Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting

A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 3rd June 2014 in the Hume-Rothery Meeting Room.


  • 1 Apologies for absence and Membership of the Committee
  • 2 Matters outstanding from the previous meeting
  • 3 Matters for discussion (attached)
  • 4 Head of IT report (attached)
  • 5 Finances
  • 6 AOB
  • 7 Date and time of next meeting: Tuesday 28th October 2014 at 11am in PR meeting room


See minutes below.


Windows XP End of Life

Verbal reports on the status of various projects:
IT services projects: IT strategy, R12, SITS/BIZTALK, WDE, TONE, maillist upgrade, ICP, ISP
Departmental projects: RexRichards, EM, Phones, Photocopiers, iLab


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.

Personnel: Alex Cock is now providing help on request at an hourly rate. Rob Saunders has passed his first year probation working as IT staff in the Department of Materials.

Admin Network The admin computers have been migrated to Windows7 still running Novel. New desktops were provided to Tim McAcree and Adrian Taylor.

Teaching Laboratory All computers are running windows7. New laptops will be purchased over the summer.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms All computers migrated to Windows7. The Parks Road meeting room AV equipment is to be upgraded for a modest cost.

Digital Print-room Computers migrated to Windows7. Two spare A4 colour printers were secured second-hand for free.

Library The library computers were migrated to Windows7 and one computer replaced (with similar old desktop). The self-issue system still needs upgrading.

MML Clusters Zener and Landau are to be decommissioned, combined and reinstalled. Five disks have been replaced due to reporting as failing (maybe due to running hot while aircon was broken).

EM New private network with storage array has been implemented for the microscopes in Holder Building basement. A similar system has been implemented for Begbroke.

MFFP HPC systems reorganised to enable reallocation of desks. Two failed disks were replaced in the large storage array and a third disk failed today!

OMCS OMCS desktops were migrated to Windows7. Most OMCS equipment computers have been moved behind the private network.

Website www-solar.materials was updated in March. www.materials.ox.ac.uk broke in April and was fixed in May, and then upgraded to the current version. New domain registration ukcp.ac.uk for JRY.

Publications 8 sets of business cards and several visa passport photographs. New mugshot display boards have been installed to cope with the growth in number of members of department.

Network 8 new gigabit network switches were purchased. Networking at Begbroke was mostly upgraded to gigabit, primarily in response to requests from NG. Several private networks were implemented for equipment running WindowsXP

Security Three users have received cease&desist messages due to illegal downloading of copyright videos (first time this has happened to anyone in this department!). Formal disciplinary procedures have been followed (all first offence warnings).

Disposal Gradual accumulation of old equipment continues. Need to dispose during summer. The IT storage room is cramped now that it is also the cleaner’s office as well as the PAT testing office.

Software Comsol license renewed. Abaqus upgraded to 6.12 or 6.13 for most users. Alllinea license renewed.

Disaster Recovery and Backup Numerous disk fails have occurred and data has been restored from backups.

Documentation updates Documentation on the private Mediawiki continues to expand.

New Device registrations Feb 15; March 29; April 13;


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 3rd June 2014 in the Hume-Rothery Meeting Room. The following people attended: APD, PJW, RS, CA, RT, PE, JH, JRY, SCB 

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

Khalid Schofield was out of the country.

Jing Hu joined the committee as the JCCG representative. It was noted that other postgraduate students are also welcome to attend if they wish (e.g. Andy London).

Committee membership was reviewed. Richard Turner agreed to continue until TT2016. New postdoctoral representatives are to be sought to replace Kumar Sundaram and Phil Edmondson.

2. Matters arising from the minutes

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

a) *PC maintenance – Equinox computer hardware breakdown service (Minute 2b)
A process is still required for (automatic?) notification of owners that their warranty is due to expire. OUCS no-longer offer this service however their supplier Equinox continues to offer cost effective insurance if warranty is required – such as for laptops.

Action: PJW

b) *Photocopying and Printing (Minute 2e)
All networked printers have been created in the new Print server and the drivers tested. Printers will be removed from the old print server when instructions for installing printers have been updated for the new print server. Users are to be notified via the Newsletter and via email about a changeover day which will require all users to reinstall their iPrint printers.

Action: PJW

c) Draft Information Security Policy (Minute 2f)
Again there has been little opportunity to progress towards formalising the departmental Information Security Policy for approval by the ITC and subsequently DC. However PJW noted that the ISP documentation and toolkit has evolved considerably over the last few months and PJW is keen to revisit implementing a departmental IS policy before Trinity Term. (not progressed)

Action: PJW

The university now has an online information security training module available at http://www.it.ox.ac.uk/infosec/awareness/ which provides guidance to staff about best practice information handling. Members of this IT committee were requested to complete the awareness module and feedback any comments to PJW. [PJW,RS,CA have done so]. PJW will generate a short questionnaire for staff to identify the key information assets and circulate to the ITC for comments. PJW will advertise awareness module via department newsletter.

d) *EM bookings (Minute 2j)
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 reported that a replacement booking system (iLab) is being selected therefore development of the existing system by PJW has ceased.

Andy London asked what the timescale for implementing iLab is [Michaelmas Term 2014] and asked whether the existing booking system could continue to be developed in the meantime. [No - not enough time.]

Andy London also asked about whether it would be possible to have per equipment maillists in order to reduce the amount of untargeted emails about microscope sessions becoming available. PJW noted that could be a significant management overhead in doing so. PJW suggested passing this request to Neil Young to see whether the new iLab system has a mechanism for managing user lists. [Yes it does]

e) The XP deadline on 10th April has passed. Many systems have been reinstalled to Windows7 (Installations per month: February: 21; March: 56; April: 15; May: 27; )

Many of the equipment control systems that are unable to be upgraded have been moved onto private networks (HolderEM and BegbrokeEM), which block access to the internet but allow some local access for the transfer of files and management and antivirus updates.

As of 26th May 2014 there are still 79 systems requiring attention (including 40 equipment).

Action: PJW

f) Office 2003 end of life planning (Minute 2k)
The number of computers running Office 2003 has decreased from 47 to 26 (8 to be reinstalled, 18 equipment to be upgraded to office 2010).

Action: PJW

g) Novell managed desktops (Minute 2l)
Novell systems have been migrated to Windows7. All teaching laboratory computers, open access computers and administration computers have migrated to Novell Zenworks11 whereas most research group systems (SGR, Semicon, OMCS) are now standalone computers no-longer using Zenworks.

[Now that XP migration is almost complete Rob Saunders will return to planning migration to a new fileserver and alternative managed desktop environment based upon Microsoft technology.]

h) *Display Screen Assessment - policy on IT equipment provision (Minute 3a)
PJW amended his laptop purchasing advice to recommend that if a laptop is being purchased as a desktop replacement then an external keyboard and mouse and either an external monitor or a laptop stand should also be purchased.

i) *Fresher survey 2013 (Minute 3b)
The department should review (and document) current wireless coverage and generate a plan for increased coverage, also investigating possible alternative cheaper solutions for providing wireless (currently £600/AP).

A set of six cheaper access points (£200/AP) have been purchased and they will be piloted in the Hume-Rothery Building, releasing the four existing Hume-Rothery building AP’s for redeployment elsewhere around the Department. APD asked to be involved with identifying locations for increased wireless coverage.

Action: KS/RS

3 Matters for Discussion

a) Verbal update on various projects

PJW updated the committee verbally upon the status of the following projects:

Departmental projects:

  • RexRichards ground floor – building work due to start mid-June.
  • Photocopiers – APD, PJW and Les Chorley are reviewing photocopier/print provision.

4. Head of IT Report
A written report was circulated with the agenda.

5. *Finances
No information was presented at the meeting however Tim has supplied a full R12 transaction listing. Paul still needs to journal costs for stock computers from Aug/Sept/Oct.

6. AOB

a) JCCG questionnaire
Jing Hu noted that the annual JCCG questionnaire is due to be circulated and asked for comment. PJW noted that IT has rated highly in previous years therefore IT staff are happy with the existing questions.

b) Lecture theatres
APD noted that the Skype video conference facilities in the Hume-Rothery meeting room are performing poorly for some interviews and need to be upgraded.

c) Copyright notices and illegal downloads
In the past three months this Department has (for the first time) received cease&desist copyright infringement notices. The three incidents were investigated and the three users received first offence formal warnings (in addition to the £50 management charge from IT services).

Action: CA/PJW

APD requested that all users should be reminded via the department newsletter that copyright infringement is against the law (as well as being against university rules) and using university facilities for such illegal downloading of copyright materials is detrimental to the reputation of the university and risks affecting our network access.

Action: PJW

There was considerable discussion of the risks associated personal computers being allowed on the department network. It was agreed that the current mechanism of allowing (registered/checked) personally laptops to use the network does not need to be made more restrictive.

7. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting is on Tuesday 28th October 2014 at 11am in PR meeting room.

The meeting closed at 12.15pm