“We’ve plugged the laptop in,” came the call from the exam room, “but it’s not letting us log in… we think there might be something wrong with the network port though…”
Normally I try to discourage too much technical self-diagnosis from my users, but in this case, they were not wrong. See if you can determine what’s the problem is with this network port though a simple observational test:
Answer: click here.
Now, I’ve tried to replicate this ‘fault’ through normal use, and it’s not easy. The question is which little snotbag managed to do this in a room that is normally only used under exam conditions…
Last term I designed a system to check the room bookings schedule and issue WoL commands to the IT labs so that they automatically turn on in time for classes when they arrive.
This week, I discovered that this system, a system designed for the express purpose of making teachers’ lives easier, has been faulty for the last 3 weeks.
I only was informed there was a problem on the first day of inspection, after a teacher mentioned how inconvenient it would be having to waste time at the start of a lesson that was being inspected.
It’s times like this that I wonder why I bother.
In general, staff have no concept of the fact that making their ‘own copy’ of files that are kept on shared drives is a total waste of space. It’s why they will quite happily send large attachments to a huge mailing list. Why they will happily keep hundreds of poorly focused photos they took on their personal ageing and decrepit camera (even though the department has a brand new one supplied by the school). And, like all the waste printing, it certainly never occurs to them that the money spent on additional storage is ultimately taking money away from a child’s education.
That’s why I love Single Instance Storage.
I ran an analysis on our main storage server today. There are a total of 193,306 duplicate files. By using SIS to eliminate the additional storage requirements of these duplicates, I have so far saved 87.5GB of space. This is approximately 7% of all the user data on that server.
If you’re not using SIS – think about it.
If an otherwise perfectly capable user has decided that they can’t solve a problem themselves, and that you can solve it, it is utterly impossible for you to persuade them otherwise. Any attempt to do so will only convince them that you are work-shy and purposefully making things difficult for them. And you will not hear the last of it until you, personally, have made their problem go away.
The best you can make of this situation is to simply get on with it, and hope whatever they find to whinge about next time has nothing to do with you.
It’s been more than 18 months since I took over from my predecessor (let’s call him Bob), yet I still have the following conversation with different members of staff about once a month:
“…so just pop over to my office when you have time.”
“Where’s your office?”
“Upstairs in the science block.”
“Do you know where Bob’s old office is?”
“Funnily enough, it’s the same office.”
* Usually, this is someone who has worked at the school for about 10 years. The building even has its name on the side of it.
A traditional bane of school network administrators is trying to enforce standards for password complexity.
Staff have access to all manner of confidential information on pupils and their families, so should be using strong passwords, but the normal method of enforcing password complexity on a standard Windows network applies the same rules to every user on the domain. It’s all very well to insist that staff have passwords 6 characters long with a mixture of uppercase, lowercase, and numbers. Try that with your average five year-olds, and it will take the class half an hour to log on every lesson.
User education and good old-fashioned people management can play a big role here, but for whatever reason, there are always some people who can’t be bothered to follow school policy. The only way to get 100% compliance is with a technological solution – it’s just been a pain in the backside in the past.
That changed in Windows Server 2008, which brought with it a feature called Fine-Grained Password Policy. This allows you to define password policies that only apply to individual users (or groups of users). Unfortunately, even in Server 2008 R2, there is no simple UI to configure this – the only method using in-box tools is hideously complicated.
Enter Specops Password Policy Basic.
To any school bullies:
Contrary to what you may believe, the school CAN and WILL intervene in cyberbullying that takes place outside of school – just like any other kind of bullying. The law is behind us on this, so get used to it.
P.S. Your mates don’t really think it’s big or clever either, and are telling us exactly what you’re up to, so we will catch you.
To anyone being bullied:
Contrary to what the bullies would have you believe, the school CAN and WILL intervene in cyberbullying that takes place outside of school – just like any other kind of bullying. Tell your teacher. Tell any other member of staff. Get help from CEOP. They all know what to do and who you should go to.
Any school that is not prepared for the above would fail an Ofsted inspection, and is already failing its pupils. My school is not one of them.
While reviewing my Lansweeper reports today after installing the latest update, I discovered that the computer connected to the projector in one of our classrooms has not had a single user logon since May.
You know, that month that was half a year ago?
I know we’ve had the summer break in between, but that sort of under-use is just offensive. I immediately removed its printer (along with the 5 reams of paper sitting next to it), and swapped the SMART Board with one that has been playing up in another (much more utilised) classroom.
I’ll let you know if and when someone complains about either of these things. Don’t hold your breath.
Changing your fellow students’ desktop background to My Little Pony without their knowledge is only amusing in exactly one circumstance.
That circumstance is “when I do it.” *
If you decide to ‘borrow’ their password, log on in the Library when no-ones looking, and muck around with their account, that is what people in the real world like to call “an offence under section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990″.
(And while you’re here, enough with the Wikipedia vandalism already.)
Love and kisses,
* as a friendly reminder when they forget to log off.
Years ago, I was asked by a friend (let’s call him Bob) to take a look at a malfunctioning floppy disk. It wasn’t a life-or-death case of lost data, but Bob was nonetheless confused as to why it had suddenly failed. I popped the disk into Bob’s brand new Windows 95 machine and ran chkdsk. It failed, complaining the disk had bad blocks.
“How does that happen?” asked Bob.
“Well,” I replied, “sometimes grit gets inside the disk and causes small scratches on the disk surface as it turns.” I popped the disk out and slid the shutter open with my finger to demonstrate. “Watch carefully as I turn it and we’ll probably see a small scratch in there…”
I twisted the centre hub of the disk, and as the disk slowly turned, we both peered inside looking for the tell-tale circular scratch on the surface of the disk.
At that moment, some biscuit crumbs fell out. From inside the disk.
They appeared to be… digestives.
“Bob,” I asked, “do you keep this disk in the same pocket of your coat as your morning biscuits?”