The next meeting of Oxford University IT Users' Group representatives will be held on Tuesday 16th April 2002 at 14.00 hours in the Lecture Theatre of the Computing Laboratory, Wolfson Building, Parks Road.
1. Apologies for absence
2. Minutes of the meeting held on 8th January 2002
3. Matters arising
4. Chairman's report from Pete Biggs - report available
5. Computing Services - report available
6. Libraries - report available
7. Reports from other committees and groups
7.1 South East Region Computer Users' Committee - report available
7.2 Network Advisory Group - URL:http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/oxford/network/nag/
7.3 IT Support Staff Group - Nothing to report other than to note the date of this year's conference which is 20th June 2002, venue Said Business School.
8. OSIRIS Report - Including details of support requirements, client configurations - MIS Team
9. Items raised by representatives
10. Any Other Business
11. Date of next meeting
OXFORD UNIVERSITY IT USERS' GROUP
Item 4 - Chairman's Report
ITUG Chairman's Report - Trinity 2002 This is my first report as chairman and as my first act I would like to thank the previous chairman, John Jenkins, not only for his work with this group, but also for continuing as chairman as long as he did and for being impartial in a difficult situation. I hope I will be able to continue and expand on John's good work.
During my term of office I would like to try and revitalise the group. I feel that over recent years the meetings of the group have become little more than a reporting forum with very little real discussion going on. That is not to say that the receiving of reports by the group is not an important function, but the ITUG has always played a very important role in the hierarchy of IT in the University and the members of the group have a direct conduit to the ICTC through the chairman. Consequently it is an ideal forum for the airing and timely discussion of important IT issues within the University and I would like to encourage group members to raise items for discussion.
To start things of, there are a couple of important issues that have come to light over the last few months that are deserving of discussion by this group. The first is the severe loss of external connectivity suffered by the University for an extended period in March. It has become clear that the problems were with UKERNA, not with OUCS, or their equipment, but nevertheless it is unacceptable that the rest of the world should be cut off from the University for so long. Undoubtedly UKERNA will reassure the University that such an exact situation will not recur, but it was obvious that the underlying response from UKERNA, or its contractors, was not acceptable.
The second issue is that of viruses and in particular those that are spread by emails. There has been considerable talk of how such viruses should be tackled and there needs to be some consensus on the best way of mitigating their effects, whether it be by centralised protection or by more aggressive use of anti-virus software.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY IT USERS' GROUP
Item 5 - OUCS Report
26th March 2002
1 ANNUAL REPORT 2000/2002
The OUCS Annual Report is available on the web at: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/annrep/
2 ERMINE CLOSURE - ADVANCE NOTICE
Ermine has been running a University UNIX service since 1996. The hardware is now very old (in computer terms) and expensive to maintain. We are therefore planning to close the Ermine system in July 2003.
A number of users and projects make heavy use of the Ermine service and depend on the facilities it provides. We are planning a phased withdrawal of service to enable smooth migration to alternative systems. This will begin with a three-month consultation with users so that we can determine how best to provide these facilities in the future. We will then work with all users to help them to plan and prepare their migration to other facilities.
The current timetable for withdrawal of the service is as follows:
|Apr 2002||Initial announcement|
|Apr 2002 - Jul 2002||Consultation period|
|Jul 2002||Announce Ermine shutdown date and migration plans|
|Jul 2002 - Feb 2003||Phased migration to alternative services|
|Feb 2003||Project time expiry for Ermine users|
|Jul 2003||Disable login to Ermine|
There are currently more than 6000 Ermine users and we expect to encounter some difficulties along the way. This task can only be undertaken with the valuable help and support of IT staff throughout the University. We will keep you informed of all the plans and look forward to working with you. If you have any comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us via the OUCS Help Centre (firstname.lastname@example.org)
3 NEW OUCS HELP CENTRE
Following a major review and consultation exercise (see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/changes/ for more information), OUCS is reorganising and restructuring its user support services. The heart of the new service is the OUCS Help Centre, which will provide a single location and point of contact for all of OUCS front-line support.
Based in the former Help Area at 13 Banbury Road, the Help Centre will bring together the front-line services formerly provided by the User Registration Desk, the Advisory Desk, the Learning and Resource Centre (LaRC), the Centre for Humanities Computing (CHC), and the PC Consultancy surgery sessions.
The new Help Centre aims to:
The Help Centre will begin operation on Monday 15th April, 2002. At that date, the existing public areas in the LaRC and CHC will close and their facilities will transfer to the Help Centre. The final PC Consultancy drop-in session will be on Friday 12th April.
For telephone callers, the Help Centre will be accessible via a new automated telephone service on the main OUCS number (2)73200. The existing numbers for Registration, Advisory and LaRC Office will be redirected to the new system. The email address for the Help Centre will be email@example.com although the existing advisory@oucs will continue to be useable.
The Help Centre will be jointly managed by Katherine Craddock and Peter Higginbotham who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information, see www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/helpcentre/
There will also be a new OUCS Web Site Home Page. As of the 15th of April 2002, OUCS will be sporting a new, feature rich, front page to the web site (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk). Several dynamic information feeds have been introduced to help keep our users up-to-date on all OUCS activities. You will find the following new sections:
Other pages on the web site have also been updated to reflect the new organisation of OUCS and the new Help Centre service.
4 'MAILER' STATUS AND EMAIL ADDRESSES
Up to now, departments and colleges have been able to register anybody for a University email address. The status was recorded in the database as 'mailer'. This has to be verified by the department or college each July as there are no other ways to check that the person is still here.
We would like to move to using University Card information to determine someone's status and to get rid of 'mailer'. Anyone who is entitled to have an .ox.ac.uk email address is entitled to a University Card. See http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/card/ for details.
The plan is that from 1 July 2002 we will not put on any new people with 'mailer' status but will ask them to get a University Card first. (Cards can be obtained for people before they start work.) We will do the usual July review. The hope is to have everyone off 'mailer' status by the following review date of July 2003.
A list of people with 'mailer' status is in the usual ITSS location via http://www.itssg.ox.ac.uk/ select 'OUCS Facilities for Registered ITSS'. Status is also visible under the usual 'Unit Information' link in the 'Usernames' option.
5 OXFORD E-SCIENCE CENTRE
The initial objectives of the OeSC have been to establish Oxford as one of the Regional Centres, to support eScience groups within the University, and to commission an internet Grid in the University. These have all been accomplished.
The first stage has been the award of funds by the OST/DTI for Oxford to become an eScience Regional Centre. These funds, plus support found elsewhere within the University, have provided for two members of staff who between them will set up and work on the Access Grid, the Gatekeeper (passport control to the University's eScience centre), and a small cluster running LINUX with Condor Scheduling.
Since then, funding has been obtained from the following sources for additional staff. Internally, £85K has come from the Research Development Fund (RDF) for the three parttime Associate Directors, and a further £218K from the RDF for initial funding of three support posts (a Globus expert, external relations, and a post linking eScience and OSCAR), the funding to be phased out over three years and replaced by funding from eScience research grants. Externally, the DTI has provided for an eScience Manager, the DAME project had provided a 50% post for Websphere development (IBM web services), and two posts for security and data management have come from the EU Datagrid funds.
A Management Board, chaired by Professor Iversen and with representation from inside the University and from external members with interests in the Centre, has been established. Its reporting line is to the ICTC, which is the University's forum for considering strategic issues relating to eScience.
With the Centre established, consideration can be given to its longer-term development. The question a year ago, whether eScience would become a niche or mainstream activity looked as though it was resolving as the latter. The e-Science bid to the Government's spending review later this year has a section on Grid activities, broadening from eScience to elearning, eGovernment, eenvironment, medical and health care informatics, ebusiness, eScience, military activities, and Grid security. The Oxford eScience Centre, being based in a university with interests in most of these fields, is well placed to compete under such a structure, particularly as it is partially based in a service department rather than being embedded in a science department. It is now important to prepare conceptually, projects that might be forthcoming under the relevant heads.
Item 6 - Systems and Electronic Resources Service Report
1. Systems and Electronic Resources Service (SERS)
James Allen and Alexander Huber have been recruited as Digital Imaging Advisor and Metadata Services Co-ordinator, two new senior posts supporting the Oxford Digital Library developments. They started 2nd April.
Currently SERS staff are distributed between six sites in central Oxford. Most will be brought together shortly when we move to new premises on Osney Mead and it is now expected that this will take place in June. Every effort will be made to ensure that SERS services will not be unduly disrupted by the move. This will be our temporary location before moving with other library units to the Blackwell Science building, also on Osney Mead, in 2004.
2. OLIS - the Automated Stack Request System (ASR)
The ASR first phase implementation was at the Radcliffe Science Library last year. The second phase, to extend the system to fetches from the libraries' remote repository at Nuneham Courtenay took place successfully on 8th January 2002. A date for extending ASR across the entire Bodleian has not yet been fixed, but it is expected to be Summer 2002.
GeoWeb, the web interface for OLIS, does not presently support ASR. We are continuing to press the developers for this, but in the meantime, stack requests are only be possible through the telnet interface. As support for telnet is diminishing and web browsers are often incorrectly configured to use telnet URLs, we have introduced a Java Telnet as a third mechanism for accessing OLIS. All options can be accessed from http://www.lib.ox.ac.uk/olis?.
3. Electronic Resources
a) Remote Access
The OUCS VPN service promises to meet to a great extent demands from users for remote access to licensed and restricted library information services. We understand that so far take up has not been especially high.
It is necessary to register for the OUCS VPN service while on campus. The OUCS did advertise this information and provided a promotional poster to IT staff advising students to do so before leaving for vacation. Despite this, there were still a large number of complaints over the Easter vacation from those who realized too late that they could not access the OXAM examination papers.
b) TDNet and Electronic Journal
TDNet, our electronic journal management system, has been upgraded from Access to SQL Server thereby overcoming the performance limitations (http://tdnet.bodley.ox.ac.uk). Rather than the TDNet system itself, most complaints are now related to general network problems or to individual subscriptions, i.e. problems with the ejournal suppliers, which are dealt with as they arise.
c) EndNote Connection Files for Inspec and Embase
Subscriptions for two ERL databases, Embase and Inspec, have been changed for economic reasons and we now use services mounted externally at BIDS and ARC. This is largely transparent for usual forms of access via WinSPIRS, MacSPIRS or WebSPIRS. However, special configuration is required for access via Z39.50, in particular, from the personal bibliographic software, EndNote. Please inform your users that new EndNote connection files for Embase and Inspec can be downloaded from http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/erl/erlz3950.htm.
a) Oxford Digital Library (ODL) - Development Fund
The Development Fund of the Oxford Digital Library is a new grant program with the overarching remit to enrich Oxford's library collections with a significant set of digital resources. It was described in detail in the last report to OUITUG (see also http://www.odl.ox.ac.uk). In Autumn 2001 a call was issued for expressions of interest in the first round of bids to the Fund. After their examination by the Development Fund Editorial Board, full proposals were invited and the ODL provided assistance in their preparation. At the Editorial Board meeting of 14th March 2002, it was agreed in principle to fund in the first round 5 full projects and 3 pilot projects, totalling £86.000.
b) Oxford University Libraries Imaging Service (OULIS)
After a moratorium to allow systems and work-flow development, OULIS opened in January an on-demand digitization service to augment the traditional photographic and reprographic service. It uses three high resolution colour camera scanning backs (Phase Ones and Betterlight), a UMAX flat-bed scanner and fast, bi-tonal Zeutschel Omniscan book-scanner.
8 April 2002
OXFORD UNIVERSITY IT USERS' GROUP
Item 7.1 South East Region Computer Users' Committee Report
12th April 2002
This meeting was held on the 12th March, 2002 at ULCC.
The minutes of this meeting will shortly appear at http://www.mimas.ac.uk/sercuc/minmar02.html
It was a pleasure to be able to welcome a large number of the London Group of MC representatives to this meeting.
Reports from centres
The report given to the meeting by Manchester Computing can be found at http://www.mimas.ac.uk/reports/mimasnews/mimas_feb02.html There is nothing to add to that report.
CLRC is part of the UK National e-science Grid (see http://www.research-councils.ac.uk/escience/ and the links contained therein).
It runs UK Grid Support Centre (see http://www.grid-support.ac.uk/) and is the certification authority issuing digital certificates for the UK research community.
CLRC is committed to a number of Grid projects, especially DataGrid (see http://www.eu-datagrid.org) and GRIDPP (see http://www.gridpp.ac.uk.)
CLRC continues to run the ATLAS Superscalar Computer Service.
The presentation given in June 2001 by Jonathon Wheeler, CLRC, concerning Grid computing can now be down loaded by following the link from the SERCUC home page (http://www.mimas.ac.uk/sercuc)