New SSH Server

On Monday 1st March we will replace the SSH server named “bruegel” which hosts ssh.inf.ed.ac.uk and student.ssh.inf.ed.ac.uk with a new machine named “auriga“.

All that will happen is that at about 09:00 on Monday we will change the DNS alias to point to the new machine. This change can take some time to propagate so we will not switch off access to bruegel immediately. It will be left running as normal until 12:00 Friday 5th March. This should allow sufficient time for users logged in to finish their existing sessions and move to the new server.

The IP address for the service will change from 129.215.202.74 to 129.215.202.38, your SSH client may warn you about this change and request verification. For reference the new SHA256 host key fingerprints are:

  • RSA – aviY6lcxhKE0H7PofATPrxHA+j7W6WOp+aO2sTXRDWQ
  • ECDSA – PAvZ5s2rxWV/IyI8+sBkbZmP3iCffArdUt/IdhgBrS0
  • ED25519 – WicgoLcme2IviSSQ+WUHLqDBT/VI5e05NWS/qW8g9lE

More information regarding the SSH service can be found on our help pages. If you encounter any problems accessing the SSH service please contact us via the Support Form.

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Power cut, Sunday February 7th 2021

The BBC news website tells us (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-55979665) that:

“A large swathe of Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders was plunged into darkness following a power outage on Sunday night.

“SP Energy Networks said about 88,000 homes experienced the power cut just after 21:00.

“Households in the capital were affected, as well as properties as far south as West Linton and Cardrona.

“The power cut, due to a fault on the transmission network, lasted for up to 45 minutes.”

That power cut affected the Informatics Forum, among other places. If you’re wondering why our main computing services were not affected, well, we have our fairly-recently-installed server room UPS to thank for that.

At the start of the power cut, the UPS switched over to its battery supply and reported an expected run-time of 57 minutes. The power cut in the Forum lasted about 40 minutes. At the end of that time, the UPS reported that its batteries had been run down to about 27% of their capacity – i.e. the ‘expected’ and ‘actual’ figures for the performance of the UPS more-or-less match.

It’s always nice when something works out, isn’t it?

Note that our UPS is sized so that, were it supporting its full potential load of 200 kW, it should have a battery run-time (or ‘autonomy’, to use the official UPS jargon) of 30 minutes. Our current total server room power load is about 110 kW.

In the UK, lengthy power cuts are thankfully relatively unusual events; generally, 95% of all mains outages last for less than five minutes

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Significant Issues with the School’s OpenAFS File System

We are currently experiencing significant issues with the School’s OpenAFS file system. This contains our user’s DICE home directories along with the majority of the School’s group and research data. The majority of our administrative data is now held on the University’s DataStore service and so is unaffected.

This issue is not restricted to Informatics but is affecting OpenAFS file systems world wide. The OpenAFS community, which includes organisations such as CERN and Carnegie Mellon University, has been working on this problem and it is believed that the cause has been identified and a solution will soon be available.

The general consensus is that there is no risk of permanent data loss due to this issue but users should be aware that they may at any time, without warning, temporarily lose access to any data they may have stored in our OpenAFS file system. They may therefore wish to copy any data they may need access to in the next few days to a SECURE location outwith the School’s file system. Ideally, data should be moved to another University service such as DataStore or DataSync (see http://computing.help.inf.ed.ac.uk/central-data-storage for more details of these services) but users may find it more convenient to copy their data to their local machine. Users should only do this if their local machine is secure (i.e. in a safe location and with an encrypted disk) and if they can make local arrangements to back up any changes made to their data.

We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause you and will keep you informed of progress in addressing this issue. If you need help with moving your data or have any questions, please contact Computing Support using the form at http://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/systems/support/form/ in the usual way.

Update 11am 15th January 2021

  1. The cause of the issue has been identified and a patch produced by Jeffrey Altman of Auristor. Many thanks to Jeffrey for his quick action.
  2. We now believe that the School OpenAFS file system will remain available, albeit with possible short interruptions as file servers are updated, PROVIDED THAT YOU DO NOT REBOOT YOUR MACHINE. Rebooting your machine will cause you to lose access to your data.
  3. We are currently planning deployment of the patch to desktop and lab machines. We will issue a further update later this afternoon with details of how this will happen.

Update 5pm 15th January 2021


  1. The servers providing the OpenAFS infrastructure have been patched and restarted.

  2. All desktop and lab machines will be patched and rebooted automatically at some point early next week.

  3. Until this patching takes place, machines should still be able to access the file system. If you do encounter issues, we recommend that you reboot the machine immediately. This will install the patch and should fix the issues.

As ever, if you are having problems, or have questions about any of this, please contact Computing Support using the contact form at http://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/systems/support/form/.

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Proposed power supply work in the Forum self-managed server room IF-B.Z14

[Revised & updated, Tuesday 19th January 2021]

The information in this blog post is relevant to anybody who manages or uses a self-managed server located in the Informatics Forum self-managed server room IF-B.Z14.

It does not relate to equipment located in the smaller Forum self-managed server room IF-B.01 – so anybody who manages or uses equipment in that room only can safely ignore the rest of this post.


Background

Currently, all electrical circuits in IF-B.Z14 are rated at 20A – which is a limitation given that the power bars we use in the room are rated at 32A. We have recently had eight new 32A circuits installed in the room, and we would now like to swap the input power feeds of one of the two power bars fitted to each rack from their existing 20A circuits, to new 32A circuits.

In order to preempt the likelihood of 20A circuit breakers being blown (as has already happened over the past year, on account of usage patterns in the room) we would very much like to do this work before attempting to install any further equipment in the room.

Specifics

We intend to swap the the power feeds of the left-side PDUs (looking from the rear of the racks) in seven of the eight racks. (We’re currently excluding Rack 0 from the work, since we’ve been specifically asked to avoid a power loss to one of the machines in that rack for now.)

Arranging the swaps will necessarily mean a short loss of power to each of the power bars involved. As a knock-on effect, there will be a short loss of power to any server which is powered via a single power supply unit (PSU) fed from the power bar in question. Servers equipped with multiple PSUs shouldn’t be affected.

We currently propose doing this work in the afternoon of Thursday 21st January, starting at 1pm. Would all managers and users of self-managed servers located in the Informatics Forum self-managed server room IF-B.Z14 please consider the above proposal, and contact me if this date and time will cause them a particular problem? Thanks.

To emphasise: servers which are affected will completely lose power for a short period – so it would be best if they were not in active use at the time, and best of all if they had been shutdown in advance.

Within limits, we will be able to shutdown servers ourselves just ahead of the work, and restart them again afterwards, provided that the servers involved have been configured by their owners to perform an orderly shutdown when their physical power buttons are pressed.

What follows is a list of servers in each rack which will be affected:

Rack 1

  bob
  chilli
  dimsum
  imola
  monza
  tofu
  turingfpga

Rack 2

  helter
  tim

Rack 3

  vfbds0

Rack 4

  delrubio
  ideal4
  vali

Rack 5

(none)

Rack 6

  nsl000
  nsl002
  nsl003
  nsl005
  nsl007
  nsl009

Rack 7

  austin
  chicago
  indianapolis
  ottawa
  sanantonio
  toronto
  Mellanox-SX6012
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Additional OpenVPN configurations

EdLAN is increasingly embracing site-local (“RFC1918“) addresses, and as a consequence we are beginning to see services being given such addresses. (A good argument could be made that the use of such addresses implies that they should never be accessible from elsewhere, but for at least some of these services it’s not obvious that that really was the intention.)

We have therefore pragmatically provided a few additional ad hoc OpenVPN configuration files to give access to these sites. These are named …EdLAN+10… or similar, and should generally be safe to use from home. You should download and use them in the usual way, being sure to select any platform-specific variants as appropriate.

We don’t guarantee that the use of these configurations will be trouble-free everywhere — indeed, we expect that the addresses will be used for something else entirely in some different contexts, causing local breakage — but we hope that some users may find them useful.

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SL7 to Ubuntu Upgrade

Over the next few months all those with an existing SL7 DICE desktop will be contacted by the Computing Support Team to arrange for it to be upgraded to Ubuntu 20.04 (focal fossa) . We are aiming to upgrade all staff/PhD desktops by Easter 2021, but if you would like your machine upgraded sooner you should contact the Computing Support Team. If you receive an email, please respond, even if it’s to arrange a different time.

We are also taking this opportunity to ask you whether you still need a physical DICE desktop on your desk or whether our Remote Desktop Service (xrdp) meets your computing needs.

To contact the Computing Support team please full in the form at: https://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/systems/support/form/

For more about our xrdp service visit: http://computing.help.inf.ed.ac.uk/remote-desktop

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Switch to EdPrint

As announced on sys-announce we will shortly be migrating all the existing Informatics cloud printers to the EdPrint system. The blurb from Information Services:

What’s happening and when?

Information Services is launching EdPrint over the next few months, a major update to the print, copy and scan service used in the University.

The cloud print devices in Informatics are scheduled to be updated on – Wednesday 11th November 2020

Devices will be unavailable during this update period, but it should be no longer than 15 minutes per device.

All updated devices will display the EdPrint log-on screen: https://www.ed.ac.uk/is/printingcopying-scanning

What do I need to do?

  1. Familiarise yourself with the new system: www.ed.ac.uk/is/edprint
  2. Install the print queue on your own non-managed device:
    www.ed.ac.uk/is/mobilityprint

The print queue is already installed on University-managed desktops.

What about print credit?

Your existing ‘free quota’ print credit has already been applied to EdPrint.

Regards
Personal Print, Copy and Scan Team
Information Services

Link to original PDF Version http://blog.inf.ed.ac.uk/systems/files/2020/11/Edprint-comms-Informatics.pdf

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New DICE Ubuntu Environment

We are very pleased to announce that the Informatics managed Linux desktop environment (DICE) has been ported to Ubuntu 20.04 (Focal Fossa).

After 5 years of service our Scientific Linux 7 (SL7) based desktop environment is showing its age. In particular, this has begun to make it difficult to provide the latest versions of software for teaching and research. SL7 is based on Redhat Enterprise Linux 7 which has now moved into a maintenance phase. This means that Redhat will now only be providing important security updates.

With the release of Redhat Enterprise Linux 8 the developers of Scientific Linux decided not to continue with their project. That change led us to investigate what alternative Linux distributions we might use for DICE. Although we have decades of experience with various Redhat-based distributions we concluded that the Debian-based Ubuntu distribution would be better suited to the needs of the school. In particular, Ubuntu provides a much larger collection of software packages. The 2-year long-term-support release cycle for Ubuntu also means that the software they provide is typically more up-to-date than that available for Redhat. Ubuntu is also a more desktop-oriented platform when compared with Redhat which should mean you have a better desktop user experience.

As those of you who are involved in teaching will already be aware, before the start of Semester 1 in September 2020 all the teaching lab machines were upgraded to Ubuntu 20.04. We have also already upgraded various user-facing services including the XRDP remote desktop cluster, the general access SSH service and the general purpose compute servers.

All newly deployed DICE desktop machines will now come with Ubuntu installed. Over the next few months all those with an existing SL7 DICE desktop will be contacted by the Computing Support Team to arrange for it to be upgraded. We are aiming to upgrade all staff/PhD desktops by Easter 2021, if you would like your machine upgraded sooner you should contact the Computing Support Team.

At this stage we are primarily targeting Ubuntu to our desktop environment, plans to upgrade servers are still being formulated and we will continue to provide support for SL7.

Further information regarding the new DICE environment is available on our computing help site. If you have any questions about the new Ubuntu environment please contact us via our Support Form.

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MacOS 11 Big Sur and AuriStor AFS Client

Apple are expected to announce the availability of MacOS 11, Big Sur, shortly. Unfortunately this sees a change to kernel module loading that will stop the existing AuriStor AFS kernel modules loading and so AuriStor client version 0.198 (and earlier)  will no longer work.

If you require AFS your your Mac, we don’t recommend upgrading to MacOS 11 until AuriStor announce a compatible version of their AFS Client.

Update: In January 2021 Auristor published a blog article on how to install their updated client on to Big Sur (11.0). It is somewhat complicated by the increased security measures in Big Sur, particularly on Macs based on Apple ARM-based processors.

Neil

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Staffmail moves

All Professional Services staff and a few other staff within Informatics have already successfully moved from staffmail to Office 365. With the retiral of the staffmail service, IS are now in a position to complete the move of all remaining staffmail accounts to office365.

They will commence the process at the end of this month, continuing into December. The plan is to move non teaching staff first. Academic staff will not be migrated during Semester, unless they so wish. The moves will take place overnight and will be scheduled twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday). This will mean a short period of time without email (from 5pm until around 11 am the following morning) but with ample prior notification, previous users have not found this a major issue. Support will also be available before and after the move to answer questions and help with any issues.

It is expected that Academic accounts will be moved between Semester 1 and Semester 2 but if anyone would prefer to move sooner, then please let me know.

We will schedule account moves over the 12 possible slots and you will receive an email from IS about 2 weeks prior to your date giving a little more information. You will also receive further confirmation from them a few days before the move.

All those who have already expressed an interest in moving as soon as possible will be included in the first batch on 27th October and will receive an email from IS shortly.

There is local documentation on our computing.help pages which will be updated regularly.

There is comprehensive documentation on office365 mail on the IS website.

If you have any questions regarding the move, please feel free to contact me.

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