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Requested software

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Overview

The DICE software page explains how (and when) to request extra software for DICE. This page describes how these software requests are prioritised and dealt with.

Software requests - made using the Computing Support Form - are initially scanned by front line support staff.

  • Anything which is easy to install may well be done right away.
  • If it's not going to be done immediately, we'll try to let you know if it would be easier for you to install it yourself.
  • Requests for software to support teaching, or specific research grants/groups, are flagged and passed to the Research and Teaching Unit to be scheduled in with Unit work.
  • The remaining "individual" requests are left for computing staff to work on in their downtime or when they have other free time.

At this point you should expect some notification about how your request has been classified.

Most software on DICE is shipped as Debian or RPM packages (depending on the platform), usually built from source. Mostly pre-packaged sources are available, but where it is not Computing support must package it. Once we have software packaged we run it through our testing procedures. These usually take about 2-3 days. It will then get shipped site-wide in the next weekly release. The weekly release is usually made on a Wednesday afternoon.

If you have any kind of deadline please give us as much notice as possible and don't assume that something that is trivial to install on your system will be as easy under DICE: there are many technical or procedural factors that can delay or prevent installs.

What kind of software is allowed?

Generally we will install anything, subject of course to legal and University Computing regulations. Bear in mind that some software which is available to download off the net for free is licensed for individual use and specifically prohibits us from installing it site-wide. In some cases we may be able to help you run this software on your DICE desktop, if you have one. Open source software is best.

Can I request a specific version?

Yes, provided that the version does not conflict with any existing software and that it's not going to replace software that is core to the underlying Linux release. We try to provide the latest versions of software available to the Linux distribution on which DICE is built. In the case of software used for teaching the version will usually be fixed during the semester in which the software is in use. If you really need a different version we can install other versions on your own DICE machine or possibly another version alongside the default installation.

Can it be installed everywhere or just on my machine?

Either - we can install software on individual machines, on all DICE machines, or even on groups of machines. In general we are only limited by the terms of the licence (but see Software on DICE for some other constraints. In some cases software might be too large, or would be confusing to distribute to all machines, but this is rare and often there are workarounds. Whilst DICE is split between two platforms it might be significantly easier to install on one platform or the other, and we're more likely to be able to spend effort installing on the newer platform.

How long will it take to get my software installed?

It depends largely on how much time it takes to package the software and what other software it might depend on. If you can find the software in the machine's package repository using apt or yum (as described on the DICE software page) then that means it's already packaged, as are any dependent packages, and it should take the minimum of time until it goes site-wide, irrespective of what kind of software it is. We usually have deadlines to meet for Teaching and Research software so as groups they are the next highest priority. Requests from individuals have to fit within whatever time is left and we will generally prioritise them on a "low hanging fruit" or "least effort and biggest win" basis. If it can't be found in our package repository but there are source and binary packages ((S)RPM or (.src.)deb) then there's a good chance it can be installed, but might take longer . If all that's available is the source or some kind of binary blob, it is likely to take longer still.

Can I try before I buy?

Yes, in fact we usually get someone to check that a package works on an individual DICE before shipping. For requests from students we will normally ask you to nominate a lab machine we can install the packages on.

How can I maximise the chances of getting something installed quickly?

  1. Search for the software using the package repository tools as described above and on the DICE software page.
  2. Make it easy for us to find what you're looking for - give us a URL for instance.
  3. Have some flexibility in software version - some versions have invisible but hard boundaries, e.g. on compiler features
  4. Make it easy for us to install (source tarballs are good, sources with Debian directories or source RPMs are better)
  5. Point us to the relevant licence file.
  6. If you're not sure what you want, or if you'd accept alternatives, then tell us what you're trying to do: we're happy to suggest suitable software.
  7. If you have some kind of deadline please give us as much notice as possible, both of your requirement and the deadline.
  8. Encourage your colleagues not to submit teaching software requests after deadlines; this will seriously delay other requests.
Last reviewed: 
25/03/2021

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