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  #31   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 11-17-2005, 10:27 AM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Flowerday
I guess it's easy to say that the IT staff is "incompetent" and the policies are "draconian" when you're not the one who is responsible for keeping 100s or 1000s of laptops up and running with a whole bunch of students who think they know a thing or two trying to install their own software (or reformatting their hard drives, or running Linux because it's cool).
I don't follow this line of reasoning at all. If I'm understanding the situation correctly, the school district is giving each student a computer for use during the school year. This student, and only this student, will be using it that year. As long as I'm only modifying the laptop assigned to me, who am I potentially harming other than myself? At the end of each year all the laptops should be re-imaged anyway, and then the next student has a clean slate... what is the issue here?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Flowerday
You're not the one who gets the angry call from a parent when their son/daughter can't finish their homework on the school-supplied laptop because some friend installed some random junk software.
This is a red herring. We're not talking about altering any machine other than the one assigned to robotics student in question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Flowerday
You're not the one who gets in trouble with the administration or school board because all these kids who have laptops now installed IM and are goofing off in class, or cheating, or teasing other kids with it.
How do you tease someone with a laptop?! I'm not sure what exactly is being described here, but it sounds as though these are actions that negatively impact the education of other students. This is not what is being described by any of the above posters. Any harm that could come out of the above actions would be self-inflicted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Flowerday
The attitude from several people in this thread about the school policies is really bothering me. People, it's precisely because of actions like the ones being suggested in this thread that the laptops are locked down so tight. I can just about guarantee you that the IT personnel didn't go through all the effort to lock down those machines just because they thought it would be fun to get you guys all upset about it. They do it because if they don't, someone comes along and does exactly what you're suggesting (such as reformatting the hard drive) and then go back and complain to IT that the computer is screwed up, and now the IT people have to spend their precious time fixing the mess.
See, now that is a legitimate concern. It should, for all "official" purposes, be against the rules to do something like this. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be done, but rather that you shouldn't bother tech support when you get yourself in trouble. If you never come in contact with tech support, everyone is happy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Flowerday
Anyone who purposely and knowingly disobeys district policies for the use of a district resource (yeah, that's what it is, just because you take it home with you doesn't change that fact) deserves to spend a semester answering the phone at their local IT helpdesk. You'll find out very quickly why IT departments have no choice but to put policies in place that can help prevent users from doing something stupid to their computers.
It's hard because you are trying to protect people from themselves, a policy which I have yet to hear a successful implentation of. See "The War on Drugs"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Flowerday
If you want to run Linux or install your own software or boot from a USB key, save up your money and buy your own machine.
While all of the above goes for installing linux on the HDD, I am still not advocating that. I'm advocating the entirely different practice of booting a CD and storing files on a USB key. This lives the computer totally immune from technical fowl up. There is simply no technical reason this should be of concern.

A computer is a tool like any other, why should it be treated differently? If I'm using this tool in such a way as to further the state's goal of educating me, and I'm not interfering with anybody else's ability to do the same, aren't I right in line with he intent of the elected officals who appropriated funds to my school district?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Flowerday
I meant to be done with this post already, but I'm adding one more thing: you better get used to these policies because you'll find similar ones when you go to college and when you graduate and get a job. Most companies do just about the same thing to their laptops and desktops as the schools do.
I've interned at a fairly large (300+ employee) aeronautics engineering firm. I arrived the first day expecting to spend a lot of time explaining to tech support why I would need various tools to do my project (writing UAV groundstation software, which required a lot of unusual software configurations for testing). I was pleasently suprised to find that IT simply managed the network and left engineers (and lowly interns) to do what they needed, helping when help was requested. I'd imagine most companies that value employee sanity would do the same. As long as I was doing my work (reaching deadlines) and not inhibiting fellow employees from doing the same (say, by playing Half Life 2 on my break and doing the Zombie Frag dance every five minutes) everything was copacetic.

I've also done tech support for a very small company (my father's), and conditions were similar. To some extent, I think we'll see a decreasing need for traditional IT departments as computer familiarity becomes nearly universal, which will happen in about 20 years.

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Unread 11-17-2005, 11:22 AM
Dave Flowerday Dave Flowerday is offline
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
As long as I'm only modifying the laptop assigned to me, who am I potentially harming other than myself?
As I said, you are harming the IT department (not you as in you specifically, but you as in any student who changes their laptop). The IT department's job is to see that each student has a working laptop. If you break it, then they have to fix it to maintain their goal.
Quote:
This is a red herring. We're not talking about altering any machine other than the one assigned to robotics student in question.
Yes we are, because if they let you change your laptop then they need to let everyone change their laptop. The IT department does not have any real way of knowing if you are competent enough to modify things without dorking something up.
Quote:
How do you tease someone with a laptop?! I'm not sure what exactly is being described here, but it sounds as though these are actions that negatively impact the education of other students. This is not what is being described by any of the above posters. Any harm that could come out of the above actions would be self-inflicted.
I was describing a potential consequence of letting the kids install software, and in this case IM software. This is not a hypothetical - I've seen a situation like this.
Quote:
That doesn't mean it shouldn't be done, but rather that you shouldn't bother tech support when you get yourself in trouble. If you never come in contact with tech support, everyone is happy.
That would be fine if you weren't required to do anything with the computer. If you screwed it up and no one found out then I suppose it would be less of a concern. However, I assume these computers are distributed with the intent of them being used in class and for homework. If your teacher tells you to pull out your laptop and start up Excel or something and you can't because you installed Linux, then you have a problem. And when you tell your teacher you can't start Excel there's a good chance he/she will send you to IT to get your laptop fixed.
Quote:
It's hard because you are trying to protect people from themselves, a policy which I have yet to hear a successful implentation of. See "The War on Drugs"
Once again, you are not trying to protect the students from themselves, you are trying to protect the IT department from having to deal with the consequences of students mucking with things that they shouldn't be.
Quote:
I'm advocating the entirely different practice of booting a CD and storing files on a USB key. This lives the computer totally immune from technical fowl up. There is simply no technical reason this should be of concern.
First of all, it was already mentioned that the BIOS was locked and the laptops wouldn't boot from other media. Even if it weren't, there's probably a policy against it. And, booting from CD/USB does not leave the computer "totally immune from technical fowl up". I can boot from a Knoppix CD and mount the local hard drive (or run dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda) and still screw things up. By booting from another medium you're circumventing security measures put in place by IT (that's how they'll view it).
Quote:
A computer is a tool like any other, why should it be treated differently?
Exactly my point! Does your school let you make your own blade for a table saw and use that? Do they let you write in their textbooks? Do they let you take apart the school VCRs and rewire them? I doubt it.
Quote:
I've interned at a fairly large (300+ employee) aeronautics engineering firm. I arrived the first day expecting to spend a lot of time explaining to tech support why I would need various tools to do my project (writing UAV groundstation software, which required a lot of unusual software configurations for testing). I was pleasently suprised to find that IT simply managed the network and left engineers (and lowly interns) to do what they needed, helping when help was requested. I'd imagine most companies that value employee sanity would do the same. As long as I was doing my work (reaching deadlines) and not inhibiting fellow employees from doing the same (say, by playing Half Life 2 on my break and doing the Zombie Frag dance every five minutes) everything was copacetic.
Employers will expect you to have more responsibility for yourself, yes. You still will probably not have free reign however. Maybe you did at that place, but you won't everywhere. I can do pretty much what I want with my work laptop, but I'm still not allowed to do certain things, such as installing Ethereal, or formatting it and putting Linux on it. If we need that for our job then our department will buy a "lab" laptop which is totally unsupported by IT (and it's still scanned by IT for vulnerabilities which we have to patch, etc).

You need to look at this from the IT perspective of supporting 1000s of machines, not from your own perspective where you're convinced you won't screw it up. I'm sure you can imagine someone else who you go to school with who you think could do some damage with the admin password. Well, for better or worse that's probably how the IT staff views you and all of your classmates (probably through years of experience).
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Unread 11-17-2005, 01:53 PM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
I don't follow this line of reasoning at all.
Then you're apparently either ignoring or dismissing one of the premises. The reasoning is quite clear to me.
Quote:
It should, for all "official" purposes, be against the rules to do something like this. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be done, but rather that you shouldn't bother tech support when you get yourself in trouble.
Okay, that's enough. Stop it with the "break the rules, just don't let anyone know" already!
Quote:
A computer is a tool like any other, why should it be treated differently?
It shouldn't be treated differently from any other valuable tool owned by the school. Among other things, that means it should not be modified in violation of the school's rules.
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Unread 11-17-2005, 05:38 PM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

I mentioned in a previous post not to mount drives. If no drives are mounted, which is Knoppix's default state, no damage can be done.

Other than that, Mr.Flowerday's comments compute. I recind any previous contradictory post.

Really, the way out of this situation is to use someone's private machine. Surely any group of nerds has at least one or two boxes lying around...

I still think the customised FRC Knoppix could be immensely useful though...
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Unread 11-18-2005, 09:56 AM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
I mentioned in a previous post not to mount drives. If no drives are mounted, which is Knoppix's default state, no damage can be done.
This is getting tiresome. Please stop trying to rationalize breaking into a school-owned computer in order to use non-authorized software. You have already done damage simply by promoting the subversion of the BIOS password and booting "around" the laptop's security.

(Even if you think it's a stupid rule, it's still a rule. Stupid rules are not meant to be broken; they're meant to be changed. Unless and until they are changed, breaking them is wrong.)
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Unread 11-18-2005, 05:41 PM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Perhaps school districts should stop indiscriminately handing out freebie laptops to everyone and instead use their obviously plentiful $$$ to hire more and/or better teachers and expand the selection of *live* instruction the kids have to choose from?

I'd like to see any kid try to erase a teacher's "operating system". I think the resultant swift kick in the pants would do him/her some good. Oh wait, that kind of real discipline isn't permitted any more.

Sitting still and listening to your teachers seemed to work fine in the good ole' days (1995). You could not ever convince me that the majority of those laptops are being used for educational purposes the bulk of the time. I would hope each student in possession of a laptop were required to somehow *prove* that they were putting this item to good use to retain the right to use it.

So what to do with all those confiscated laptops? How about distributing them to local libraries, community centers, and colleges, where only those who possess a genuine desire to use the technology for practical and educational purposes will ever use them? Those who want to chat on AIM all day can wait until they get home. Poor widdle babies.

Pardon my aggressive and quite possibly off topic post, but this bugs me greatly. It's bad enough such educational and economic disparity exists in this country to the point where some schools have a laptop for every kid while others have one computer for every building (if they're lucky); but to hear of a few truly fortunate students either abusing or suggesting the abuse of this extreme privilege on top of it all.........GAH!!

Please respect those who have put so much faith in you all to use and take care of such expensive pieces of equipment. If you have a desire to install hardware/software for FIRST or other programs, then please don't circumvent the system. You may find your school's IT staff will kindly accomodate you. If they decline, accept it and pursue an alternate solution to your problem through other positive, respectful means.
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Last edited by Travis Hoffman : 11-18-2005 at 05:52 PM. Reason: Trying to make a better point
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Unread 11-20-2005, 11:20 PM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Well my team and I have been discussing this a lot. And we have taken in all of your considerations. Right now I am using my own IBM Thinkpad T40 running Gentoo Linux but as it is the school dosnt really like that being in the building, im not allowed to connect to the internet or even have the wireless on(and yes it does come on when I boot it up). Its pretty hard doing this since we have at least two new programmers I need to train and one laptop. I read in one of the post someone said "as long as you have notepad" well I looked and its blocked! I also recently heard a story from a student on student console who asked the tech department to install a copy of some software that the student console was going to buy. They refused because "the school needs a school license" when he asked about an open source solution they said "all open source software have security volubilities and we would still need a site license"(I find this ironic because the latest versions of Novell which they are running use SUSE Linux) Obviously these people dont have a clue. Our last shot is that the school may have some old dells and we are requesting them but if we cannt get those im not sure how strong our programming is going to be this year. No one else has a laptop and the team wants the money for parts, food, travel, not really for programming.
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Unread 11-21-2005, 01:35 AM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Quote:
Originally Posted by nukem
Right now I am using my own IBM Thinkpad T40 running Gentoo Linux but as it is the school dosnt really like that being in the building, im not allowed to connect to the internet or even have the wireless on(and yes it does come on when I boot it up).
If their network were actually secure, it wouldn't matter how many T40s tried to connect to the internet. If the ad hoc networking settings on the school's computers were set correctly, it wouldn't matter how many T40s tried to establish local wireless connections. These sorts of security measures are basic IT responsibilities. Do they have a good reason why they allow anyone with a wireless card to connect to their network, and yet try to keep other wireless-capable computers out of the building? It's just more farcical, because these are wireless networks—they're broadcasting out into the street, in all likelihood.

Or maybe I'm missing the point. They don't want the T40 in the building, because they're jealous of it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nukem
Obviously these people dont have a clue.
Clearly not.

You might try to write an essay, listing fallacies, vulnerabilities and appropriate resolutions, and present it to the Principal or Vice-Principal who oversees IT resources. That way, you can reasonably say that you're taking steps to improve the system; it makes it that much harder for them to accuse you of trying to violate it. And at least they won't be able to claim ignorance, when something goes really wrong.
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Unread 11-21-2005, 02:10 AM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Quote:
Originally Posted by nukem
...Right now I am using my own IBM Thinkpad T40 running Gentoo Linux but as it is the school dosnt really like that being in the building, im not allowed to connect to the internet or even have the wireless on(and yes it does come on when I boot it up)...when he asked about an open source solution they said "all open source software have security volubilities and we would still need a site license"(I find this ironic because the latest versions of Novell which they are running use SUSE Linux) Obviously these people dont have a clue.
Sorry, but I'm going to have to side with your IT department on this one. Put yourself in their shoes. As long as all the computers are identical and are heavily restricted, it makes their job easy. Are the laptops working out for the average student? I'm sure it has word processing and internet. With the exception of a few engineering programs, that's all I use for school. Unless you have some computer classes (programming and the such), you probably don't need anything other than word processing and internet.

As for their distain of open source software, I could see that response in two situations. First off, they might see you as lowly students and don't want to sit you down to debate their reasons for refusing to install software other than what's on there now. Second, it depends on the program. There are some open source programs that would require you to have a site license or even pay for it. As for these "vulerabilities", they could mean "holes that students could take advantage of to circumvent the security measures that are in place". I'm going to say that I don't disagree with that.

But why do they want such heavy restrictions on your computers? It could be all sorts of things. There is one that comes to mind right away though. Think of this headline: Pentagon hacked using school district laptop.

Personally, I think the best thing to do in your situation is to find a way for your team to get your own computers. There's got to be some company in your area that's getting ready to throw some away. That's how we got ours.
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Unread 11-21-2005, 05:21 AM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Quote:
Originally Posted by nukem
Well my team and I have been discussing this a lot. And we have taken in all of your considerations. Right now I am using my own IBM Thinkpad T40 running Gentoo Linux but as it is the school dosnt really like that being in the building, im not allowed to connect to the internet or even have the wireless on(and yes it does come on when I boot it up).
Quote:
Originally Posted by sciguy125
Personally, I think the best thing to do in your situation is to find a way for your team to get your own computers. There's got to be some company in your area that's getting ready to throw some away. That's how we got ours.
I think that's what he meant by his own Thinkpad. Tristan's right, there's something wierd about IT's confidence in thier own security.

If you have your own laptop then that's all you'll need for programming. The internet access is something that schools generally don't take lightly whether thier computers or your own. In general, I don't think schools would even allow "outside" computers internet access or have a network account. I can't hook the Toshiba I carry with me (I own it) to my schools network although I am allowed to bring it into the building and use it same as other members of my team with personal laptops.

I just don't understand why they're getting so worried with your own computers unless they had a problem(s) in the past.

If you need another computer besides the laptop, a desktop may work if you can find a cart to set it up on. Then you can just wheel it around when needed.
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Unread 11-21-2005, 02:43 PM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Oh oh oh ___Legal Idea:

My school was selling a few weeks ago oldish pentium II desktop machines from compaq for 5 dollars each, the drawback? no OS and no monitor or keyboard, each cost 5 dollars extra and they had no mice to sell.

If you are still looking for a computer and dont mind a desktop instead of a laptop i will willingly sell your team one of these desktops for 5 dollars plus the price of shipping it to you.

Of course i will have to see if there are any more left.

Just reply by PM or Email if this works for you, and I'll try my best to help you.

On behalf of the Maggie Walker MechTechs,
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Unread 11-21-2005, 09:07 PM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

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Originally Posted by nukem
Our school district is very closeminded about what students should be allowed to do on their computers. While they have given every student a laptop we are not allowed to do anything with them. <SNIP>
So, you mean there are no applications on the laptop? By "not allowed to do anything with them" do you really mean "not allowed to do whatever I want with them (and I should be able to because I know lots more about this stuff than they do)"? Hmmm.

Nuke, you need to re-examine your basic premise. Those laptops do everything 98% of the students need them to do, and they do it just fine. The other 2% may indeed know more than the IT staff, but that's no excuse. These are not game machines, they are tools like your math textbook, and we don't want anyone messing with them. (I paid for that machine!).

If you really find it so awful, feel free to give the laptop back and do without. Meanwhile, for everything else, find another option. Don't want to be too harsh, but it almost sounds like you are whining. Stop.

(By the way: If you need leverage with the school, let me know. Between your advisers and others, we can get whatever you need for you.)

Don
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Unread 11-30-2005, 01:26 AM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

Call me simplistic but if I were the school district I would the most logical approach to the situation would be to charge a fee to "reset" a laptop. You arent furthering anyones education (face it, you can learn all the similes you want in english, but advanced simile identification is worthless compared to technical skills) by not allowing them to mess around on the computer. If they are gonna blow the cash on a laptop for each student they might as well let the students get as much benefit as possible from them.

Now sitting here several thousand miles away (it might be different if it were actually happening to me) I would like to say that if the IT people wont do it for me, il dang well do it myself. The school district didnt spend the taxpayers money on a computer so that they could spend more of the money to pay somebody to prevent me from gaining the maximum benifit from the laptop. On the other hand dont mess up whats on there already. Dont format the hard drive, either swap it out with one of your own, or find a way to use an external drive of some sort. If I asked a lawyer they might tell me that it "is inpermissible" or some nonsense, but this isnt about what lawyers think its about the simple fact that you are going to give back a computer just as functional as the one they gave to you. If you screw it up youd better take responsibility though (as in you personally, not the club/team/etc).
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Unread 11-30-2005, 01:58 PM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

If you feel that you must run Linux on the school laptops then get a small external HD they are anywhere from 50-100 dollars and install a live boot linux or D@mn small linux so that it runs inside the windows console, adding anything to a school HD is just DUMB if they begin to suspect you which is likely when they notice that you are programming with it and they dont want you to then they will be pissed,

while i agree that what they are doing with all the limitations is unfair and stupid the only thing that would be worse of an idea is going against them by finding hacks around the system
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Unread 12-04-2005, 07:42 PM
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Re: Restrictive Environment From School

I find it silly how you are all jabbering about the subject bypassing the obvious. What is the schools policy on the laptops. For all we know it could say "Students are allowed to use any remote Live-Cds aslong as school's operating system remains intact at the time of return" That renders most if not all statements made here irrelevant and absurd.

I agree sure most IT departments are full of incompetent people. (mine were nice enough to let me use the internet) Nevertheless, I'm sure now with your personal laptop for the team you can use removable media to transfer text files. (You can do plain text files in word too you know) I hightly doubt school would go as far as not allowing remote media to copy text files.

My recommednation. Now that you have that laptop have your team install the software on their computer, put the code they make in removable media and display it on the laptop and analyze it together an compile it all that other junk.

I was the only person with a laptop in school last year and this is what we did. Sure its a hassle but beats not doing it at all.
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