Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting

A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 2pm on Tuesday 3rd Feb 2009 in the ETB Committee Room


  • 1 Apologies for absence and Membership of the Committee
  • 2 Matters arising from the Minutes of the Meeting of the last meeting
  • 3 IT/AV – Matters for Discussion (attached)
  • 4 IT/AV – Head of IT Report (attached)
  • 5 IT/AV expenditure - matters for report (PJW)
  • 6 AOB
  • 7 Date and time of next meeting: Tuesday 28th October 2008 at 2pm in BR Committee Room


See minutes below.


  • no specific policy items for discussion


The report below summarises activities since the last meeting of ITC, as categorised by topic. The report is intended for record rather than for discussion at ITC meeting although queries may arise.

Admin Network
No significant changes to the admin network since the last meeting. OSS access functional.

Teaching Laboratory
Printer firmware was upgraded to resolve pdf printing problems. One D505 laptop went missing for several months but has now been relocated. The spare D600 was used instead.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms
The data projector bulb in the QIPIRC was replaced. The data projector bulk in the 21BRLT was also replaced due to intermittent failure (overheating?). All rooms were checked at the end of last term and at the start of this term.

Digital Darkroom
Print usage levels remain high. Swipecard door entry remains broken making it difficult to monitor weekend usage.

The desktop pc’s still have generic user accounts but it is intended that these PC’s will no-longer have generic user accounts thus each user will need to login.

The MML RAID file storage was migrated back to the proper hardware without issue. Another 10node cluster is due to be delivered on 6th Feb. The modelling options course has just finished without problem. The new modelling chair will arrive in April and be located in the Rex Richards Building.

The EM IT room was refurbished and the networking rewired accordingly. Significant power outage of the Department server room was required to modify wiring in order to install UPS provision for the ESTEEM equipment.

Planned developments of the database information intended for presenting research projects, new projects available, publications, research highlights, department news, a department diary, private content for internal view only etc. are still under development.

Researches in Progress document has been started but has not been completed (again) due to dependence upon the development of new web-interface for updating projects.

Summaries of mugshots have been circulated by email in advance of the web-interface becoming accessible to members of department.

The new departmental headed notepaper and compliment slips have just been ordered.

The whole department network was taken off-line on Sunday 20th December to enable replacement of the main core network rack in the HR server room.

A document outlining the requirements for wireless provision within the department was submitted (slightly late) to the university’s wireless project team. We hope to devolve responsibility for wireless provision to OUCS.

The new Cisco VOIP system has been commissioned for installation at Begbroke. Six new handsets are on order and existing old handsets will be migrated to the new system over the next few months.

No instances of p2p software have been detected. Several users received help removing viruses. Several systems were infected by malware sufficiently nasty to require reinstallation. One laptop was stolen over Christmas.

Waste Disposal
Disposal of IT equipment happened just before Christmas. 56monitors, 30desktops, 20printers

Origin was updated to service release 4 (problems with incorrect license code resolved).
Mathematica was updated to version 7 (problems with bug in license server resolved).
ANSYS software and license server was installed for PSG group.

IT Support Area
No significant changes to the IT support area since last meeting except lots of miscellaneous hardware is accumulating needing attention!


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 2pm on Tuesday 3rd Feb 2009 in the ETB Committee Room.
The following people attended: APD, PJW, AMC, CA, JDM, RT.

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

No apologies were received from Simon Benjamin. John Murphy apologised for needing to leave at 2.30pm.

2. Matters arising from the minutes

a) IT disaster recovery plans (Minute 2b)
There is still a need for disaster recovery documentation to ensure that there is adequate provision and there is a clear structure for achieving efficient disaster recovery and ensuring business continuity. [Recent status update: a new tape autoloader being commissioned by KS to increase tape backup provision.] It was discussed that the Disaster recovery plans be moved to a standing item such as IT Strategy and reviewed annually.

Action: PJW

b) Website (Minute 2c)
PJW needs to circulate questionnaire to all senior staff concerning website provision.

Action: PJW

c ) Archive procedures. (Minute 2e)
PJW needs to circulate a questionnaire to all senior staff concerning archiving provision in order to find out whether there is a problem and whether we should investigate a central solution to what is currently a group-centric problem. APD noted that this should possibly also including information about Oxford Research Archive (the new electronic institutional repository of output such as theses, publications, datasets etc) and maybe also the Symplectic database of all publications.

Action: PJW

d) Strategy and Support documents (Minute 3b)
Committee members were requested to comment on the IT Strategy and IT Support Policy at www.materials.ox.ac.uk/it/itstrategy.html www.materials.ox.ac.uk/it/itsupportpolicy.html and send any comments directly to PJW. No comments were received. PJW has updated these webpages and most of the other IT webpages, although more pages are needed (e.g. Materials0 instructions, printing instructions as per Item 2k below).

Action: APD/PJW

f) Update on Groupware project (Minute 3f)
PJW updated the committee on the progress of the University Groupware project. PJW noted that the current schedule is that all Herald email accounts will be migrated to the Exchange by the end of August 2009 and there are currently discussions about possible methods for scheduling the migration of users. PJW noted that there may be a need for user training and help migrating. An update on the status of the Core User Directory project was not available from PJW or APD. Both items to be reported upon again at next meeting.

Action: PJW/APD

g) Lecture Theatres and Meeting Rooms (Minute 6a)
PJW emailed staff and fellows to remind them to record problems in the logbook and notify itsupport@materials.ox.ac.uk.

h) Oracle printed invoices (Minute 6b)
SCB had asked whether there was a way of getting PDF purchase orders out of oracle suitable for emailing to company contacts, other than by re-scanning the printed purchase orders. AMC reported than it is technically possible to output to postscript and then convert to pdf. However finance staff have pointed out that the pdf would not have a signature and would therefore be potentially open to fraudulent use. APD confirmed the the current method of researchers re-scanning a signed printed order when an electronic copy is needed should remain.

i) Podcasting (Minute 6c)
SCB had asked whether there was existing recordings of lectures/meetings suitable for creating a Materials area on the Oxford iTunes site. PJW had reported that recordings do exist. PJW and SCB should investigate (note time limited) and talk to Schools Liaison team. Note permissions will be required and the Head of Department is required to authorise content. (No progress. Item carried forward)

PJW noted that video editing skills are currently being investigated in order to convert the department Video library to electronic format (for SGR). APD noted that we should assess the need for the videos before spending time converting them.

Action: PJW/SCB

j) WiFi at Begbroke (Minute 6d)
APD had mentioned there have been requests for networking for people visiting Begbroke (internal and external). PJW implemented network points for laptop users at both EM coffee area and Faraday coffee area. In addition a hot desk computer with printing capabilities and a dataprojector were installed in the Yarnton Room upstairs in Hirsch South Extension and advertised by email and with posters.

The wireless provision will follow in due course dependant upon the larger university wide project to expand wireless provision.

Action: PJW/KS

k) Central File Storage (Minute 6e)
JDM noted that procedures within groups for accessing shared storage areas for files and documents are very variable. AMC noted that Materials0 is the preferred solution for shared file storage. IT staff to promote usage of Materials0 by discussing requirements with individual groups. [Item carried]

Action: PJW/AMC

AMC noted that IT support should try to be more service-centric and the IT web pages should be updated to more clearly promote the services available and give documentation upon how to achieve common tasks. [Item carried.]

Action: PJW/AMC

3 Matters for Discussion

a) AMC noted that the terms of reference (at http://www.materials.ox.ac.uk/it/itcommittee.html) state that the Chair of the Committee be elected bi-annually from members of the Committee. It was noted that PJW has remained chair for many years. It was proposed to try running the committee with APD as chair and PJW as secretary, with the hope that the meeting become more policy oriented and less technical. Election to be held at next meeting.

Action: APD

4. Head of IT Report

A written report was circulated with the agenda. (see above)

5. IT/AV Expenditure

PJW circulated a breakdown of finances for 2007-8 showing a consumables expenditure of about £60k of which £22k was charged to grants and at year end £3k was in stock and £2k remained uncharged, making a total expenditure of around £34k.

APD suggested PJW compare these figures with the cost centre reports from Tim McAree.

Action: APD/PJW

6. AOB

a) Rex Richards Building APD requested an update on the status of plans for the Rex Richard Building, occupancy scheduled for 1st April. PJW reported that network plans were in place in liaison with SHA.

Action: PJW/KS

b) Optima RT mentioned the equipment from Optima for Hazel Assender. KS confirmed that he develop a solution for the requirements for a VPN accessible private subnet for the Optima equipment.

Action: KS

c) PAT testing APD asked about the status of the new PAT testing software for Ashley Brown. AMC reported that the Seaward software did not appear to have it’s own SQL server backend therefore a SQL server license is being purchased and the SQL backend installed.

Action: AMC

d) Wireless provision in Teaching Labs JDM (by email) queried the lack of provision of wireless in the Teaching Labs. PJW noted none of the computers in the teaching labs have wireless capability therefore provision would only be needed for visiting laptops. PJW reported that the Teaching Labs were included in the request for wireless provision submitted to MPLSD/OUCS before Christmas, albeit at low priority and no schedule is available. PJW to investigate reason for request with JDM.

Action: PJW

e) Slow speed of computers in the Digital Printroom JDM (by email) reported complaints about the slow speed of computers in the Digital Printroom. PJW agreed but noted that these computers are typically trickle-down from elsewhere in the department. PJW to organise upgrade of both computers.

Action: PJW

7. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will take place on Tuesday 12th May 2009 at 2pm. in Hume-Rothery Meeting Room (room booked already)

The meeting closed at 3.30pm