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Swansea University Computer Society, known as SUCS, is a student society at the University of Wales, Swansea. It offers computing facilities and social events to its members and other Swansea University societies.

As of 2005, SUCS had in excess of 180 members, making it one of the largest societies in the University. Its membership comprises undergraduate and postgraduate students and alumni who have earned life membership from the society. A number of other Swansea University societies are also members of SUCS and take advantage of the computer facilities and 24 hour access that the society provides.

History

The society was founded as a result of an idea by Alex Williams and Robin O'Leary. The first executive committee of the society were Andy Parkman, Alex Williams and Robin O'Leary in 1988. At this point in time the society was a computer science society. In the early 1990s the university computer centre donated the society an old NCR TOWER 16/32 system. This was used to provide a variety of services including a bulletin board as well as to teach students system administration skills. At the time the university had large centralised computer systems so the computer science department had no way to teach such skills. Over time the membership became less computer science focused and the society became the computer society, and then to fit Students' Union rules at the time the Swansea University Computer Society. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, gaining its own computer room in the Students' Union building and establishing its own small network of servers and workstations.

Linux developer Alan Cox used one of the SUCS computers to help reproduce major problems in the early Linux TCP/IP stack.

Although he had left the university in Swansea some time before, Cox stayed in touch with his friends there and helped them out with the machine used by the university's computer society. They decided to try out Ross Biro recently released networking code. “We put [the PC] in the campus [network]" he says, "and we plugged it in and we booted the wondrous TCP/IP code -- and it fell over.
The Rebel Code : the inside story of Linux and the open source revolution / Glyn Moody, pages 76-77, ISBN 9780738206707 0738203335

Due to the SUCS machine being on a bridged university network making extensive use of other protocols, it was seeing more unusual traffic patterns in a couple of hours than other Linux developers would see in a week. [1]

Up until the 2.5.66 kernel SUCS was also name-checked in the Linux TCP/IP stack on start up:

Linux NET4.0 for Linux 2.4
Based upon Swansea University Computer Society NET3.039

The message was removed in a patch by Pavel Machek which was committed by Rusty Russell on April Fool's day, 2003.

Constitution

The society is governed by an executive committee comprised of a number of annually elected executive officers; a president, a treasurer, a secretary and, as of 2000, a publicity officer. Additionally, there is a technical administration team which handles technical matters such as the day to day running of the systems. New members of the admin team are chosen from some of the most competent and experienced SUCS members by the existing admin team. Historically, the elected committee themselves are not necessarily technical (and thus not necessarily members of the admin team).

The SUCS Room

In 1999, The Students' Union allowed SUCS to set up a room of workstations for its members. This was originally on the third floor of the Students' Union building in what used to be a debating room. Since this room is inside the building, it is only accessible during the hours the whole building is open.

In the summer of 1999 the society was moved to a much smaller room on the ground floor which has the advantage of an external door. SUCS fitted a magnetic stripe card reader and electronic lock to the door which enabled 24/7 access to the room by the members by means of their Students' Union magnetic stripe cards. The door was connected to an old PC through an interface designed by Justin Mitchell and controlled through software written by Justin Mitchell and Steve Hill. The software was originally intended to be a stop-gap measure until something nicer looking could be written, but it stayed in service until the summer of 2005 when the card reader finally gave up. Replacement hardware was ordered and new software written by Dave Arter. At the start of the 2006/2007 academic year, the university began issuing contactless smart cards instead of magnetic stripe cards. A contactless smart card reader was hurriedly purchased and the software modified by Graham Cole and Chris Elsmore to allow SUCS room access to smart card wielding members.

Computer Systems

SUCS has a network of around ten desktop computers which are available around the clock for use by its members. These run the Red Hat-sponsored Linux distribution, Fedora, except for the gateway connecting it to the University network, which runs Debian GNU/Linux. Members can also access their files remotely and connect their own laptops to the network in the society's computer room. Among the services provided by the society are web space, junk-filtered email, free laser printing, a growing library of computer related books, mailing lists and a programming advisory service.

Library

The SUCS Library was founded in 1996 with the donation of a single copy of Prof. Fred Halsall's "Data Communications, Networks and Open Systems". It was originally envisaged as a way to use the (rather small) grant from the Students' Union in a way which was allowed under their rules, which would not allow the grant to be used for the purchase of hardware. Eventually the rules were changed preventing this (and later the grant abolished altogether), but the library continues to attract donations of books from a number of sources and is used by a large number of the members.

Community

As well as meeting each other in the SUCS computer room (known colloquially as "the room"), members also log into the society's bulletin board/talker system, Milliways (named after the restaurant in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams). Non-members are also welcome on Milliways and a number of non-members and ex-members can often be found there. The community on Milliways is usually quite jovial and the combination of younger members (who bring new technologies and viewpoints to the group) and older, more experienced graduates, can be very technically helpful.

At the end of each academic year, SUCS traditionally holds a beach party on Swansea beach which is conveniently situated just across the road from the university. The party attracts many of the ex-members and life members as well as the current members and serves well as a reunion for those who have left the Swansea area. The party usually involves a barbecue, bonfire and beer and usually runs from around 19:00 through until after sunrise.

The more enthusiastic SUCS members regularly set themselves interesting programming and system development projects, both personal and group projects with other members. Examples of personal projects are personal websites, utility programs and scripts to help with SUCS administration, instant messaging software, ipod interface software development and PIC microcontroller programming.

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Page last modified on May 03, 2015, at 05:59 PM