There will be a joint meeting of the Colleges' IT Group and IT Users' Group representatives on Tuesday 16th October 2001 at 14:15 in the Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Parks Road.


1. Apologies for absence

2. Minutes of the last meetings:

a) Minutes of the Colleges IT Group meeting held on Tuesday 8th May 2001

b) Minutes of the IT Users' Group meeting held on Tuseday 18th April 2001

3. Matters arising:

a) Colleges IT Group

b) IT Users' Group

4. Chairman's Report (Robert Taylor) - nothing to report

5. Computing Services Report - report available

6. Libraries Report - report available

7. Reports from other Committees and Groups

a) IT Support Staff Group

b) South East Region Computer Users' Committee - report available

c) Network Advisory Group - URL: http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/oxford/network/nag/

8. Items raised by Representatives

9. Any other business

10. Dates of next meetings

Jane Brown

10th October 2001


Item 5 - OUCS Report

Carol Bateman

10th October 2001

1. Oxford e-Science Centre and the Access Grid

Grid computing has emerged as an important new field, distinguished from conventional distributed computing by its focus on large-scale resource sharing, innovative applications, and, in some cases, high-performance computing. Since our last meetings, Oxford has emerged as a regional e-Science Centre and has received nearly £0.5M. The OeSC web-site (http://e-science.ox.ac.uk) gives details and defines the term 'e-Science'. The Oxford Centre will be part of a national Grid network connected through SuperJanet. It will offer access to research facilities nationally and internationally, using a package of Grid software based on the Globus tool-kit. A further £1 million has been set aside for suitable 'industrial research projects' that are able to attract a matching level of funds from industrial sources. The OeSC encourages staff from across the University to bid against this fund.

Part of the funding will be used to commission two 'Access Grid' centres (http://www-fp.mcs.anl.gov/fl/accessgrid/default.htm). The first will be based in the Computer Laboratory and the other will be near the hospitals. These will be available for everyone to use.

2. Networking

The backbone network enhancement in 1999/2000, has continued to provide an excellent service, and the introduction of SuperJanet4 in March has enabled far greater connectivity to the Internet. Various parts of the service, in particular the firewall, have been enhanced or upgraded to meet the increase in requirements.

3. Retirement of Sable

The service on Sable was terminated on 31 July 2001.

4. Herald Email Server

Herald has been incrementally enhanced and extra facilities added.

5. OUCS Opening Hours

OUCS is continually monitoring the services that are offered. The number of people coming into OUCS after 20:00 hours is very small and after careful consideration it was decided that the OUCS building and the Learning and Resource Centre (LaRC) should close at 20:30 from 3 September 2001. The new hours for the opening of OUCS are therefore 08:30 to 20:30, Monday to Friday. Access to the email terminals in the Data Centre is available, as before, on a 24 hour basis with a key from the OUCS Shop.

6. Delivery of Usernames/passwords for new Undergraduates

As in previous years all new undergraduates were pre-registered for their email addresses. The envelopes with the details of their usernames and passwords were delivered to the colleges on Friday 28 September and the usernames were available for use from Monday 1 October. The Official Visiting Students were included this year. Lists of usernames and email addresses were made available to ITSS from about 19 September.

This year the University card, library information and the email addresses were all delivered by a local courier. This appears to have been a success but we would be grateful for any feedback about this arrangement.

7. Advertising Materials for IT and Courses

As most of you are aware OUCS has a series of A5 leaflets. A full list of the leaflets can be seen at: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/documentation/ (pdf versions are available)

All new undergraduates, postgraduates and staff receive copies of the leaflets L01 to L05 as well as the appropriate leaflet for the service that they are registering for when they obtain their email address. Copies of further leaflets and course booking forms were delivered to all departments and colleges at the beginning of September.

8. Induction Courses for New Students

During the summer a small group from the Users' Groups looked at the development of a generic student induction course. The idea was that IT Support staff could use the basic information as they wish and add specific details for their college or department. This was made available as a PowerPoint presentation via the web (see: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/its3/resources/). Colleges or departments were asked whether they would like to have a member of OUCS come along to their induction session to assist - this was taken up by a few.

9. Special Enquiries Desk at OUCS

As in past years the special Enquiries Desk is being run at OUCS from Wednesday 26 September to Tuesday 9 October inclusive. As I write this (Monday 8 October) there has been about a 30% increase in the number of people coming to the Enquiries Desk. The number who should use the self-registration terminals is about the same but the number who need to speak to registration has increased. The number who have not obtained a University card before coming to OUCS has also gone up.

10. OUCS Web Pages

The OUCS web pages are under continual development and over the last few months we have been converting them to XML as well as re-writing many to, hopefully, make it easier to find your way around. Many departments and colleges point to the OUCS web pages for specific items such as virus information, training course details etc. Some of these urls have changed and redirections have been set up to ensure that the information is found but we shall be asking you to change some of your pointers. We shall keep you informed of the developments and let you know exactly what needs altering.

11. IT News

For the last five years IT News has been published regularly about nine or 10 times a year. With more information being available on the web and the use of the various email lists to disseminate information the need for IT News has decreased. From this September we are publishing a news sheet at the beginning of each term and one will be published in June/July if there is a need. The course booking forms will continue to be circulated regularly to all departments and colleges.

12. IT Training Courses

A full series of IT courses is being offered, including a series of one hour sessions where people do not have to book. Details about the courses and the dates can be found on http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/courses

13. IT Facilities Management Service

The IT Facilities Management services supported by the Network Systems Management Services group has continued to expand its services and took on an extra member of staff last November. It has developed a new service to support a web based registration service for conferences. To support this, it has been working with the University Treasury to provide an online credit card payment service.

14. PC Maintenance Scheme

The use of this service continues to expand and for the new contract year we expect to be able to offer a discount to students who use the service.

15. New Specialist Peripherals - HP DesignJet 5000

An HP DesignJet 5000 60" wide format 600dpi plotter has been brought into service over the last 6 months to replace the ageing HP755cm plotter. It is capable of producing photo-realistic output on paper up to 60" wide. Further details on this service can be seen at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/printing/hp5000/

16. New Specialist Peripherals - Monotype PrePRESS Panther Pro Imagesetter

This new imagesetter has recently been commissioned to replace the ageing Prism typesetter. The PrePRESS Panther Pro is a high resolution device that supports an output media film width of 338 mm; in typesetting terms this implies that it can typeset an A3 page with crop marks. It has much greater accuracy and repeatability than the Prism so that, with its resolution of 3048 dots per inch, it is well suited to the production of four colour separations at up to 300 lines per inch. Its accuracy and reproducibility characteristics make it suitable for the production of accurate graphical work on film. Further details can be seen at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/typesetting/

17. The Learning Technologies Group

The Learning Technologies Group is a multi-disciplinary unit within OUCS formed earlier this year by the merger of three important groups which concentrate on the use of IT in teaching and research at Oxford. The aims of the LTG are stated as supporting such activities within Oxford University in all disciplines through:

At present the LTG has a staff of 7 FTEs (to rise to 8 later this year with the expansion of the ACDT).


Item 6 - Report from the Systems and Electronic Resources Service, Oxford University Library Services

David Price

10th October 2001

1. Systems and Electronic Resources Service

Following the retirement of Everard Robinson, as part of the process of integration of Oxford University Library Services, a new department, the Systems and Electronic Resources Service, has been established through the merger of the Libraries Automation Service and the Bodleian Systems Section, and the incorporation of the Oxford Digital Library. Dave Price has been asked to head the new department. We shall endeavour to maintain current levels of service in the coming year while restructuring is taking place. At present staff are distributed across five sites but most will be brought together when we move to new accommodation at Osney Mead next year. We expect one result of integration to be simplified support for the full range of information services we provide.

We should like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Everard's achievements during his ten years in Oxford, including his worthy service on these committees. In particular we should mention the enormous expansion during this period of OLIS in terms of member libraries, their holdings and different functional modules, and the migration of OLIS from the DOBIS/LIBIS platform to Geac Advance.

2. OLIS - the Automated Stack Request System

As a result of serious difficulties in the initial implementation of the OLIS Automated Stack Request system last year, a phased approach was adopted. ASR was launched at the Radcliffe Science Library on Monday 24 September and has run successfully for the first two weeks of its operation. The launch was preceded by extensive training of the RSL staff and by rigorous testing on the part of the ASR Monitoring Group which had been briefed to establish that the software was behaving according to specification and was stable, that the printing system was functioning correctly in both normal circumstances and under stress loading, and that the configuration of readers, books and locations was completely correct.

Publicity preceding the launch was deliberately kept low key and stressed the limited scope of the implementation: fetches from RSL stacks to RSL reading rooms only.

Both staff and readers at the RSL have generally taken the system - which is now the only way in which such book fetches can be requested - in their stride. Most of the problems which did arise were to do with the readers' patron records on OLIS and the passwords attached to them.

The system was launched at a quiet time. The first weeks of full term will be busier and problems relating to identification of the item required may be expected to multiply. However, this is broadly comparable to the manual system and no deterioration in service need be anticipated on current evidence.

Discussions at the meeting of the ASR Steering Group on Thursday 5 October have led to agreement that full implementation at the Central Bodleian cannot realistically be countenanced before Christmas but that the extension of the system to fetches from Nuneham Courtenay is feasible and that is what the Project Team is now planning.

This will continue the phased implementation and is based on the fact that readers perceive Nuneham as different (it is differentiated on OLIS) and has a longer delivery period. The system will allow them to place the requests remotely and ascertain the arrival of the items without coming into the library. The step we are proposing will also begin the process of reader education in a gentle fashion: they will be obliged to use the Automated Stack Request system (with the assistance of Reader Services staff is necessary) but only for a limited proportion of their orders.

3. Electronic Resources

a) Electronic Resource Co-ordinator

In July, Frances Boyle (fb@ulib.ox.ac.uk; 84453) was appointed as Electronic Resource Co-ordinator for the Oxford Libraries. In the past, subscriptions to, and technical support for OxLIP databases and electronic journals have been handled by a range of individuals. Centralizing responsibility for them through this post should enhance their management and the quality of the services we provide.

b) Remote Access, Athens and VPN

Provision of remote access to electronic resources has been complicated by the different terms offered by the suppliers and the problem of authentication. There are literally scores of different authentication schemes for those products for which off-site access is permitted. As it would not be feasible to administer them all, our policy has been to limit authentication to either IP filtering (ox.ac.uk) or the national Athens authentication scheme (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/athens/).

The OUCS has been trialling a Cisco-based VPN. This has been of great interest to the libraries as it promises to enable remote access to products we currently limit by IP, using the current authentication scheme for the OUCS dial-in service. Early results indicate that, although it is not entirely transparent* and is currently limited to MS Windows, this can meet our needs both in terms of technology and administration. We would strongly support moves towards making this a production service.

c) OxLIP and Thin-client

OUITUG and CITUG must be familiar with the technical problems in providing a sub-set of OxLIP products - PC-based CD-ROM applications - across campus. Recently we issued an invitation for comments on a proposal to use thin client technology when we replace the current NT/Novell system.

The proposal can be viewed at http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/oxlip-thinclient.htm

We are interested in all your comments, but would especially like to know of any measurable benefits that could be expected, for example, likely impact on local IT support in terms of time savings, or increased accessibility. Please send your comments to Emma Leeson (emma.leeson@sers.ox.ac.uk).

d) TDNet and Electronic Journals

TDNet, the electronic journal management system, was introduced as the primary gateway for Oxford's electronic journals on 1st August (http://tdnet.Bodley.ox.ac.uk). We are currently conducting detailed evaluations of the service. The move to such a management service will hopefully maximise our investments in electronic journals whilst minimising the necessary local staff support time.

The main interface issue has been the difficulty in browsing long title lists. We have made an urgent request to the developers to give prominence to a "keyword in title" search and to improve browsability.

Major collections, Academic Press, OUP and Wiley InterScience, have recently been added to the University's portfolio of ejournals which now totals c.3,300 titles.

e) OXAM - Oxford Examination Papers Online

The OXAM system has continued to run smoothly and over 93,000 papers have been downloaded since its launch 22 September 2000. Feedback has been largely positive. The principal requests have been for past years' papers, examiners' reports, off-site access and, latterly, papers for 2001. A report of this pilot project is available at http://www.Bodley.ox.ac.uk/oxam/oxam-report02.pdf. The Examination Schools will be taking over the service this year: we understand that the 2001 papers have been scanned and should be available in Michaelmas Term.

4. Digitization

a) Head of the Oxford Digital Library (ODL)

Norbert Lossau (nl@ulib.ox.ac.uk) has been appointed to lead this new initiative - the Oxford Digital Library - launched as part of the Libraries' e-strategy. Initially he is focusing on three areas.

i) Setting up a central Digital Imaging Production Service to cover the whole range of still imaging (bitonal, greyscale, colour).

ii) Establishing an infrastructure for the ODL (in terms of standards and technology).

iii) Setting up administrative, application and awarding structures for the ODL/DF - a Mellon grant of $775,000 to OULS to be overseen by an Editorial Board chaired by Kathryn Sutherland of St Annes. Its purpose is to allow scholars to bid for projects that entail digitization of OULS collections. A website with full details will be announced shortly.

b) Digital Preservation Security Policy Brainstorm

With Leeds and Cambridge, Oxford has been one of the partners of the eLib Cedars project (CURL Exemplars in Digital Archives - http://www.leeds.ac.uk/cedars/). Mr Ellis Weinberger (Cedars Project Officer, Cambridge University Library) will be giving a talk on Security Policy and Digital Preservation in Oxford at 11.00 on 28 November 2001. Ellis has provided the following description of his talk:

"The purpose of a security policy for a digital preservation archive is to set out the protection goals of a digital preservation archive, and to state in a concise and technology-neutral way how these goals could be achieved.

"The protection goals of a digital preservation archive are to preserve the digital objects for future users, and to preserve the ability for future users to use the intellectual content of the digital objects.

" If you are interested in attending, please email Emma Leeson (emma.leeson@sers.ox.ac.uk).


* Users must be registered (currently through the OUCS dial-in service) and must obtain and install special VPN client software.


Item 7c - South East Region Computer Users' Committee

Peter Grout

Report on the South East Region Computer Users' 73rd Meeting

This meeting was held on the 14th May, 2001 at the University of London Computer Centre. I was unable to attend this meeting but the minutes of it can be found at http://www.mimas.ac.uk/sercuc/minmay01.html

Should anyone wish to raise any points from the minutes I will be more than happy to discuss it with them.