IT Services's blog posts for October 2015

Left to Your Own Devices



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 & 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: 

Time warp!



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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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.

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Ten Top Apps for Students ... part 1



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