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Thursday, February 09, 2006


Computer alarms

I'm in a class on a computer lab on the 9th floor of the Hall building right now. The computer next to mine is putting up a real racket. Sounds like the hard drive, though it could be a fan. It doesn't help that the school has removed not only the frontplate, but the front case door as well.

In an attempt to reduce the annoyance, I rotated the PC away from me by about 30 degrees. Apparently this set off some sort of silent anti-sanity alarm, as within a minute or two, two technicians had come to investigate. They chastized me for moving the PC (which I wouldn't have done if the crappy PC wasn't making so much damned noise), and set it back (Unfortunately restoring the annoying noise that rotating the PC had fixed by redirecting it away from me).

That wasn't all, as a few minutes after the left, two security guards came to investigate the alarm. They made a beeline for the PC I had moved, and fiddled with something in the back, apparently trying to turn off the alarm. They left, but came back a few minutes later. After some talk into a walkie-talkier, they apparently shut it off and left.

Why am I writing about this? Well, it simply seems like a pretty insane security measure for a pretty crappy broken computer. An alarm on a worthless broken PC in a computer lab that is protected by a door with a keycode lock accross the hall from the computer lab help desk on the 9th floor of a university building.

Not that the people who run the labs here are very bright. I mean, the boot process is braindead. You turn on the PC, and after an exceedingly long time at the POST screen, you're presented with the Windows boot loader. WinXP or Linux. Fine. You select Linux, and are presented with a SECOND boot loader, this time grub, that has as options, get ready for this, WinXP or Linux. Now, it seems to me like if you've selected Linux from the first boot menu, it is pretty safe to just go ahead and boot linux, rather than asking again. And, of course, if you select WinXP on the second boot loader, it simply sends you back to the first boot loader, where you must select WinXP again.

Somebody also thought it would be a good idea to set Fedora to do software updates over the internet on boot. Yes, I just love waiting five minutes for a PC to boot while it does a slow unabortable software update over the INTERNET. This couldn't have been done during idle time, of course not.

Speaking of idle time, the machines reboot if you don't do anything for 20 minutes. So if you have some work open and go to help somebody on their machine, you may well come back to find that your PC has decided to reboot itself. You'd better have saved.

I'd mention the fact that the mouse speed under Windows is set so high that it is virtually impossible to click anything, but I think you get the point. Considering that the school is blowing hundreds of millions of dollars of OUR money on buildings we are not allowed to use, you'd think they could afford to hire somebody who knows what a computer is, or perhaps keep the computers in working condition. I mean, take the price of the two newest buildings (One of them they can't even build yet due to holdups in city regulations), about $300 million, you could replace the PCs in this lab for $2000 EVERY DAY FOR TEN YEARS.

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