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The Dice Project

Computing Facilities for Conferences

A Guide for Computing Staff

When we get wind of a conference being hosted by Informatics, CEG appoints a CO to be the computing contact for the conference organisers. This will normally be the site liaison for one of the affected sites. If you have been appointed the computing contact for a conference, this page is for you.


  1. School Policy that you should know and work to
  2. General Points about coordinating computing for a conference
  3. Facilities that may be asked for, and how to provide them
  4. Timetable - a countdown to the conference
  5. Comments and Corrections


School Policy

What you do is governed by the School's agreed Policy On Computing Support For Conferences. Make sure that the conference organiser is also aware of it.

You should stick to the policy most rigidly for those larger conferences which charge attendance fees and which are probably organised by an independent (of us) organisation of some kind; expenses for these conferences can be claimed back from the organisation, so the conferences will be able to give as much of the work as possible to hired help (e.g. postgrad students), taking it off our backs so we can get on with our other work.

For smaller more in-house meetings with limited resources, feel free to make more of an effort to help out where it seems appropriate.

CEG Policy

CEG needs to know roughly how much work will be involved in catering for this conference's computing needs. With this in mind, one of the first things you should do for your conference - after having read this guide and absorbed the details - is to talk to the conference organiser, and with them draw up a detailed list of the conference's computing needs, which of them you (the CO and CSO team) are handling, and as exactly as you can at this stage say what you're going to do to satisfy each need.

Once you have such an agreed list of needs and actions, send it to CEG. If you don't hear anything back you can assume that they approve of you doing all this work.

Please remember that they must have the list to give them the opportunity to check your conference workload and have a rethink of necessary (for instance, if the conference threatens to take time away from other important work you're doing).

General Points


Find out from the organiser what facilities the conference will need. Here's what's possible:

Wireless Network

Delegates need to have individual accounts for the University's wireless network. These accounts do not need to be created specifically for each named delegate; it is enough for conference organisers to count the number of delegates and to ask EUCS for that many wireless guest accounts. The account details should be handed out to delegates at registration time. A note should be kept of which account was handed to which person. Wireless access costs £1 per delegate for the duration of the conference. Delegates must sign the computing regulations before using the wireless network. The EUCS's Computing & IT For Conferences page should tell you who to speak to or which address to mail about asking for access.

What you need to do

Wired Network

Delegates may need network ports for their laptops. We have a conference subnet for this purpose. The general idea is to find a room with some desktop space and some free Informatics network ports (and power points), configure the ports to the conference subnet, and provide some TP cables and multi-way power adapters. Some conference sessions may also need network facilities.

The conference subnet is wire R at all sites except BP, where it's called Conf199. Bugzilla 1109 tracked the creation of the conference subnet for the ETAPS 05 conference.

The subnet is configured to allow the following traffic to pass, and to drop all other traffic: NTP, DNS, ftp, http & https, Kerberos, ssh, telnet & telnets, imap & imaps, pop & pops, SMTP & SMTPS, NNTP, OpenVPN, ICMP.

All this is configurable; contact the network team if you need any changes.

If necessary it can allow unrestricted access to certain IP addresses; this was needed for ETAPS 05 where some delegates needed to use a software licence server in Bologna.

What you need to do

"Web Cafe" Facilities

The idea here is that we let conference delegates loose in one of our student labs, so the emphasis is very much on the web rather than on lattes and expressos.

Neil has developed a "conference kiosk" environment for DICE machines. The environment includes a restricted account which only allows the user to run web browsers or ssh or telnet. All files and settings created during the session are held on the local disk and are deleted once the user is finished, safely clearing the way for the next user. Once configured, a DICE machine will automatically login and stay logged in. There are more details on the conference kiosk environment at http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/neilb/kiosk.html.

Conference kiosk mode is not compatible with ordinary logins since it doesn't give you the opportunity to login using your own account. For this reason a lab should be reserved exclusively for conference use. You can do this through the ITO (ito@inf).

What you need to do

Presentation Facilities

This isn't necessarily to do with Informatics computing facilities, but it may well be - for instance the organiser may need DICE machines to be available in lecture venues. The organiser may need a bit of technical help with other computing matters here - for instance getting straight which formats of presentation MALTS computers will accept, and which sorts of data-carrying gizmo will work.

What you need to do

Web Site

A web server has been set up to host conferences. It's at conferences.inf.ed.ac.uk. URLs are of the form http://conferences.inf.ed.ac.uk/MyConf06/.

What you need to do

Email Addresses and Lists

What's on offer: mail aliases to point to DICE users; mailing lists for organisers and/or for delegates.

What's not on offer: local mail accounts for delegates. They can however use conference Web Cafe or other internet access facilities to get access to their own web-accessible mail accounts elsewhere on the internet while they're in Edinburgh.

All requests for mail facilities can be given to Frontline Support. If they can't handle a request they'll pass it on to the mail team.

An important point to note is that the names of mail aliases and mailing lists should not clash with possible University UUNs. You can achieve this either by making them longer than eight characters or by putting a hyphen in the middle. For example, myconf06 wouldn't be acceptable, but myconf-06 and myconfer06 would be. If the conference organiser insists on having a name which does clash with a possible UUN, ask Frontline Support to get it registered with EUCS as excluded from the UUN name pool. However if the EUCS has already allocated that UUN, there is nothing we can do and the organiser will have to come up with another alias name.

Email Relay

For delegates who have difficulty sending email by methods other than SMTP, the EUCS may permit the use of the mail relay machine mailrelay.ed.ac.uk. This will forward the messages onwards. Ask confit@lists.ed.ac.uk for details.

PCs for admin

The conference may temporarily need some computers for admin, for example for a conference registration desk. If the organiser wants Windows talk to the Windows team, if DICE talk to Support. John Berry usually has a Windows laptop available to lend out for conferences and other events. A conference student assistant should be able to install any special software or hardware needed on the PC; you shouldn't have to get involved in this.


Here's a rough idea of what needs to be done when.

Before Doing Anything Else
(Possibly) More Than A Year In Advance
Six Months Before
Three Months Before
One Month Before
Two Weeks Before
One Week Before
The Day Before
On The First Day
During The Conference

Comments and Corrections

Please contact Chris Cooke with comments or corrections to this page.

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