The Scope of Support

One of the students approached me yesterday after class, and asked me to take a look at his laptop. He had some major issues with it and wanted some advice. I find it funny how people always assume that if you are computer scientist, you must also be a “computer guy” and a tech support wizard. In my case this assumption is true, but I know allot of people that were brilliant programmers but could not take care of their computer if their life depended on it. Hell, I don’t consider myself a “hardware guy” either. Whenever I need to buy a part I just call Marinos and ask him what is good out there and where can I get the best price. But that’s a topic for a whole other rant.

First thing I wanted to do when the student approached me is to suggest contacting helpdesk. I really don’t have time to fix computers for my students – and I’m not getting paid to do it. However, I’m always willing to take a look and give advice if they need it.

I was shocked to find out that OIT Helpdesk turned him down saying that there was nothing they could do… So I decided I check out the machine. The laptop had a classic BSOD on boot-up issue. When your computer consistently BSOD’s while booting, even in safe mode, you probably have probably a corrupted registry hive.

Windows registry is funky, and when it gets trashed it usually takes down the whole system. You can of course try to copy some system files from the installation CD hoping that you will restore it to a usable state. But I have never, ever seen that working. Essentially the best course of action in this type of problems is, recover data and reinstall the OS.

Is this stuff out of scope for helpdesk? I really don’t know. I sent them an email describing the issue and asking for advice. Let’s see if they respond.

It’s not like this is a complicated process. All they need to do is to grab a 2.5″ enclosure and extract the students’ data. Either that or use Knoppix to burn his stuff to CD’s/DVD’s. Or walk him through a parallel install of windows… This is really not rocket science. Especially that last step seems to be reasonable.

All this poor guy wants is to get his iTunes music,and his homeworks out of there :P Of course there might be an issue with the DRM and transferring songs between computers… But once again – this is a topic for a whole new rant.

Isn’t this the type of stuff we have the helpdesk for though? Helping students to fix their machines when they break, and help them recover homeworks when the machines die? Maybe I’m wrong here…

Ill update this post when I get a response form the helpdesk… Let’s see if I end up being quoted at Giant Robots for this one :P

Update Fri Mar 3 13:57:26 EST 2006

Yes, this seems to be out of scope for the helpdesk. Korun who works for OIT says that they are only supporting faculty, and only with computers that are MSU property.

If you ask me, this kinda sucks… We should really have some tech support for students on campus. I saw people doing the “Virus Clinic” thing in SC several times… I think we should have something like that running all the time somewhere extend the services they offer to stuff like data recovery, and OS reinstallation assistance.

Update Fri Mar 3 15:21:29 EST 2006

Here is the official response from the helpdesk:

Thank you for contacting the Technology Solutions Center about your student’s computer problem. At this time, the TSC cannot assist this student further. The Technology Solutions Center can only provide limited technical support to students on the following three issues:

1-Virus Removal
2-Spyware Removal
3-Campus Network connectivity

It is suggested that the student contact their computer manufacturer for further support. Again thank you for contacting the TSC.

So there you have it… Case closed :( I suspect that there is a reason why they only offer such limited support. Maye they don’t want to be liable for loosing student data, voiding their warranties, or breaching wierd manufacturer EULAS. Eh…

Update Tue Mar 7 09:53:09 EST 2006

I talked to the student yesterday. I’m happy to report that a Knoppix CD that I gave him allowed his more computer literate firend to save all his data to an external drive. Then they reformated, and as of yesterday he is back in business.

I’m telling you – knoppix saves lives! Always have a Knoppix CD’s on you!

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8 Responses to The Scope of Support

  1. Matt UNITED STATES says:

    The helpdesk can only help MSU staff and faculty with registered MSU hardware (With asset tags and such) we really arent allowed to touch students computers unless they schedule a virus scan or something.

    I thought the same thing when i first started, its kinda bogus that we have an IT dept. that can’t touch student computers, but really the students’s problems are the minority of all the issues we handle.

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  2. Luke UNITED STATES says:

    Oh, I didn’t know that… I guess here is my answer…

    This kinda sucks… :(

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  3. Matt UNITED STATES says:

    The virus clinic runs all year round. when you saw it in the SC it was a temorary walk-in service due to the high demand. if students need a virus scan now, they can call the helpdesk and schedule an appt. But the student you have sounds a bit more serious lol.

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  4. Luke UNITED STATES says:

    Thank’s for the comments. I just got the official response too.

    I think they should extend the services provided to students… But then again, what do I know…

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  5. Hey!! whats up Luke, i was searching on my name to find an old post i have put up in your site long ago that had my synthesizer site
    Synthworld Synthesizer Reviews which had a backlink to my site (which right now is not backlinking). And it seems that this just 1 link from your site had my “Synthesizer Reviews” site in page three of google.com without me doing any SEO optimization or promoting this site at all. (i have noticed that around 1 year ago).

    Right now is on page 7 and i cannot see anymore the backlink so i was wondering if you used in the HTML tags or just removed some older posts. Please let me know because if this is the case it means that a high quality backlink from a PAGERANK 3 site like yours is worth more than 100 of cheap PR1 backlinks from crappy sites!

    And mentioning my name in the above post, i think you mean me! lol :) Well if you are interested to know in what new things i have purchased or plan to buy just send me an e-mail and ill explain whats hot out there right now :P.

    Hint: i7-920 (best value for money if you overclock from 2.66ghz to 4.00ghz with just a decent aircooler) + ATI/AMD Eyfinity technology will be really COOL stuff to have if you also have around 6 X 30″ 2560X1600 resolution monitors. (i already have 3 of those but i dont think i can afford 3 more at the moment)

    By the way the reason i am asking about this backlink is because currently as a side job (except from my bank) i am doing SEO optimization for some UK companies that Rent Villas here in Cyprus and i am trying to get them to the first page. So far i am doing good, but there is more work to be done and i need to figure out more efficient ways to do things. (i outsourced some of the work to India and so far i am really amazed with their performance)

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  6. Small Correction above:

    so i was wondering if you have used NOFOLLOW in the HTML tags

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Marinos Michael:

    Hey, I just found this comment. Should have sent me an email – I sometimes fail to check out these comments on old posts.

    Yes, nofollow is in effect. BUT, I put synthworld in my blogroll on the sidebar so that should help. :)

    I think what probably happened is that when I updated the Kubrick theme the comments on WordPress “pages” got hidden and I just never got around to re-enabling them because that involved hacking the theme again. :P

    Anyways, hopefully I’m sending some Google juice your way. Let me know if it helped.

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  8. Yes it already has helped thx!!! i did some other tricks as well!! Now i am in 2nd page of google 1st result, if you search “Synthesizer Reviews”.
    This confirms that high PR sites can be much more important if they link to you than many low PR sites.
    By the way when did you put (what date exactly) my site in the blogroll in sidebar, i wanna see how long it took to affect my results.

    What news about you? everything well back in US?

    p.s.: i build a new PC i7 wtih Windows 7 and it flies!! no graphics card on it yet but i am planning to get the ATI/AMD Eyefinity cards when the leader card hits the market.

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