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3522 Views 29 Replies Latest reply: Jun 8, 2011 3:34 PM by php07rab RSS
Currently Being Moderated

May 9, 2011 4:35 PM

Email to CiCS

Hi CiCS,
      I've recently got a new computer for my PhD which has 4 Gb ram and      a decent processor for data analysis and visualisation using Excel      and ArcView. I'm also a keen Ubuntu user, and many of the      capabilities of these programs can now be matched, if not      exceeded, by open source software available on Ubuntu such as      using R and QGIS.
      In addition, I am used to using open source tools to boost my      everyday productivity:
      Mendeley paper management system
      Xournal for highlighting/commenting on pdfs
      Kile for compiling LaTeX code
      Sage for writing and solving equations
      Open Office / Libre office for everyday tasks
      None of these programs are currently available on managed. But it      would be problematic to leave managed, according to Peter Bragg,      who manages the computers in the Geography department. Dual boot      no longer works reliably on managed. It's Catch 22!
      I see no way of solving this problem at the moment. I ask CiCS to      please think about the increasing number of people like me who      need open source tools for maximum productivity. Will there be      dual-boot capability in the next managed OS (Windows 7 I am told)?      Is there any other way to solve this frustrating problem?
      Yours sincerely,


  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 9, 2011 5:39 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
    Email to CiCS

    Hi Robin,


    Whilst many members of staff, and many students, use Linux (particularly Ubuntu), and enjoy the 'boost' in 'everyday productivity', the problem of rolling out Ubuntu systems across the campus is simply one of support.


    There are around 30,000 student users at the university, and around 7,500 staff, many of whom use (or could use with little or no additional training) Ubuntu.


    I think (and this is my personal opinion, not CICS) that if even 5% of staff and students at the university expressed interest, as you have done, in using Ubuntu, there would be a strong case for providing access to Ubuntu systems across the University. However, until such an expression of interest is made manifest to CICS I do not think that there will be investment in the necessary support infrastructure.




    • Currently Being Moderated
      May 11, 2011 10:53 AM (in response to cs1ddb)
      Email to CiCS

      There is the other issue of support (although its a bit of a non-starter really if you do everything at the CLI), but there are tons of different distrobutions and many options for desktop environments, how can CiCS support them all?


      They can't, so they'd have to choose one distrobution and go with that (most likely a Debian based one like Ubuntu), but then why are those who choose to use a different distrobution not being supported, surely everyone should be supported!    

        • Currently Being Moderated
          May 11, 2011 12:33 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
          Email to CiCS
          "Why are those who choose to use a different dist. not supported?" you ask. Because they've choosen something different and don't automatically deserve support - CiCS is only there to provide the basics.  My hope is that in the future Ubuntu LTS with limitted repository will count as "the basics"

          But CiCS would argue that they already do support the basics, i.e. M$, and if they have to support another one, why should it be Ubuntu LTS that you think should be included in the basics (as I alluded Ubuntu is ultimately Debian based, so really its Debian support)?


          Just as I choose to use Gentoo, you are choosing to use Ubuntu and I see no real reason why your preference should take precedence over mine in the support that CiCS provide.


          Don't get me wrong, I think its great that more and more people are choosing to use something other than M$, including governmental bodies (e.g. in Germany), but with the diversity of the GNU/Linux ecosystem having to choose one to support doesn't seem fair.


          I would also argue that a distro which provides cute little GUI boxes for everything is missing the point, because as I mentioned in the other thread, if you do things at the CLI then they are far more easily transferable between distributions (and besides, ticking a tick box in a GUI is no different from setting 'foo=[0|1]' in a text file).

          • Currently Being Moderated
            May 11, 2011 12:39 PM (in response to cm1nds)
            Email to CiCS

            Alright men, stand ready!!!!


            Let the distro war commence...


            (...but preferably on another thread)

            • Currently Being Moderated
              May 11, 2011 12:44 PM (in response to cs1ddb)
              Email to CiCS

              I don't wish to start a distro war, I'm simply pointing out that one persons choice shouldn't take precednce over anothers with regards to official support from CiCS for GNU/Linux.


              The documentation that exists in this group and from Deniz Savas ( focusing on getting Ubuntu working are easily adaptable to other distributions anyway.


              And with the introduction of standardised support a lot of the flexibility afforded by using our own choice of OS would be lost anyway, I don't need the applications that others do on a managed desktop, and there are some that I would use that others wouldn't (one of the reasons I like Gentoo with its USE= flags to compile everything from source with the specific support/functionality I want, e.g. no KDE nor KDE libs on my system).    

            • Currently Being Moderated
              May 11, 2011 1:00 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
              Email to CiCS
              There is also this thing called Gentoo which I will look into.

              Gentoo one of a plethora of GNU/Linux distributions (one of the earliest bundled distribution was I think Slackware).

              I still don't understand why you are making a choice of distribution yet want it to be managed.  If you don't want to manage your system you should go with whats provided, otherwise you take responsibility for it yourself because its your choice.  Managed systems are pretty inflexible anyway, it sounds as though its one of the reason that you are using Ubuntu, because the tools you wish to use are not provided on the managed desktop.

  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 11, 2011 12:45 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
    Email to CiCS

    As long as network boot is disabled and the machine is imaged beforehand, why would leaving managed be such an issue?  (I'm a little surprised you're using managed XP in the first place - in physics, the research side is all unmanaged, including the PhD student machines, precisely so we can install what we need for work).

  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 11, 2011 1:10 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
    Email to CiCS

    Dear Sir,


    It seems like the issue is that you want to use Linux tools, but your department has managed PhD machines? Forgive me if I have misunderstood...


    Maybe (and I don't know whether this is possible, or if I will incur the wrath of CiCS for suggesting this) you could consider installing Linux on a USB stick, and then having the department machine boot the USB stick when you are working on it, and shutting down to leave the managed Windows behind when you go home for the night?



    If you enable what is termed "persistent memory" then your configurations, working files and packages will be saved to the USB stick, you can take it home with you, and this should make a neat solution?


    Be sure to binary copy your USB stick to another backup one every so often (weekly?) though so that you dont lose anything


    You can have your solution, the department can have their solution, everyone is happy (hopefully)


    Just a thought

      • Currently Being Moderated
        May 11, 2011 2:12 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
        Email to CiCS

        I think the problem with the usb stick idea for many people is that the managed machines are 'locked down', i.e. the bios is configured such that the machine will only boot from one source. The bios is password protected to prevent the boot config from being changed. And people can get qute upset if you open the box and blank the bios, then reset the machine to boot as you would like it to.


        However, from personal experience as a PhD student, I found it very restrictive to use managed machines for my research as the software I needed was not installed, and getting it installed can be a real challenge.


        I therefore told my supervisor of the challenges I was facing. As the machine was purchased from funds he controlled, he authorised me to do whatever was necessary to configure the machine to my needs.


        A managed machine is great for most users, but if the machine is for you only, and the machine does not meet your needs then perhaps you can talk to your supervisor also, and then reconfigure the machine to suit your needs after receiving authorisation to do so?

      • Currently Being Moderated
        May 11, 2011 3:04 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
        Re: Email to CiCS
        Sounds mint to me.



        It could be Mint (Linux) (specifically their HowTo on getting Mint Linux on USB).

  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 11, 2011 4:58 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
    Re: Email to CiCS

    Dear Robin, 


    I understand and support your sentiments over the issue of basic 'Linux' support.

      I am sure that the lack of  acknowledgement for Linux support within the university

      is a source of frustration with ever increasingly numbers of students.  Unfortunately

    the resistance to change seems to be much stronger coming from organizations

    than from individuals.  ( Hence the reason why the soviet block collapsed so suddenly! )


      I have a few other points to make about this discussion threat. Although not directly

    mentioned,  there is implicit perception of 'CiCS' as being the ultimate shapers and

    deciders of what service they want to provide. CiCS is a 'Service' department and

    has the duty to 'serve' users and not just 'impose services' on users without any

    good reason.


    So, all users' needs should be considered with care while deciding what

    type of service it needs to provide. Having said that, there will always be hard

    decision to make. Within that context, I do not buy the argument that if we need

    to support one flavour of Linux we need to support other flavours as well. 

    That being impossible, we will need to choose a distro that will tick more boxes

    than others.

        As a member of CiCS I would consider a distro that "can maintain

    and update itself regularly, can be driven with minimal need for command-line

    interface, can download and install new software at the touch of a button"  a big

    advantage from support point of view. At the time of looking into distros

    Ubuntu happened to meet those requirements satisfactorily, but then I might

    have missed even better ones !


      Finally, we must also remember that we are providing a service to users

    who are interested in other things than just 'computer-wizardry' and that

    efforts spent on getting their computer to work is just an overhead that detracts

    from their real work.

    These are the 'ticko' users Robin talks about. And it is a shame that we  make

    them feel like that.

    • Currently Being Moderated
      May 11, 2011 5:27 PM (in response to cs1ds)
      Re: Email to CiCS

      Clearly a balance needs to be found between time spent maintaing computer systems and getting work done.


      Maybe its just me, but I think it is an increasingly useful life skill to be able to do simple system maintenance regardless of what operating system one uses.  Support for beginners is useful, but thats not the same as a managed Linux desktop.


      I had no intention of patronising anyone into feeling like a 'thicko' in pointing out that there are alternatives to GUI's, but as I wrote I see no difference between a tick-box and a line in a text file setting something to be 0 or 1, conceptually they're the same,  "something" is either on/Yes/1 or off/No/0.


      As I said, most information is transferable between distributions, I've used your docs in the past Deniz, and I used the OSX and M$ docs on VPN to glean the information I needed to get that working (and which I wrote up and shared here for others, which reminds me I should update that to include NFS mounting).

      • Currently Being Moderated
        May 12, 2011 9:48 AM (in response to cm1nds)
        Re: Email to CiCS

        I  am sorry if I caused offence to anyone with my previous comments which were

        meant to be general and applied to myself more than anyone else.

        I agree with Neil on many fronts. It is people like him and other enthusiasts

        in this group who are spear-heading the Linux revolution which eventually benefits

        the rest of the computing community.

          We came a long way in the last year to present Linux as a sound

        alternative to M$ that encourage users like Robin to raise their voices.

        But we still need more work to do before the attitudes start to change on the

        decision making levels. "Long live the Linux revolution !"

        Oh dear, I think I am getting carried away?

  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 15, 2011 4:57 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
    Re: Email to CiCS

    We seem to have 2 or 3 sub-threads going on here: the usual distro wars (not going to touch that one!); how much support for Linux can we expect from CiCS (and I think Deniz has done a nice job with his Ubuntu pages which would be a reasonable place to start for anyone who has no vested interest in some other distro); and the one I want to promote - why can't we have a Managed Service that at least allows us to use the centrally supported Managed Service machines for whatever specialized software anybody wants to put on a USB stick?


    Lets be realistic, CiCS is never going to have resources to support multiple versions of Linux (remember, they're already supporting Scientific Linux on Iceberg). And those of us (I guess mostly scientists) who need software that's only available in Linux all have our own ideas on which distro we want to use and we're never going to agree on just one (I use both CentOS and Ubuntu for different projects.) Choice of distro is largely determined by ones past experience or whatever system the others in your field (from whom you're getting the specialized software) are using.


    But it seems to me very unfair that people who want Windows are provided with hundreds of free machines distributed all over campus and fully maintained by CiCS (at the expense of us all) and those who want Linux are restricted to just Iceberg over Exceed (which I hasten to point out that I do also use and it's great for some things but not everything.) I don't see any reason why the new Managed Service couldn't allow us to plug in a memory stick or portable HD and boot to that from any Managed Machine on campus. Then we could all carry around whatever distro we preferred plus all our software and data and use it anywhere. The perfect solution.


    CiCS could even sell a memory stick with a basic Ubuntu setup so students could practice using Linux to get them interested.

    • Currently Being Moderated
      May 15, 2011 4:58 PM (in response to mb1jw)
      Re: Email to CiCS

      I'll get back to you then. If your request is urgent please get in

      touch with one of the other learning technologies advisers in the ELDM


      James Goldingay /

      Danny Monaghan /



      *Dan Smith *

      Learning Technologies Adviser

      e-Learning and Digital Media Team

      Learning and Teaching Services (LeTS)

      University of Sheffield

      5 Favell Road

      Sheffield  S3 7QX

      Tel: 0114 22 24061

    • Currently Being Moderated
      May 16, 2011 8:29 AM (in response to mb1jw)
      Re: Email to CiCS

      Janice White wrote:

      I don't see any reason why the new Managed Service couldn't allow us to plug in a memory stick or portable HD and boot to that from any Managed Machine on campus. Then we could all carry around whatever distro we preferred plus all our software and data and use it anywhere. The perfect solution.




      There is at least one reason that this is not possible. A requirement of our use of the JANET IP space is that we are able to track back the use of an IP address to an individual in the case of abuse reports. Since the managed desktop uses a piece of software to perform this function, booting from a USB device into another OS would circumvent this. This is handled on unmanaged machines by the IP registration process.

    • Currently Being Moderated
      May 16, 2011 10:27 AM (in response to mb1jw)
      Re: Email to CiCS
      the usual distro wars (not going to touch that one!)

      I'm sorry I've given the impression that I think one distro is superior to any other.  That is not my point of view at all, which is that there is no such things as "the best" distribution, there is simply one that is most suited to the individual user, and because we all have different levels of knowledge, experience and requirements from a distribution this will vary from person to person.


      In mentioning that I use something other than Ubuntu I was attempting to highlight, albeit in a circuitous way, that there are lots of distributions and that any support/documentation provided by CiCS should (and indeed can be) generic enough to provide users of any distribution with the information they need to get things up and running on the University network.#


      On this point

      those of us (I guess mostly scientists) who need software that's only available in Linux all have our own ideas on which distro we want to use and we're never going to agree on just one

      You can always install Cygwin/X under M$ and have a full Linux shell and indeed Xorg-server, desktop etc. available for all the Linux only tools (the majority work fine).  I even use this in preference to Exceed for running remote desktop sessions when I need to.

    • Currently Being Moderated
      Jun 7, 2011 9:06 AM (in response to dtp09rl)
      Re: Email to CiCS

      Well done! Personally I don't like Unity and just choose 'Ubuntu Classic' from the login screen (then I put my taskbar over on the left so my useable screen space is bigger than Unity provides anyway).


      There's another conversation about here somewhere to do with iprint. If memory serves you may need to install libglitz-glx1 and libglitz1 from an earlier release. You will also need to install xulrunner if not installed (sudo apt-get install xulrunner-1.9.2). I've not had time to go through this yet, but if you wish to try it and let me know your findings that'd be really helpful.

        • Currently Being Moderated
          Jun 8, 2011 12:11 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
          Re: Email to CiCS

          Hmm, we may be at cross purposes here since xulrunner shouldn't be necessary if you're installing printers in the normal way, it would only be needed for the iPrint client. Glad you're sorted anyway!

        • Currently Being Moderated
          Jun 8, 2011 1:26 PM (in response to dtp09rl)
          Re: Email to CiCS

          I'm a bit worried that your screenshot implies an ip address based search for printers, and with dynamic addressing from pools those IP address may change.


          Having just got 11.04 installed a manual install of the printer seems possible.


          add printer -> expand network printer and choose Internet Printing Protocol -> set the host as 'shefuniprt' without the quotes, and the queue should read /ipp/printername, where printer name is that taken from prchooser, eg. cics-lj4200-285.  Choose the correct driver, and you should be away.


          I will try and find time to look at the iPrint client now....




          • Currently Being Moderated
            Jun 8, 2011 3:34 PM (in response to cs1ijb)
            Re: Email to CiCS

            I've noticed problems printing to HP Laserjet 1320n printers using IPP (ipp://  Generally, with larger documents, the printout tends to fail or get mangled half-way through the document.  This does not seem to happen as often if you use socket-based (JetDirect) printing, and occurs on both Windows XP (with iPrint) and Ubuntu 11.04 (using CUPS), although Linux seems slightly better.  So, personally, I'd use the socket: protocol, but with hostnames instead of IP addresses.


            (Windows Vista and 7 have their own driver problems on this printer - you really need to use the built-in PCL5 drivers to get anything out, and iPrint won't use it.)

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