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.