Winning the War on Windows XP

tombThis post is to tell the wider community what an amazing job the project team in IT Services here in Oxford have been doing on Windows 7 migrations.  I suspect Oxford is not alone in being very complex and having myriad 16-bit applications that people were running on Windows XP as well as all sorts of complex drivers and critical dependencies that were put in and never documented by staff who left the University years ago.

We’ve spent a huge amount of time consulting and planning the move to Windows 7 for the Bodleian Libraries’ staff and the Central “University Administration and Services” division of our University.  oai This included a lot of thinking about and planning what we would do with the myriad apps and versions floating around.  A few weeks ago we finally kicked off phase 1 of the work, having decided to categorise people into green, amber or red where green means they only use standard apps, amber means there is some work to do to deploy other apps and red means delivering what is needed will be a real nightmare!  We had an excellent team of technicians and floors-walkers as well as fantastic back-end project management, communications and administration keeping things flowing and keeping the reports coming.  I am also impressed at the work our servers and deployments experts did as well as all the quick and efficient application packaging that emerged as necessary as we went along.   One of my favourite parts of the new set up is the very ingenious Oxford Applications Installer that allows users to self-service deploy lots of applications that they might need but means that systems are not unnecessarily over-complex for individuals.

The project team chose to spend four weeks doing upgrades intensively, mostly on the green category computers, Monday-Thursday and then using Fridays to mop up issues.   This period has now come to an end. At risk of boring you with stats I am delighted to say that 1204 computers (an average of 75 per day) have been upgraded to Windows 7, including 82 laptops.  200 new machines have been deployed and this has all been done by four engineers and two floor-walkers.  I think that’s pretty impressive stuff!

stats

I am told that  some of the most satisfying aspects of this work have been the help and cooperation given to engineers on the ground in enabling the team to upgrade so many PCs in such a short space of time,  the general appreciation shown by users for what is being done despite them being busy with their day to day jobs and that they have told the team they like Windows 7.  It was good that users were so patient with initial teething problems too.

The challenges have been getting the latest versions of additional applications upgraded on Windows 7 PCs, but the team has implemented a good process that works and the Oxford Applications Installer helps a lot.  The work of deploying apps is speeding up and will improve further as they move into the next phase.  The team’s knowledge of new applications and their deployment is increasing all the time. Identifying and finding shared PCs has also improved as the project has progressed and processes have been defined. Helpful and willing feedback from users has been invaluable in all this work.

IMG_20140409_124035

I attended a celebratory staff meeting and lunch yesterday where Maggie Howe, the head of the User Support Team, presented some award certificates and made a great speech thanking everyone for their hard work.  I think everyone enjoyed the lunch and the chance to reflect on and celebrate such a fantastic amount of progress in such a short time.

I think this work is a wonderful achievement and it makes me very proud to be one of the managers in the Customer Services Group in IT Services.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oxbridge College IT Management Conference 2014

IMG_20140321_071556It’s been a long time since I have posted here so I thought I’d tell you about the excellent conference I attended last month.  It was the annual get-together of Oxford and Cambridge College IT Staff and was a great success as ever.  Our venue was the Tower of London and it included a tour of the site including the Crown Jewels and the day was rounded off with a very good dinner at the Tower Hotel.  Oxford College IT Staff plus hangers-on like me all left central Oxford in a coach at 7.10am!

The day was kicked off with a fascinating plenary talk from Andy Harter, the CEO of RealVNC.  He gave us a fascinating run down of the history of what started as a simple piece of code in Cambridge to enable people share each other’s screens over coffee so they could collaborate on computing work.

VNC started internal use 1994 and became open source and cross platform in 1998.  The RealVNC company was founded in 2002 and has gone from strength to strength.  I didn’t know that VNC is used very extensively in medical equipment both for remote repair and routine maintenance as well as for remote diagnosis for patients.  VNC is also the technology embedded in i5 and i7 processors for remote management and mobile phone networks are starting to use it in handsets - this has resulted in a huge drop in the return rate of “defective” handsets by just helping user problems.  Facebook and RealVNC integration is interesting.  Most non-work IT Support comes from friends and family and these are of course connected on facebook.  Deskhop is starting to spread and is free, powered by VNC.  Have a look in the Facebook app centre!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My next session was a fascinating outline from Brian Hicks and Richard Carpenter of St. Peter’s College Oxford showing us how they have deployed Microsoft 365 in many parts of the college both for staff and students.  The provided a very honest and in-depth explanation of what had worked well and what had not.  They are clearly impressed with a lot of the cloud provision but it’s clear that the Skydrive Pro product is a long way behind its competitors like Dropbox and Google drive.  Advice to use SSDs in workstations was also given as it makes them much, much faster and more responsive when dealing with Microsoft cloud provision

tolFollowing this was a fascinating session from James Davis of Janet CSIRT about the Dark Web.  I can’t tell you too much about this as I’d have to shoot you but I can say that he gave a useful overview of the TOR network and some of the more sinister ways things like crypto-currencies (e.g Bitcoin) and other anonymising technologies are used.  There was also a rather strong “Don’t try anything illegal at home” warning!

It was good that there was plenty of time for networking, catching up with old friends and speaking to the exhibitors over lunch.  After lunch and the tours of the Tower of London we moved on to more sessions.  My next was one with James Dore of New College Oxford telling us about his work with Thinstation and how he had got lots more life out of old computers by using them as dumb terminals.  it’s amazing what a new keyboard, mouse and monitor can do to make a PC in a student computer room look new again!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy final session was one given by me about communication and assertiveness in the workplace.  I talked about the importance of clear and concise written communication and about the need to use appropriate language both in written and spoken communication.  We looked a bit about assertiveness as a balance between aggressive over-emphasis of our own needs and passive over-emphasis of others’ needs.  Finally we looked at how things can easily go wrong in emails and how email is not always the best way to have a difficult conversation.  I was grateful to Hannah Boschen of the Oxford Learning Institute for letting me use some of her material about assertiveness during this talk.

We finished the evening with a nice meal at the Tower Hotel followed by a great talk by Dr Russ Strand from the United Kingdom Rocketry Association about amateur rocketry and a somewhat messy coach journey back to Oxford!

This conference is definitely one of the highlights of the year for me as Cambridge is a very similar University to Oxford so there is a really good amount of sharing of excellent ideas.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ICT Forum Conference 2013

Today was the annual ICT Forum conference for Oxford’s IT Staff with some from Cambridge, and a few others too.  It was held at the Kassam Stadium as usual and started with an introduction from Anne Trefethen, our CIO, reminding people how far the IT Services formation had come in the last year and expressing her gratitude for all that Oxford’s distributed IT Staff do for the University in delivering a coherent and joined up service.  I was touched that she thanked my team, ITS3, for all we do too.  It is really good that IT Services is continuing to support the ICTF conference by allowing lots of resources (not least ITS3′s time) to be put towards it.  It must be remembered that the ICTF Conference Committee also does a huge amount of work to make the conference happen, particularly its leader Sarah Lawson.

Following the introduction we heard two plenaries, one about a robotic car by Prof Paul Newman and one about cyber security and insider threats, by Prof Sadie Creese.  We had the usual 24 workshops running in four parallel sessions of six and there were some fascinating topics and a great variety of technical and less technical subjects.  Five were by Cambridge people and we had an IT director (Séan Duffy) from Birmingham talking about informations security as well as James Davis from Janet CSIRT on evidence-based security.  Following all that we normally have a plenary session but this year opted to get everyone together in the last hour for a Pecha-Kucha session.  The format is that each speaker has 20 slides to talk about their topic and each slide lasts 20 seconds so the talk is over in 400 seconds, i.e. 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  I was really delighted that 9 people came forward to give sessions and that they all went extremely well with people rising incredibly well to the challenge.  They were so good that I list them all here, note also the gratuitous cupcakes picture, another new innovation for this year.

Pecha Kucha
20 slides, 20 seconds each. The Pecha Kucha format ensures a fast moving and invigorating pace as we take a brief look at:

  • Tom Anstey: One year in – where are we with information security?
  • Carl Marshall: Rapidly developing a secure data collection environment.
  • Penny Schenk: Using Creative Commons images.
  • Lyn Waddington: eSSO and other IAM developments. The current IAM strategy and the road map and projects for the next three years.
  • Jeremy Rowntree: A novel remote live lecture broadcast technique.
  • David King: Building the new mobile Oxford.
  • Sarah Lawson: Stuffing your Digital Safe.
  • Peter Smith: Using telecommunications data to fight crime legally and effectively.
  • Mark Duller: OpenBSD Desktop: More than a firewall, OpenBSD as a secure Desktop.

Pecha Kucha is a real joy at the end of the day as it completely re-invigorates everyone and gets a huge amount of information across in a very short time.

Following announcement of the ICTF election results by me (Riaz Khimji – IT Services, and Ross Wackett – Linacre College, were elected) and general thanks by Jeremy Worth, the ICTF chair, we moved out to the football stadium for another group photo (as we did last year) and then there was the pre-dinner drinks reception.  It would be fair to say the Kassam Stadium staff did a quick and efficient job of turning round the main plenary session room and turning it into a dining room this year.  Dinner was good and served efficiently.  Our after-dinner speaker this year was Tomasz Schafernaker – BBC weatherman and meteorologist.  He shared some interesting anecdotes and facts about the new BBC centre on Oxford Street.  He kindly drew the prize draw for us  to round off the evening.  This year’s prize draw money is going to Sobell House, an Oxford hospice for adults.

The could-do-better points of the day for me were the lunch – it’s very hard to get that right for so many people but the food was not great (soggy rolls) and it was not ready when it should have been. That isn’t good when 300+ people are waiting.  The other problem was the Wi-Fi – last year the issue was lack of address space and that was fixed this year but the underlying network was just not coping properly with so many people even though we’d made it clear that it needed to cater for 500 concurrent users.  Many people however experienced not being able to connect at all and those that could connect were experiencing slow connections with regular drop-out.  This is not the service I want to be delivering to Oxford and Cambridge’s  IT Staff.  I hope we can use eduroam next year.

There were around 330 delegates and six companies sponsored the event and had exhibition stands – they were Dell, Nouveau Solutions, CAE, Misco, Khipu and OCF.  I am very grateful to all of the sponsors because the event wouldn’t be able to happen without them.  Do visit their sites and have look – they’ll love us if you do!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UCISA Support Services Group Meeting

We met today at Liverpool John Moores University and had another productive meeting. Attendance was good and I’m pleased that we now have a vice chair in Mandy Phillips, from Liverpool John Moores University, our host for today, as James (chair) is a busy man and can’t always get to meetings. SSG had mistakenly believed that UCISA had a policy that deputies are not allowed to attend UCISA Executive meetings if their chairs cannot attend.  This has turned out not to be the case, which is great  as chairs are normally busy people with busy jobs and busy lives, often with children to look after particularly in school holidays.  Mandy will be able to go to Exec meetings if James is unavailable.

We had a good look at the SSG engagement plan and did some tweaking of it as well as assigning tasks to individual committee members or groups of committee members. The principal aims of the engagement plan are to create physical and virtual communities of networking and collaboration, to organise events to encourage networking across member institutions and companies, to showcase and integrate the use of technologies including social media for better communications and networking and to stimulate the whole UCISA community to think about and respond to shared issues in a participative way. We considered lots of practical ways in which we would do that, and I was charged with having a look at the SSG web pages on the UCISA site with a small group to see how they could be improved and I will also take on responsibility for a new SSG blog on the UCISA site as well as forming a rota of SSG members to contribute to it so we have weekly posts about items of interest. That’s the hope, anyway!

After this we had a good look through the upcoming Support Services Conference which is taking place this year in Edinburgh under the capable chairmanship of my friend and colleague Steve Gough, Assistant Director (Customer Services) at the University of Reading. The conference is shaping up to be another excellent UCISA event with some great speakers lined up and plenty of opportunities for delegates to network with like-minded colleagues from other UK Universities and to contribute to the conference themselves. If you’ve not been before I’ll really encourage you to give it a try. It’s great value at £395 for two night’s accommodation, one full and two half days of networking and learning that could really change the way you work, increase your value to your University and do wonders for your own personal development. There is lots more about the conference, including booking information, on the UCISA website.

Learning and Resource CentreAfter a lovely cold buffet lunch (thanks Liverpool JMU!) we had a tour of some facilities at this University. I was impressed by the Aldham Roberts Learning and Resource Centre – particularly the displays of how many student PCs are available at any given time, the self-service laptop loan scheme and the hours of availability of that (9am-10.45pm Mon-Fri and 10am-7.45pm at the weekend).

In the afternoon we talked more about the upcoming conference making sure roles were filled and that we knew how organisation would happen. It promises to be an exciting event although I’m afraid I probably won’t be able to attend as it is just before our Oxford ICT Forum Conference and I’ve already been to the UCISA management conference this year. It seems only fair to step aside so one or more others from our Customer Services Group can attend the conference.
We had a brief update from the Executive committee and then set the date of our next meeting as 5th September 2013 when we will meet in Leeds.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UCISA 2013 Conference day 3 – Our Future

Today started with a presentation about mobile learning in the classroom and student wireless expectations.  Hardly any surprises!  I thought I’d share here also a caricature of me that was done by one of the exhibitors (Salford Software).

Next were two presentations by people from the Department for Work and Pensions, one about Idea Street – encouraging a culture of change, and the other about “digital by default” transformation of public sector services of UK government.

After coffee a presentation from BBC research about what technology should be looking HE’s IT professionals should be looking out for was very informative.

The final presentation was a really inspiring round-off to the conference by Mark Ormrod, an ex-Royal Marine who has the dubious honour of being the first triple amputee from the Afghanistan conflict.  He told a moving story of recovery from the most incredible knock backs in like and of sheer determination to prove the surgeons wrong and walk again after losing both legs and an arm.  It was great to hear such honest talk about how achievements that seem really massive can be made if they are tackled as more approachable sets of goals.  I think the audience was genuinely moved.

The UCISA 2013 conference was again a good event with lots of things to learn, experiences to share and suppliers to catch up with in the exhibition.  For me it was a little marred by very poor WiFi both in the conference venue (the BT Convention Centre) and in the Hotel (poor in the sense that it was not free and very expensive).  A few people said to me they wished UCISA spent less on expensive hotels, expensive food and expensive wine and rather more on basic facilities for IT professionals of which decent WiF must be one!  In these days of financial cuts and redundancies as well as very high tuition fees I think the time has come to question whether this conference really does need to use a four start hotel.  Many other academic sector conferences manage perfectly well using student accommodation.

All that said though, I want to thank the UCISA team and the Conference Committee for all their hard work in making the event happen. As an organiser of a slightly larger, if shorter, conference in Oxford I know how much work it entails even just for one day!

You can read lots more from UCISA about the conference at http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/acog/Events/2013/ucisa2013.aspx and there are links to videos of the plenary presentations.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UCISA 2013 Conference day 2 – Our Service

Today started with an excellent presentation about students as producers and partners as well as customers.  It was given by the student engagement officer in the University of Lincoln and I was interested to hear that the student engagement function is part of the Vice Chancellor’s office there rather than being in student admissions or anywhere else.  I think the engagement work really enables students to realise maximum value out of their time at University and also enables a much richer and beneficial experience for the University with the students.

We moved on then to another offering from Sheffield with an on stage discussion between the Chief Financial Officer and the IT Director.  It was interesting to hear a plain-speaking CFO make so much sense about how money works in our sector and how it enables IT.


After coffee we had a talk from the British Computer Society which was frankly little more than a sales pitch although it did give a useful reminder of the SFIA (Skills Framework for the Information Age) materials that are available for use through the BCS.

The last talk before lunch was a fascinating insight from the CEO of Harvey Nash management consultants about how to transfer from being an IT Director to a CFO.  Comments about how skills of articulation and anticipation are more important than ever were useful.

After lunch in the exhibition we moved onto a good presentation from the University of Birmingham about redesigning learning spaces.  There were some amusing picture of the old spaces (which I have to say look like today’s secondary schools!) and some innovative ideas in the new ones.  It was interesting to hear how sizes and hence capacities of the distinct spaces were different but that they all had the same IT and AV facilities so lecturers didn’t have to think about which room they were going to be teaching in.

We moved on then to the supplier showcases which I think were a little dry.  I heard from Meru networks about high density wireless and the emerging 802.1ac protocol as well as hearing IBM talking about optimising the student experience by personalising it using harvested social media information.  There was some debate about whether this was cutting edge innovation or just creepy.  The speaker was excellent and full of passion, however.

Next was the UCISA AGM which I didn’t bother to attend as I am not an institutional rep so wouldn’t have a vote anyway.  In fact I learned later in the evening that institutions only get two votes each in any case, even if they have the maximum of five reps.

We were picked up from the hotel by buses to take us to the Lutyens Crypt below the Catholic Cathedral “Paddy’s Wigwam” for the conference dinner.  After rather a lot of champagne we were treated to a really lovely meal and I had a fascinating conversation with an old friend about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the development called MBTI 2 that digs further into temperament and preference.  It was a shame the evening was rather marred by an after dinner speech that some enjoyed but others, including me, found rather inappropriate.  You win some you lose some, I guess.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UCISA 2013 Conference day 1 – Our Business

I started today with a “speed dating” session from Janet Brokerage and had some useful discussions both with Logicalis and Verizon about getting people to use cloud services more as a way of focusing their efforts on managing delivery of IT services rather than managing the services themselves.  I think we really have come to the time when a large number of Oxford IT Staff are most effective and useful to their colleges and departments if they focus on managing services rather than servers!

I also went to a presentation by Oracle about their social media products and the powerful tool they provide for analysing social media content to assess sentiment about your organisation.  I was impressed!

After lunch the most interesting session in the afternoon was the Vice-Chancellors’ question time.  We had VCs from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Derbyshire.  There were some fascinating insights into how VCs view IT and senior IT Staff including the CIO.  There was discussion about how high IT needs to sit in University senior management and some good other discussions.

After tea we learned about University Showcases.  I first attended to hear Stuart Lee speak (on Kathe Lindsay’s behalf) about the Engage: Social Media project that Oxford had done as a collaboration between IT Services and the Bodleian Libraries.   This work had actually won the Amber Miro memorial award for innovation.

Next up was the conference poster winner, the University of Sussex, telling us about why the user experience really does matter.  I enjoyed the useful insights in that talk and found the poster useful too (you can click it for a bigger version).

The final session of the afternoon was from the University of Sheffield about how they had built and developed creative media spaces for their students in response to the fact that the students were doing such activities anyway and it was felt good to bring it into University provision and services.  There were some great tool sets and room designs shown.

The evening session was a drinks reception followed by a buffet meal at the Hilton hotel which gave a nice opportunity to catch up with some old friends.  I think the evening entertainment, a Beatles tribute band, while good was a bit of a shame as it pretty much killed conversation, being so loud.  I went to bed soon after it started.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UCISA 2013 Conference day 0 – The Journey to Liverpool

Not much IT related today.  I decided to get a train up the night before the main conference so I could attend the sessions the next morning before the opening of the conference proper.  I should have had a 14 minute connection at Birmingham New Street but Cross Country had problems so I actually missed the last train to Liverpool (around 2130) by 5 minutes.  National Rail was helpful and directed me by train to Crewe then ordered and paid for a taxi from there to Liverpool.  I got around half past midnight rather than 2320 so it could have been worse!  I stayed at an interesting hotel.

Posted in UCISA | Leave a comment

UCISA Support Services Group Planning Meeting

I attended this two day meeting in Cambridge because the Distributed IT Staff part of the UCISA Staff Development Group is moving into the Support Services Group and I have had a part in forming the new terms of reference for that group. UCISA SSG members

The group consists currently of people from many other UK HEIs including Edge Hill, Sheffield, Cambridge, Cardiff, Liverpool John Moores, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester Metropolitan and Sheffield Hallam and it’s really fascinating to get insights from people in different places and with different strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats.  We started with an ice breaker where everyone had to imagine they were going to a conference and state three things they’d take:  a favourite song, a favourite book and a favourite luxury item.  It was all fascinating!

We talked through the terms of reference and were particularly careful to make sure that it was clear that SSG will not be carrying passengers, rather everyone will be expected to pull their weight and make a positive contribution to the work of the group.  We also decided that there needed to be deputy chair as well as a chair and secretary.  Succession planning would be important and the group will make sure people are clear about length of service so there can be a healthy rotation.  It would also be important to make sure that an incoming chair was on the group for at least a year before taking the role of chair.

We moved then onto the business plan and talked about current activities of the SSG and our aspirations for the future.  In addition to the annual conference, the SSG is aiming to take part in many more activities and ideas include:

  • Business Case award.  How?  Industrial sponsor?
  • Developing social media guidelines and policy
  • Engaging with the community – consider email list alternatives – LinkedIn group?
  • Sharing own-institution events and paid training where there is wider relevance
  • Webinars – bright talk, Google hangouts, WebEx, Skype etc. – IT Support Models
  • Toolkits/Case Studies/Good practice guides – perhaps on the back of the annual conference – models for distributed IT support? – Helpdesk to Service Desk
  • Surveys (post conference, small/short/snappy polls on specific subjects)
  • Staff experience and satisfaction
  • Reports and publications –  consider for future after other activities have happened
  • One-day events.  Social media & engagement?  Using social media to support distributed IT Support Staff
  • Laptop/iPad vending
  • Cultural change and changing roles
  • Blogs
  • Website stats via Google analytics (Sue/Nik).  Where people come from to SSG site, how long they stay, what they visit, where they go etc.

The group had a really useful update on activities from Peter Tinson (UCISA’s Executive secretary) and Sue Fells (The UCISA Business Manager).  The work of the UCISA office is incredibly important to enable UCISA groups to function properly and I am very grateful to Sue and Peter and the rest of the team for all their hard work and dedication to our work and that of many other groups.  it’s especially appreciated given the imminence of the UCISA flagship event in March, the Management Conference.

On our second day of the meeting we had an update from the organising committee for the Conference in July 2013 in Edinburgh.  Steve Gough (as its chair) joined us in person and Nici Cooper from Wolverhampton was with us by the magic of Skype.  Quite a lot of detail on the conference was fleshed out and some useful discussions were had.  The conference website should start to fill with lots more information soon.  In line with not carrying passengers we then revisited the business plan and made sure that individual areas or work were assigned to members of the SSG so that we would all have things to do before the next meeting. The meeting finished just after lunch to give us all time to get back to our home towns and Cities.

As well as all the interaction time during the two days of the meeting members of the group spent a nice evening having a few drinks and dinner together.  I am firmly of the opinion that time spent building relationships with colleagues from other UK HEIs is incredibly valuable. It gives us all so much to learn and share that directly benefits our own Universities and our own personal development.  I hear people sometimes say that these events are just jollies and I won’t deny they are enjoyable bit they are also extremely valuable.  I’m grateful to Oxford University for allowing me to take part in them.

 

Posted in UCISA | Leave a comment

OxBridge CITC Conference – at The National Space Centre

Today I attended the 2012 College IT Management conference, jointly run by Oxford’s and Cambridge’s College IT Managers.  The events are always  away from Oxford or Cambridge and have been held at some fascinating venues over the years, including Bletchley Park, Duxford Air Museum, the Williams F1 HQ, and Stamford Bridge.  This year’s event was no exception and I found myself quite childishly excited to be going to the National Space Centre in Leicester for the day.  About 20 Oxford College ITSS attended out of a total of about 75 people.

The conference was a great success with a good deal of networking and sharing of best practice taking place.  The plenary session was entitled “anyway, anyhow, anywhere” and given by Richard Harris, CIO of ARM.  We learned some fascinating facts.  Did you know, for example, that the mission to put man on the moon used less computing power than today’s average smartphone, and that, worldwide, data centres create more carbon emissions that the total world aviation industry?  I was quite surprised!  Minimising energy use in mobile devices (to preserve battery life) is a well known issue but it’s clearly just as important to minimise energy use in data centres as much as we can too.

Richard explained how the move to mobile devices and the proliferation of different form factors are such important factors in the development of computing today.  Computer use is much more personal and as mobile devices consume more and more bandwidth efficiency in network infrastructure and servers becomes ever more important.   One Oxford ITSS made the wise observation that it’s no longer information itself that is power, but instead, its management and interpretation.

There were twelve plenary seminars and round tables run in four sessions of three in parallel.  I started at a seminar about Near Field Communications (NFC), learning about excellent possibilities for NFC integration for mobile phones so time-limited “keys” can be texted to people who are in industries like field service or home care.   This sort of application could also be useful in the College environment where room occupancy changes constantly—think of the headache it would remove if porters’ lodges no longer had to handle keys!

My next seminar was about developing a college helpdesk.  There were some useful principles shared and lessons learned and I was impressed at how a helpdesk system in a college can be used just as effectively for buildings maintenance and housekeeping issues as it can for IT-related issues.  I was impressed that a lot of the audience questions did show a good understanding of the real costs of developing apps in-house.  I couldn’t help wondering if the effort would have been better-spent implementing RT or similar.

During lunch there was ample opportunity to explore a good exhibition of about 16 suppliers that had come to the event.

My first afternoon session was a fascinating overview of the Raspberry Pi given by someone from the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the Cambridge Computer Lab gave an excellent demonstration with the ‘Pi hanging from a cable in the ceiling-mounted data projector!  We hope to have this session as a workshop at the ICTF conference on 5th July.

My final session was a round-table discussion about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).  I was struck at how some IT officers still see the college network as “my network” rather than something they provide and support for their colleagues.  There was useful discussion about remote desktops and application virtualisation and the issues around keeping College data secure on personally owned devices.

The day was rounded off with a great film in the Space Centre’s planetarium about the vastness of space, some rather radio-active-looking cocktails and an excellent meal.    After dinner we heard a great talk from a member of Cambridge University Spaceflight – a student-run society that does some amazing stuff with small computers and radio communications!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment