ACS CIO Hangout – Episode 7: Cloud Services

A panel of technologists and CIOs from the Associated Colleges of the South, discussing Technology, Tools, and Tactics.

Fred Zapata from Trinity, Fred Miller from Furman, Pamela McQuesten from Southwestern, and David Hinson from Hendrix discuss Cloud Services – what they are, how they are being used, and what they mean for the future prospects of campus information technology services.

Testing service, which is similar to the audio service.

This is a 10 minute excerpt, from the Full Podcast found here.

The Five “P”s of Being a Successful CIO

Great CIOs share many characteristics. These Five “P”s are common to all successful CIOs.

Mark “Live Through a Hurricane” Off My Bucket List

Hurricane CharleyTen years ago, I was able to mark several items off of my “bucket list.”

One of those items was living through a Category 3 Hurricane.

My family and I were living in Celebration, FL at the time. My niece had just finished spending the Summer with us, and we had returned from a blisteringly hot week in the Florida Keys, wringing the last bit of vacation out of our systems.

After we had returned to Celebration, we had originally planned for my wife, my son, and my niece to return to Nashville on Friday the 13th. Watching the weather, we were concerned that, should the threatening Hurricane Charley turn right, they might not be able to leave Orlando. We opted instead for them to fly out on the 12th. I was working on a software project for a client, and so I remained at home.

On the 12th, It was by no means certain that the storm was going to pass across Central Florida. I wasn’t particularly worried. Anxious, maybe even a little excited. But not worried. Our utilities in Celebration were all underground, and we were on the Disney power grid. I wasn’t concerned about being without power.

Early on the 13th, Charley took a decidedly sharp turn right at Punta Gorda, and had blown up to a Cat 4 hurricane with amazing speed. I spent the morning, walking around our neighborhood, noting the quiet stillness. The theme parks remained open right up until 1 PM. There was an air of electric anticipation.

Early evening, the storm hit.

I was sitting in my kitchen, working, when all hell broke loose. It’s impossible to describe the intensity of daily Florida thunderstorms to someone who hasn’t experienced one; it’s equally fruitless to describe what being inside a major hurricane is like. The wind, water, and noise comes at you from every direction at once. The amount of water coming down is unbelievable.

You sit there thinking, “I am a jackass for being here.”

Charley was intense. And fast.

Unlike many hurricanes, it was so fast moving, that there wasn’t much of a “backside” to the storm. In just a handful of hours, it was past Central Florida and out over the Atlantic.

The devastation the next morning was unbelievable. Every tree was down in the neighborhood. The houses and townhomes in Celebration survived largely intact. The surrounding area homes weren’t as fortunate. Blue rooftop tarps would be a familiar sight for many months to come. For many of our friends in Orlando, it would be weeks before power was restored.

What Charley blew down, Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne blew away in the weeks that followed. In all, three Category Three Hurricanes passed over our home in a month’s time.

Needless to say, Friday the 13th, 2004 is a day we will long remember.

While 2004 was an extremely damaging year for Hurricanes in Florida – don’t forget what a monster Ivan was, that hit the Panhandle that same year – the next year saw so many named storms that the alphabet was lapped. Murphy, my youngest son, was born in New Port Richey in July of 2005, as Hurricane Dennis threatened – already in the “D”s the first week of July, an early indicator of just how busy the season was to become.

In the coming days, I hope to jog down more remembrances of those weeks of waiting for the wind and water to pass… of going to Disney in a downpour, because I was tired of sitting in my den for four days… of driving to Daytona, looking for ice… of our satellite dish being hit by lighting, just as Hurricane Jeanne was coming to shore… of being in awe at how powerful nature can be.

Of feeling guilty that we came through relatively untouched, aside from a few trees, while many friends and neighbors lost everything.



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They’re More Like “Guidelines” Than Actual Rules

If you’ve ever worked in Higher Ed, you’re used to working within a complex maze of rules, procedures, and committees.

At Hendrix College, when we were contemplating how we might put together some “helps” for our people as they navigate the wilds of Social Media, the very last thing we wanted to do was to impose yet another layer of opaque policies atop an already dizzying array of existing policies governing personal behaviour exhibited while representing the institution publicly.

Instead, we have attempted to provide some simple, pragmatic guidelines for effectively engaging on social media channels – transparently, accurately, and with respect for the communities in which we converse.

Did we succeed? Let us know.

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How Do I Create an Opening Animation Sequence for iOS Apps?

Ever wondered how some of your favorite iOS apps (like Twitter) create those cool opening animations when the application loads?

Well – wonder no more!

The place you work this magic is in your application’s AppDelegate file.

More specifically, the work is performed inside the didFinishLaunchingWithOptions method, just after you make your window key and visible:

- (BOOL)application:(UIApplication *)application 
  (NSDictionary *)launchOptions
self.window = [[UIWindow alloc] 
  initWithFrame:[[UIScreen mainScreen] bounds]];

// Your other launch related code here...

[self.window makeKeyAndVisible];

UIImageView *imageView = [[UIImageView alloc] 
  initWithFrame:[[UIScreen mainScreen] bounds]];
imageView.image = [UIImage imageNamed:@"myImage"];

imageView.contentMode = UIViewContentModeCenter;
imageView.backgroundColor = 
  [UIColor colorWithRed:89.0/255.0 
  green:152.0/255.0 blue:201.0/255.0 alpha:1.0];
[self.window addSubview:imageView];

[UIView animateWithDuration:3.0 animations:^{
  imageView.alpha = 0.0f;
} completion:^(BOOL finished){
  [imageView removeFromSuperview];

return YES;

The code is fairly self explanatory, though this example is admittedly very simple.

The steps?

  • Create an image view.
  • Load it up with one (or more) images.
  • Set whatever options (sizing, etc.) you want on the image.
  • Add the image view as a subview to your main application window
  • Perform your animations. In my case, I chose to use the UIView class method, animateWithDuration, since it allowed me to easily do cleanup, once my applications finished animating. In this example, I simply fade the initial image… but you can follow your imagination here.
  • When your animations complete, remove your image view from the application’s super view.

That’s it.

Happy Coding!

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The Peril of Long Engagements

Rusty Tools

Photo credit:

Back in the day, when contracting was my full time gig, I had to carefully consider the merits of prolonging certain long-term engagements. Some projects required so much commitment and focus, there was a real danger – over the life of that project – that many of my other technical skills would go to seed. This was especially true of projects that ran between 18 months and three years in duration.

I know this must seem like a fantasy to many of you – but yes, many projects in the past did actually use to go on for a couple of years or so. Internet Time is actually a recent occurrence (relative to geologic time).

The dilemma one always faced: chasing financial stability, versus keeping marketable skills fresh and up to date.

The Great Recession changed a lot of that worry, naturally.

Even so, a like challenge faces even full time employees (and even those full time employees engaged in tech related industries) – how does one stay current and conversant as a generalist, keeping up with current education and trends, when so much time is spent in becoming expert in a focused area of expertise? How does one keep their pursuit of “deep domain” knowledge and expertise from sabotaging their ability to keep and maintain a marketable set of skills needed for the next gig, the next promotion, or the next job?

The straightforward answers are:

Never stop learning.

Never stop challenging.

Never stop changing.

Try these practices on for size:

  • Learn New Skills. Especially when you’re in a stable, long-term engagement, the inclination is to ease back a little. You should use this period of stability to increase and improve your skillsets. Ask to be trained. Lobby for hack days. Push for 20% time.
  • Keep Presentin’. If you really want to master a skill or a subject, try teaching it. Presenting before others, especially in an environment where your position or opinion may be publicly challenged, is a sure-fire way to stay sharp. Plus, you will raise your profile as a subject matter expert in the bargain.
  • Re-invent Yourself. One of my personal favorites. We all need to put ourselves at risk from time to time. It’s how we grow as people, and as professionals. Put yourself out there. Try a project with entirely new tools and knowledge domains. Create opportunities for positive change, by empowering yourself to change.

Never stop learning. Never stop challenging. Never stop changing.

And – never stop railing against complacency, the true peril.

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