Minutes

of CSG held 3pm-4pm on Tuesday 30th June 2015.

Present: Tim Colles, Alastair Scobie, Perdita Stevens, Colin Stirling, Martin Wright.

Minutes and matters arising

The minutes were accepted. Undone actions:

AS getting Kerry Miller to come and talk about Research Data Store: no progress (because of web work)

CPS to talk to AS about new System Design Project once an academic lead has been identified: no academic lead identified yet. It is important to get progress on this because there will be significant computing work needing done as well as significant academic work, before the new project must start in 2016-17. CPS will keep on about this. but hasn't had input into duties allocation this year; MW aware.

CPS to ask student reps for more information about what problems they're experiencing with mail loads, so that we can decide how best to help (e.g. should we provide education on how to handle mail loads, if these are actually reasonable, or should we take steps to reduce how much mail students get?)

Date and time of next meeting

to be arranged by Doodle Action: PS DONE

Security and encryption

A mail from HoS on this will presumably be sent round shortly. Following discussion at and offline after CCITC/CCPAG, AS and Gareth have got together to revise the HoS mail. Encrypting new machines: straightforward for Windows and Macs, not so for Linux. Key management: we do not wish to be able to decrypt a self-managed machine; any data that it would be bad to lose should already not be stored only there, as finding ourselves unable to decrypt a disk is not very different from a disk failure which our processes should already handle. There are some edge cases, we'll just have to do what we can. Many issues are related but not covered in these specific documents. E.g. a related issue is the data register. AS said that people were already informed that they should be using encrypted USB sticks if transferring medium or high risk data, e.g. exam papers. PS doubts that this is widely known. Action: PS to check documentation. DONE: it's not good.

Office365

The university has a strategy for making more use of Office365. Its Linux support is not as strong as its Windows and Mac support so this may become a problem. As further schools move away from Staffmail to O365, we consider it likely that Staffmail will be decommissioned, though we are informed that IS have no current plans to do so. If this happens, we will need to look carefully to see whether O365 can meet our requirements, or whether we will have to return to running our own mail server. Since our earlier survey showed that users in Informatics use a wide variety of mail clients are are very heavily wedded to them - for good reason, our work being far more integrated with our mail than is the case in other schools - the main question will be whether O365 has good enough imap support for the required variety of clients. AS is going to volunteer to switch as an experiment. Nothing further to be done for now.

EPSRC data preservation rules

EPSRC has recently changed its rules on how research data must be preserved and made available. This had not yet been publicised to researchers within the School. Martin reported that Research Committee had this in hand (postscript: and mail has since gone out from portfolio managers to academics). The central support for this is not as far advanced as could be wished, but it is not sensible for us to provide facilities locally; people are currently using ad hoc schemes such as putting data on their own web pages and so we may need to react flexibly to requests to keep particular URLs alive. Nothing more to be done.

Any other competent business

  1. We discussed the report from the recent TPR. This suggests that some students the panel met with are unhappy with the software provided in the labs, but unfortunately, despite our attempts to discover details, no specifics that make sense (there were early suggestions that we did not provide things that we do provide and use in compulsory courses) have been forthcoming. Nevertheless it is a problem if students feel that the software is not adequate. We should take steps to increase the probability that students understand how to find out what there is and how to request software they want. There is already a systems talk at the start of each academic year. Action: AS to check that it includes a clear invitation to request software and explanation of how to do so. DONE Further, an effective means of communication during the year is the regular class rep meetings which Colin as Director of Teaching holds. He will ensure that a Computing Support Officer is invited to one of these meetings from time to time, perhaps once or twice a semester, to prompt discussion with the reps about any improvements that may be possible. Action: CPS to arrange, liaising with AS re whom to invite.
  2. CPS expressed thanks to TC for helping with the progression boards, a new process this year.
  3. We discussed the problems that arose during this year's BoEs , in which data errors were discovered late, leading to the postponement of one of the boards. TC said the cause was probably a single simple human error (a modification with a larger scope than it should have had), but it is important to ensure that such a thing cannot happen again. Although there is a log of what SQL was run over the database, it does not make it easy to identify the ad hoc statements that are most at risk of error. There is now a nightly report of the difference between Euclid and Theon, which should help to catch cases where Theon is updated erroneously if someone looks at the report. However, currently, that report contains very many differences that are not, in fact, errors, so until those can be efficiently filtered out it won't be reasonable to expect anyone in the ITO to look regularly. TC is sorting this out. Action: TC to report to next CSG that a suitable process is in place to prevent such problems in future.

-- PerditaStevens - 12 Jun 2015

Topic revision: r5 - 09 Nov 2015 - 13:31:37 - PerditaStevens
 
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