mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Monday, September 03, 2007

How to hook your computer up to your campus network...

So, the last couple days I've been spending 8.5 hours answering the phones at the helpdesk of the college I work for. Good for madanthony's wallet, bad for madanthony's sanity.

I've noticed certain things that people do when they call in, that if they would stop doing would get their problems resolved faster, and help keep me from going nuts.

-If your college hands out instructions, then you should probably read them before calling your school's helpdesk. Many schools, including ours, will have a web page with instructions that comes up automatically when you log in. If so, you should read this before you call the helpdesk. If I had a dollar for every conversation that went like the one below, I could put dubs on the Ranger:

caller: I can't get to the internet. I keep getting a message that says I'm blocked.
mad anthony: Do you see a link that says Click Here to scan or to install software?
caller: yes. should I click that?
mad anthony: yes.
caller: oh, that's working.

- before calling the helpdesk, figure out what kind of computer you have. Do you have a mac or a pc? (tip - if there is a giant glowing apple on the back of your laptop, it's probably a mac). If you are using a Windows machine, it's good to know which version of Windows you are running (XP or Vista). If you right-click on my computer and click properties, it will tell you what version of Windows you have.
Things that don't tell me which version of windows you have: the brand or model of computer (dell, ibm, ect), the form factor of the machine (desktop, laptop) or the kind of processor you have (Centrino is not an operating system).

- At our school, we have a few people set up in an office looking at computers. If I spend a few minutes troubleshooting stuff with you and can't get it working, and if it's giving me an error message or behaving in a way I haven't seen, I'm going to ask you to bring it to us. Don't be a dick about how you don't want to have to walk all the way across campus. It's a laptop, it's not designed to be portable, and it's not like you aren't going to walk just as far to get to class every day (or even further at night to get to the local bars). There are a lot of problems where the answer is more obvious when you are seated in front of the machine and can get a better idea of what the computer is doing and what programs are installed.

- Don't ask the person answering the phones if they know what they are doing or if they are sure when they tell you something you don't like. Either they do know what they are talking about, and it makes you seem like a jerk and makes them less eager to help you, or they don't know what they are talking about but aren't going to admit it and still think you are a jerk. Start of school is a hectic time for helpdesks, and they aren't usually set up for the volume of calls they get, which means they often pull people from other functions (desktop support, classroom support, managers, ect) or have students or contractors answering the phones. Be patient with them and polite, and chances are even if they don't know how to fix the problem they will try to find someone who can.

- If you are a parent, and your son/daughter tells you that their internet is broke, don't call the helpdesk from 3 states away with no information and expect us to be able to fix it. Your child is at least 18 years old and pretty much living on their own. If they can figure out all the rest of the aspects of college life, they can figure out how to pick up a phone. It's a great chance for them to learn independence (and experience phone customer service, something they will probably become very familiar with as they grow to adulthood). It's also much easier for us to solve a problem if the person we are talking to is in front of the computer and knows what it's doing or not doing.

- As a geek, I'm familiar with how important the internet is in everyday life, and it's a rare day that I haven't checked my email a few dozen times. Still, humans can survive several days without internet access. So don't tell me how you can't live without it, or that you need it to find out where your classes are. We have a dozen computer labs, several public-access cybercafes, and a number of public wireless hotspots. Even if you can't get online from your room, you can get online somewhere to email mom so she knows you are alive and figure out where that 8am philosophy class that you are going to sleep through is. We'll get it fixed as soon as we can, but we're not going to drop everything and run - there are 2800 other students here.

- Don't yell at me because our software sucks or because you can't run a wireless router or your favorite peer-to-peer app, or because we didn't tell you that you will need to uninstall some obscure program you had installed that 3 people use. I didn't write the software, I didn't write the documentation or set up the network rules. Realize, however, that most schools have the same restrictions, use either the same software we do or similar software, and that we can't anticipate every bug, glitch, or random device with an ethernet port that you will try to run on our network. Also understand that, as much as I hate the communist reek of "this is for your own good", it really is. Before we had any restrictions on our network, there were times where viruses caused us to have to shut down entire residence halls for days because one machine was infected with a virus and was port scanning and trying to infect other machines in the same subnet. The same goes for wireless routers - we've had misconfigured ones acting as dhcp servers and issuing ip addresses, causing other people not to connect. The thing about the real world is there are sometimes certain things you want to do but aren't allowed to, and you have to deal with it. While college isn't the real world, there are some aspects that are similar...

- just because we are tech services, we don't fix everything with a plug. We won't replace your light bulb or your fridge. call facilities for that.


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