Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting

A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 2pm on Tuesday 26th May 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 27th October 2009 at 2pm in ETB Committee Room


See minutes below.


The IT support team have identified a list of projects and prioritized them in terms of whether they must be completed before the new academic year, whether they should be completed or whether they could be done if time permits. See minutes below.


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
Software upgrades associated with Financials upgrade at Easter. Laptop Dell E5400 purchased for APD. A replacement Dymo label printer was purchased and installed for Alison and several problems eventually resolved by replacing with a Brother label printer.

Teaching Laboratory
No significant changes. Assessed expenditure options for possible OUED upgrades. Decided not to do next annual roll due to budget contraints.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms
All rooms checked in 0th week and 4th week. HRMR upgraded to have a permanent Logitech webcam and Polycom Communicator for improved Skype as needed for interviews. Plans for audio-visual equipment is Rex-Richards meeting room are on hold.

Digital Print-room
Print usage levels and toner costs remain high. Richard Cripps implemented a fix for the swipe-card door entry to limit room-access at weekends. 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 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.

A 10node cluster was installed and configured (landau). The oldest cluster was reinstalled and reconfigured (pople). A mini-tender is in process for a further cluster for the Rex Richards building.

Specified purchased and installed new pc for Katherine Hartwell and arranged for her to use old pc at home. The new EM IT room is operational and several new data analysis computers have been specified, purchased and installed. The Bewapass door-entry system is scheduled for replacement. A replacement for Clive Downing will start in June, but RCD noted that EM is likely to start calling upon IT staff for computer hardware support which was previously done by Clive Downing.

IT staff spent several days working with GADB concerning his faulty XT laptop before it was eventually fully replaced under warrantee.

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.
PJW implemented a department presence on the new Weblearn and created a site structure suitable for SGR/SJ to move their lecture notes off the public website into a private access-controlled website.
On two occasions all CMS websites were upgraded to fix security bugs.

Researches in Progress document was started but not completed (again) due to dependence upon the development of new web-interface for updating projects.
The printed mugshots have been updated. Almost all mugshots have now been updated (less than 20 visitors outstanding).
The new departmental headed notepaper and compliment slips were ordered and distributed.

The new Cisco VOIP system has been installed at Begbroke with six new handsets in the Faraday area. Existing old Siemens handsets will be migrated to the new system over the summer.
Rex Richards data network and VOIP networks were installed and activated before Easter.

Altiris and WSUS both had major software upgrades.

Several users received help removing viruses. One laptop was water-damage whilst abroad.

Another disposal should occur before October.

Sigmaplot upgrade to version 11 and version 10 license expired.
PDF Creator Pro (free site license) needs to be rolled-out.
Frontpage licence will expire in the summer and users are advised to migrate to sharepoint. Security issues with Java,Adobe,TSM software need addressing department-wide.

Disaster Recovery and Backup
The new LTO4 tape library server was commissioned and incorrect tapes returned.

IT Support Area
The storeroom now has a stock-list and sign-out form. A new camera (Canon 450D) was specified and purchased in liaison with APD and ICS. Chris Akinola completed his probationary year and was confirmed in post.


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 2pm on Tuesday 26th May 2009 in the ETB Committee Room
The following people attended: APD, PJW, KS, CA, JDM, RT, SCB.

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

a) Apologies from AMC who was away.

2. Matters arising from the minutes

a) IT disaster recovery plans (Minute 2a)
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.

Action: PJW

b) Website (Minute 2b)
PJW has circulated a questionnaire to all senior staff concerning website provision which will require analysis. This item has been added to the summer projects list.

c ) Archive procedures. (Minute 2c)
PJW has circulated a questionnaire on Archive procedures and in collating results which will require analysis. This item has been added to the summer projects list.

Symplectic are working on interfacing with ORA in order to simplify the procedure for academics to upload their publications into the Oxford Research Archive.

d) d) Firewall exceptions (Minute 2e)
It was agreed that the department firewall policy should not allow blanket exceptions. It was agreed that PJW and APD should discuss this with Nicole Grobert. It was agreed that a webpage should be created in order to advertise the department firewall policy and rule sets.

Action: APD/PJW

e) Update on Groupware project (Minute 2f)
IT staff are attending regular progress updates about the University Groupware project as detailed at http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/odit/projects. Migration from Herald to Nexus due to occur in September/October should be transparent to the majority of end-users with client software (using IMAP or POP) but the Webmail interface will change to an Outlook Web interface. In order for users to reap the benefits of using an exchange server IT staff will need to promote the use of Outlook2007 which is part of Office2007. IT staff intend to act as early adopters in August such that we can then manage the migration of all users in September/October.


The Core User Directory project at http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/odit/projects has completed a pilot project and is moving towards an evaluation stage. PJW will attend the presentation at the ITSS conference on 15th July.

Action: PJW

f) Podcasting (Minute 2i)
PJW and SCB have met and discussed creating a Materials area on the Oxford iTunes site. The plan is to record 2-4 podcasts of recent prize-winning student presentations. Project to be taken forward as a separate summer project, funds and time permitting.

Action: PJW/SCB

PJW has done the initial conversion from VHS to AVI of all the video tapes located in the Teaching Laboratory. SGR has edited clips necessary for his lectures. PJW to review and edit the recordings and link files to the Video Catalogue.

Action: PJW

g) WiFi at Begbroke (Minute 2j)
The wireless provision at Begbroke has fallen outside the larger university wide OWL Phase 2 project to expand wireless provision. Begbroke wireless is to be taken forward as a separate summer project, funds permitting.

Action: PJW/KS

h) Central File Storage (Minute 2k)
IT staff to promote usage of Materials0 by discussing requirements with individual groups. This item is to be incorporated into the summer project auditing all IT devices which involves talking to each group.

Action: PJW/AMC/CA

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.

Action: PJW/AMC

i) Chair of Committee (Minute 3a)
APD became chair and PJW became secretary of this committee, with the hope that the meeting become more policy oriented and less technical.

j) IT/AV Expenditure (Minute 5)
PJW met with APD and Tim McAree and compared his expenditure figures with the cost centre reports from Tim McAree. Actual expenditure matched closely the predicted expenditure.

k) Rex Richards Building (Minute 6a)
The data network and phone network in Rex Richards building were fully functional before Easter. Further requests for AV equipment and wireless networking are on hold until occupancy levels in September have been confirmed.

l) Optima (Minute 6b)
KS successfully implemented a solution for the requirements of a VPN accessible private subnet for the Optima equipment based at Begbroke.

m) PAT testing (Minute 6c)
AMC purchased and installed the SQL backend for the PAT testing database software.

n) Wireless provision in Teaching Labs (Minute 6d)
The teaching labs are included in the planned roll-out of OWL Phase 2 but no schedule for implementation is available from OUCS. The request was from undergraduate students attending the characterisation options course wanting to use their personal laptops but not bothering to register for the wired network.

o) Slow speed of computers in the Digital Printroom (Minute 6e)
JDM (by email) reported complaints about the slow speed of computers in the Digital Printroom. PJW noted that these computers are typically trickle-down from elsewhere in the department. After further discussion amongst the committee it was decided that both computers should be upgraded to provide a better facility for users.

Action: AMC/CA

3 Matters for Discussion

The IT support team have identified a list of projects and prioritized them in terms of whether they must be completed before the new academic year, whether they should be completed or whether they could be done if time permits.

Must do:

  • Nexus/Groupware (migration, user training, roll-out Office2007)
  • Vista printing support (iPrint drivers)
  • Servers (software upgrades to Mateirals0 and others)
  • Virtualization (planning, costing, implementation)
  • Device Audit / Security Audit (start rolling program across whole department)
  • Website Intranet (personal pages, projects, publications)
  • Department Publications (printing/binding handbooks)
  • MML tasks (new cluster, reinstall old cluster, upgrade desktop OS)
  • IT Task Management (Request Tracker, Budgeting)

Should do:

  • Vista/Windows7 (increased support capabilities)
  • Weblearn (promote usage with AOT)
  • VOIP@Begbroke (continue migrating Siemens to Cisco VOIP)
  • OWL Phase 2 (schedule for implementation, also Begbroke)
  • Identity Manager (develop framework, link to CUD project)
  • Server hardware upgrades (WSUS, Altiris)
  • Door entry systems (merger with EngSci?, plans for EM doors)
  • Subversion (configuration management for IT, software for EM and MML)
  • Electronic Archive (review questionnaire, develop policy)

Could do:

  • LowC ICT (roll-out WOL, user training, device monitoring)
  • Podcasting/VideoLibrary

Committee members were requested for comments and suggestions, but there were no significant changes or suggestions.

JDM noted that academics could benefit from more easy access to teaching resources via Weblearn. PJW will promote usage of Weblearn in liaison with the academic administrator Adrian Taylor.

Action: PJW

4. Head of IT Report

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

5. IT/AV Expenditure

PJW reported that the current summary expenditure data from Tim McAree closely matches the predicted expenditure, however a more detailed breakdown of IT expenditure should be circulated to the committee before year end on 31st July 2009.

Action: PJW

PJW and APD reported that the IT budget for next academic year has been cut by 20% in-line with other departmental budgets from ~£37k to ~£30k. These cuts form part of the cost-savings necessary to reduce the predicted annual deficit of the Department by 50% ( which equates to needing to save ~£500k).

PJW noted that the savings are planned to be achieved by not upgrading the teaching laboratory computers saving ~£2k, by not upgrading some network switches saving ~£2k and the remaining £3k of savings will be sought from consumables.

6. AOB

a) Swine-fly pandemic planning APD reported that she is aware of university planning for possible effect of a swine flu pandemic. IT staff should be aware that additional IT support may be required to ensure that core procedures can function in the event of key staff being confined to their homes.

7. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will take place on Tuesday 27th October 2009 at 2pm. in ETB Committee Room (room booked already)

The meeting closed at 3.05pm