Wednesday, April 9, 2014

University IT and the Heartbleed bug

heartbleed logoYou may have seen news reports of a new IT security vulnerability dubbed 'Heartbleed'.  For example this BBC News story.

The software with the problem is very widely used and many internet services have been affected.  Some University systems also use this software and have therefore been potentially open to attack. These were updated or protected as quickly as possible once this vulnerability was made known.  

It is not known whether anyone has used this exploit to gather University passwords, so we are not currently advising you to rush to change your University password. However it is easy and good practice to change your password - especially if you are concerned or are using the same password elsewhere.

In response to this vulnerability some companies and websites are advising their customers to change their passwords, in these cases it would be prudent to follow their advice, but do watch out for opportunistic phishing attempts and always go direct to the University or company website; do not click links in emails.

We will issue another bulletin if we need to update or change this advice.  As always, should you suspect that your university account has been compromised you should change your password straight away, and contact our Helpdesk on x21111.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

One Form to Rule them All

If you go to you'll see a collection of service request and fault reporting forms.

Following a process improvement exercise, all forms relating to learning and teaching services provided by CiCS will be rationalised into a single 'intelligent' form that offers appropriate fields and options depending on which request a user selects on the initial screen. This means that users can for example make a request to the MOLE team or make an equipment loan request, without needing to know how our department or website is structured. One form to rule them all.

The new form has yet to be signed off but if approved it will go live 14th April to coincide with the red phones change. We will notify users in the news blog this week and it will be included in our staff email news next week. We will also put a reminder in our April email news a week after the form has gone live.

Future workstreams may involve adding more departmental service requests to this form, possibly extending beyond learning and teaching services. At some stage we may also recreate the functionality of this form into a new form powered directly by supportworks but at this stage it's too early to say.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Red (teaching space) phones go to helpdesk from 14 Apr

From 14th April all calls made from pool teaching spaces will go to the CiCS Helpdesk rather than the AV team. The user experience will remain largely unchanged, in that they use the red (or black) phones in a teaching space to seek advice or help using the in-room technology, and they speak to a member of CiCS staff who is able to give advice or send someone out. However, the quality of services received will improve since calls will be answered from 8am-6pm, while ensuring calls aren't missed due to AV staff being called out in the event of multiple simultaneous incidents.
In parallel, all our advice will be changed on posters, user guides, and on web pages to encourage people who are having problems with technology in teaching spaces to call the Helpdesk rather than call AV directly.

This simplifies the service for users by reducing the number of contact points, being able to refer problems to the correct team and ensuring a consistent level of service with all calls being logged in Supportworks and moves us one step closer to a more consolidated Helpdesk.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Full Programme Announced for Research Computing Event

Each year we run the HPC@Sheffield research computing event. This year's event takes place on Monday 31 March and is introduced by the Vice Chancellor . It has the theme 'High Performance Processing, Big Data and Visualisation'.
It will comprise of a series of presentations, poster competition, vendor exhibits and demonstration which will help to explain how researchers may take advantage of the e-infrastructure and the HPC facilities provided in order to enhance and advance their research.

The full programme is as follows:

10:00  Opening and Welcome - Prof. Sir Keith Burnett, Vice Chancellor, University of Sheffield
10:15  Making Progress with High Performance Computing, The Institute for Inisilico Medicine – Prof. D. Lacroix
10:45  What  is Big Data and How is it Managed? The Bioinformatics Hub – Prof. Roy Chaudhuri 
11:15  Coffee
11:45  A New Approach to Bringing Industry and The University Together, The Advanced Computing Research Centre - Prof. Mike Holcombe 
12:05  Solver Enhancements in Finite Element Analysis with Abaqus – Mr. Clint Davies-Taylor, Dassault Systemes
12:30  Poster Session and Lunch 
14:00  GPU Accelerated Computing – Mr. J. Purches NVIDIA Ltd.
14:30  Big Data Challenges in Particle Physics, Beyond the Higgs Boson – Dr Kerim Suriliz
14:50 Using the N8 Facility for the Simulation of Turbulent Flow Structures for Engineering Applications – Miss Wei Wang.
15:15  Coffee
16:00  Forthcoming Developments in Research Computing - Prof. John Harding,
                                                     Co. Chair of Research Computing Advisory Group
16:30  Close 

The event is free for Sheffield researchers to attend and places can be reserved using the following form:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Planning for the End of Windows XP

On April 8th 2014 we will have to say goodbye to Windows XP. Microsoft is ending support for it and will no longer issue security updates to protect from new threats that emerge. If a Windows XP computer is compromised or infected after this date it could put the data on that PC at risk, is likely to spread to other Windows XP computers and potentially put our entire network at risk.

To raise awareness of these risks we created this 45 second video, please share with your colleagues.

Although we will not attempt to force anybody to move away from XP, if an XP computer does get compromised we must block it from the network and cannot guarantee that we will be able to fix it and have it reconnected back to the network.Since the public jury is still out on Windows 8 and we have far more experience and confidence in Windows 7, we’ll be helping departments migrate any remaining Windows XP computers used at the University onto Windows 7. This is no mean feat as Windows XP is still fairly widely used around the University and locating each PC will take a lot of detective work and IT forensics!

To see what you should do if you are still using a Windows XP computer have a look at our infographic below:

We have lots more info available on our web pages at and

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Projects and Developments News for February

Each month we collate news summaries for each of our projects and publish these as a digest on our projects web page. News for February is copied below, but to keep up-to-date with our project and development news visit

With News for February 2014 (covering January 2014)

Business Activity Projects

  • Sharp are on site installing printers for the MSP service.
  • They will shortly commence removing personal printers from the campus.
  • Staff going live shortly.

Other Developments

  • Print and Design: Work on the signage and display installations in the 17 ACS cafe sites across campus is complete.
  • Print and Design: A project to dress the new Training Centre at the AMRC with frames, wall vinyl, posters and hanging displays is complete.
  • Space management: We're attending meetings for Firth Hall refurbishment and liaising with Department of Music re acoustics.

Communication and Collaboration Projects

  • Phase 1 (Access to services) is now live and we are working on a further release with enhanced functionality.
  • Work has started on prioritisation for Phase 2 (Targeted announcements) & Phase 3 - Personalised Home Page.
  • If you are thinking about moving your learning and teaching content from uSpace take a look at our Learning and Teaching transition information to see what your options are.
  • We have contacted people with active uSpace content so we can support their transition to other services. If you have not been contacted and think you should have been, complete the form on the projects page.
  • Functionality within uSpace has been restricted for 13/14. New spaces and groups can only be created upon request.

Other Developments

  • Unified Comms: Phase 1 of the pilot will commence shortly with a cohort of CiCS staff users.
  • Alumni Accounts: We're reviewing the Google proposed solutions for Google Apps Alumni Accounts
  • We've approached Janet to (re)procure our telephony services and (possibly) mobile services too. This could result in significant (30%+?) savings.

Corporate Information Projects

  • Development of the prototype system/process is continuing with input from the working group.
  • CiCS is about to start piloting the system changes. These are principally to allow departments to manage incidents by recording contact information in lists that describe something particular to their department. For CiCS, this will be driven by the services in the Service Catalogue. Following a period of testing a second (academic) department will pilot the changes.
  • Testing and refinement of recent enhancements is continuing.
  • ELTC have begun using the system - improved procedure in visa processing
  • Pilot being developed with Professional Services and 6 academic departments
  • The Student System Project is in its start up phase, the project team members have been identified, and the infrastructure and governance of the project is being put in place.

Other Developments

  • Next LMS project: We're chatting to HR about possibilities for a future learning management system.
  • eRecruitment: work on recruiter pages and improvements is ongoing
  • STEMS staff induction: A go-live date is bei9ng discussed.
  • Outreach Project: preliminary work has started, CiCS will work with epiGenesys on this.
  • Digital preservation policy: is being drafted

Help and Support Projects

Other Developments

  • End of XP: we are continuing to work with technical staff to manage this
  • Password reset system: we're proposing a projectlite to introduce a password reset system
  • Incident shadowing: we have introduced a programme to encourage staff to shadow the CiCS incident coordinator
  • Visiting other institutions: CiCS staff are visiting IT helpdesk staff at other institutions to share best practice

Infrastructure Projects

Other Developments

  • Filers: continuing to move to 64 bit aggregators
  • Oracle/Solaris blade chassis: running test services and learning more about this environment
  • Datacentres: we\re planning the UPS replacement
  • Wireless rollout: imminent installs due in Amy Johnson, Geography, Shearwood Road
  • Managed desktop: Multiboot functionality being trialled
  • Directories & Authentication: Gathering requirements & system capabilities in several key areas

Learning and Teaching Projects

  • Interim HEARs will be available, via the Digitary system, so that students can provide third parties (especially employers) with access to this document before graduation,
  • Exit HEARs will be produced for UG students on 2 year programmes in July 14
  • A HEAR website has been set up at This has been revamped into a staff-facing website; a second student-facing site has been created as part of SSiD’s web review project.

Other Developments

  • MOLE: Discussions are continuing with Blackboard about the best way to achieve a stable platform.
  • TEL: We're investigating 2 different models for support of technology enhanced learning and will produce a paper
  • Google Apps: We’re putting on a joint Google Apps in Education with Hallam on March 7th.
  • Inspire lectures: Planning for support for the 24 hour Inspire lectures on March 27th and 28th is beginning.

Research Projects

  • Iceberg: A general remote visualisation node has been made available to the Iceberg community
  • Research projects: A different approach is being developed to shared gpfs storage onto Iceberg to replace the thumpers.
  • Licenses: New versions of Ansys (v15) and Abaqus (6.13) are being made available.
  • Research Data Management: the Sheffield RDM Working group have discussed potential skills required on the CiCS side to support the technical aspects of RDM

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sheffield on iTunes U

In January, a joint project between CiCS and Corporate Affairs saw the launch of "Sheffield on iTunes U". iTunes U is a part of Apple's iTunes online store that enables Universities like ourselves to make educational materials available to the wider world for free.  In getting ourselves on this hugely successful platform, the University is able to raise the profile of its world class academics and the Institution more generally, as well as being able to share our commitment to creating knowledge and making a difference to the world around us. In essence, the project aims to take the fantastic diversity of excellence that is our University, and distribute in digital form. In doing so we are going to celebrate our world class learning and teaching, research, public engagement, support for the student experience, and the achievement of our students. 

The materials we are distributing are primarily audio-visual, and these can include recordings of timetabled lectures, special events,interviews with colleagues  instructional videos, screencasts, student generated materials and much more. You may even have existing material that you might want to distribute.

Sheffield on iTunes U is accessible from the following link

If you wish to find about how you can contribute to this exciting new development please email