Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting

A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 25th October 2011 in the PR 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 31st January 2011 at 11am in PR meeting room


See minutes below.


No addition 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 Many software packages were upgraded due to security alerts. Several new staff (Rebecca Bradford, Hettie Gonzalez, Sarah Johnson, reception temps). Marion’s printer was replaced.

Teaching LaboratorySeveral of desktops controlling the microscopes and laptops controlling several experiments have had problems over the summer, mainly due to being six years old and needing replacement. AOT has been asked to identify a suitable source of funds. Printing remains mainly colour with low usage of the mono printer.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms All rooms checked at end of term and before start of term. The BR committee room was turned into temporary office-space over the summer and then re-commissioned as a meeting room in September. The secondary data projector in the HR lecture theatre reported a failed bulb but had actually developed a fault – a solution is being sought but complicated by the projectors being a matched pair of 1400x1050 resolution projectors.

Digital Print-room The frequency of paper jams reduced from >1/100 to <1/2000 when the problem batch of paper was used-up. Generally the digital print room has been operating smoothly over the summer with remaining problems mostly attributable to specific PDF documents.

LibraryOne desktop required repair. The new libraries self-issue system was implemented. The new libraries management software was installed.

MML The new HPC cluster (ironman) was delivered and configured. All MML desktops were reinstalled to Opensuse 11.4 64bit (removing all 32bit systems). Prof. Marzari, Dr Bonini, Dr Ceresoli, Dr Ferretti and Dr Andreussi all departed. JRY organised the Graduate School in Electronic-Structure Methods in July.

EM Ron Doole, Steve Lett and Graham Wyatt migrated to tickle-down desktops from the MML.

MFFP Another Nuclear Workshop was held in September and CD’s distributed to participants.

Website PJW implemented new wiki-based websites for the groups of Peter Nellist and Nicole Grobert. All existing CMS websites were upgraded to The QIPIRC website was decommissioned and some content archived into a subsection of the department website. The EPW website forum was decommissioned due to un-moderated postings. Two new project websites are being hosted (http://castep.materials.ox.ac.uk http://optados.materials.ox.ac.uk ) for Jonathan Yates.

Publications Mugshots displays in Reception and at Begbroke were updated for the new academic year. All handbooks were updated and printed (significantly fewer copies than previous years). Numerous business card requests for summer conferences – notable effort required for producing English/Chinese double-sided cards.

Network Three 3com switches failed and were replaced with Cisco or Zylex switches.

SecurityTwo systems were reinstalled after suspected keylogger infections. All sophos clients were upgraded to 9.7. EPW forum decommissioned due to un-moderated postings.

Disposal Items are accumulating slowly. A new system for tallying WEEE disposal with the asset register is being implemented.

Software PJW coordinated the purchase of a new Origin site license for the whole university. A 2-seat floating license for Intel Visual Fortran Studio XE for Windows was added to rothery2.materials.ox.ac.uk to support windows Abaqus users under SGR.

Disaster Recovery and Backup The Department server room now has temperature monitoring with graphical display at http://esteem.materials.ox.ac.uk/digistat with email notifications in the event of failure.

One of the two aircon units in the Department server room failed and the second unit eventually tripped-out due to overload. IT staff responded and the aircon unit was subsequently repaired without significantly affecting any user systems.

New Device registrations - May: 11; June: 17; July: 15; August: 16; September: 15; October: 25;


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 25th October 2011 in the PR Meeting Room. The following people attended: APD, PJW, AMC, KS, RT, SCB, SS, GM.

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

John Murphy sent apologies for being unavailable at short notice due to a grant application.

Richard Turner agreed to continue as Begbroke representative on the committee for a further two years until end Trinity Term 2013.

Both Grigore Moldovan (JCCP) and Sheena Shah (JCCG) requested to continue on the committee until the next meeting in Hilary Term 2012.

2. Matters arising from the minutes

(Items marked with * were not for discussion at the meeting)

a) *IT disaster recovery plans (Minute 2a)
PJW will expand documentation to include more details about these servers and services which need to include service/server location, failover design, backup location(s) and specific configurations. Levels of ‘disaster need to be defines and procedures to recover services written.

Action: PJW

b) *Podcasting (Minute 2b)
There has been no progress converting the schools liaison audio material into a format which could be used to start a series of audio podcasts.

Action: PJW/SCB

c) *PC maintenance – OUCS computer hardware breakdown service (Minute 2c)
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 is continuing. (No action since last meeting)

Action: PJW/CA

The system for recording time/task (which was implemented last year for personal hardware) has been extended to cover departmental hardware too.

d) IT strategic plan (Minute 2d)
The responses to the JCCG questionnaire relevant to IT were circulated with the agenda. The proposed summer meeting to discuss the strategy did not happen. PJW still needs to rework the draft strategy document into a questionnaire.

Action: PJW/APD

Discussion of the JCCG questionnaire noted that 58% response rate was very good. The suggestion of an email(web) terminal in reception for people waiting for the minibus was discussed and will be implemented using trickle-down hardware. Addition items not discussed were: PJW will pass on to TSG the suggestion of having a scanner in the EM IT suite. PJW will check the EM IT suite computers for software updates/upgrades. PJW will pass on to Simon Aldworth the request for signs outside buildings directing visitors to the nearest university phone before a locked door. PJW will advertise some drop-in IT workshops providing help/advice setting up wireless, backup, printing etc.

Action: PJW

e) Server Infrastructure upgrade (Minute 2e)
User data has successfully been migrated and backed-up via TSM and a solution has been implemented to allow SSH access to the clustered fileserver. However, problems with the Infortrend storage array supporting the new virtualised server infrastructure have delayed the replacement of the departmental fileserver. Infortrend have now reproduced the problem on their test equipment and AMC is awaiting their recommended solution.

Action: AMC

f) Photocopying and Printing (Minute 2g)
The new Papercut-MF photocopy card control system using University Cards has been implemented. The charging model has been defined and implemented in conjunction with APD and Tim McAree. AMC has setup and tested proof-of-concept printing to photocopiers and printing to network printers using iPrint and Papercut-MF. When time permits the network printers will be migrated from the old iPrint server with Pcounter print monitoring to the new iPrint servers with Papercut-MF print monitoring. Policies concerning charging for printing need discussion.

Action: AMC

g) Website and On-line Presence (Minute 3a)
PJW has met with web designer Peter Stubbs of Applejack and has commissioned a redesign of the Department website.

Action: PJW

There was discussion about the process of redesign of the OxfordMaterials web presence. PJW is steadily pushing the redesign forward but does also need senior academic staff to engage with the process to ensure that the new design suitably highlights the department’s world-leading activities and attracts high calibre students and researchers, in addition to acting as a source of internal information. PJW will present the first draft layouts at DC next week.

GM recommended the department also invests in the services of an editor to update content in addition to the designer providing the look/feel. Although PJW has doctorate level academic understanding of the subject area, generally technical specialists are not well suited to editorial control of web content. The editor role also needs sufficient clout to persuade busy academics to prioritize providing content when requested. GM has offered search for a freelance editor, with adequate on-line publishing experience, that is able to advise on what infrastructure is required in order to deliver the web presence expected by the Department.

APD noted that although there is not an allocated budget there is a strong commitment to upgrade the department’s on-line presence. APD reported that there had already been discussions with Physics over employing the web author who worked upon implementing the new Physics website.

SS suggested it would be good to have a webpage summarising details of events, lectures and seminars so that staff and students can plan their diaries. APD noted that this information could also be displayed on an electronic display board in reception.

3 Matters for Discussion

No additional items were discussed.

4. Head of IT Report

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

APD thanked Chris Akinola for printing the handbooks and updating the mug shots.

5. Finances

PJW presented a breakdown of IT expenditure for 2010-2011 showing that non-staff expenditure was close to the agreed £30k budget (excluding the exceptional purchase of SAN infrastructure for £15k). PJW highlighted that the breakdown of expenditure is dominated by print toner costs and expenditure on replacing computer and network hardware has been minimal.

Desktops/Laptops £2.8k
Printers/Toners £13.4k
Networking £2.3k
Software £5.7k
Misc Bits £3.6k
IT staff £2.3k
Sub-Total £30.1k
SAN special £14.8k
Total £44.9k

6. AOB - none

7. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting is on Tuesday 31st January 2011 at 11am in PR meeting room.

The meeting closed at 12.30pm