9. Other Services
OUCS continues to operate a high-quality offset printing service. This is used for all in-house printed publications, and is also used on a cost-recovery basis by a variety of University and related bodies.
All X-terminals except one have been removed from the Data Centre, since their maintenance contract has expired. This functionality (an X-windows interface to a Unix server) has been provided via Vista-eXceed running on PCs. Other reorganisation of the Data Centre has enabled more terminals to be made available. Now a total of 30 computers are available for email and Web browsing in the Data Centre and the User Area Corridor.
OUCS has launched a thin-client service on the PCs housed in the Data Centre. This system, based on Windows Terminal Server and Citrix Metaframe software, enables a low-specification PC to appear to run up-to-date software. In fact, it runs on the server, with the PCs screen being painted to appear as if it is running locally. The only software we have made available so far are network access items, such as email clients, Web browsers, Vista eXceed, telnet, and similar. This appears to be functioning well (they certainly operate far faster than when trying to run older versions of software in free-standing mode).
This service has also been offered University-wide, in part to address the problem of departments wishing students to access certain software packages on college PCs. This would create far too great a support burden for the college IT staff. SPSS is the first package for which this wider offering is set up. The ultimate success or otherwise of this service will depend on what software can be made to run under these conditions (not all are properly conditioned), the effort to make them run, the need for expansion in the server to handle greater numbers concurrently, and software licensing issues.
A collection of computers in the corridor between the Help Desk area and the Lecture Rooms has long provided a useful supplement to facilities provided by colleges and departments. These operate logically as part of the Data Centre, but are only available during the hours that the main OUCS building is open — 08:30 to 22:00 on weekdays.
OUCS acts as an information point for the various national supercomputing and data repository services. For access to some of these, authorisation is required from the Director of OUCS; there have been a few of these during the year.
OUCS provided office accommodation and administrative support to the CTI Support Service (CTISS). This national coordinating unit for the Computers in Teaching Initiative closed down at the end of 1999, following a review of the whole national programme, which concluded that it should be expanded and refocused onto all aspects of improving teaching quality. It was renamed the Learning and Teaching Support Network, and is now coordinated through the Institute for Learning and Teaching at York.
OUCS holds the contract for providing the central administrative office for the national Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA), which represents the IT service sector within most of the HEIs in the UK. This link with other universities' IT units and national initiatives improves Oxford's ability to benefit from interaction with other universities' IT units. This activity is self-financing.
In addition to all the services directed towards end-users of IT facilities, a number of OUCS staff are committed to the support of various local and national committees and organisations, in furtherance of the broader goals of use of IT within the University.
Locally, these activities include participation in and support of the work of committees such as the IT Committee and its General Purposes Committee, and several of its Groups, including the Technical Review Group, Network Advisory Group, IT Security & Privacy Group, UNIS Steering Group, Committee for Computing in the Arts, the IT Training & Education Group, the OxTALENT Action Group, the IT-Related Legal Issues Working Party, and Computer Archiving Group, as well as the University IT Users' Group and the Colleges' IT Group.
Other Oxford bodies in which OUCS staff participate include the Libraries Committee's Sub-Committee on Library Automation, Sub-Committee for Staff Development & Training, and Datasets Working Party, the Telecommunications Committee, the Administrative Information Services Committee, the University Card Working Party; the Risk Management Group, the Heads of Science Committee, the Staff Committee, and the Research and Equipment Committee. In addition, some staff are involved in various Departmental, Faculty and College committees, and some HCU staff are members of humanities' faculty boards.
Nationally, OUCS staff are involved in various JISC Groups associated with Janet; the Research Universities' Group for IT (RUGIT); NAG Ltd; the South-East Region Computer Users' Committee (SERCUC); the Executive of the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA), and the following of UCISA's sub-groups: the Staff Development Group and the Annual Management Conference Organising Committee (which has been chaired by the OUCS Director); the JNT Association (which runs Janet); and, the UKOLN Advisory Council. Staff are also involved in the steering or advisory groups for various national projects, like CEDARS (CURL Exemplars in Digital Archives), and Netskills, and also have organised and run national courses for UCISA-SDG on Communicating with Users, and Train the Trainers.
Internationally, OUCS staff have been involved in the Executive of EUNIS (European Universities Information Systems association), the UNESCO Upgrading Science & Engineering Education in the Southern Mediterranean Project (USEE-SM), and on the Steering Committee for FIRST (Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams).