Oxford – Recognised Independent Centres – OXCIS

OXCIS is the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, this is a RIC or Recognised Independent Centre – The University has conferred the status of ‘Recognised Independent Centre’ on a number of educational charities in the Oxford area which are not part of the University, but which work with the University in research and teaching.

RIC’s are on the Oxford backbone network and use central IT Services for some of their needs.

Anyway my interest is that there is a new IT Manager Fasih Khan, who has relocated here from London and has stepped into a building , nearing completion after 10 years, and is tasked with setting up the IT at a time when Tone and ICP projects are coming through, my job is to help him talk to the right people and take advantage of these improvements.

As well as having a tour of the high quality building, it was a pleasure to meet Fasih, and learn of his love of Badminton, so I have put him in touch with The BITSS club who meet on Tuesday nights at the Park Sports Centre in Wheatley on Tuesday night, 7-8.20pm, cost is £3 and all abilities are welcome.2015-06-03 14.34.19 oxcis-tiles Fasih-OXCIS



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Conference chats and meeting IT Staff in their places of work

part of the role of ITS3 is to build a community of IT staff.

the ICTF conference last week was hugely successful in the new venue at the Mathematical institute and this event helps in this regard. Well done to everyone involved and for all attendees making the day so enjoyable.

Getting out and meeting IT staff in their own buildings is also enjoyable and fruitful.

i have just had a coffee with Richard Payne at the Centre for the Study of African Economies.

For me it is great to get out and meet people in their locations, I was also able to make some helpful suggestions about conference sponsorship, as Richard helps organize a large 3 day conference.

While brainstorming we thought about a conference organising SIG..(if anybody knows of anything like this, please let me know),

i was also able to tell Richard what ITS3 can be used for as a liaison between ITServices and Distributed IT Staff.

More generally our chat helped my understanding the organisation of units and departments in Oxford.

putting faces to names is really helpful and i’m hoping to do more of it






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Web SIG 26 Nov 2013

The Webmasters Special Interest Group (SIG) met at Hertford College.

Attendance was bolstered significantly by including communications officers. thank you to Greg Jennings for providing accomodation and refreshments.

Jim Leek, webmaster at  Enginering Sci . gave and introduction and welcome


first talk was from Anne Bowtell on Talks.ox which is known as “Oxford Talks”. the background and funding were discussed and how to embed in your own websites.

CAN YOU HELP? Any examples of use? Would you like a wiki? Any volunteers? Organise a sprint?


Plone integration done, no further plans for drupal or wordpress.. any help gratefully received. Templates are on github. Looking for ways to develop, remodel or rebuild e.g.Db could be solar. Enhancing the data model, integrate with oxpoints and mobile ox and responsive design.

Funding sought…

in praise of the one trick pony

Wulf Forester-Barker gave a talk on building small functional units quickly that can be joined together, rather than trying to build bells and whistles applications

Linux cmds explained, AWK, Checkmate, fromage, ox talks,

We then split into groups freely discussing topics such as Content management, Intranets, opensource.

want to learn Drupal? meet drupal jedi?

Drupal Oxford User group – meets first Wednesday of the month at E-research Centre, Keble rd.


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Pre-year round-up notes

If you find a few moments spare in the start-of-new-academic-year rush, you can catch up on the pre-year round-up for IT Support Staff  here:


= Malcolm, ITS3

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Visit to Sophos – the Pentagon

As a result of the Sophos User Forum held on 6th March at Banbury Road IT Services, we had an offer of a Visit to Sophos UK Headquarters at The Pentagon, Abingdon Science Park.

14 people signed up for the User Forum and there is a sustained effort from Marina Partlett and ITS3 to give better access to Sophos resources and the Platinum agreement gives us faster response, regular reviews, better access to resolve issues, a closer relationship with a dedicated liaison.

Marina Partlett, Technical Account Manager, offered us 6 places and these were offered to the original 14 who signed up for the User Forum. On the day our numbers were down to 3 and by using an ipad and google maps as SatNav, we arrived at The Pentagon, Abingdon.

Marina introduced us to Darren Teagles, the Senior Product Manager. Darren showed us a Gannt chart of the product streams (different versions of Sophos) and release and support cycles and some proposed changes that he was musing. Ian gave very good feedback from the University perspective and the importance of these meetings was clear, that ideas need testing to get concensus if to be successful and what people want.

Coffee was supplied and we then met Sunil Choudrie – Product Manager specializing in Mac and UNIX

Lunch at Sophos is in a modern spacious glass building with outside walkways next to tranquil lake, a tranquil scene compared to the nefarious combat occurring upstairs with global computer criminals . We were excited for the next session in the Threat detection laboratory…we were greeted by Fraser Howard- Principal Researcher who then gave us a Global threat detection presentation explaining the global trade and big business among hackers and criminals selling exploited systems and ruses for financial gain.

We have confirmed Fraser and Sophos as a workshop  at the ICTF Conference on July 11th. Further Sophos user Forums are planned before the next academic year starts.

Please contact ITS3 with any queries, booking is now open for the conferenec if you would like to see Frasers Presentation


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A tricky problem with Microsoft ISA Server

We have known for a while that some people on eduroam in Oxford (not elsewhere) sometimes have trouble connecting to Nexus (as you know, a Microsoft Exchange service).  There is about a 1 in 64 chance of a given device seeing this issue.  I hope not too many folk have spent lots of time trying to diagnose Nexus connection issues resulting from this bug!

OUCS has now worked out that it is because Microsoft ISA server appears to ignore RFC1519 (which facilitates classless inter-domain routing) and assumes that (being a pre-RFC1519 class C address) is a broadcast address so won’t talk to it.  This is not good as RFC1519 dates back to 1993 – the year many of the current freshers were born and well before Exchange existed!  Big thanks to the Nexus team and the Network Support and Development team for their work on this, particularly to Rob Zachlod for his detective work.

Oxford eduroam’s DHCP gives private RFC1918 addresses (from to clients and then these are translated by NAT to addresses in the range 192.76.7.(192-255) in a predictable way by an elegant algorithm. This means that if a client gets an address that maps to then it won’t be able to talk to Nexus (and presumably any other Microsoft ISA servers in the world).  The predictability of the mapping means that client (strictly its MAC address) is effectively stuck in that state in that location of eduroam as the DHCP pool is large so clients will not get a different lease very often.  Note that there are several segments of eduroam in the University with separate DHCP pools in the above range so the problem may appear to resolve for a client that moves to a different part of the University (but will probably come back when it moves back to the problem location).

In order to fix this problem, the Networks Support and Development team have kindly agreed to change the way the eduroam NAT maps to public routeable IP addresses so that the address will no longer be used. The change will not introduce mappings to addresses that were not already in use before it so nothing should break but the remapping will disconnect any connection-based protocols so SSH sessions etc will terminate for eduroam clients but connectionless things like web browsing (where state is maintained by cookies, not IP protocols) should be fine.  After the change it should be trivial to re-establish connected sessions.

The plan is to do this change in the at-risk period on Tuesday morning 11 October between 7am and 9am.  Please let us know if you foresee any problems with the change.

We are sorry if this will cause any inconvenience but after a lot of abortive efforts to get it fixed we have taken the view that it is easier to work around the Microsoft bug than wait for a fix.

Finally, please note that this is not a problem with eduroam but a problem with Microsoft that we can work around by reconfiguring eduroam for Oxford.  It would presumably affect any device with a (or that NAT-maps to a) class C address that ends in .255 or indeed a class B that ends in .255.255

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Mac OS X 10.6 Support Essentials

This course was run at OUCS from 26-28 July 2011. With John Greenash from Amsys.

A review will follow.

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Richard Carpenter reports on the “Mac OS X Support Essentials” course

I recently attended a course organised by the wonderful people at ITS3 for Mac OS X Support Essentials. Over the course of three days we got repeatedly told how wonderful macs are learnt a wide range of skills regarding the OSX operating system from the installation of the operating system to the underlying file system and structure.

The course itself was very interesting, mainly as it focused on the practical user support issues that are likely to crop up through the use of the system and has given me a much greater understanding of how it actually works.

We were really helped by an excellent instructor who was very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. It’s definitely something that will help me in my day to day job working on the Help Desk at OUCS as I certainly see enough Macs that “never go wrong”

Overall I’d really recommend the course to anyone that wants to get a better understanding of how the system works. After the course finished we sat the Support Essentials exam. It was ideal having the exam straight after the course had ended as it was still fresh in the mind and I was delighted to pass to gain the Apple Certified Support Professional qualification.

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IT Purchasing Group

I have been invited to attend the University’s new IT Purchasing group and attended the first meeting today.  The group will be a subgroup of the University’s Value for Money Committee which in turn is a subcommittee of the University’s top-level Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PRAC).  The picture might make it clearer!

The group’s membership is quite wide and includes:

  • Anne Trefethen (Chair): Professor of Scientific Computing, Director of Oxford e-Research Centre
  • Nigel Rudgewick-Brown: Director of Information Management Services Unit, Medical Sciences Division
  • Me!
  • Tom Payne: Director of Business Services and Projects
  • Philip Biggin: Structural Bioinformatics and Computational Biochemistry Unit, Department of Biochemistry
  • Geoff Calvert: IT Manager, Centre for Geography and the Environment
  • Dave Price: Head of Systems and e-Research Service, Bodleian Libraries
  • Maria Castro: Finance and Purchasing Administrator, ICT Support Team
  • Ghassan Yassin: Professor of Astrophysics, Department of Physics
  • David Miller: Senior Administrator, Department of Engineering Science
  • Mark Bowen: Director of Purchasing, Finance Division
  • Stuart Forster: Corporate Expenditure Category Manager, Purchasing Department

The purpose of the IT Purchasing Group (ITPG) is to offer expertise and advice to the University Purchasing Department (UPD) to maximise savings in IT purchasing across the
University. Members of the group are asked to provide their knowledge and expertise as individuals working with, and representing users of, IT in the University.

The terms of reference state that the group will:

  1. Assist the UPD to develop a good understanding of the needs of academic departments
    both in terms of current expenditure and future requirements of the University.
  2. Review and provide expertise on purchasing initiatives and their implementation.
    (i) The UPD will present papers on purchasing initiatives to the ITPG. ITPG members
    will be asked to comment on and/or endorse these initiatives.
    (ii) ITPG members will be asked to contribute ideas for potential purchasing
    (iii) ITPG members will be asked to assist in the two-way communication between
    Divisions and UPD, and to recommend alternative approaches if a purchasing
    initiative meets a roadblock.
  3. Recommend appropriate representation for the purchasing initiative working groups.
    (i) The working groups will be set up to carry out specific initiatives. It will be important
    for the success of the initiative that the group is made up of an appropriate cross-
    section of end-users.
  4. Contribute towards the promotion of cost-effective purchasing practice within
    (i) The UPD will promote and monitor the adoption of purchasing initiatives. The ITPG
    will review and advise on the promotion of these initiatives and approaches to non-
    adopting departments.
  5. Contribute to the development of effective communication regarding purchasing
    opportunities available.
  6. Meet once a term and report periodically to the Value for Money Committee on progress

I was impressed at how this group really seems to have a good grasp of how University IT works and how decisions must be left at the local level.  I think the approach of making offers so good people will want to use them rather than being forced to use them is a really good one.  I think the trick that perhaps many of us are missing is in appreciating the value of working with the Finance Division so we can contribute to the University’s buying power and increase the value gained from that.

We also agreed that Stuart Forster, from Central Purchasing, would be invited to all future Divisional Software Licensing Group meetings so he is aware of what is being purchased and so the group can better inform Finance division of its needs.

The IT Purchasing group meets again in Week 2 of Michaelmas Term 2011.

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May HRIS briefing

I attended another briefing on the HR Information Systems project today.

Alison Cross introduced the session as project sponsor.  There is also much  information available on the HRIS website and the slides are now available.


Programme plan, e-recruitment, Personnel, Questions.

Project not just about open door but also revising and streamlining HR and administration processes.

HR toolkit is about personnel administration.

HR Planning and Control looks at organisation structure and make sure structure is appropriate for HESA reporting, Working with PWC internal audit.

HR information should enhance diversity monitoring and enable much better reporting for departmental HE staff.

The Vacancies website has been revamped – maximise this to reduce advertising costs.I am still concerned about the lack of clarity on IT jobs though – it’s not clear if they are in the Support and Technical or Professional and Managerial section.  I did raise this as a question.

Equal Opps (EO)  monitoring is now working better too.


Alison then handed over to Anne Harkness.

E-recruitment user road shows have been held. Help for users includes bespoke info packs, online FAQ, sessions about creating effective adverts and JDs, online data protection training.

E-recruitment rollout is about to start and the personnel module in the HR toolkit is about to be piloted.  Rollout will happen in four waves (March, April, May, June 2011) aim to complete in July 2011. Just for academic-related support staff at this stage. 322 vacancies and 5281 applications processed already.

E-recruitment aims to improve applicant experience and make process more efficient. Job information should be better and better information about working at Oxford is available to applicants.

People must do short online Data protection course (including short test); creating effective adverts and JDs course (including new JD template); Online training called UPK (user productivity kit) from Oracle.

E-recruitment has shown the huge variety of user desktops that are in operation. In situ testing is now conducted but it’s not possible to replicate every user configuration. Core is building changes to avoid these issues wherever possible.

89% of applicants so far say it’s easy or very easy to apply online.  Much more advertising is online.  Mar 2010 was 5% online, Mar 2011 shows 33% online.  Applicants entering EO information has significantly improved quantity and quality of data.

e-recruitment is just for support and academic-related staff so far but plan to include senior and academic appointments in summer 2011.  Recruitment panel self-service will be added so panel members can view applications online.  There are some software updates in the pipeline in improve management of references, correspondence and address validation.


Aim to have a secure, shared, HR information source giving one source of the truth.  Systems will be robust and processes will be consistent to ensure compliance with various regulations.  This should reduce paper-based slowness and encourage best practice.  Staged implementation May-November 2011.

Personnel pilot aims to prove that Core can support the key HR processes at Oxford.  It will highlight the implications of process change and user roles and should identify and correct issues in time for full rollout.

Scope of pilot will be New starter (inc Transfer); Personal detialsl regrading; change in FTE/hours/funding; secondment; pay-affecting absence; leaver processes; organisational strucutre maintenance; user access and security; basic reporting; HESA module.  Out of scope will be casual staff, non-employee records and TUPE in staff.

The pilot will finally report to the HRIS project board to inform a decision on wider rollout.  Pilot will also help to improve guidance that is made available to new users.

Future additions to Personnel will include Absence Management; Staff self-service and further reporting.

When Core Payroll and Personnel are both live there will be a change for the management of casual and PAC staff.

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