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What they say, and what they mean

They say: “I don’t think anyone really understands how this is going to work.”
They mean: “I don’t understand how this works.”

They say: “A boy in my class was looking at naked girls on one of the computers.”
They mean: “I typed ‘naked girls’ into Google and the filter caught it, so I need a cover story in case the technician looks into it.”

They say “If you can help me out with this, I will be eternally grateful.”
They mean: “I will be grateful for about ten minutes.”

They say: “I’m trying to crop this picture but it isn’t working.”
They mean: “I have absolutely no idea how to crop pictures that aren’t on my phone.”

They say: “I’m concerned about what other people think about this.”
They mean: “I don’t like this.”

They say: “None of my class are getting sound out of their headphones.”
They mean: “Two of my class are not getting sound, I haven’t checked the others.”

They say: “I think we might find the laptop keyboard a bit small.”
They mean: “I want a more expensive laptop with a bigger screen.”

Doesn’t even need a plug on it any more…

It’s a common complaint in school IT support departments that they are treated as general dogs-bodies there to help with any electrical appliance at all. VCRs, kettles, microwaves, desk lamps… the saying goes that “if it has a plug on it, it must be IT”.

Today set a new low for that sentiment, when I was asked to supply new AA batteries for an electric pencil sharpener.


This afternoon I watched a pupil Alt+Tab between Google and Paint while he painstakingly redrew by hand a logo he had found on Google Images.

Either he’s never heard of copy & paste, or he’s taking respect for copyrighted images incredibly seriously.

Not Very Good

It’s quite commonly accepted that being able to use a computer is an important part of many professional jobs these days, including being a teacher at a modern school.

It’s certainly important at our school.

So when you walk in to your first day’s IT induction and declare “I’m not very good with computers,” you’re basically walking in on your first day and proclaiming to your new employer “I’m not very good at an important part of the job you’ve hired me for.”

Do not be surprised if this adversely affects my opinion of you.

Some thoughts on the Start button

Windows 8.1 Start Button

Windows 8.1 has arrived, and with it we herald the triumphant return of the Start button. My response to the complaints over its absence in Windows 8 was simply “press the one on the keyboard”, but as I pondered how that response has gone down with users over the last year, I came to a realisation.

There are 3 basic types of computer users:

  1. Those who never noticed that almost every keyboard they have used for at least the last 10 years has a Windows key on it.
  2. Those who have wondered for 10 years what that key on the keyboard does.
  3. Those who pressed it 10 years ago and found out.

Dear School Trip Leader

When I tell you not to copy photos of children from the residential trip onto your personal laptop, it’s not just because there is a school policy forbidding it.

It’s not just to protect you from unwarranted accusations of impropriety regarding the photos of children you are storing.

And it’s not just because it’s a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

It’s also because your personal computer is a MacBook, and every time I have to spend an hour unpicking the vague error messages that iPhoto spits out when trying to export those photos, it makes me want to smash that MacBook over your head repeatedly.

Love and kisses,

Speaker Trouble

A few weeks ago while installing replacement workstations, I came across a ‘pair’ of speakers that didn’t work properly. The ‘pair’ were in fact two completely different speakers that happened to have compatible interconnects. They needed a 15V power supply, but had a 9V one. The 9V power supply plug was held in with blue-tack because it didn’t fit properly.

Nobody had ever reported this problem.


According to my collection of Minidump logs, there have been 257 Blue Screens of Death across our entire computer estate since Jan 2011.

Staff have reported the problem exactly 1 time.

Top tip for your interview as a Teacher

Here’s a little piece of advice when going to your interview for a teaching position: if you’re going to bring digital resources with you (such as a PowerPoint to support your lesson), don’t bring them on a USB stick that also contains the following:

  • 50+ MP3s of clearly dubious provenance.
  • Fake antivirus malware (that attempts to autorun, naturally).
  • Folders named Sexy, Porn, and xxx

If you do, virus victim or not, I will end up dumping a list of these files to the Terminal when I plug your USB stick into my Ubuntu laptop to rescue the PowerPoint file you need, and I will have a bloody good laugh about it with some colleagues later.

The Consumerised Future

For those of you wondering how school IT will work when the consumerisation of IT is complete, and us IT technicians are surplus to requirements, I got a glimpse of it today.

If you’re familiar with Edmodo, you will already be aware that even when the school has a domain setup for the site, pupils have to create their own accounts and join the school domain using a group code. This means that accounts generally get created in lessons with a class teacher, because the teachers manage their own groups and codes.

For proponents, this is the embodiment of consumerisation in action. The teacher does everything they need to (in the “Cloud”, no less) without any help from an administrator.

And for the most part, it works fine.

Then sometimes, you get an email from a teacher asking when a pupil’s Edmodo account is going to be created, because they’ve been having to email his assignments to him separately for the last four months.

Four months.