Monthly Archives: November 2013


On request of one of our research groups, CS support have set up an experimental Internet Relay Chat (IRC) service. If you are familiar with IRC, point your clients to and say hello! The service is currently available to connect to on campus only. We have installed some IRC tools onto ritchie, our time share server: the client irssi, the bouncer tool bip and the screen and tmux terminal multiplexers. If you are familiar with UNIX/Linux console operation but unfamiliar with IRC, I’d recommend the irssi client. For Windows users, we are yet to perform a survey of modern IRC clients but MIRC may be a good place to start.

I was very happy to action this request, personally, as I’ve been hankering for a Newcastle IRC service for years, as have a small number of my former colleagues in ISS.

The channel #cs exists for general Computing Science discussion and #social is available for anything-goes chat. Feel free to create your own channels as you see fit.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for this service, please get in touch. Comments on this post are one good way to share public suggestions. The next steps for this service are some introductory guides for IRC for the uninitiated and some preparations to make the server publically accessible, to aid extra-institution collaboration.

NU (self) Service now live

While the Computing Science support team will continue to review and submit support requests to ISS on behalf of members of the school, if you are sure that the job is one for ISS, there is now also a self-service mechanism for ISS support requests. The announcement from ISS follows:-

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to let you know that the release of NU Service was successful and Self-Service for end-users is now live.  This is currently available as an additional way to contact ISS; the usual channels are also still available.

It would be very useful if you could use the system to log your own requests and let us know what you think of it via the feedback form on the site.  The URL is: <>

Sharon Mossman

Service Process Manager
Information Systems & Services
Newcastle University
Claremont Tower, Claremont Road,
Newcastle upon Tyne

Refurbishment of meeting room 6.29A

6.29A before the refurbishment

We have begun a long-overdue project to refurbish the meeting room 6.29A (formerly D8.07). This room was formerly the CETL project’s video conferencing suite but in recent years usage of the facility tailed off, no doubt due to developments in the availability of video conferencing software such as Skype.

6.29A Mid-way through refurbishment

As meeting rooms are in strong demand throughout the School, we’re approaching this project carefully with an aim to keep the room in use as much as possible. The room is still available for booking whilst current work is going on, but it may look a little untidy until we’re finished. We will have to close the room for a short while when we are at the redecoration stage.

I’ve attached two pictures to show the work in progress. The removal of the 2×2 displays and server rack have made a big impact on the amount of natural light that reaches into the room. It’s our hope the end result will match the quality of 6.02A.

A brief overview of CS Support’s issue tracker

For over 10 years, CS Support have been using the OTRS issue tracking software to help manage support requests. In that time our system has been tweaked, configured, customised and extended to best support the efficient carrying out of our duties and the needs of the School.

There are a lot of discussions taking place about issue tracking processes and tools within the IT support community at Newcastle, so I thought it would be interesting to write a few posts about some of the problems and solutions we have encountered. These posts will be collected together in this category.

First up, here’s a brief overview of Support’s issue tracking system.

CS Support is a team within Computing Science who aim to be the first port of call for all IT, Computing and Estates related issues within the School. At any time, one member of the team is acting “Duty Officer”. This person is indicated on the Support Wiki. The Duty Officer rotates on a weekly basis.

The customer view of my own tickets

Customers can contact support using any method they wish, but we attempt to make sure that each issue is logged in our ticket system. We have a special mail-alias that customers can use to raise a new ticket, as well as a web front-end where customers can raise new tickets and see their existing ones.

Internally, tickets are assigned to queues. All new tickets land in a queue called “Incoming” and the duty officer triages them. Each team member has their own queue. Tickets are moved between queues as team members take responsibility for resolving the issues. When an issue needs to be looked at by more than one member of the team, we track who is working on it at any given time by which queue its in. Queues are only used for organisation within the team: customers do not assign their tickets to members of the team themselves and are not notified automatically if tickets change owner. The support team do endeavour to keep people updated on progress with their issues, which often includes who is working on it and when that changes.

I hope that was interesting. Coming soon, some information on the volume of tickets we deal with, methods for handling different ticket states and our solution to the “Thank You” problem.