Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting

A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 29th January 2013 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 7th May 2013 at 11am in PR meeting room


See minutes below.


No additional 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 AMC resigned and departed Oxford but is currently providing part-time remote support, particularly for the Admin network and Novell workstations.

Teaching LaboratoryKAQOR has taken over managing the Teaching Laboratory. A full review of the TL will occur next summer. PJW has noted that almost all the computers (16 desktops, 6 laptops, 6 microscope-control computers) are in need of replacement.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms All rooms checked at end of term and before start of term. A second Skype account oxford-materials-skype (as opposed to oxford-materials-interview) was created to cope with undergraduate admissions interview clashes. Whiteboard cleaning was raised as an issue. Dawn Hazel has taken on weekly cleaning of whiteboards. PJW has emailed reminding users that it is their responsibility to clean the whiteboards at the end of each lecture/meeting.

Digital Print-room The scanner broke mechanically but was repaired in-house.

Library Self issue system was repaired.

MML The two week Modelling Option course has just finished, which required PJW to configure a temporary room with 22 temporary computers. Several new postdocs started. The cluster ironman was reinstalled just before Christmas. The desktops need reinstallation and the other clusters need reinstallation an upgrading.

EM The online equipment booking system is still being rewritten to replace the Cothi system. The 2200 has been taking alot of IT time specifying system upgrades and solving numerous hardware issues. Several microscope control computers have failed requiring mending (oums-4cam, oums-inca, hrem4000).which has highlighted deficiencies in the existing disaster recovery backup procedures operated by EM staff.

MFFP The DTN lecture broadcasts have ended. Overheating issues with the Tandberg hardware still need investigating.

OMCSThe OMCS archive was migrated to the new server infrastructure.


Again security updates were applied to (9) pmwiki sites and (10) cmsmadesimple sites. However www.materials and www-solar.materials still need attention in order to be upgradable to the current version of CMS made simple.

Publications Only 6 sets of business cards. Also printing of schools liaison and Hume-Rothery lecture information.

Network various fixes.

Security One keylogger infection was removed. Website SQL injection attempts unsuccessful.

Disposal none.

Software Windows Fortran compiler still needs renewing. Department has joined Earth Sciences and Engineering in adopting Scientia time-tabling software and is working towards implementation for January 2013. Implictly the use of Scientia will require replacement of room booking system. Will Hanrott is working 5%FTE to support our use of Scientia.

Disaster Recovery and Backup
2012-11-21 scsi disk failure affected the department’s DHCP and Mysql server. A replacement server was installed and operational within 2hrs by virtualizing the server.
2012-11-23 departmental fileserver volume corruption resulted in several days of work fixing file permissions and caused disruption to a significant number of users.
2012-12-08 a fire at the ETB electricity substation at 5.30am on a Saturday resulted in complete loss of power to the server room. Disk corruption of the firewall was repaired and all services were restored by midnight.

New Device registrations Oct 27; Nov 16; Dec 9; Jan 20;


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 29th January 2013 in the PR Meeting Room.
The following people attended: APD, PJW, CA, RT, SCB, JRY, KSu, PE, EG, AL
Apologies: Khalid Schofield who was on a call-out at Begbroke.

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

APD welcomed to the committee Jonathan Yates (replacing John Murphy) and Andy London (replacing Ele Grieveson as JCCG rep) and Phil Edmondson.

APD reported that Alex Cock departed to Cornwall on 13th January 2013, however he is continuing to provide 40% support remotely while a replacement is appointed. The job has been advertised and shortlisted with interviews scheduled for next week.

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)
The Hume-Rothery lecture by Mark Miodownik on 18th January 2013 was recorded by the OUCS podcasting team and the podcast has been published to the web and advertised http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/units/department-materials

SCB noted that he has the video files for Sabina Caneva’s PartII talk last year but we need an mechanism for annually paying someone to generate a podcast video of the prize winning Part II and graduate presentations. SCB and PJW to talk to AOT.

Action: PJW/SCB

c) *PC maintenance – OUCS computer hardware breakdown service (Minute 2c)

PJW has now incorporated warranty expiry information into an online database of IT assets. Warranty information is being populated as new assets are registered.

A process is still required for (automatic?) notification of owners that their warranty is due to expire and directing them to the IT services hardware breakdown scheme if warranty is required – such as for laptops.

Action: PJW/CA

d) *IT strategic plan (Minute 2d)
PJW still needs to rework the draft strategy document into a questionnaire.

Action: PJW/APD

e) *Server Infrastructure upgrade (Minute 2e)

The virtualising of the Department servers, including the file server replacement is on-going. There is a question of load to the SAN occasionally causing non responsiveness. For this reason further testing of the file servers is being undertaken. A plan to migrate groups of users is also being formulated. One or more of these groups may be asked to help with load testing. The overall aim is to migrate all users with the minimum of disruption.

Action: AMC

f) *Photocopying and Printing (Minute 2g)
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.

Action: AMC

g) Draft Information Security Policy (Minute 3b)
PJW prepared a one page summary of ITC advice for DC.

DC appointed PJW as the Departmental Information Security Officer (DISO), responsible for managing Information Security within the Department of Materials. Other staff members specifically identified as being well placed to help PJW with the formulation of a Departmental Information Security Policy were: APD (administrative and personnel information), AOT (student information), JRY( college tutor information, research information ), JAAC (research information, experience with ISO certification standards).

PJW presented a brief action plan for developing the required Department Information Security Policy. DC were keen that PJW should simplify the process for staff to supply details about their information assets (e.g. short questionnaire) and that PJW should provide clear guidance to staff about best practice information handling.

PJW requested DC allocate some secretarial support to help manage and collate staff input, prepare the draft policy and manage the annual review of information assets and associated risk assessments. PJW was requested to talk further with CRMG and APD.

Action: PJW

h) Finances (Minute 5)
PJW to circulate financial breakdown for 2011-2012 to the committee.

Action: PJW

3 Matters for Discussion

There were no other matters for discussion.

4. Head of IT Report

A written report was not prepared in advance of the meeting but was added to the website after the meeting.

5. Finances
No information was presented.

Action: PJW

6. AOB

a) Java Security
SCB commented that there has been a lot of worldwide comment about recently discovered security holes and some security authorities have gone as far as recommending removal of Java. PJW will investigate further an email advice to users.

Action: PJW

b) EM bookings
EG reported that JCCG had requested the equipment booking system be modified to incorporate an instrument status traffic light scheme indicating whether the instrument was fully functional or not. PJW is already working on re-writing the booking system and will attempt to incorporate such a feature.

Action: PJW

c) Minibus tracking
KSu asked whether it would be possible to implement web-based live tracking of the Begbroke minibus (similar to the live tracking of the Oxford busses) such that users waiting for the bus can check (via their phones) how long the minibus is likely to be. PJW noted that commercial systems exist (e.g. http://www.livetrak.co.uk £49+£20/month per minibus). APD noted that this was a considerable expensive given three minibuses and was ultimately a matter for the Begbroke Directorate who operate the minibus service.

7. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting is on Tuesday 7th May 2013 at 11am in PR meeting room.
The meeting closed at 12.00pm.