School of Computing

Facilities


The School of Computing maintains six specialist labs: the 3D Vision Laboratory; the Networking Laboratory; the High Performance Computing Laboratory; the Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity Laboratory; the Mobile Applications Development Laboratory; and the Usability Laboratory.

In addition to the laboratories, the School of Computing owns a Device Loans Library, which allows students to borrow equipment for testing purposes. The laboratories have been developed to align with the teaching and research interests of the School. They are used as part of teaching provision to give students hands-on experience with the latest technological advances. All the specialist laboratories are secure access, and used exclusively by School of Computing students and staff.

For more information about the School of Computing’s specialist laboratories, please contact soc-specialist-labs@port.ac.uk.

3D Vision Laboratory

The 3D Vision Lab is the School of Computing’s newest development. It recognises the rapid increase in popularity of both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. The laboratory contains various Virtual Reality headsets, including Oculus Rift, and a room-scale implementation of the HTC Vive. In addition, the laboratory contains the School of Computing’s 3D scanner, which allows students to scan items from the real-world and place them into any virtual environment. Students are able to book time in the room to test their developed Augmented and Virtual reality applications, and to utilise the scanner.

Networking Laboratory

To provide our students with the opportunity to test and build networks, the School of Computing has a specialist Networking laboratory. An internal network, combined with specialist machines, allows students to create networks of various topologies utilising rack-mounted switches and patch panels. The machines used within this laboratory are dual-boot (CentOS and Windows) providing students with the opportunity to experience how different operating systems manage their networking settings. To design and develop large-scale network deployments, students conduct simulations using Riverbed software.

High Performance Computing Laboratory

Within the High Performance Computing Laboratory, students are able to analyse large datasets. Additionally, students can conduct experiments utilising complex algorithms which would be impossible or time-consuming to run on a standard machine. The lab contains a number of high powered Dell Workstations, Alienware computers, iMacs, and a dedicated Hadoop cluster. The Alienware machines each contain a GPU with in excess of 3000 cuda cores, which allow students to develop and test applications which utilise parallelisation. Our dedicated Hadoop cluster provides students with the opportunity to experience and exploit a rapidly growing distributed technology, which is used by large businesses including Yahoo and Facebook.

Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity Laboratory

Digital Forensics is about the process of securing and analysing digital evidence, without changing anything in the process. This lab simulates the environment found in a high tech crime lab, with evidence lockers, and includes machines on which multiple operating systems can be run, with root level access, and on a secure closed network. This allows us to simulate cybercrime and forensic investigation in a safe environment, without putting outside resources at risk. Students are encouraged to engage in all aspects of the forensic process, including collection, storage, analysis, and presentation of evidence. Our 'autopsy' table allows students to dismantle and examine computers and other devices within a training setting. Students are able to utilise the high specification computers to perform the complex calculations required for cryptographic analysis.

Mobile Applications Development Laboratory

The machines in our Mobile Applications Development Laboratory have been set up to ensure students are able to produce apps for all mobile operating systems. In addition to the standard Apple operating system for iOS development, the iMacs run a Windows operating system using Virtual Box, ensuring students can also produce apps for the Windows Store. This laboratory also contains a large touch screen ensuring students can develop applications which work on a wide range of form factors, as well as using different interaction techniques. The Mobile Applications Development laboratory is closely linked with both the Usability laboratory and the Device Loans Library.

Usability Laboratory

The Usability laboratory allows students to test whether the applications they have developed are easy to use and accessible to their potential users. The room is split into two sections separated by one-way glass, providing a window for observers but a mirror view for the test subject. This allows the potential user to be observed interacting with the application, without being influenced by the students who are undertaking the testing. Eye tracking equipment ensures that students can examine whether their subject is looking in the anticipated areas when interacting with their application. The results of the experiments conducted in this room can then be used to further enhanced the usability of the developed application.

The Device Loans Library

Recently, the School of Computing has invested a significant amount of money purchasing devices which can be utilised by students to test their applications in the real-world. Students are able to borrow a device on a short-term basis to ensure their developed application functions in the manner in which it was intended, without any major issues. This provision allows students to have hands-on experience with the latest technologies.