Category Archives: Software

Posts about software provided/supported by CS Support.

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.

Rack lab summer upgrade

2014-07-09 13.57.29

As you may know the Support Team is looking to upgrade the Rack Lab to a Windows 8.1 build this summer.

In order to test the new build for compatibility we have placed ‘first draft’ of our “Lab 8.1 Build” in the Mill for people to test out.

As well as the teaching staff directly involved with the Rack, we encourage everyone else in the School to take a look at the machine and give us any feedback about what works well, and what is missing / broken.

Microsoft Internet Information Server on Desktop PCs

Due to an administrative error, Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) is running on a number of recently built desktop machines.

In response, we are planning to apply a policy which will disable it on any campus managed desktop machine within Computing Science. We will do this on Friday 11th July.

If you are deliberately running IIS on your desktop, this will disable it. Please raise a ticket with CS support so we can work out the best way to address your requirement.

If you don’t know what IIS is, don’t panic, this won’t affect you.

Printer set-up script for Mac users

Our wiki instructions on setting up School printers for Mac users are a little long in the tooth, dating as they do from a time before we routinely joined Macs to the campus domain.

In order to make printer set up easier for our growing numbers of Mac users, CS support have written an initial setup application called “addPrinters“.

Simply run the application attached to that wiki page to automatically add the printers Tweedmouth, Millburn and csrburn. Please make sure you have already installed the Konica print drivers, also attached to that wiki page, before trying the script.

Future developments will make adding and removing any School printer as simple as clicking a check-box, as well as ensuring that the Konica drivers are installed on your behalf.

Mac Portable Apps?

I’ve written about CS Portable Apps, the apps bundle for Windows that we curate. I wonder, would anyone benefit from a “Mac Portable Apps” bundle? What could be in it?

Looking at my ~/Applications directory, I suppose it could be at least Emacs, Thunderbird, Firefox, Chrome, MacVim, VLC, Adium, Skype, Chicken (VNC), svnX, iTerm, GitHub.

If we followed CSPA’s current policy of only being for University-owned PCs, we could also potentially include Citrix receiver (RAS), MS Office, Lync, MS Remote Desktop, XQuartz, Xcode and possibly in some cases VMWare Fusion.

But would anyone find this useful? Are there any other obvious apps that I’ve missed?

CS Portable Apps

Setting the beta channel in CSPA
Setting the beta channel in CSPA

Are you aware of CS Portable Apps (CSPA) – the application bundle installed on every CS PC and every Cluster PC on campus?

It’s been a little while since we updated CSPA, and we will shortly be pushing out a major update. If you would like to get a glimpse at what’s on the horizon, you could move your PC onto the “beta channel” of CSPA.

Updates

Since it’s been a while, we need to update a number of applications to correct security issues. These include the VLC media player and the IrfanView image viewer.

Git

We are interested in adding a git client to CSPA. We have installed msysgit in CS Remote Apps (more info on the wiki) but we feel CSPA would be a better home for this, since that would permit offline and off-campus access. One possibility would be to move msysgit to CSPA (replacing or merging with the existing msys). Another possibility is packaging the Github Git client. This snazzy-looking graphical tool appears to lower the bar required for beginners to get started with git, as well as offering similar visualisation tools to those enjoyed on UNIX platforms. It also happens to bundle msysgit within itself.

Spring cleaning

We are considering dropping some apps, too. Most notably Google Chrome. Since Chrome was originally added, its popularity has soared. It’s now well enough known that ISS maintain a policy for Chrome and install it by default just about everywhere. We plan to move towards using the ISS Policy on all CS PCs and removing the copy in CSPA at the same time. We need to double check how this will all work in practice.

We will draw up and circulate a list of apps that we plan to remove in order to give people an opportunity to champion those apps if they are still of interest.

Behind the scenes

We have been making a lot of changes to how CSPA is managed in order to make it easier for us to push out updates more efficiently in future. This includes moving from mercurial to git for version control, implementing an automatic process for publishing changes that are committed to a particular git branch and a more automated process for tracking the versions of apps that are bundled in CSPA and scanning for updated versions on the web.

As always, if you have any questions, comments or problems relating to CSPA, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

VMWare Academic Program membership re-activated

We have re-activated the School’s membership of the VMWare Academic Programme (VMAP). This provides members of the School with free access to lots of VMWare software, including VMWare Workstation for Windows and Linux; VMWare Fusion for Mac and vSphere Enterprise.

The terms of the agreement state that the software must be used for instruction, for use by students as part of their learning or non-commercial research. The School’s renewed agreement will last until 2017 when we will need to review it.

For more information, including how to request copies of software under this agreement, please see the CS Support Wiki’s page on the topic.

Introducing irc.ncl.ac.uk

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 irc.ncl.ac.uk 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.