January 2009

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As part of our on-going effort to make the internet a safer place for your computer to be, Information Services have started filtering out a list of 30,000+ websites which are known to host malware (spyware, adware, viruses etc) – This makes it harder for the bad guys to install unwanted software on your computer without your knowledge.

Most of the time this will happen in the background and you won’t notice it.  If your computer tries to visit a website which is on the list of sites that we filter, you may occasionally see a message which says that the site your computer is trying to access has been blocked.  If this happens, don’t panic, It’s a good thing!  The system has stopped your computer from doing something dangerous!

If you want to see an example of the type of message you would receive, see this link: http://blackhole.isys.bris.ac.uk/ (NB: This link is only available within the University Of Bristol network)

We’re doing our best to ensure that the list only contains websites which are dangerous, although with a list of sites this big it’s possible that we’ll make mistakes and block things that we didn’t intend to.  If you think we’ve blocked something by accident, the web page you see will contain instructions for getting in touch with us and we can lift the block on that site.

It’s important to note that we’re only filtering out websites which are known to install unwanted software on your computer.  We’re not making any moral decisions about page contents, or otherwise censoring legitimate sites, and you will not get in trouble for encountering a page on the block list. (Although if you generate a lot of blocked requests we might offer to help you clean up your computer!)

Technical details for those who are interested:
We’re importing a list of known-bad domains from several reputable sources, and collating them into one list.  This list is then being fed to the University DNS servers.  If your computer requests a web page from a domain which is on the list, the DNS servers provide you with the IP address of aserver on the University network instead of the real IP address.  The server on the University network then displays the message saying “we don’t think you wanted to do that!”

This is similar to how the ResNet registration network works, where whatever website you try to access, you get redirected to the ResNet registration page.

Are you a resident at Langford using ResNet? If so you probably need to renew your subscription for this term. Most ResNet subscriptions at Langford expire Tuesday 20th January. To check when your subscription expires you see www.resnet.bristol.ac.uk/myresnet

As Langford is many miles from the main university precinct we’ve made it easier for students at Langford to pay. Please see Sandra Sweeting at Langford during her office hours, 8am-2pm Monday-Friday. Sandra has application forms for you to fill in and can take payment by cash.The cost varies depending on which ResNet package you want and how long you are staying. The most popular options are £22 for one term or £44 for two terms.

In addition if you prefer you can also print out an application form and post it to us with a cheque, or pay at the Computer
Centre by cheque cash or card.

These are temporary arrangements – later in the year we will be introducing a new ResNet online payments system for use at Langford and elsewhere.

Microsoft have released a beta (preview) version of Windows 7, the replacement for Windows Vista. We’ve already had a few queries from students wanting to use it on ResNet. For the moment, please do not install Windows 7 on your computer and connect it to ResNet. It won’t work (the ResNet security checker won’t pass it). This beta version is not intended to be a primary operating system for everyday use. Essential updates and security fixes aren’t released or are released late for Windows 7.

We will of course be supporting Windows 7 when it is released but there is no release date for it as yet. For now if you have a real need to install Windows 7 there are other options, such as installing it on a virtual machine instead of as your main system.

The Student Laptop Clinics will be starting again on Friday 9th January and will run until Friday 20th March. As usual we are in the Student Refectory in the Hawthorns from 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.

For more information please see http://www.bristol.ac.uk/is/computing/advice/homeusers/help/laptopclinic/