IT Express marks 15 years with FAQ, looks ahead

Dial-up Internet. Windows 95. Information Technology Campus Access Point. All date to 1995, and the first two are relics, but the third fielded more than 35,000 phone calls in 2010. It is known today by a different name: IT Express.

To mark its just-completed 15th year as IT Express, the service has pulled together a set of answers to the common questions that generated many of those 35,000 calls. Questions about passphrases, wireless access, and SmartSite top the list.

The IT Express Computing Services Help Desk, a service of Information and Educational Technology, began as IT-CAP in 1992. More than the name has evolved. When faculty, students and staff called the office for basic written information in the 1990s, for example, IT Express consultants would fax them a handout. Today, customers who want written instructions are directed to a website.

Coming up: Wireless, uConnect support

IT Express continues to adapt to changes in technology. The group is looking at how best to support customers who use smartphones and other mobile devices to access campus services. IT Express has also begun to phase in support for uConnect, the central campus Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory service that provides communication and collaboration tools including email, shared calendars, and support for mobile devices.

What has not changed over the years is the goal of helping faculty, students and staff use the campus services that IT Express supports. These services include UC Davis computing accounts, email, wireless, and SmartSite, which the campus uses to manage coursework and collaborate online.

"Our job is to help people understand whatever learning curve they're facing , for whatever technology we support," said Mike Waid. He has worked in IT Express since April 2004, making him the senior consultant.

Waid said the desk is busier now because the campus has grown, technology is more complex, and IT Express supports more services and systems than it used to.

More than a voice on the phone

To provide that support, IT Express consultants also maintain the Xbase knowledge website, respond to email help requests (150 to 200 per week), test new services, help new students register their computers each summer, and train to keep current with new software and technology, among other tasks.

The combination works. IT Express sends follow-up surveys to customers to measure the quality of its service. Ninety to 95 percent of the responses are routinely positive, and IT Express manager Dan Wright follows up on criticism if the customer permits the additional contact.

Here are the most common questions as 2011 begins, separated by type of customer: faculty, student, staff, and everyone. For more detailed answers, call IT Express at 530-754-HELP (4357). It is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, excluding holidays.

Frequent questions from faculty

QUESTION: How do I use (a given feature in) SmartSite?

ANSWER: The answer depends on the feature. IT Express consultants have direct experience with most of the tools in SmartSite and can help you understand how to use them. You may also email questions to smartsite-help@ucdavis.edu, or take advantage of training and drop-in sessions. offered by IET-Academic Technology Services.

QUESTION: How do I use class mailing lists? (This question arose after the campus upgraded its email li st software in summer 2010.)

ANSWER: The campus has changed the email software for class mailing lists, so you will need to request access to the list via a new website. You will send messages to a class mailing list the same way you did before.

From students

QUESTION: How do I set up my wireless router in my dorm/apartment?

ANSWER: If you live in the dorms, you need to contact Student Housing for help setting up a wireless router. If you rent an apartment, contact your apartment's management office and ask how to connect to their network. Unfortunately, IT Express cannot provide support for personal routers; there are too many wireless routers and network setups to keep current on all of them.

QUESTION: I cannot see my classes in SmartSite. How do I get access to them?

ANSWER: If you recently added a course, you will not be able to view it right away. SmartSite gets updates about course enrollments from SISWeb every six hours. You may also want to look under your My Sites tab if you belong to a large number of sites. Not all instructors use SmartSite (and occasionally some forget to publish their sites), so check with your instructor to make sure they use SmartSite. If after this you still do not have access to the site, please call IT Express at 530-754-HELP (4357) and we can help you gain access.

From staff

QUESTION: How do I use DavisMail?

ANSWER: The Gmail-based service is limited to students. Faculty and staff use Geckomail.

QUESTION: Why does technology keep changing?

ANSWER: This is almost a philosophical question! People keep finding new ways to use technology to work and connect with colleagues. IT Express consultants enjoy the challenge that the new technologies often present, and do their best to explain them to t he UC Davis community in a professional, useful manner.

From everyone

QUESTION: I need help resetting my passphrase.

ANSWER: You have several options, ranging from self-help (answering security questions you set when creating your passphrase) to visiting an IET computer lab.

QUESTION: I need help connecting to the wireless network, moobilenetx.

ANSWER: If you are in range of the network, and have access to a telephone, please call IT Express at 530-754-HELP (4357).

QUESTION: What is Kerberos?

ANSWER: Named after the multi-headed dog that guards Hades in Greek mythology, Kerberos is the network authentication protocol used by UC Davis and developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You typically use your Kerberos passphrase to gain access to your main campus computing accounts.

QUESTION: What happens to my campus computing accounts when I leave UC Davis?

ANSWER: UC Davis computing resources are property of the university and the state. Once you leave the university, your computing account will start an expiration process.