Thursday, 31 January 2013

Emergency maintenance work complete

This morning we carried out emergency maintenance on the filers which are an important part of our IT infrastructure. There was a low but non zero risk that things would go wrong in which case we could lose many key services.

We took down MOLE and MOLE 2 and the web CMS, in preparation. We then carried out the maintenance from 6:30 this morning.

The risky part of the maintenance was completed successfully with no interruption to service. However, on restoring the filers we noticed an orange error light. This didn't affect services but is not a good thing. We checked the config, restarted the servers and tried other measures but the error light didn't go away.

In the end we declared the work complete, restored the services we had taken down and we were ready for the working day.

The error light remains - we will continue to troubleshoot it in a non-disruptive way and if further maintenance or restarts are needed to resolve it we will schedule a follow up maintenance period.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Emergency Maintenance work Thu 31 Jan 6:30am

Due to a serious hardware problem CiCS and a consultant engineer need to perform major maintenance on our filers tomorrow morning, Thursday 31st January.

Work will begin at 6:30am and should be completed before the start of the working day without anyone noticing that anything has taken place.

However, as always with this type of work there is always a risk that a problem will be encountered and the work will take longer than expected. In this case the likelihood of the risk is low but the impact would be very high. Major services including Google MUSE and MOLE 2 would be unavailable.

In the event of a problem we will endeavour to restore services as soon as possible. Regular updates will be posted on the CiCS Service Status page and on our @cics Twitter feed.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

MOLE 2 Downtime 01/02/2013

The MOLE 2 service will be down for up to 2 hours from 6am on Friday 01/02/2013 for maintenance.

As part of our ongoing efforts to further improve the performance of MOLE 2, we are planning to assign extra resources to it with the aim of improving speed and reliability.
MOLE 2 should be back up before 8am, any changes to the schedule will be posted on our Service Status page.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

NAG providing training in MPI, OpenMP and CUDA

During February-March NAG will be providing training in MPI, OpenMP and CUDA 

Full details about the courses can be found at

The registration form can be found at 

Local course information can be found at

Monday, 21 January 2013

Develop or Replace? CIS Student Systems to be Reviewed

The CIS student system was implemented in 1996 as part of the MAC Initiative. Since then it has been systematically developed and modified to meet new demands and strategies. It has had new functionality added and been linked to external systems that required access to its data. Over the years there have been a number of reviews to assess the suitability of the system. This year, however, the University will conduct a comprehensive review to determine whether the student system continues to meet our current needs and whether it would also meet our vision of the functionality and processes that may be required in the near future.

The review will be undertaken as a formal project led by a steering group comprising Prof Alistair Warren, Faculty of Science Director or Learning and Teaching; Dr Andrew West, Director of Student Services; Dr Chris Sexton, Director of CiCS; and Valerie Cotter, Faculty of Arts and Humanities Director of Operations and Kate Butler from CiCS as project manager.  It is expected that there will be a number of groups involved in the work, each with a significant contribution to make. These will report to an overarching project board that will invite representation from across the University and there will be wide reaching internal consultation at every stage. The Project Board will in turn report to the Steering Group

The student system review will combine a thorough evaluation of the current system, of systems maintained independently by departments and of all related processes. It will assess real and perceived strengths and weaknesses and identify areas where functionality is missing or requires improvement. Alongside this, there will be an appraisal of commercial systems used by other universities and wide-reaching consultation on new and proposed developments in functionality and technology that may be of interest to us.

The review will conclude by making a recommendation to the University Executive Board on the most appropriate way forward. There are a number of likely options including: retention of the current system as is; redevelopment of the current system; and partial or complete replacement with a new product. In addition, each option may be combined with an additional streamlining of our current processes. Whatever the recommendation, it will result in significant and far-reaching work on this critical University system, which may take a number of years to fully implement.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Long Live Appointment Slots

We are pleased to announce that as of yesterday, Google have reversed their decision to discontinue the appointment slots feature in calendar. This is great news for us, as although appointment slots weren't used widely in terms of Google's overall user base, here and all over HE institutions the feature is used widely.

Here at CiCS we have been heavily involved in the ongoing dialogue with Google about their initial decision. We lead HE institutions from both the UK and around the world in expressing our concerns over the removal of the feature. We also provided detailed feedback on the numerous (double figures) suggested alternatives to the appointment slots feature, and their various shortcomings. Hearing our feedback, Google have listened and elected to retain the feature for Apps for Education, Government, and Business domains.

For those of you previously unaware of the appointment slots feature, it lets you set a period of time on your calendar, divided into available time slots for people to reserve. You simply choose your time period and appointment length then email your calendar's appointment page to people to book their slot.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Vacancy - Part Time Research Computing Support Officer

Corporate Information and Computing Services is offering part time work to suitably qualified applicants to help support High Performance Computing and e-Research work at the University of Sheffield. The successful applicant will be based in the Research Computing Group in the Technical Services section of CiCS.

1. Terms
Hourly paid, with rate in the range £11.05 to £15.72 per hour depending on experience.
Up to 288 days work is available, over a period of 24 months

Will be required to complete a time sheet which should be submitted monthly.Terms and conditions for casual staff apply.

2. Duties
Can contain some but not all of the below:

(1) Attend research computing group meetings
(2) Software maintenance on iceberg.
(3) License maintenance for software on iceberg
(4) User support for iceberg users .
(5) Maintenance of the Sheffield White Rose Grid pages ( on the Content Management System
(6) Training Related work
(7) General user support for Matlab, Maple, Ansys, Abaqus, Fluent users

3. Person Specification

 Applicants should demonstrate evidence of the following criteria in their applications
(E = essential, D = desirable)

 3.1 Technical

Practical systems administration experience. (D)

Knowledge of administering services running unix/linux servers.(E)

Demonstrable skills in software development in e.g. Fortran, C, Python, Java (E)

Knowledge of parallel programming using e.g. OpenMP, MPI, CUDA (D)

Experienced user of Scheduling Software e.g. Sun Grid Engine, PBS, Torque, LSF. (E)

Experienced Iceberg User (D)

Knowledge and experience of developing/managing websites (D)

3.2 Personal Effectiveness

Effective communications skills, both written and verbal. (E)

Ability to work with people with a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. (E)

Good analytical and problem solving skills. (E)

Ability to work methodically and sometimes under pressure. (E)

Manage own time when working on several projects with an ability to prioritise. (E)

4. Contacts for queries

 Dr Mike Griffiths,    ext 21126
or Dr Deniz Savas,        ext 23023

 5. Applications

 Please send a CV and covering letter to:
 Mr Martin Rapier, Head of Application Support,
CiCS, 10-12 Brunswick Street, Sheffield S10 2FN.
Alternatively email CV and covering letter to:

 Closing date for application: Friday 15th Feb 2013


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Google Calendar's Appointment Slots

Google Calendar’s Appointment Slots feature is due to be discontinued on January 30th .

Along with many other universities from the UK and abroad, CiCS has expressed its concerns over this at a high level to Google Education.

Unfortunately, despite the high uptake in education, overall usage of the feature was low. This means that plans to discontinue the feature remain unchanged by Google.

Over the past month CiCS, in collaboration with members of academic staff, has been testing numerous options for replacements. We are confident that over the coming weeks we will have a solution.
If you have any Appointment Slots set up, they will continue to work for the next year. Creation of new slots will become unavailable on January 30th.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Students being logged out of IC PCs

There has been an intermittent problems with the MyPC reservations system in the IC with students either being logged out or informed they were not authorised to use a computer.

The cause of the fault has been investigated and identified as a bug in the system. If a staff member, logs into a student PC within an hour of an existing booking, that booking becomes compromised or invalidated on some level.

This fault will be rectified by upgrading MyPC to the next version, which will take place next Wednewsday 16th Jan 9-10am. It will not be possible to reserve a PC for the 9-10 Wednesday timeslot, nor will it be possible to make a new booking during that timeslot. Also during this time the PC availability floor plans displayed on IC plasma screens may wrongly suggest that there are no free PCs available.

In fact, all IC PCs will be available to use on a first come, first served basis. From 10am on Wednesday the MyPC booking system will be fully operational again minus the annoying error messages.

Saving Email Attachments - A Reminder

If you open an email attachment directly from an email and then edit it, you must save it correctly and securely. If you just click  'save'  the file is stored in a temporary Windows system folder which is lost when you log off.

There are two safe ways to work with email attachments:
1. First save the attachment into your My Documents folder. Then open the file and edit it.
2. Open the File in Google Docs and edit it using the online editor