17 May 2005

ITIL: IT Infrastructure Library

ICT Services at the University of Canberra is keen to embrace ITIL.

ITIL, the IT Infrastructure Library, was developed by the UK Office of Government Commerce and is currently gaining wide acceptance as an approach to managing IT Services. From the Official ITIL Website (http://www.ogc.gov.uk/index.asp?id=2261):

ITIL provides a cohesive set of best practice, drawn from the public and private sectors internationally. It is supported by a comprehensive qualifications scheme, accredited training organisations, and implementation and assessment tools.

Some background to the structure of ITIL practice is covered in the ITIL Structure paper.

Training: how much is enough?

Best Practice in IT Training for University technical staff.

If the University of Canberra is going to embrace ITIL, then there needs to be a commitment to supporting Best Practice in a number of areas. So what is Best Practice for training IT staff?

According to Best International, citing a Computerworld list of the Ten Best Places to Work in IT for training, the ten best places to work in IT in the US spend on average between AU$9,000 and AU$14,000 per employee per year on training, with an average number of training days per year of between 7 and 17. Since the TSU has 9 employees, this means spending between $80,000 and $126,000 each and every year on training, plus the cost of the additional staff required to cover their absences while training (about another two-thirds of a person, plus THEIR training…).

There is a case study of the University of Florida (voted number 2 in the 2004 Best Places survey) at http://www.computerworld.com/careertopics/careers/story/0,10801,93759,00.html. Average annual number of training days per IT staff member at the University of Florida is 7.

Broadcast Flag is lowered

...before it was even raised!

Last year the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated the introduction of a broadcast flag in digital television broadcasts that receivers and other devices dealing with digital video signals would have to read and obey (an item on the mandate was in the Technical Services Unit Report 20 August 2004). The idea was that producers and broadcasters could limit what consumers could do with digital television broadcasts: preventing the broadcasts for example from being recorded, or made into DVDs, or broadcast around IP networks (all of which we do here in the Division of Communication and Education, under existing provisions of the Copyright Act).

Last week a US appeals court struck down the regulation, concluding that the FCC didn’t have the authority to regulate ancillary devices like recorders.

While the FCC has no jurisdiction in Australia, under the Free Trade Agreement signed between the US and Australia last year, there would have been pressure on Australian broadcasters, manufacturers and distributors to mind the flag here as was to be required in the US.

See Court Nixes ‘Broadcast Flag’.

Scholarship for Service Delivery Manager

WWDC Scholarship for Service Delivery Manager from Apple University Consortium.

The Division's Servce Delivery Manager has won a Nationally Competitive Staff Scholarship to attend Apple Computer’s World Wide Developer Conference to be held in San Francisco 6-10 June 2005. With Apple’s recent release of Tiger, Mac OS X 10.4, and QuickTime 7, his attendance at the Conference is very timely and will be of great benefit to the Division.


The microteaching spaces are proving problematic...
  • There are some technical issues still being resolved: one particularly difficult to resolve technical issue is a hum in the sound recording systems when the rooms are used in a particular configuration: TSU staff are working with the supplier and installer to either rectify the problem or replace the errant components.

  • The new installations are challenging students: as an example, in one case last week a group of students became quite insistent that their issues with using one of the rooms were dealt with summarily, and were told to contact their lecturer, or the comedu helpdesk. Subsequently a member of the TSU staff on his lunch break was contacted directly, with the insistence that help be provided to the students immediately. It turned out the students had not followed the instructions provided and the fix was quite simple: changing one setting on the camera to reflect their requirements for recording.

The microteaching spaces are a flexible design required to satisfy a number of different and varied uses: this has increased the apparent complexity of the spaces when used by inexperienced students and staff, even though the rooms are now simpler to use (for single camera recording) than they were before.

  • Access is difficult: not a day goes by without students seeking access to the rooms: without swipe card access this will continue to the annoyance of staff in the surrounding offices. Also as a result of the lack of swipe card access the rooms are being left unlocked: there have been a number of security reports of the rooms being found unlocked by security on patrol overnight.

In order to get the full use from these rooms the Division will need to consider seriously dedicating staff resources to help staff and students get value out of the resources there. Either that or limit access to trained and qualified operators only.

03 May 2005

Replacement equipment

Policy on funding replacement equipment bought originally from research and consultancy funds needs clarification.

In investigating computers around the Division in need of replacement, a number of machines older than three year that were bought originally with research or consultancy funds have been identified, raising the question should a computer purchased with research or consultancy funds be replaced using central Divisional funds when it goes out of warranty?

The Technical Services Unit can’t support the older machines, and it doesn’t seem appropriate to upgrade them with computers purchased from central Divisional funds.

[Update 6 May 2005] At its meeting on 6 May 2005, Executive noted that if equipment purchased from Research or Consultancy funds needed replacement, it should be replaced with research or consultancy funds. The Technical Services Unit is not expected to support outdated equipment.

Printing in the Division

A project is required to update printing facilities in the Division.

In 2000/2001 the Division embarked on a major project to upgrade printers throughout the Division, rationalising the then existing wide range of devices to standardise on HP LaserJet printers. These printers have by and large served the Division well and standardisation has made looking after the printers centrally easier. Bulk buying has reduced the cost of toner.

In 2006 these printers will be five years old, well out of warranty and at the end of their service life by industry standards. Most are still working well, but particularly high-usage devices increasingly need service and replacement parts.

While there has been talk in the past about the University centrally managing printing, no plans are yet in place. Something will need to be done over the next twelve months to maintain printing services across the Division at a reasonable level: with changes in printing and photocopy technology over the past five years, there is an opportunity to look at other ways of providing printing to staff by combining the functions of printing and photocopying in the one device (multifunction devices or MFDs), leasing or renting rather than buying, and paying a service provider a click-charge to cover toner and maintenance over a five year contract period. Personal printers can be replaced by purchasing cheaper devices, but toner and maintenance charges remain high for these devices, much higher per page that using MFDs.

With the approval of Executive, a range of two or three options for refreshing printing across the Division can be prepared for discussion.

Email server upgrade

A server and software upgrade is planned to alleviate some current issues.

The Division’s existing Exchange 2000 email server is in urgent need of upgrade: to help combat spam; give some more protection against virus attacks; and to provide much needed extra storage space for emails (the current server is almost full and additional space can’t be added easily).

While the University has been talking for some years about providing a centralised collaborative system covering email, calendaring, document sharing and other tools, no system has yet been chosen and there is no timetable for implementation. In the circumstances, the existing server needs to be upgraded to continue to provide the Division with a reliable email service.

The Division of Business, Law and Information Systems has kindly assisted with the provision of a server licence for the current, newer version of Exchange (Exchange 2003), the email server used here in COMEDU, and has assisted us in the initial installation of the software. The server must now be installed in the rack and the existing Exchange 2000 accounts have to be transferred over to the new server: while end users should not notice the change, TSU staff may have to visit staff members individually over the next three months to finalise their transition to the new server.

Backlog in TSU projects

Installations require commissioning with no new resources.

The TSU is currently finding commissioning new services and upgrading existing installations very difficult because of limited staff resources. Both the ePortfolio and eMeeting servers are now installed but more work is needed to bring these services online so that they can be used.

There is also an urgent need to upgrade the email server (see separate item in this report).

A number of teaching activities and research projects have also unexpectedly called on TSU resources, further delaying work on approved projects: any activities being planned that would require the assistance of the Technical Services Unit in teaching or research should be discussed in the first instance with the Manager of the TSU or raised with the Division’s IT & Infrastructure Committee, and an approved source of funding for the activity identified and approved.

Storage space for student work

More space required for student work.

With the increased numbers of students in media and journalism units using video editing facilities in the Division, storage space for projects is becoming more of an issue. As local hard disk storage is used up, older projects have to be deleted to make enough space for those that come later, sometimes resulting in the loss of other students’ work in progress.

While there is network storage available for Divisional students, the current network infrastructure is not sufficient in practice to support transferring the large files involved in video editing between the network storage and the local machine: a major upgrade of computers and network infrastructure would be required to support editing video over the network.

Students enrolled in units requiring them to edit video may need to be advised that they need to purchase their own storage devices with sufficient capacity to hold their video files (20GB to 400GB +) to reduce the risk of losing their work.


Recent incidents demonstrate need for constant vigilance.

On Thursday 28 April 2005, someone tampered with the cables securing equipment in two of the Division’s labs: three new flat panel displays were stolen and a computer damaged in one of the labs.

The TSU is reviewing the security of the installations, but no matter how much is done to secure equipment, determined thieves will find a way to steal equipment, even though they destroy it in the attempt.

Staff must take responsibility for locking labs after use: keys can be requisitioned from Heads of School if required. Staff should also notify Security on x2222 if they notice any suspicious activity.