Currently the Forum print rooms located in the North East corner of the building have both a Xerox Multi-function device capable of printing in colour and a small monochrome printer. These mono printers are very old now and becoming more and more expensive to keep in service. Usage figures don’t justify their replacement and so the decision has been taken to take these printers out of service.
At first sight, it might seem that the inevitable result of this will be that people print out their jobs in colour on the colour printer at considerably greater expense, even though they don’t really need colour, but this has been taken into account. When the mono printers are removed, their queues will be redirected to the colour printer, configured so that the job is printed in black and white. In case you’ve forgotten, the second last character of the queue name specified whether the queue is a (m)onochrome or (c)olour queue so when this scheme goes into place (planned to happen before the start of the new term), printout sent to if435m0 and if435c0 will go to the same printer but jobs sent to the first queue will be monochrome and to the second, colour. All you have to do is to remember to collect your printout from the Xerox photocopier!
For many years we’ve supported multiple versions of MATLAB across our managed DICE environment. We’ll continue to support requests for alternative versions (whenever possible), but our upcoming move to DICE SL7 has provided a sensible moment to simplify the default MATLAB versions on our desktops and servers.
So last night our users mostly received the following email:
Dear MATLAB users,
If you already see:
< M A T L A B (R) >
Copyright 1984-2015 The MathWorks, Inc.
R2015a (220.127.116.11613) 64-bit (glnxa64)
February 12, 2015
…when you start matlab, read no further! There’s no change for you.
For everyone else: this is to announce a planned upgrade to the above
version (2015a) of MATLAB across DICE. Where possible we’ll be replacing
all previous versions, starting from Thursday 17th September.
We appreciate that this might be inconvenient for those with long-running
jobs. If you’d like to make a special request for a specific machine you
control, please file a support ticket:
and we’ll be able to make exceptions for a short time.
Equally, if you’d like to test out the new version of MATLAB ahead of this
date, please get in touch using the form above: we can suggest an
appropriate machine to test your code, or let you “jump the queue”.
as ever, your feedback is welcome. Simply file a support ticket, just as the email says.
IPv6 was standardised around 15 years ago, primarily as a way to address the anticipated exhaustion of IPv4 address space, and since then we have had a steady trickle of people asking whether they could have one to use on the University’s network. Until now we have had to turn these down, unfortunately, as our network kit did not have enough in the way of facilities to allow us to support this properly.
Now that IPv4 addresses have finally been used up, we expect that sooner or later major ISPs will start to issue IPv6 addresses to their customers. Many large service providers, such as google and amazon are already fully IPv6-ready, for this reason. It’s inevitable that we will need to speak IPv6 in order not to be cut off from what can only be a growing part of the Internet.
With the recent upgrade of many of the Forum edge switches, and the intention to upgrade most of the remainder over the next year or two, we now think that we have enough support in place that we can start to take a proper look at implementing IPv6 locally. To that end, we have begun a Development Project to undertake an initial investigation into what will be required to support IPv6 within Informatics. It is not expected that we will stop using our existing IPv4 allocation any time soon, if at all, however. Indeed, it’s likely that IPv4 and IPv6 will run in parallel for quite a few years yet. The ultimate goal is that any Informatics system which needs an IPv6 address will be able to have one, or even many of them.
Please note that adding IPv6 support to our network is not something that can happen overnight. On the contrary, it will require that we turn things on in a gradual, phased way, testing carefully at each stage before moving on. If we do happen to miss something, there is the potential to cause quite widespread problems for existing IPv4 users, so needless to say we will be proceeding with caution! The expectation is that there will be several more projects requiring to be spawned by this one before all of the necessary facilities are in place. Managed machines are likely to be supported first, with self-managed machines coming later as a result of the extra infrastructure that will have to be in place for them.
The project’s home page is here; it will be added to through the life of the project. At the moment it has links to some useful outside sites, as well as to our own “issues” page.
Edit: this work has now been done.
To enable hardware maintenance a number of services and websites will be unavailable for a short while – read on for details.
The following services and sites will be unavailable between about 10am
and 11am on Tuesday 1 September, after which they’ll reappear:
Commercialisation web sites including www.informatics-ventures.com
eie15.com, eie16.com, eie-london.com
Student printing at Forrest Hill
git.inf.ed.ac.uk, gerrit.inf.ed.ac.uk, git2.inf.ed.ac.uk
And these services and sites will be unavailable between about 10am and
10:30am on Thursday 3 September, after which they’ll reappear:
The main print server. Printing in IF and WB will be unavailable.
Forum self-managed console server
We have several terabytes of new disk space to attach to our SAN. Unfortunately this will mean shutting down the disk array ifevo3 to do the work.
The data on ifevo3 is nearly all group space, plus some of our system/backup data. While ifevo3 is down, the group space listed below will be unavailable.
To do this work without affecting other files and home directories served by the same servers, we will need a brief interruption to all files served by the those servers. Once before the work starts, and once again after it is complete. These brief breaks should last no longer than 2 minutes, you may not even notice them at all.
We are planning to do the work on Friday 14th of August, between 9am and 10am. Please let us know now if this is going to cause you real problems.
The list of group areas that will be unavailable during the work is:
Remember that any web space served from these areas will also be unavailable.
And for our own record, these are the actual mount points and servers affected are:
huldra:/vicepd /vicepe /vicepf /vicepg /viceph /vicepi /vicepj /vicepk /vicepl /vicepm /vicept /vicepu
nessie:/vicept /vicepu /disk/rmirror20 /disk/rmirror21
lammasu:/vicepa /disk/ptn175 /disk/ptn176 /disk/ptn197 /disk/ptn198 /disk/ptn199
Thank you for your understanding,
Magnetic tape is viewed as a somewhat outdated medium by many people these days but for backing up larges amounts of data over a long period of time (and Informatics has a lot of data to back up), it still offers by far the best value for money. Our old Overland Neo8000 has served us faithfully for the last 5 years but the amount of data backed up in Informatics is ever increasing and the Neo8000 was reaching the limits of its capacity. In addition, the cost of maintaining the library had risen sharply. With this in mind, the decision was taken to procure a new tape library and we have just brought a Spectra T680 library into service (the new library is the 2001ish black obelisk in the centre of the photo, the old library is on the left).
At first sight, there seems little difference between the two libraries. Both can hold approximately 500 tapes and have 6 tape drives installed. But the Spectra T680 drives are LTO6 compared to the Neo’s LTO4 which gives the new library a total native capacity of 1.2 Petabytes compered to 0.4 PB for the old library. In addition, the LTO6 drives are significantly faster which will help greatly in fitting the daily backups into a 24 hour window.
Porting DICE to a new version of the Redhat platform is a non trivial task. For a flavour of the work involved, you can read the final report for the base platform upgrade project. Note that this doesn’t include the additional work in updating all the teaching and software packages that we add to Redhat.
The 6th minor update to ScientificLinux 6 (which is based on RHEL6) is now ready for deployment to the Informatics SL6 DICE office and student lab machines. A minor update like this provides us with the opportunity to update important software and fix any bugs which are not security issues (we apply security updates as soon as they are available) in a controlled manner.
To complete this upgrade a reboot is required. The student lab machines will be rebooted during the night of Thursday 18th June. A delayed reboot will be scheduled for all DICE office desktops. The delay will be 5 days, although the reboots are delayed it would be greatly appreciated if people could manually reboot their machines at their earliest convenience; the delayed reboot would then be cancelled. Upgrades for individual servers will be scheduled over the next few weeks and users affected will be contacted as necessary.
SL6.6 was released on 12th November 2014 and since then it has been thoroughly tested in our DICE environment so we are confident that this update will not cause any issues for users.
Details of the package updates are available on the LCFG wiki. For further, in depth information, there are also release notes from ScientificLinux and RHEL.
If you have any questions or problems with the upgrade please contact our User Support team through the support form.
We’ve recently been getting an increased number of support tickets about problems accessing Student Services pages. The common thread in most of these tickets is that the person involved is incorrectly trying to do so using an HTTPS URL.
In the case of the Student Services pages, HTTPS is used to authenticate you, and then only allows people with the appropriate authorisation to proceed (as the page authoring system kicks in). If the page is a publicly visible page, then viewing it via HTTP works just fine. For example, for students the first link below should work fine (making sure your browser shows an HTTP URL), but the second should give you an access denied (unless you do have access permission).
It appears that the reason some people are using HTTPS, is because of browser plugins like the EFF HTTPS-everywhere. Unfortunately it ships with a configuration that assumes all HTTP www.inf.ed.ac.uk URLs are also accessible via HTTPS (which they are not).
We have submitted a patch to the EFF to remove this incorrect assumption, but until that is accepted and published, users of this plugin (or similar) should use whatever configuration it comes with, to exempt www.inf.ed.ac.uk from being forcibly redirected to HTTPS.
I hope that helps explain some of the confusion/problems people have been having.
PS Obviously we’d like to be in a state where HTTPS does work for all Informatics sites, but that transition will be gradual and lengthy.
PPS I’d also be interested to hear about any similar plugins that people are using that do the same thing as the EFF plugin.
The decant from Appleton Tower to Forrest Hill and the Wilkie Building is now well underway.
The first move to Forrest Hill took place over the weekend 23rd/24th May. The Graduate School were mostly all up and running again before lunchtime on Monday 25th May. We spent most of the rest of the week installing machines and new monitors in the Drill Hall. Although the machines were operational by the end of the week, we felt it prudent to postpone opening the Drill Hall to students on Monday 1st June as a result of concerns about the air-conditioning in the Drill Hall and the fairly significant leak that occurred in the building late on Friday afternoon! The students will however be able to use the Drill Hall from Wednesday 3rd June.
The move from levels 6, 7 and 8 to the Wilkie Building over last weekend (30th/31st May) also went smoothly with no major issues except for a few offices being without power.
We will continue to dismantle the remaining labs in Appleton Tower in preparation for the second move to Forrest Hill which is scheduled for the weekend of 13th/14th June.
During week commencing 15th June, contractors will rebuild all the flip-desks in Forrest Hill. After that, we will start to install machines in these desks which will continue to impact on the availability of frontline support staff. We will however continue to man the support desk in the Forum as usual but you may find that we take slightly longer than usual to respond to your requests. Please bear with us!