Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Timetabling, Google and browsers.....

Yesterday morning we had some meetings open to any member of staff to listen to Google talk about their apps suite, and give some demos. I was pleased to see that there was a lot of interest and the lecture theatre was full for both sessions. Very lively discussion, and people seemed to be impressed with the functionality of apps, and particularly the integration with Sites. Very easy to collaborate and share stuff, and some nice new features. So, we'll have to see what the take up is like. We will be promoting all of the apps suite, once we have the calendar live. And the calendar will be live when we're happy with the data migration from our existing calendar. Legacy data eh?

Also yesterday we had some feedback from a consultant who had been taking a look at our Common Timetabling project. We had a pilot last year which was not particularly successful, and we wanted someone from outside to take a look and give us advice on what we could have done better, what lessons we could learn, and how to take it forward. It generated a lot of debate about room usage - occupancy (how many seats in a booked room are used) and frequency (how many of the available slots for a room are booked). Our figures are not particularly high for either and we need to look at the reasons - there are many and varied ones - one being that apparently not all students turn up for lectures.  A helpful report with a number of recommendations we'll be taking forward over the next few weeks.

And finally for now, a major frustration with browser versions and software suppliers. We try and ensure that all of our services run on all modern browsers, but when  our suppliers can't keep up, what can we do? It also doesn't help when browser versions are released in rapid succession - like Firefox for instance - and they remove the previous versions that did work. I haven't got a browser on my mac at the moment that works with one of our services, unless I go back to Firefox 3.something. Oh well, I just can't approve anyone's leave......


George Credland said...

This is the support link to get Firefox 3.6:

If you install it in a separate directory and make it non-default then it'll provide compatibility whilst support improves.

They appear to have binned Firefox 4 altogether. Can't find a download link for it anymore.

Lesley Akers said...

You're head of CICS! Surely you can lobby suppliers to do basic maintenance. I can't access my payslip at all on any modern browser - that's pretty poor IMHO.

Mark Nielsen said...

Not sure this is quite what you need, but I swear by this service for pinpointing browser problems in my job:

Saves me having to maintain a full test suite myself, which also means I never have to leave the comfort of a Linux operating system :)

Chris Sexton said...

Lesley. If only it was that simple! I'm the Director of a smallish IT dept in a smallish organisation. Although of course we do lobby our suppliers all the time, we're not that significant to a multibillion pound global organisation. But, we keep trying.

George Credland said...

It works fine with IE9 and Firefox up to and including FF4.

FF5 was only recently released and the suppliers have to retest all of their content which takes time.

You can force FF5 to work by installing this add-on.

From the Tools menu, set the "User Agent" to Firefox 4. So the system thinks you're still running v4.

We don't recommend this route as the setting has to be changed each time you want to use it which isn't practical.

We're also in the process of upgrading our systems (planned November go-live) which should help improve compatibility.

Anonymous said...

Hi George

The main problem is for mac users - for whom IE isn't available, and the alternative browser - Safari (which has been around for a while - what's the suppliers excuse for this one?) - isn't compatible.

George Credland said...

Yes. I know Mac users don't have the choice of IE. :-)

The suppliers to date have supported Internet Explorer and Firefox. At the time they put that policy in place this accounted for 95% of users. Most of the remaining 5% having the ability to run either IE or Firefox. Things have since changed with the release of Chrome in particular and the drop in use of IE.

Recently they have committed to supporting Safari. We first need to get the upgrade in place, then further updates will be required to reach the point where it'll be formally supported. As they don't apply all the necessary changes retrospectively.

Some functionality already works with Safari albeit unsupported by the supplier and compatibility will be improved significantly by the upgrade when it goes live in November. The upgraded DEV system will be available around the end of this month which will give a clearer picture.

If you want any more info email me: g.credland@sheffield.ac.uk

Jonathan Whitehead said...

The problem is with suppliers not supporting standards based browsers, A product shouldn't have to be certified to run on browser X or Y, it should use established web standards and any browser that is compliant with them ought to work.

By the time SAP certify firefox 5 and add its user string to the allowed browser list version 6 or even 7 will be out.

Mozilla could help this by having a LTS version but having said that they don't give a fig about enterprise users.

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