Tuesday, January 26, 2010

vice squad

Last night at the library, about a half hour before quittin' time, JD (one of our regulars) started shouting about the porn that kept popping up on the computer he was using. JD is deaf and he tends to lose all sense of volume control when he's excited or agitated, which seems to be a lot of the time. To make matters worse, the more wound up he gets, the harder it is to understand him which in turn makes him louder and, well...you can see where this is going. I usually hand him a pen and a piece of paper - it's slower but less frustrating in the long run.

Anyway, a little backstory... the library computers are running IE6, & probably without any virus protection at all. The guy whose job it is to maintain the computers (let's call him Dick. Heh.) seems to believe that rebooting will solve everything. When he's told that a computer seems to be in the midst of a self-destruct sequence his usual response is, "Well, what am I supposed to do about it?" (here's an idea...YOUR JOB.) He also has every single little function password protected so that we librarians aren't able to do anything except hang an "out of order" sign on the monitor.

So anyway, JD is at my desk, shouting and doing what looked like a cross between ASL and a wild pantomime. He was clearly upset. I nod sympathetically, not entirely understanding his rant, but suspecting the pop-up porn had interrupted his online gambling.


Wai said...

Hell, I could do Dick's job! I have a password crack on disc and probably could keep those computers updated and virus free. Plus, I'd get to work in the same library as you!!

Hoozyrdady said...

Passwords = Job Security.

Too many Dicks out there in the IT field...

Michael Schuyler said...

As a retired Systems Librarian who has been through all this, I must apologize for 'Dick.' Someone needs to be an advocate for modern equipment, perhaps a thin client solution, which woild lessen those sorts of problems considerably. Public access computers are always in for the hardest most vile abuse, but there is no excuse for the behavior you describe. Solutions are available that are not costly. Your library must obtain the presence of mind to implement them.

Old NFO said...

Gotta agree with Hooz... Sorry that you have so little support from your system. Hang in there Breda!

Jeff the Baptist said...

Don't worry they all probably have keystroke loggers on them too. If they don't, I suggest you add one in order to copy Dick's passwords down for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how hard it would be to arrange for your library PCs to re-image themselves nightly. Ok, pretty damned difficult with Dick, but technologically probably pretty feasible.

As for gambling, just using IE6 is risky enough never mind actually doing anything.


Ed Rasimus said...

Dunno about how your library is organized, but with 10 years Board of Trustees experience at Pikes Peak Library Dist, I can suggest:

1.) Talk about computer security to the director.
2.) Talk about computer reliability, security, and patron complaint potential to the Board.
3.) Have a counseling session with Dick about the number of highly qualified IT folks out there looking for jobs.
4.) Enter a work order for an upgrade to IE 8 and/or Windows 7.
5.) Budget for a quality collection management software and security package for next year.
6.) Demand password access for all branch librarians with responsibility for their facilities.

And, order ten copies of "Fighter Pilot" which will be released in April for your collection....just kidding about that one.

Tam said...

Thanks to your tales, the thought of touching those keyboards without a head-to-toe hazmat suit squicks me right the heck out. *shudder!*

Tom said...

Just snag one of these and pop it in line the next time someone eventually gets Dick to deign to actually do anything with one of the machines. http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/security/c49f/

Kristopher said...

I'm sure your library can find an out of work geek who can properly maint those machines ... instead of some asshole who's only qualification is owning a screwdriver.

Oh, and I wouldn't re-image them ... I'd load LINUX on them, and have them log off the guest user every hour or so, and then delete the guest account, scrub the files off with DD, and re-create a new guest account.

dfreed said...

Actually I faced this problem at a company where I was in IT and we had public computers.
The solution is Faronics Deep Freeze. I won't link directly to it since you can google it.
- volume pricing gets very cheap
- you can have the machines reboot to a pristine image that is untouched whenever you need it.
- the machines can auto download the latest MS patches from whatever source you want during their scheduled maintenance (internal or ms directly).
Oh, and if you want you can disable the keyboard and mouse during maintenance so the users can't mess with it. :)

How good is it? Give someone the admin password to the box (not deepfreeze, just windows). Let them do anything they want. Launch a dos prompt and start formatting the c drive while windows is running! The system will die badly.
Force the power off. Turn the machine on and watch it boot up as if the person with the admin password had never touched it. No problems, just a clean image with no problems, or history files.
That's right you can format the HD, install a rootkit, whatever. On reboot, it gone. A nice side effect is that windows never slows down due to cruft buildup.
It's used a lot in school labs. That should tell you a thing or to about how good they are. :)