Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Wireless traffic numbers

I recently wrote about our busy summer here, which included installing nearly 700 wireless access points in the student residences. This week we moved the wireless traffic to a separate link. Now we can see exactly what sort of impact the wireless installation is having.

We haven't removed any wired connections and students still have a pretty fast wired connection (much faster than WiFi), but even so, the wireless traffic is beating wired by over 2:1.

Obviously this information will be quite useful for forward planning and may help to justify more staff with wireless expertise, more involvement for us in the planning stages of new buildings and refurbs and a shift in infrastructure to a greater focus on wireless technologies.

From the graphs below you can see that wired connection traffic peaked at 348.4 Mb/s with an average of 122.1 Mb/s. Compare this with the wireless peak of 678.8 Mb/s and an average of 241.4 Mb/s and you can see the importance of wireless to students.


Our previous highest number of clients was during May exams where we had 5624 authenticated clients. This term we now have nearly 7000 EVERY WEEK DAY (with 3000-4000 at weekends).

All this is happening at the start of term, I hate to think what exam periods are going to be like. I hope the network (and us) can cope.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

New Nexus 7 32GB on the way?

A picture has been leaked all over the web that someone took from the Carphone Warehouse database. In it there is a code for a 'Nexus Asus 7in tablet 32GB WiFi Tegra 3'. If this is true then...

I would prefer it if it said 3G (or even 4G/LTE) so you could use WiFi or a SIM but you can't have everything.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Busy summer

There has been a reason for the lack of posts of late.

The summer months are known to those in IT support as the time that stuff gets done. All those jobs you couldn't do because it would effect teaching, all the maintenance that was really needed to be done but you weren't allowed because of exams, the time when there are no students about so you can make as much noise and cause as much disruption as you need to.

This summer we have had one of our busiest summers ever.

You will probably know that tuition fees have risen this year (faq) for English universities when the government raised the cap on fees while simultaneously cutting funding. The response from our university, while being forced to raise fees, was to try to give the students more value for money. One of the main proposals in this strategy was for almost entire wireless coverage, to enable greater use of tablets, netbooks, etc in teaching and learning. This has meant almost doubling the size of our wireless infrastructure at the same time as loosing key members of staff responsible for the wireless network. Unfortunately that meant it was down to me to organise the roll out, and with the project being put back and put back due to work on teaching spaces, new buildings and the regular summer departments moves, this meant it came down to about two weeks in which to get all the installs done and a few days to get them working before student arrivals and registration.

After some hastily designed plans we managed to get nearly 50 switches installed along with nearly 700 wireless access points, taking our total up to 1,202. We have applied these new ones to a student template so in the future we can make changes to them without effecting the ones in teaching spaces, lecture theatres, hospitals, offices etc. This is simply because we are kind of entering the unknown here, we don't know what devices the students will bring and what they will use them for. Will they be sharing/streaming video and music? Gaming? Wireless printing? Peer-to-peer? We will just have to see, and see what effects this has on the network and bandwidth.

As a result of the extra wireless facility we have seen a huge increase over the number of authenticated devices at the same time last year:

*Note: stats from a year ago are no longer broken down by hour, hence the rather straight line on 2011 client count.

At it's peak we also managed to break the record for the number of clients we have ever had using wireless, 5775 (vs 5624 set during exams May 2012) in the first week! Although this has meant getting calls from students asking how you connect an Xbox over eduroam.

We will have to wait and see how successful the coverage is from the limited testing, surveying and 'educated' guesswork that was employed.

We managed to get wireless in the vast majority of residences. Helpdesk though kept getting calls from students saying thy had no wired or wireless connection in one of their buildings. When we finally got to the bottom of which building, there was a reason for that:


It had not yet been handed over to us and as a result we had no network kit in there. Well the 'geniuses' that work elsewhere decided to inspect it and say it was ready, and went ahead and started moving people in. This meant for us, jumping the fence on a Saturday night and Sunday morning, splicing fibre and installing switches. The 'lovely' spot they picked for our comms room is below:

Thankfully it wasn't raining!

While this was going on we had dozens of staff and department moves, refurbishments to teaching spaces and some new properties to be set up staff and students were moving in to. We also had a couple of temporary helpdesks set up for key collection weekend. Where students could come with their various hardware, software or registration issues. We find this is a good strategy so as not to come in Monday morning to 50+ fault forms and enough emails that would last a week to get through.

Then came registration. 

For 2-3 weeks we usually work solid (no days off) as we have to fit in imaging computers and setting up the registration spaces around all the usual start of term stuff (and projects which departments have forgotten to tell us about). The sooner we can move to online registration and away from having to set up this every year the better:

Once that is done with and term starts we spend another weekend putting everything away and catching up with jobs we have missed while doing registration. We have been asked to come in again this week do some jobs we haven't been able to get to, but I am not sure if my body can take it. I think Freshers Flu is started to get around again.

Cheap android apps

To celebrate 25 billion android app downloads Google has discounted a number of apps to 25p for a limited time. These are what was on Google Play today:

The screenshot unfortunately is not great so here is the link: Google Play 25p

Friday, 21 September 2012

Awesome Lego contraption

You think you're good at Lego building? Wait till you see this...

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Little annoyances

I had an early start this morning. To prepare I downloaded a number of documents I would need to Dropbox so I wouldn't have to take them around with me (especially since the managed printing service recently set up has been a little unreliable).

Unfortunately it forced me to find another little annoyance with iOS. On my android (personal device) I can zoom in on the documents and they are perfectly clear and readable. However, when I do the same to the exact same document on the iPhone (work phone) it is a complete blur. Why?

I also have problems editing Dropbox documents on iOS that I don't on the Android version.

Combine this with the fact that Twitter has a number of fewer features on iOS than on Android (such as the ability to add to lists) and the iOS app keeps crashing, The Podcast app is so slow it is unusable, Safari lacks the features of the Android versions of Chrome or Dolphin, I keep having to approve new iTunes terms and conditions every time I update or try to download anything and half the free apps I have on Android would cost money on iTunes, it basically means I will not be having another iPhone or iPad. I would not have this one if I could.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The battle for bandwidth

It may be from an American source, but I thought this infographic was quite interesting, seeing how we compare and recent trends.

The Battle for Bandwidth
Presented By:

Friday, 20 July 2012

Resistance is futile?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to resist getting a Nexus 7 tablet.

As our institution is a Google Apps for Education user almost all our data is on Google now. Added to this I have had Android phones since the G1, so most of the apps I use are either linked to my smartphone or I use them on there (or in Chrome on my netbook).

It is currently only £159 (not that much for a tablet running the latest flavour of OS) and you get £15 credit to spend in the Play store (that now includes movies and books as well as apps and games).

It also seems it could be immune to my accident prone nature:

I came across a mildly funny video too that pitted Siri against Google Voice (the contest starts around the 3.30 mark):

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Creating more work than they actually do

I had an 'interesting' afternoon.

We had a report that a users phone had stopped working. I tried all the usual things, resetting the line, checking the handset and the cables, checking the socket. When I couldn't get anything out of the socket I then went back to where the digital and analogue cards feed onto the voice frame. I tried a phone straight off the frame and it worked, so nothing wrong with the phone system or the wiring on the frame.

As the socket had been working I went and had another look at it. I thought maybe the ring capacitor on the strip that sat between the the LJU socket and the incoming wires had gone.

This socket has the capacitor attached on the rear of the socket, but you get the idea.

Of course the socket had to be in the most difficult to get to part of the office (isn't this always the case fellow techs?). So after many minutes crawling around on the floor under and behind desks I managed to bypass the capacitor using Jelly Crimps.

Some Jelly Crimps - In case you wondered what they looked like.

Still nothing. Unfortunately this meant doing something I hoped I wouldn't have to do. The location of the phone distribution panel for these houses is in the basement of an empty house. So I got some security folks to let me in.


Fantastic! After getting a torch I made my way down to the basement and located the DP. I had stuck a tone generator in the socket so after a while of wand wavering I managed to trace the wires from that socket. Low and behold, someone had pulled them off!

Not only had someone pulled them off, but a new line had been put in. Coincidence?

I put everything back as it should be (after a while of running backwards and forwards between buildings to see what numbers should be on what sockets and from what cards) and finally got everything working.

Back at the office I searched for this other number on our helpdesk software and found that some of my colleagues had set it up yesterday morning, the same time the user reported his phone had stopped working.

I investigated a little further until one admitted that they hadn't jumpered it correctly so they couldn't use the tone generator to find out which one it was. Instead they started PULLING WIRES OFF THE PANEL UNTIL THEY FOUND IT - AND DIDN'T PUT THEM BACK. sigh.

So they spent maybe ten or fifteen minutes patching a number through, and because of them I spent nearly a whole afternoon trying to solve the problems they created. If they hadn't been so lazy to have done the job properly it maybe could have taken another five or ten minutes, instead of the couple of hours it took to put everything back as it should be.

A case of colleagues causing more problems than they solve.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Thanks AV

I would just like to say that our AV department are great.

We mentioned to them that, since our office move, we weren't able to see the screen with our network monitoring software on (we use Intermapper). An hour or so later look what we get:

A 40 inch Samsung now hangs in the office where we can all see if we have any network issues or loss of services*.

Thanks AV :)

*Should be good for Wimbledon, The Olympics, etc too ;)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Very little is free...

...certainly not two brand new iPhone 4S's.

Yet another email in this morning from somebody who says:

"if X and Y are out of contract why is it we have to buy a new handset, why are the new ones not provided free as part of the continuing contract - I don't understand why I need to generate an order including VAT for £1056 for 2 handsets?"

This is because you have asked for two new top of the range smartphones! The university pays for your calls but who do you think pays for the handsets? If you just want to use it for university business calls we can get you a Nokia free of charge. You want two 64GB iPhone 4S's to keep? Then these are the public sector prices we have available.

Alternatively you could keep the iPhone 3GS's you currently have and continue to use them as there is nothing wrong with them! They work perfectly for WORK.

This has been a theme lately, that also includes people demanding the Samsung Galaxy SIII, as they don't want an 'obsolete' (their word) phone.

I am getting sick of staff thinking they can have whatever they want for free.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Intermittent Student Issue

I blogged a while ago (here) about some problems in our student residences. I thought I would provide some pictures of a fault when went to this week.

The student was reporting intermittent network connectivity issues but when we tried to find problem we couldn't replicate the issues she was having... until the flat upstairs turned their water on.

It turns out that there was a leak and this was filling the riser, where some stupid architect thought it would be a good idea to have sockets, with water.

The socket and cable was dripping and, as you can see from the pictures, black, rusty and full of water.

Informing the building owners, apparently this is a common issue.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Moving offices

This weekend I spent troubleshooting and setting up the wireless access points in our new building.

Someone took a picture of me working hard (yes I know the cabinet is a mess, it is temporary)

We are moving offices this week and next and, despite this move being our own department, everything was still being done last minute. The switches have not yet arrived even though the staff have, hence the mess in the cab above. When they do arrive and we have put them in it should look more like this:

I spent the weekend getting the wireless working, which had to be done for Monday morning.

We have deployed 15 x 1142 Cisco access points giving blanket coverage to all areas and, hopefully, the rear exterior of the building where people will be spending break times and having events in the summer months.

One of the major considerations was to be able to have enough access points for the number of users. We have over 150 staff and being an IT department it is expected that they will have a number of devices. Hopefully the wireless network will hold up to these demands and those of the near future.

A hiccup occurred yesterday where a number of access points did not come up. After various tests on the switch port, the access points, the sockets and the cabling, it seems we have a large number of faulty patch leads that provide no or intermittent connectivity. From the cable tests it appears like we have thousands that will have to go back. Highlighting the importance of not scrimping on quality when it comes to cables.

We also had a problem with a faulty connection into the patch panel. We could not find the problem but chopping it back and replacing it finally brought the connection up. What was meant to be a job for a few hours ended up taking a lot of the weekend. Especially having to get ladders to get into the ceilings on every floor.

A big thanks for our VPN connection, as I managed to do a few hours work from home so I was able to spend some time with the family while setting things up remotely.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

First install of new switches

We have a number of new building projects currently on at the minute. One of which involved medical staff moving to what used to be our History buildings and, as the switches we have used in the past are now reaching their EOL, we have been pressed into deciding upon a new model to roll out across the campus. The model will also be replacing our older non-PoE switches as part of an upgrade project that will hopefully enable us to have wireless and IP telephony everywhere along with saving on power costs.

The model we chose, after seriously considering switching to blades, was the Cisco 2960S, that comes in both 24 and 48 port models. They will, for the first time, be providing Gigabit to desktop.

We have chosen to start using 0.6m and 0.4m patch cables (as shown above) as we have had problems with 2 and 3 meter cables slipping down over the years and causing damage and excess weight on the ports and sockets.

We have also chosen to purchase some longer stacking cables to enable us to have cable management and patch panels between the switches, when in the past the patch panels have been at the top and switches at the bottom of the cabinets, with little to no cable management in place.

I will tweet and blog any good and bad experiences I find that are worth sharing.

Run Apps from Google Drive

So, it has been just over a week since I started with Google Drive and I have come across an interesting tip.

If you go to the Chrome Web Store there is a collection of applications that will run from and save to your Google Drive:

So far the list isn't too big, but there are some handy tools, like LucidChart which I have been using in place of Microsoft Visio.

Another bonus was that because I purchased some extra storage for Picasa a while ago I now have 30GB to use across Google, including Drive.

What are the benefits of Drive you have found? Or have you decided not to use it and why?

Send to Dropbox

I have just created a shortcut on my right-click menu to enable me to have 'Send to my Dropbox' as an option on Windows. It is a nice easy tip which most of you may already know but I thought I would share it in case you don't. So here it is:

Go to run and enter the following: %APPDATA%/Microsoft/Windows/SendTo

Then simply copy a link in to here for your Dropbox folder.

Now when you right-click a file or folder you have the option of 'Send to my Dropbox'.

This will also work for Google Drive, or whatever syncing storage service you use.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Family Guy Live Wallpaper

I thought this looked quite good compared to some of the live wallpapers you can get. Family Guy live wallpaper for android:


Monday, 23 April 2012

Samsung Teaser Today

Samsung has a teaser site that comes with the tagline 'A Whole New Universe'. Surely it's going to be about the Galaxy SIII, but they may be throwing a curve-ball. Anyway it is counting down to Midday today (Monday 23rd April) UK time.

If you are interested check it out here.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Cheeky F***ers

We have some staff working far away from campus. They are in an annexe built with lottery money next to a hospice. The hospice has decided to knock this annexe down in order to extend their premises and graciously allowed the university staff to move into one of their old rooms while the building work was being done.

They would not allow the uni staff to use VPN (to access our financial system etc) so we have had to have a new line installed. We visited the site (myself and my manager) and agreed where the line would come into the comms room, that we would provide a switch and would trace the sockets back to the patch panel that needed connecting to our switch.

I was informed the line was installed, which we paid for, so went out to connect the wireless router and switch.

When I arrived I was informed by their Estates Manager that the line had not been put where we had agreed but thy had put it in another room.

Due to this 'change', they wanted us to rewire their existing sockets, install 6 new sockets, drill through their walls to install new cables and attach the switches and routers to the walls in a completely different place to what was agreed. All without any asbestos surveys or risk assessments, or any form of induction on to site.

Now the shock had rendered me almost speechless.

On top of that they were expecting us to provide all the cabling, sockets, tools etc and re-cable their rooms for free.

I have done many cabling jobs in the past, in the schools I used to work in, but I work as second-line support now. All I turned up with was a router, a switch and a Linkrunner. We have contractors that do the work to a set installation standard and we charge £275 per socket for the installation. I also know for a fact that (from the dealings we have with local teaching hospitals) the NHS do the same. This cheeky twonk was trying to get us to do all their network upgrade on the cheap.

For the sake of the staff that are due to move in, I pulled some cables though and put some trunking back up, but setting up the network connection is the extent of my responsibility.

My manager was amazed at my tale when I, finally, hours later returned to the office. Unfortunately the hostname is not showing up on our monitoring kit, I really don't want to go back. I may end up sorting out their plumbing or chopping their trees down for the extension.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Giving you a Cubby?

I know, that pun doesn't really work.

The creators of LogMeIn are launching a new service called Cubby. You can sign up for the beta now and the service provides you with 5GB online storage for your files. Not only does it rival Dropbox with its online storage*, it is also gunning for sync services, like Sugarsync, with its unlimited peer-to-peer syncing between computers. So you could have 20GB of photos synced between your work PC and your home for example.

They have also produced an Android app that should work with LogMeIn ID's. Going to download it an give it a go.

*Dropbox provides 2GB storage for free as standard, but this can be increased up to 18GB by using referrals.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Gadget Show Live

This week I went to The Gadget Show Live at the NEC. As I got in the doors I was pleased to be confronted with just the sort of stalls I wanted to see most, namely Samsung, Sony and LG. Unfortunately though there was no HTC guys there as I was looking forward to trying the HTC One-X.

As all the kids headed towards the game zone to play Star Wars Kinect and Battlefield 3, I got to talk to they guys at Samsung about the Galaxy SIII (as my HTC is constantly playing up) and my other half got to try out the Samsung Galaxy Note. I would love to have seen her use it as a phone as she is tiny :)

Then we headed to LG where I was super impressed by their 3D screens and even more so by the Dual-Play screens. Where two players can play against each other on the same TV, full-screen, providing you are wearing the dual-play glasses (3D glasses with either only left lenses or only right lenses).

The even had an F1 car to add to the realism:

There was a lot of 3D tech on display this year but for me not all of it was good. After the Mrs had loved the 3D sport and nature programs at LG, saying it was the first time she had really seen the merits of 3D, the powered 3D glasses at Sony gave us both headache and were as uncomfortable as I find it when I have been to a 3D movie at the cinema. Certainly not something I would like to do every day at home.

The live show in the 'Super theatre' was pretty good. All the presenters were there and, despite the early hour, all were on top form engaging with the audience. To start with though we were wondering whether kids should have been allowed in as it started like a show at a strip club and the thrusting dance moves competition a little later on didn't help.

Jason Bradbury seems to be a crowd favourite, and with his charm and infectious enthusiasm you can see why.

The show involved audience competitions, a giant crowd Wii-like long jump game (which our team won), remote controlled helicopters, robots and more. After the show we went around the rest of the NEC checking out what was on offer. The only drawback was the prices they don't tell you about until you are there (£8 for parking, £17 for two, rather disappointing cups of jacket potatoes and watery coffee). At least I managed to get an inflatable Android robot from Kenwood (which my son loves):

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Dropbox rewards

Dropbox is one of, if not the most used programs I have installed across my various devices. Now it gets even better.

From today users can now earn up to 16GB free storage from referrals, with the reward upped to 500mb per referral. What's even better is if you have already had some referral bonuses Dropbox are providing the reward retroactively, so you will also benefit in increased storage.

If you don't know anybody who might want to sign up... well... I am sure you can think of a way around that.

It's almost as if they are firming up their user base... as if they knew a big competitor was about to enter the market...

Google Drive anyone?

Dropbox for Android:

Apple App Store:

IPT roll-out continues

One of the local hospitals is having a refurb at the moment so some of their teaching staff along with some members of finance and the medical faculty have joined us at the University while the work is being done.

As we had up to 80 staff moving in a short space of time we thought the best way to speed up the move was to swap the switches in the buildings they were moving to PoE switches and provide IP phones. The phone type we decided upon was an Avaya 9608:

The screens are not as high resolution as the phones we have in Computing Services but they are a lot cheaper and have all the features we need. The only problem we found was having to change the settings file to allow the fourth button to be used, for example, for a call pickup group. However, having extra buttons could also be achieved by changing the screen width.

It is a good job I checked the sockets in the buildings before they moved in as these were two that I discovered after taking the face plates off:

So, with sockets repaired and tested, we created a new voice VLAN to enable us to get the number of IP addresses we needed and then created the new extensions by importing a CSV with all the numbers, names, passwords and settings in (call restrictions, voicemails, etc).

Most of the staff moved last week and after looking on our voice software this morning it seems we have reached a milestone. We now have over a thousand registered IP telephones:

Personally I hope it continues. It it much easier to make changes and plan for the future with IPT than with having to move analogue and digital lines all over.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Please use blanking plates when you do this...

We had a report that there was a socket not working. It was quite a critical socket as it was for a new alarm system. So off I went to have a look.

It didn't take too long to find the problem:

Someone had chopped the end of but left the socket, label, everything there for it to be used and not informed us, the voice and data department.

Looking inside the bodge-job of a socket someone has jelly-crimped the blue pairs to pinch for a voice line to another device:

What might have been a good idea was to put a blanking plate on the socket so that the security guys did not put their new system in NEXT TO THIS SOCKET.

Now going to have to re-terminate the socket and then provide a separate line for the voice (if it is still needed). Roll on Cat6 and Cat7 with the re-usable ends and termination blocks.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Doorbell for mice?

We have some staff moving in to some temporary premises while their offices get refurbished. Today I was labelling the sockets, fixing some faults an making sure the new voice VLAN works with the IP telephones in these buildings.

I noticed something though while I was waiting for security to turn the alarm off for me:

'Why would somebody put a doorbell there' I thought. It is not like they didn't have a doorbell at a normal height:

I can only think this is a doorbell for mice, or very, very, very short people. Weird.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Hollywood to blame?

I was reading an article written in The Telegraph this weekend. It is mainly an argument by Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload (recently shutdown with Kim arrested, on the advice of the FBI) blaming Hollywood for movie piracy. Now you may think after he was arrested on charges of illegal filesharing that is just the sort of crazy rant he would come out with, but when you listen to what he says and look at the facts you might say he has a point.

Kim Dotcom said:

“Piracy comes from, you know, people, let’s say, in Europe who do not have access to movies at the same time that they are released in the US. This is a problem that has been born within this licensing model and the old business model that Hollywood has where they release something first in one country but they show trailers to everyone around the world pitching that new movie but then the 14-year-old kid in France or Germany can’t watch it for another six months, you know? If the business model would be one where everyone has access to this content at the same time, you know, you wouldn’t have a piracy problem. So it’s really, in my opinion, the government of the United States protecting an outdated monopolistic business model that doesn’t work anymore in the age of the internet and that’s what it all boils down to. I’m no piracy king, I offered online storage and bandwidth to users and that’s it.”

It was not my intention to discuss whether Kim did anything wrong or whether the case against him is justified. What I wanted to draw attention to was the crazy decision to delay releases, or prevent them altogether, in some areas of the world and how this, as Kim, says lead to an increase in piracy.

I would never condone breaking the law but lets look at some examples. I find Kevin Smith an interesting conversationalist (you may not agree) and I bought 'An Evening With Kevin Smith' and 'An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder' on DVD. I was told (repeatedly) by Kevin on his various networks that 'A Threevening With Kevin Smith' would be coming out and we should get it.

FOUR YEARS LATER it has still not been released outside of North America.

Now I haven't resorted to pirating 'Threevening', but I could see why people would. If you are a big fan of Kevin and have all his work how else are you supposed to get a copy? Yes you could import it, but then you have the legal minefield of having to break the encryption. Or do you buy another DVD drive and change the region coding on it? Or do you try and get hold of a United States credit card to purchase through the US iTunes? This doesn't feel very 21st century.

If you're a kid trying to get a hold of a copy, and you have to go to that much trouble (and you're too young for a credit card anyway, let alone a north american one), you could possibly see why some would look for torrents.

Now I know this doesn't explain all piracy, it may even be just a fraction, there will always be people who will exploit or steal in any area of life, not just the web. However, would a place to be able to buy the show (and the money going to all the right people) hurt the artists and producers? No.

The main argument Kim made was about staggered releases. It does seem crazy that in the age of the world wide web releases are not simultaneous or near-simultaneous across the globe. We get bombarded with the same trailers and advertising, directed to the movies' websites, sold all the merchandise and by the time it has been released in Europe you have been exposed to so many spoilers that there is no point in buying the damn DVD anyway.

Kim argues Europe may have to wait 6 months to see some releases but something else I was desperate to get was Futurama volume 5 and for that we had to wait over a year, even region 4 countries had to wait approximately 11 months. The show aired between June and November 2010 with the Region 1 DVD release date of 21st December 2010. We didn't see it until 26th December 2011.

Studios/distributors please start a fairer release schedule (or a way for me to pay you online for downloading the content) or alternatively stop trying to make me want to buy things and then make it impossible for me to do so.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

End of an era

Our last remaining switchboard operator retired this week, and with her leaving she brings to a close an era in our university's telephony as we move towards an automated system. It will begin with a live test for the technical staff which will then be rolled out to the whole university and also for incoming calls. When you dial 0 or call the main university number, instead of getting through to a person operating the switchboard, you will get an automated voice asking who you want to speak to. The system looks at names, departments and preferred names in our staff records system.

The university telephone system has changed considerably in her 40 years here.

The telephone operators, as they were then, had a PMBX system with 10 lines. All calls went through the operators and also functioned as directory enquiries, their room having shelves with every phone book and Yellow pages in the country on them. They manned the switchboard until 10.30pm and even worked on Saturdays.

When the university moved over to an IBM system this took up the whole top floor of what is now the Maths building and included a generator on the roof. This system was manned by 5 operators and provided 1197 extensions and 22 lines. This is in comparison to now, where the switchboard sits on a small drive and can be run from anywhere with a laptop. The computerised system was introduced in 1996 and has led to the increase of over 10,000 extensions and 6,000 voicemail accounts.

Another big change is currently in progress, where we are moving away from digital lines to IPT (IP Telephony) and even analogue lines for faxes and card readers are often going through an ATA. The switches we are putting out now are PoE and we are halving the costs of cabling new buildings and refurbishments by running voice and data over the same cable. The IP phones also have the added bonus of being able to login and out of any handset as required, taking your settings, number and contacts with you, and working with mobile apps so you can turn features on and off, and also make calls, through your smartphone.

Big changes indeed. As a result the job of GPO telephonist or operator ceases to exist, but during their time here they have done a wonderful job for the university and staff. In her time at university she is estimated to have answered 3,200,000 calls and during clearing, before we had direct lines, answered 4,500 calls per day. A very well done and a big goodbye and good luck from me.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The return of the bad cablers

I had a little rant a while ago about the jobs getting passed to us from the student villages (here) because the sockets and the wiring are the responsibility of those who own the buildings (and they get paid handsomely for their services). However we were finding we spent more and more of our day fixing faults of their own making.

Well, it has happened again. We received an email saying:
Network fault.
We have replaced the front box, no signal, also checked riser connections, no signal.

I shall ignore for now the obviously lack of network socket number, room details etc and go straight onto what we found:

I now go back to the second line of their email: "We have replaced the front box". So, the technicians who are responsible for replacing sockets have done this! The green is not even punched down! The rest of the wires are barely in and shortly after my colleague touched the socket, all the wires fell out.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Mobile Working

A member of staff needed a desktop computer and as nobody else's was available it was decided she would have mine. So for a week or so, until I can get another PC, I will be using a 4+ year old XP laptop, my Ubuntu netbook and my smartphone.

Given that these devices can be carried with me, it occurred to me that it might not necessarily be true that I need to be at my desk. I can forward my desk phone calls to my mobile or use the softphone on the laptop and I can access the helpdesk from a browser or from the client on the laptop.

Our university uses Google Apps so I can access most things on my phone as well as via a browser and I have a 50GB Box account, 25GB Skydrive account as well as Dropbox and Evernote apps for accessing my files and documents on the move.

I do need somewhere to put my stuff, my personal affects and my tools, and without a locker (I have not been here long enough as they are in short supply) I will still use my desk to keep valuables locked away. However, instead of being chained to my desk I could just 'hotdesk', go and work where I will be most needed, where I will be most productive or just go and sit somewhere quiet and power through the days work. There is nothing surely that would stop me sitting in the cafe (as it has eduroam) and working from there just as well. Also, remote desktop is a wonderful thing. For anything I wouldn't be able to do on my netbook, I could just remote desktop to a free machine in the office and do it that way.

Being quite an organised person I do have spares in all my drawers and it may prove less convenient going into stock whenever I need anything. Also I do like having an area I can personalise and set up how I wish. However I am quite interested in to see if mobile working will work.

Edit: This is a repost as I tried updating the blog through the mobile Blogger app but it appears it removed all the gadgets from the blog and changed the layout. I think there was some bad HTML somewhere there.

Flash, a comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Chrome for android

If you use Google Chrome browser you may have noticed today a message on the top right hand corner of your most visited or apps page:

This message appears because Google Chrome for android is now available.

The beta app allows you to continue viewing the tabs you have open on your computer and also to sync your bookmarks and history. You can send tabs to your android device to read on or offline and also features Chrome's Incognito Mode.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Change your default signature

The default signature when you send an email from your iOS device will read:

- Sent from my iPhone

(for example)

Now I can excuse somebody for a while but when that somebody has had an iPhone 3, iPhone 4 and iPad... AND they work in IT... AND they are the director/head of ICT support/head of IT business and communications, I personally find it quite unprofessional that they are still sending out emails without their name, title, contact details or department address.

So for those people:
1. Settings > Mail,Contacts,Calendars > Signature

2. Fill in the text box with the relevant details.

3. Done.

Either that or they just want everyone to know the have an Apple device.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

HTC Desire Crashes

Since my OTA update on my HTC Desire to android 2.3.3 my phone had become barely usable. Every application I opened then caused the phone to crash and restart. Task killers and CPU monitors seemed to make no difference, as did uninstalling apps. Every time I closed something down I would have to go back in to my calendar to let it repopulate.

However, finally I found a solution. I found this on a blog (xda I think) and since doing this my phone has become usable again. So, in case anyone else is having the same problem, go to Settings > Applications > Development, then enable USB debugging. I don't know why but it has stopped the constant restarts.

Yay :)

Ubuntu HUD

A new version of Ubuntu is due in April (12.04, obviously) and it might be a little different. Introducing the Head-Up Display (HUD):

Looks good.