Minutes of SRCF committee/sysadmin meeting held 15th October 2007

Venue: The Golden Curry, Mill Road

In attendance:


  1. Website
    1. Minutes
      • They're very out of date. The most recent is dated 2005.
      • Action: Kris to attempt to obtain last year's minutes from Luke Norman.
      • Action: Malcolm to attempt to locate minutes of meeting held in Easter term 2007.
    2. Other content
      • Kris volunteers to take over the rôle of webmaster since Rob's account expired.
      • Action: Kris to add himself to the srcf-web society account and review the website content.
  2. New CUSU building
    • The move to the new building over the summer was successful. The new machine room is a huge improvement over the old attic.
    • The only remaining issue is access. Currently Malcolm is the only person with a set of keys, and he does not have a front door key yet as that requires University Security to cut one.
    • Action: Malcolm to chase CUSU regarding front door keys.
    • The access arrangements are rather complex; several keys and an activated University card are required to reach the server room.
    • Action: Malcolm to produce documentation explaining access procedures and illustrating the location of the server room on a map. This is to be hosted on a server outside the CUDN.
    • It is agreed that the main keyholder should change on a termly basis. Malcolm will keep the keys for the duration of this term; Kris will become keyholder next term.
  3. Freshers' week activities
    1. Freshers' fair
      • The freshers' fair and squash were a great success thanks to Jen's work.
      • Jen will keep the materials left over from the stall (cardboard display, spare flyers, tissue banner and spare coloured tissue, etc.) next to her wardrobe. The next publicity officer should collect this from her before next year's freshers' fair.
      • A few potential improvements were suggested based upon our experiences at the fair:
        • Add "SRCF" to the top of the display boards (several people saw our advert for the squash at the top of one board and thought we were the squash club!)
        • We don't need electricity next time; the laptop was unnecessary
        • Consider alternative free stuff: drinks instead of chocolates? (It's hot in KK!)
        • Try to get CUSU to put us near other services next time, rather than societies
    2. Potential new sysadmins / support helpers
      • Thirteen people indicated at freshers' fair that they may be interested in joining the support and/or sysadmin teams. Malcolm has sent them an introductory email.
      • Action: Malcolm to add these people to the support list as per email. Also remind them to CC the list when responding.
      • An informal meeting with potential new sysadmins, existing sysadmins and committee should be organised within a few weeks. This could be a pub meet with a trip to the machine room.
      • Action: sysadmins to discuss details on IRC and arrange this.
    3. Potential new committee
      • Malte Schwarzkopf (ms705) seemed at the squash to be persuadable to join the committee next year.
  4. New hardware
    • Michael Wells of Third Light Ltd. has offered to donate us a machine (1U Intel server, 2GB RAM, 2 x 2.8GHz Xeons, SCSI drives), which we have accepted. This should arrive soon, possibly Thursday.
    • We do not yet have a specific purpose in mind for this server; several potential options present themselves (e.g. web accelerator/cache, MySQL server) but each presents technical issues which must be dealt with. However it is very likely that we will be able to find a suitable use for it.
    • It is not suitable for a backup server due to the expense involved in obtaining large SCSI disks, and the limited number of disks that will fit in a 1U machine.
    • It was suggested that the new sysadmins could be presented with finding a use for the machine and overcoming the technical hurdles involved as a learning exercise; this would teach them about the current SRCF setup and also give them sysadmin experience.
  5. Inventory
    • The current inventory is still blocking on Ian (he was to provide value estimates for our equipment). Since Ian is no longer in Cambridge, we shall assume that he will not be completing this.
    • In any case, this inventory is already very out of date: much was disposed of during the move to the new building. It was therefore decided to redo the inventory from scratch.
    • Our room in the Graduate Union building contains several pieces of equipment which we are not using, and the GU would like wasted space back. This equipment includes a broken PC (phoenix), and a tape robot and DEC Alpha which were never used. Also in the room are woozle (the CUSU backup server), a UPS, a monitor and a keyboard, which should remain there and will be used soon (once a failed upgrade on woozle has been dealt with).
    • The SRCF will be able to store backups on woozle, as it has plenty of spare space. (However if the space is needed by CUSU in the future, the SRCF must free the space promptly. Continued liaison with CUSU computing team is necessary.)
    • Action: Kris to visit GU to fix woozle, and handle disposal of phoenix, the Alpha, and the tape robot. If anything unexpected of ours is found, its existence should be reported to the committee and sysadmins.
    • Nrek (old kern) is currently stored in Malcolm's house. It is undecided at this stage what its eventual fate will be. It cannot feasibly be used as a backup server without costly upgrades. It cannot be hosted in the CUSU machine room as it is not rack-mountable.
    • Action: Kris to estimate the value of nrek for the inventory.
  6. Societies Syndicate
    • We have again failed to keep the Syndicate updated with the status of the society.
    • Action: David to submit accounts for the previous academic year to the Syndicate by 31st December 2007.
    • Action: Haibo to email details of the new (current) committee to the Syndicate once she has the relevant AGM minutes.
    • Action: Kris to poke Luke further regarding said minutes.
    • Action: Haibo to poke Malcolm regarding the minutes of this meeting. :-)
  7. Money
    1. Bank account
      • We probably now have the ex-CUCS money (David submitted a fully signed form to HSBC recently authorising the closure of the CUCS account and the transfer of its balance to the SRCF).
      • We tried to get internet banking set up but nothing happened.
      • Action: David to follow up with HSBC the request for internet banking.
    2. Donations
      • The PayPal donations account is being emptied regularly, whenever the balance passes £50 (there is a fee for withdrawals below £50).
      • It is not sufficiently clear to users that we rely heavily upon donations and that we can accept them online.
      • Action: Kris to adapt the website to make the donations page more prominent.
  8. Sponsorship
    • Red Gate have offered to help us but somewhat misguidedly decided to do this by asking us to advertise their job vacancies.
    • Red Gate may remain a potential source of money, and we should approach them if MX Telecom withdraw their sponsorship of the garden party (we are losing contacts in MX Telecom, and have several in Red Gate).
  9. Events
    1. UCS machine room tour
      • As usual this should take place in Michaelmas term.
      • Action: Malcolm to liaise with the UCS in order to organise this.
      • Despite our improved machine room, it is still not viable to include our own room in the machine room tour due to lack of space and inconvenience of access.
      • In lieu of this, photos should be brought to the machine room tour to show off our new room.
    2. Social events
      • There has been increased interest in regular SRCF social events this year.
      • A fortnightly pub meet was suggested, to be discussed on the mailing list (see below).
      • There is some enthusiasm for a LAN party; we should discuss this at a pub meet.
        • Malcolm has offered to help organise this, including obtaining a room in Trinity Hall and providing infrastructure, as he has done this for THCS in the past.
        • The LAN party advertising must carry disclaimers explaining that computers are brought entirely at their owners' risk, and exempting the SRCF from any responsibility regarding this or damage to the venue etc..
  10. Mailing lists
    • The mailing lists are currently a mess. It is never clear to which list announcements should be sent, and what the purpose of the srcf-users-announce@srcf list is.
    • The lists are to be replaced with the following:
      SetExample mailingsOpt-in/outPosting allowed by
      Entire membershipAGM, squash, garden partyOpt-outCommittee, sysadmins
      Current users (those with shell accounts)Service announcementsOpt-outCommittee, sysadmins
      Socially interested membersPub meets, LAN partiesOpt-inList members
    • The opt-out facility for the membership and users lists is particularly important. If this is not easy and 100% operational, we will quickly anger our members; we have been threatened with reports to JANET CERT in the past. There should be a single place to opt out of receiving mail from the SRCF, i.e. opting out of all lists simultaneously.
    • The social mailing list should be seeded from srcf-users-announce@srcf (the existing opt-in list) but an announcement should be made to the list explaining the new purpose of this list, with details of how to opt out.
    • srcf-users-announce@srcf is currently mentioned on the welcome email sent to users on first signing up, and possibly other places on the website etc..
    • Action: sysadmins to reorganise lists as above and rewrite references to them in the text of the welcome email.
    • Action: Kris to describe the lists on the website with opt-in/out instructions.
    • Martin Keegan has mentioned several times that he is of the opinion that personalised, targetted emails are more likely to be read by users. It was decided that in our case, this would be of little benefit and would take considerable effort to implement. It could become a project for some time in the future, but will not be considered at the next AGM when Martin will inevitably mention it again.
  11. Publicity / stash
    • Action: Jen to look into the possibility of obtaining personalised SRCF stash and/or publicity goods, for example
      • Pens
      • Sysadmin t-shirts
      • Posters (e.g. for departmental notice boards)
      • etc.
      (Nothing will be bought until further discussion has taken place.)
    • Action: Kris to enquire about the possibility of advertising the SRCF on the CUSU societies bulletin.
  12. Sysadmin documentation
    • The documentation is neither complete nor up-to-date. It needs significant revision.
    • Also it is currently stored on pip which is not useful if pip is down.
    • Also the current wiki software sucks.
    • Action: Malcolm to set up a new wiki outside the CUDN for sysadmin documentation.
    • Action: sysadmins to migrate content to this wiki and proactively maintain it under the guidance of Kris.
  13. The next meeting will be held on Monday 19th November and will be the same format as this one (both committee and sysadmins present, with the meeting held after a meal). Please make sure your actions are as complete as possible by then!