Computers Provided by CSE

This page contains answers to common questions about computers supplied to staff and researchers at CSE. CSE has a policy determining who is supplied with a computer and what sort of computer it is.

What computer can I use at CSE?

You should read the policy about this. Simply, if you are a higher-degree research student, staff member or visitor CSE will provide a computer for you to use. This will be called your "primary workstation". It is provided only so you can do work for, or research at, CSE. The computer we provide is economically priced and we expect it to be useful for several years. We provide one computer at a time and replace (or upgrade) that computer if it cannot perform normal, daily tasks. In most cases the computer will be funded just by general school equipment funds. When there is a special research need some funds assigned specifically to you may be used. You must return the computer to CSE at the time you stop working at CSE.

So how do I order a "primary workstation" computer?

To get one of the standard options for computers supplied by CSE follow the instructions at this section. Please consider how you plan to use the computer while you are here and select a computer and operating system accordingly. For instance, do not order an Apple computer if you plan to work in Windows or Linux as the PC-style computers available are likely to be more powerful than Apple Macs.

Can I get a different computer?

The University has a contract for supply of IT equipment and we are obliged to buy HP (or Mac) from the Standard Equipment List. The policy commits the school to providing a (mostly) normal and useful computer to each person and does allow some flexibility in what computers can be bought. It is not, however, intended to subsidise the cost of a greatly enhanced computer for you. Exceptions to the standard policy:
  • Where there are no items from the Standard Equipment list that satisfy your specific and exceptional requirements, you may be able to substitute an "enterprise grade" HP (or Mac) item.
    • CSE will pay money equivalent to that of a standard computer,
    • any additional cost must be funded by research funds, and
    • you may not add your own (personal) money to the costs.
  • If the funds are external research funds (eg, ARC, LEIF, NHMRC), then the funds are expected to cover a specific research requirement and the equipment specified in the grant proposal (or equivalent alternative) may be purchased.
  • If the funds are not external research funds and the purpose of the computer is exceptional and unique, then your supervisor should talk to System Support about what might be appropriate. Any such proposal also needs to be approved by UNSW Central IT.
Note that:
  • Any purchase must include appropriate warranty (normally four years).
  • If the computer you want is not like a "primary workstation" then CSE will not pay for it with general equipment funds.
  • The computer will belong to CSE.

Who looks after the "primary workstation"?

If you are a researcher your computer will probably be self-administered. This means you will be responsible for the installation, maintenance and security of the the computer (and of the data held there). You will have root or administrative access to the operating system but the Computer Support Group at CSE will not. The computer must not behave in a way that interferes with the operation of other computers or systems, either within the School or externally. The self-administered computers policy is here. Administrative staff at CSE may not be given or may choose not to use a self-administered computer. In that case, it is likely the Computer Support Group will be responsible for maintaining the computer.

Aside from a "primary workstation" what other computers does CSE provide?

Other computers are available for you to use at CSE. All staff, researchers and students may use the lab computers. CSE provides login servers and other servers for you to use remotely. Your research group may keep computers that you can use. There is also a pool of loan laptops that staff and research students may borrow.

I have a question about CSE Lab computers.

Please see the page about the CSE labs. The CSE lab computers can be used by all people with CSE accounts but are mostly used by undergraduates. Postgraduate research students and undergraduate thesis students have special access to the Oud lab.

Can I borrow a laptop for a short time?

Typically, researchers will occasionally want to give presentations or attend conferences with a laptop. Those can be borrowed from the Computer Support Group. Send an email to tell us:
  • Whether you want to run OSX or Windows
  • When you want the laptop and when you expect to return it.
The laptop comes pre-installed with an operating system and MS Office. You may install whatever you like on the laptop while you have it. (As long as it is not pirated software!) When you return the laptop we will copy our standard loan-laptop software set back onto it. This will wipe out whatever you have installed.

My research group has a computer. Can I use it with my "primary workstation"?

If this computer is not someone else's primary workstation then this is a matter for your research group to arrange. CSE provides one primary workstation at a time to each person. Swapping primary workstations around and allowing people to accumulate more than one at a time is not something we want to happen. Otherwise, you may keep your primary workstation and other equipment that was bought by your research group. However, please send an email to System Support and tell us:
  • where you have moved this computer
  • its asset number
  • the owner (eg: your supervisor)
  • the person who uses it day-to-day (eg: you)

CSE has old computers. Can I use one with my primary workstation?

Typically, No. It is true that CSE has spare computer equipment that has been taken out of service. (eg: Lab computers) However, we have reasons for not cycling that equipment back as second computers for people in the school. For instance:
  • CSE provides alternative computer resources, including several multi-CPU, multi-cored remote login servers and around 300x 24/7 lab computers (with various virtualised environments). These have newer, more reliable hardware and we keep the software on those patched and current.
  • Recent hardware is quite able to support virtual machines. You can quickly set up whatever virtual computers you need on your primary workstation.
  • CSE System Support is responsible for a large asset base of computing hardware, and unnecessary or redundant hardware can impact on the Support groups workload and efficiency. A second computer requires the same level of support as the primary system, including: Locating/relocating, allocating ports, installing, updating, asset-ing, etc. Also, if the computer is old (out-of-warranty), there is an increased risk of support incidents involving catastrophic hardware failure and/or data-loss.
  • UNSW is committed to minimizing it's carbon footprint and additional unjustified hardware adversely effects this. Newer computers are not only more powerful, but more power efficient and comply with more current environmental policies than previous models.
  • CSE donates a lot of expired hardware to charity, and keeping hardware for longer means more equipment that is useless and/or broken.
  • Students should try to minimize desktop clutter and maintain an efficient work space.
If you feel you have good reasons to maintain a second computer, supported by your supervisor, then we at System Support are open to discuss them with you.

Will the school buy me something extra with my computer?

Some people may wish to include extra devices with their school-provided computer. Such devices might be: external storage, USB wireless ethernet or another power supply. Or, they may want to buy extra software. All items not in the standard computer package must be bought with personal research funds or your own money. Some software is already licensed to us so you do not need to pay to install it.

Can I get an extra power supply?

If the school buys you a laptop then we will only buy you one working power supply at a time. If you want more than one power supply at a time you must buy it with your money or personal research funds. If you lose your power supply (separately to the laptop) then you will be asked pay for a replacement yourself. Power supplies that fail due to normal wear-and-tear will be replaced by CSE.

Can I get a locking cable?

All school cable locks match CSE master keys. Locks must only be used to secure school computers and are common in CSE workspaces. Generally, your computer and monitors will be locked to your desk, though you will not have a key to those locks. If you have a school laptop you will probably be given a "Kensington" lock and a key for it. A lock must be returned to CSE when:
  • Asked for by the Computer Support Group
  • The laptop you use it for is no longer a CSE asset, or no longer used.
  • You leave CSE

I've lost a laptop power supply. Can I have a new one?

CSE will not buy another. (But you may use you own research funds to buy one.) Failed power supplies will be replaced, typically under warranty, so long as the failed device is returned to CSG.

I have ordered a computer but it hasn't arrived. How do I work?

Standard orders should be delivered quickly but special equipment will take longer to be delivered. Researchers and staff can use the Oud lab (K17-G14) computers until their computer is ready to use. The Oud lab runs Linux but you can log into a Window virtual machine if you prefer to use that. Go to an unused computer, click on Session, choose Windows then log in using your CSE username and password.

Can you install software on my new computer?

The Computer Support Group presently manages the software on Lab computers and computers for administrative staff. If you are a researcher it is very likely that you will be installing and managing your own software. The reason for this is explained in the Self-administered Computers Policy which you should read. We have written advice on running your computer and installing software. Also see our list of software available at CSE.

I've used a CSE computer for a while and now I am not happy with it. Can I get a new one?

The policy commits CSE to give you one computer and replace (or upgrade) that computer if it cannot perform normal daily tasks. This means that everyone gets to start with a new (or almost) new computer and use it for several years without needing to replace it. If you have a computer that can still do its job then CSE cannot reasonably replace it with a new one. Consider the cost of buying new computers more often and the extra work required for: purchasing, asset tracking, moving computers, wiping sensitive data, etc. Also consider that an old computer has to go somewhere. Either it is thrown out or it is given to another researcher who will not be able to use it for as long before it fails and needs to be replaced. If you have a special research need for a new computer then the Computer Support Group and Head of School can give your case special consideration. Please note that you may need to provide extra research funds to pay for special equipment.

Can I keep my computer when I leave CSE?

Generally no. The computer is owned by CSE and must be returned to CSE when you leave. This includes computers on off-campus loan and computers used by CSE researchers at NICTA. There is a policy for giving old computers to staff and students of CSE. If you meet the criteria for receiving a computer then the Head of School may give you a School computer.

Can I give my computer to someone else at CSE?

We want school computers to go to the people who can best use them. We also want to ensure that everyone gets one school-supplied computer to work on. If you have a computer that you want to give to another researcher and they are happy to accept the computer then this seems like a good arrangement. However,
  • Would you expect CSE to buy you a new computer as replacement?
  • Does the other researcher already have a working computer, and does that mean they get to keep two?
The Computer Support Group and the Head of School must approve any changes to who gets which school-supplied computer. We may decide that is not appropriate to pass a computer on unless everyone ends up with just one working computer.

Can I take computer equipment home or off-campus?

Generally, no. The Head of School has decided that in most cases CSE will not supply home computing equipment. The reasoning for this is that CSE pays to provide a good working environment in the K17 building with proper desks and chairs, placement of monitors and reliable computers. This serves to reduce the risk of over-use injury and problems from equipment failure such as data loss. CSE cannot give researchers a similarly good working environment at home. So generally, CSE will not provide equipment for home use. You are free to use your own computer equipment at home at your own risk. Where a clear research or operational need is given then computer equipment can be loaned for off-campus use. This will generally require an academic supervisor or the Head of School to endorse the loan. All off-campus loans have associated paperwork that must be filled out before the equipment is taken off campus. Equipment off-campus remains the property of CSE and must be returned eventually.

What about CSE computers at NICTA?

CSE researchers working at NICTA use computers owned by CSE. Such equipment must be recorded as an off-campus loan because NICTA offices are off-campus. It remains the property of CSE and must be returned to CSE eventually. CSE expects the equipment to be used in NICTA offices much like equipment is used in CSE offices. Specifically, we do not endorse its use at the researcher's home without special permission from a supervising academic.

What about Laptops given by the School?

Laptops are now only provided to Researchers when their research specifically needs a laptop instead of a desktop computer at K17. As a rule, these are given with an off-campus loan. With an off-campus loan you are free to use your laptop as a home computer, however, for daily work we encourage you to use it at your desk in K17 with your assigned monitor. If you do not have a laptop but need one occasionally, such as to attend a conference, you can borrow one from the Computer Support Group.

How much is left of my $2500 computer allocation?

Prior to the current policy, CSE would allow each researcher to spend $2500 towards a computer to use while at CSE. The researcher was expected to spend some of the allocation initially on a modest computer then later pay for upgrades or replacement equipment from the money that remained. This $2500 was available in addition to any research funds the researcher could draw on. This $2500 allocation no longer applies. If you are new to CSE then select a computer from the CSE Standard Equipment list as described in the current policy. If you bought a computer with the old $2500 allocation (circa 2010) then CSE will replace your current equipment according to the section "Replacement of old, faulty, or lost computers".
Last edited by Robert Doran 11/12/2013

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