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While diagnosing a sound problem in one of our classrooms, the teacher mentioned to me that her computer (less than a year old) was “a bit slow sometimes”.

When I checked it, she had 39 PowerPoints, 61 Word documents, and 28 browser tabs open.

How to confuse your cover teachers

I recently installed these into the languages classrooms of our school:

Dell KB212-B QuietKey AZERTY Keyboard

This makes it a lot easier to produce accents, cédilles, and other diacritics. Our languages teachers, who are both French, love them.

The cover teachers… not so much.

The Case of the Disappearing Start Menu

I was summoned urgently to one of the admin offices to deal with a mysterious problem – every time the user clicked on a menu, it would open, then immediately vanish again.

I walked in, and lo and behold, she could demonstrate the problem perfectly.

“Look, I can click on Start, and it pops up for a second, then disappears! I can’t do any work!”

Restraining myself from commenting on how giddy she must be at actually having an excuse to be in her normal state of ‘not doing any work’, I quickly ascertained the cause of the problem. Leaning over the bomb site that passes for a desk in these parts, I gingerly lifted the pile of class registers off of the top-left corner of the keyboard, releasing the Esc key that was being held down and cancelling out of every menu.

If only they were all that easy…

How many teachers does it take to turn on a projector?

Question: How many teachers does it take to turn on a projector?

Answer: Three.

  • One to claim it’s broken when they try to get their presentation working 2 minutes after assembly starts,
  • one to send a student to fetch the technician, and
  • one to tell the technician that they’ve now found the remote as soon as he arrives.

No regrets

This morning I was wondering whether to take pity on a student who currently has a computer ban for printing out filth in one of the IT labs last week (he claims somebody else used his account, naturally).

Then I discovered that one of our hall projector computers needs a rebuild after someone unplugged the power while it was halfway through updates on Friday afternoon, and that 2 of our senior lab machines wouldn’t log in because some helpful little turd had pulled the network cables out.

Now I’m wondering whether some way of setting offenders on fire when they log in would be considered unreasonable.

How to make an 80mm CD disappear

Recently I was informed that the DVD drive in our geography teacher’s computer had stopped working. Specifically, it had stopped reading DVDs and started making horrible clunking noises whenever a disc was inserted.

Our geography teacher is quite technology friendly, a trait I’ve noticed in a disproportionate number of geography teachers, so I had no reason to doubt him; even less so once I’d heard the noise for myself.

Assuming mechanical failure, I dutifully swapped the drive with that from the identical computer in the next room, confirming that the problem followed the drive in order to expedite the replacement process with Dell. It still made the horrible noise, but when opened the tray to confirm it still wouldn’t read a disc, this is what I saw:

Yes, this DVD drive had an acute case of “That Shouldn’t Be There”.

Read More…

Overheard on the site radio

Our school has a large site, so the grounds staff use licensed walkie-talkies to keep in touch. The IT office has one of these radios so we can be kept in the loop, which is particularly important during the holidays. On occasion, the overheard conversations can be hilarious:

Facilities: “Guys, we’ve had a problem reported, there’s a blockage in the visitor’s toilets, could someone take a look?”

Caretaker: “Yeah, no problem, I’ll stick my head in next time I’m passing”.

Facilities: “I wouldn’t stick your head in, I’d use drain rods if I were you.”

Glad I Could Help

The office phone rings.


“Hi, I’m in the IT lab and I’ve got the projector on, but it says ‘no signal’, is there something I need to do on the computer?”

“Look to your right. What do you see?”

“The wall?”

“And on the wall?”

“There’s a bit of paper that says How to switch the computer onto the proj… oh. Right. Oops.”

“Glad I could help.”

Why you don’t want to link your work email to Facebook

One of the more interesting new features that was introduced in Outlook 2010 was the Outlook Social Connector. For those of you who haven’t used Outlook 2010, it’s basically it’s a small window below the reading pane that collates information about all the people involved in the selected email conversation. As well as mining your Outlook folders for related messages, calendar items, etc., it can also pull in updates from social networks.

If you install the addin that lets it link to Facebook, you’ll see Facebook updates for those people you are friends with on Facebook. Thing is, it will also look up information even for people you aren’t friends with.

Normally you can’t search just by email address on Facebook, but the Outlook Social Connector does just that. It won’t show you anything that you couldn’t see anyway if you found that person on Facebook manually, but it does find them for you, seamlessly, just based on the email address. So if you have your work email registered on your personal Facebook account, your sexually suggestive profile picture will show up at the bottom of the reading pane when you send me an email:

I went and checked this profile on Facebook (purely in the name of research for this article) and can confirm that the profile did not have the person’s email address publicly visible. However, many of this person’s photos were set to public, and the photo album that had a blow-up doll as the album cover did not encourage me to investigate any further. Nor did it encourage me to do business with the person who had emailed me.

Needless to say, our staff AUP has a strong recommendation to refrain from adding a school email address to Facebook.

Easiest. Install. EVER.

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:

  1. To check that the software actually works on a domain with a non-admin logon.
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. 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.


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