SL7 Desktop Upgrades

A number of staff have already moved to using the latest version of our operating system – SL7 – so we have now started to upgrade the remaining DICE desktops. If they haven’t done so already, support will contact you individually to arrange a suitable date and time. We aim to have all DICE desktops upgraded to SL7 by the end of the year.

If you would rather not wait until we contact you and would like to be upgraded sooner rather than later, please get in touch with us via the support form –
http://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/systems/support/form/

The upgrade involves a full re-install and re-partitioning of the disk and therefore any data that you have stored on the local disk will be lost. We will therefore provide temporary storage space for you so that you can copy any files from the local disk that you may wish to keep. After the upgrade, you can then copy your files back. We’ll provide further details on this when we contact you.

We have added a page on computing.help with release notes on sl7. You may find the section on Window Managers particularly useful.

http://computing.help.inf.ed.ac.uk/sl7

Any questions, please contact support.

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PostgreSQL upgrades

As posted to our announcements mailing list, we’ll be upgrading both of our commodity PostgreSQL servers “pgteach” and “pgresearch” this week (Wednesday 16th Sep, for the avoidance of doubt!) to the latest major version, 9.4.

The process is usually fairly painless as it can be performed “online” with only a few minutes of downtime, and a few minutes of read-only operation.

For details of the changes in the new version, you’d be advised to read the release notes on the PostgreSQL website.

For more information on use of the servers, computing support provide PostgreSQL help.

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Automounter Changes

One of the consequences of the move from SL6 to SL7 is that we have switched from using the AMD automounter (which isn’t available on SL7) to Autofs. In making this switch, we have taken the opportunity to clear out many old and broken automounts, particularly within /group. We have also removed the /legacy automount completely. No-one should be affected by this since legacy content has not changed for many years but if you do need access to this area for any reason, please contact computing support.

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Changes to Forum Printing

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!

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MATLAB Upgrade, Sep 2015.

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 (8.5.0.197613) 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:

https://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/systems/support/form/

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.

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IPv6

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.

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Upcoming hardware maintenance – down time for services

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:

energy-hub.inf.ed.ac.uk
Commercialisation web sites including www.informatics-ventures.com
pp.inf.ed.ac.uk
bugs.lcfg.org
cvs.inf.ed.ac.uk, svn.inf.ed.ac.uk
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
www.xldb.eu
www.anc.ed.ac.uk/dtc
www.dcs.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:

pervasiveparallelism.inf.ed.ac.uk
Webots licences
calvin.inf.ed.ac.uk
The main print server. Printing in IF and WB will be unavailable.
www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk
datascience.inf.ed.ac.uk
www.ltg.ed.ac.uk
networks.inf.ed.ac.uk
www.idse.ed.ac.uk
Forum self-managed console server
admin.smb.inf.ed.ac.uk
groups.inf.ed.ac.uk
diceservices.inf.ed.ac.uk

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Planned down time for some group space

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:

/group/admin/repadmin
/group/corpora/public
/group/infdb/infreports
/group/infdb/infthesis
/group/infdb/ug4projects
/group/project/dcspaul-diy
/group/project/vsm-nfs
/group/support/projects
/group/teaching/cvscs1
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/admin/DOPShandover
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/appguarden2
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/bundy
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/corpora/restricted/sky_news
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/cstr/projects/corpus_1
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/cstr/projects/Felipe_Espic
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/cstr/projects/galatea/d03
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/cstr/projects/galatea/d04
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/cstr/projects/merritt_synthesis
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/cstr/projects/merritt_synthesis2
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/cup/data1
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/ESSENCEadmin
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/ICSA/beaches
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/msc-projects/s1355318
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/msc-projects/s1355708
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/msc-projects/s1444169
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/pasta-private
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/ami5
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/arc_tools
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/biomedTM
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/common_sense
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/deca
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/dnn_tts
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/gpgpu
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/idea
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/img2txt
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/mast
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/mast/mast2
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/nst/bbcdata/ptn4
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/nst/bbcdata/ptn5
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/nst/bbcdata/ptn6
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/nst/bbcdata/ptn7
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/nst/bbcdata/ptn8
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/nst/bbcdata/raw
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/reellives
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/slmc
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/project/UKConnect
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/socialmedia10
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/statgen
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/synproc
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/teaching/matlab-help
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/teaching/matlab-support
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/ug4-projects/s1040800
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/workshop/datascience
/afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/workshop/ml

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:

kraken:/vicepv /vicepw
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
yeti:/vicepu /vicepv
telford:/disk/data /disk/data2

Thank you for your understanding,

Neil

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New Tape Library

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).

IMG_1265

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.

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Work involved in porting DICE to SL7

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.

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