IT Services's blog posts

Are you making use of your web space?

Apr

13

 

Did you know that anyone with a Sussex ITS username can set up a personal website on the University’s servers..?

Look – I did it. Take a look, as it gives some suggestions as to what you might like to use your web space for. You don’t have to have any fancy coding skills – I have the coding skills of an 8 year old – because documents that you put into the right folder are then automatically available online.

First, you need to set up your web space. Once you’ve done that, a folder will appear on your N: drive called public_html. Documents in this folder will be available online, providing they’re the right file type. PDFs, pictures and any browser-friendly text files will sit nicely up there.

To make a really simple text file that will display as a web page, open any text editor (but NOT word processing software, like Word) – on a PC you can use Notepad and on a Mac, it’s TextEdit. Write a simple document in there and save it as a .txt file. Drop it in your public_html file and you’ll get something simple that looks like this.

To add formatting, you’re going to need to change it into an HTML file and add HTML tags to make it look pretty. Here’s the difference – I’ve just used one HTML tag to make a section bold. You’ll notice I’ve lost my line breaks, because that’s what happens when you use HTML; you need to use HTML instructions to get any kind of formatting. There’s a world of stuff to go into and this blog post isn’t really going to suffice as an HTML for beginners class, but there’s loads of information out there if you want to get started. There are loads of video tutorials on the internet that could help you put a good webpage together if you want to take it on.

So without doing any fancy coding, you can put up an introduction to yourself, or display a message about files you’ve made available on your webspace. I’ve done something along those lines for you to see just using a .txt file, created in Notepad and saved in the public_html folder, and it will also show you what the web link to your documents is going to look like.

Otherwise, you can stick documents into your public_html folder that you want to share with people, and send them the link so they can access it through a web browser. It’s worth remembering however that people can be rightfully wary about clicking links in emails so make sure that your audience is expecting to receive it, or that the email is reassuringly genuine-looking!

For more information about these personal web spaces, see our FAQ on publishing information online.

A Look at Linux … part 1

Mar

02

Q: What do Amazon, this fridge and the Hadron collider have in common? 

 

A: They’re all run on Linux.

 We all know that one person, right? That one person who has more computers than they surely need, who says derogatory things about Microsoft as often as possible (and you learnt AGES ago to not even mention Steve Jobs to them…) and they probably hang out with Anonymous every Friday night and write indecipherable things on a black computer screen with green writing. When someone drops into conversation that they run a Linux machine, you think to yourself “Ahhh, one of them; I won’t possibly understand anything they say about computers” and direct the conversation to The Office/Peep Show/Stewart Lee instead in search of common ground.

However, really, Linux is all around us. It’s not as unusual as you might think. Linux is no longer just the toy of those who, you know, know how to make computers from scraps of metal and cables. Linux dominates the world of supercomputers and is the backbone of many major services that we all use on a daily basis such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

But what is Linux, where did it come from and what can we do with it?

Officially speaking, Linux isn’t an operating system (it’s what’s called a kernel) but it’s most easily described as one, standing in defiant opposition to Mac OS and Windows. It was developed by a Finnish chap called Linus Torvalds back in 1992 – see where it got its name?

Pronunciation is worthy of a paragraph all to itself, but I’ll stop at just mentioning that a) no-one is really sure how they should say it the first time they do so in knowing company, and go “Hey, do you use Linnux, Lie-nux, Lee…” until they go “Linnux, yeah, why?” and b) there’s actually no official line on this and c) his name gets pronounced Lee-nus, and it’s not generally pronounced Leenux, so d) it’s generally agreed to be Linnux.

So the kernel was created and then let loose; Torvalds intended Linux to be a free and unrestricted basis for developers to work from and have almost total creative license to make of it what they wanted. Let’s put it this way – Torvalds grew up in a radical left-wing household and whilst he doesn’t ascribe to any politics himself, Linux is the computing world’s socialist against Microsoft’s capitalist. Linux has created a community of impassioned developers who work, across the world, to change the way that people can not only access but create the computing world around them.

Command Line User Interface

If you want to use Linux, you get hold of what’s called a ‘distro’ – and that’s shorthand for distribution, which is in turn some sort of code for something you can use which looks like some manifestation or another of an operating system. Ubuntu you might have heard of, and that’s a distro. It’s often debated, but Android is also really a Linux distro. The distro can have a graphic interface, so it will look like a desktop that you and I regular computer users are accustomed to; you will have icons of things that are clickable, menus, windows and so on. Alternatively, the distro can have a command line user interface, so something that operates via commands typed line by line. That’s an extremely powerful tool for computer users as it gives you huge flexibility with what you can get your computer to do.

That said, the Linux community now often puts the hard work in for us by preempting the things we’d like to be able to do so the average computer user can now, without too much fuss, use a Linux-based computer in the same way as you would a Windows machine, and you’re going to be able to do quite a lot with it very cheaply.

So what can you do with it?

Well, those above-mentioned regular computer users (I should call us RCUs; it sounds good) might be a little reluctant to get on board, but running Linux is not as daunting as it sounds.  Firstly, we’ve all had those laptops which have just ground to a halt, or become really frustratingly slow.  A good thing about Linux is it can run from a CD, so if you can still get your laptop on, you can run Linux and rescue files that might be drowning in the quagmire of a dying laptop.

The next thing you can do is … carry on using the laptop!  Run Linux, use Linux, immediately have a working laptop again.  It’ll look a bit different and won’t be able to do everything the old one can do, possibly, but it will still be able to do a whole lot.  You can download a lot of open source software such as OpenOffice (free software that does much of what Microsoft Office does for you), media players to listen to music and watch movies, web browsers, email clients, PDF readers.  You’re good to go, basically.

If you’re feeling adventurous, or you have more technical knowledge than us RCUs (it might catch on, you know), there’s very almost, nearly, no limits to what can be done with a Linux machine because it provides the blank page – and the big world wide internet harbours the instructions – to create anything from basic to absolutely not basic automated devices.  If you combine the versatility of a Raspberry Pi – something that looks like a tiny computer that went to school without putting its clothes on, and is very, very cheap) and a good Linux distro you have something that you can program to water your gardenfeed your pets while you’re away or you know, make your own smart phone.


What do we do with it?

SAGA (GIS software) running on Linux

We have a lot of Linux users on campus, and here in ITS we have a growing department dedicated to looking after our Linux systems.  Our main users dwell in the realms of maths and physical sciences, so chemistry, physics, life sciences, astronomy and so on.  We’ve also got some Linux users popping up in geography now as they make use of GIS (geographic information systems) to capture and analyze data.

We deploy CentOS v6 as the distro on campus, but some of our more widely used services such as Lecture Capture run on Ubuntu 14.  CentOS is more associated with scientific functions, whereas Ubuntu is a popular distort with a more comfortable user experience, as it’s more straightforward.  (As an aside: we’re considering deploying Ubuntu 14.04 lts on campus more widely, so please contact us if this would be of interest to you…)

Our high performance cluster is run on Linux servers, as is our central database.  Around 80% of all of our servers in our data centre are running Linux which includes our home directory (where your files are stored), the campus directory and our application delivery service, Exceed onDemand.

Linux commonly forms the backbone of IT Services delivery like ours as it’s basically a more customisable way of doing things; we have more scope of control to adjust things to work exactly how we need them to.  Also, by having a Linux server at the back end of things, it means that we’re able to have them work in such a way that they can communicate with Mac, Windows and Linux systems.

What can *I* do with it?

Now that’s a very good question.  In the not too distant future I’ll publish part 2 of this article, in which I detail what happens when an RCU meets Linux and attempts to restore an old laptop to a decent state, and depending on how I get on, I may or may not try and do something interesting with a Raspberry Pi.

PA55W0rDs ar3 Ch@ng!ng

Feb

26

The wisdom is simple; a strong password is a long password (and more rhyming fun later in the post).  That’s why, from February 24 2016, new ITS passwords created must be ten characters or more.  Currently, Sussex ITS passwords have to be exactly eight characters long but we’ve been trialling ten character passwords and we’ve made sure that all our systems can now accept them.

Passwords still:

  • are case sensitive
  • need to contain one character which isn’t a letter (a number, a space or any of these accepted characters)

How to make a strong password

It’s long been recommended that a good strong password involves some clever substitutions of letters for non-alphabetical characters and mixing up large and small letters, meaning, for instance that ‘password’ could be come P@55W0rD.  However, with the clever hacking programs that exist out there nowadays (apparently) this sort of password can be, in fact, extremely easily figured out.  Software, for example, could run millions of tests for a password in a second, speeding its way through normal dictionary words and substituting letters for their oft-used non-alphabetic counterparts.

Now it’s recommended that you use a nice long password of completely unconnected words.  This is much, much harder for hackers’ software to chance upon, and it should be easier to remember.

If you want to give this way of concocting a password a go but you’re struggling to come up with some memorable words, there are a couple of ways to generate some nonsense streams for yourself.  One way is to look at a picture and use the first four words that come to mind.  For more randomness, use Flickr’s interesting images from the last 7 days (randomly selected, high rated images) and use four words that picture inspires.  A nice picture of the Chicago skyline gave me Chicago tall white centre which, according to this handy password strength checker is a “very strong” password with a rating of 92%.  Stick a random number on the end and that goes up to 100%.

Alternatively, someone’s realised that we’re really, really good at remembering rhyming phrases (I bet you can all remember what year Columbus sailed the ocean blue in).  Marjan Ghazvininejad and Kevin Knight are two clever scientists who have worked out that while the above correct horse battery staple idea is good, a 60-bit password is better – simply as software is getting better and better and faster and faster at cracking passwords – but potentially difficult to remember.  Based in the Department of Computer Science and the University of Southern California, they wrote a whole paper on the subject.  Not only that, they made a website that generates a random little poem for you, one which creates a 60-bit password.  And not only that, but it’s helpfully in iambic pentameter – the most memorable rhythm, apparently.  Have a go.

Again, I had a go.  I couldn’t not.  I can’t actually share with you the first poem generated, because it contains such a delightful coupling of words that it has instantly become my go-to password.  Sorry.  But some of the next (yes, you will generate multiple password poems because it’s too fun not to) were good, and, endorsed by afore-used passwordmeter.com, they would make very strong password poems.

SO pleasingly, one of my randomly generated poems went as follows (I added my own punctuation):

Professor, married, celebrates;
Unwanted striding emanates.

I can see the prof in my head – he has tweed trousers and his hands are in his pockets, despite his jubilation.

One pitfall of these poetic passwords is that for some purposes, they’re going to be too long. Some password-box designers will have set the character limit to less than these couplets allow. Never mind; modify. For this case, Prof,Married, alone has a strength score of 97%, so consider a truncated version for variation.

 

Keeping your password safe

I don’t need to tell you this, but don’t use the same password for multiple sites, however tempting it is.  Instead, consider a password manager app like LastPass, KeePass and 1Password.  The idea of having all your passwords behind one master password often rings alarm bells, but on balance it’s much safer than using one password for many different accounts here, there and everywhere.

Don’t let your password manager be your desk drawer or your diary; don’t write your passwords down and store them “somewhere safe.”  We store your passwords very securely; you should too.

If you ever get an email purporting to be from ITS asking you to enter your password, don’t.  We’d never do that.  It’s yours, and we’ll never ask you for it.

Tweet Tweet

Feb

15

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.30.36Harness the power of the little blue bird

As I see it, there are two ways to use Twitter at uni. For arguments’ sake, I’m going to name one the student life approach, and the other the academic life approach. That’s because there are probably two ways to see university really, isn’t there?  There’s the one where you go because it’s a rite of passage and it will help get a probably fairly unrelated but fun and lucrative job in, say, advertising. Then there’s the one where you go because it’s a life in academia for you or you’re one of the lucky ones who’ve always known what you’ve wanted to do, and your degree is the next paving stone on that particular path.

Many of the tweets from the former are actually beyond the limits of my understanding due to the, er, swift evolution of English colloquialisms, and I think that’s intended, and that’s fine. For these purposes, I’m going to look at how a good academic focus on Twitter can help you get more out of #unilife.

There’s a lot going on out there on the Twittosphere. There’s a huge amount of academics on Twitter, and the reasons why aren’t in the least bit mysterious.  (Shhhh: academics seem to like to get their point across.  And procrastination isn’t just reserved for undergraduates you know.)  Through the use of hashtags and some crafty wordsmithery, Twitter can connect you with a whole customised, tailor-made world all revolving around your particular academic endeavours. Others who use related hashtags will be sharing relevant articles and other readables, and inevitably getting into discussions.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.30.36

Be an excellent academic tweeter

As always, first impressions do, I’m afraid, matter. Twitter has become more and more customisable so take some time over getting your profile looking right, and represent yourself as fully as possible by using a relevant banner image for the top of the page, choosing an appropriate (don’t read this to mean boring) profile photo and consider your short biography carefully. You can now include websites, tags and Twitter handles in these bios, so use this spot to make a statement about your reason for being on Twitter. Are you a #historygeek? Tell them. #WomaninSTEM? Tell them here. If you’re associated with any research groups, add their Twitter handle in your bio or simply show your affiliations by including your School’s handle. Sum up your academic interests as succinctly as possible to help make the most relevant connections, but don’t forget that we’re all human and we have some unrelated interests as well. Likely to throw in some tweets about music/Star Wars/cats/canal boats? Add a hashtag!


And hashtag your life away.
 Twitter is the birthplace of the hashtag. They’re often overused, so use sparingly (or, alternatively, hilariously). Hashtags are searchable too, so a search of #theoreticalphysics, #anthropology or #ArtHistory, for example, is going to immediately land you amongst peers. There are several useful hashtags that bring students and academics together. #ECRchat stands for Early Careers Researchers, #PhDChat and #PhDLife do what they say on the tin, and #AcWri is used to identify tweets about academic writing. #studentlife, #unilife and #SAchat (student affairs chat) generally, but not exclusively, identify and collectivise undergraduates, and find other people sharing your pain with #dissertation, #thesis, #finalyear, and so on. Join some academics lamenting the end of the weekend (and talking about more relevant things, presumably) by using #ScholarSunday.

phd hashtags

Hashtags commonly used with #PhD

Talk (tweet) to people!  A lot!  Academics on Twitter are surprisingly responsive, and Twitter gets more and more interesting the more you get into exchanges with people. Talk to people with common interests, regardless of their level of expertise.  They’re likely to respond.  You’ll find you get more followers that way as well, if that’s what you’re after. (Anecdote: I once challenged Ben Goldacre of Bad Science/Bad Pharma fame on a tweet of his about risk, and ended up having a decent discussion with him and gaining 25 new followers.)  Enlarging and strengthening personal and professional networks is only ever a good thing and on Twitter, those networks are just out there for the taking.  You really never know where each connection might take you in the future.  If you’ve read an article and have something good to say about it, see if the author is on Twitter and send them a few nice words.

Eavesdrop on events. If you can’t get to a particular conference, find out its hashtag (clue: it’s probably the initials of the conference and the year it’s taking place in) and follow it while it’s on. Many conferences now have someone responsible for live tweeting during the event, highlighting salient points from speakers’ spiels and delegates themselves take it upon themselves to keep the world up to speed with what’s going on for those lucky few with the conference name tags. (Be warned: you’ll get pictures and full reviews of the free lunches and the evening antics too.)

 

Make some lists. These lists are a bit like those that you might find on IMDB where people (with too much time on their hands) compile a list of their favourite comedy movies, or films that averaged a score of 50 or less on Rotten Tomatoes that were set in a desert in 1969 with a certain actor in. These lists are ultimately more useful for others, so it’s quite a philanthropic thing to do but it does make you look like you know loads. See this chap, for example. He knows loads of sociologists – way more than you know. But now you can know them all too. Hunt some lists out, find 600 new – and relevant – people. Then later, make some lists – probably when you really, really need to write a paper.

 

beyonce

Remember, academics can be funny people too.  Check out #AcademicsSay for proof.  And never fear, of course there are also plenty of cats in this corner of the interwebs; #AcademicsWithCats even gave rise to this year’s inaugural Academics with Cats Awards.

 

 

 

 

For more info on how to make best use of Twitter, check out (buy) this eBook written by the University’s very own Dr Catherine Pope: http://thedigitalresearcher.com/new-ebook-making-the-most-of-twitter-a-step-by-step-guide-for-academics/

 

 

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Thanks for your patience!

Nov

23

As the weekend rolls in, we're reflecting on the week here at IT Services. Remarkably, it's been pretty unremarkable. It's been a huge relief to see that the systems are getting back to normal after the problems we've been experiencing, especially as it's meant a lot of late nights and weekends in the office for IT staff. We're glad it's working better now, mainly so Dave can catch up on <strike>Strictly Come Dancing</strike> housework after spending far too much time here over the last few weeks, but also because it's really nasty sitting in here trying to fix things whilst campus life is being disrupted.

We've had a series of issues since a planned software upgrade that took place just before the start of term and the makers of the software have been working closely with us to find the problems and to fix them. We also replaced some hardware to make sure that wasn't compromising the service at all but things really seemed to click back into place after an evening fixing session with the software manufacturers last Friday.

Now that we seem to be operating as business as usual, we're directing efforts at reviewing the systems we have in place to make sure that we have the best possible infrastructure so that we can make further improvements to the service we offer.

We're grateful to the students and staff who provided their feedback as often it's that first tweet or message in the Support inbox that indicates something's gone wrong, often helping to quickly reveal the scale of the problem. We also aim to keep you adequately informed as to the status of these problems; if you haven't already, please sign up to receive our Latest News notifications and check the other channels we use to stay in touch with you.

Sussex IT - back in time...

Nov

09

Can you imagine a campus with no WiFi? A library with no internet, no electronic catalogue, the whereabouts of books signalled only by scribblings on cards and absolutely zero online journals. Not even a photocopier. Imagine no phone app (it's easy if you try). Imagine no Study Direct, no online timetables, no e-Submissions. Cluster rooms with no, er, computer clusters. No emails from the school office or the hundreds of societies you joined at Freshers' Fair. Not even an IT username - now that's stripping a Sussex student of their very identity, surely. But of course, with its red bricks, East Slope, the badgers and the seagulls, Sussex predates all that technology by decades. Being a student or a member of staff here in the 1960s and 1970s would have been a very different experience. The university, established in 1961, was quick off the mark to develop a computing facility. Initially, it existed to support the administration of the university, logging HR information and dealing with the payroll using information coded onto paper tape. At the outset, whilst the computers themselves only existed in one location on campus, admin staff would create the punched paper tape which would then be taken by porters to the Data and Statistics Office who would enter the information from the paper tape onto the central computer.

flexowriterpapertape

This machine was used to punch holes in paper tape, which would then transfer the information to a computer.
papertape

  Paper tape - this means something to something, apparently. Very clever.
paper tape reader

A paper tape reader.

The machine room in 1982  with DEC VAX-11 computers.

In addition to this work, the computing team also supported basic library functions as well as researchers and academic faculty, mostly scientists and the social scientists who were already using an early version of SPSS in the 1970s. The machines were in one large room; the memory units were the size of wardrobes while the processor was the same size as a van. All this couldn't even store a megabyte of data, but were still working in kilobytes. 

Until the late 1980s most administrative staff were working on typewriters; older models were replaced by electric "golf ball" typewriters, so named because of the interchangeable "type ball" containing the letters, symbols and numbers in varying fonts (they are strange and beautiful things).

us__en_us__ibm100__selectric__selectric_two__839x800

Each department had a small army of secretaries to deal with the demand of paperwork and communications; "instant" messages were left in the form of memos in pigeonholes, the closest you could get to a quick email about lecture room changes. When computers started to make it into school offices, it was in the form of Ataris, Amstrads and BBCs; it was a long time until any central purchasing system came into play so schools bought their own equipment... and then found that from department to department things were not compatible.

MComp3A

 

The Arts Computing Unit, which in the mid to late 1980s was located in Arts B, operated a conversion service, using a patch panel to connect different devices which helped somewhat with the incompatibility issues. This unit also offered a printing service before they became office mainstays, when printing was still done on that stripy thin paper with the holes you could tear off down the side. Dot matrix printers were the very noisy standard, a feature that now has become their sole worth - someone clever worked out that the movements of the printer could be manipulated to make "tunes". You've always wanted to hear the Wallace & Gromit theme tune played on a printer, haven't you? (If these are your new tunes of choice or you just really want to hear a printer play Eye Of The Tiger, then here are some more). Email began to be used amongst some members of staff in the early 1990s, but it wasn't until several years later that it became more popular. Students initially had to request to join email and were then granted an email address; they weren't allocated as standard until the late 1990s. The university website sprung into a grainy kind of action around 1997; this is what it looked like then:

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.00.52

Strolling round the archived version of the page, we could see what movies the Gardner Arts Centre (now the Attenborough Centre) back in 1998 - somehow the movies don't seem as dated as the HMTL. Does technology move at a different speed to popular culture...?!

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.02.08

In a recent post, I looked at the changes in equipment that students are using. One in four new students registered a tablet on the IT network this September, up from one in eight three years ago and only one in every 600 brought a desktop with them whereas a decade ago that number would have been much greater. With the rate that technology changes year on year, it's almost impossible to say which of today's technological staples will look, in three decades' time, like archaic curios of staggeringly low capabilities. Which IT item would you miss the most if you were at Sussex in the '70s?

Historical IT@Sussex bits and pieces

    • Email addresses used to be the other way round, so they'd be whoever@uk.ac.sussex (academic institutions were the first along with the military and government to get use of the internet and email).

    • Professor Dick Grimsdale, a Sussex lecturer and later dean of the School of Applied Sciences in the 1970s, was the first to send a transatlantic email, from the UK to America.

      • The first cluster computers used Windows 3.

Windows 3
    Windows 3

Many thanks to Andy Clews and Liz Davis, long-serving ITS colleagues who let me pick their brains for this post.

Photo/Picture locations: Red Selectric typewriter: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-apZleEHOb94/UsE2I_uLhqI/AAAAAAAAXFU/0sPwWF0bIY4/s1600/us__en_us__ibm100__selectric__selectric_two__839x800.jpg BBC Micro: http://chrisacorns.computinghistory.org.uk/Pics/MComp3A.jpg Paper tape: https://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/roger.broughton/museum/iomedia/pt.htm#pti Type Balls: http://www.daskeyboard.com/blog/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/IBM_Selectric_Type_Balls.jpg

Left to Your Own Devices

Oct

23

Over the first two weeks of term, 5,355 new users registered over 13,000 devices on our IT networks. That is, on average, about 2.5 devices each or 15 in every 6-person flat on campus.

That made me wonder about the hardware that students are now carrying about with them. When I first arrived at Sussex in September 2000 and took up residence in East Slope, I lugged one of these "Tiny" beauties up to the top flat (number 60-something, right at the back). I'd got it a month or so previously and was sooooo pleased with the technology. It had come in a bundle with a printer and a free digital camera that was the size of a brick and could hold eight pictures at a time. EIGHT. That's less than the texts the contemporaneous Nokia 3310 could hold.

Students with laptops were relatively few and far between; I remember getting my first one three years later. These days, I imagine that there aren't a huge amount of desktop PCs in student accommodation, and the market mirrors the decline.

The drawn-out death of the desktop is part of the overall bleak outlook for PCs; so far, 2015 has seen a continued decrease in sales of PCs for all but Apple products. Stateside, the balance has now swung in favour of the mobile-only users (those accessing the internet on phones or tablets).

In 2014, twice the amount of people used desktops as used tablets or phones to access the internet. Now, only a year later, desktop users have halved and mobile-only users have taken the lead.

I thought I'd get my Excel on and have a look at some of our figures to see if we're moving in line with market trend, and guess what? Just 10 of you bothered carting a desktop PC onto campus this year. We're not looking here at total users on campus, just the new users &amp; devices registered in the September of each year. Have a nice graph, and muse upon the death of the desktop. Have you ever used one/owned one/had one at home anyway?

 

 

 

I got some of my facts and figures from these articles:
http://www.pcr-online.biz/news/read/uk-sees-hike-in-pc-sales-as-other-eu-countries-witness-decline/037053
http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/Number-of-Mobile-Only-Internet-Users-Now-Exceeds-Desktop-Only-in-the-U.S?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+comscoreblog+%28comScore+Voices%29 

Time warp!

Oct

14

Just as a teaser for a blog post of the future, I’ve just been given some photos of IT equipment at Sussex in years gone by and couldn’t resist sharing this one.  I’ve been sent these by our email expert Andy Clews, who’s been in IT here since the 1970s.

Andy says: “A partial view of the-then equivalent of the ‘data centre’ from 1975.  In the rear background is one of the memory units (there were three, at 32KB each!).   In the foreground are two card readers, and in the middle distances are disk storage units, each storing a massive 6MB each!”

 

These days, we have a high performance computer unit for research groups needing particularly high capacity machines.  Just these machines alone accommodate 162TB of data.  So to cater for these guys nowadays, we’d be needing 30 million of these 1975 machines.

 

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Help us to stay in touch with you…

Oct

13

Here at IT Services we do try our best to make sure that our news reaches you as we know that even minor disruptions, either planned or unplanned, can really disrupt your studies, your research, your teaching, your work … We want to be able to give adequate warning and keep you informed – what’s that someone said about being forewarned? Forewarned is forearmed; it sounds like something from a battleground but it is certainly applicable here. Obviously though, we might not always know when problems with IT are going to occur, but we do have quite robust ways for staying in touch when they do.

Whenever we have some news for you, we put it on our Latest News section on our website. When we do this, it triggers a tweet from our Twitter account and an email to land in the inbox of all who have subscribed to Latest News. Staff will also find an RSS feed automatically set up in their email, but that doesn’t appear in your regular inbox. For that to happen, you need to subscribe to the mailing listWe strongly recommend that you do this, as you will also receive any updates to a certain news item as they are published.

In the unusual event that all IT services become unavailable, due to perhaps a power cut, you can call the Service Line on 01273 678776. We regularly update this with a recorded message during all significant disruptions to let you know what the situation is.

We are now working more closely with the University’s communications team to make sure that all important messages are broadcast as widely as possible. We’d appreciate your feedback as to where we can improve and if there are any extra channels of communications you’d like to see being used.

Ten Top Apps for Students ... part 1

Oct

01

Adjusting to life at uni can be difficult, and even if you've been here for a while now you might find your organisational skills still need some tweaking. Thankfully, as with most other problems these days, there's an app to make it all seem much easier. Get some of these on your mobile device and you'll be well equipped for the rest of your academic journey.

    • Sussexmobile
       
      Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.04.19
      The first app any Sussex student should be downloading is the Sussexmobile App. I wish it was pronounced mobeeel, like the BatMobile, but it's not - unless you lot decide it is, of course. This app is incredibly helpful for helping you navigate through university. It gives you access to a "lite" version of your inbox, so you can read and reply to messages, and compose new mail. The functionality is significantly reduced but it'll do until you can get back to your regular inbox. As well as the email, you can see your timetable, information about assessments, look at your library account and your printing account, find vacant study spaces and cluster computers as well as loads more.

Play Store     App Store




    • LinkedIn
       
      Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.17.01


      It turns out I've become something of a LinkedIn advocate; if you feel like you don't know enough about what LinkedIn is or what LinkedIn does, have a read of my previous post on it. University days are a perfect time to carefully craft and maintain a top notch LinkedIn profile and it will get you more focused on your post-university career path early on. Work on that cv whilst ploughing through your studies to increase your employability at the end of it.

Play Store       App Store





    • Evernote
       
      Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.17.25When it comes to organising your study notes, your thoughts, ideas, work plans, Evernote is pretty much the leader. It's available for nearly every device under the sun and utilised to the full on a laptop PC or MacBook, even the basic version can become every student's best friend. There are two levels of paid access that offer some really jazzy features such as turning your notes straight into a presentation for those most nervewracking seminars, or annotating PDFs. In the basic version, you can create a notebook for all your modules, you can make sub-notebooks as appropriate and then you can easily cross-reference by using what they call tags to tie together common themes. To use it is to love it (if you're a nerd for organisation).

Play Store      App Store




    • Sonocent
       
      Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.18.32
      Now Sonocent is an Android-only app, but we'll get to an iOS equivalent in a moment. Sonocent is a completely excellent voice recorder, absolutely ideal for recording lectures and seminars. It's a bit less passive than others, however. As the lecture progresses, you can type notes directly into the app, you can take photos which attach to the file at the time point it's taken, and you can mark certain bits of the recording as important as it's happening. You can pause the recording and restart without it breaking the file up... it's an all-round good lecture-recording egg. It's also free which is rather brilliant, because its iOS equivalent isn't; SoundNote is excellent too, with similar features and it costs £3.99.

Play Store      App Store



    • RefMe
       
      Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.18.05Back when I was an undergraduate, bibliographies took *forever* to compile, if you didn't do them as you went. It can really break your flow to keep going back to the referencing too, and we all know how evasive and fleeting flow can be. RefMe is a free app, available for both Androids and iPhones/iPads (coming soon for Windows phones, apparently). You can use your phone to zap a barcode or enter an ISBN number or a journal title and it will generate your bibliography (in your chosen style) and then export it for Word or Evernote documents. Literally a life saver, if you measure your life in terms of minutes that tick by doing tedious tasks. All right, it's a time saver, but it will save so much time you might get a bit more life away from the desk.

                                          Play Store       App Store

 

 

Visit the IT Services blog for Part Two of this article