IT bulletin, September 2014

Welcome to the September 2014 edition of the IT bulletin. To ensure you are informed about the next edition join the mailing list it-update@bristol.ac.uk. You can subscribe by visiting the subscription request page in Sympa.

In this edition:

Top items

Maintenance activity


  • New student guide to IT Servicesstudent guide

Each year IT Services produces a guide to the facilities and services available to students. The 2014/15 edition has just been completed and a PDF version is now available online at bristol.ac.uk/it-services/studentguide. IT student guide covers key aspects of IT services including:

  • Username and password
  • Keeping safe online
  • IT training
  • Blackboard, MyBristol, Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive
  • Remote Desktop, Wireless, ResNet
  • Study spaces, Library resources, Printing
  • Software, Filestore
  • Available support

Students starting at the University in September will receive a printed copy during registration. Copies will also be available from the Service Desk in the Computer Centre and in the Libraries from the start of term.

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  • 2014 Student IT Surveystudent guide

Every two years IT Services conducts a survey of students with the aim of understanding better how students use our IT services, facilities or support and how these are valued or perceived.

The most recent survey was conducted in May which generated just under 2,000 responses from across the University. The results have provided valuable information for planning future improvements to IT services.

The results show that students are, on the whole, happy with most of the services that we provide for them and that satisfaction with our services has improved significantly since the last survey two years ago.

A report of the survey results is available on the IT Services website.

Activity by IT Services following the 2012 survey

The 2012 survey highlighted certain key services that were important to students but which were not performing adequately, such as open access computers, printing and Blackboard. As a result of those findings IT Services implemented a number of initiatives to improve these services:

  • We replaced the oldest computers across the University and standardised the software available. This year 85% told us that open access computers are performing well.
  • With the introduction of Print Release we have seen levels of satisfaction with printing rise from 51% in 2012 to 71% in 2014.
  • Satisfaction with Blackboard has leapt from 58% in 2012 to 80% in 2014, after much work has been carried out to upgrade the design and move the system to more powerful and resilient hardware.
  • Eduroam, the wireless network, now covers all lecture theatres, study spaces and rooms in University-managed halls of residence. 84% of students are happy with the service, compared to 65% two years ago.
  • 67% of students were happy with MyBristol, the University portal, in 2012. So we upgraded the service and the new design has gone down well, with 86% of students now liking it.
  • Only 44% of students were happy with the old legacy email service in 2012. Now that all students are using Gmail and 96% are happy with the service.

The 2012 survey also identified growing trends towards new services or ways of accessing IT resources, so we have introduced new services and support to meet these demands:

  • The increase in use of mobile devices to access services led to us making changes to the Student Laptop and Mobile Clinic, which now runs five afternoons a week during term time and helps with tablet and smartphone problems. This has led to an increase in satisfaction with it from 75% to 89%.
  • A pilot project for capturing audio and presentations from lectures and making these available online will start in this academic year.
  • Google Apps , including Google Drive, are now available to students.
  • Better information is available on facilities in study spaces.
  • Key course-specific software is available more widely, on open access computers or the Remote Desktop service. Matlab is now site-licensed, so that it is available for more people to use concurrently.

National Student Survey

These improvements to IT have also been reflected in the National Student Survey this year, where final year undergraduates are asked how much they agree with the statement, "I have been able to access general IT resources when I needed to". In 2012 88% agreed with this statement, in 2013 this was 89% and this year we scored 90%.

Next steps

The 2014 survey has highlighted areas which need to improve, including file storage and remote access to services and specialist software. Plans are in place to continue improving printing and support for the increased use of mobile technology. We are already working to improve support for researchers and will continue assessing our services to ensure that they meet the needs of all students.

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  • New password reset servicepadlock

A new self-service password reset tool is available allowing staff and students to reset their password if they have forgotten it. This avoids the need for students and staff to visit the IT Service Desk.

At the start of each year, a number of students forget the password they set at registration and new staff also need to reset their password when they start at the University. This new service means that they no longer need to visit the IT Service desk but can do it online.

The reset uses the person's personal mobile number and email address stored in SITS or PIMS to allow the change. It is possible for all staff and students to use the service where this data is available.

If staff wish to ensure this service is available to them, they may need to get their information updated in PIMS. While it is possible to update your personal mobile number in Staff Info it is not possible to update your personal email through that service. To do this please contact your local administrative staff to request that your details are updated.

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  • Improvements to the performance of University managed laptopslaptop

IT Services have implemented changes to the settings of University managed laptops to:

  • speed up the opening and copying of files in your personal folders (Desktop, Documents, etc.) when off campus and connected to the VPN (Junos Pulse).
  • improve the start up and log in times, particularly when you are not on the University network. 

If you use a University managed laptop then see the news item with instructions on how to update your laptop with the new settings.

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  • Additional email securityemail

Following initial work at the end of July 2014 to ensure spam emails sent using fake @bristol.ac.uk addresses are flagged as suspicious further changes are now planned. From 6th October 2014 we will publish DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) data for the bristol.ac.uk domain, and digitally sign messages. This will identify emails with @bristol.ac.uk senders as valid only if sent through our:

  • Gmail servers
  • UoB central mail relays

Anything else may be considered suspicious by the recipient’s email service, but should not be rejected, unless there are further issues with the message. For more information on activity that may label messages as suspicious please see the news item

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  • Elevated User Rights (Admin Rights)

A reminder that in 2013 IT Services introduced a new process for granting Elevated User Rights (EUR) otherwise known as 'admin' rights.

Any member of staff can make a request for EUR via an online form available via:

The form generates a request to the relevant IT zone and creates a record in our Service Desk system. IT staff will contact the individual to set up their access.

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  • Microsoft Office 2013 rollout

Following a delay to the original plans for the rollout of Microsoft Office 2013 to staff computers the update was made available on staff managed Windows computers from Monday 15th September.

What you need to to if you have a desktop computer

Microsoft Office 2013 will be installed on desktop computers during the overnight service maintenance period, midnight to 6.00am. To allow this to happen staff must log off from the computer but leave the computer on at the end of the day (it will automatically go into sleep mode). Overnight the software will be installed and the computer restarted.

Please note that it may take several evenings for all computers to be done so until you receive Office 2013 you will need to repeat this process at the end of the day. To check if Microsoft Office 2013 has been installed open the start menu, select 'All Programs' and look for the 'Microsoft Office 2013' folder.

What you need to do if you have a laptop computer

Please note that updates will only apply when you are connected to the University network with a wired connection, University wireless service or using the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

From Monday 22nd September laptops will receive the update when you are connected to the University network, logged off and the laptop is on. Please note that there is no service maintenance window for laptops and the installation will happen the first time these conditions are met from Monday 22nd September.

Therefore, it is important that when you log off and keep your laptop on to install the software that you allow significant time for the update to install before either shutting down the laptop or logging back in. Our advice would be to do this overnight when the machine is not in use. Please ensure it is connected to the mains during this period.

It is important that laptop users connect to the network to maintain regular software updates. If you are unable to do so your current Office software will be unaffected. However, by upgrading Office we can be sure that other software supplied to the University will work, so that you will benefit from updated features in both Office and other software used in conjunction with Office.

Open access computers, remote desktop and teaching space

Open access machines will also be updated from Monday 15th September. The student remote desktop will be upgraded during the same period. The staff remote desktop will be upgraded over the next few weeks.

IT Zonal Teams will manage the rollout to lecture theatres and teaching spaces to tie in with local needs.

Working with Office 2013

Following approval and testing by Communications and Marketing we plan to include University templates for Office documents including PowerPoint, Publisher and Word so they can be quickly accessed when creating a new document.

While there are some cosmetic changes to the look of Office 2013 it is set up in a very similar way to the current version of Office on staff computers. We do not anticipate that the majority of staff will encounter problems working with the new software. Information on any changes, including a link to Microsoft’s guidance on getting started with Office 2013, can be found on the IT Services’ website.

If you have any questions regarding this process please contact the IT Service Desk.

Further information is available on the IT website

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  • download imageSoftware self service

From the end of July IT Services launched a new service,  The Software Center [sic].  This service allows staff and postgraduate researchers to find and install software available to them on their University Windows computers.

For more information see the news item.  

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During the year we have a number of visitors to the University, including visiting academics and members of the public.  In many cases those visitors need access to wireless or computing facilities. If you have a role in hosting visitors then the information on the IT Services' website will help guide you.  

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Emergency maintenance, 18 SeptemberEmergency maintenance, 18 September

Emergency IT maintenance work is needed to a central server to replace faulty memory. The work is scheduled to take place on Thursday 18 September between 5.30pm-7.30pm.

(Please note this work was previously scheduled for 16th September at 3pm).

During this time a large number of services will be affected. They include:

  • Blackboard
  • Some Library services
  • Contact Directory
  • Sympa (mailing lists)
  • Email services still hosted by the University
  • Business Objects
  • HR Systems
  • Student Systems
  • Finance Systems
  • Wiki Service
  • Timetables
  • DIVERSP/ DataHaven database

For a full list of services and systems please see the news item at: bristol.ac.uk/it-services/news/2014/corona15sept.html

IT Services apologise for the inconvenience this work may cause. Relevant service owners have been contacted regarding this work. If you have any concerns or questions about this work please contact the IT Service Desk.

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Upcoming maintenanceServer maintenance

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News and contacting IT ServicesNewspapers

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