alpine on DICE

I’ve posted some information about the future of alpine on DICE on my blog. But don’t worry, it’s good news.

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Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac

Office 2016 for Mac is available to Informatics staff for new installation or upgrade from version 2011 on University owned equipment. The software is provided on a USB memory stick to facilitate easy installation and is available to borrow from the Computing Support area on level 2 (2.07).

New features in Office 2016


  • The Design tab provides quick access to design elements to improve the look of documents.
  • The new Insights pane, powered by Bing, shows relevant contextual information from the web within the reading and authoring experience.
  • Threaded comments enables you to have useful conversations right next to relevant text.


  • Recommended charts. Choose the best chart that Excel recommends for your data.
  • PivotTable Slicers Helps to discover patterns in large volumes of data.
  • Use the Analysis Toolpak add-on to perform complex statistical or engineering analyses.


  • Threaded comments enable you to have useful conversations right next to relevant text.
  • Theme Variants – Change the style of your presentation using different color schemes for a theme.


  • Easy navigation between the five main Outlook elements: Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks, and Notes.
  • Push Mail support ensures that the inbox is always up to date.
  • Propose New Time. When you receive a meeting request for a time that is not preferable, you can propose a new meeting time. The meeting organizer can easily accept or decline your proposal.
  • Side by Side Calendar. See multiple calendars in parallel.
  • Weather Forecast in Calendar. Will it be sunny or rainy? No need to look up your local weather forecast because Outlook shows the weather info right in the Calendar view.
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subversion upgrade on SL6

As announced by mailing list:

The default version of the subversion (svn) revision control software will
change on DICE SL6 desktop and compute servers. This brings the version
into line with our new SL7 desktops and will allow working copies to be
shared between all DICE machines again.

The change will take place early in the morning of Thursday, 5h November.
You can check the current version as you’d expect:

  [hostname]you$ svn --version                                                                                                 
  svn, version 1.7...                                                                                                            

This change will have one particularly noticeable effect: *any* attempt to
work with an existing subversion working copy (i.e. “checkout”) with a
subversion 1.7 client will fail with the following message:

  [hostname]you$ svn up ./myrepo                                                                                              
  svn: E155036: Please see the 'svn upgrade' command                                                                              
  svn: E155036: Working copy [...] too old (format 10, created by Subversion 1.6)                                                 

You might already have seen this message on SL7 desktops; if you have
already upgraded then the sole effect of the DICE update will be to
restore access from SL6 desktops. Note that unlike historical releases of
subversion this will *not* affect your repository in any way.

If you wish to continue working with other, older clients you
will need to check out two working copies in different locations.

We do not intend to upgrade any of our running subversion servers to 1.7
until they are moved to DICE SL7 (for which there’s no immediate
timetable). If you run your own subversion server on SL6 you may wish to
let us know in advance; we can hold back subversion on your machine if
it’s critical.

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OpenVPN configuration file updates

Of interest to users of the Informatics OpenVPN service:

Please note that – as announced via email to the sys-announce list – an updated set of configuration files for our OpenVPN service was put in place in late July 2015.

The old configurations will be turned off on Monday 2nd November, 2015 – so, if you haven’t already updated to the new set, please do so now.

Download links and instructions for the new files can be found at:

We also recommend that you install the latest versions of the OpenVPN client software you’re using (e.g. openvpn for Linux and Windows; tunnelblick for Macs), in order to pick up any recent security fixes.

Please contact Support in the usual way if you have any questions or comments.

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Another web server (with a bit more security)

The web-page hosting services homepages.inf and groups.inf have been complemented by a new service, sweb.inf, which allows users to publish AFS-based web pages that have a greater degree of protection than the mechanism currently employed on existing services.

The new server, sweb.inf, uses AFS space that is accessible from anywhere (as normal) and is editable by the user (also as normal), but when accessed via the web using Apache it is constrained to a separate, user-specific ID, of the form “sweb.<user>” (not the generic <apache> ID as is normal on our other web servers). The resulting filespace should benefit from the resilience and availability of AFS, and be better-protected from any server-side issues (such as another user’s mis-configured script).

The URL of this more-secure web server is, and user pages sit below the user ID at that site, so that the “test.html” page of user “fred” would be “”.

The corresponding filespace is within the AFS file-structure, and accessible in the “web” sub-directory below the user directory in /afs/ (thus the path corresponding to the example URL above would be /afs/

For related files that are not intended to be web-visible (README and other house-keeping files, intermediate or temporary files
used by scripts and suchlike) there is a data directory (for example, /afs/, which is a sibling of the web directory. These “data” files are only accessible via the filesystem, not via the web.

Files within the /afs/ structure need specific permissions if the mechanism is to work correctly. This allows web access as the restricted user-specific ID (such as “sweb.fred”, for example), but full access via the filesystem as user “fred”.

More information can be found on the relevant web page,

To make use of this service, a request should be made via the Support Form.

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New: SL7 Virtual DICE

We’re delighted to announce a new release of Virtual DICE. Find out more in the Virtual DICE help pages. The download information is here.

Virtual DICE is DICE Linux, but running in a virtual machine. It can run on any machine supported by VirtualBox. This release of Virtual DICE is based on the SL7 version of DICE Linux used in the Informatics student labs at Forrest Hill. Most of what you can do on SL7 DICE can also be done on Virtual DICE.

If you have questions which aren’t answered in the Virtual DICE help pages, please put them to Computing Support. Thanks.

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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 –

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 with release notes on sl7. You may find the section on Window Managers particularly useful.

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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