Windows 7 – Network Drive Alphabetti Spaghetti

It’s been a long time since my last post on here, time hopefully well spent! During the last 18 Months IT Services have been hard at work on the biggest single change to Edge Hill’s IT infrastructure ever attempted. It’s taken untold hours of hard graft but we are finally able to implement these changes.

If you take a walk to one of the student classrooms or open access areas then you will find yourself looking at a new Windows 7 Desktop. (I suggest going to the library and enjoying the new computers we fitted in there last week, with massive 23 inch monitors!). These machines not only have the new version of Windows and Office installed but also use Microsoft Active Directory to log you in. I could give you a long geeky breakdown of why this is awesome but we’ll settle on the fact that it should be a LOT faster than the old Novell client we had to use on Windows XP.

At this point we come to the title of this post.. your Network Drive.. Once you login to Windows 7 and navigate to the computer button (replacing the old “My Computer” icon) You’ll see some significant changes. The drives you are used to using on XP are gone and in their place are some brand spanking new network shares, all now running on our SAN via a Windows Cluster. The most important difference to you as an end user is the naming of these drives. Gone are F: G: and M: and in their place we have our new shares Stushare1 (X:) Staffshare1 (Y:) and your homedrive (Z:).

This might seem a bit confusing at first but allow me to explain the move. Firstly we wanted to differentiate between the old Novell and the new Windows shares. Things like the user homedrives have been copied file for file to the new share so for them it’s just a change of letter. The staffshare will be a lot more significant a change as we take the time to restructure the folders inside. As for why we changed the drive letter, well that has been on the cards for quite a while! Unfortunately the popularity of USB devices has had a real impact on drive lettering. We had endless conflicts with USB devices trying to install themselves on F: and G: drive letters. So with the chance to change things around we opted to follow best practise and put our network drives as far away from the local drives as we can. Hence our Z: X: Y: drives!

In the first instance I’m sure it will cause a bit of confusion for staff and students alike. My advice would be to stop thinking of your shares as the G: and F: drive rather think of them as the shared and home drives. To learn more about the upgrade to Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010, Staff can attend one of our overview sessions on either Friday, 19th August at 10am or on Thursday, 25th August at 3.30pm To book a place on one of these, please contact Staff Development on staffdevelopment@edgehill.ac.uk or visit https://go.edgehill.ac.uk/wiki/display/hr/Staff+Development

Eee Day for Graduates Court

The new academic year is fast approaching and all over IT Services teams are running around like crazy to make sure everything is ready. For the Technical Services the current focus of attention is the installation of equipment for the new Graduates Court residencies. As with Founders Court, the rooms in the new halls will be fitted out with a high definition television attached to a small desktop PC.

When Founders Court was originally planned we look at a number of small desktop pc solutions. Eventually it was decided that the best machine for the job would be the ASUS EeeBox, specifically the B202. Since their installation last year the Eee boxes have proven to be very reliable. While not as powerful as a standard pc found in the open access rooms or on staff desks the Eee is perfect for its role, specifically the task of web browsing and providing a means for students to do their work from the comfort of their own rooms. Attached to the HD television, the Eee box also becomes a media center ideal for watching online video content or listening to music. The one thing that always bothered me was that the video input for the EEE was never native HD but now with Graduates Court we have an opportunity to improve on that.

From the success of the Eee B202 we naturally took a look at the latest offerings for ASUS. After comparing specifications and checking availability we settled on the new EeeBox EB1012P. Offering full HD support with an HDMI port the 1012P is a significant improvement on the 202. A dual core Atom processor and 2 gig of memory make for a pretty impressive performance and I can’t wait to see what they can do once they are setup in the halls.

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There is still a lot of work to be done to have the new rooms installed in time but the students arriving in the new halls can look forward to having some swish new equipment in their rooms. As with all the other halls around campus Graduates Court will have full wireless coverage so anyone bringing their laptops from home will be able to connect. When you connect to the network and login you are ticking a box to agree to the university acceptable usage policy. While the fast internet speeds in your halls might seem great, remember that downloading any copyrighted material is against this policy as well as the law and if caught you doing this you could face serious consequences.

Firefox 3 – release later today!

At around 6pm today (BST) the final version of Firefox 3 will be released onto the web. If you happened to read my previous post you’ll be aware that Mozilla are trying for a Guinness World Record for the most downloads within a 24 hour period. So if you are a firefox fan or just curious to find out what the fuss is about then make sure you get a copy downloaded from the official firefox site by 6pm tomorrow!

I’d like to take this chance to remind staff that IT Services do not currently support firefox 3 and having it installed on a staff pc. If you do choose to install it then it must be configured to use our proxy server or you could be breaching the acceptable use policy. To configure the proxy settings go to Tools -> Options -> Advanced -> Network -> Connection (click settings). On this screen set Manual proxy configuration to webcache.edgehill.ac.uk using port 3128 then tick use this proxy server for all protocols. As this isn’t fully supported by IT Services you may find you have issues with certain Edge Hill intranet sites which don’t recognise you as an internal visitor. Currently I would recommend staying with Firefox 2 in work and only downloading 3 to your home computer. IT Services will be looking to upgrade staff and students to the latest version once we are able to secure it for use on our network.

Firefox 3 – Download day coming soon

With the impending release of the new Mozilla Firefox 3 web browser there is a unique opportunity being presented. Mozilla have been in contact with Guinness World Records and are looking to set a new world record for the most downloads of a software application in a 24 hour period. They have recently started a massive online campaign to promote the browser and try and get as many users as possible ready for the big day. I’ve long been a fan of Firefox and I thought I would do my bit by giving it a plug here.

I’ve been using the release candidate of Firefox 3 for a while now and I’m very impressed. There are loads of improvements from the initial look of the browser to a redesign of the bookmarks system and all sorts of other changes. Even from this pre-release version I can say that it will without a doubt be my favourite browser and I hope everyone who uses it currently will upgrade (and more importantly that anyone who hasn’t tried it yet will take this chance to give it a go).

firefox 3 small

No firm date is set for the release at this stage but Mozilla expect a date in the middle of June. So get yourself over to the Spread Firefox record site and join the 800,000 already signed up for release. Enter your details and you will be emailed the day it’s released and can take part in helping to set a new world record.

Download Day - English

The history of Edge Hill… On Google Maps?!

I was just having a look at Microsoft’s take on the ever popular online map site and found myself having a look at Edge Hill (yeah I know, sad huh?). Anyway.. I found it had a rather old aerial picture of Edge Hill! I’d guess it’s around 5-6 years ago based on the buildings there. You can see the LINC is just finished by the look of it. Even the Wilson Center isn’t on there is it’s current form. The Faculty of Education building and the lake are just green fields!

I decided to hop on Google Maps and see what their picture was like. It was a much more recent image, I’d say around mid/late 2005. Now if you put the two together you can really see how Edge Hill has grown in the last decade, even without the current new construction!

So here are the two images, Microsoft on the left and Google on the right.

ms ehu google ehu

I really can’t believe just how much the place has changed while I have been there. I can’t help but wonder how it will look 10 years from now. More to the point I wonder if anyone will be on here blogging satellite images of how much it has changed?!

If I never see another network cable, it will be too soon!

I seem to have spent the best part of the last fortnight over in the LINC building for one reason or another. It all started over a hardware failure in part of the main network switch for that building. This is a fairly rare occurrence (luckily!) and resulted in some significant disruption for the service in the LINC. In the first instance we had to move nearly all staff computers over to some spare switches that were fitted as a temporary work around. Our suppliers were excellent and had some replacement parts with us very quickly and our network manager was able to get the switch up and running again.

Despite this we still had teething troubles for a few days as a result of the chaos caused by the emergency repatching so last week we set aside an evening to totally re-patch the entire building. It took three of us working till after 9pm with the building totally empty to get it all done. Even then we had to spend time the next morning mopping up the odd faulty cable or printer plugged into the wrong port. I can’t really describe what was involved in getting this done so I think I’ll take the easy way out and show some pictures (worth a thousand words?).

Here is a shot after we had unplugged everything from the switches:
Linc Before

This is how it looked after we had plugged everything back in! To give you an idea this is consider to be quite tidy by patch room standards! :
Linc After

Hopefully that is the problem all done with and everything seemed back to normal on Friday. You can’t really predict these sort of problems but instead have to try and take them in your stride. To me the most important thing was maintaining some sort of service for all of our staff members in the building and their patience with myself and my team mates during this massive disruption is a real credit to everyone there.

Going green with Windows Vista


A lot of people have asked me about our plans for Windows Vista and as Derrick mentioned in his first post the reply is “not yet!”. There are some pretty good reasons for an institution to consider the upgrade: improved security, better system performance, availability of new applications and features. All of those are pretty good reasons to consider upgrading but I happened upon another new reason this morning. It turns out Microsoft have been getting a bit greener and trying to make Vista not only user friendly but environmentally friendly too!

There is a white paper available and more on the subject from Microsoft’s Technet site It’s a rather heavy read but luckily one of their bloggers has cut out the interesting bits for us:

With Vista running in your business (and at home) you can help save energy and also money! With Vista installed you will:

* Reduce the carbon dioxide generated by an organisation, equal to 45 tonnes per year for a business with 200 desktop PCs.
* Deliver savings on energy bills of up to £46 per desktop PC per year.

Those figures are quite significant when you consider the thousands of computers that we have running around the campus. Maybe next time when someone asks me why we should upgrade to Vista that will be the first reason I come out with.

Source: James Senior

Its now or never!

At last, I thought it would never happen. After 17 years as an IT professional, I have finally succumbed to the blog.

As a 40 something this whole Web 2.0 stuff has passed me by even though I have 2 IT savvy kids who hog the home PC each night on My Space or whatever the latest trend is, and forward looking enthusiastic colleagues around me, I never imagined I would be submitting my thoughts and ideas for all and sundry to read.
I am embarrassed to say I only used Windows Live Messenger for the first time in anger yesterday and have only just been introduced to You Tube. OK, one reason for this resistance is down to the lack of time to look at these things but to be honest I never had any interest and used the web purely as a tool. But, I have seen the light.

Anyway enough of me! Welcome to the Technical Services Blog.

We’ll use this space to keep everyone who’s interested informed on our present and future developments, plus I’m hoping the team will use this medium as a sounding board for their thoughts on present and future technologies, ideas for improvements and comments on the service as a whole.

It’s exciting and changing times ahead for IT Services. The creation of a new Core Services Team to manage the server infrastructure, an extended Network Services Team to manage the wires and black boxes and a new Customer Services Manager to manage the front of house support will all hopefully be in place by the end of August.

Developments planned for the summer include the extension of the EdgeNet wireless service throughout the Ormskirk Campus, additional wireless and “Touchdown” cyber cafe style PC installations in social learning spaces. Large-scale replacement of PCs in open access and classroom spaces are also planned..

We are asked almost on a daily basis whether we are upgrading to Windows Vista soon. The standard answer is, not yet. Ask any techie and they’ll tell you “don’t touch it until the first service pack” so we’re not, yet. All PCs we currently buy are Vista ready so we’re almost there, we’re just waiting for the software and hardware vendors to catch up.

If you have any questions or queries for the team please feel free to post a comment.

Derrick Brown
Head of Technical Services