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Tagged with: web development

Replacing Lanfiles

Lanfiles, the service that among other things provides personal web pages for people at Williams, will be turned off in the beginning of December.  At 10 years old, it’s not only reaching an age where it has become difficult to support, but it’s also used by fewer and fewer people.  As a result, OIT is planning to retire it, and remove or relocate the web pages that it is currently serving. more...

In addition to serving web pages, Lanfiles also allows people to access their Hector, Helen, or Achilles file space from off-campus by FTP, and on campus it allows people to share files through their public.www folders.  A couple of months ago, we sent an email to everyone who had used the service in the past six months, asking how they were using it.  We compiled the responses, and have come up with a replacement service that will cover all of the needs that people have expressed.

  • The on-campus sharing of files is a service that will continue unchanged.  The Lanfiles service serves web pages from the files that are stored on peoples’ public.www sites.  When Lanfiles goes away the websites will no longer be available, but the public.www folders and the files they contain will not be moved or removed. Everyone’s public.www folder will remain, and the files they contain will continue to be accessible on campus.  In the future, the public folders for newly created accounts will be called “public” rather than “public.www” to reflect the fact that they’re no longer available on the web, but the folders themselves will continue.
  • Personal web pages will be available on a new server at the address people.williams.edu. This site runs a multi-user version of the popular lightweight content management system WordPress.  When you first login to people.williams.edu, a website will be created for you at the address people.williams.edu/~username.  You can then configure your site and upload your content through an online menu system, without the need to know any html or web development skills. This site can also be used if you need to transfer small and medium sized files to people off-campus. This service is available now, but still in the beta phase. There may be an occasional unannounced outage or change as we continue to work on it and incorporate feedback and requests.
  • Off-campus access to Hector, Helen and Achilles will be replaced by a web-based file management system at the address http://netstorage.williams.edu/NetStorage. Once you login to this site, you will be presented with a list of the files and folders available on your Hector, Helen or Achilles space, and the ability to upload, download, or rename files.
  • A few people had their old Lanfiles addresses permanently listed in scholarly publications or other places such that it was highly desirable that they be able to maintain their old websites at their old addresses.  For those people, we have a new server that will enable us to keep the old addresses intact, albeit without the convenience and ease of maintainability of the new WordPress system.
Screenshots of the WordPress administrative tools

We will be sending out notifications once more to people that we know have used Lanfiles recently asking if we can help with the migration. But in the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns please contact Jonathan Leamon at jleamon@williams.edu, or your Instructional Technology Specialist.

W.I.T. 2009

If you ask somebody at OIT what WIT is, they’d probably tell you “it’s a summer technology internship for Williams students.” If you ask me, I’d tell you “it’s a bunch of multi-talented, diverse, and ambitious students who are rounded up at the end of the school year, locked up on the second floor of Jesup with no air-conditioning, and at the end of 10 weeks, they emerge with beautiful T-shirts and a dozen websites for faculty to play with.” I’d also tell you that for ten weeks I was part of a Family, a Playground and a School. That is what WIT really is to me- a Family, a Playground and a School. more...

On the first day, I reported to work at 9:00 in the morning where I met the other student interns. Some of the faces were new and some were quite familiar. However, there was a hint of strangeness that could not be ignored. I remember saying to myself, “This is whom I am going to be working with for the whole summer?” And if that wasn’t troubling enough, the air-conditioning did not work. I was always doubtful as to what sort of dynamics would be realized in the course of the program. I was doubtful as to how teams are going to relate, work and be productive. I was doubtful as to how prepared or cut out I was, for the projects that would be presented to us.

But then, before we got into the thick of things with web design and coding, we went through a two-week training period that cast away a lot of doubt. First, there was digital storytelling, and what an experience that was! In making digital stories, I was learning about new technology while exploring very personal aspects of my life at the same time. I had the rare opportunity to tell a personal story however I wanted to tell it, and at the same time, learn more about my fellow interns by sharing their stories. The Family was well on its way at this point in time.

Being a WIT intern this past summer was more of an eye-opening experience than a regular nine to five job. There was always something to look forward to learning every single day. I am now equipped with the necessary skills to work with HTML, CSS, PHP and can design a fully functional website from the ground up. However, it did take a while for me to get comfortable with the basics that would enable me to take up the projects. The training project surely played a big role in steering me in the right direction. Our student managers, Bret Scofield and Jeff Perlis, presented us with a project, which we were to work on individually or within groups. The amazing thing about the training project is that it created an avenue for us to learn about each other’s unique skills that would be applicable in the work setting. When I needed help I first consulted a fellow WIT Student then maybe an ITech (instructional technology) staff member. WIT, the school, taught me self-reliance, but most importantly, taught me to learn to rely on my colleagues.

They say work without play makes Jack a dull boy. We had game night to remedy that. Tuesday nights, the family got together and played strange board games, Wii sports, Rock Band, and Texas hold ’em, or occasionally jammed to the tune of Trevor Murphy’s (an ITech staff member) mandolin. Friday lunches were exceptional as well. Every week there was tasty food from a variety of local restaurants that we enjoyed with our sponsors, and the whole family. We also had a blast canoeing and mini-golfing. The rest of the time, we had each other, our sponsors, the ITech staff, our projects, the internet and YouTube.

The projects were interesting and fun to work on. There were times when we burned the midnight oil in the name of getting something to work. But even then, we had the backing of our fellow students, the student managers, and the ITech staff. At the end of it, we emerged with our beautiful WIT 2009 T-shirts and presented our projects to our sponsors and the Williams community. All in all, it was a great experience. From this summer, I derive a great sense of pride and fulfillment in my fellow interns, the WIT program, and myself.

-written with Azd Al-Kadasi ’12

For more information about the WIT program, visit the WIT site.

WordPress Makes Websites Easy

WordPress is a free, open source tool that OIT uses to publish and maintain websites and blogs, including the one you’re looking at right now. We’ve found it excellent for small scale websites such as College departments and organizations.

People like being able to update their site without having to know HTML, and being able to make their changes through a web interface – there’s no fussing with local copies and file transfers, nor worrying about files getting out of sync. Web developers (i.e. code monkeys like me) enjoy the well documented, easy to use API, and being able completely control the look and layout of the site. Another great feature of WordPress is that you don’t need a web developer to get an attractive and functional site – there are hundreds of beautiful, free, pre-built themes available that can radically change the way your site looks and behaves, without affecting the content. With a just few clicks and no coding at all, you can change your site between these skins: more...

Themes Screenshot

While WordPress has extensive support for blogging, having a blog on your WordPress site is completely optional. It works very well as a lightweight content management system for any type of website.

To get a better idea of what WordPress can do, you can visit Williams’ sites that were developed using it:

Some other cool WordPress features:

  • Statistics that can tell you about your site’s traffic & visitors
  • Photo galleries
  • Multi-level user permissions that can control who can edit what
  • Forum-like commenting with automatic spam filtering
  • Web forms

If you’d like to find out more about WordPress, contact your Instructional Technology Liaison.