The next meeting of Oxford University IT Users' Group representatives will be held on Friday 2nd
October 1998 at 14.00 hours in Lecture Room A, OUCS, 13 Banbury Road.
Please note the change of venue.
1. Apologies for absence
2. Minutes of the meetings held on 21st April 1998
3. Matters arising:
Minute 955 - Software audit - possible lunchtime seminar *CB
4. Chairman's report *CIG-B
5. Computing Services report report available
6. Libraries report report available
7. Administrative Information Services report *AMWP
8. Reports from other committees and groups:
a) South East Region JANET Users' Group report available
b) South East Region Computer Users' Committee report available
c) Network Advisory Group URL: http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/oxford/network/nag/
d) IT Support Staff Group *PB
9. Items raised by representatives
10. Any Other Business
11. Dates of next meetings:
Tuesday 12th January 1999 at 14.00
Tuesday 20th April 1999 at 14.00
25th September 1998
2 October 1998 - Item 5
T Alex Reid, Director
1. Annual Report Performance and Workload Statistics
Various statistics relating the workload handled by OUCS and its systems and some aspects of their performance, will be presented at the meeting.
2. Sable/Ermine Performance
Both computers have been rather more stable over the Summer period. This may in part be due, especially in the case of Sable, to the much reduced load during the vacation. However, some improvements in the operating system have been installed, and Ermine has now been brought to the same level as Sable. We hope that we may now have a prolonged period of satisfactory stability.
In the longer term, other measures are being taken to contain or reduce or homogenise the load, including the introduction of Herald (see below). Gradually, various activities will probably be transferred to a suitable separate platform, in order to reduce our dependence on central multi-purpose systems (as indicated by the IT Strategy).
3. HFS Status
Various measures, including the installation of version 3 of the ADSM software, have helped to enable the HFS to cope with the continually rising workload. It is clear to us that some activities are just not appropriate to this particular software and hardware technology, and these will be highlighted in the Status Report which is being prepared for the IT Committee. This will be released for comment to the user community at large before too long. Regrettably, the client software at version 3 has not been robust enough to release generally; it will probably not now be before the start of 1999 that we feel able to release this for general use.
4. Backbone Network Upgrade
The backbone network currently employs FDDI technology, operating at 100Mbps. The growth in use of this network indicates that a replacement must be found before too long, and investigations and a Report for the IT Committee are currently being pursued. The likely candidates are Gigabit Ethernet and ATM. For simplicity's sake, Gigabit Ethernet would be the logical choice. However, given that we should expect this technology to last for 5-10 years, the issue of service integration (data, voice, video, alarms, CCTV, etc) needs very careful consideration. We would expect that any new technology would be deployed progressively and in parallel, meeting the most critical needs first. Funds have already been reserved for this major project, which we expect to commence about mid-1999.
5. Janet Connection
The switch from SMDS to ATM (SuperJanetIII), with Oxford operating as a Backbone Edge Node (BEN), took place smoothly on 4-Aug-98. This did not appear to cause any disruption at all to traffic. Brookes University is taking its Janet feed from us, and they also switched over smoothly at the start of September. We view this as a "virtual MAN". See http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/janet.html.
The link is currently operating at 8Mbps outwards (25Mbps effective inwards), versus 10Mbps outwards for the SMDS link. The link is capable of being upgraded to as much as 34Mbps or even 155Mbps eventually. We are waiting pricing information before we make firm plans to do this, though it seems likely that the cost can be contained within the funds already set aside by the General Board for this purpose.
6. Charging for Trans-Atlantic Traffic
As you should all know, the Funding Councils have decided that there should be a charge imposed, from 1-Aug-98, for inwards traffic coming across the trans-Atlantic link. This is now happening; the gross rate is £0.02 per Mbyte, but is being subsidised for English HEIs by HEFCE during 1998/9, bringing the net charge down to £0.01 per Mbyte. In addition, there is currently no charge for traffic between 1am and 6am every day, and there is no charge for traffic directed to come through the National Cache.
We are now receiving data from UKERNA about our traffic volumes and the charges being incurred (on a pilot basis at this stage), and the first real bill is expected on 1-Nov-98 covering the 3-month period from 1-Aug-98. For 1998/9, the General Board has agreed to meet this charge. The IT Committee will shortly be considering what to recommend beyond 31-Jul-99.
The traffic and billing data is now being made available for general scrutiny, and can be seen at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/janet-billing.html. This data is updated daily, and provides daily and monthly traffic and cost data for each IP subnet with Oxford University. The site also contains an FAQ, which will be updated periodically as we gain in experience of the new arrangements. We still plan to derive our own traffic statistics, which might give us greater granularity than that available from UKERNA. However, it is very difficult for us to determine whether a particular piece of traffic travelled over the trans-Atlantic link or not - eg some .uk sites are not in the UK and some .com sites are in the UK, and things can change dynamically with traffic loads and line faults.
In considering what to recommend for 1999/2000, the IT Committee will certainly wish to consider factors such as the following:
Use of the local cache and whether this should be made compulsory;
- The pattern of growth in usage - if it continues to rise as in the past (see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/janet.html #Usage Statistics), then more draconian measures may be required;
- How/whether to protect research or other "serious" use of the Internet;
- Whether to ban student use of the Internet altogether, or to be far stricter about what is considered bona fide use.
7 Central Email Server - Herald
A new Web-based client/server email service has been developed and will be put into operation for all new undergraduate students. All new undergraduates will be issued with an account automatically on this system (they will be supplied with their account details at the time they collect their University Cards). We hope that the system will be simple and easy enough to use that it will not impose any significant burden on IT support staff (especially in the Colleges), and indeed make all our lives easier with a simple, uniform and ubiquitous emailing system. Details can be found on the Web at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/email/herald
We hope to be able to extend use of it, on a voluntary basis, to other undergraduates, post-graduates, and staff early in the New Year. In the longer term, this may be the appropriate vehicle to replace email serving off Sable and Ermine entirely, but we will need to see how well it performs and how acceptable it is.
8. Use of University Card
A number of factors (including impending charging for HelpDesk use) have convinced us that we must henceforth increasingly insist upon use of the University Card for identification. This simplifies and streamlines many of our registration and other processes enormously, so should be beneficial to users as well as OUCS. Since this has been the standard requirement for the University libraries for some time now, and every category of user of OUCS is entitled to some form of University card, we do not believe that this should be at all restrictive. We therefore encourage you to advise members of your departments accordingly. Instructions on how to acquire a Card are due to be placed on the Web shortly.
9. HelpDesk Software
OUCS has now managed to implement and put into operation a version of the HelpDesk software acquired earlier this year. This will enable call logging and call tracking. Further features (including use by staff other than those at the HelpDesk itself) are gradually being implemented, but substantial rollout and use will probably have to await the next release of the software, due later this year. We are also just starting to be able to consider the creation of a database of queries, but it will be some time yet before this can be realistically made more widely available.
10 Charging for HelpDesk Service
All departments in receipt of a RAWP-formula grant were invited to decide, by 31-Jul-98, if they wished to opt out of using the OUCS HelpDesk services. See details at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/charged-help-service.html .
In the end, 10 departments opted out and 14 opted in. These changes will not take effect until 1-Aug-99. By then, we expect to have provided the necessary training for the relevant IT support staff so they can answer queries which would previously have come to OUCS, and also to have explored with Colleges what arrangements they may wish to make for undergraduates. We are also starting to gather comprehensive and reliable usage statistics, and hope to make these available to any department needing to know.
11 Central Software Server
A report has been prepared for the IT Committee considering whether there should be a central software server to enable students to access software required by departments in their colleges or bedrooms. It seems clear that the thin-client (as opposed to fat-client) approach is to be preferred, but it is recommended that we not proceed with this for the time being, for two principal reasons:
- The available software (such as Microsoft's Terminal Server and Citrix' Metaframe) is in something of a state of flux, and the cost is currently very high; there are prospects of a substantial reduction (see below), and it seems expedient to wait;
- There has been very little demand shown by departments for this service in a survey which was conducted; in view of the quite substantial cost of even a pilot scheme, this does not seem to be justified at this stage.
12 Windows Internet Naming Service
Following discussions and acceptance of the need to do something about naming conventions and policies for Windows systems throughout the University (see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/windows/winnt/index.xml?ID=WINS) further work has been done towards the next step which is to develop a Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS). A proposal has been prepared for discussion within OUCS, which will shortly be issued for general comment.
13 Email Service for Alumni
Progress has been made on a plan to provide Oxford alumni with an email forwarding service, probably free of charge, and operated by the Alumni Office. Graduates would then be able to quote an Oxford address and any email to that address would be forwarded by the Oxford system to their "real" address. Formal Council approval and the necessary modest funding are currently being sought.
14 Dial-Up Charging
The IT Committee last Term considered at length the question of whether to start to charge for dial-up use, especially in view of the impending extension via an outsourced contract of student telephone network. As you will know, the official IT Strategy calls for the use of Ethernet or other forms of direct connection to the University Network wherever possible. There are also concerns about overloading the University's internal phone network (OUTN), designed primarily for voice calls, with longer data calls. The following conclusions were therefore reached:
- For this year at least, there would continue to be no charge for use of the dial-up service, including from StudentNet (the ComTel service for remote annexes);
- Use of dial-up through the University internal telephone network would continue to be discouraged, possibly with stronger restrictions imposed (except for special cases);
- Dial-up access from the forthcoming telephone service for students in central college buildings and annexes (ie through the OUTN) would not be permitted.
OUCS has launched a pilot of the European Computer Driver's Licence (ECDL) scheme, following its release nationally and support from the IT Committee's Training & Education Steering Group. The pilot is taking place in two parts: the first, started in mid-September, is for 40 IT support staff, to give them an opportunity to test it and acquire it for themselves, and to pass evaluative comments on it; the second is for students (perhaps the main target), which will start in mid-October. The first is being funded largely by OUCS, while the second will be largely self-funding (to test the market). This licence, which validates a sound basic competence in IT, is gaining widespread attention, and may become a standard measure of basic IT competence. The pilots should show whether it lives up to expectations, and whether there is likely to be an ongoing market for it.
16 Microsoft Software Licences
The current Select4 licence arrangement for Microsoft products runs until December 1999. Thereafter, there is a strong possibility that, although Microsoft will continue with a form of the Select agreement, they will remove "concurrency" from its provisions. This could have a big impact on many users of MS products in laboratory situations. Work is going on behind the scenes at a national (even international) level to negotiate acceptable arrangements thereafter. Some of you may be aware of a new scheme introduced in the USA recently, called Campus Connect, which may answer some of the concerns, but may introduce others. Once information about any new such scheme is available, it will be announced via the usual mailing lists, and will doubtless require consultation and careful consideration to decide whether Oxford should subscribe or not.
17 Database of IT Support Staff
OUCS is continuing to build the database of official IT support staff contacts in departments and colleges. Since some of the returns were rather patchy, this is taking longer than expected. We hope to mount a database which will enable OUCS to contact the most appropriate person in each unit over relevant matters of concern to them. Eventually, we hope to make it generally available to IT support staff (probably on a restricted basis), so that similar contacts can be made between units. We will advise when this progresses to near that stage.
The Humanities Computing Unit of OUCS is about formally to launch a Humanities Computing Development Team (HCDT) which will undertake IT development projects for research and teaching purpose within the humanities. It has some seed funding, and will have a complement of three full-time staff, plus the ability to call on other expertise within the HCU. It has already identified a range of potential development projects, elicited through a survey conducted earlier this year, and will shortly issue a further call for expressions of interest. If successful (and that partly depends on being able to attract other funding in the longer term), then it may prove to be a model of what could also be attempted (within OUCS or elsewhere) in other disciplines.
2 October 1998 - Item 6
Everard Robinson and Dave Price
21 September 1998
System load is relatively constant, peaking at around 615 simultaneous users. Systems
Software on the main server should have been upgraded from Solaris 2.4 to 2.6, UniVerse
8.3.3 to9.41 and Volume Manager 2.1 to 2.5 by the time of this meeting. Performance gains
are anticipated from the upgrade. The work was carried out at weekends to reduce the impact
on services to readers.
In anticipation of the increased load resulting from the deployments of GU1 OPAC software
the sever supporting cataloguing and GeoPAC was migrated from Mercury to Zeus in 29th and
2 The Bodleian Pre-1920 Catalogue
Work is continuing on preparations to convert and load data into a parallel OLIS database. Additional disk storage has been installed to accommodate the additional 1.2 million items.
3 The Stack Request System
The Working party overseeing the specifications of an automated Stack Request control system configurable to meet the needs of all Oxford libraries has met several times. The formal specification is now well advanced and it is hoped that Geac will be able to dovetail Oxford's requirements with work being carried out for similar but less complex systems at Trinity College, Dublin and the National Library of Wales.
4 GUI Interfaces to OLIS
GeoPAC and GeoWeb will both be officially launched for the start of Michaelmas term. It is anticipated that GeoWeb will be the preferred method of access to readers in the general academic community although some may wish to use GeoPAC for its superior display of unusual characters and diacritics. Further details of the functionality, present and future is given below.
GeoWeb may be accessed at http://saturn.las.ox.ac.uk:8000/.
It would be very useful if members of the group could try this latest version of GeoWeb and send any comments on its functionality to me or to Gary Peatling whose email address appears at the end of this section.
5 GeoWeb Features
- Allow keyword searching, with or without Boolean operators, and browse (scan) searching.
- Display keyword search results as brief citation lists, with hypertext links to full bibliographic records.
- Display browse search results as heading lists with hypertext links to citation lists.
- Allow result set navigation record by record or by selecting relative record number.
- Provide hypertext links from indexed fields of full bibliographic records to follow-on searches ("related works" feature).
- Provide hypertext links to other WWW resources via URL's embedded within bibliographic records. Links are accessible at both the citation display and the full record display screens.
- Display records in MARC format (as a list of tags, indicators, subfields) if requested.
GeoWeb will allow "marking", which is the saving of record pointers in order to facilitate
subsequent access to and/or the emailing of the records.
The interface has a number of useful facilities which includes allowing readers to access their
patron records. Please note that the first seven characters of the barcode number on the
University card may be used as both id and password. In order to change one's password,
however, one has to use the facility provided in the characterbased OPAC.
- Users will be able to hyperlink to previous search result sets.
- Users can combine searches from their search history with new search terms.
The timeout on GeoWeb has been set initially to 5 minutes.
Online help is available throughout GeoWeb.
- Your WWW browser must support forms and tables.
- Your browser must be HTML 3.2 compliant.
Z39.50 is an international standard which governs communication between computer systems,
primarily between library and information related systems. For further information about the
standard, please consult
Technical information about GeoWeb can be found at
Please send any comments about functionality to email@example.com Any problems
logging on to GeoWeb should be reported to the LAS helpline (firstname.lastname@example.org)
6 GeoPAC v.4
The general release of GeoPAC in Oxford will coincide with the start of the new academic
year. Initially, GeoPAC will be downloaded onto at least one PC in every OLIS library
wherever possible. There should be no difficulties in running GeoPAC and the character-based OPAC on the same PC; however, the reader GeoPAC should not be installed on any
machine running GeoCat.
When a search term is entered in GeoPAC, depending on the nature of the search and the results, one of three different kinds of window may be brought up.
- A heading list. This displays when the scan option is selected.
- A citation list. This displays if the search option is selected in a case where there is more than one exact hit.
- A bibliographic record window. This displays if a search produces one exact hit, or if a
single bibliographic record is selected from the heading or citation lists.
The following features of GeoPAC are or will soon be available;
- Adding search limits by language, date or place of publication.
- Full display of special characters and diacritics as in GeoCat.
- Option to customise search query window by selection of search indexes.
- Keyword and Boolean searches.
- Selection of search or scan options when starting a search.
- Display of search results summary in a 'Display Manager' window. This window, which appears whenever a search term is entered, will display information about a search when it is in progress, number of hits, and details of all prior searches undertaken during a GeoPAC session.
- Option to store or save locally search results in 'Baskets' or collections of bibliographic references.
- Display of bibliographic records in detailed or MARC format.
- Online help.
The following features are not yet available:
- Patron facilities. It is currently not possible to place a reservation using GeoPAC. This is under investigation.
- It will ultimately be possible to use GeoPAC to search other databases, but during the initial release it will be pointed only at OLIS.
- Limiting searches by institution (i.e., by Oxford library) is not currently an option.
- Logging on to particular libraries is not possible. Hidden copies will therefore be
hidden even to a user logged on in the hiding library.
Installation instructions for PCs outside libraries will be issued shortly.
7 Electronic Resources
The Oxford University Home Page has a link called Electronic Resources
which brings together the major electronic
information services and navigational tools provided by the Oxford libraries. This is a useful
starting point when searching for what is available.
The agreement for this service has been extended for six months and renegotiated. It now
provides users in Oxford with 113 electronic versions of newspapers. The direct URL for the
service is http://dialog.carl.org:3015,
but users may prefer to use the URL http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/enews/
the Electronic Resources page mentioned
above) which inter-files the Dialog offerings with other electronic newspapers available to
9 OCLC FirstSearch
Because they have been rarely accessed in the past, several databases have been dropped from
the OCLC FirstSearch service. As from 1st October, the following will not be available.
Please let the Chairman of the Datasets Committee (stuart.lee@oucs) know of any concern.
Electronic Collections Online; Applied Science and Technology Abstracts; Art Abstracts;
Biology Digest; Biography; Book Review; Consumer; Education Abstracts; Facts Search;
General Science Abstracts; Microcomputer Abstracts; Reader Guide Abstracts; Social Science
Abstracts; Wilson Business Abstracts.
As has been mentioned before, the personal bibliographic software, EndNote 3, has the ability
to search Z39.50 databases directly, in particular, OLIS and the databases mounted on ERL.
It is now possible to open and search multiple databases simultaneously. We are gradually
building up EndNote connection files to enable this - at present they are available for OLIS,
Medline PsycLit and Sociofile. They are available at
11 Microsoft Technet
This information has been circulated before but we are concerned by the low usage of this
service. The University subscribes to Technet, which comprises the Microsoft Knowledge
Base and a wide range of MS Service Packs and Resource Kits on a large number of CDs.
Having these mounted locally in Oxford is likely to be of great benefit with the introduction of
trans-Atlantic network charges. The CDs are mounted as shares on the NT server bodley10,
which can be found in the NT domain bod-databases. (Under Novell, it is visible as
bodley10-fpnw.) To install Technet, simply run
\\bodley10-fpnw\technet\setup.exe under Novell).
2 October 1998 - Item 8a
South East Region JANET Users' Group Report
15 September 1998
The last meeting of the Group (2nd June) was held a few days after a new T3 (45 Mbps) transatlantic had been installed and a few weeks before the introduction of charging for transatlantic traffic. The doubled bandwidth of the link was being fully-exploited within a week
of becoming available. There was much discussion about mechanisms that could be used by JANET sites to pass on charges to users and to encourage (or force) the use of caches. However, there was general dissatisfaction with the national cache service that is currently available and little
expectation of much improvement.
SERJUG home page, with links to minutes of meetings, is now at
UKERNA reports to the JANET community can be found at
2 October 1998 - Item 8b
South East Region Computer Users' Committee - 23 June 1998
Peter J. Grout
26 September 1998
1 The New Supercomputer
Since this meeting it has been announced that a six year Private Finance Initiative contract to
provide HPC for the research councils (EPSRC, NERC, BBSRC, ESRC and PPARC) has
been awarded to a consortium (Computation for Science (CfS)) the members of which are
Manchester Computing, Silicon Graphics and Computer Sciences Corporation. The initial
service will include CRAY T3E-1200E with 576 processors, 148GBytes of memory and
2Tbytes of disk space. Full details can be found at
2 Manchester Computing
JSTOR was launched in March. The UK JSTOR Mirror is an electronic archive of research
journals. A range of JSTOR support resources are available for down loading at
The use of the Beilstein CrossFire Service continues to grow. The details of the service can be
found at http://midas.ac.uk/crossfire.
Two major additions to the service have been
released namely an automatic IUPAC name-generating program and an Excel client
(permitting the export of CrossFire data into Excel spread sheets. The data base is updated
Two CrossFire training documents have been released
(I) for Non-Chemists (http://midas.ac.uk/crossfire/docs/exercises1.html.)
(ii) for Chemists (http://midas.ac.uk/crossfire/docs/exercises2.html.)
The following new or updated data sets have been installed
(I) The Health Survey for England (1991-2 and 1993)
(ii) The British (Birth) Cohort Study 1970
(iii) The Cambridge Structural Database (version 5.14).
The MIDAS newsletter can been found at
and the general programme of MIDAS Courses can be found at
The CRAY J90 service is due to close on 31 March 1999. A plan has been drawn up for the
closure the details of which can be found at http://wwwhpc.rl.ac.uk/migration.
Any class 3 awards made this summer will only be for the period before the machine closes.
Future class 3 time will be available at Manchester (Note that Class 3 time is already available
An additional 625MHz Alpha server has been brought into service this has effectively doubled
the resources available.