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Implement strategy for supporting self-managed machines

Project ID: 
Current stage: 

Description: We developed a strategy, in 2008/2009, for supporting self-managed machines.
This project will track the implementation of that strategy.

It is likely that this project will spawn off further projects.
It is dependent on the Documentation Restructure project.


  • Self help forum (hosted on IS discussion forum service)
  • Documentation
  • Clarification of level of support
  • Develop more MacOS and Windows skill, particularly in front-line team
  • Start running frequent CO surgeries
  • Investigate ways in which we can deliver new systems with pre-installed configuration against DICE services (maybe a child project)
  • Increased promotion of DICE services, eg through posters
  • Look at checking for compliance with platform support policy as part of project signoff

Customer: All users of School facilities, particularly staff and research postgrads.

Case statement:



Timescales: Running Nov 2009 -> Apr 2010





Resources: One week of effort over period Nov 2009-April 2009. Probably more effort in subsequent period.



Dependencies: * Documentation restructure project



Proposed date Achieved date Name Description
2010-01-14 2010-01-01 Selfhelpforum We shall introduce a web based discussion forum, on the new IS forum service, to create a community of users who mutually help each other with technical problems. The computing staff will be encouraged to actively participate in this forum.
2010-10-01 Documentation Our current systems documentation has, in recent years, become somewhat disorganised and
hard to navigate. It was originally targeted at DICE desktop users and pays only lip service to
providing information and advice to users of self managed machines.
The user documentation will be restructured, with end-user input, and the following
content added :-
  • instructions on how to configure the major platforms (Windows, MacOS, Linux) for each
    of our services (e.g. AFS, printing, backups, OpenVPN, kerberos)
  • notes on suggested modes of working. For example, staff use a variety of different schemes
    managing their files, and it is felt that this would be useful to document these to provide
    guidance to others.
  • recommendations for different software to use for common tasks.
  • HOWTOs, e.g. on how to encrypt your data

It is likely that we will employ student effort to assist in authoring content.

2010-04-01 2010-04-01 Clarification The School will need to consider, and agree on, what level of "hands on" support will be
provided to users of self-managed machines. It is possible that different levels of support may
be offered to different categories of users (e.g. teaching staff vs postgraduates).
2010-05-01 2010-04-01 Skills The skills of the majority of the computing staff, and particularly the front-line support team,
are primarily Unix focused. Where individuals do have Windows and/or MacOS experience,
from running machines at home, this does not usually involve DICE services.
We need to develop more Windows and MacOS skills, particularly amongst the front-line
support team and with using DICE and IS services from these platforms. It is difficult to learn
any significant knowledge of a platform unless one uses it on a daily basis, so we will encourage
some CSOs (and COs) to move to MacOS or Windows as their principal platform.
2010-01-14 2010-01-01 Surgeries The majority of users' problems and queries are efficiently handled through the existing support mechanism by the front-line support team. However there are a number of
problems and queries which could be more efficiently solved by personal interaction between
users and the COs running DICE services.
We shall introduce a frequent CO surgery with one CO from each unit present.
2010-10-01 Preinstall We shall provide an option for users to request, on delivery of a new self-managed machine,
that the machine be pre-configured for DICE services - e.g. kerberos, printing, AFS,
OpenVPN etc. We will need to find some efficient way of delivery this option.
2010-05-01 2010-05-01 Promotion We shall produce more posters advertising new DICE services etc.
2010-03-19 2010-03-01 Platform We developed, in early 2007, a policy on supporting access to DICE services from multiple
client platforms : this covered testing, documentation etc. This policy has not been uniformly
adopted : we shall look at checking for compliance as part of project signoff.