I have a policy that any software purchase by anyone in the school has to be done through the IT department. There are several stated reasons for this:
- To check that the software actually works on a domain with a non-admin logon.
- To check it doesn’t have ridiculous copy protection measures such as having to have the CD in the drive (our lab machines don’t have CD drives).
- To ensure we shop around for the best price (instead of being suckered by a single overpriced supplier who happened to send a mailshot to a teacher).
- To make sure we actually buy the right number of licenses (we’ve all had requests to install single user editions on an entire lab – or more – and refusal often offends).
However, there are also some unofficial reasons. One of these is to make sure we’re not wasting the school’s money on utter junk. Another reason is to prevent the situation we had this week:
- I was passed some new software for install that had just been bought by a department head.
- I looked at the CD case and realised I’d installed software from this manufacturer before so it would probably be nice and easy.
- I looked a bit harder and realised it was in fact the same software I installed before, that we had owned a site licence for since before I worked at the school, and that was installed on the department head’s computer in 2010.
A quick visit to the teacher in question revealed that the software was in fact on the Start Menu under their department folder, and was working just fine.
They had just forgotten it existed, and never actually used it. Still, it made for an easy install.
Following the network outage yesterday, I spent most of today restarting computers for people who didn’t bother reading the message about restarting their computers if they were having problems after the network outage.
The message took up 1/4 of the screen, was on a bright yellow background, and they had to click past it on their way to opening a ticket.
Last term we had a lot of problems with missed deadlines for school reports, which resulted in almost every single form’s reports having to be rerun from our electronic reporting system. This caused a lot of hassle all round, even for me, since at the time the software was up the creek and would take about half an hour per form even when run on the fastest computer in the school.
Guess whose computer is the fastest in the school?
Today, I suggested that for this term’s reports we implement a hard cut-off date for report writing, with the condition that “cut-off date” means “if you miss the date, we will cut your head off”.
I’m not sure the suggestion was well received.
I got a call from the front office today.
“My computer screen’s suddenly gone black and says ‘Entering Power Saving’ mode!”
I pop down expecting to have to plug in a loose VGA cable. Only there isn’t one. Everything seems normal, but the screen is off.
I wiggle the mouse, and the screen comes back on.
“We’re you… using the computer at the time?” I ventured. Like an idiot, I had simply assumed the user’s surprise was down to it happening mid-flow.
“No, I was doing this paperwork…”
It turns out that in the 18 months since I configured Power Management to turn the screen off after 35 minutes, the user had never been sat at the desk long enough without using the computer for it to kick in.
This week, due to a frankly hilarious error in communication, our Headmaster ran our weekly staff meeting in a different venue from normal with half the staff, while our Deputy Head ran our weekly staff meeting in the normal venue with the other half of the staff.
Each half openly wondered where the other half was.
Wired published an interesting article this week about the use of what they call ‘doppelgänger domains’ that collected email sent to misspellings of the domains of a number of large companies. The headline of their report?
The intercepted correspondence included employee usernames and passwords, sensitive security information about the configuration of corporate network architecture that would be useful to hackers, affidavits and other documents related to litigation in which the companies were embroiled, and trade secrets, such as contracts for business transactions.
“Twenty gigs of data is a lot of data in six months of really doing nothing,” said researcher Peter Kim from the Godai Group. “And nobody knows this is happening.”
The best part is that their 120,000-strong haul of misaddressed emails, over 6 months, came from only 30 dummy domains (though probably carefully-chosen ones).
This had never really occurred to me before, but I immediately got to thinking about the bad typists in my own school. I imagine you have at least as many in yours. These are people who routinely share passwords with one another, dismiss Data Protection as nothing but red tape, wouldn’t hesitate to put login details in an email, and have fatter fingers than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
I then checked a few common typos of our school’s domain name. All the ones I picked were registered by typo squatters. I fired off some emails to headmaster@ for each one. 1 bounced. The others disappeared, possibly to a black hole, possibly to a catch-all. The point is, I have no way of knowing.
This is a problem.
If you need some files recovering from the backups, and I ask you which folder they were in, replying with “The Staff drive” is not especially helpful.
There are over 54,000 folders on the Staff drive, in a complex hierarchy that covers every area of the school. I know you only use 3 of those folders, but expecting me to somehow work out which 3 they are is practically expecting clairvoyance.
Love and kisses,
I think I’ve made it clear by now that I don’t approve of wasteful printing. It’s been school policy since before I worked here that any bulk printing goes to a copier, where the per-page cost is much lower. Stop acting so surprised when I actually enforce it.
Every pound we waste on printing is a pound we don’t spend on educating children. That’s why I’ve been logging all your printing for the last 6 months.
So, if you want to chance your luck with a sneaky 30-copy print?
In full-page colour?
And it’s for personal use, not school work?
Hoping I won’t notice it on the logs?
Be my guest.
But if I have to come and change a cartridge halfway through, start praying for help to whatever god you believe in. YOU’RE GOING TO NEED IT.
Love and kisses,
As of today, I have officially added SharePoint as only the second of two Microsoft technologies I want nothing to do with (the other being System Center Configuration Manager), both chiefly on the ground of being far too complicated for their own good.
I have long held the belief that only a sadist would run an on-premises SharePoint server, due to my previous experience with it usually resulting in far more work troubleshooting problems than the actual server was worth to me. I’ve never even run anything more complicated than a single standalone server, and I’ve had to look up more SharePoint error messages than possibly every other Microsoft product I’ve worked with combined.