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post #1 of 11 Old 02-20-2006, 10:20 AM Thread Starter
 
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IT school lab support poll

!!

Hey everyone... I'm hoping that some of you out there can provide me with some feedback about how your school (as a student or staff member) handle(s/d) the support of their computer lab workstations. I'm most interested in how they handled reporting & notification that a workstation has a problem.

I work in a private university with 3 dedicated computer labs with about 160 computers in total. We currently use a reporting clipboard that is posted in each lab, where the student or faculty member is to note a description of the problem and the ID of the workstation. If the problem is severe (student is unable to use another free workstation, etc) then the student/faculty is to report it directly to IT for immediate attention.

We check this clipboard 1-2 times a day, but lately it's been very empty and we've found that people just aren't reporting the troubles. Over time we end up having to work after hours to repair 30-50% of the machines in the lab, the majority with simple problems (unplugged cables, reset BIOS boot order, running out of free disk space, etc).

So... I'm currently polling people anywhere I can catch them, what methods have you seen done in a school environment for reporting computer problems in the labs?
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-20-2006, 11:42 AM
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

What are your main things that you are trying to accomplish?

Making sure that the PC's are on? Verifying services? Hard Drive space? There is many different approaches you can use. Give me a list from most important to least and I will get back with you on some remedies. Also if you are currently running and management software.

Dustin
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-20-2006, 1:14 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

We're not looking for software or methods for verifying if PC's are on, what we really need is a problem reporting mechanism that is very simple and user friendly. The majority of problems we have are 20 second fixers (plug in cables, reset boot order, etc), which are usually caused by the nature of our courses (students have privileges that allow for software manipulation and BIOS tinkering).

Currently our clipboard system doesn't work, and sometimes we even have the clipboards stolen (good grief)... Just hoping others may have some insight into methods used in other institutions for getting students to communicate problems somehow...
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post #4 of 11 Old 02-20-2006, 5:10 PM
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

Every solution I can think of would only work if the users cooperated and didn't try to bust the system.

If your users are so callous that they will steal your clipboards or ignore problems they are supposed to report (so they can actually continue to work), the only solution I can think of is a good a$$ whoopin' . . .
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-20-2006, 6:33 PM
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

Exactly. The problem is that it's an IT school lab. Therefore you have a bunch of students that already know everything and want to bust the system.
You're never going to have a really good solution.
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post #6 of 11 Old 02-20-2006, 6:42 PM
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

The only thing I can think of is that if you have a set of standardized machines, you could set up some kind of imaging system that powered on all the machines in the middle of the night using WoL and then blasted down a clean image. This would fix any software problems, and I suppose you could set up the system to report on any machines that did not
check in for their nightly brainwashing, and you could go investigate. The real advantage there is that each morning you have clean machines without any of the crap that students have maliciously loaded the day before.

Of course, that doesn't help you if someone unplugged a mouse cable or something. Abtech is right in that the key is if the users don't want to use the system, you are kind of screwed no matter what.
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post #7 of 11 Old 02-21-2006, 7:44 PM
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

The easiest solution might be is to set up an e-mail address or voicemail the users could be able report problems to.
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-21-2006, 8:22 PM
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

Quote:
Originally Posted by klayman
!!

Hey everyone... I'm hoping that some of you out there can provide me with some feedback about how your school (as a student or staff member) handle(s/d) the support of their computer lab workstations. I'm most interested in how they handled reporting & notification that a workstation has a problem.

I work in a private university with 3 dedicated computer labs with about 160 computers in total. We currently use a reporting clipboard that is posted in each lab, where the student or faculty member is to note a description of the problem and the ID of the workstation. If the problem is severe (student is unable to use another free workstation, etc) then the student/faculty is to report it directly to IT for immediate attention.

We check this clipboard 1-2 times a day, but lately it's been very empty and we've found that people just aren't reporting the troubles. Over time we end up having to work after hours to repair 30-50% of the machines in the lab, the majority with simple problems (unplugged cables, reset BIOS boot order, running out of free disk space, etc).

So... I'm currently polling people anywhere I can catch them, what methods have you seen done in a school environment for reporting computer problems in the labs?
Hi, the only thing that I think of is an helpdesk that could be set up by IT students. It could be helpful to the others and IT students could practice what they have learned so far. You could have a specific extension phone number or email address where technicians could be reached.
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-21-2006, 11:23 PM
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

Quote:
Originally Posted by navydevildoc
The only thing I can think of is that if you have a set of standardized machines, you could set up some kind of imaging system that powered on all the machines in the middle of the night using WoL and then blasted down a clean image. This would fix any software problems, and I suppose you could set up the system to report on any machines that did not
check in for their nightly brainwashing, and you could go investigate. The real advantage there is that each morning you have clean machines without any of the crap that students have maliciously loaded the day before.
We have a winner. GFI (Great F*!ckin Idea). I wish I could re-image the accounting database every night for a few of my clients . . .
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-24-2006, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

(Man it took me a while to get back to this thread, oops!)

Thanks for the ideas and input... We actually do have an imaging system which is similar to Ghost, but is called Rembo (http://www.rembo.com/). I picked this years ago as it gives you much more control and scripting ability, acting as a full blown PXE/network based pre-boot OS.

Unfortunately we can't easily re-image each machine on a nightly/weekly basis (this system has a "repair" mode that restores a partition to the image spec without doing a full re-image) for a few reasons:

- The master images have been "sysprepped" to ensure domain functionality and unique naming/SID's, so each day they would have to run through this to reconfigure & re-join the network. This would cause a student riot...
- Although each lab has supposed identical PC's, a handful in each room typically have problems locating the network cards or video drivers (even though they are already installed) and need a bit of coaxing.

I've built my proposal and have a multi-level solution, we'll see what the management and council has to say...

1) Relocate IT staff to an office space right beside the labs... Either one of both of us. If we are more visible the hopefully some will be less reluctant to talk to us.

2) Build trouble report kiosks. Replace the clipboard with a monitor & keyboard/mouse (reporting PC to be locked in a rack cabinet) that presents a simple map of the room. Student clicks on broken PC and types in the problem, which is immediately emailed to myself and my IT support guy.

Once this is in place I plan on adding a "history" to it, that will track reports & the fixes we do so that we easily know if there is a machine that is frequently causing issues. Any "out of order" machines will get that marked on their screens automatically by our Rembo imaging system, so when a student fires up a PC they will see this and will not be given an opportunity to boot the computer.

3) Increase semi-manual system checks. I plan on creating a small image server script that will check for core windows files & hard drive space on a computer when it is loaded. During a "free lab" hour we can close the room to run this script, which would also allow us to locate any boot up problems, disconnected network cables or missing/non-functional mice.

?
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post #11 of 11 Old 02-24-2006, 11:10 AM
 
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Re: IT school lab support poll

Get an intern and give him a daily/weekly checklist.
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