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.