What do you do when your campus server goes down and you want to find what the heck happened? Twitter. DSU disappeared from my Web sometime around 1 p.m. and hasn’t come back yet. (I’m playing Web karma and assuming that the moment I blog about it, the problem will be fixed.)

Two in-the-know Twitter pals spread the word that someone cut an SDN cable near Lake Madison. The DSU website, webmail, and cloud apps are thus inaccessible. (If my advisor is listening, I’m not ignoring your e-mails, really!)

This outage does highlight the importance of a backup channel for communications. DSU has an emergency communications system for the folks who really need to know and coordinate outage response. Our curriculum management system, Desire2Learn, is hosted elsewhere, so profs can use that to alert students that they can’t get at the library and other other campus resources and perhaps share materials through the D2L Content pages in the interim. And we can always text each other.

As for cloud computing, we’ll have some inevitable hiccups like this using remote apps. But are they any more frequent or inconvenient than the work stoppages caused by spilling Pepsi on your laptop or having your home system go ape from that one nefarious virus that sneaks through in that e-mail from Grandma?

A cut cable is just the new blizzard, the new snow day, the new canceled flight that keeps us from getting our work done when we thought we would.

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When we’re all connected, you can’t control the message. The Internet generation will see through and skewer silly marketing messages.

M.I.T. kens the zen of marketing to some of the Web-savviest customers in the world: the august genius haven incorporates student blogs, complete with open, unedited comments, on its Web site. The result: authentic content and conversation with current and prospective students.

But oh my, don’t you run the risk of someone saying something—gasp!—negative? Don’t you need to screen out those potential naysayers?

“You want people who can communicate and who are going to be involved in different parts of campus life,” [MIT admissions director of communications Fred McOwen] said. “You want them to be positive, but it’s not mandatory.”

And not all posts are positive. Ms. Kim once wrote about how the resident advising system was making it impossible for her to move out of her housing — expressing enough irritation that the housing office requested that the admissions office take her post down. Officials refused,instead having the housing office post a rebuttal of her accusations; eventually, the system was changed [Tamar Lewin, “MIT Taking Student Blogs to Nth Degree,” New York Times, 2009.10.01].

When everyone can talk to everyone, the truth comes out. If you try hiding the truth behind a slogan or an editorial policy, you will come out looking like a dope. Your only option is to simply perform, and let your actions—and your students, your clients, whoever—speak for themselves. And if you’re doing things right, you’ll get the good word:

But most of the blogs are exuberant, lyrical expressions of the joys of M.I.T. life, like last month’s post on returning as a sophomore:

“Something’s changed,” wrote Chris Mills. “Now you know what you’re in for, you know the sleepless nights and frustrations are never far away, but this knowledge can’t seem to remove the exhilarating smile on your face. And it’s in that masochistic moment that you realize who you are. That this is what you’re made for” [Lewin 2009.10.01].

Exuberant, lyrical… when’s the last time your marketing department turned out text that won descriptions like that from the New York Times? M.I.T. gets text like that from students for $10 an hour.

By the way, DSU Admissions is hosting some student blogs. One post by Jordan Frisch suggests “a true DSU student” celebrates homecoming by going “to the bars… to hang out with my friends and tip a few back.” Note drinks and bars, plural.

Perhaps not lyrical, but at least exuberant and authentic….

I dropped by campus yesterday and found I couldn’t access the DSU wireless network. Let me guess: someone upgraded the system.

Sure enough! I brought my troubles to the DSU Help Desk this morning and learned that DSU has upgraded to the 802.11n wireless standard. I’ll keep it simple: this means your campus wireless connection will go really really fast.

…assuming you can connect. The campus upgrade also moved the security protocol up to WPA2, which means you’ll probably need to change a setting to connect. For most folks, this shouldn’t be a problem: you just go to your Wireless Network Properties and change the Network Authentication setting. Click, click, and you’re off to the Web races!

Alas, for me and my “old” HP Pavilion dv5000 running Windows XP Service Pack 2, it wasn’t that simple. My list of authentications didn’t include WPA2-PSK. Stacy at the Help Desk suggested I download Service Pack 3 from the wired connection in my office (a 1.5 hour download, she estimated)… but then discovered that the wired network won’t talk to my old XP.

Google to the rescue! I get online, find Windows HotfixKB917021, get it onto my computer, run it, restart, and presto! There’s WPA2-PSK in my authentication options! I still needed to get the network key from the Help Desk, but now I’m back in business.

So if you see frazzled looking faculty walking purposefully westward across campus toward Lowry Hall, laptops in hand, it’s a fair bet they have the same problem. But be patient: it’s not hard to turn the big new n from “nuts!” to “nifty!” Check those authentication settings, download if you’re driving an “antique” like mine, and we should all be connected and grooving by orientation!

If you’re searching for the download, the hotfix file you want is WindowsXP-KB917021-v3-x86-ENU.exe.