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We’ve been preparing to implement the ITIL standards in my district for about a year now. Now that five of us have achieved the foundation certification, I think we’re poised to make some significant headway this year. This presentation from the TIES Conference is a description of some of the ITIL fundamental concepts and a summary of my thinking about how we’ll tackle them in Buffalo. This is most definitely a work in progress.

I’ll post my slides here after my talk, but for now you can follow this links to learn more about ITIL:

Update: Here’s a link to my slides from this talk. I think most of them will make sense on their own, but anyone who looks at them will obviously miss some key things that were discussed in my talk at the conference.

Here are links to all of the sites I’ll be mentioning in my talk at IL-TCE on Thursday and Friday.


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Update: I popped into Steve Dembo’s presentation to hear what Web 2.0 apps he’s using these days. Here is his top10freesites wiki.

Jimmy Wales joined Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur on net@nite recently. It was a pretty standard conversation about Wikipedia that wouldn’t surprise anyone who frequents the site. There were a couple quotes worth noting, however. I’ll keep these handy when I do presentations that mention Wikipedia and the inevitable question about reliability gets asked.

Amber asked how Jimmy would respond to people who say that Wikipedia can’t be trusted (at 31:41 of the recording). He replied:

People do need to approach Wikipedia with some understanding of where it comes from and how to use it. Certainly if you’re a regular user of Wikipedia and you’ve tested it against your other knowledge and against other sources, most people will report it’s actually really pretty good overall. At the same time because it is live editing and anything can be changed at any time you have to be a little cautious. If you read something a little crazy or suspicious you should always check it out. And there are a lot of techniques as an advanced user. You can look in the history. You can look at the discussion page to see if some point has been debated. Check the references at the bottom. You can always tag something. If it sounds suspicious to you, tag it with a tag that says this fact needs a cite or something.

One of Leo’s interns who happens to be a sophomore in high school asked how Jimmy would recommend convincing schools to accept Wikipedia as a trusted source (at 53:02 of the recording). Jimmy’s advice:

Be careful how you use Wikipedia. It really isn’t a trusted source. It really is edited real-time and it could be full of mistakes. That really isn’t the right role for an encyclopedia in the educational process. I think it basically should be fine in schools, it should be acceptable, to add a footnote saying I did a lot of my preliminary research in Wikipedia just to acknowledge where you got a lot of knowledge. But in terms of citing specific facts, you really should go to the sources and look it up there. Because that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. The encyclopedia is supposed to give you the broad overview not be a primary research tool.

This is exactly the advice I give when asked. Perhaps having the quote right from the horse’s mouth will be useful.

Here are links to all of the sites I’ll be mentioning in my talk at TIES on Tuesday.


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ties, ties2006, web2.0

Here are the links for the open source tools that I mention in my talk at the TIES Conference.

Update: Here are a few more links to products that came up during the session.

ties, ties2006

Doug Johnson is a maven of media here in Minnesota and elsewhere where he is known as an author, teacher, and presenter. His blog, The Blue Skunk Blog, has also become quite popular in the last year.

Doug’s been in the business long enough to be able to reflect on the changing role of the library media specialist in our schools. He’s not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom either. We talked about media programs, Wikipedia, and a few other topics in this interview recorded via Skype last summer.

Download: STP-DougJohnson (12.3 MB, 26:50)

doug johnson, podcast, media specialist, library, media, wikipedia

We talked a lot about disaster recovery, monitoring system availability, and financial accounting for IT services on day #2.

Does your school district (or other organization) have a disaster recovery plan in place that lists each IT service and how fast you plan to recover back to full operation? Have you had a conversation with other leaders in your district to prioritize your systems and the data they contain? Updating that plan is one of my top priorities for the next few months.

I appreciate Michaels’ comment on my previous ITIL post about the applicability of business principles to educational environments. I’m not put off by business world comparisons for a couple reasons:

  1. Most of the best thinking in IT management has been in the corporate context. ITIL, Six Sigma, TQM, and a host of other quality frameworks have proven records of improving efficiency and effectiveness. We need to take that seriously.
  2. Is IT Service Management really that different in the corporate context than it is in my education world? Isn’t the goal in both cases to help the organization meet its “business objectives”? (The business objectives are obviously quite different.) There wasn’t much in the ITIL processes that I couldn’t connect with something in my world.

I’m going to continue thinking about the financial stuff too. I have no idea at this point what it actually costs to deliver specific IT services in my district. How much do we pay to maintain our GroupWise system (considering software, hardware, and people costs)? I don’t have a very good idea. Would we save money by switching to Exchange? (I doubt it.) How can I decide if I don’t know what I’m paying now? I don’t think it has to be complicated to make some reasonable cost estimates.

This ITIL stuff is good. I should find out if I passed the test in a few weeks.

itil, itsm, it service management, disaster planning, it accounting

Virtualization is one of the hottest technology topics these days. Most people have probably heard about it in the context of Apple’s switch to Intel processors and the release of Parallels Desktop for Mac. Parallels allows you to run Windows applications on an Intel Mac by starting up a full copy of Windows within a window. You can run Windows in full-screen mode and even put Windows and OS X on separate screens if you have two displays. I’ve been waiting patiently (OK, not that patiently) for the Core 2 Duo upgrade before ordering a new MacBook Pro for work, and since there are a couple Windows apps I need to run I’ll be ordering a copy of Windows XP and Parallels to go with that new laptop.

It’s called virtualization because software like Parallels creates a “virtual machine” (VM) on top of which runs a “guest” operating system. Any guest OS that runs on PC-compatible hardware (e.g., Intel, AMD) can run in a Parallels VM. So my MacBook Pro will probably ended up running OS X, Windows, and Ubuntu Linux—maybe even simultaneously. I won’t go into any technical details because that’s been done many times. [1] [2]

The king of virtualization in modern times is VMware. The VMware software was built originally for virtualization on the desktop, but the really interesting stuff has been happening on the server side. If you’ve installed any Windows server software lately you know that a lot of those programs don’t play nicely together. Many IT departments end up buying separate servers for each application, and the result is that those servers go underutilized from a processor and memory standpoint. That’s where virtualization comes in. The benefits are pretty clear when you look at a simple example:

Let’s say I’ve got four separate Windows application that would normally require separate servers. It’s hard to buy a “real” server these days for less than $5,000 so let’s use that as a baseline. By utilizing VMware I could buy a beefier server for $10,000 and install my Windows applications in separate VMs on that server. The newest, high-end version of VMware isn’t free, but even with a $2,000 VMware license I’m still way ahead.

(4 × $5,000) − ($10,000 + $2,000) = $8,000!

That’s way oversimplified (and probably overly optimistic), but it doesn’t take into account additional savings in rack space, cooling requirements, and electricity use.

That’s it for now. I’ll post soon about some free virtualization products.


  1. Virtualization, Wikipedia.
  2. Virtual Machine History & Technology, Security Now podcast.

vmware, virtualization, parallels