System Software Support Scheme for Red Hat Linux on PCs

by John Chan

Although Linux has not been taken up as a work desk environment in the desktop world like the Windows operating systems from Microsoft, Linux machines have already been widely deployed for various academic activities over the years. However, with the increasing number of these machines, security management has become a major issue for some departments especially those that do not have technical staff for providing the support. As a matter of fact, several cases have occurred in which a number of these machines have been attacked by Internet hackers. As a result, services provided by these machines were unfortunately disrupted. Worst of all, they were exploited by those hackers as a stepping-stone to attack other systems on the Internet.

From our recent survey, over 80% of the Linux systems within campus are Red Hat Linux. In this regard, the Computing Services Centre (CSC) is pleased to offer a campus-wide Linux system software support to all departments, starting from 1st April 2003. This support scheme will cover all Red Hat Linux machines that are connected to the Campus Network of CityU (CTNET), and will mainly provide security assessments, security patches application, and the installation of security tools on these machines. Other services such as the installation and upgrades of the Red Hat Linux will also be offered.

To enjoy the service, our Linux support team will visit each department to do an inventory check and registration on all the Red Hat Linux machines. Once registered, all of the above services will be provided free to the owner of these machines. However, since there are quite a number of Linux machines installed on campus, it might take some time before each of them can be attended. Our support team will contact each department beforehand to make the necessary arrangements. The department's cooperation in this respect is much appreciated. As new machines are added over time, the owners of them are requested to notify the CSC by submitting a normal CSC Work Request and the same registration process will be conducted.

It is important to note that only registered machines installed in departments will be covered. Since our prime purpose is to protect the security of the campus network, the service offered is therefore a basic system support chiefly concentrated on security protection. Thus, software and upgrade licenses, comprehensive software support and hardware maintenance of the machines are outside the scope of the scheme, and departments are advised to join other services at their own expenses if they want to have more comprehensive technical support coverage.

Users can submit a CSC Work Request to request for the services covered in the scheme mentioned above on any registered machines at any time during the year. All requests will be guaranteed to be entertained promptly on a first-come-first-served basis.

Relating to our effort to support Linux, Teaching Studio Kaff (inside the CSC Student Terminal Area) will be set up with Red Hat Linux. Starting mid-April 2003, users may book the teaching studio for teaching which requires a Linux environment. Users may also be aware that CSC Forums about Linux, staff courses on Linux system administration and general courses on the use of Linux have been organised to supplement the support scheme. Users are welcome to suggest any Linux-related topics for future CSC forums or even recommend additional topics to be covered in the Linux courses offered by the CSC.