Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Matlab site-licence

We are pleased to announce that the University now has a site-licence for Matlab software. This means it can be used freely in teaching and research across the campus, and on machines personally owned by staff and PhD students. (Taught students should still purchase the student personal edition). The licence covers Matlab, Simulink and the most popular 45 or so toolboxes. Other toolboxes can be added on request.

Details can be found on the CiCS software pages at

Details of the registration, download and activation process are available via the software download system - go to click 'Get software and licences', log in and click the Matlab request - you will receive details by email.

The site-licence represents a new relationship with Mathworks, who are keen to provide training, support and strategic advice on the use of their products. We need to ensure that all current and future use of Matlab is represented in our dialogue with the company. We are building a list of contacts including key users, teachers and supporters of Matlab in departments, research groups and technical services. If you would like to hear of the latest resources offered by Mathworks and have a say in what they do for us - especially if you represent a group of users - please add your name to the list by emailing  with the subject Subscribe matlab-users (The body of the message can be anything, including blank).

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe software is used in teaching by several departments and licensing has been difficult for some time. CiCS is now providing licences for a proportion of computers in student rooms.

Adobe have made radical changes to their licensing terms by introducing the 'Creative Cloud' - a rental model based on an annual price per registered user. They have ended the 'concurrent' licences that were most useful to us. For a time it appeared that licensing their products for teaching would be almost impossible. After further changes it has now become possible again, but expensive. We will now be using the 'Creative Cloud' annual rental licence for per-machine use.

CiCS has purchased almost 500 of these licences and (subject to technical testing) will be deploying them to specific computer rooms in the four departments that use Adobe products in teaching, plus the computing pool room in the Arts Tower and some (not all) spaces in the Information Commons. Further licences will be bought next year for parts of the Diamond. The annual cost does not allow us to install Adobe products on all public Managed-Service computers. We will make it clear which rooms have the new Adobe software when it is installed. In the meantime we continue to use the older CS6 products on all student machines under the older licence terms.

The Creative Cloud licence covers all of the products that are commonly used - in fact some 15+ items. However, it is not practical to install everything - at least not as a single installation bundle - on every computer. CiCS will be working with the four teaching departments to decide on a subset of programs to be installed generally, with possibly a second set for optional use.

Apart from teaching and student access, departments may continue to purchase Adobe products in two ways:

• Individual CS6 items (eg Photoshop, Acrobat) or bundles (eg Production Suite) as per-machine licences. The CS6 versions are no longer being developed, so the cost is simply a single payment and there will be no updates.

• The new Creative Cloud licences, either on a per-person basis, for a single individual to use on any computer, or on a per-machine basis, locked to a single machine. These are annual licences, requiring renewal each year. They cover 15+ items and constant updates are provided. A collaboration tool helps design teams to interact.

All Adobe products are available to order via CiCS. However, with such a wide range of products and options we will not attempt to publish a price list. Please contact putting 'Adobe' in the email title, to enquire about prices etc.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Yosemite is here!

Yesterday Apple released OSX 10.10 Yosemite. We've tested the new OS with our IT systems and it all seems pretty good.

The main thing to be aware of is accessing your filestore. If you want to connect to a Peak District named server, e.g. Ladybower, Ogston, Redmires, you'll need to install a new 'fix' before following the instructions to connect. It only takes a couple of seconds to do and you can get it from our web pages. If you are connecting to STUDATA, STFDATA or UOSFSTORE you don't need the fix, just follow the instructions online.

For the fix or to find out how to connect to filestore go to:

And for everything else Mac, visit:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sand Poodle: the latest threats

If you follow technology news or even the BBC, you will have spotted that yet more security vulnerabilities have been announced. And that they come complete with branding.

So far this year we've had Heartbleed and Shellshock. Now we have Sandworm and Poodle.

SSL 3.0 vulnerability, aka “Poodle”

Poodle is a flaw in the Secure Sockets Layer version 3 (SSL 3) which sends and receives encrypted traffic over the internet. SSL 3 is a good 15 years old and was deprecated long ago. In reality current browsers and devices don't need SSL 3; the closest thing we've found is Internet Explorer 6.0 and I'm not sure anyone could argue that it's a current browser.

The likelihood of someone exploiting Poodle on our critical systems is low and we’ve taken steps to reduce it further still by disabling SSL 3.

Sandworm Windows vulnerability

Sandworm is just one of three zero-day vulnerabilities on Windows desktops and servers. It’s another that might sound worrying, but normal good practice will keep you safe.

  • If you're using the University Desktop there's nothing to worry about. We take care of your security updates for you. Just make sure you let them install when you turn your computer off.
  • If you are using a standalone Windows computer at work or at home, make sure you download and install any available updates. If possible it's always a good idea to have automatic updates turned on to help with this.
  • Any Windows servers managed by us will be patched as part of our normal processes.

As always, be really cautious when visiting new websites and opening emails. If you discover a webpage or email that you have any doubts about, then don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Keeping safe in the crossfire: Shellshock and heartbleed

So far this year there have been two widely publicised vulnerabilities affecting a large number of web services.

In April the Heartbleed vulnerability was disclosed, affecting OpenSSL implementations used by many web services. In late September the Shellshock vulnerability was disclosed, this affected the Bash shell used by many Linux, Unix and Mac systems. Within hours of each vulnerability being announced they were actively being exploited.

Events like this highlight the importance of keeping the security of any computers you are responsible for up to date both here at the university and at home. And especially any machines running services visible to the web. You should be running a supported operating system and ensuring that you are up to date with security patches.

If you would like to speak to anyone about vulnerabilities, keeping your machine secure or alternatives to hosting systems yourself then please contact and they will direct you to the correct team.

Read our blog posts about the vulnerabilities:
OS X patch for Shellshock

IP Phone software update

On Thursday 9th October, we'll be updating the software on the IP phones around campus. You won’t be able to use your phone for a 5-10 minute period between 18:30 and 20:00 as your phone is updated. The whole update will be automated, and your phone will sign you back in after it has restarted. Just be sure to leave your phone plugged in.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

myCiCSnews Autumn 2014

CiCS is pleased to announce the publication of the Autumn edition of myCiCSnews.

This edition contains articles on 10 great features in MOLE that will engage students and enhance their learning experience, Sheffield on iTunes U, the Research Infrastructure Project and Integrated Research Information Systems, developments to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and engagement with prospective students, the review of Student Systems, Management Information and Data Quality, Identity Management, Passwords, 4 things you can do in Google Groups to make your life easier, the Media Production Room exclusively set up for staff, and delivering excellent customer service in CiCS.

There is a link from the CiCS home page, or it can be accessed directly from the link below.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

OS X patch for Shellshock

Just a quick update on the Bash vulnerability we mentioned in this post.

Apple have released Bash fixes for OS X Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks. The fixes are expected to be available from Software Update in the next day or so (it already appears to be available in the US) and standalone patches are also available if you don’t want to wait.

Apple are confident that the vast majority of users will not be affected by the vulnerability (see New York times blog post for more info); anyone who has fiddled with settings is the most at risk.

Standalone patches: Lion , Mountain Lion , and Mavericks.