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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Web Conferencing Tips and Tricks

Using video web conferencing

The University of Minnesota is a beautiful, sprawling campus that can prove difficult to navigate when trying to attend meetings, especially during poor weather.
The U of MN offers two easy-to-use web video conferencing solutions available from the comfort of your desk or a conference room. Both WebEx and Google Hangouts can accommodate both quick, informal meetings or more involved, collaborative webinars.

What you’ll need:

For small group or one-on-one web meetings, a laptop’s microphone and speakers work well if in a quiet space. To have the best experience with web conferencing, purchase a USB headset with microphone. The headset makes it easier to hear people in the web conference more clearly, and participants at the other locations will be able to hear the user clearly through the headset microphone.

Logitech USB Headset H540
In regards to video, there are also several options depending on the size of the group. 

Laptop cameras are great for presenting to a single person or a small group sitting near the laptop. For a larger group of participants sitting at a conference table, consider one of these solutions:

Separate webcam and microphone -
logitec web cam.PNG
jabra mic.jpg
Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
Jabra SPEAK410 USB conference mic

All in one webcam and conference microphone -

Logitech Conference Camera BCC950

Two options: WebEx and Google Hangout

Google Hangout

Google Hangouts is integrated into the University Gmail interface –  only a plugin is required to enable web conferencing.


WebEx uses an app that is downloaded and installed on the first run.webex shot.PNG

Scheduling a web conference:

Any UMN employee can schedule a Google Hangout in a Google calendar event – just click Add Video Call – and the calendar event will have a link to join the meeting.

hangout event.PNG

Participants invited receive a link to the Google Hangout in the email reminder.

Sample Google Hangout calendar invitation the guests receive:

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.21.27 PM.png


When scheduling a WebEx meeting simply invite the participants. Attendees will receive an email invitation. Login to WebEx at webex.umn.edu - under the Meeting Center->Host a Meeting menu you will see an option to schedule a new meeting.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.15.15 PM.png

All participants will receive an email invitation with a link to join the meeting. The WebEx meeting invitation also includes the Meeting number - a participant can join a meeting with just the meeting number.

Sample WebEx email invitation:
Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.11.17 PM.png

Spaces for web conferences

Anyone can participate in a web conference from any location with a high speed network connection – either wireless or Ethernet. LATIS Departmental Consultants can assist in directing people to the proper resources to properly equip a conference room.
Considerations for upgrading a conference room space for web conferencing:

  • Lighting: do windows have adjustable blinds?
  • Network: is adequate ethernet or wireless network available?
  • Sound: will speakers need to be mounted in the room?
  • Video display: is there a display that can be positioned for a group conference?

More information on using Google Hangouts or WebEx

Google Video Calls – Hangouts

Cisco WebEx Meeting Center

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Get to Know LATIS's David Olsen

Name: David Olsen Current Position: Research System Engineer, LATIS When did you start working at the U? July 2003 What is your favorite aspect of your job? There is, of course, the intellectual challenges that are brought out by being a (small) part of the breadth and depth of research activities at an RU-VH institution. However, it is the visceral thrill in finding novel methods to help answer those questions that drive me. Tell us about one of the coolest projects you’ve worked on for your job at the U? There are so many cool projects from which to choose, but my favorite has been the work I have done on setting up the infrastructure, DAQ, and analytical components for the Eolos Wind Energy Research Consortium (http://eolos.umn.edu). Wind energy research not only provided me an environment in which to explore stream processing and PHM of complex mechanical systems, but it is also not everyone who has the opportunity to do system admininstration work 80 meters off the ground in the nacelle of a 2.5 MW utility-grade turbine. With respect to my appointment in CLA, I look forward to exploring how infrastructure engineering and data science can be applied to the scientific workflow in domains of inquiry outside the physical and natural sciences (including some old favorites like econ). A recent example has been work with Cheryl Olman on creating a demo for a data repo and interactive modeling environment for the vision research community. Playing with fMRI data is something entirely new to me! Is there a technology trend that you think people should embrace? What is it and how could it be used to make their work/personal lives easier? This will sound odd from an infrastructure guy. Whether hardware or software, I do not think there is a particular set of technologies people need to embrace.
I'm an evangelist for R, Python, Linux, d3.js, and parallel computing, but this is because these are the tools that work well for me. Instead, I would encourage people to reframe the question as one that asks how a particular technology embraces their research or work practices (it is rare there is equivalence between the two forms of the question). My recommendation to our clients would be to focus on methodology over technology. For example, R, SAS, Stata, etc. are extensively the same app with different syntax, and they are all powerful tools when it comes to extracting information. Yet, this information is meaningless without command of the underlying processes that drive the data. Generalized packages that can do everything for you seem great on the surface, but it is a far better practice to acquire a firm understanding of both theory and your question, then choose a technology for which you are familiar that leverages your knowledge. Go with what you know and partner with LATIS for the rest--my colleagues are incredibly good at what they do. What is your dream job: For a long time I would have said Chairman of the Fed(eral Reserve System). However, after spending the last thirteen years in the academe, I'm convinced that I am pretty close to my dream job. Sure, there are detractors about working at the University. However, my job transcends disciplinary boundaries, there is no shortage of talent at the University, we have the flexibility to explore ideas, we are generally treated like adults, and as non-faculty, we don't have the publish-or-perish problem. There aren't many places I can work where this would hold true. What was your worst or most unusual job? As I am hardly a people person, the worst job I’ve held is as a restaurant manager. The most unusual job I’ve held was the CFO for an outdoor music festival that took place outside of Phoenix (Queen Creek, AZ) and Chicago (Twin Lakes, WI). Where is your favorite place on campus? Good question! With such a beautiful campus, it is a shame that we all spend lots of time looking at brick (this is certainly not confined to LATIS and not a criticism, just an observation). In terms of outdoor spaces, I would say it is between Northrop Mall, the space between Nolte and Bell, Mississippi Flats, or SAFL (watching the river rush over the spillway during peak flow is quite mesmerizing and tranquil). In terms of indoor space, the second floor of Walter; albeit bustling with activity; seems conducive to work. I’m still on the lookout for something akin to workspace @ Microsoft Garage, but the environment in Anderson Hall 110 (which I have yet to take advantage of) seems like it is heading in the lounge aspect of that space. Motto or personal mantra: Follow your curiosity Favorite book/author and do you prefer paper or e-book: I can't say that I have a particular favorite as this is genre specific. However, after a conversation with a colleague on positive vs negative freedoms, for the moment I'm digging Hayek. I have a weak preference for e-books, though still enjoy thumbing through a real book. Favorite food and drink: So many good foods from which to choose, but my favorite plate has to be a well-prepared medium rare steak, dauphinoise potatoes, and asparagus. Of course, this needs to be mated with a lush, earthy Pinot Noir. {Insert Homer moment here. Mmm.} Favorite source of inspiration: Failure. It is something that is a love-hate relationship for me, but I stumble upon my most creative solutions while banging my head against the whiteboard in frustration. What do you do for fun? While a bit of a dilettante in practice, I aspire to be a polymath. My spectrum of interests runs from astronomy to zymology. Rather than focusing on a particular hobby, I tend to allow whatever passion I have in the moment dictate my activities outside of work. People may be surprised to know: Despite a propensity to focus on science, music would have to be my most stimulating interest. Becoming a composer would be among the top five alternatives if I were to revisit my career choices.