DeepMind Chair of Machine Learning to be appointed

The Department of Computer Science and Technology is to appoint a DeepMind Chair of Machine Learning thanks to a benefaction from the world-leading AI company.

The first DeepMind Chair is expected to take up their position in October 2019.

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The Department of Computer Science and Technology and Nokia Bell Labs establish the new Centre for Mobile, Wearable Systems and Augmented Intelligence

Nokia Bell Labs is a founding partner of the new Centre for Mobile, Wearable Systems and Augmented Intelligence, to be based in the Department of Computer Science and Technology. The Centre will advance state-of-the-art mobile systems, security, new materials, and artificial intelligence (AI) to address one of the main human needs – the ability to communicate better with each other.

The research jointly conducted in the new Centre will redefine the way people interact with the digital and physical world. Areas of focus include precise, predictive and personalised medicine, digital, physical, mental, and social well-being, and sensory human communication experiences beyond visual and audio. The Centre will be directed by Cecilia Mascolo, Professor of Mobile Systems, and Alastair Beresford, Reader in Computer Security.

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Network outage on June 2nd

At 09:12 on Saturday morning, a new switch in our data centre failed. In doing so it bridged together all of its connections to the rest of the network. Since switches have multiple uplinks for resilience, this created a loop in the network.

This loop meant that network traffic was duplicated indefinitely, causing CPU starvation on the switches and routers as they received a flood of traffic and resulted in a cascade failure of the entire network.

During this outage many systems failed as a consequence of the network failure, in particular our virtual machine pool lost connectivity with its disks. The traffic flood also caused some devices to crash or reboot.

Following failed attempts to mitigate the problem remotely, emergency work was untertaken on-site during the afternoon and evening to locate and isolate the faulty device by iteratively partitioning the network, allowing the rest of the network to recover, and then fixing devices stuck in a broken state. Intermittent network disruption continued into the late evening due to a suspected internal state corruption in the core router (gatwick), until each CPU therein was rebooted.

Services hosted on virtual machines were gradually brought back into service during the rest of the weekend, starting with the web and email servers early Saturday evening.

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PAT 2018

Portable Appliance Testsing (PAT) is not a legal requirement, but is required by our insurers. Estate Management have hired contractors to fulfill the insurers’ requirement at very short notice.
Some information which might be of interest:

  • Computers will not be turned off without permission.
  • No machine rooms or risers will be included in this testing.
  • They expect to do 300 items per day, and will hve one ot two people at a time
  • On the first day, they found a mains lead which failed the impedence test (.32 Mohms – had limescale)
  • They estimated 1500 items (5 per PC), but then discovered that there were twice as many offices.
  • All items plugged into the mains will be tested, including fitted dishwashers and fridges
  • The tester uses 500v at 200mA
  • Cables and connected devices, such as PCs and power supplies, are each tested, labelled and recorded.
  • Visual inspection only on ‘servers’.
  • Not testing unconnected kit e.g. in store rooms, so needs to be tested before bringing into use.

Any comments, questions, etc to

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New Ubuntu MTA now in use by new slogin server

The new slogin server will not send non-ASCII MH emails to the main Lab CentOS 5 MTAs, as they do not advertise that they support 8BITMIME. A Ubuntu 16.04 MTA which was being used for development has been brought into service, and slogin-new has been configured to use it.
It is believed that the system works, but do keep a closer eye on receiving copies of emails sent from slogin-new / svr-ssh-0.

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Professor Jon Crowcroft awarded honorary doctorate by the Aalto University schools of technology

Professor Jon Crowcroft has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Aalto University schools of technology.

The award ceremony will take place on June 15th 2018 in Otaniemi, Espoo, Finland.

Jon Crowcroft is the Marconi Professor of Communications Systems at the Department of Computer Science and Technology, University of Cambridge.

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Seventh Annual Wheeler Lecture

We are pleased to announce that the Wheeler Lecture for 2018 will be given on Wednesday 30th May by Prof. Stephen Pulman. The title of the lecture is Language, learning and creativity. More information is available, and is now open.

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Michael Schaarschmidt awarded 2018 Google PhD Fellowship

Michael Schaarschmidt has been awarded a 2018 Google PhD Fellowship. Michael is a member of the Systems Research Group under the supervision of Dr Eiko Yoneki.

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New Ubuntu 18.04 LTS slogin-new test server

A new Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server is now available, available via the service name slogin-new and slogin. To ensure that the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS server is used, connect to slogin. Comments to sys-admin please.

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Cambridge Computer Laboratory hosts Inter-ACE cyber security challenge

More than 130 students representing 18 of the UK’s top cybersecurity universities battled it out at the Inter-ACE 2018 cyber security challenge, hosted at the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge.

The competition, supported by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre, and designed to attract the next generation of cyber security talent took place over two days on the 16th and 17th of March 2018.

The victorious team from the University of Edinburgh won the top prize of £6,000, with second place going to the University of Southampton and Imperial College London taking home bronze.

The winners will now compete with the best of the USA at C2C –‘Cambridge2Cambridge’, a transatlantic contest jointly organised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Cambridge to be held between the 29th of June and 1st of July 2018 at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Now in its third year, Inter-ACE was established to help resolve the vast and growing cyber security skills gap, with an estimated shortfall of 1.8m workers worldwide by 2022[1]. Inter-ACE aims to inspire young tech enthusiasts into the cyber security sector, while also honing the skills of those who already have a strong aptitude for ethical hacking and helping them meet like-minded individuals and potential employers.

Professor Frank Stajano, Founder of Inter-ACE and Professor of Security and Privacy at the Department of Computer Science and Technology, University of Cambridge, said: “It’s no secret that the cyber security industry is suffering from a large and growing skills gap. We must do more to attract a more diverse pool of talent into the field. This is about demonstrating that careers in cyber security not only help to keep your country, your friends and your family safe, but are varied, valued and most of all fun.

“There is still much more to be achieved, but I have been delighted over the last three years to be welcoming a growing number of female participants and contestants from increasingly diverse backgrounds to the two-day competition. We had 18 women competing this year, as opposed to just two when we started! It’s working. There is no set profile for a cyber security professional and Inter-ACE contributes to reaching more people with that important message”.

Nick L, a student from the winning team at the University of Edinburgh said “For people out there thinking about getting into cyber security and sitting on the fence, get yourself into a cyber security competition. Chances are the first one might not go so great, but you’ll get there and learn a lot. That’s exactly how we started out”.

Inter-ACE 2018 involved a number of different scenarios, including preventing a hack on a UK city’s infrastructure and a tap on an undersea communications cable. Connected devices such as a children’s toy were also used to demonstrate the impact of hacking techniques. The two-day event featured over 20 challenges in total, set by experts from the University of Cambridge and sponsors including Context IS and Palo Alto Networks.

Established through the UK’s National Cyber Security Strategy and supported by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre, Inter-ACE is sponsored by Microsoft, BT, Palo Alto and Context IS.

The 18 universities that participated in this year’s Inter-ACE were Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Birmingham, the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, De Montfort University, the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, Imperial College London, the University of Kent, Lancaster University, Newcastle University, the University of Oxford, Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Southampton, the University of Surrey, University College London, the University of Warwick and the University of York.

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