Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting

A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 17th May 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 25th October 2011 at 11am in PR meeting room


See minutes below.


Minute items with supporting documents attached

Election of committee chairman (bi-annual - APD elected TT2009)

Update design of www.materials (action from DC)


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 Various software packages were upgraded (Java,Reader,Flash,Firefox). HRIS e-Recruitment was rolled out for Alana/Alison/Kazia.

Teaching Laboratory Nothing significant. Usage of the mono printer is still low with most jobs still being printed in colour.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms All rooms checked at end of term and before start of term. BR committee room dataprojector bulb failed and replaced. HR lecture theatre data projectors recalibrated twice after users messed with the settings.

Digital Print-room Periodically there are printing problems which are resolved – usually specific documents getting stuck in the print spooling system. The whole department has been suffering from increased incidences of paper jams which is probably associated with the current batch of paper.

Library No change.

MML The new HPC cluster (ironman) is due to be delivered next week. Upgraded intel compilers. Potentially disastrous aircon failure was noticed quickly and fixed with fortunately only one failed power supply and one failed disk. New temperature monitoring implemented.

EM Graham Wyatt replaced Tracey Finn, but department IT staff will continue to support the EM equipment upon request.

MFFP The Nuclear Workshop eventually decided to use CD’s (rather than branded memory sticks) to distribute the workshop presentations. 75 copies were made and labelled.

Website Custom-written codes were checked for security vulnerabilities due to evidence of external hacking attempts. Initial contact made with a web-design company using CMSmadesimple in order to undertake a redesign of the department website at the request of DC. PJW attended training sessions in order to investigate the provision of research collaboration website and committee website using the new Nexus Sharepoint facilities.

Publications Mugshots displays in Reception and at Begbroke were updated.

Network Problems communicating with the building monitoring system in 21BR were resolved by moving the system off our subnet.

Security All department websites with custom-written php codes were checked for input validation due to the university being targeted for mysql/php vulnerabilities, Fake antivirus infection of a pc in the Digital Darkroom caused a department-wide review and upgrade of all Java installations.

Disposal In April 2011 the lorry came and disposed of waste electronic equipment : central site 44CRT, 41PC, 23printers, 10misc. ; begbroke site 13CRT, 20PC. There are now less than 25 CRT monitors in this department.

Software Origin license is due for renewal in August and will cost the department money. PJW is now the MPLS divisional representative on the Software Licensing Group http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/sls/background.xml and is talking to all other departments in division to assess software usage and requirements.

Disaster Recovery and Backup Rex Richards server room now has automated system for email notification that a temperature threshold has been exceeded (e.g. aircon failure) and subsequently automatic shutdown of systems when a higher threshold is exceeded. The Department server room now has temperature monitoring at various positions around the room.

New Device registrations - February 17(+13); March 21(+6); April 6;


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 8th February 2011 in the HR Meeting Room. The following people attended: APD, PJW, AMC, KS, JDM, RT, SCB, SS, GM.

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

Alana Davies was re-elected as Chairman of the ITC until Trinty Term 2012.

2. Matters arising from the minutes

a) IT disaster recovery plans (Minute 2a)
As a first stage to disaster recovery planning, a PDF document outlining servers and services operated by IT support was presented.

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

John Morton’s entanglement video, professionally produced by collaborators in Japan has been uploaded into iTunes-U under the heading of Department of Materials. http://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/department-of-materials/id425665707

The departmental video library has been converted to digital format and the catalogue document has been fully hyperlinked. The video library can be borrowed from PJW on a portable external hard drive. AOT, GDWS and Paula Topping have been asked to consider future plans for this resource.

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 consultation upon a Department IT Strategic Plan planned for Easter 2011 did not happen (again). Input will be sought from a wide range of Department users (e.g. postgraduates, fellows and senior staff) with different research interests (EM, MML etc.).

PJW circulated a draft PDF document outlining the current status and possible changes to the departmental IT strategy. There was considerable constructive discussion. It was agreed that the document needs reworking into a questionnaire to be available in both hardcopy and online in order to gather input from members of department. JDM provided several useful suggestions for restructuring the current strategy document. SS reported that JCCG would be circulating a questionnaire to postgraduates of which there is a new IT section. SS requested that the IT part of JCCG questionnaire to be the same as no one likes answering the same question twice.

Action: PJW/APD

e) Server Infrastructure upgrade (Minute 3b)
Server Infrastructure upgrade status PDF document by AMC was circulated with the Agenda. The new system will be brought into operation and user files migrated from Materials0 when the two remaining problems of TSM backup and secure shell access have been resolved.

Action: AMC

f) *Computer provision (Minute 2g)
Sheena Shah reported back to JCCG who initially raised the issue of the procedure for getting computers for new students.

g) Photocopying and Printing (Minute 2h)
Photocopying Card Control System update PDF document by AMC was circulated with the Agenda.

University cards will be used to access the photocopiers. The photocopiers need upgrading to read the cards and report to PapercutMF, the account control system. There have been difficulties with Ricoh, the photocopier supplier with the upgrades. SHA is dealing with this.

Action: SHA

The charging model and the process for managing users’ photocopier balances needs to be defined.

Action: APD

PapercutMF allows the photocopiers to become network printers with card controlled job release. AMC to investigate further.

Action: AMC

PapercutMF can also control all the Department’s network printers and therefore be used as a replacement for the PCounter software currently used. Separate budgets for photocopying and printing would probably be needed, AMC to investigate further.

Action: AMC

h) *Long-term planning of migration to VOIP across whole university (Minute 3a)
PJW provided the MPLS ICT panel with data about the numbers of phones requiring VOIP upgrade. We will wait and see what the MPLSICT panel decides about how to approach Telecoms over the procedure for upgrading (currently charged directly on a line-by-line basis rather than top-sliced).

i) *Meeting Efficiency (Minute 6a)
In order to reduce repetition the above “matters arising from the last meeting” marked with a “*” are not intended for discussion during the meeting.

j) *Email quotas (Minute 6d)
PJW contacted Nexus to ask about the longer term pricing strategy and quotas and to pass-on our opinion that Nexus should be providing much larger quotas uncharged for those that need it. The reply from the Nexus Team was circulated via email. The quotas and pricing are likely to be reviewed as part of the upgrade to Exchange 2010 and our comments will become part of the case for funding support.

3 Matters for Discussion

Minute items 2a,2d,2e,2g with supporting documents were discussed as above. In particular there was considerable discussion about the IT strategy.

a) Website and On-line Presence
As part of the discussion on IT strategy, there was considerable discussion about what role IT staff should have in the Department website. The running of the website falls into 3 main areas:

Web-server: This is the responsibility of IT Staff. The web-server needs to support any specifications of the website design.

Website content: The content needs to be driven by academic staff, although the actual input of content is usually performed by Kay Davies or Paul Warren.

Website design: This includes the branding and logos, look and feel, layout and functionality (e.g. static pages, pictures, videos etc.). IT staff felt they had input into the functionality side, as this depends upon technical aspects of the web-server. The other aspects need to be driven by academic staff as this determines the Department’s on-line presence. PJW will seek guidance from the Head of Department on forming a working group.

Action: PJW

PJW reported that DC has already tasked PJW, NG and FG to organise a redesign of the departmental website and a review of the department’s on-line presence (e.g. target audiences, publicity, internal/external information).

PJW has been in touch with a possible designer who uses CMS Made Simple for re-skinning the current website. PJW has circulated before Easter a request for images for the website with few responses.

4. Head of IT Report

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

a) Software Licensing Group
PJW reported that he is now the MPLS divisional representative on the Software Licensing Group http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/sls/ which funds the site licensed software available from the OUCS shop (excluding the Microsoft software agreements). PJW is talking to other departments about their software usage.

b) Sharepoint
PJW reported that Sharepoint, the shared document part of Nexus, is now available to users. Sharepoint is intended for research collaboration websites including external collaborators and for committees/clubs/groups (and is distinct from the teaching/virtual learning environment provided by Weblearn). PJW is the site administrator for Materials and has started investigating capabilities. PJW would be interested if there are any research projects needing to implement an on-line collaboration area.

c) Information Security Best Practice update
PJW reported that the Information Security Best Practice (ISBP) project is approaching the end of Phase 2 and the new policies, information classification guidelines and toolkit should become available soon from: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/network/security/ISBP/ PJW noted that these ISBP documents are provided as guidelines and are not compulsory, however several external funding agencies are incorporating information security requirements into their terms and conditions.

5. Finances

PJW reported that current IT expenditure to date has been reviewed and further expenditure prior to year end on 31st July is to be finalised. The budget for next academic year has been set at £30k (same as this year).

6. AOB - none

a) HRIS e-recruitment
APD reported that the new e-recruitment system has come into operation and three support jobs are currently advertised. Alana/Alison/Kazia are modifying the internal recruitment processes to fit the new central system.

7. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting is on Tuesday 25th October 2011 at 11am in PR meeting room.

The meeting closed at 12.30pm