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Timely Info for Power Users and Stanford's Technology Support Community


Held Friday afternoons in Turing Auditorium, Tech Briefings are informal, interactive seminars on computer-related topics of interest to the Stanford community. These sessions are intended for power users, Expert Partners, and those with IT responsibilities, but are open to everyone - faculty, staff, and students. The Tech Briefings, led by knowledgeable IT Services staff or other IT professionals, run from 2:00 to 3:30 P.M. No registration is required - just come on by and learn something new. No fees. No fuss.

The first session of each month will tie in to the monthly series.

Turing Auditorium is Room 111 of Polya Hall. See this map to Polya Hall.

The success of these sessions depends on you! Questions from attendees are strongly encouraged. Topics are announced in advance through the techbriefings mailing list and on this web page.

Because we are presenting emerging technical topics, please feel free to contact the Tech Briefing coordinator with any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns. Call 723-4391 or send email to

Fall 2008 Tech Briefings

  • Wikis: How to use a Wiki for Managing Content Creation and Publishing
    Web 2.0 in Plain English
    Web 2.0 in Plain English: Part TWO - Social Networking
    Stanford Web Forms Service
    What's Changed at Stanford - Sophos on the Desktop!
    TechPort - Online Training at Stanford
    Living Behind Firewalls: A Survival Guide
    Stanford Email and Calendar: Tips and Tricks
    Thanksgiving Holiday
    How a Computer Facility Can Also Be Green / Update on the Proposed Scientific Research Computing Facility
Date Topic Presenter(s)

Sept 26

Wikis: How to Use a Wiki for Managing Content Creation and Publishing

This session will demonstrate how to use a wiki for managing content creation and publishing - using presenter Stewart Mader's experience in developing and writing Wikipatterns, and how the project management, collaboration, and participation lessons can be applied to other types of projects. In higher ed, the "other" types of projects include writing and publishing books, managing knowledge in a research lab - from keeping track of experiments, sharing data, getting feedback, to collaboratively drafting papers for submission to refereed journals. Throughout the presentation, Stewart will cover a range of patterns that apply to this methodology.

Stewart Mader works with business, academic, and non-profit organizations to grow vibrant collaborative communities. He is Wiki Evangelist, publishes Blog on Wiki Patterns (, and founded He is the author of two books: Wikipatterns: a practical guide to improving productivity and collaboration in your organization, which is being published by Wiley in early 2008, and Using Wiki in Education , an online book on how the wiki is transforming education and research.

Stewart Mader, Wiki Evangelist
Oct 3

Web 2.0 in Plain English

Web 2.0 is now upon us, but the phenomena can sometimes leave us scratching our heads.

  • What exactly is an RSS feed?
  • Wikis?
  • Blogs?
  • How can they help me and why would I want to use them?

Mark Branom, IT Services, will be presenting a series of "Plain English" videos created by the Common Craft Show. Along with the "Plain English" video series, Mark will also show how Web 2.0 is implemented at Stanford.

These videos, and Mark's expertise, will make what was once somewhat hard to understand seem like... Plain English.

Click here for Mark's presentation.

Mark Branom, IT Services
Oct 10

Web 2.0 in Plain English: Part Two - Social Networking

Social Networking has grown increasingly popular over the past few years.  Using Social Networking tools, you can increase your professional and personal contacts while improving communication and collaboration with other people who share similar beliefs, interests, and goals.

In this continuation of last week's "Web 2.0 in Plain English" Tech Briefing, Mark Branom (IT Services) will be on hand to talk about the various Social Networking tools available and how they can help you.

Mark Branom, IT Services
Oct 17

Stanford Web Forms Service

This session will demonstrate the new Stanford Web Forms Service, now available to community members for making contact forms, short surveys and polls, instructor evaluations, and other forms free of charge. No knowledge of HTML, JavaScript, or SQL is required.

The form-building application provides a selection of pre-formatted fields and elements (both general-purpose and Stanford-specific), as well as pre-defined actions, that make it quick and easy to construct web forms. Data collected through the forms can then be emailed to the form owner and/or stored in a MySQL database, where it can be viewed through a secure web interface.


Marco Wise, IT Services
Oct 24

What's Changed at Stanford - Sophos on the Desktop!

Sophos Anti-Virus is Stanford's site-licensed anti-malware software. It can protect your computer against viruses, adware/spyware, and other malicious software.

Representatives from both IT Services' Technical Analysts Group and Sophos will discuss this new software and answer questions from the user community about it.

Jason Cowart, IT Services

Oct 31


SharePoint is an advanced service that offers tools for managing content that you want to make accessible on the Web. Common collaboration tools including wikis, blogs, and discussion forums are integrated with productivity tools such as event calendars, announcements, and tasks lists. Built-in web content and document management capabilities allow you to create, store, edit, and distribute web pages and store and distribute most office documents such as PDF, spreadsheets, and text documents. Workflow tools allow you to automate business processes such as approvals and publishing.

Sean Riordan, IT Services

Nov 7

TechPort: Online Training at Stanford

Come see a pro put TechPort through its paces.

Lenore Roush, Learning Consultant with SkillSoft, will show the online IT training – over 1,700 IT courses and 7,000 unabridged IT books --  her company provides for our TechPort site.  The demo will include how to use the resources available within TechPort, including bookmarking courses and books, accessing LIVE online Expert Mentors 24x7, and more!

If you're a TechPort user, come see how to get the most out of this training offering. If you've never seen or used TechPort, this is your chance to see it in action.

Note: TechPort is available 24 hours a day through August 2009 for only $195 (SUNet ID required). More information at

Lenore Roush, SkillSoft
Nov 14

Living Behind Firewalls: A Survival Guide

This briefing is targeted for LNAs and systems administrators who have networks secured behind the departmental firewall service, or systems hosted in Forsythe that are secured behind behind an administrative firewall.

Topics will include:

What's a firewall?
What's a vpn?
How does Stanford deploy firewalls and vpns?
What's the process to get behind a firewall?
What's a rule and how do I add/change/delete one?
X doesn't work. Is it the firewall?
So how secure are we?

Michelle Collette, Project Manager, Departmental Firewalls, and Johan van Reijendam, Senior Firewall Engineer
Nov 21

Stanford Email and Calendar: Tips and Tricks

In 2008, IT Services will provide Stanford computer users with new and enhanced email and calendar services that allow them to more seamlessly use these applications together. To provide this, IT Services must replace pieces of Stanford’s current email and calendar infrastructures with a new “collaboration suite.”

This session will go beyond the introduction to Stanford Email and Calendar, and show some helpful tips on how best to use the new system. A Q&A session will follow.

More information can be found at

Ammy Hill, IT Services
Nov 28

No Tech Briefing - Thanksgiving Holiday

Dec 5


Drupal is a free, open-source modular framework and content management system (CMS) written in the programming language PHP. Drupal, like many modern CMSs, allows the system administrator to organize the content, customize the presentation, automate administrative tasks, and manage site visitors and contributors. Although there is a sophisticated programming interface, most tasks can be accomplished with little or no programming. Drupal is sometimes described as a "web application framework", as its capabilities extend from content management to enabling a wide range of services and transactions.

Join Zachary Chandler (Academic Technology) and John Bickar (Education Library), along with a panel of experts for a discussion of how Drupal is being implemented on campus, and how it might be of benefit to Stanford groups and departments.

- Zachary Chandler, Academic Technology Specialist
- John Bickar, Education Library - User Services Technology Specialist

- Marco Wise, IT Services
- James Jacobs, International Documents Librarian
- John Foliot, Stanford Online Accessibility Program

Dec 12

How A Computer Facility Can Also Be Green / Update on the Proposed Scientific Research Computing Facility

Stanford is continually pursuing its mission of leadership in research, teaching and service to the community. Over time many of the foundations needed to support these tenants change. We are in the midst of one of those changes; research efforts are dramatically shifting to the use of more simulation and approximation and away from interpolation and empirical bench work.

The broader use of computers brings with it specific infrastructure issues. In particular, the number of computing systems needed to conduct research at Stanford’s scale is growing in order of magnitude terms. There is considerable economy-of-scale efficiency gained by providing the power and cooling needs in a large scale manner. The lack of a campus computing model today makes it difficult-to-impossible to understand the full cost associated with support for scientific research, even when discussing square footage allocation, costs of power and cooling, or other basic analytical questions. In addition, when considered in total, there are environmental sustainability opportunities to be leveraged through modern architectural design.

Thus while many groups are working to find ways to cut back on energy use in many dimensions, the main mission of campus, to do cutting edge research, is actually growing in the energy demand to accomplish that research.

How could a new facility actually help this predicament? It is true that we can't do any magic to limit the electrical power used by the many computers it will house, however we can do work to minimize the additional energy needed to cool and maintain those servers in an operational state.

This talk will highlight general data center concepts and illustrate some of them via features planned for the proposed Scientific Research Computing Facility (SRCF). While a data center will always be a high user of electrical energy, specific issues can be addressed which will allow the space to operate as efficiently as possible, given the computer processing load it houses.

Phil Reese, IT Services


Links to Previous Quarters

Click on these links to previous quarters to see the Tech Briefings/TGIF topics we have presented in the past. Links to handouts for most presentations are also available at these sites.

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Tips for Presenters

So, you're going to give a presentation at an upcoming Tech Express. Find out what services we provide and what's expected of you. Refer to this PowerPoint document Tips for Presenters for guidelines on preparing for your presentation. You will find templates, as well as other useful information regarding timelines, marketing, and resources.


Last modified Tuesday, 06-Jan-2009 10:25:37 AM

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