LFCS User Guide



Welcome to the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science, a Research Unit of the University within the Division of Informatics.

Our mail address is: 

Division of Informatics
The King's Buildings
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh EH9 3JZ
Tel: +44-131-650-5132
Fax: +44-131-667-7209

The LFCS is located in an area of the University known as the Kings Buildings ("KB"). There LFCS is housed in the James Clerk Maxwell Building (JCMB) which is a maze! It should only take a couple of years to sort yourself out and find your way around! The rooms have four digit numbers: the first is the floor, the second the corridor, and the last two the room numbers in the corridor. American style numbering is used (there is no ground floor). The main entrance is on level 2 (beside the lecture theatres and servitors' box). There are two spine corridors (rooms x3xx and x2xx) which run parallel to each other in the main building and two office blocks (rooms x4xx and x6xx). These form the shape of an `F' with the spine. The ends of the arms of the F are connected on levels 1 and 2 (rooms x5xx). Most of Computer Science is on corridors 16, 26, 14, 24, 34, 15 and 25.

The following pages contain information, office procedures and answers to most commonly asked questions. Some items marked with an asterisk * are subject to changes. We are constantly updating this information but should you have problems anybody in LFCS will be pleased to help you along.

We hope that you will have a productive and enjoyable stay!

Access to JCMB

(James Clerk Maxwell Building)

The building is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Mondays to Fridays) and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Saturdays and Sundays). The emergency team is not available after normal working hours, but the emergency telephone number (2222) is still effective. Since it alerts security staff who are on radio call but may be remote from this building, it must be understood there may be some delay in getting help. When working alone in the department after normal hours, in the interest of your own safety, you should sign in and out at the servitors' box.


The airport is located about 12 miles outside the city. There is an airport bus (white double decker, number 100), which runs to the city centre (Waverley station) approximately every ten minutes (see www.flybybus.com). From there you can take a bus to King's Buildings (number 42 from The Mound). The mound is within a couple of minutes of Waverley Station, Edinburgh's main train station. There are also airport taxis which will take you to King's Buildings for about £18.


There are three major banks in Scotland: The Bank of Scotland, The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Clydesdale Bank. They all offer more or less the same service. If you are receiving a salary you will have to have a bank account into which your salary can be paid. In order to open an account you may need a letter of recommendation from LFCS stating that you are working there and being paid, and maybe your passport. You can open a current account for writing cheques or a savings account. Cheques cannot be cashed directly but have to be deposited into an account.

Bulletin Boards

There are a number of bulletin boards around and not all are listed here. These have different topics as follows: 

There are also detailed maps of Edinburgh outside 2507 and 1619 (with bus routes). People use e-mail and computerised bulletin boards to spread the news.


It is reasonably easy to reach King's Buildings by bus. Bus schedules exist, but they don't seem to correspond much with reality. So the best is just to wait and hope that a bus will come pretty soon. Prices vary depending on where you want to go. Ask the driver for the exact fare. You should always carry with you sufficient change to make up the exact fare for buses as most bus drivers cannot give change. If you have to change buses you will have to pay again - tickets are only valid for one ride. Bus no. 42 runs from the city to KB and from KB back to the city.

Chambers Street

9-16 Chambers Street houses the main administration in the university, e.g. the cashier, in case you receive your salary or expenses in cash. Finance Office and Personnel Office are based here.


This is the bare minimum procedure for starting work: 


If you bring your family to Edinburgh you might find the following book very helpful (which is regularly updated and obtainable from: James Thin Bookseller; 53 South Bridge):

Edinburgh For Under Fives
A Handbook For Parents
Published by: Local Members of the National Childbirth Trust


There are several clubs being run at LFCS which you might like to join.

See also Lab Lunch.

Coffee Hour

Coffee and tea can be obtained all day (but see Lab Lunch). The coffee lounge is in room 2510. This has water heating facilities, a coffee filter machine and a microwave oven. Morning coffee is usually about 11.00 a.m. and afternoon tea about 4.00 p.m. but you can help yourself to coffee/tea all day. It's free!.

Council Tax *

Apart from the usual taxes which are deducted automatically from your salary is the council tax which you may be required to pay. The tax is based upon the notional value of the house or rooms you live in and you should check before you rent or buy what the situation is.

Computers and Workstations *

The Department runs a consolidated environment based mainly on PCs running Linux.

You will have a PC running LINUX on your desk. The basic LFCS environment which is actively supported includes X-windows (X11R6), Xemacs and TeX/LaTeX. Basic configuration files for your environment will be automatically provided, but you can change these to tailor your own environment (at your own risk).

For computer support, reporting faults or guidelines and policies, please see the support pages

Electronic mail is used extensively for communication. Mail anomalies should be reported to support

A whiteboard outside room 2421 is used to display information about major system problems. 

Computing Regulations

During your period here you will be using computers owned by the University of Edinburgh. One condition of this use is that you should sign the regulations governing this activity. Visitors will be given a form to sign and return to the Support Office when you request an account; a copy of these regulations is available on-line, on the Support page

Contracts *

If you are not being paid by us ignore this bit.

Contracts are issued by the personnel office of the University. The contract is fairly straightforward, but if you have any problems or questions you may contact Human Resources (HR.Scieng@ed.ac.uk). When you return your signed contract you will need to provide details of a bank account into which your salary can be paid (see Banks and Salary).

Copiers and Entry Cards *

There are two photocopiers; one is in room 1619, the other is in room 2419. 
See the Enquiries Office for the entry card.

The University observes the Copyright Law very strictly, and users are asked to bear this in mind.

Departmental Colloquia

LFCS Theory seminars are on Tuesday afternoons at 4pm, usually in room 2511. To suggest speakers (or volunteer yourself!) please contact the organiser, currently Kousha Etessami

The laboratory organises the annual public Milner Lecture, given by a distinguished visiting speaker, usually around May.

The Division hosts a series of Informatics Colloquia. The Division website also has pages listing seminars across Informatics, other activities, and an events calendar.


In case of emergency call 2222. Give your location (room number) and the nature of the accident.

Expenses: see Payments

Facsimile Machine (FAX) *

The departmental fax machine (0131 667 7209) is located in the Enquiries Office (room 2503). It is easy to handle. The instructions are on the wall next to the machine. Marije will be pleased to help you use the machine. Work-related use is free of charge. Personal usage will have to be charged.

First aid *

Departmental first aiders: 


There are a number of independent outlets on campus. Apart from the JCMB snack bar on level 3 there is another snack bar in the KB Centre. The KB Centre also has a shop which sells filled rolls, and a bookshop.

The Michael Swann building has a restaurant on the seventh floor which provides excellent views over the city and the surrounding hills. The restaurant itself is quite difficult to find without sherpa assistance and a complete set of maps so on your first visit you might wish to enlist the help of a knowledgeable friend to show you how to get into (and out of!) the Swann building.

The KB Centre is another place where you can get hot meals at lunchtime and snacks in the bar in the evening.

See also (KB House) below.

Health Cover, Doctors and Dentists

If you are a foreign visitor you will be automatically covered by the British National Health Service scheme. When you need to go to the doctor you pick the nearest G.P. (General Practitioner) with whom you have to register. If you need to see a specialist you will have to go through your G.P. who will refer you to see a specialist (or not). You might have to wait a long time to see a specialist as waiting lists can be long. You also will need to register with a dental practice, however not all dentists work within the National Health Service. Perhaps the best way to find a dentist is to ask colleagues.


The University does not have any housing to accommodate academic visitors apart from students. Short term visitors will normally be accommodated in a nearby bed & breakfast. For stays longer than about a month it will be cheaper to find a furnished flat. Flats here are normally furnished, with more or less "mod cons". Unfurnished flats are quite hard to find. Longer term visitors have to find their own accommodation. We would normally ask the visitors about their requirements and place an advertisement in the local papers before arrival so that he or she can go flat-hunting straight away after arrival. In the meantime we can arrange a bed and breakfast.

Bed & breakfast: c. £50 per night

Two bedroom flat (furnished, but excluding costs for telephone, electricity, gas etc.): ca £500-600 per month.

It is common to have to pay a security/damage deposit of one month's rent. Most rent agreements or leases are handled by lawyers.

The Informatics Teaching Organisation (ITO)

The Informatics Teaching Organisation has two locations:
* Room 1502, James Clerk Maxwell Building, King's Buildings.
* Room 5.03, Appleton Tower, Central Campus.
Opening hours: 9.00-11.00, 11.30-1.00, 2.00-3.30 and 4.00-5.00 every day.

The Informatics Teaching Organisation provides a focus within the School for matters related to undergraduate teaching and (in collaboration with the Informatics Graduate School) for taught-course postgraduate activity. It aims to:

* create an atmosphere in which teaching and learning can be pursued fruitfully
* monitor and develop teaching policy
* provide efficient and effective administrative support for students and teaching staff

All email enquiries should be sent to ito@inf.ed.ac.uk.
See also the website of the Teaching Organisation.

The Informatics Graduate School (IGS)

The Graduate School's aims to build a postgraduate community, coordinate recruitment and publicity, develop and coordinate postgraduate taught courses (in collaboration with the Informatics Teaching Office), and develop and monitor policies affecting postgraduate students.

For more information go to the Graduate School web page.

KB House

The new King's Buildings House, the Union for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, opened on 21st September 1999.

The facilities includes a purpose built staff only lounge. This looks onto a relaxing conservatory area and is beside the bar and downstairs dining area. Upstairs there is a table service dining room and large food court which it is hoped will suit all tastes. The facilities will also be available for conference use, receptions or social gatherings.

For those of you interested in sport there has been extensive improvements to the changing and shower facilities and a multi gym, squash courts and sports hall are available.

The House will also include a shop to meet the needs of those on the move and an Advice Place to help students with representation and welfare issues.

To be able to use the facilities you will require membership. Associate membership is £10.00 per annum and is valid or one year. This gives you enty into facilities in KB House, Potter Row and The Pleasance. £30 per annum gives you associate membership and sports membership. This gives you all the above plus use of the sporting facilities.

Further details can be found in the Kings Buildings House brochure.

Keys *

You will be assigned an office for which you will need a key. Keys can be obtained from Marije Vugts (room 2503). Please be sure to return your key(s) before you leave. Security depends on all of our keys being accounted for.

Lab Lunch

On Tuesday lunchtimes members of LFCS get together for lunch followed by one or two 20 minute talks (technical or otherwise). Gather about 12.45pm in room 2511. Bring your own sandwiches -- tea, coffee and biscuits are provided. The talks are not meant to be finished work or seminars, rather they are a forum for presentation and discussion of ideas, intermediate results, etc. They are organised by research students who undertake a spell of duty for six weeks. The subject of each week's talk(s) will be announced by mail and news a day or two before it happens, but even if there isn't a talk we gather in any case to eat (well, you've got to do it somewhere!). There is a similar meeting on Thursdays organised by the Computer Systems Group. ICSA (Institute for Computing Systems Architecture).


If you will be holding a lecture or seminar, please ask the secretaries for stationery. They can provide you with transparencies. Please let them know of any special needs such as slide projectors, VCR, etc. For lecture preparation and teaching please see the Informatics Teaching Office (ITO).

Leaving LFCS *

Please return your key(s) to Marije Vugts (room 2503) and make sure to leave a forwarding address. Also make sure that your computer account is tidied up with appropriate mail forwarding, and that you have returned your Swipecard to the Enquireis Office (2503).


There are several libraries you might want to consult. The Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library is at the east end of the 43 corridor in JCMB and is open until about 9.30 p.m. and at certain times over the weekend. The library is open access, although you should register (take a copy of your contract along or get a letter from the LFCS Administrator). The University library in general is distributed around many sites in the University. In particular, most material directly relevant to Informatics can be found at the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library (JCMB) and at the Main Library (George Square).

Mail (In-coming)

Long-term visitors should arrange for a mail basket (ask a secretary). Mail baskets (or whole concentrated piles of them) are situated near the respective offices. If you are sharing an office with somebody else you should attach a tag with your name to your office-mate's mail basket, otherwise you will need your own mail basket. Mail is delivered twice a day by the servitors.

Mail (Out-going)

Business mail should be placed in the respective out-trays. Please ask the secretaries about this, as these trays are not specifically labelled. There is usually one out-going mail tray near each secretary. Your mail needs a departmental mail stamp which is kept in the Enquiries office. The servitors collect mail twice a day. Personal mail can also be put in these out-trays. You should however have the correct postage on this. There is also a letter box in the main JCMB entrance hall for personal mail, stating the collecting times. There are special transit envelopes for usage within the university.

Mailing Lists

Here are some instructions on how the 'lfcs informatics' mailing lists work.


Maps of the King's Buildings area and the city centre are available on several corridor walls (including bus maps). They are also available at the Enquiries Office.

Office hours

Official university office hours are from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday, however normal academic practice applies as much here as in other universities - as long as you are working effectively no-one is likely to enforce anything. Lunch is usually between 13.00 and 14.00 pm.


Parking is not too difficult around KB. You are allowed to park on the main roads around the university. Watch out for yellow lines. Don't park on a single yellow line. These are only okay after 6 p.m. and on weekends. Always stay away from double yellow lines. There are several car parks on the university grounds around KB. For these you need a university permit. If you want to apply for one get in touch with the University Transport Office (transport@ed.ac.uk / ext. 502086).

Payments: Expenses

If you have been offered reimbursement for expenses you will be asked to fill out a University expense claim form and sign it. You can claim your expenses either in British currency or foreign currency. It takes 2 - 3 weeks to have your claim processed. The procedure of claiming other expenses, e.g. travel during your stay at LFCS or conference attendance fees, is similar.

Travel and conference fees can be charged directly to your project or to LFCS. To arrange for this please see somebody from the admin team. Research Fellows and students need permission from their supervisor/project heads or director of the IGS prior to booking travel.

Payments: Salary

Salaries are normally paid at the end of the month into your bank account. You will receive a pay slip detailing the deductions which have been made from your salary. If you arrive from abroad and wish to have an advance on your first salary to cover your initial expenses please contact us. In order to receive your salary, you should have a bank account (see Banks), a signed contract (see Contracts) and returned the contract and various tax forms to the Salaries Office at 9-16 Chambers Street.

There are three kinds of deduction made from your salary before payment. These are income tax, national insurance and superannuation (pension). Income tax is currently payable at 25% of all income after deduction of certain allowances. If this taxable income is above a certain threshold the tax rate increases to 40%. (UK academic salaries are such that few have to consider this!) The best authority on tax within the University is Irene Patterson in the Payroll Office (Irene.Patterson@ed.ac.uk / ext. 502274), but the final arbiter is your local tax inspector whom you may wish to contact. The address is Inland Revenue, 30 Semple Street, Edinburgh.

National insurance is just another form of tax (ostensibly to pay for the national health service and state pensions). This is payable at 8.4% or 10.2% depending on whether you are paying superannuation or not.

You must have a National Insurance Number, by which various government agencies and the salaries office will refer to you. You must apply for a number, if you do not already have one. Do this early in your stay to avoid delays, since it takes about seven weeks to issue the number. To apply for a National Insurance Number call 0845 600 0643 (between 8.00 am and 6.00 pm; Monday to Friday). When you receive it, please inform the Payroll Office (ext. 502270).

Superannuation is a complicated issue, but basically if you are planning to stay here for 3 or more years you should pay this. The current rate is 8.4%. If you are staying for a shorter period of time, then you can opt out of this scheme and this will give you more cash in hand on a month by month basis, although you will pay the higher N.I. rate. The Pensions Office (ext. 509657) will provide definitive information. One can withdraw from the scheme and recover one's payments (plus a small amount of interest) up to two years after joining. Any contributions made after this period of two years will go towards a pension that matures at 60 (female) or 65 (male). These payments can often be transferred to another pension scheme in a new place of work.

Police: see Checklist

Printers *

In 1619 and 2419 you will find the main departmental laser printers (JC3 and JC2), connected to the general computing facilities. There are colour printers in room 1415 (JC4C) and in 1619 (JC6C). All these printers are postscript devices.


There are a number of series of internal publications. These include:

Technical notes: These are informal notes describing local computer systems, most written in-house. They are part of a general selection of systems support documentation.

LFCS Reports: Research reports, preprints, and expository notes written by members of the Laboratory. Since January 2000, new publications in this series have appeared as LFCS reports in the Division of Informatics Report series.

Informatics Reports: Research reports and preprints published by the Division. To submit a report of your own, please follow the submission guidelines. If you are unsure about expected standards for publication ask someone in your area who has published already. For technical assistance with formatting and electronic submission, please contact the postgraduate assistant for reports, currently Lennart Beringer.

Doctoral Theses: These are the finished versions of Edinburgh Ph.D.s, and appear in the LFCS report series. Many are available electronically; printed and bound copies cost about £8. 

Printed copies of LFCS reports (green) and theses (yellow) are available in room 1417. Most reports are free; for those requiring payment, please see Marije Vugts.


Please feel free to approach any of the LFCS staff with questions. They will be happy to help you. For questions about the computer systems use the news system and send a question to eduni.dcs.questions. It will usually be answered within an hour or so.

Recreational facilities

The King's Buildings Union has sporting facilities (squash, fitness room, badminton and is a good base for lunchtime running). Membership is about £15 p.a. If you want to go swimming try the Commonwealth Pool in Dalkeith Road. The University's main sports centre is in the Pleasance.

Repairs and maintenance *

Please report any computer or printer problems to support.

Please report any problems which might endanger the safety of the building and other people to Mr. D. Hamilton.


There are no restaurants around the King's Buildings area. However, the choice of good restaurants in town is quite impressive. Ethnic restaurants (e.g. Chinese and Indian) are usually good and inexpensive. French cuisine tends to be a bit on the expensive side. But why don't you just ask people for their preferences.


All new arrivals should read the schools Health and Safety Information. After reading it please sign the form in the Health & Safety pack given to you on your arrival, and return it to the Enquiries Office (2503).

Do not place liquids on tables with computer equipment. It can be a costly and dangerous error. Please be sure to keep computer cables, extension cords, and phone wires out of the office traffic patterns.

Salary: see Payments

Secretarial Support *

If you need some secretarial assistance please contact Margaret Davis (505132) in the first instance.


There have occasionally been problems with theft. We recommend that you keep your office closed when you are not in your office and locked if you leave it for longer periods of time. Personal possessions are not insured under any University policy.


The University has an absolute no smoking policy.


Stationery and other office supplies are available from the Enquiries Office (room 2503).


On your arrival at the airport or the station you will find a taxi stand. If there aren't any just wait.

If you are in town you use one of the typical black (in most cases) taxis. You can just hail them in the street or order them to pick you up.

Capital Cabs: 0131-220 0404

Central Radio Taxis: 0131-229 2468

City Cabs: 0131-228 1211

You might want to consider giving the driver a tip (5-10% of the fare).

Telephones *

In order to contact someone within the university just dial the extension. For local telephone calls dial 9 first and then the number you want. Some phones may also may long distance and overseas calls directly. On other phones calls the operator by dialling 0, then state the number you want and you will be connected.

For contacting the University from outside you should dial: 0131-650-1000 and ask for the name of the person you require. If you have the person's extension number you can dial this number direct, by dialling 0131-6+extension number. The enquiries number in the Department is 0131-650-5128, which is linked to a voicemail service out of office hours.

Private calls can be made by dialling *46 followed by the number required. You will be invoiced periodically for calls made. If you share an office contact one of the secretaries for a special private code.

Please note that external calls are logged, and the department is invoiced monthly.


If you are being paid by the University, or are a research student you may want to join the Association of University Teachers.

Visitor Comments

If you have suggestions for materials which you would like to see included in our User's Guide, or comments on those available, please talk to Dyane Goodchild. We are always trying to improve and update our information to help make your period with us more pleasant.