Category Archives: Mill Computing Lab

Linux.cs updated to match Mill cluster

The alias linux.cs.ncl.ac.uk has been updated to point to borg, named after Anita Borg. This machine runs the same Liux distribution as is available in our cluster in The Mill.

The previous version of this service will continue to run on ritchie for a few weeks. It was named after Dennis Ritchie. If you find that you need to back off and start using ritchie for your day to day work, please inform us. We plan to withdraw ritchie after the start of semester 2.

Mill and Rack closed until new Term

It is now the busiest time for CS support: the last few weeks before the start of term. Today we took delivery of 150 PCs which need to be unpacked, tested and built before deploying to the MSc labs prior to the start of term.

Today's delivery

In order to support the specific modules that are scheduled for the next Semester, we are also turning over a lot of the machines in our public labs: roughly half of the Rack and Mill labs will be replaced.

Unfortunately we need to close all of the labs for the next week in order to complete this work. This means that, amongst other things, the vending machines in the Mill will not be accessible. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.

Update on the Mill

Here’s an update on the work we’ve been doing on the Mill cluster.

We took the cluster out of service for a day on Tuesday 5ᵗʰ March in order to diagnose and fix as many PC issues as possible, to rewire machines where necessary and to put in some new changes designed to make using your own laptops and others devices in the Mill easier.

At present we believe there are 15 hosts which are misbehaving. This is a large number (¼ of the cluster!). Some of the machines have hardware failures: we are victims of a bad batch of power supplies which are steadily being swapped out. Others are misbehaving for software reasons which we are investigating. All machines that are not available for use should now be marked with a label indicating this, so you can see at a glance which ones to avoid.

Please don't tamper with the wiring!

Unfortunately some of the problems we are facing are related to machines being tampered with. Please, under no circumstances unplug or adjust peripherals, displays, network or power cables from cluster machines! When we looked, 40% of the machines had been altered or adjusted in this way.

We understand that many people want to work in the cluster with their own laptop equipment and could benefit from having power points or displays to plug into. We appreciate that this is one reason that the tampering has taken place and for that reason we have made some improvements in the cluster to support this way of working.

Power

All of the individual booths around the side of the room feature power blocks on the desks with spare sockets. However until now most of the call centres had no spare sockets. We are adding 4-way power blocks to all of the call centres to support plugging in laptop or phone chargers. Please do not use these for anything which requires a large power draw – chargers for laptops, phones etc. are fine. If someone blows a fuse in these 4-way blocks, the cluster machines should not be impacted.

Please feel free to use the 4-way blocks when they are available but please do not use the 6-way blocks. We will be putting in blanking plugs for the 6-way plugs to make it clear which are designed for frequent use.

Display

Mill VGA cable

We’re adding spare VGA cables to as many of the displays in the Mill as possible. Please do not unplug the PCs from the displays – these are connected via DVI cable. The displays also feature two HDMI ports, one of which is located on the left-hand side of the display (rather than underneath). Feel free to use either the VGA cable or the HDMI ports.

If you do use these facilities please leave the display tuned to DVI when you are done.

What kind of display connectivity do you require for your device? Is VGA sufficient? let us know!.

Network

We have heard some anecdotal reports that the wifi in the Mill may not be up to scratch. It would be very useful to have some more data: if you have an opinion on the wifi provision in the Mill (or anywhere else in the school), get in touch, either via the linked anonymous feedback form or via your SSC rep.

Plugging new wired network devices into our wired network is presently not supported. We are investigating supplying some “docking station” wired network ports in some areas. We’ll write more about this when we have it.

Peripherals

Please do not unplug mice or keyboards from the cluster machines. If you would find it useful to have access to spare peripherals for short periods, please let us know (or via your SSC rep).

Software issues

We will publish some advice on how to resolve some of the more common software problems (Chrome or Firefox profile issues) in due course.

Finally

What do you want from your Mill lab? If you have any other suggestions, complaints or any feedback whatsoever, get in touch, either via the linked anonymous feedback form or via your SSC rep.

Mill lab closure on Tuesday 5ᵗʰ March

With apologies for the very short notice:

There have been a number of problems reported recently regarding the availability of machines in the Mill computer cluster. We are aware of approximately 12 machines that are not reachable on the network at present and a further 9 which are reachable but cannot be logged into. We think there may be further problems impacting people’s profiles across all machines.

CS Support are closing the Mill tomorrow, Tuesday 5ᵗʰ April in order to perform a number of fixes and improvements in order to resolve these problems. On the hardware side, this includes a significant amount of rewiring work to correct machines that have been tampered with. We also expect to identify some machines with power supply issues.

We’re also taking the opportunity to perform some tests on the network switch configuration for the lab to try and improve the networking performance.

On the software side, we aim to resolve the issue that prevents logins to work on the 9 machines, networking in general on any of the dozen which do not turn out to have a hardware problem, and begin diagnosis of the profile issues.

CS Support will update you tomorrow on the situation at the close of the day.

Thanks for your patience!