WiFi

I outlined in a previous blog post the work we have carried out over the last several months to improve the WiFi service on Campus. We’ve been carefully monitoring the service since the start of semester, and over the first few weeks it performed well and we were seeing it handle a much higher load of users successfully when compared to the same period last year. We had good feedback from those users we were in contact with.

I’m aware, however, that over the past two weeks in particular there have been some problems which have affected people trying to connect to Eduroam over WiFi on our Campus. Once they are connected, the connection is good and performs well, but there have been a number of reports of people not being able to connect from time to time. The problem seems to be that the attempt to connect either hangs, or says that it can’t connect, or asks for a password.

IT Services engineers have raised this as a high priority issue with the manufacturer, and they currently have an engineer on site from Europe backed up with specialist advice from the USA. They are able to trace what is happening on the system and are currently working on a number of options to address the situation. I’m sorry that people are experiencing some problems at the moment – we know how important the WiFi service is and we have stressed to the manufacturer the urgency of getting our WiFi system back to a stable state as quickly as possible.

If you do encounter difficulties in connecting meantime, the tips provided in the previous blog post may still be useful to help you get connected.

Advertisements

IT Help Desk – Happy to Help!

The IT Help Desk has a new home this year. Actually I think it’s had a new home every year for the last few years on the back of all our moves and changes to Campus buildings! It’s now located in the new Georgina Scott Sutherland Learning Centre in the Aberdeen Business School – the area that used to be the Library for those of you who have been here for a while.

You will see the Help Desk located in the middle of the Learning Centre. At the time of writing, they are using temporary furniture but we are expecting a proper counter and some new partitioning in the next few weeks to smarten it all up. Please do use the Help Desk – they are there for staff and students, and will be very happy to help you and provide advice on use of the University IT services. If in doubt – ask! If you are having problems, it really helps us to know so that we can identify commonly occurring issues and sort them out – not just for you but for everybody else.

You can visit the Help Desk, or call them on 2777, or email them at ithelpdesk@rgu.ac.uk . Remember you can also find information and guidance on the IT Help Desk Pages.

The Help Desk is open:
10am to 8pm, Monday to Thursday
10am to 4.30pm, Friday
10am to 2pm, Saturday
12pm to 4pm, Sunday

That’s the main Help Desk. The start of Session is always a busy time, so this year we are also running with “pop up” help desks for a few weeks. You will see these “popping up”:

– In the Library on level 5 which we hope to keep manned Mon – Fri, 10am to 12pm
– in Scott Sutherland manned on a Mon, Tue and Thu, 9.30am to 12pm near the reception area

If you want to know what a popup help desk looks like – here’s one in action yesterday in Scott Sutherland!

IT PopUp Help Desk

Printing on Campus at RGU from your own laptops and tablets

In my previous post I explained how to connect your own device to our Wifi service and where to find further information and assistance. I hope that has helped you to get online. A common request from students once they are online is how to print from their own device. You’ll be pleased to know that our “Print@RGU” Service allows you to do this.

Full instructions on what to do can be found on the IT Help Desk pages.

We also have information on print charges and how to pay.

Just as a reminder, our print service is designed so that you send your print to one, single, University-wide print queue called ”Print@RGU.” Once your job is in the print queue, you can visit any printer on campus and use your ID card to log in to the printer and print off your print job. You can pay for your printing online, or by cash at one of the print kiosks you will find around the Campus.

The easiest way to print from your own device is by using the “MyApps” service. This gives you access to your core desktop applications including Microsoft Office. (For licensing reasons, Microsoft Office is only available to students when you are on Campus and connected over the University’s Wi-Fi system. For students who are off Campus, we provide Open Office through MyApps. This has similar features to Microsoft Office.) You can access MyApps easily from a web browser on your laptop by going to http://myapps.rgu.ac.uk – see also the IT Help Desk web site for information on how to use MyApps for the first time:

Enter your normal user name and password and you will be taken to a secure web page from which you can access your desktop applications and your “H:” drive. You can open your documents just as you normally would, and print them just as you normally would from a University desktop by using the “print” menu in the application.

On a mobile device such as an iPad or Android, instead of using a browser to access MyApps, you will need to download a free App. The App you need is called the “Citrix Receiver.” Once you have downloaded it, configure it to access the MyApps service by following the instructions on the Help Desk web site. When you have done that, you should be able to open the app and you will be able to access your desktop software directly from your mobile device and print as you normally would.

When you are on Campus, you can also print by using a simple web page to upload documents to print. Simply go to the “everyoneprint” web page, log in as normal with your username and password, and upload the document(s) you wish to print. It is also possible to use this service from a mobile device such as an iPad or Android. It’s a bit fiddly on an iPad or other IOS devices because they don’t have a file system and you cannot upload files from the normal browser. As ever, there are some apps that can come to the rescue. “iUploader” is one, which has a free version, and allows you to upload files to web sites.

You can if you wish to be more adventurous set up a print driver (“EveryonePrint Driver Print”) on your laptop so that you can print directly from software which you have on your laptop. Full instructions again can be found on the IT Help Desk pages. Note – this is only for setting up the print driver on your own laptop, not University desktops.

Wi-Fi Access for the new Session at RGU

It’s now the beginning of September and time to restart the IT Blog after a bit of a break over the summer. It might have been a break as far as the blog is concerned, but it has been a busy period of time for IT Services. For the first blog post of the new Session I thought I would update you on some of the changes we have been making to the Wi-Fi system on Campus.

Last year we rolled out a new system, based on “eduroam”. For many people it worked well from the outset, but we know from feedback that others had problems connecting to Wi-Fi, especially in the earlier part of the Session. We also know that we did not have sufficient Wi-Fi cover in all parts of the campus and this was frustrating for people trying to connect in areas where there was a poor signal.

I’d like to start with a reminder on how to connect and the key benefit of “eduroam.” If you look at the Wi-Fi networks available on campus you should see two in particular:

RGU_Connect
eduroam

The very first time you connect any device to our Wi-Fi, you should use RGU_connect. This will ask you to enter your RGU username and password, and will guide you through a series of steps to automatically set up your device to connect to the eduroam Wi-Fi service. Don’t try to set up the eduroam service manually – it won’t work.

After you have done this, you should not normally need to use RGU_Connect on that device again. Please don’t try to configure RGU_Connect to use as your main Wi-Fi network- it is not designed for this, and you will prevent others from being able to log in. Once you have completed the initial setup, your device should from then on automatically connect to the eduroam service. If you have more than one device, then you will have to go through RGU_Connect once on each device you wish to use.

You will find full instructions for all the main device types in the IT Help Desk website.

You may find when moving around the Campus that eduroam occasionally drops the signal so that it can reconnect to the Wi-Fi access points in your new location – sometimes this can take a minute or two but it should connect again automatically. If your device for any reason is not connecting, try turning Wi-Fi off for a minute or so and then back on.

If you find that your device does not automatically connect to eduroam or you are having persistent problems connecting, then please do contact the IT Help Desk for assistance. It’s important for us to know if people are having specific problems so that we can resolve them.

Eduroam is an International service used by Universities and Colleges across the world. This means that once you have successfully set up your device to connect to eduroam at RGU, it will also automatically connect to eduroam at any other University or college in the UK or the world that uses eduroam. You don’t need to do anything else to set this up. In summary, eduroam is your normal Wi-Fi service when you are on our Campus or visiting another institution.

We are aware that some “apps” on mobile platforms do not work fully across our Wi-Fi system. We do not block any apps deliberately, but we believe that the design of some apps is such that they do not operate across some of the network management tools that we use, in common with many other large organisations. We are continuing to look at what we can do to alleviate this.

As far as coverage goes, we have been installing additional access point across all of our campus buildings. This is a major piece of work which has been taking place over the summer, and should be completed by the start of Semester. This means that you will get a good wireless signal inside most areas in our buildings.

Goodbye St Andrew Street!

Moving a data centre from one location to another without disrupting the organisation is a major undertaking. We moved one data centre to a shared facility with the University of Aberdeen and North East Scotland College last year successfully, and on the weekend of 24th / 25th May we moved our second data centre from St Andrew Street down to a new purpose built facility on our Garthdee Campus. This one will also be shared with the University of Aberdeen and North East Scotland College.

The St Andrew Street building has been the University’s IT hub pretty much since IT began. When the national JANET network came into being, its main entry point was into St Andrew Street, and for many years the University’s main computer room was there, with network links to the rest of the Campus. The St Andrew Street building will be sold at the end of June, and this data centre move is part of a wider set of tasks to decommission the whole building. This has involved re-routing our external fibre connections (sorry about the roadworks!), and significant changes to the University’s overall Campus network so that we can unplug St Andrew St.

Down at Garthdee, there was construction work to build the new data centre, and this also involved significant changes to the Campus network at Garthdee so that the new data centre was connected into our network. All this work has been going on quietly over the past several months stage by stage.

Prior to the weekend of 24th / 25th of May, all of our critical systems had to be switched so that they were running fully from the North East Shared Data centre at the University of Aberdeen. That allowed the IT team over the weekend in May to shut everything down at St Andrew Street, move it down the road, and bring it back up again without any disruption. Once everything was up and running, critical services had to be rebalanced to run across the two data centres.

The School of Computing and Digital Media also had to move their servers from St Andrew Street down to the new data centre and they had completed their physical moves ahead of the 24th and 25th of May.

In a couple of weeks, the three remaining University departments will leave the St Andrew Street building for ever. Once they are gone, IT Engineers will disconnect the building and decommission the internal networks – that truly will represent the end of an era for us, but we are looking forward to moving down to Garthdee!

Here is the St Andrew Street Data centre before the move:
062-01

And here it is looking pretty empty after everything was moved down to Garthdee:
062-02

And here is the new datacenter down at Garthdee:
062-03

Quick update on IT

Wow, where does the time go? I haven’t posted on the Blog since February – that’s bad, sorry about that. There has been lots happening since then, so here is a quick general update.

On Wireless, we still had a few problems with the new system but we have had great feedback from students through Facebook and face-to-face and this has really helped IT Services to identify and work through some of the problems. As I said in January, we can see from our logs that large numbers of people have been able to connect and use the system successfully, but we knew from feedback that quite a few were still having problems. We’ve worked with the manufacturer and have made a number of changes to the controllers and feedback from students now is that it is greatly improved. We still have to extend the coverage to ensure that all areas on the Campus are covered, and that is now planned for the summer.

We have been looking at the “old Library” area in the Aberdeen Business School and are right now finalising plans to put in more IT workstations, a help point, AV facilities, and better group work areas for students to use. IT Services along with Estates are just in the process of finalising cost estimates, and hopefully that will be approved and the work will commence in the near future.

Behind the scenes, IT Services are working hard on preparations to move our St Andrew Street datacentre. We moved one of our datacentres last year to the shared datacentre at University of Aberdeen and now we are moving the other one. It’s going into a new facility which we are also sharing with the University of Aberdeen so by the summer we will have all of our server kit in two new state of the art datacentres, each with environmentally friendly cooling and generator backup. We are moving ourselves too – once we get the datacentre out of St Andrew St the three remaining departments will move out of there and we will have to disconnect all the IT and remove the building from our Campus network. St Andrew St has been one of our main “hubs” for IT since IT began, so this is very much going to be the end of an era!

This is the time of year when Schools and Departments submit their planning statements for the forthcoming year and we are also looking at all of the IT related project requests so that we can update our forward plans. These are all going through the approval process as I write, and once things are finalised I’ll put a summary on the blog. Some of the key areas we are likely to be looking at are:

– A major investment in our storage and server infrastructure to replace end of life equipment and increase capacity and performance;
– Improvements to our Learning tools, including an upgrade to Moodle and improvements to access to Library e-resources
– Enhancements to our portfolio of communication tools to provide new video conference facilities across the Campus, more flexible access to telephony services and integrated access to Skype communications;
– Enhancements to the Staff and Student portal (RGyoU), particularly looking at the provision of more information for students in one place, and better document management and collaborative tools for staff;
– A new system for managing student placements
– Preparation for the opening of the new Scott Sutherland School of Architecture at Riverside East

These are just a few highlights – just as importantly we plan to spend some considerable time on preparatory work for initiatives which will start the following year, but more of that later.

Responsive Web

A new version of RGU’s web site went live this morning, with a new design based on the concept of “responsive web design.” The Wikipedia entry for responsive web design summarises it as follows:

“Responsive Web design (RWD) is a Web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).”

If you look at the new RGU home page on a full screen PC, or large tablet format such as an iPad, it will look pretty much like before (although there have also been additional improvements made along with the implementation of responsive design):

20140203-094936.jpg

If, however, you look at it on a smaller screen size such as an iPhone or similar, it will look like this:

20140203-095050.jpg

The layout of the page is now optimised for the smaller screen size, so that you no longer have to “pinch and zoom” to get the areas you are interested in to a size where you can read them.

Have a look yourself!