, talked to the people in central IT, and we resolved it, but to that point, it had been four or five years where things had just been solid, smooth, and whatever. And then all of a sudden, it doesn’t work. And I’m like, crap, of course, I didn’t say crap because I am a grown IT person. And we all know we have very expansive vocabularies when we need to.

Jennifer Nieland:
And then, I figured, well, I really don’t… At this point, other people had switched to using Active Directory for their Mac log-ins. And I really didn’t want to do it, because it’s kind of a pain, you have to touch every machine, it doesn’t just apply at log out. So I’m like, this is really terrible, and the upshot was, is I couldn’t get my way out of, I couldn’t make it work the old way, so I had to go with Active Directory, and so, it sucked. And I pulled up my big girl pants and I just did it, over the weekend, and made it work, and cursed the whole time, for 80 machines. And figured out a way to script it then later and definitely scripted it on the window side. I’d had a script on the window side for a while.

Jennifer Nieland:
And then with Jamp, it was easier, because you’ve got a built in Active Directory object, where you active directory bit and you put in all your information and you set it up as a policy and it goes, or you set it up pure Jamp remote, which is a product, that apparently we’re going to lose in the next round, round of updates. And I’m crying every day about that, but I’ll make due.

Jennifer Nieland:
And so, that saved a lot of time and a lot of sneaker, I never had student employees over break. So I do now, which is wonderful, but the solution for… So I had to do a lot with scripting and trying to figure out ways to make work, things work. So over the course of 20 some years, you see a lot of changes and just things, SSDs honestly, are the best thing, I would say, if there was one technology that changed was life changing, it was SSDs instead of HD’s, because hard, just because just the amount of time that it took. Our windows image and design was like 140 gigabytes, by the time I left. Honestly, it went from hours long to deploy the windows side of things, to like, half an hour, 40 minutes at the most. And, of course, five minutes on the back side, but-

Marcus Ransom:
Even just for student logins where-

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, absolutely. All of a sudden it’s clear-

Marcus Ransom:
The amount of time, especially when you’re putting all the things in the template-

Jennifer Nieland:
Right.

Marcus Ransom:
~And that user home directory-

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
Every single time for every class.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. And figuring out… And mentioned before, we stopped using network drive space in design, because there was zero way we were going to get that to load, by the time class started, just with the way our network was and the size of that user home directory because there’s so many products that put stuff in the user space that they weren’t supposed to. So, I was always trying to figure out how to use, to always get niche requests from faculty, especially in the creative fields, for open source software. Software that doesn’t have an installer. I think there was one where I’m like, I really had to edit a registry key, in order to make a piece of software work, because I had to move it from app data, user app data to, and you couldn’t put it in the template because it didn’t work that way. And it just was a yeah, I’m like, seriously, I have to do it like this. It is not very fun. So Power Shell, I learned Power Shell pretty quickly to do that.

Marcus Ransom:
A lot of software used in labs at universities isn’t really designed around-

Jennifer Nieland:
No it’s-

Marcus Ransom:
Machines, is it?

Jennifer Nieland:
Nope. No, so it’s just coming up with tricks, like, some user, or some applications, especially in the beginning for Mac OS10 native support, permissions could be wrong, they could require the user to make changes to the app. It might store it in the app itself, where only admin people had rights to do that. So, we’re not giving our students admin rights because they’ll do like I did and turn off protection so that they can do whatever they want to the machine and still have it be there after a restart

Marcus Ransom:
Or more than 7, 7, 7, the application bundle because-

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, yeah. Because, you know, whatever.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
I mean, they can go and do other stuff in there.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
Wreck havoc and stuff.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
And they will, as well.

Jennifer Nieland:
They will do it.

Marcus Ransom:
Oh, they won’t know about that. It’s like-

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
I would’ve done that, when I was their age. So I know exactly what they’ll do-

Jennifer Nieland:
Well, and the best thing, and the scariest thing about working on a university campus is, there is a club that is a security focused club. And so, occasionally, they will go to your labs and tell you everything that you did wrong with it and I’ll say, well, yeah, they have admin because I have Radmine, they can’t turn that off. And it will undo all of their changes once they did. And then they’re like, no, you have to remove admin. And so, I said a few choice words, and then, removed admin, and that broke so many things that, I kind of, knew we’re probably going to break. But when you have to spend another 20 hours out of your week in order to fix what should never have been a problem in the first place, I’m pretty sure there are multiple pages in those notebooks, I talked about earlier that, because a lot of that’s editorial is like, dammit, sorry, might have to. I saw that your rating was clean on the podcast app, so we want to keep it clean, but a lot of words were said when you find those, gotchas, and those surprises.

Jennifer Nieland:
And they’re right, nobody has admin here in design or in Greenlee, we use, Make Me Admin, in self-service, if they need that 10 minutes of admin access, if I’m not around to help them do something. But it’s definitely… It gets interesting and applications, in a perfect world, everybody would follow Apple’s requirements and things would just work, but that’s not always the case. And I’m really good at finding broken stuff, to the point where I’m pretty sure every time I emailed Rod Eldridge, who’s since retired, about something, he wanted to probably just delete it without opening it, because it was going to be something that wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. But even now, it’s like, Hey guys, guess what? I seem to find ways to make things not work correctly, or I find the way that things are broken and then, of course, if you find it, you have to help fix it. So I should just shut my mouth and not tell anybody, on campus when I find broken stuff, but I like things to work, so.

Marcus Ransom:
Some vendors were great about it. I know dealing with the transit-

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, absolutely.

Marcus Ransom:
From Creative Suite to Creative Cloud with Adobe-

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
Was challenging because there was so much at stake, but I remember we used to use an application, View Scan,

Jennifer Nieland:
Yes.

Marcus Ransom:
Where rather than to manage all of the individual scanner drivers, we could just install this software and-

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
Any scan you through it, it would work with it. And there was an OS update where it stopped working.

Jennifer Nieland:
Mm-hmm.

Marcus Ransom:
We could see what the problem was in their installer package, emailed the developer, and it was like, six hours later, they’re like, oh, try this. It’s like, thank you very much. That was-

Jennifer Nieland:
Sometimes those little developer apps, small developer apps are really good for stuff like that.

Marcus Ransom:
And they don’t need to run things through legal or anyone like that before they just issue-

Jennifer Nieland:
Right.

Marcus Ransom:
Issue a fix-

Jennifer Nieland:
Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. Fun fact, I actually, was the recipient of a Cease and Desist from Adobe, back in the day because I put their manuals online, or not online, just on a server share for our students to access and they really didn’t like that. So I’m like, I was proud of that moment. My boss was proud of me too. I mean, we had to take it down, but it’s like, well, I mean-

Marcus Ransom:
They were watching,

Jennifer Nieland:
They were watching. And it was just because I had put the address on our website. On how to get to that, those pesky tutorials.

Marcus Ransom:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
That I used to do.

Jennifer Nieland:
But yeah, it’s definitely putting things in a multi user environment is completely different from just one or two users. You have to think about everything and you have to test everything, very rigorously. Things are a lot better than they used to be. We don’t have access to the user template anymore, for most things Apple, so we use Config profiles in Jamp.

Jennifer Nieland:
So, I spent a lot of the summer getting those set up for nuking different notifications, and making sure our non-ad admin users could still approve things like the HP drivers, and stuff like that because we deploy… Run a four year replacement cycle for faculty and staff machines, so every spring then, I get those orders in and I spend the first part of the summer setting those up. And I use that as my test bed, for the stuff that’s coming in the fall for the labs. And so, that, you know, without Jamp, I think it would be a lot harder to make that stuff work and to have things still work, where, whatever machine you sit down in, at my labs, you have the same set of software, everything looks exactly the same. Everything works exactly the same. So, that type of consistent environment is super helpful when you’re in an educational environment. For sure.

Marcus Ransom:
So how much have you had to rely on custom scripting? So Apple gives us MDM, they give us new profiles every year, to be able to manage the things that we need to manage, but not everything that’s needed to get lab machines to behave that way available over the MDM channel. So have you had to do a lot of scripting to get around that and to be able to deliver what you need to do?

Jennifer Nieland:
I should look and see, at how many scripts we have right now in Jamp, there’s a lot of scripts.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
Basically, the ones that I tend to work with, and they need to be updated, for use with Monterey because we moved to Monterey just this semester, but the there’s stuff that’s been deprecated to getting out the Apple remote desktop, Kickstart, was a huge one that I used a lot. And now, all that does basically, is populate the user that you want to have admin rights or management rights. It doesn’t assign them, those admin rights, to that user or the management rights to that user, but it puts the user there, so that I could send my students out, you know, enable, I could enable it through the MDM, through actions, and then, send my students to get that last part fixed, so I could actually remote manage those machines.

Jennifer Nieland:
That was a big one, that we discovered, because things were working and it doesn’t give an error, but it doesn’t work quite the way you expect it to. And then, I have a log-in script, because we’re using Active Directory, the machines are frozen, so if binding breaks, and binding does break about every couple of weeks on the Mac side, because it doesn’t get that password that it needs, or that the passwords don’t match. So every morning, or every time the student restarts the machine, it will force unbind and rebind. And so that’s just a little script, that I use, that’s pretty critical, to keep things working correctly, because then, if they can’t log in, I can say, well, can you restart? And that will fix that problem rather than waiting on a scheduled class period. And rebinding the machine we can fix it immediately, rather than having to wait.

Jennifer Nieland:
And then, there’s some other things that, I usually use it if things have been left off or if I need to fix something, you know, fix those goofs, renaming drives, just making sure that that things are working correctly. Or if I have a bunch of commands to send, that I don’t want to just send one at a time, or put in policies, and so, it’s really just a lot of things. I’m trying to remember, I think the things I use it mostly for right now, are that Kickstart and rebinding. It’s on my list to redo a lot of the stuff that I had, prior to that, but again, most of it was like, well, this permissions needs to be repaired on login or whatever. So making sure this shows up.

Marcus Ransom:
Mm-hmm.

James Smith:
Here at the Mac Admins Podcast, we want to say a special thank you, to all of our Patreon backers. The following people are to be recognized for their incredible generosity. Stu Bacha, thank you. Adam Selby, thank you. Nate Walk, thank you. Michael [inaudible 01:05:34], thank you. Rick Goody, thank you. Mike Boylan, you know it, thank you. Melvin Vives, thank you. Bill Steits, thank you. A new store bill, thank you. Jeffrey Compton, M dot Marsh, Stu McDonald, Hamlin Crusin, Adam Berg, thank you. A.J. Petrepka, thank you. James Tracy, Tim Perfit, of two canoes, thank you, Nate Sinal, Will O’Neill, Seb Nash, the folks at Command Control Power, Stephen Weinstein, Chet Swarthout, Daniel McLoughlin, Justin Holt, Bill Smith, and Welden Dodd, thank you all, so much.

James Smith:
And remember, that you can back us if you just all head out to patreon.com/macadmpodcast. Thanks, everybody.

Tom Bridge:
So, one of the things that we’re always on the lookout for, is better automation, right? Better controls-

James Smith:
Oh, absolutely.

Tom Bridge:
Over what we’re working on. All of those things, because really, if we can figure out how to automate away some tickets, that’s really what the job’s there for, is to provide automated solutions to recurring problem. So as you think about this, what are the kind of top recurring tickets you see in queues that you want to target next?

Jennifer Nieland:
A lot of it is, and I actually thought about this quite a lot, because I’m a huge fan of getting self-service to do my work for me, or getting my users to do their own work, because I think it gives them more power to get things done. And if they know they can go to self-service, for things, then they don’t have to wait until the next business day. Or if they come up with something at two o’clock in the morning, obviously I’m not answering my phone at two o’clock in the morning, and I’m not checking email at two o’clock in the morning, but things like, making sure they have the power to, you know, if they need to do an app update that isn’t available through self-service, they can request that 10 minutes of admin rights and get that taken care of. If they need get a new printer, at home or new scanner, at home, and they need to get that software installed, they know that they can do that. And then they just ask me to reset it the next time they need to use it.

Jennifer Nieland:
Everybody gets one free shot and then I start asking questions. So, I think that’s one of our big things. Another thing is we keep all of our app updates, like Zoom, Client, WebEx Client, Cisco, any Connect, updates itself automatically now, which is good. But for example, the other day, I had a faculty, a weird problem where a colleague from another department was having an issue with someone’s laptop, where it had zero hard drive space left, and he couldn’t figure out why. And it turns out, either by accident or through something with Box, Box had… Her Box account, started pulling everything down onto her local computer, and that will chew away your remaining hard drive space, pretty quickly. So one of our… Our solution was, eventually, they brought it over so that can, he dropped her off, and she came over with her dog, so I got dog tax, in person, which was awesome.

Jennifer Nieland:
But logging out and then, logging, logging out, reinstalling it through self-service, and then logging back in, resolved the problem. And all of a sudden, she had like 180 gigabytes of space left. So all was good, all was right in the world. So that was just… Now, that I know that that can happen, I can tell somebody to do that on their own. I can say, Hey, could you try logging out of Box for me, and then, reinstall it through self-service, and see if that, and then, log back in, see if that works. I get people all the time, they’ll email a ticket and it’ll say, Hey, Zoom needs to update and I need an admin password. Nope, actually you can just go into self-service and the update’s already there. You can reinstall it and it’ll update it for you, or they need a new version of the SPSS or anything big. I always put anything that we use, pretty commonly, we usually have packages created on campus for that.

Jennifer Nieland:
So faculty need a new version of something, even if it’s, we usually have the package created without the license. So if there’s a product called, Envivo, that our people like to use. So, the license is a separate piece that they have to pay for, out of their faculty development funds, but we can put the installer in there and then give them, assign them the license filed to their user, through a separate policy, and then, they’ll… They’re ready to go. They can download that from home or wherever and get ready to go. As soon as that work tag is in and as soon as it’s paid for. So, I think, a lot of what we do really, is about giving people the power to make those changes and make those… To fix their own problems. So they don’t have to wait on somebody for assistance, or they don’t have to wait as long, or they don’t have to bring it in. I can help fix it from home.

Jennifer Nieland:
And the funny thing about scripting, is actually, I did write a rather complicated script in the summer of 2020, because there was a problem with Jabber, which was our soft phone software, and in order to fully uninstall it, you had to remove a lot of stuff. So basically, what I did was I wrote a script that deleted everything in all the little hidden places, and then, helped them reinstall the thing. And there were only a few people that this happened to, I happened to be one of them, which is how I knew, figured out how to fix it. But then, I was able to put that in self-service, so if you’re having this specific problem, run this, and it will fix it, right up, for you and it works. So yeah, self-service is the way to go. And our actual SACM people have started doing more of that in Mecca, as well, on the window side, putting those, that type of thing in so software centers, so that people can fix their problems on their own, or even request admin access through your software center, now, so.

Tom Bridge:
The great resignation seemed to hit a lot of environments. We’ve seen a lot of commercial environments, higher education, K12 environments, really go through a lot of population cycle over the last couple of years. And specifically, in the IT space. What’s your beat on the higher education? Are a lot more people that you talk to having to backfill positions with people, maybe newer in their careers, or has higher education been a little bit sheltered from that overall?

Jennifer Nieland:
I think it really depends. We had a lot of turnover during COVID, we also, there was a building that, on campus, that had a fire and both those IT people left. One of them was joking, that spring, if you have a fire in your building, just quit right now, because it’s such a pain. And he ended up leaving to work with the city and the other ended up moving to another unit on campus, not specifically related to the fact that there was a fire, but so we’ve sat had a lot of hiring and a lot of interviewing going on in the last year and a half or so. And I think, it’s really a mix, we’re getting some people that are pretty experienced in maybe one area, they’ve worked in the private field or in business and are at smaller educational facilities. And it seems like they were really siloed in the area and that they were assigned to.

Jennifer Nieland:
So they were server people or they were security people, and they really want an opportunity to get back into doing what they think of as IT, where you’re helping people on a daily basis. You’re helping drive that policy change and you’re getting a little bit, you’re getting to play with the fun, new toys. You’re getting to play with new technologies and you’re getting an opportunity to learn, at the same time. So we’re seeing some people that are fairly well experienced, applying for our positions, but we’re all, and we’re also seeing people that are straight out of college, with their undergrad degree, either traditional or non-traditional students.

Jennifer Nieland:
We have a big presence on campus, a big veterans group, and it’s common to see people that have maybe been in the military for a while coming through, and then finally getting their undergrad and moving into these IT spaces. And they’ve got a lot of knowledge, and a lot of good experience, and good leadership skills. And we’ve got some really exceptional, undergrad students that are 22 years old, fresh out of college, and ready to rock and roll. And we can really use their energy and harness that energy to help us get through and make sure that we’re keeping current. They know what the students want, they know what’s important to the students because they were just there the previous semester. So I think we’re seeing a wide range of experience and we’re seeing a wide range of, we’ve had 20 year veterans of IT come and go in, and I’m not talking about myself, in that matter, moving over, but we’re moving people around campus and trying to get people moved up the ladder. So it’s interesting. And it absolutely is true, that people are leaving in droves from jobs in particular.

Jennifer Nieland:
And I think, that one of the things that is a key indication working from home is really important for people. Iowa State’s instituted a new flex. A Work Flex, program where people can choose to work from home, a couple of days a week, and be on campus the rest of the time. And so that’s really helped a lot and it probably would’ve stopped some people from leaving, especially during COVID, when people just were really still worried about coming back to campus, and worrying about exposing themselves and their loved ones to, you know, their medically fragile loved ones, to something that was still pretty scary.

Tom Bridge:
Still is pretty scary. I mean, certainly they-

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, it is. It is. I mean, I started bringing a mask back to work because we’ve got students that came back from all over the world.

Tom Bridge:
Yep.

Jennifer Nieland:
And most of the time they’re not really in my space, but it’s important to make sure that if somebody is comfortable and if people walk in with a mask to my office, that mask is going on because I want to respect them, as well as my myself, and just make sure that we’re doing that. And we showed we can work from home during COVID, it was a little distracted at home, but I made it.

Tom Bridge:
You and me both.

Jennifer Nieland:
The one thing I missed [inaudible 01:15:42] the one thing… And so I’m back in the office basically, full time. The one thing I missed from working at home though is, and I tell the people all the time, is the fact that I could go take a nap in the other room over lunch, and nobody knew. We’re here, yeah, you could see through my window in my office door, if I decided to try to do that. But I think, giving the people the tools to do the job, most effectively, however they need to do that job is really important. And I think, a lot of people just aren’t willing to compromise on that anymore.

Jennifer Nieland:
And I think that we’ve shown that we can work in a hybrid environment, but for education, a lot of the best work still happens in the classroom, in person. And those connections are made those connections with other people and our students are hungry for that. And they were hungry for that in the fall of 2020, and they still are, they missed… And that’s what I heard from my student employees most, was they missed being here, they missed seeing everybody.

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
It’s just not the same. So I think, that drove a lot of resignations and… Being in the school of journalism, journalism, isn’t let’s just say that it’s not as valued as it has been in the past. And so, I think our sports journalist program though, is really rock, it’s rocketing. It’s taking off. So people are very interested in that and that’s good, and… But we have PR and we have advertising all of its, and other communication fields, all under the journalism school. So it’s pretty interesting.

Jennifer Nieland:
And fun story, I just got a new boss a few weeks ago. We have another new team member that started first part of August, so we like having these people cycling in, and giving us fresh new perspectives, and helping them see all the weird ways that we have to do stuff here, it’s pretty interesting too. And it’s awesome, so.

Tom Bridge:
We have a tradition, a rich tradition of the bonus question, here on the Mac Admins Podcast and something you said early on has got me thinking, immediately, so you worked a lot in maker work spaces.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yes.

Tom Bridge:
So with laser cutters and 3D printers, what’s the best thing to 3D print or laser cut in your opinion?

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh God, the… What I miss most, and I always say, I want to come visit my laser cutters, over in design, and I really enjoyed working with wood. Acrylic’s beautiful when you cut it and… But engraving and being able to… I actually made a dice tower for my boyfriend for Christmas, one year, out of spit… Scrap Birch wood in a laser, cut, and etched, and things like that. And it was really, really, pretty interesting, but paper, I loved working with paper on the laser cutter. And fabric, and wall, and silk, and just anything I could think of that wasn’t toxic, that I could have an excuse to, oh, here’s the settings for this, in case, you decide to use that, for the students. But the 3D printing was pretty fun, too. We liked to do things in base mode just because you could do take crazy solid shapes and turned them into it… See how they turned out with a base.

Jennifer Nieland:
And we have a lot, of over in the architecture space, now, they have clay 3D printers. We’re going to be getting a 3D printer that can print a house, here pretty soon. So-

Tom Bridge:
Holy crap.

Jennifer Nieland:
I know. I know, it’s actually, somebody that I have worked with it that does a lot of outreach, with schools too. They actually, have been award awarded, I believe it’s a grant, to get, to start doing some research on 3D printing homes. So we’re really excited about that. And I kind of wish I was still over there, but at the same time, it’s like, I’m happy to watch them do that and let them figure all the problems out, with that, so they’re awesome people, doing wonderful things over there and doing things that people wouldn’t have dreamed of. You know, when we got our first one back in 2004, so.

Tom Bridge:
For me, I got a friend who has a 3D printer and, of course, he printed me this. This is what I put my headphones in. I have a pair of Air Pods Max-

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
And it’s got a cable coming out the back, this is what I charge them in-

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. Nice.

Tom Bridge:
And so, they sit up on my desk and the little bit, the lightning bit is a magnetic connection, and then-

Jennifer Nieland:
Nice.

Tom Bridge:
We’ve actually embedded the lightning cable in there.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh cool.

Tom Bridge:
It’s starting to fall apart a little bit. I’ll probably print… Get another one of these printed we’ve

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. Well, good news is that it’s cheap to [inaudible 01:20:37]-

Tom Bridge:
I mean, that’s fairly cheap to reprint something like that.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. I have one… I bought myself one for my birthday, during COVID, and use it to make cosplay bits and stuff. And we do, we’re planning on going to the star Trek convention, in Vegas, next year. So we got to get our costumes done and so I’ve been printing cotton badges, and stuff, and trying to figure out-

Tom Bridge:
Nice.

Jennifer Nieland:
How to work things in and just print different replacement parts for stuff. But yeah, it was really always interesting to see what the students would come up with. We had a partnership with engineering college, on campus too. So we’d see things like airfoils being printed and just different test things. One project that we worked on, that was really exciting, was we worked with vet a professor out at Vet Med, who was taking 3D scan or cat scans of beagle or MRI data from beagle scans. And then, I’m printing the skeleton so that they could teach how to do spinal surgery on-

Tom Bridge:
Oh, wow.

Jennifer Nieland:
On dogs. And so, on beagles. That was pretty interesting to see, and because a lot of time that data would come in and we wouldn’t know until we actually printed it, if all the data was there, so you’d have that gaps in the skeleton. So things might fall apart, but we had a lot of fun with that, for a couple of years and people would be like, oh, you’re printing more skulls or spines. And I’m like, yeah, beagle spines. And just working with a lot of different people on campus to see if we could do…

Jennifer Nieland:
What we could do with it and figuring out what was inappropriate to do with it. Like, no, I can’t engrave something to that tolerance, or you’ve given me the wrong, I can’t engrave that’s that engraving is deeper than the material you want to engraved in, just different things like that. Or I can’t 3D print you a cheeseburger, that was from KCCI, they were like, next thing will be 3D printing cheeseburgers. We were like, oh God, that’s what everybody’s going to take away from this, not all the other things that we’re doing. And they’re going to think about food and that’s fine. People 3D print chocolate. It’s awesome. It’s amazing. And-

Marcus Ransom:
I remember when we got an order of 300 of the new trashcan Mac Pros, on launch stage.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
I remember our labs and it was like, this is great. And then we are like, there’s no Kensington slot on these.

Jennifer Nieland:
I know. I know.

Marcus Ransom:
So we had to get out the laser printer, at the… The laser cutter and work out, how to create this stainless steel entrapment’s.

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
So that we could then-

Jennifer Nieland:
We just ordered them-

Marcus Ransom:
Well, there weren’t any available. Apple released one that was designed by Johnny Ivan, he was a much better industrial designer than I ever was. This Beau… And could also injection mold these beautifully, as well. My favorite thing I ever did, back before I was in IT, was, as you mentioned, was timber where one year I had this beautiful five foot by 12 foot flatbed CNC router.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
And so, we made Christmas trees for our customers out of hoop pine ply. So, that it was, we just had a look at this idea of doing the amount of cardboard. And we’re like, ah, let’s go big or go home.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
And so they’d get these couriers show up with this plywood Christmas tree, that they had to slot together, with a little logo of us in the corner. We decided, we really didn’t need to go all out with the logo, they’d remember where this came from. And I’ve heard there’s still a few of them kicking around. I sadly never got to keep one, but that was a lot of fun.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah, we did. The CNC router, luckily, was in the shop. So I didn’t have to do too much with that other than make sure that the computer that ran it could still work. But yeah, we did-

Marcus Ransom:
Running Windows XP, as well. I remember-

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh, yeah, I’m sure.

Marcus Ransom:
The software for those was dreadful.

Jennifer Nieland:
It’s terrible. Terrible.

Jennifer Nieland:
But yeah, one year we had for, I think it was for VEISHEA, we had just gotten a new 3D, or a new laser cutter. I guess, we had four laser cutters, by the time we left. A new laser cutter over in the armory where our industrial design program was located and we needed to cut out a ton of butterflies, out of acrylic, so that they could be handed out during the VEISHEA parade. VEISHEA, which doesn’t exist on campus anymore, due to dumb people, of course, dumb college students, but it was a huge thing where, I think we spent…

Jennifer Nieland:
Oh God, I can’t even remember how many hours we spent doing that, but I helped them get the prototype set up, and then they just sat there, and pressed run, and for sheets and sheets and sheets, it was the only laser cutter available, that they could use because students weren’t allowed to book it yet, because it technically wasn’t in order. And the ones in the output center and design were booked up solid for weeks, by that point. So we got that working and running and then, we had all these beautiful little iridescent butterflies that they handed out during the parade, from the design float.

Jennifer Nieland:
So, that was pretty fun, to just see that product… The scale of production for something that, normally, you wouldn’t think to even do. So they’re pretty excited. Kids liked them. I remember the smell, it never goes away.

Tom Bridge:
Oh, for sure.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
So Jennifer, thank you, so much for joining us tonight. It was a real pleasure to talk with you.

Jennifer Nieland:
No problem. It was a lot of fun.

Tom Bridge:
And if folks want to find your work online, where would they go looking?

Jennifer Nieland:
Basically, right now, most of what I’ve been doing is pretty siloed through Iowa State University. You have to have a log-in to see it, but if you’re an Iowa State student, if you go on canvas and you feel like, you want to get involved in the laser cutter training, I think they’re still using the course that I developed for that. So you would email the, I can’t remember, I think it’s DSN laser cutter training. So Michael, kill me in the morning, but if you want to get a hold of me, just drop me a line. My email address is N, I, E, L, A, N, D, J, at IA, state.edu. And I’m happy to chat with anybody about all things, Mac and definitely if you want to talk about Jamp, or any other of the technologies we’ve mentioned, if you were an old, Radmind user, it’d be fun to talk to you folks too, just so that we can convince-

Tom Bridge:
I’m sure there’s a channel-

Jennifer Nieland:
There’s still people using it.

Tom Bridge:
Recommend slack.

Tom Bridge:
Oh yeah.

Jennifer Nieland:
Yeah. People are still using it.

Marcus Ransom:
There are still people using it.

Jennifer Nieland:
They are, it’s hard to let go, but then, I didn’t really look back, except for fond memories and occasional, I learned a lot about how Mac OS works though, because you could see every little file that it made up and that actually, has helped even now, when just determining where things are located, how to fix things.

Tom Bridge:
Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Nieland:
So yeah, definitely happy to hear from folks.

Tom Bridge:
Cool. Well, thank you, so much for joining us tonight. Thanks, so much, for everybody who is listening out there, thanks to our amazing Patreon backers. And, of course, our incredible sponsors, Kandji, Black Glove, Mosyle, and Meter, who is providing the transcript for this week’s episode. So thanks, everybody. And we’ll see you next time.

Jennifer Nieland:
Thanks Tom and Marcus. It’s been fun.

Marcus Ransom:
Thank you.

Marcus Ransom:
See you let everyone,

Tom Bridge:
The Mac Admins Podcast is a production of Mac Admins Podcast, LLC. Our producer is Tom Bridge. Our sound editor and mixing engineer is James Smith. Our theme music was produced by Adam Kudiga, the first time he opened garage band. Sponsorship for the Mac Admins Podcast is provided by the MacAdmins.org slack, where you can join thousands of Mac Admins in a free slack instance, visit Macadmins.org, and also by Technolutionary LLC, technically, we can help. For more information about this podcast and other broadcasts like it, please visit podcast dot Mac Admins.org. Since we’ve converted this podcast to APFS, the funny metadata joke is at the end.

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Upcoming Meetups
Event Name Location Dates Cost
Mac Admin Monthly Virtual 8 March 2022, 4:30pm ET Free
JumpCloud IT Admin Network (DC) Virtual 8 March 2022, 4pm ET Free
San Diego MacAdmins Meetup Virtual 9 March 2022, 6pm PT Free
Recurring Meetups
Event Name Location Dates Cost
London Apple Admins Pub Online weekly (see #laa-pub in MacAdmins Slack for connection details), sometimes in-person Most Thursdays at 17:00 BST (UTC+1), 19:00 BST when in-person Free
#ANZMac Channel Happy Hour Online (see #anzmac in MacAdmins Slack for connection details) Thursdays 5 p.m. AEST Free

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