Submitting useful Service Desk incident reports

When you are telling us that something is wrong or broken, the more information you give us, the faster we can help you. This template will help you give us the information we need to help solve your problem. (Note, this is only for when something is broken, it’s not for service requests, although it is hard to know the difference between an incident and a service request.)

Report template

  • Given that my username is [user name] and I am using [the machine name I am sitting at] [and any other relevant information, like whether I am on campus at the time and the names of any other machines involved].
  • When I [try to carry out a specific action].
  • In order to [achieve an outcome].
  • Then I get [the unexpected behaviour, including the text of any error messages].
  • I expected [what should have happened instead].
  • [add here anything else that you think might help, e.g. whether other computers or other people are having the same problem]

A completed example

  • Given that my username is abc123 and I am using 14compsci113, which is a School of Computing managed linux machine in 2.019 of Urban Sciences Building.
  • When I try to enter my username and password at the graphical login prompt.
  • In order to login and use the PC.
  • Then I get sent back to the graphical login prompt without any error message shown.
  • I expected to log in and get a desktop session.
  • I can login to Windows PCs and other Linux machines, it’s just this one that is not letting me in.

This template for creating Service Desk incident reports is adapted from the bug report template made by Leo Arnold on Github.

Mapping your H drive in Ubuntu MATE desktop

For other operating systems, NUIT have a guide.

  1. Go to My Details and click on “Technical information, including details of which file-server you use and any role accounts you own” to get the webfolders path to your H drive.
  2. Click on the Places menu and choose Connect to server…
  3. Fill in Type = Secure WebDAV (HTTPS), Server = webfolders.ncl.ac.uk, Folder = /home/homeXX/yourusername, and your user name and password. Tick Add bookmark and type “H Drive” as your bookmark name.
  4. Check that you have filled the form in correctly and click Connect.

If you need to access the H drive from the command line or a program (e.g. Matlab outputs), it is under /var/run/user/digits/gvfs/davs:string

You might also want to use University-supplied resilient storage to back up the local home folder on your Ubuntu PC.

Comments are disabled. If there is an inaccuracy in this page or you need further help accessing your H drive from Linux, please raise a Service Desk ticket.

Connecting to Bioinformatics MSc GNU/Linux virtual machines from home

  1. Install X2go into your home computer.
  2. When setting up the connection to your VM, also tick the “use proxy server for SSH connection” box and set up an SSH proxy using linux.cs.ncl.ac.uk, with the same username and password that you use for your VM.
    Session tab settings
  3. Set up the connection tab to reflect the connection speed that you have.
    Connection tab settings
  4. As usual, turn off sound and printing.
    Media settings

When using the VM, I recommend that you do your web browsing on your local machine and not the VM. This is because the Google homepage continuously uses network access, even if idle, and this degrades the X2Go experience.

Comments are disabled. If there is an inaccuracy in this page or you need further help with SSH jump host use, please raise a Service Desk ticket.

Backing up your GNU/Linux box’s local home folder to your H: drive

Local home folders that don’t sync to your H: drive is a known limitation of the managed Linux desktop service offered by the School of Computing. Here’s how to protect your data:

  1. Go to a cluster PC and make a folder called “backups” in your H: drive.
  2. Go back to your Linux PC.
  3. In the MATE panel, click System → Preferences → Other → Backups
  4. Make sure that “Folders to save” lists “Home (your username)”
  5. “Folders to ignore” should contain folders that you don’t need to backup, to conserve H: space. Examples include “.thunderbird” (it’s huge, mostly contains cached emails, and your email is on the Outlook server), “Downloads”, and any Git, Mercurial, or SVN repos that you routinely push or commit to a remote server.
  6. “Storage location” sets up as follows:
    • Storage location = WebDAV
    • Server = webfolders.ncl.ac.uk
    • Tick the HTTPS checkbox
    • Folder should say something like “/home/home08/ntu12/backups”, you can find out what it needs to be from tech-info.php. The end of the folder path should be “backups” so that you use H:\backups.
    • User is your campus username.
  7. Scheduling: I recommend turning on automatic scheduling, daily backups, and keeping backups for six months.
  8. Go to “Overview” and click “Back up now”. You will be asked for your campus password (to access the Home Archive drive) and a separate, optional, encryption password. If you set an encryption password that you later forget, you will not be able to restore your data. I didn’t encrypt my backups because I already trust NUIT staff with everything on my H: drive.

The backups are stored as gzip and manifest files in the backups folder. Don’t interfere with these files as you may corrupt your backups.

How to restore

To restore, you need to go to System → Preferences → Other → Backups as above and use the restore button. In Ubuntu 16.04, MATE also allows you to right-click in a Caja window and choose Restore missing files.

Under the bonnet

If you are using one of the managed desktops that we support, all the software you need to run backups is already installed. If you want to do this from an unmanaged machine or a managed laptop, you need to install “deja-dup”, “duplicity”, and the “topmenu-gtk” packages needed by your desktop environment. If you want to use the command line, you can run duplicity directly. Duplicity has an extensive man page.

Comments are disabled. If there is an inaccuracy in this page or you need further help with using your H drive from Linux, please raise a Service Desk ticket. Previous versions of this page referred to the Home Archive service, which has now been retired.

Using Newcastle Uni’s Skype for Business with Debian Jessie GNU/Linux

Here’s how I configured Skype for Business (henceforth “S4B”) on my Debian Jessie system.

  1. Install pidgin-sipe version 1.21.1-1 from Stretch (see https://packages.debian.org/stretch/pidgin-sipe).  This is the minimum version required for Office365 and ADFS federated logins as used at Newcastle University.
  2. Make a new Office Communicator account.
  3. Fill in the Office Communicator account settings as follows:
    Remember password
    (your choice)
    User Agent
    UCCAPI/16.0.6001.1073 OC/16.0.6001.1073
    Media Encryption
    Obey server policy
    Proxy type
    Use Global Proxy Settings

    All other fields are left blank or unticked, or set to “auto” if they cannot be blanked.

Known issues

Your contacts don’t have names
First, close all the Pidgin windows and then start Pidgin again. If that doesn’t work, hover over each contact to see the name, then right-click and use Alias to add the name by hand.
Only text messaging works
Known limitation, no workaround yet.
No search function to look up contacts from Newcastle’s S4B directory
Known limitation, no workaround yet.

Further reading

Comments are disabled. If there is an inaccuracy in this page or you need further help with Skype for Business, please raise a Service Desk ticket.

LDAP with KMail at Newcastle University

The details you need to fill in are as follows:

Username: (empty)
Domain: (empty)
Server: campusdc03.campus.ncl.ac.uk
Password: (you know this)
Security: SSL
Authentication: Simple
DN: DC=campus,DC=ncl,DC=ac,DC=uk

Construct the Bind DN as follows:
Go to https://directory.ncl.ac.uk/tech-info.php and login. Pay attention to the OUs section of the table. Your Bind DN is:

CN=(your username),OU=(the first part of the OUs section),OU=(the second part of the OUs section),(keep going with OU=… until you get to the last one),OU=(the last part of the OUs section),DN=campus,DN=ncl,DN=ac,DN=uk

For example, Jane Test has the username “njt123” and the OUs part of the table says “J first names, T surnames, Test Users, Campus Users” for her. Her Bind DN would be:

CN=njt123,OU=J first names,OU=T surnames,OU=Test Users,OU=Campus Users,DN=campus,DN=ncl,DN=ac,DN=uk

Comments are disabled. If there is an inaccuracy in this page or you need further help with Kmail, please raise a Service Desk ticket.

Installing Ubuntu 16.04 on Dell XPS 9350

BIOS/UEFI settings

Press F2 at POST.

  • Go into Settings → System configuration → SATA Operation and choose Disabled. This is required for the OS to even see the SSD.
  • I was able to set up Ubuntu 16.04 with Secure Boot enabled.


  • For the USB-C/Thunderbolt network adaptor to work, it must be plugged in before boot and left plugged in. If you plug it in after boot, or unplug it and replug it after boot, the adaptor is not detected and nothing is shown in journalctl. The only workaround known to me is to reboot, as nothing in the BIOS seemed to affect this behaviour.
  • The SSD is listed as nvme0n1 and the partitions as nvme0n1p1 etc. nvme0 appears to be what the Linux kernel calls the disk controller.