Friday, 31 May 2013

Work on the student server Barbrook

Tomorrow morning, Saturday June 1st, at 8am the student filestore server Barbrook will be unavailable for up to 30 minutes. This means that students who are on Barbrook will be unable to use student computers, or see any files from myFilestore in MUSE.

Recently we have seen a few failures on Barbrook, which have caused problems for students using uni computers and accessing files. This work will help us fix the underlying cause and prevent the problems from occurring.

If you are unsure which filestore server you are on, you can find out from our Filestore Information page.

On a student computer, click 'Help' from the desktop and select 'Find your Filestore Information'

Or from your own computer go to:http://shef.ac.uk/cics/studentcomputing/filestoreinfo

An introduction to the CiCS IT Security Group

Every month the CiCS IT Security Group meets to consider and make decisions and recommendations on issues, risks and potential developments that may have an impact on the University’s IT security. This includes, but is not limited to, IT systems, system development, access to systems, system administration practices and IT security policies and processes.

The group’s terms of reference for the group can be found at http://cics.dept.shef.ac.uk/security/IT_Sec_Terms.pdf

A recent review of the group highlighted a lack of visibility of the group and it’s activities. This blog post is the start of what will become a monthly summary of the groups activities.
Members of the University are invited to submit non-urgent IT security concerns and issues to the group. To submit an IT security concern please contact the group secretary (Chris Willis, c.willis@sheffield.ac.uk) who will then pass your concern on to the Chair for further consideration.

This leads on to reporting urgent IT Security concerns. Prompt reports by members of the University help us to mitigate the impact of incidents and gives us the opportunity to quickly get on top of vulnerabilities before they became actual security incidents.

If you discover a security incident (actual or potential) then talk to someone, by phone or face to face, immediately. There's more information on how to report an incident in the Security Incident Policy: http://www.shef.ac.uk/cics/policies/securityincident 

If you have any questions about anything covered in this post then feel free to ask them in the comments below or contact Chris Willis, c.willis@sheffield.ac.uk

The replacement for MUSE: how it will work...

Last month we shared our vision of what a replacement for MUSE might be, see the blog post here for a reminder:


Now we can share more information about the new service and how it will work. Some details, including exact names for links and menu items, may change but the principles on how we will all access our online services are as follows.

Launch Date

The replacement for MUSE will be launched in the weeks after exam results are published. We will publicise a more defined window for the launch in our next update in June.

Access to Online IT Services

On its launch the replacement for MUSE will provide access to online IT services as follows:

  • It will provide an easy and intuitive way for staff and students to access online services
  • Staff, taught students, research students and others will only see the services of interest to them
  • A single sign-in will give you access to many IT services, however, in the first few weeks a small number of services may require a second sign in

Signing In

You can sign in at the top of any standard University web page as follows:
  1. Click the Log in link
  2. Type in your username and password and click Sign In
  3. A new tab will open on your web browser and you will be taken to a staff or student news page.
  4. A new menu item labelled My Services will appear at the top of your browser window.
  5. Click the My Services menu to reveal a list of the online IT services available to you.
  6. Click any IT service to launch it in a new tab.
  7. The My Services menu will collapse but will remain available as you navigate through the University website.

The initial version of the My Services menu can be seen in the screenshot below.



Staying Signed In

Once you are signed in you can navigate anywhere around the main University website and the My Services menu will continue to be available in the top menu bar.

The intention is that you will remain signed all day unless you actively sign out.

Ongoing Developments

Access to services is the first function that will be delivered by the replacement for MUSE. Ongoing developments will include:

  • The ability to customise the My Services menu to meet your individual needs
  • Student profile pages in which students see a dashboard of their information including timetables, library loans and personal details.
  • Targeted news channels in which you can fine tune which information you would like to view. Over time this will significantly reduce the number of broadcast emails received.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

30 GB of storage for Gmail and Drive


From  Tuesday 11 June, your university Google Mail and Drive will have a shared 30GB of storage to use as you like. This replaces the current storage of 5 GB in Drive and 25 GB in Gmail. 
Just as before, Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms and Drawings created in Google Drive don't count against your storage limit. 

So now you can use your Google Apps storage where you need it most, whether that is in your Drive or Gmail. The roll out will take place over several days, so don’t be alarmed if you don‘t get it straight away.

End of the line for Windows XP


April 8th 2014 will be a sad day, as Microsoft end their support for Windows XP. XP has been a great system for over 10 years and is still widely used both within the university and across the world.

The end of support for XP means:
  • After April 8th 2014, Windows XP computers will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update. These include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information. There is likely to be a significant increase in malware designed to exploit XP in the months after support for XP ends.
  • Hardware and software companies are already stopping supporting windows XP on new products and this will continue to become more of a problem as the end of XP approaches.

Before the April 8th deadline for XP, you should upgrade your computer to an up to date version of Windows, such as Windows 7 or Windows 8. This will ensure the continued security and functionality of your computer.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

New sustainable print service being developed for staff



My sustainable print (MSP) is the new printing service being developed for staff, ready to be launched later this year. It will deliver a uniform network of fast, efficient multi-functional print devices offering colour and mono print, scanning and photocopying.


Progress Report


A proof of concept exercise was successfully completed in CiCS and this is being followed by pilots currently running in HR, School of Languages and Cultures and the Management School A further pilot for Materials Science and Engineering is in the planning stages. Reports on these exercises will be drawn up and shared so we can all see how the new service impacts on academic and professional services staff


The project is currently in design phase. Our project sponsor, Bob Rabone, is keen to involve staff in the project and that is why we have just completed a university wide staff consultation through the departmental print champions. We want the design of MSP to be driven by the business needs of those who will use it - you.

Once consultation is complete, and we know exactly how many print devices we need to serve the University, we will tender for the hardware and supporting systems. The final stage will be  implementation in which we will liaise with print champions in each department to ensure MSP is implemented in a way that meets your business needs.

About the Service

The My Sustainable Print service is built upon a network of uniform print devices for the whole University averaging around one device per 25 staff. Using uniform devices offers huge efficiency gains in terms of maintenance, development and consumables.

Each device offers fast, secure, black and white and colour printing, copying and scanning.

Devices come in three flavours:
  • Floor standing MFDs, four paper trays, offering A4 and A3 print, copy, scan
  • Floor standing MFPs, three paper trays, offering A4 print copy and scan
  • Desk standing MFPs, one paper tray, offering A4 print, copy and scan

Printing is two step:
  1. First you print your file to a print queue.
  2. Next you go to any printer, near your office, near a colleague’s office, near a meeting room etc, and you use your UCard to list all your print jobs and select the ones you wish to print.

Print jobs stay in the queue for 36 hours so you can print one day then collect your work on the next day. Your print jobs cannot be released without your UCard and so will not appear at a printer unless you are there to release them.

Departmental printing will be supported by your departmental print champion. If a printer breaks there will be arrangements in place for it to be fixed. In the meantime you will be able to collect your printed work from any other printer.

Details are being finalised, but it has been agreed in principle that printing costs will be met by a central print budget rather than individual departmental budgets.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be expected to give up my personal printer?
Maximum benefit will be achieved if staff willingly give up their office printers in favour of the more efficient shared printers. The vision of the project is for staff to view printing devices as a shared resource rather than a personal resource. The proposal is to replace hundreds of old, inefficient printers sited on individual desks with a smaller number of top of the range, high-speed, high-quality, secure print, copy and scan facilities which all staff can access as a departmental resource.

How will the University/Faculty/Department benefit from this new network of expensive printers?
The three key drivers for this project are:
  • improved user experience
  • environmental (likewise, 100% take-up could lead to an annual carbon reduction of 19 tonnes and energy savings from print of 80%); and
  • financial (100% take up across the University could realise £1M savings per annum)

The most significant is the carbon reduction as the government has imposed challenging targets on all universities for carbon reduction and if we fail to meet these targets we will be heavily fined.

Are savings fully economically costed?
It is recognised that the savings quoted are not fully economically costed and do not take into account the time of senior staff walking to a printer and back. However, it would be equally difficult to cost the time of senior staff looking after their own printers, setting up new printers, arranging for toner and paper to be replaced, acquiring new drivers for new IT services and operating systems, and arranging repairs and maintenance should any faults occur.

How far will I be expected to walk to pick up my printing?
You may need to walk a short distance to pick up your printing. However, a trip to the printer can offer a positive break from staring at the computer screen, standing up, taking a short walk along the corridor, bumping into colleagues and collecting printout secure in the knowledge that the printer would work, it would be full of toner and paper, each printed page would be printed quickly and quietly and no-one else could possibly have access to your printed work.


When will the new devices be available?
The current expectation is that the devices will be installed between September 2013 and early 2014. An implementation timetable will be developed for each department. Implementation may happen quickly for some departments, whilst others may prefer a longer-term phased approach.

What will happen to my old printer?
Released office printers will repurposed as follows:
  • compatible modern printers will be installed as shared departmental printers
  • good quality incompatible printers will be distributed to schools and charities
  • old inefficient printers will be correctly disposed of.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

MyPC Back but at Risk

Over the past 24 hours or so, we have managed to make some good progress on fixing MyPC. We have identified the cause and taken steps to prevent it from occurring. 
As a result of this work and some successful testing we have made the MyPC booking service available once more. However, the ability to book PCs should be considered at risk for the time being. When making a booking you should ensure that you tick the box to receive an email confirmation of your booking, incase you cannot get in later to check the details.
As part of the work done the Quick Book method for booking PCs has been disabled. If you use this method for booking PCs  you will now need to use the standard booking method.
We hope that this work will go a considerable way to fixing the problem we've been having and will continue to monitor the system. Thank you once again for your patience as we work through this. Finger crossed...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Text Message Alerts During Major University Incidents


The University has a service that lets us text students en masse in the event of a major incident.
This service is now being extended to staff.

If you would like to receive a text in the event of a major incident causing significant disruption or risk you only need to provide your mobile phone number. To do this:
  1. Log into MUSE and go to the Staff Applications tab
  2. Click the myJob/myTeam/eRecruitment link
  3. Click the Personal Profile link.
  4. Click the Mobile Phone button within the Communication section
  5. Provide your personal mobile phone number
  6. Click the Save and Back button

This will only be used in the event of a major incident if deemed appropriate by the major incident team. Providing your personal mobile number is entirely voluntary, however, staff with mobile phones provided by the University will have their numbers added automatically. Any future ideas for using text messaging for any other purpose would be subject to further consultation and would be an opt-in service.

Future developments of the University texting service for students will include the ability to text academic information to pre-defined groups, for example all students in a specific year on a specific course. A further development will be the ability to send targeted texts to students in groups created on an ad-hoc basis.

Further details including guidance over how this system will be used are available from the following website.


More information and updates about the text messaging service will be published as the project progresses.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Increasing number of students caught pirating software


We've recently received several complaints regarding student use of pirated software applications so they can work on their own computers.

What's especially concerning about the recent complaints is that the software applications being pirated are very specialist software applications normally used in industry or to support teaching. The licensing and use of specialist software is closely monitored by software producers and publishers and they are much more likely to investigate potential misuse and pursue legal action (up to ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine!).

The University endeavours to make required software applications available to members of the University, either on the student computing service (www.shef.ac.uk/cics/studentcomputing) or through local provisioning. There are also various discount schemes available to members of the University who would like to run software on their own computer (http://www.shef.ac.uk/cics/buying/softwarenotsold).

So, if you are set a piece of work that requires the use specialist software applications first check to see if the application is available on our student computing service. If it isn't then please talk to your tutor or the person setting the work.

Software piracy is a type of copyright infringement where software is used or shared without permission from the copyright holder; for example the software is downloaded using BitTorrent and then cracked. Copyright infringement is not acceptable under any circumstances and the University has a policy that explains what will happen in the event of us receiving an accusation of copyright infringement (www.shef.ac.uk/copyright). 

The aim of this blog post is to help you find the software needed to do your work without getting you into trouble!

Friday, 10 May 2013

MyPC Switched Off

MyPC has become so unreliable we are switching it off. Instead, all of the PCs in the Information Commons, St Georges Library and Western Bank library will be available on a walk up basis. We are also making 50 laptops bookable in advance from the Information Commons, 20 of which will be available out of hours on a self-service basis.

We will continue to try to get this resolved, and may evaluate other products, but PC bookings are effectively gone until we have a permanent solution. We're very disappointed at this outcome but want to put an end to the frustration and uncertainty being experienced by students.

We will have an update for you on Monday afternoon, to let you know what the situation is.

More information.