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 😛 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 😛

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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4 Responses to “The Scope of Support”

  1. Matt 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.

  2. Luke Says:

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

    This kinda sucks… 😦

  3. Matt 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.

  4. Luke 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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