All 4 entries tagged ITS

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November 16, 2006

Something fishy is going on here…

Follow-up to Power Email Outage from No I said DublIN marathon

Does anybody else spot a pattern here?

Thurs Nov 2nd Copper wire stolen from roadworks in north Coventry, causing major power outage across the area
Thurs Nov 9th Major power outage across Campus and Earlsdon
Thurs Nov 16th Copper wire stolen from electricity substation in Dudley, causing major power outage across the area

November 13, 2006

Power Email Outage

Writing about web page

It can’t have escaped many people’s notice that a power cut in the Coventry area last Thursday morning caused (amongst other things) the Uni’s mail servers to fall over. It appears that the UPSs that were meant to protect critical systems in just such an incident failed to do so. According to ITS the three AA batteries that they’d connected maintained power for 45 minutes as planned, but the hamster-wheel failed to kick in (apparently 1 hamster isn’t strong enough to maintain power for Group Shite-wise). This caused catastrophic failure to various Group Shite-wise Postboxes and (as it takes approximately 400 years for Group Shite-wise to back itself up), no back-up appears to be forthcoming/in existence.

I’m not going to lie and say I’m shocked, as the litany of IT (I’m being careful not to restrict this as being exclusively the fault of ITS) failures over the years, with Group Shite-wise being perhaps most memorable. However, I am appalled that in this day and age The Administration see it as in any way less than unacceptable for an institution such as ours to be without the ability to even send or receive email (let alone retrieve archived items). If this were a business, heads would have rolled long ago, and we wouldn’t be in a situation where 5 days on two thirds of staff/research student postboxes are at best described as being in a less than optimal condition.

Moreover I find it incomprehensible that ITS are in liaison with affeced departments to obtain lists of staff and research student user names. YOU WHAT? Surely it is in ITS remit to have at least a list of the accounts that it maintains has f*cked up? I was literally speechless when I heard this.

Finally, (partly for want of not going on and on and on, and partly as I wouldn’t want to post so much that yet more of ITS equipment falls over irretrievably), it would be nice for ITS to keep people informed about the situation. Their vague assertions that staff and research students will be informed about any changes don’t hold much truck when they can’t even keep their website updated with sufficient information (if it is up at all). Quite frankly there are three key questions that people want answering:

  1. When will I be able to send or receive email?
  2. When will I be able to access my old inbox?
  3. What the hell exactly is it you are doing about 1 and 2?

So far ITS have failed to answer any of the above satisfactorally!

October 13, 2006

Why I Hate: Teaching in R0.34/55

Follow-up to Why I Hate: The Chip & Pin machines in University outlets from No I said DublIN marathon

Why is it when you are teaching a class in R0.34/55 (the computer rooms under the Library) you always get disturbed as cattle people wander in looking for computers? Don’t get me wrong, if I was looking for a computer, that’s where I’d look. However, they seem oblivious to the mahoosive sign on the door asking them not to enter. In fact most of them peer around the sign to see whether there are any free computers.

I’ve had several thoughts about why this is:

  • Information Overload – There are so many signs/adverts/notices/posters around campus that, as there simply isn’t sufficient time for the brain to process all the information it receives and needs to ignore most things anyway, such notices/adverts are subconsciously grouped with the “information” that is to be disregarded. This was my first thought and I kind of disregarded it but, thinking about it, it makes sense. This is why wankers advertising executives are paid a tonne of cash to flog products in a world that is super-saturated with information/adverts/products. It is also why Union elections aren’t necessarily won the best candidate, but usually by the candidate with the clever/simple-est campaign.
  • They are too close to the sign – The distance between the inner and outer door is so short that people can’t take the sign in before they are upon it. This probably contributes to an extent, in conjunction with the other factors.
  • The sign is crap – This is certainly a big factor. The sign is FAR too busy, there is far too much information on it. It’s an A3 poster, fair enough, but the sign reads “Tutorial In Progress. R0.34 Booked. This room has been booked for teaching, please do not enter unless you are a member of the class, and do not disturb the class by entering” (or words to that effect). There’s a helpful No Entry sign but it isn’t much use when it’s pretty small and on a red background.
  • They don’t care – This is true in some cases and there’s a large amount of Im more important than you-ism. The number of times I’ve heard “Oh can I just print such and such” or “But there are loads of computers free” – yes there are lots free but how am I supposed to keep track of people’s progress when half the people are checking Facebook or Hotmail.

I’d be very surprised if it was just one of, or even exclusively these factors – any thoughts?

Oh, and finally, to the male member of staff that marched through the room and indignently retorted “I work here – I’m a member of staff”: Get over yourself. Your colleagues managed to come through without disturbing the session and even then apologised for coming through, why couldn’t you? Yes you work there and needed to get through but a little bit of common courtesy might be nice. You never know, I might have even carried on being polite.

February 21, 2006

87% of GroupWise users have less than 10 hours of downtime per year

Writing about GroupWise Webmail Success? from Jim's blog

According to the helpful information propaganda on the Novell website "87% of GroupWise users have less than 10 hours of downtime per year." Which 87%? Really!!! I've had three times that much downtime in the last week!

Further, their spiel about GroupWise 7 goes on to quote a user who says that "In seven years, we have never had… e-mail outage" and according to Novell themselves "A single GroupWise administrator can easily manage more than 10,000 users; in fact several GroupWise administrators currently manage more than 20,000 users each."

So, having slagged-off Groupwise myself for a while and having read what people have said on WarwickBlogs I've come round to questioning whether it's GroupWise that's at fault at all. (This isn't saying that I believe all the crap on their website, but that I'm thinking about other possibilities.)

Since January 1st, there have been at least 7 major instances of ITS managed systems falling over, failing, needing to be rebooted, having hardware issues etc (scanning through their old newsflashes ). That is basically one a week, and doesn't even take into account database maintenance overruns that slow down access to various systems. This isn't an attempt to criticise ITS, but I'm wondering whether we are going to be any better off when we migrate to Exchange. Rosemary Gilmour, Director of IT Services, says that "we are in process of moving to newer technologies with greater inherent resilience, and once these are in place the risk of such failures will be reduced," but we've heard this all before.

Back in 2000-ish, fibre-optics was to be the big solution to the problem with Delivered Apps taking forever and a day to come up, let alone the Apps themselves. That wasn't fast enough, so another small fortune was spunked on Gigabit Ethernet. That didn't work either, so now Work Area desktops all have various common programs installed locally; which is what ITS were trying to avoid in the first place. On the plus side this means that the desktops in Work Areas do now do work well for their apparent main uses: checking email and using/printing from Office applications.

I suppose it's easy to find fault with the IT systems that we use, and I haven't really proferred any solutions. However, at the end of the day results count, and our email system is an embarrassment, literally an embarrassment. It is embarrassing to have to say to colleagues and collaborators that you've not been contactable for 3 days because your email system has gone down, and maybe they should copy in your Hotmail (or whatever) email address as that stands a reasonable chance of making it through.

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