MobilePrint: the best OIT initiative since….ever?

Did you know you can print to cluster printers from your (smart)phone or tablet?

It’s true!

Who knows why it took so long for something like this to get up and running, but who cares? We have it now! For someone who had to reconfigure cluster printing every single time she started her computer (what’s up with that?), this is huge.

All you have to do is send your document(s) as attachments to, go to a cluster printer, and release the print job. It’s pretty much instant, and there’s no need to play the guessing game of whether it’s actually going to go through–you get an email confirmation, and it’s taken less than a minute to get the confirmation email each of the seven times I’ve used MobilePrint so far. Any text you include in the body of the message gets printed as a separate set of pages.

The only frustration that I’ve run into is that there’s no way to specify print preferences like number of sheets per page or page orientation, etc. But other than that it’s a pretty great.

[caption id="attachment_15114" align="aligncenter" width="515"] This is what the confirmation email looks like.[/caption]

Here’s OIT’s help page for MobilePrint if you need help figuring it out on your phone or tablet or have questions about what types of documents are supported (answer: pretty much anything you’d want to print).

Where does your NetID come from?

Russell Wells, Head of the Person Office

Russell Wells, Head of the Person Office

Have you ever wondered where your campus netID came from? There are few things on campus that are as ubiquitous as those short strings of letters (and for the unfortunate few, numbers) that make up the e-mails and online identification for all persons associated with the University.

Why aren’t netIDs consistent? Who decides this stuff? After being involved in one too many discussions about its mysterious origins, I decided to uncover the story of the Princeton netID.

The Genesis

Your netID was first born in an automated computer system based out of Princeton’s administrative office building in 701 Carnegie Center. A ten minute shuttle ride from campus, 701 Carnegie is home to the University’s Office of Information Technology (OIT). Russell Wells is the manager of the four-member (aptly named) Person Office, the OIT department tasked with managing the online accounts of all Princetonians, student, faculty, and staff. Wells sat down with me this past Friday to explain how exactly our netIDs are created.

The netID is like your online identity, explained Wells. Once the University gives you a netID, it is yours forever; no one else will ever be able to re-use it. Even if you were to come back as an employee of the University 20 years down the line, you would be given the same netID that you’re using now. The system works this way because the University doesn’t want people’s identities to be confused. Especially when it comes to e-mail, if netIDs were to be reused, a student in 2020 could be getting e-mails meant for some old alum.

This means that the University must generate over a thousand original netIDs every year.  Wells estimates that there are a couple hundred thousand netIDs floating around the digital universe, with the vast majority no longer in use.

When students, faculty, and staff members enter Princeton, their names are sent to the University’s Oracle Identity Manager. Identity Manager is the program that the University has used to generate netIDs since October 2011. The earlier system (the one used to generate netIDs for current sophomores, juniors, and seniors) was a hodgepodge of different programs, operating with a slightly different set of rules.

701 Carnegie Center, home to OIT

In Oracle and the previous system, your name is stripped down to its bare parts. Suffixes are cut off (bye, bye, Jr.), hyphens are thrown out, and prefixes (like “Von” and “Mac”) are deleted. Left with the bare alphabetic minimum of your lowercase first, middle, and last names (all transformed to lowercase letters), it is now time to make your netID.

Rules of the NetID

The automated generation system follows many rules.  A netID cannot be longer than eight characters or shorter than two characters. Also, since the system was updated in October 2011, it will no longer cut off your first or last name. Quite cleverly, there are also some combinations of letters that it knows not to put together, like if my name was “Amanda Sabrina Smith” and my netID was my three initials– you get the idea.

Within these rules, there is a leveled order of combinations by which the computer tries to generate a netID. It goes through the ordered preferences, checking to make sure that a netID is not already taken. The first available option that also fits the length requirement is your new netID. The preference order is as follows:

     Preference                                                         (ex:) John Henry Matthew Smith

  1. First initial, last name                                                                           jsmith
  2. First initial, middle initial, last name                                             jhsmith
  3. First initial, mid. initial, any other initial, last name               jhmsmith
  4. Last name                                                                                                  smith
  5. First, Middle, and Last initials                                                           jhs
  6. First initial, last initial                                                                           js
  7. First name, last initial                                                                           johns
  8. First name, second initial, last initial                                             johnhs
  9. First name, any other initials                                                            johnhms
  10. First name, last name                                                                           johnsmith
  11. First name                                                                                                 john
  12. First name, middle name, last name                                              johnhenrysmith
  13. First, Middle, and Last initials, with 2-999                                  jhs278
  14. “Random alphanumeric string [8] characters in length”      hf9j26kw

Continue reading…

Fwd: USG Unveils Shiny New Webmail!

Had enough of the clunky, buggy, bland webmail of old? There is hope yet. According to USG president Mike Yaroshefsky, OIT has a whole new site in the works — they’ve got a functional version up and they’re currently gathering feedback, says an anonymous tipster. The Ink took this new version for a little test drive, and I might actually be a webmail convert.

A godsend: the Reply function is now conveniently contained within the same window, so your screen isn’t constantly cluttered by pop-out windows. And although I don’t feel qualified to comment on any real technical improvements, there’s much to be said for aesthetics. Everything is a lot more readable, for one. Gone are the sterile whites and grays and blues, replaced by … markedly friendlier whites and grays and blues. (This theme is actually titled “Blue Steel.”) The spacing’s better; the font’s bigger. The trash bin is cuter. The buttons are nice and rounded in an endearingly pressable way.

Take a look for yourself after the jump:

Continue reading…

PU: No, seriously, put that iPad away.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="539" caption="THEY'RE EVERYWHERE! (from Seriously?)"]THEYRE EVERYWHERE! (from Seriously?)[/caption]

This week, OIT warned the campus community about how iPads were disrupting the campus network. According to OIT, the problem slowly spread through campus…not unlike some mysterious disease:

Apple iPads began appearing on Princeton University’s campus soon after they become available April 3 2010. On April 4, we observed our first DHCP client malfunction from an iPad. Over the next few days, more iPads malfunctioned in the same way…

Within a few days, we had seen enough incidents from the iPads already on campus to conclude that there was a problem. Roughly half the iPads had malfunctioned in the same way; the symptoms all matched the description above.

(For a more detailed explanation about why the iPads are malfunctioning, check out this blog’s excellent explanation or the OIT’s site on the problem.)

As of today, 22 of the 41 iPads on the campus network have shown this problem (Only 41?). Seven of them have been blocked! Anyway, chill out, Princeton — Apple’s coming out with a 3G iPad later this month.