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Support for managed and self-managed machines

One of the key distinctions for the level of support that is given to users is that of managed and self-managed machines.

Managed machines are those managed by the School's Computing staff, for example DICE machines. These are installed according to a centrally held profile and automatically maintained in that state on a daily basis, using a machine configuration system (LCFG). Since this state is predictable and replicable it is both practical and scalable for computing staff to offer support for such machines. An additional effect of the ability to control the state of such machines is that they are regarded to be secure enough to be connected to networks that have more privileges than networks where self-managed machines are connected.
Self-managed machines are those which are managed by the user. The user is responsible for the installation of the operating system and any software. Users will typically choose this option if they need to configure their machine using root privileges (for Linux), or when they need to use a different operating system than that offered with the managed platform offering. The user is responsible for the installation of the operating system, including applying all security updates in a timely manner, and any software; consequently, the state of such a self-managed machine is unpredictable. While computing staff will always try to give advice on issues with such machines it is neither practical nor scalable for computing staff to spend time resolving issues on such machines on a one-off basis. Since the state of software on self-managed machines is unknown, their security and integrity is also unknown. Consequently they will only be connected to networks that have fewer privileges than managed machines. Users of self managed machines should be aware of, and adhere to, the policy for self-managed machines.

What is support for a managed machine?

With respect to support for managed machines, it is important to distinguish the sort of areas that covers. In general, it relates to the basic operation of the machine (its reliability and robustness), its network connectivity and its ability to access standard Informatics services. It does not include support for every piece of software installed. The software packages that are generally made available on desktop machines for example come largely from standard distributions. It is not practical for computing staff to know about all such packages. Extra software can be requested or can be installed by the user: see software for details.

Examples of where support would be given include a machine's network connectivity, that any authorised user can access the usual Informatics services (for example fileservers, printing, mail, etc.) environmental issues (for example fan or disk noise), keyboard and mouse operation.

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