DoC Computing Support Group

Resources for Group and Individual Projects

We provide various resources for DoC students doing official projects.

Group Project Resources

For organised sets of groups associated with a particular lecture course, the lecturer or lab organiser should organise the whole class into numbered groups and provides us with the whole dataset in one go. In this case we provide a standard package of:

  • a new DoC group containing the correct members.
  • a shared group writable directory in /vol/project for the group to store their work.
  • the group project directory is (unless restricted) visible via the web under
  • a "fake user" belonging to the group who web CGI scripts in the project dir will run as.
  • a group project Postgres database for the group to use for database-related projects.
  • instructions for setting up Subversion (version control) in the shared directory.

It doesn't matter if you don't need all these facilities. It's easier to create, and delete, the whole package together.

Please note that these project directories and related resources (databases etc):

  • are only provided for the particular project and associated with a particular lecture course code,
  • are set up by us (CSG) liasing with lecturers on behalf of whole sets of students,
  • will be archived shortly after the projects are finished.

Many group and individual projects are web and database related. Every DoC user already has a personal Postgres database created when you joined DoC (if you need the password reset and the email resent, just ask us), and we just mentioned above that every group project gets a group Postgres database.

On the web front, your ~/public_html is of course available for you to create web and CGI scripts, as is your group project directory as discussed above.

Tomcat is available (we call it Personal Tomcat) for project development, and you can ask us if you want to use and Microsoft SQL server.

We have the following documentation to get you started:

Individual Projects

Many students want to work with interesting hardware or software for their projects. We understand this is a really interesting part of the course and want to help if possible, indeed we're very happy to discuss the technical side of things with you or your supervisor, as long as you've done your research and initial planning beforehand.

Now, the single most common request is for a dedicated project machine - please see the next section for a detailed discussion of project machines.

Short of a project machine, you might need us to install some additional software throughout the lab, in either Linux or Windows. In the Linux case, if it's pre-packaged in the Ubuntu repository, installing it might be trivial for us. Or, if it's open source software we might be able to download and package it ourselves. Ask and we'll see what we can do.

Alternatively, many pieces of open source software can be built and installed - by you - in your home directory. If you need more disk quota for building software - or for storing datasets - please estimate how much you need, run it by your supervisor (especially if it seems on the large size:-)) and email us on . If you run into compilation problems, we're very happy to advise you, having considerable expertise in this area.

Project Machines

A limited number of projects (group and individual) require dedicated project computers. We provide a small number of such project computers which can be allocated on request where needed.

However, the starting point is that Academic Committee decreed a few years ago that 95% of all projects (group and individual) should be done on standard shared lab computers, hence only 5% of projects should require dedicated project machines. There is, therefore, a deliberately high hurdle that people must pass when requesting a project machine. Please discuss your needs with your supervisor first, as we will be discussing any requests with them as well as you! While most people are very reasonable in their requests, occasionally someone wanders in and requests 5 project machines for a single project. Guess what: we say no!

Having said all that, we currently offer three different types of project machines:

  • We have two project desktop PCs in 219 (project14 and project15), refreshed even more regularly than the lab.

  • We have ten graphic desktop PCs in 219 (graphic01..graphic10), housing a variety of Nvidia CUDA-capable graphics cards.

  • (New!) We can now create virtual project servers on demand, essentially these are low power virtualised servers which can be used in a similar fashion to the terras, but of course being virtual you can ask for a particular hardware spec (how much disk space, memory and how many CPU cores the machine pretends to have) and OS release. Note that virtual machines are not suitable for performance measurements as their performance varies depending on what all the other VMs on a particular XenServer/XCP host are doing!

  • Web guides covering DoC Private IaaS Cloud

The project desktops normally have the current DoC Windows and/or DoC Linux build installed on them.

If needed, you can have Linux root (or Windows administrator) privilege on your project machine so that you may reconfigure it, add software, start services, even compile and install a new kernel or (in extreme cases) Linux distribution. However, in this case you become responsible for the machine's network security.

Please email with any project requests, be as clear as possible what you need, how much you need it, that your supervisor agrees with you, etc. We will discuss project requests in some detail with you. We may suggest alternative ways and means of tackling the project if your original suggestion is unattainable.

Note that we will never allocate ordinary lab PCs to student projects, as these must remain trusted general purpose lab computers - for the other 95% of people, remember! We cannot, therefore, not give root/admin access to anyone on such lab computers.

Note also that we do not move project machines around, for example when you want to give your presentation in a lecture theatre, you should not assume that your project machine can be moved. Plan your presentation and demo accordingly. Can you access your project machine remotely (eg. via ssh or vnc or rdesktop) and demo it from the lecture theatre? Or record a short video demonstration? Or organise a separate demo in room 210?

Project machines will be reclaimed very shortly after the end of your projects and reinstalled for reuse. If you want to archive project materials, do so before the project is over. Do not expect project machines to remain after the end of the project. In exceptional circumstances (eg. your project wins a prize and a demo is required N months later, or your supervisor wishes to deploy your project in a permanent location) contact us to discuss the options for keeping a project machine going for a while.

Batch Processing and GPGPU

You may find that your project requires computational resources in excess of an individual lab computer for reasons other than those given above. If so, you might want to consider the batch-processing options available within the department:

  • The Condor batch-processing system.

  • Remote access of the batch servers using ssh (see also 'man nohup').

  • Access to the PlanetLab global research network.

If you are using CUDA, please note that some DoC lab computers have a CUDA-capable Nvidia graphics card and driver installed, and the CUDA SDK and examples are installed in /usr/local/cuda. We currently support CUDA 5.5, note that upgrading to a newer version of CUDA is non-trivial as it involves installing a newer Nvidia driver too. If in doubt, please consult your supervisor and then contact CSG.

Off-site network access

If you need to run a service that is directly accessible outside of the DoC network, please contact CSG explaining why you need such access.

Colour Printing (Final reports etc)

Individual and group projects generate final reports, often in glorious technicolour. You should use the 'ICTColourXerox' print-queue for this purpose. There is an ICT colour printer in the main lab. In addition, just as with the 'ICTMono' print-queue, you can collect your print-job from any ICT network printer on the campus. ICT colour printing in DoC costs 10p per side (20p per double-sided sheet), using ICT colour printers in different Depts (eg. the Library) may well charge different amounts.

Note that all printers are incredibly busy in the immediate run up to report deadlines, so don't expect printing to take less than 2 hours at that time! Printing as early as possible is recommended.


services/projects (last edited 2015-04-13 15:09:46 by ldk)