Computing Services

The department behind IT services at the University of Bath

Further advice on University pay rise phishing scam.

  

📥  Security

The Police have issued further advice regarding the hoax phishing emails being sent to universities regarding fake pay rises. Action fraud have updated their website with more details.   

If you are concerned, you can forward any emails to the team at phishing@bath.ac.uk and they will advise.

If you have clicked on the link and filled out the documentation, please visit the Service Desk on Level 2 of the Library, or log a help ticket for further advice.

 

 

The Customer can have what they can afford

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📥  Business Support Systems, Computing Services

I recently posed the question, 'Is the Customer always right?' and concluded that the answer was 'No', particularly when specialist expertise was required which the Customer does not have.

However, there are situations where this is different.  For example, if I am having a suit made for my wedding.  If I want a lime green velour suit, lined with black denim, turn-ups, no pockets and a jacket which skims the floor, then I can have it!  However...

The Customer can have what they can afford.

If I really want the suit I have described above, I can have it.  I will have to pay extra for the long jacket, for the unusual lining and for the skilled experts to work with the velour and tailor it to my rather round frame.  If I want it studded with diamonds, I can have it, but I must pay for the materials, the labour and any other costs to make the suit, including the ongoing cost of having it cleaned by specialists.

Everything has a cost, whether we are paying a 3rd party, or using internal resources to create and support a service, system or team.  If you don't have the budget to pay for everything you want (including infrastructure, staff, licensing and on-going support), you may have to compromise and focus more directly on satisfying the Business Needs, rather than producing an all-singing all-dancing system, otherwise you'll end up with a system which can sing and dance, but can't do what you actually need it to do.

Naturally, it's best to work out what can and cannot sensibly be achieved as early in a project as possible, which is why it is important to define and agree a scope.  If we don't, or if we allow the scope to change significantly once a project has started, we may get part way through and discover that we need to find funds for additional specialists or other resources.

We don't always have the skills we need to hand, so we must consider other ways forward.  One recent example uses a combination of additional internal staff, training and external consultancy to not only complete a large development but to build that expertise in-house.  You may be surprised to learn that this approach is significantly less costly than the original idea of engaging a 3rd party developer, not only in terms of initial investment but also on-going support, particularly when you consider that the expertise gained will be useful for future projects, further reducing our reliance on expensive 3rd parties and their purely commercial intentions.

If you want to contact the team, you can email us at business-support-systems@bath.ac.uk, or by raising a ticket for us. Just make sure to mention BSS at the top of your description and it'll get to us.

Until next time.

 

Attending the world's biggest technology conference in Amsterdam

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📥  Audio Visual Unit (AV), Computing Services

Me with Kevin McLoughlin (Royal Soc of Medicine); Keith Wilks (University of South Wales); Ben Pain (Royal College of Physicians) – before embarking on the conference.

Me with Kevin McLoughlin (Royal Soc of Medicine); Keith Wilks (University of South Wales); Ben Pain (Royal College of Physicians) – before embarking on the conference.

This year’s ISE is a wrap. It is the place to go for Professional AV and Systems Integration. It provides a unique showcase for technology solutions. This year, there were around one thousand two hundred exhibitors in the expo in fourteen halls, training opportunities, and conference presentations. If we are honest, it’s very bright (lots of display screens that are very shiny), quite loud (in terms of chatter and equipment) and goes on for miles. I managed to cover thirty eight kilometres across three days in the pursuit of technology and solutions!

I’ve worked in a University for more than twenty years, and I’m keenly aware that the way we integrate technology, especially in the teaching spaces, helps to facilitate not only teaching and learning practices, but also the student’s experience of it. I’m old enough to remember pushing some of the AV resources around campus (yes I was one of those guys!). Thankfully, the days of shared slide projectors, video players, overhead projectors, film projectors and even epidiascopes are long gone.

The modern technologies showcased at ISE represent a world of difference in a relatively short period of time. In terms of an analogy, it’s now the nuclear age compared to the steam engine – almost anything is possible if you want to do it. Although, we do remember that technology is not the reason for most of today's innovative teaching, it’s the foundation stone that most are built upon. Technology is, for the most part, the enabling tool.

ISE this year was a melting pot of both technology and systemic approaches; and it was noticeable that educational technology is at the fore of activities for many manufacturers – and it is a trend that continues to grow.

This year, more than seventy universities sent representatives to this four day conference and show in the Netherlands. We all attended for the same purpose. We all look to gain an advantage by understanding the technological developments coming along; which we can then bring back to the University. It inspires us to innovate our environment and systems.

From speaking to our counterparts, it seems like we are at an exciting time in terms of technology development in a technology rich world – although the pace of change can feel startling at times for some.

The conference for us included some presentations from some equipment manufacturers

The conference included some presentations from some equipment manufacturers:

KRAMER – Interactive Technologies
CRESTRON – Video Distribution over the Network
REVOLABS – Video Conferencing
TRIPLEPLAY – Digital Signage
SENNHEISER – Radio Microphones

Within those sessions, it’s also useful to look some of the senior management of the manufacturers in the eye and ask the awkward questions – such as ‘why won’t you standardise on a particular video transmission protocol?’ You don’t necessarily get an answer, but they know you’re paying attention.

The theme of the conference this year was not focussed on a particular technology, but on a set of conditions. They obviously have technology behind them, but are not a single technology to enable it.

They were:

  • the use of technology to enable sharing of content (display sharing)
  • integrating systems to allow for reuse (digital signage and wayfinding)
  • scheduling spaces
  • collaboration
  • immersive technology

It’s interesting to note that there hasn’t really been a huge ‘leap’ in teaching technology for many years – just the quality of the audio or video has improved.

One of the processes at the front of our minds is, of course, TEF. As many of the measurable outcomes for TEF have a technology underpinning (the ‘learning environment’ and ‘teaching quality’), it’s important for us to know where we can go with what we can provide.

It seems that many companies understand that the education market has changed, and continues to move. Many have realigned their product range, or the way they operate, to reach out into the education sector. In the case of some of the manufacturers that we already use, they have actually designed products to suit our needs directly. Which goes to show that the efforts we put in at this conference pay dividends in enabling better support much further down the line.

So we are targeting our investments in the campus not only to support the staff, but also to meet the needs of our technology aware students. We are designing, and building, on campus, a set of technologies in each teaching space that will allow us to guarantee a set of functionality for 5 years from the point we build it. The inspiration is fed from two directions – the feedback from staff and students  - and from this conference. AV systems aren’t really a luxury anymore, we really need to have them to facilitate the modern teaching space. We’re trying to build a set of systems that widen the ability to do things in the teaching spaces, not restrict them.

There were also some technologies that we very hyped a few years ago that were conspicuous by their apparent absence. Things such as passive 3d (where you need the glasses) were very prominent a few years back, but have all but disappeared from view. Glasses free 3D replaced it almost immediately. However, the technology is still fairly crude.

It’s interesting to note that as resolutions get bigger (there were many stands with 8K displays), then we already outstrip the ability of the human eye to make any sense of the level of detail anyway (the human eye is around 2K even in the sharpest of eyes!). One quirk is that with all the extra detail and information the human brain gives you a perception of depth of field. It may all become an academic exercise anyway.

That being said, I didn’t see a ‘Classroom of the Future’ at ISE. I don’t think anyone is that brave! What I did see though is some outstanding solutions, technology and ideas for how we may continue to improve in future. These will all transition into the campus at some point in the next year or two (or more!), as we get the chance to improve the systems we already have.

If anyone would like to see it, I have produced a report on some of the highlights of ISE for this year (from an AV in teaching perspective), and I have a large assortment of collected contact details and information from most of the manufacturers on show.

Rest assured that we don’t sit still for very long. We’ve already got the refurbishment of 3E, 6E and 1WN in the pipeline for later this year – and East Building to follow along behind that! Some of the things I’ve seen are already making their way into plans, and three of the manufacturers are visiting the campus this week!

 

IT maintenance affects many services, Tue 14 Feb 2017, 7am to 9am

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📥  Computing Services

Maintenance and upgrades will be taking place during our at risk* period, Tuesday 14 February 2017.  A number of services will be affected due to essential upgrades.  The status of IT services can be found at status.bath.ac.uk.

  • Guest Wi-Fi for our visitors will be unavailable
  • NX software will be unavailable due to a license upgrade
  • solutions.bath.ac.uk, collaborate.bath.ac.uk and mysite.bath.ac.uk services will be unavailable while we carry out maintenance on our Sharepoint infrastructure

 

*Our 'at risk' period is between 7am and 9am on Tuesdays when we carry out scheduled maintenance, modifications and testing. This work is essential to maintain and develop the services that we provide.  Thank you for your patience while this necessary work takes place.

 

The Customer is King(?)

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📥  Business Support Systems, Computing Services

In my previous post, I explored who we mean by 'the Customer' and concluded that anyone who wants something from us is our customer.

In this post, I ask:

'Is the Customer always right?'

The quick answer is 'No'.

That may be a surprising response to some of you, but consider this: would you tell your GP how to treat your illness?

My GP is a trusted advisor - a technical specialist in the area of general medicine.  When I am unwell and want to consult my GP, I tell her that I am ill and want to be well (the Business Need), what symptoms I am experiencing (Business Requirements) and not what disease I have or how to treat it.  I rely on her expertise to diagnose my illness and recommend a treatment path.  I understand that things aren't always straight forward, so that path may change if necessary.

Within the context of the University and specifically working with Computing Services, our customers are experts in the business and understand the Business Needs; we understand systems and how to satisfy those Business Needs, so together, we can drive the University forward.

Bring us your Business Needs, your Aims and Visions of what you need to achieve and we will work collaboratively with you to work out the details, then develop systems and processes to satisfy them.

If you want to contact the team, you can email us at business-support-systems@bath.ac.uk, or by raising a ticket for us. Just make sure to mention BSS at the top of your description and it'll get to us.

Until next time.

 

Save the date - 6th Annual Symposium on HPC on 12th June 2017

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📥  High Performance Computing (HPC), Research

We are pleased to announce that the 6th Annual Symposium on High Performance Computing will be healed on Monday 12th June 2017.

This symposium organized by the University of Bath we will bring together staff, researchers and students working with HPC in the different areas of science and engineering along with other invited specialists of the field.

Save the date in your agenda and don’t miss the opportunity for networking and get in touch with the exciting developments on HPC.

Best regards,
The Organising Committee

 

Phishing attempt: Email from HR about a pay rise

  

📥  Security

We have been made aware that over the weekend of Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 of February several users were sent emails about about a 13.86 % payrise. Please be aware these are fake phishing attempts. Please do not fill in any documents or enter any personal information. If you are concerned, you can forward any emails to the team at phishing@bath.ac.uk and they will advise.

If you have clicked on the link and filled out the documentation, please visit the Service Desk on Level 2 of the Library, or log a help ticket  for further advice.

Below is an example of the phishing email:

Subject: Your 13.86% Salary Raise Documents

The salary structure for 2017 Fiscal Year (FY '17) was reviewed
and it was noticed that you are due for a 13.86% salary raise on
your next paycheque starting February 2017

The salary raise documents are enclosed herewith.

All prorated bonuses and deductions are also advised therein

 

 

 

Pidgin retirement, 3 February 2017

📥  Computing Services

Following on from roll-out of Skype for Business to all staff, the legacy instant messaging client Pidgin is being retired.  The client will have been removed from across the University desktop estate, 3 February 2017.

You can use Skype for Business for instant messaging - give it a go if you haven't tried it yet!  Skype can be used on your work computer as well as Apple, Android and Windows devices.

 

IT maintenance affects services, Tuesday 31 January 2017

  

📥  Computing Services

Maintenance and upgrades will be taking place during our at risk* period, Tuesday 31 January 2017.  A number of services will be affected due to essential upgrades.  The status of IT services can be found at status.bath.ac.uk.

  • PG applications and online bookings will be unavailable while we upgrade these services to be responsive for use on mobile devices (7am to 10am)
  • iTrent (including ESS and MSS) will be unavailable due to an upgrade
  • Managed Print Service (MPS) will be unavailable due to maintenance
  • Wi-Fi will experience minor disruption while we upgrade the service
  • solutions.bath.ac.uk services will be unavailable while we carry out maintenance on our Sharepoint infrastructure

Work on MySQL services will affect a number of services across the University (7am to 10am).

  • go.bath.ac.uk service including the live redirects and administration
  • news admin interface
  • alumni bath mail
  • what's on
  • accommodation mailroom
  • estates workflow
  • bamboo
  • procuro
  • resnet registration
  • legacy wi-fi registration
  • some research databases
  • BUCS patching

Work on timetabling software and a database upgrade will affect Timetabling, 31 January 2017.

*Our 'at risk' period is between 7am and 9am on Tuesdays when we carry out scheduled maintenance, modifications and testing. This work is essential to maintain and develop the services that we provide.  Thank you for your patience while this necessary work takes place.

 

Balena maintenance - 2nd February 2017

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📥  High Performance Computing (HPC)

During Inter-Semester break, on Thursday 2 February between 09:00 and 13:00, we will be placing the cluster into maintenance mode whilst we perform failover tests between the pair of master nodes and BeeGFS node couplets.

These tests will ensure that pairs of master nodes and BeeGFS node couplets are in good working order should an unexpected system issue occur that triggers a system failover.

While the system failovers are being tested, all users will be able to access data from /home and /beegfs, but you may notice a momentary freeze while the storage areas are transferred between the failover pairs. All compute nodes will be placed into a scheduler reservation to prevent any workloads from running while these tests are carried out.

Sorry for the short notice of this announcement, I hope this will not cause too much disruption for anyone.

Team HPC