REF – Impact Statements – can IT help?

As the REF approaches and people are beginning to think of impact statements you may wish to look again at our guide on how IT can help:

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Open Educational Resources Advent Calendar

Ho, ho, ho!

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“Emails you have sent in the last week and Information about the Hotmail blacklisting”

“Dear User,

The short version of this message is that the Hotmail block on mail sent from Oxford University has been removed. Mails from Oxford to Hotmail, Live and MSN sent and queued from last week may take a day or so to deliver. Once that has happened you’ll be able to send to Hotmail, Live and MSN again. If you want to know the details then please read on…

This is to inform you about an issue with Oxford University email sent to Hotmail/Live/MSN email addresses. A University department misconfigured a mailing list of a large number people just before the weekend of 24/25 September in such a way that all its members could post to it. Many list members (external to Oxford) did that and it resulted in more than a million email messages being generated with large numbers of those destined for Hotmail/Live/MSN email addresses. Procedures Microsoft has in place to detect and stop spam email resulted in their servers blacklisting the servers in Oxford that sent outgoing email. This meant that mail sent to any domains for which the Hotmail servers handle mail was being rejected. It also caused a worse side-effect (manifesting itself as a mail loop, in some cases rapidly filling the Nexus mailbox) for anyone who had set their Nexus account to forward their email to such addresses.

In order to mitigate the ongoing problems caused by non-delivery, and the mail loops, OUCS put a trap in place to stop any mail for,,,, from leaving the University’s servers. This has resulted in a large backlog of emails waiting to be delivered.

OUCS staff responded extremely quickly to the initial mailing list incident and had fixed it by lunchtime on Monday 26 September, however blacklisting went into place sometime on Tuesday 27 September. OUCS staff immediately followed the advertised Microsoft procedures for dealing with such incidents and OUCS has been trying tirelessly to resolve the ongoing block throughout the last week and over the weekend.

As of today, Monday 3 October, we believe the Microsoft blacklisting has been removed but we have to be extremely careful not to re-trigger it with too much mail too quickly. OUCS intends therefore to start releasing the queued mail in batches later today. We would like to bring to your attention, therefore, that email you may have sent to Hotmail/Live/MSN email addresses since Tuesday 27 September may now only just be delivered.

We estimate it might take a day but once the backlog has been cleared OUCS will remove the trap so that emails to,,,, from Oxford University should be delivered normally. We were not trapping Hotmail domains for other countries so emails sent to them should already be being delivered normally.

We would like to say how sorry we are that you and the wider University have experienced such a disruptive incident at such a critical time of that academic year. We will be requesting a full investigation in to how a department was able to cause such disruption and how to prevent this in the future. We will also be looking into how to improve communications with Microsoft and a mechanism to deal with its blacklists rather more quickly should anything similar ever happen again.

Yours faithfully,

Oxford University Computing Services”

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Are you happy with OUCS?

If you are then tell us – if you think things could be bettered then tell us that also!

OUCS is running a user satisfaction survey at:

And yes there are prize draws…

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OxFILE – large file upload

If I haven’t mentioned this before, shame on me. A really really useful service launched by OUCS earlier this year – OxFILE – which allows you to share large files for use elsewhere for a short time period. Great for getting files to colleagues outside of Oxford (securely) or a temp home for those large presentations which you just don’t want to trust to a memory stick:

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OUCS staff member ‘JISC Developer of the Year’

Alex Dutton of OUCS was named the JISC developer of the year. It was noted, worryingly, that he is in dnger of becoming a “guru” –

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Mobile Oxford – Top 5 wordlwide

The THES listed the Mobile Oxford service as one of the Top 5 mobile sites worldwide in use in HE!

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Mobile Oxford in Welsh

The University of Bangor has picked up the code developed by the MObile Oxford team and created a Welsh language version for their students. See:

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Campus-wide access to Gartner reports

Oxford now has a site licence for anyone to use with a single sign-on account to the Gartner reports. Access to the Gartner site is via; this requires entry of SSO username /password after which you will be directed to the home page.

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Two new interesting UCISA reports: Cloud Computing and Cost of Downtime

These reports are timely and useful. One gives an overview of cloud computing, and the other an interesting analysis of the true cost of IT downtime:

“The first is a briefing paper on the cloud. The main purpose of the paper is to assist IT/IS staff in their discussions with senior management. The paper includes descriptions of some of the common terms used, as well as challenges and risks associated with cloud computing.

The second resource is a methodology for assessing the impact of the loss of key IT services. The focus is largely on the potential loss for a university, but there are also some scenarios which will be of interest to colleagues in colleges.”

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