School of EPS: Current Staff & Students

EPS Current Students and Staff

PC Caledonia - Hints and Tips

This page is for new (and not so new!) users of the university-wide student PC Computer network known as PC Caledonia (or just PC Cal). Using a PC Cal workstation is NOT like using a stand alone PC - there are important differences that you need to be aware of if you want to get the most out of this system. What follows are some hints and tips along with explanations that I hope you will find to be of some help!

Concerning your files.

As with any computer system, the management of your information (ie documents/files and folders) should be one of your main concerns. Here are some questions that we have had to deal with in the past:-

  • Where should I save my documents etc?
    You should only save stuff into your Home Drive folder.
    This is the one labelled "H:" inside the 'My Computer' folder. If you do try to save files anywhere else they won't be secure and you risk losing them! If you do need to copy files onto a remote PC (eg your own PC at home) then there IS a way to do this - you need to use FTP software (and FTP = File Transfer Protocol). The HW Computing Services web site has more information about Remote Access to your H: Folder on PC Caledonia along with other exciting developments. By the way, any Chemistry postgrads who need to process their NMR FIDs with the MestreC software on PC Cal will definately need to learn about using the PC Cal FTP client.

  • Is it okay to save files onto the Desktop?
    No! Since PC Cal is a networked system, you must NOT save documents or files to your Desktop.
    This is one area where a PC Cal workstation is not like a simple stand alone PC. If you do try to use the Desktop in this fashion, then you risk corrupting your 'NT roaming user profile'. Trust me on this - you really do not want to experience a bad user profile...
    (it's even worse than experiencing a bad user!).

  • Can I work from a floppy disk or a USB memory stick?
    Never work from a floppy disk or USB memory stick! Always copy a document over to your own workspace ie your H: drive. Once you have finished your alterations etc close the document window and then make a copy onto your floppy disk. One clever way to do this is to open the folder which contains your document in either 'My Computer' or 'Explorer' and then right click on the document icon. Choose "Send to floppy disk" from the pop up menu that appears.

    The main reason for never working directly from a floppy disk is actually due to a design flaw in the philosophy of Windows! Let me clarify this point. Most Windows applications (eg Word 97) create and use a hidden 'working copy' of the document in the SAME folder as the one where it loaded the original from. Other operating systems (such as Mac OS X, RISC OS and Unix/Linux) do not suffer from this particular flaw. So, if you do work from a floppy disk, then you are automatically limited to a document size of at most 720k. I have seen some students loose valuable work through not being aware of this fact!
    So, use the H: drive - you know it makes sense.

Good working practice.

As in any teaching laboratory, there are some good habits that you should adopt - this is what I mean by the phrase "Good working practice". Here are some things to take note of:-

  • Treat all communal PC's with respect.
    Always remember that you are not the only person who will be using a particular workstation - they have been provided for everyone's benefit and not just yours!

  • No food or drink in any PC Cal Lab!
    We have a strict policy on NOT allowing food and drink into any PC Cal Lab - please cooperate with us on this one, again, it is in everyone's interest.

  • Keep the PC Cal Lab tidy!
    Remember to collect ALL printer output and do not leave any personal possessions etc in a PC Cal Lab.

Remember that in a commercial working environment you would encounter even stricter working practices, so why not be positive and learn some good habits now that will be useful to you throughout your career!

Reporting faults and problems.

From an System Administrator's point of view, when one considers how complex the PC Caledonia system is then it is REALLY AMAZING that for 99% of the time it will perform WITHOUT ANY GLITCHES! However, sometimes there will be problems. That is why you should ALWAYS take time to read the various Messages of the Day which appear just after you log in to the PC Cal system. They are put there for a very good reason ie to inform YOU, the user, of any important system work that might need to be carried out or of any potential problems.

Similarly, if you DO experience a problem with the system then it is vital that you let us know about it. We welcome feedback from users, so here's what to do:-

  • What should I do if a PC is faulty or behaving strangely?
    You should contact the Computing Services Help Desk (on extn. 4045) and tell them: WHO you are (name and username), WHERE the faulty PC is (ie department and room number) and WHAT the problem is. This will help us to start getting things sorted!

  • What should I do if I encounter problems with Chemistry Specific software?
    In the first instance, you should inform your Academic Course Director. They will inform EPS IT Help if they cannot resolve the issue. Again, please give appropriate information eg WHO you are, WHERE you are and WHAT you are trying to do etc.

This help page produced by Dr R. Ferguson