Computanews 154 Nov 2009


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Computanews 154 Nov 2009

  1. 1. computanews information systems for advice 154 November 2009 Lucky 7 - Has Windows 7 got your number? Last month saw the release of Microsoft’s in this issue latest version of its Windows operating We look at new releases system, Windows 7. Terry Lynch from of Windows, Ubuntu and appiChar gives it a test drive while alternative Mac OS X - pages 1, 5-9 OS advocates Paula Graham of Fossbox and Miles Maier at Lasa look at new versions of Ubuntu and Mac OS X operating systems. Latest ICT news and events - pages 2, 4 What is Windows 7? about it – Ed). It ran all required company programs and was A fter almost three years on the market, Windows Vista is being replaced by Windows 7 as the compatible with existing equipment like printers, scanners and webcams so why should they Tips #154 focuses on ICT security - page 4 newest operating risk upgrading to a new, system in untested operating system? Microsoft’s After two service-pack desktop line-up. updates and with hardware John Davies looks Whilst it’s no companies updating their at mobile wireless secret that Vista software to work with networks - pages 10-11 wasn’t quite the Vista, things are now success Microsoft much smoother with were hoping for, fewer compatibility volunteering Windows 7 is being issues when upgrading. seen as Microsoft Nick Plant on the lessons delivering a secure, fast Windows 7 uses the learned from student ICT and compatible operating same secure environment as volunteers in Bristol - system. Vista so all drivers and programs pages 12-13 which run on Vista will run on Windows 7 without issues. It also Why Upgrade? brings new features focused on security, speed and ease of use which Anne Stafford of iT4C A large number of organisations could offer big improvements in the shows how to get the avoided upgrading to Windows Vista way you use your computer. You can best out of IT volunteers as they saw Windows XP as “good compare the features of the different - pages 14-15 enough” (or just heard horror stories versions over at cont’d on page 5 154 issue december 2008
  2. 2. Contribute Disagree with an article? newsbits Believe there’s an issue we should be looking at? Lasa launches ICT funding will be able to connect up with other Know of an initiative we policy paper campaigns and those running them. should mention? Lasa has launched a new policy paper We welcome all feedback about as part of its campaign for ICT to be Sign up at: Computanews so if we’ve missed something out send us your recognised as a legitimate cost of thoughts or news, or submit an providing a service by funders and Lasa ICT Learning Programme article for inclusion in a future issue. policy-makers. Lasa also called for Applications are open for this new funders to support circuit riders (or innovative programme which will help mobile ICT support workers) to circuit riders, development workers Subscribe provide on the ground strategic and accidental techies develop their If you would like to subscribe to support to help VCOs better use ICT awareness of the sector and its ICT your own copy of in their work with communities. needs, consultancy, planning and non- Computanews and other Lasa publications: technical skills. Download the pdf: More information and application forms: Relaunch for helplines charity development computanews Telephone Helplines Association is produced by Lasa (THA), the umbrella charity which Find a funding partner Editorial & Production: supports non-profit helplines and NCVO’s Funding Central site will now Miles Maier & Ian Runeckles enables free calls to charity helplines allow you to search for potential Cartoons: from mobiles, have relaunched with a organisations to collaborate with. All Phil Evans new name. The Helplines Association you need to do is create a public reflects the growing need for helplines profile outlining what you do plus your to offer services through additional experience and expertise that others communication methods such as email, can benefit from. In the Find a Partner SMS and instant messenging. area, you can search for organisations Universal House that are looking for potential partners 88–94 Wentworth Street London E1 7SA Find out more: to work with on a project or who are looking to put in joint bids for funding Editorial: BT Community Connections opportunities. Tel: 020 7426 4473 Email: If you volunteer with a community group or charitable organisation, you Find out more: • can apply for a laptop and contribution to a year’s free broadband connection. Other Lasa resources: Postal applications must be received by Women’s Resource Centre’s 5 January 2010 and online by 7 January. Journey into Social Media By now almost everyone has heard Find out more: about blogging, and other social media tools such as twitter and Facebook. But how are these tools actually being Say it Louder used by non profits to communicate Louder is a new online home for and engage with their audiences? In a Lasa has been providing the campaigners. This free and accessible new Knowledgebase article, Leah voluntary and community sector with high quality and impartial site draws together a range of social Williams shows how social media tools ICT advice since 1984. media tools for people who want to have benefitted the Women’s Resource change the world. Through Louder Centre. you will be able to create a microsite for your campaign with the most used This work is licensed under a ‘change-tools’ the web has to offer. To wrcsocialmediajourney Creative Commons Attribution-non- commercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License help make your campaign louder you licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0 2
  3. 3. Computanews now accepts advertisements If you offer a technology product, service or event aimed specifically at the voluntary sector you can draw attention to it through the pages of Computanews. Computanews is a specialised magazine covering the use of technology within the voluntary sector. It has a key audience of: • organisation managers and trustees • staff responsible for their own organisation’s IT • Circuit Riders who provide advice and technology support to other organisations Computanews rates: • 1/8 page £60 • 1/4 page £100 • 1/2 page £180 • 1 full page £300 A 10% discount applies if advertising in multiple issues. The circulation of Computanews is currently around 2,500 copies per issue, distributed 4 times a year. We anticipate that the circulation will increase now that it is available as a free, downloadable file. To place an advert, or for more details about rates and dates, please email: or phone: 020 7426 4473 AIMS client Contact Management System? • task automation • key date reminders • extensive design & reporting tools • affordable and flexible • 200 users across the UK For a free fully working DEMO version email For a free fully working DEMO version or call 020 7377 2806 email: For more information go to phne: 020 7377 2806 web: 3
  4. 4. I CT Even t s 12 November (London) and Tips154 ICT Security 1 December (Liverpool): Using ICT to Support Lasa’s latest Computanews Guide - People with Dyslexia ICT Security - is aimed at voluntary sector staff with Call free on 0800 269545 or responsibility for managing and book online: www.abilitynet. securing ICT systems. We give our top tips from the Guide on 16 November (Liverpool) securing those all-important assets. and 18 November (London): Web 2.0 1. Develop a Backup Strategy, back up your AbilityNet demonstrate how important files regularly, check you can to make the most of web 2.0 restore them, and store a copy of your to communicate and backups off site collaborate. 2. Install antivirus software and ensure it’s set to update daily Call free on 0800 269545 or book online 3. Make sure you regularly download security updates for your computer’s uk/atwork_course_web2 operating system (e.g. Windows, Mac OSX or Linux) and other software. This can usually be set to happen automatically 17 November: info 3.0 Introduction to Social 4. Install a firewall to protect your computers and network from malicious Media @ NCVO, London N1 attacks. Find out more: 5. If you have a wireless network make sure you enable WPA security (Wi-Fi Protected Access) if possible, or WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) if not 6. Don’t respond to “spam” (unsolicited emails). Many spam messages contain 01 December: Netsquared viruses or contain links to (very convincing) fake websites that try to steal Net Tuesday sensitive personal information like credit card details Discussion on e-campaigning 7. Make sure staff and volunteers are aware of the issues and receive and sharing. Sign up at http:// appropriate training and induction to your ICT systems 8. Develop an ICT Acceptable Use Policy. This will make it clear to everyone 4 December: SpiceWorld in the organisation what they should and shouldn’t be doing to use ICT London @ Roxy Bar and responsibly and securely Screen, London SE1 9. Choose and use secure passwords on computers and networks, and change them regularly to prevent unauthorised access to your data Get more from the free SpiceWorks helpdesk tool. 10. Store your ICT equipment securely (especially portable items such as laptops, cameras etc.) - don’t forget to lock up! london 11. Security-mark your equipment - you might stand a chance of getting it back 8 December: NCVO ICT in the event of theft Foresight Seminar @ NCVO, London, N1 12. Get insurance! Make sure you have adequate cover for replacing your equipment should the need arise What’s round the corner in Download the ICT Security Guide from: the world of technology? 4
  5. 5. the documents up to date and replicates any changes made in other branch offices. Problem Solving Assistance - Problem Steps Recorder One of the first things an IT person will ask you to do when you call in for help is to recreate the problem for them to see. Whether it’s an error message which pops up when Outlook opens or the company intranet not loading properly, it helps if we see what steps happen to create the problem so we can then try to pinpoint the cause. Windows 7 has a new program cont’d from page 1 offices, managing data storage and called The Problem Steps Recorder End-User Control of network traffic across slow site which allows users to record how Installing Desktop links can cause serious problems. to make the problem occur and For those organisations with a save the steps as a small file which Applications - AppLocker central office where all the servers can then be emailed to the Managing users’ access to their and data are stored there is the helpdesk. This file contains machine can be rather difficult. On problem that each time a user in a screenshots of the windows, where the one hand, restricting their branch office accesses a shared file, the mouse is clicked and any error access prevents them from they need to retrieve the file from messages which appear allowing IT installing programs which can not the head office server and save it support to begin resolving the only distract from work but can back there when changes are problem before they even call the sometimes contain viruses, Trojans made. user back. and other malicious software. On the other hand, this stops them Windows 7 introduces a new from installing programs they may feature called BranchCache which Speed – Nearly up to XP genuinely need. reduces site link traffic and speeds Levels up file access for users in branch AppLocker is a new feature which offices. When a user in a branch Thankfully Microsoft has managed allows administrators to designate office accesses a file from the head to make Windows 7 run faster a list of allowed applications for office, the file is downloaded to than Vista. In speed tests on the client machines. The benefits of their machine and stored in a same hardware, Windows XP this allow administrators to create “BranchCache” on their machine. comes out top, Windows 7 slightly rules which will allow users to Any subsequent users in the same behind and Vista coming in slowest. install Adobe Reader, for example, branch office who try to access Considering that Windows 7 is when a new version is released. the file will, instead of much more secure and modern re-downloading the file from the than XP, having it almost match the head office, download the copy speed of XP which was developed Remote Data Access - from the machine which accessed to run on machines a decade ago is BranchCache it previously. This saves on not something to be taken lightly. network speed across site links This also means that Windows 7 For organisations having branch which can be slow but also keeps will run quite happily on any 5
  6. 6. Which edition? Windows 7 introduces a new style There are 5 editions of taskbar which combines the Quick Windows 7 – Starter (for Launch shortcuts with running netbooks), Home Premium, programs allowing you to quickly Professional, Ultimate and launch programs and common Enterprise. In addition there are tasks using ‘Jump Lists’. Programs 32 and 64 bit versions, just to are automatically grouped together, make it a little more confusing showing all open windows by (see hovering over the icon in the en-GB/windows7/products/ taskbar which keeps the interface features/64-bit-support for an clean and windows easily encrypted with BitLocker to Go explanation). Many smaller VCS accessible. will only be readable once a organisations will probably go password is given. If you always for either the Professional or Aero, the glass style user interface use the same USB drive on your Enterprise versions (these are first introduced in Vista has also computer you can tell Windows to being offered as upgrades had a few changes, you can now remember the password so it through CTX’s Microsoft snap windows to the top or sides won’t bother you again for that donation programme www. of your display and they will machine. As with XP automatically maximise to fill the and Vista, the home version will screen of half the screen allowing not connect to a network you to easily compare two folders Should we rush out and domain (if you have a server or files. buy it, then? running your network then you will have a domain As with anything on the network, it environment) and should be ‘BitLocker to Go’ – Mobile is always good practice to avoided. There’s a good Data Security thoroughly test compatibility with overview of the features which any programs or hardware. are available in the different Almost everyone will have heard Although initial testing of Windows editions at www.winsupersite. about someone who has lost 7 has shown it to be compatible com/win7/win7_skus_compare. important data on a USB or laptop. with most existing networks, there asp Data is everywhere, and the ease will undoubtedly be teething machines which were Vista of losing a drive the size of a pack problems. Windows XP will compatible. Obviously, the faster of chewing gum containing continue to be available as an the machine is the better confidential documents is option into 2011 which gives experience you will have, but something all organisations should organisations plenty of time to Windows 7’s recommended be concerned about. transition over. minimum specs of 1GB memory and 1 GHz processor deliver With Vista, Microsoft introduced a performance which anyone would new technology called BitLocker About the author be comfortable with. which encrypts the entire contents of the hard drive within your Terry Lynch (appiChar Australia laptop or desktop machine. This Pty Ltd.) is an experienced IT Improved Interface made it impossible for anyone to consultant specialising in read the information on the drive Microsoft-based networks. He is The taskbar in Windows has stayed by simply removing it and plugging an MCSE and is responsible for the same since its initial release it into another machine. designing and managing the with Windows ’95. Vista gave it a networks for appiChar Australia’s see-through makeover but it still In Windows 7, but only available on customers. behaved the same way with the Ultimate and Enterprise programs, the notification area by versions, Microsoft has extended This is a slightly abbreviated the clock and the Quick Launch the capability of BitLocker by version of appiChar’s Windows 7 area with shortcuts to common enabling it to encrypt USB drives White Paper available at: programs. using ‘BitLocker to Go’. Any drive 6
  7. 7. Ubuntu 9 Linux for Human Beings In the midst of the Windows 7 hype, the open source Ubuntu operating system is quietly moving towards the release of version 9.10, Karmic Koala. Why no fanfare for its slick new release? Because Ubuntu is nurtured by a community-led Foundation which doesn’t have a publicity budget. Paula Graham starts from the beginning.... U buntu is a Bantu word which expressed the African National Congress’s values during on its own merits. Linux is on 60% of the world’s servers (a figure even acknowledged by Microsoft’s Building on success Ubuntu 9 certainly makes the most the struggle against apartheid. It’s CEO Steve Ballmer) and this year of these opportunities. The also a Linux-based operating Ubuntu Server has overtaken Red Desktop is fast, gorgeous, and well- system (OS) founded by a South Hat as the leading Linux server OS.organised. Any competent PC user African entrepreneur who Whilst Linux’s desktop share is a can install the desktop or server decided to give something back to tiny 1-2%, both Mac and Windows’ with out of the box security, the world. This translates into markets are steadily declining but automatic updates and remote three simple values for the OS: Ubuntu’s jumped 12% on the access. Most PC/laptop hardware release of version 9.04 earlier this is set up during installation and • anyone can distribute and use year - even the most conservative plug and play means just that - plug Ubuntu without license fees estimates indicate a 60% growth in in a mainstream USB peripheral • everyone should be able to use Linux desktop users since 2008. and Ubuntu will notify it ready to it in their own language use in seconds. For other kit, it’s • disability should not be a as simple as choosing the make and barrier Why should we care? model from a drop-down menu, with no prowling the internet for Environmentally, Ubuntu actively Because market share motivates errant drivers, no remembering supports low-cost, low-power software and hardware giants to whether to insert the gizmo or the hardware alternatives. These are support Linux properly. Thus, even CD first, and no endless rebooting. values it seems easy to get behind. the ‘awkward squad’ such as Canon Ubuntu’s configuration wizards are and ATI now offer some Linux easy to use and come with free driver support whilst the likes of tutorials, documentation and So is this about good Google and Adobe are platform- forums to get you started. All hearts or good software? agnostic. In the Linux-friendly that’s missing are the licensing camp, manufacturers such as Intel headaches. We really don’t have to choose and HP have already achieved full between ethics and utility. Ubuntu Ubuntu integration. A CNet reviewer found Ubuntu is becoming a serious competitor 9.04 as slick as Windows 7, Mac 7
  8. 8. OS X ( To download Ubuntu visit www. sustainable IT consultancy based in 9.04-as-slick-as-windows-7-mac-os-x/) You can even try East London, and has been – and 9.10 promises to be even Ubuntu before installation by advocating Free Software, smarter. There’s loads of quality running it from the CD you create sustainable IT, and equal software and legacy import plug- from the download. representation for women in ICT ins are making migration to for the past decade. Ubuntu easier. Ubuntu really has About the author arrived and the more we use it, the Email: better it gets! Paula Graham runs Fossbox, a Web: Operating system accessibility compared.... Windows 7 Ubuntu 9.09 Jaunty Mac OS X 10.6 Jackalope * Snow Leopard Make the computer easier to see Display magnifier    Colour and contrast adjustment    Custom icon sizes   Remove animations and background images  Ability to use without a display Screen reader    Work with Braille displays    Audio description for videos  Dialogue box talking alerts  Talking clock  Use computer without mouse or keyboard On screen keyboard    Handwriting recognition (with suitable input device)  Speech recognition   Make the mouse easier to use Change size of mouse pointer and cursor    Use keyboard to control mouse    Multi-touch laptop mouse pad  Simulated secondary clicks  Dwell click (initiating click when pointer stopped)  Activate window when hovering over with mouse  Make the keyboard easier to use Adjust for sticky keys    Adjust for key repeat    Adjust for slow keys    Use text and visual alternatives for sounds Visual alerts   Text captions for dialogue boxes  * Ubuntu version 9.10 Karmic Koala was unavailable for comparison at time of review. Further reading and resources Microsoft’s Windows 7 accessibility page does-Windows-offer Ubuntu’s accessibility page Apple’s accessibility page Easy, Free and Quick Accessibility 8
  9. 9. Snow Leopard OS 10.6 This autumn has seen the release of Microsoft’s Windows 7, Ubuntu Linux 9.10 and Apple’s Mac OS 10.6, aka Snow Leopard. Whilst all three operating systems we’ve covered here in Computanews 154 all feature significant improvements – none of them will drastically change the way you work. Lasa’s Miles Maier looks under the hood of Apple’s upgraded operating system.. S now Leopard focuses mostly on improving processing speed and connectivity with Windows and in 64-bit mode. The computing world is slowly moving towards 64 bit computing for two main whatever was on the Mac’s display, gets a major upgrade. VoiceOver is now able to read a summary of a Exchange Server. Unlike the reasons: (i) 64-bit computing is Web page - including the title, licensing nightmare that is necessary if you want programs on number of tables, headers and Windows 7, Snow Leopard comes your computer to have access to links. See our accessibility in one version at one price (under more than 4GB of RAM and (ii) comparison table on page 8 for £25 from for certain intensive tasks - processing more. business and home users. Users of large video or images files – will be Windows and Linux will probably much quicker. You’ll need a newer not be enticed to switch to Mac - Mac powered by an Intel Core 2 Malware Check unless they were already planning Duo processor or an Intel Xeon to - but this is an essential and processor to take advantage of the Macs have also long enjoyed a nicely priced upgrade for existing extra computing power. reputation for being more secure users of Apple’s OS 10.5. and less virus prone than other operating systems. Snow Leopard Preview introduces Malware Check to Exchange Server support provide a certain degree of built-in Apple’s Preview app – which is able protection against dangerous Snow Leopard’s biggest new to preview PDFs and image file software downloaded from the feature is improved support for formats like TIFF, JPEG and GIF - Internet or disk images mounted Exchange, Microsoft’s e-mail, gets an upgrade. Preview can now from external drives. contact, and calendar server. detect and import images directly Connecting the Mac to the server from a USB-connected digital is as simple as adding an Exchange camera or scanner. It also In conclusion account in Apple’s Mail application, provides some basic image and it will automatically correction tools for your imported The three operating systems we’ve synchronise e-mail messages in images. covered offer significant upgrades Mail, contacts in Address Book, and to their existing users, and if you’re Exchange calendars and tasks in Preview also gets a new perfectly happy with your current iCal. This makes it even easier to Annotations Toolbar. This enables OS, there is unlikely to be a integrate the Mac into networks you to add annotations or compelling reason for you to make that have standardised on comments to document or image the jump to a new OS. Exchange. opened in Preview. Knowledgebase Forum 64 bit speed boost Accessibility? Are you upgrading or switching Under the bonnet, the biggest The Mac OS has always been well OS? Join the discussion at the change is that almost every Apple known for good design and Knowledgebase Forum: application included in Snow usability and VoiceOver, the Mac’s Leopard has been rewritten to run inbuilt screen reader that narrated 9
  10. 10. What’s going on when I do without wires? In a personal view by “a data communications person who fell into mobile technology a few years ago and often still wonders why it works (and sometimes doesn’t)”, John Davies attempts to demystify the technical and commercial issues driving radio based network services. L ots of people are using mobile broadband these days. The mobile networks allegedly think it’s free-to-use. Even if you pay for it you don’t pay more for doing more. Even charging networks like losing contact with their dongles only inches away? Why don’t all those 802.11g Wi-Fi users on the their ARPU (average revenue per the coffee shop chains charge by default channel 11 get in each user) birthday! The UK mobile time, not data sent. others way more than they do? phone market is saturated (2007 number - 121 live mobile Secondly, the technology is built The truth is that the radio connections per 100 of population) with different intentions. Both use engineers regard it as a black art so anything that will generate more ideas from anarchic old Aloha but too. Your radio guru understands usage is good for their (financial) mobile broadband is based on what’s going on about as much as bottom line. Some networks, such “souped up” GPRS (General your doctor knows what’s really as 3, are even selling voice over IP Packet Radio Service), invented by happening in your body. Only (mostly Skype) over mobile the phone companies. Your mobile occasionally does he admit it of broadband. This is in competition device has to ask the network for course. with their own conventional bandwidth, just as your mobile landline voice services and is phone has to ask for a channel - So radio is great for getting potentially harming revenue. and if they are all used up on the information from here to there local mobile base station then you without visible means of support Wi-Fi and mobile broadband both are out of luck. Wi-Fi was but don’t rely on it. In particular, use packet radio techniques and, designed for private office don’t assume it will work in a new like wired LANs (Local Area networks where users were made place, at a different time under Networks such as you probably to act nicely by the local system different interference conditions have in your office), owe their administrator and there was even in different climatic ancestry to Aloha (http://en. “bandwidth to burn”. conditions. If you have a cable (or Why fibre) use it. Ask a radio engineer do they perform differently? if he or she uses a wireless The Black Art - What’s keyboard or mouse and expect the Firstly, mobile broadband is a good (and what’s bad) answer “No!” service provided by phone about using radio instead companies. Mobile phone of wires companies may be highly Remember free Wi-Fi and competitive and try to be very The rest of us, me included, are where did it go? trendy but at root they are old BT inclined to regard radio technology with a more commercial attitude. as a black art. Why do signals up at Why can’t we just have free Wi-Fi When they sell you broadband about 2GHz (where Orange has everywhere like some of the they want it to work so you will always operated, wavelength about pundits were predicting a few use it as much as possible (more 6 inches) go round corners and get years back? One of those pundits, revenue) and will stay with them into basements so easily? Why do Professor Jon Crowcroft, hasn’t (market share). Wi-Fi is mostly wireless mice and keyboards keep given up on the dream of free 10
  11. 11. mobile Wi-Fi (“Wi-Fi ‘co-op’ could provide internet for all” http:// However, it seems unlikely in the face of opposition from mobile operators who have a vested interest in seeing a substantial return on the 3G licenses (third generation mobile wireless) they over-paid for back in 2000. Many academic environments have long supported free Wi-Fi access, but concerns about network security and congestion is universal. Some projects for general public access have failed on cost grounds or look to have a limited “free lifetime”. But the Movirtu ( dream is still alive and mesh “bringing mobile telecoms to the wirelessrevolution networking ( Bottom Billion”. He was Director wiki/Mesh_networking) may help of iT4Communities (www. Wireless Networks lower costs and improve network from 2005 to resilience. 2008. wirelessnetworks About the author Knowledgebase Wireless Networking Security Considerations John Davies is semi-retired but Going Mobile In The Wireless continues to be active as CTO of revolution wirelesssecurity Is moving from a cabled to wireless network a sensible option? In response to a query on the UKRiders list regarding the downside of wireless networks, Morgan Killick of ESP Projects, Sheffield and Marcus Pennell of SCIP, Brighton made the following points: • Do a Wi-Fi survey of the area using NetStumbler ( or similar because Wi-Fi can be subject to interference/cross-talk from other Wi-Fi transmitters. • Wi-Fi just isn’t as reliable as cabling because the signal tends to fluctuate and may drop out. This makes Wi-Fi unsuitable for networking desktop computers, servers and using data intensive applications like a database. • 802.11g is half duplex (it can’t send and receive data at the same time); 802.11n can but is more expensive. • Wi-Fi signal degenerates through thick brick walls in older buildings and modern pre-stressed concrete in modern buildings. But Wi-Fi access points can be daisy-chained to extend the signal into difficult areas. • Consider the security implications of introducing Wi-Fi. WEP security (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is relatively easy to hack; WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) is better than but still not as secure as cable. • Bear in mind that cabled networks are faster and more robust than wireless networks – this makes them better suited networking desktop computers, servers and using data intensive applications like a database. 11
  12. 12. Can students contribute to the local ICT support mix? Readers with long memories might recall an article in the Circuit Rider special issue of Computanews 119/120 in August 2002 entitled ICT support in the community sector – the “BrisCIT” vision. In the article, Nick Plant of the University of the West of England described how his students were helping provide ICT support to the voluntary sector in Bristol. In this follow up, Nick brings us up to date on the scheme, and lessons learnt. ICT VOLUNTEERING I CT development and support workers such as Circuit Riders or others active at local or sub- my own - have specialised schemes in place. Ours has been running for 24 years now, so it me). One of the biggest virtues of this regional level might find it useful actually pre-dates the above scheme from a user perspective is to consider how far students can funding streams and policy that the students are focused on contribute ICT support in the developments by a long time! information systems (as we call it), voluntary and community sector And in fairness it’s pretty not (just) ICT. Their academic (VCS). This article examines how unique… programmes prioritise the human this can work and at some of the and social contexts and issues risks and benefits involved. Our student consultancy scheme involved in applications of ICT not involves teams of around three to just the technical nuts and bolts. Many universities and colleges are five final year undergraduates So although some clients are increasingly keen on what they working on live consultancy inevitably and quite reasonably call “knowledge exchange”, and projects for local organisations, ‘looking for solutions’, they often there are funding streams for including VCS groups, each get a broader take on information collaboration management, between Some of our best projects in recent years have focused organisational higher on requirements analysis and evaluation of alternative systems education systems, or delivered specification, tender supported by ICT, and business development or forward planning support. and IT strategy or from student community consultancy than organisations. Some have academic year. Client they get from other helpers. strategic initiatives on public and organisations get a free support community engagement too. service, and students get fantastic So, yes, our consultancy teams opportunities for learning on-the- frequently get involved in building VCS organisations, activists, or job as a powerful complement to web sites, developing database Circuit Riders concerned about classroom study. Also, academics systems, configuring office ICT support might therefore find like me enjoy making a difference software, setting up networks and it useful to try to find the right and continuing to develop exploring social media contact in their local academic knowledge from practical innovations. But they also do lots institution to see what, if anything, experience (a crucial ingredient of of user training, develop support is on offer. Some Universities like genuine ‘knowledge exchange’ for materials, help appraise ICT in the 12
  13. 13. conduct feasibility studies. VCS professional to advise and Easton-based Baggator provides Sometimes they don’t actually do assist on this. programmes of informal any technical development work education, skills training and as such - it all depends on need, Space does not permit a detailed leisure activities for young which we insist they find out and examination of risks and ‘watch- people up to the age of 25. Its document first. fors’, but over the years we’ve key objective is to provide an learnt from experience what enabling environment in this Some of our best projects in makes a viable three-way disadvantaged area of Bristol, recent years have focused on community-University-student for young people to develop requirements analysis and partnership, and made the factors their self-confidence, enabling evaluation of alternative systems, progressively more explicit. These them to pursue personal or delivered specification, tender are now published in advance to ambitions and help them find development or forward planning prospective clients, and our search support. The model is therefore and selection process is fronted personal fulfilment. of hybrid ‘go betweens’ helping by a mutual risk analysis. non-technical client personnel This purpose is pursued through communicate and work effectively Details of these factors are a range of activities, such as with other ICT specialists, by available on our scheme web site ICT VOLUNTEERING sports, gardening and healthy virtue of being both tech-savvy at along eating, a homework club, and tuned in to the social and with much more on how the football training and occasionally organisational context. This goes scheme works, example projects, international youth travel and to the heart of a contemporary illustrations, etc. camping. ‘information systems’ approach as many of us see it. Sadly, research In conclusion, our scheme The UWE student team looked consistently confirms that this generally works well but we’re at the various needs of approach is conspicuously lacking risk-aware and try to avoid in the VCS, as in other sectors - complacency. So going back to Baggator and worked on did you ever hear about the headline question, students bringing together much of the large-scale government IT failures? can form an invaluable part of a information held in diaries and local system of ICT support in the registers about their sponsors, However, there are risks and VCS, though I recommend viewing the volunteers and the young issues to look at carefully too. this type of intervention as one people who were attending or Ongoing support and complementary element of a working at Baggator’s centre, sustainability is usually top of our good mix, and ensuring that the the Pickle Factory, as well as all list: students have a habit of risks as well as opportunities the events planned and carried finishing their course and leaving involved in this form of support out by the organisation. the client behind! We build (like any other) are addressed in sustainability measures fully into full. The database system that our scheme (including the assessment criteria), insist that resulted should help Baggator students identify follow-up About the author keep closer account and support needs and plan ongoing structure on who is at the support. Dr Nick Plant is Senior Lecturer centre and what they are doing, in Information Science and Digital and allow the organisation to They’re also expected to avoid Media and Leader of Teaching and expand their activities and undermining existing helpers and Learning Projects, Bristol Institute possible sponsorships. to complement their role. And of Technology at the University of we stress heavily to our clients the West of England. Email: nick. that as soon as they start working with their student teams they should be figuring out how they workplace, optimise office will continue development work systems, develop strategy and at the end. We bring in a local 13
  14. 14. How free is free? Anne Stafford, Programme Manager at iT4Communities (iT4C), delivered a presentation at the recent Lasa Circuit Rider Conference on best practice for working with IT volunteers. In this article, we report back on the session. T he iT4C volunteering programme has IT requirements analysis at its core that they know what they need to about the volunteer project. Working with volunteers iT4C has developed processes for ICT VOLUNTEERING and Anne speaks to many An example was given by a getting organisations ready for hundreds of VCS groups looking session attendee of a project working with a volunteer. Key for volunteer IT support every where a lot of time was spent points that organisations need to year. But how can we best developing the project plan but be alerted to are: prepare an organisation to work the student volunteer was with an IT volunteer? What disengaged once the element of • using a volunteer for ongoing preparation is necessary and how their college course was support is not sustainable can risks be minimised? What are completed. The lesson learnt • volunteers need to be the pros and cons of pro bono here was that it is important to managed and have a named work from both points of view? understand the motivation of contact volunteer. • organisations need to own the work of the volunteer What role do ICT The best projects for volunteers • do not underestimate the volunteers play? to work on should not be mission internal support needed when critical or urgent, but are clearly organisations take on In small and medium sized defined, valuable, strategic and volunteers – using a volunteer organisations the volunteer will sustainable. One delegate said isn’t free, there are costs in typically be someone who comes that their main experience had terms of time, management and fixes the occasional problem been dealing with issues after the and change or it will be people who develop volunteer has gone and reinforced • there needs to be projects (for example, a database the fact that it is important for management buy-in or a website). It is advisable to volunteers to document work • project responsibility lies with have a fixed end and handover for done in order to aid the the organisation not the all projects but well cared for organisation in long-term. volunteer volunteers will often be on hand • the project needs to be well to make changes/fixes at a later Organisations should consider the defined - no brief will mean date. Documentation/mapping is a cost savings and independent scope creep and project hiatus key element of the project - one advice that working with both a • communicate effectively and in commonly observed problem is volunteer and a paid for IT a timely fashion – this is organisations not able to update a service provider can bring. As especially important in small website done by volunteers – with using any outside consultancy organisations documenting, training and or assistance, there are risks with • treat volunteers professionally handover is vitally important. It is using volunteers and organisations and effectively and be aware important for a named person in need to think about how these that they might not the organisation to feel confident risks can be minimised. understand VCS culture 14
  15. 15. In summary... or it’s Anne rounded up with a number of key pointers “Planning an ICT project for a volunteer (or indeed anyone!) is key to its success. In the right role volunteers bring an independent view, enthusiasm for the work of an organisation and professional skills that they may otherwise not be able to afford. However, some IT work is best delivered with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and professional indemnity.” Resources ICT VOLUNTEERING See Anne’s presentation online at free-is-free-best-practice-for-working- with-it-volunteers Visit iT4C’s website www. for information on their volunteering programme, case studies, • sometimes it’s quicker to pay possible that an organisation examples of opportunities and someone to come in and do it might require a volunteer to their annual IT volunteer awards. than find a volunteer and brief assist with project definition them… even before they get a volunteer in to carry out the Knowledgebase project itself! Getting started • be prepared to interview a Who Do You Need: Volunteer, potential volunteer, have Consultant or Staff Prior to working with a volunteer, questions to ask and have organisations need to consider a resources ready volunteerconsultantorstaff number of points: • set aside plenty of time to monitor the project and Working With ICT Volunteers • know what is wanted first support the volunteer before advertising for a workingwithvolunteers volunteer - iT4C has staff to Anne pointed out that iT4C has help think through this stage online resources, checklists etc to • consider the risks and risk assist with the processes and can minimisation - ensure that the mediate between organisations project is suitable for a and volunteers and their process volunteer includes a long ‘project definition’ • a volunteer broker or ICT phone call and ongoing support development worker may be to anyone looking for a volunteer able to help with the above – through iT4C. 15
  16. 16. Computanews Lasa services About Lasa Established in 1984, Lasa has provided ICT advice to the voluntary sector for 25 years. Its two main aims are to promote social inclusion independent ICT information + advice through access to social welfare law, information, advice and guidance; and to promote an efficient and effective sector through improving access to impartial ICT advice and support resources – such as SUPPLIERS Computanews and the London e-bulletin ( DIRECTORY lists) connecting you with trusted technology suppliers Our online ICT Knowledgebase ( is a comprehensive source of independent expert ICT advice for VCS organisations, now containing over 300 articles. The Suppliers Directory ( connects VCS organisations with over100 approved suppliers of ICT products and support services across England. Lasa is also noted for its consultancy work and leadership in developing the Circuit Rider model of local ICT support. ( advice + information management system Supported by Big Lottery Fund Esmée Fairbairn Foundation Capacity Builders The Law Society Charity The City Bridge Trust Legal Services Commission City Parochial Foundation London Councils Cripplegate Foundation The London Legal Support Trust Wates Foundation Credits Computanews has been published Lasa, Universal House, 88-94 by Lasa since 1984. Wentworth Street, London E1 7SA Editor: Ian Runeckles Web: Design: Miles Maier Email: Cartoons by Phil Evans. Tel: 020 7426 4473 Registered charity no: 800140 Published: November 2009