Tier 1 Group, 4/4/06

Fritz and I had a productive meeting yesterday. Here is what we found out:

  • We tried out a few of the possible solutions to our Mac Login need. All of the solutions I listed earlier seem to require the user to log in twice — once to login to the computer and again to login to the file share. One of the main goals of our project is to require only one user login, so this was not looking good.
  • Fortunately, we did discover than when you bind a Macintosh to an Active Directory domain, the AD implementation on the Mac seems to do an okay job of trying to mount the shares that are defined on the Windows Server side. For example, if I bind my Mac to the district287.org domain and log in as cwgriesel, I get immediate access to the USERS share on the district file server, with no other login required. This is good!
  • Also, we discovered that if you connect to a server using the smb/cifs protocol rather than afp, the connection handles long file names better. For example, rather than connecting to 10.1.1.2, connect to smb://10.1.1.2. You won't get those annoying "long filename" errors when you copy files anymore.

The only problem is when a person logs in they are given access to the entire USERS folder, which contains nine-hundred odd user folders, only one of which is theirs. The mac will eventually hide all the folders they don't have access to, but this takes forever. To really make this thing useful, in addition to having the USERS volume mounted, we really need a shortcut to the user's specific user folder on the desktop.

So the task at hand is to find a way to automatically create a shortcut to the person's own user folder as well as any other shares they have permission to use. These shortcuts (aliases) should be automatically created when the user logs in.

And while we're at it, we might want to consider a few needs that may come up after a person logs in. For example:

  • if a person sits down at a computer that is already logged in, how do they know who is logged in? They can click on the apple menu and look at the last line, but it might be nice if there were some message on the screen about who is currently logged in.
  • is there something we can do when a person logs out that will help prompt them to move their files to the server rather than keeping them on the local computer? Maybe a prompt that reminds them to move their files, or maybe a script that moves them automatically, similar to the way a Windows machine will sych a user when they log out.

How to handle these needs may be something to discuss at our second meeting tonight, for those who want to attend.

Also, having people log in through AD will only work with staff. Mary has done some work with setting up a student file server at Lincoln school. It would be good to get more details about how that is working for her. We may have to tackle the staff login issue first and then work on a solution that will work for students.

Other topics that came up at our meeting yesterday were

1) The need for better meeting notes when we meet with the IT department. It seemed we are always trying to remember details about what was talked about and either couldn't remember or came up with different memories about what was said. We'll try to make a better effort of posting our IT meeting notes next time.

2) The observation that there is lots and lots of critical data floating around on random databases, spreadsheets and scraps of paper. This results in much duplication of effort — people creating duplicate student lists, people creating duplicates of duplicate student lists, attendance being taken twice by two different people, etc. All this duplicate effort cuts into people's productivity from day to day, not to mention the security and accuracy problems when information is floating around in so many different places. We talked about the various databases that people are currently using and thought out loud that there needs to be some way to tie them all together to make sure the information is accurate, secure, more easily shared, and to reduce the amount of duplicate reporting work that now takes place every day. No specific solutions were formed but a few ideas were tossed around. This is an important topic that needs to be addressed sometime.

Our second meeting is today at Vector North at 2:30. Please attend if it fits into your schedule. We can make more progress on our PLC project and discuss any other needs you may have.

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