Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting

A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 11th May 2010 in the HR Meeting Room


  • 1 Apologies for absence and Membership of the Committee
  • 2 Matters oustanding from the previous meeting
  • 3 Matters for discussion (attached)
  • 4 Head of IT report (attached)
  • 5 Finances (PJW)
  • 6 AOB
  • 7 Date and time of next meeting: Tuesday 26th Oct 2010 at 11am in HR Meeting Room.


See minutes below.


Revision of IT support policy concerning personal equipment.

Review of warranty status of departmental equipment.

Summer Task List Prioritization


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.

Teaching Laboratory- no significant changes.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms

All rooms checked before Easter. Projector bulb replaced in BRLT right-hand projector.

Digital Print-room - no significant changes.


Both PC’s in the library are slow and need rolling replacements.


The MML desktops were rearranged after the modelling course. Five machines were decommissioned and converted into data-loggers available to other groups on request. The Rex Richards group continues to expand. Some new hardware is on order. Summer purchases are being specified. The MML website was ported to PM-wiki and is live. The clusters Pople and Slater were both moved to the Rex Richards machine room.

EM- no significant changes.

QIPIRC- no significant changes.


A large programming session before Easter enabled the long-awaited new department intranet website to be made available to senior staff to enable them to update their own homepages and update the current research projects and projects available. The system will continue to be expanded over the summer and will be opened to all members of department.

The MML website was completely re-written using pm-wiki. http://mml.materials.ox.ac.uk.

The weblearn site continues to evolve https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/portal/hierarchy/mpls/materials

The IIMM web pages were reworked http://www.materials.ox.ac.uk/IIMM. The Nanosims website is being updated by Markus Schroeder and moved to http://nanosims.materials.ox.ac.uk. A new project website http://www-hstore.materials.ox.ac.uk and a new personal website http://kolmogorov.materials.ox.ac.uk were created for Aleksey Kolmogorov.


Researches in Progress 2009 document has been started. Data is still being gathered before collating the printed document.


The 5-yearly test of power systems in Hume-Rothery building took place and alternative power source was arranged successfully. A new UPS system for the server room has been purchased and is being installed. The old UPS will be transferred to Rex Richards.

OWL Phase2 access points have been rolled-out throughout the department and the migration in now almost compete.

Telecoms have initiated a project at their expense to migrate all the Siemens VOIP phones at Begbroke onto the new Cisco VOIP system. This should be completed during the summer.


Three systems were blank-reinstalled due to evidence of TDSS rootkit. Twenty further machines were checked in detail. Sophos version 9 has been rolled-out to about 35% of machines.

Internet explorer version 8 and XP service pack 3 were applied automatically to most departmental pc’s. Further Adobe and Java security updates were released.

Disposal - no significant change.

Software - no significant change.

Disaster Recovery and Backup - no significant change.

New Device registrations

February 16 devices, March 22devices April 15devices.


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 11th May 2010 in the HR Meeting Room. The following people attended: APD, PJW, CA, AMC, KS, JDM, RT.

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

Simon Benjamin sent his apologies.

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) Firewall exceptions (Minute 2b)
It was agreed that the department firewall policy should not allow blanket exceptions. It was agreed that APD should organise a meeting to discuss this with Nicole Grobert. APD has made initial contact with NG but discussion was postponed due to NG skiing injury.

Action: APD

The firewall policy is now online at http://www.materials.ox.ac.uk/it/firewall.html.

c) Podcasting (Minute 2d)
The plan is to record 2-4 podcasts of recent prize-winning student presentations. Project was not taken forward last summer project due to time constraints however PJW is in contact with Peter Robinson about recording the recent prize-winning talks by Katie Moore and Ceri Williams. John Morton is also working on an audio podcast of his lectures.

Action: PJW

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 is to review and edit the recordings and link files to the Video Catalogue.

Action: PJW

d) WiFi (Minute 2d)
The migration from OWL-VPN/OWL-VISITOR to OWL/EDUROAM is almost complete.
HR library, lecture theatre
BR committee room, lecture theatre
HB teaching laboratory, EM IT laboratory
ETB committee room
PR meeting room
BB Hirsch West, Hirsch South Extension, APL
RR meeting room (almost), corridor (to do)
We intend to monitor uptake and expect to receive requests to expand the service to more areas and requests for help configuring devices.

APD and JDM both requested EDUROAM wireless connectivity for the common room (currently OWL-VPN) since it requires significantly less manual intervention to connect from mobile devices like iPhones. The common room access point is operated by Engineering Science who said they are planning to migrate that access point during the summer.

e) Personal Homepages (Minute 3a)
PJW met with APD and CRMG to discuss Researches in Progress. About 60% of homepages have now been updated successfully as part of the data gathering for Researches in Progress. The non-respondents are being chased on a one-to-one basis.

f) Support for personal hardware (Minute 3b)
A new procedure has been implemented for dealing with personally owned hardware to ensure that the owners receive clear information about the conditions under which IT staff will look into problems.

g) Disposal of CRT monitors (Minute 3c)
CA and PJW carried out a quick survey of CRT monitors in use in order to assess whether there might be justification for a bulk replacement of the remaining CRT’s.

There are currently 33 in office use, 62 attached to equipment and 27 not currently in use. Therefore there are a total of ~120 CRT monitors (compared to an estimated 500+ flat screen displays). Over the past few years we have disposed of ~75 CRT monitors per year. It is not cost effective or necessary to replace all these CRT monitors, however we will upgrade the 5 people who have a CRT as their primary display and then recommend that all the other “office” computers are assessed for disposal/upgrade/replacement.

h) PC maintenance – OUCS computer hardware breakdown service (Minute 6b)
PJW investigated the terms and conditions of the OUCS PC maintenance scheme then emailed all members of department promoting the scheme for personally-owned hardware.

CA and PJW have started a review of the warranty status of department-owned equipment in order assess the extent of our liability and hence be able to calculate the potential cost of wide-spread use of the scheme. This task will continue over the summer.

Action: PJW

3 Matters for Discussion

a) Revision of IT support policy concerning personal equipment
Due to the new procedure for dealing with IT support requests concerning personally owned hardware, it was agreed to update the IT support policy as follows: “IT equipment not owned by the department is not supported. However, where non-department equipment is being used for department business, then IT staff will carry out an initial assessment and provide advice about how best to resolve the problem. Any assessment or subsequent work carried-out will be scheduled at lower priority than support for department-owned equipment.” PJW will update the IT support policy http://www.materials.ox.ac.uk/it/itsupportpolicy.html

Action: PJW

b) IT strategic plan
At the ITC meeting of Trinity Term 2009 the IT team presented a prioritized list of tasks to take forward over the summer. Before creating a similar list of tasks for this year, PJW noted that the IT task list should be focussed upon the requirements of a Strategic Plan for IT within the Department of Materials rather than the requirements of day to day operation of the department. PJW presented an initial outline of a strategic planning document for discussion.

  • It was agreed that PJW would continue to develop the IT Strategic Plan document.
  • An outline of the Strategic Plan should be put forward to DC on Monday.
  • Input should be sought from groups of users such as Electron Microscopy and Modelling and others. Also input from a wider ranger of Department users (e.g. postgraduates, fellows and senior staff) should be sought.
  • An open meeting should be convened after the end of term to garner opinion and stimulate discussion and further refinement of the Strategic Plan before actual prioritization of tasks for the summer

Action: PJW

c) Committee Membership
Arising from the above discussions about developing an IT Strategic Plan, it was suggested that there should be more representation and input from the academic and student users. Representatives from JCCG and JCCP should be co-opted.

Action: PJW

4. Head of IT Report

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

5. IT/AV Expenditure

PJW did not provide a statement of current IT expenditure but did note that a meeting had been held with APD and TMcA and the budget for next year had been agreed as being the same as this year. (£30k)

APD noted that the MPLS division is pressuring the department to reduce the planned budget deficit further and it is to be expected that government expenditure on universities will be cut over the next few years, so expenditure should be tightly controlled.

AMC noted that the IT Strategic Plan (Item 3b) being developed hopefully may enable a clearer focusing of expenditure on support of core services and systems, however funding constraints are likely to be significant factor when prioritizing tasks. E.g. it might be nice for all new grad students to get a laptop when they start but that is not fundable centrally so provision will remain patchy.

KS noted that the department is upgrading infrastructure (e.g. networking, UPS) using second hand equipment obtained at a small fraction of the cost of equivalent new equipment. Although this is good for the current finances it has distorted the apparent expenditure when considering future budgeting for replacement of infrastructure. It worth noting that the new wireless system (estimated cost of access points 10x£600+VAT) was paid for centrally by OUCS and the replacement VOIP system (due over the summer) also will be paid for by Telecoms (estimated cost 40x£60).

6. AOB - none

7. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting is on Tuesday 26th October 2010 at 11am in HR Meeting Room.

The meeting closed at 12.30pm