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MIS stands for Management Information System, and in schools describes whatever electronic system the school uses to manage its staff and pupil data. As well as basic record keeping, it may also include electronic registration and finance functionality.

School MIS packages are usually bloody awful. The most commonly used one in UK state schools is SIMS, which is a prime example of the previous generalisation.


A fudge is an inelegant or clumsy solution to a problem. Usually a quick fix, will more often than not come back to haunt you if you don’t fix it properly later, and almost always not supported by the manufacturer. The occasional ‘dirty fudge’ or superlative ‘filthy fudge’ are indications of the extremity of the inelegance.

May also be used as a verb:

“The licence activation doesn’t work properly, so I fudged it instead.”

(Not this kind of Fudge)

Mysterious Blue Smoke

As Adam Savage says:

“…when you see the mysterious blue smoke, electronics don’t work any more.”

Curiously, it also smelled like TCP.

IT vs. ICT

These are essentially the same thing. The difference is that the term ICT is now the dominant term in education, but is rarely used outside schools, at least in the UK. Even in education, by the time you reach university level the term IT is much more widely used than ICT.

In the context of my work and this blog, ICT refers to the curriculum subject that is taught up until students leave school at 18. IT refers to the job I do and that is done in industry. I am an IT Network Manager. My teaching colleagues are ICT teachers. This is by no means a universal nomenclature, but it is the one I use.


A brownout is when the mains electrical power voltage drops below normal; similar to a blackout, but instead of the lights going out, they go dim.

When it comes to computers and the effects of a brownout, all bets are off. Depending on the severity and duration of the brownout, and the quality of the computer’s power supply, it may be fine. It may spontaneously reboot itself. It may do anything in between, including memory corruption, application crashes, displaying a BSOD, or causing the printer to start printing MELON MELON MELON *** OUT OF CHEESE *** over and over.


Among the many derisory terms we can safely employ in the presence of students, Donkey is one of my favourites. It was also quite popular amongst the staff in general at my last school, resulting in calls from teachers in IT rooms that would begin “I’ve got some donkey in my class who’s forgotten his password.”


This donkey was a leaving gift from MrsRobinson and her staff. It was “to remind you of all the donkeys you’re leaving behind.”

Donkey does not yet have a name. Suggestions?

The Round File

The ’round file’ is where we file almost all the software install discs that come with new hardware, along with any software we’ve decided is unfit for purpose, or unworthy of us spending any time trying to make it work correctly.

A: Here’s the software install disc for the new printer.

B: Thanks, I’ll just put that in my round file. Read More…


I was recently discussing the nature of bizarre acronyms with Wallace in a local drinking establishment. Our meeting was as a pretence for me wanting some tips from him for an upcoming interview I had, and I was sharing the tale of a former manager who should never have been allowed to name things.

Years ago, before I was working in  schools, I was a junior programmer on a section of a project dealing with aircraft fatigue. As such, all our code modules were prefixed with the letters ‘FAT’. There would then be a two-letter code describing the aircraft type (e.g. ‘HA’ for Harriers), then a ‘C’ to denote that it was a Code module. This was all fine until we came to the Common code module, which under the approved naming system, was assigned the name FAT_COC.

I wonder to this day whether this was the plan all along. A few months before I left, the same manager developed the Fatigue Template Integration Test System. The resulting acronym was also – incredibly – not vetoed by senior managers.

A common misconception about acronyms is what qualifies as one. In fact, they are only acronyms if they are pronounced as a word. If the letters are spelled out in speech, it is not an acronym. Hence, RAM is an acronym, but CPU is not; it is merely an abbreviation.

But, I digress. Wallace clearly decided he needed he needed to go one better, and last week emailed me with news of his latest discovery. He described the phenomenon that some users exhibit when they know there is a server problem, whereby “the user who has deleted shortcuts from the start menu, or jammed twiglets in the paper tray of their printer”, blames the completely unrelated server issue, just because they know it exists.

He named it “Bloody Unjustified Multiple Technical Issue Transferal Syndrome”. The acronym certainly expresses the ridiculous nature of the phenomenon. Anyone care to contribute their own creation in a similar vein?


A system that is tanked is a system rendered largely or completely inoperable, usually as a result of a single action.

Example 1: “Wow, that update we installed completely tanked the machine.”

Example 2: “Yeah, I tried reconfiguring the wireless for AES and it tanked the access point.”


VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing and refers to a family of software which allows us to connect to a remote computer’s screen, keyboard, and mouse, via the network and use the computer as if we were actually sitting in front of it. We also tend to use it as a verb; for example:

“I’ll just VNC into the computer…”

…means that I am going to connect to the computer using VNC in order to operate it remotely.

This is extremely useful not only for carrying out maintenance, but also in view-only mode, since it allows us to watch what the user is doing wrong without having to walk halfway across the school, so we can tell them over the phone what an idiot they are instead of having to do it to their face.