37 posts • joined Tuesday 15th May 2007 12:12 GMT
Can't boil an ocean?
I just want them to be able to read emails and document the issue correctly, I don't want them to boil an ocean.
Or, when attempting to solve my issues, ask me to try something I've already tried that didn't work.
Or ask me to do something that I've already explained isn't possible or practical.
Or tell me it's something I've already proved it isn't and explained fully my methods and reasoning.
Or pass it further up only to go through all the above again and again.
Secondary school ICT
The problems of IT provision within schools are numerous and not just down to the couple mentioned in the report. (The following all refer mainly to secondary schools, I don’t know enough about primaries to comment although there will be some commonality).
1) Funding: how much money does the school actually get and how much of a priority is it to spend on ICT? Even within the same borough there will be massive differences on a school’s allocation.
2) LEA Decisions: how much money is skimmed off the top before it reaches schools? How is this money then spent, particularly with regard to centralised systems that some schools within the LEA don’t use as they are too restrictive / too unreliable / too limited compared to other systems they want or need?
3) LEA Support: how knowledgeable are the technician’s at the LEA? How many different organisations do you have to go through before a problem is resolved? Do the LEA’s preferred suppliers offer best value or can better be bought cheaper elsewhere? Is it cheaper to buy licences elsewhere rather than through the LEA? Does the person purchasing have the requisite skills, knowledge and experience to obtain best value?
4) In School Support: is this only provided by the LEA on a when required basis? Is the school’s technician basically a changer of toner cartridges and cleaner of projector filters? Does the school employ higher level technicians and a network manager (NM) with the requisite skills, knowledge and experience?
5) ICT decisions: is a teacher effectively the network manager as a secondary role to their teaching? Do they have the requisite skills, knowledge and experience to do such a role? Are decisions made between the NM and ICT co-ordinator or does one decide without consulting the other? Is there a strong enough business case for money to be spent on X or is it just a new shiny toy? Is X’s product seen as best value just because they are “specialists in the education sector”? Does the person investigating X have the requisite skills, knowledge and experience to obtain best value? Will staff be trained properly? If training is provided but staff don’t attend will that be classified as a failing on their part or on the NM / ICT co-ordinator?
6) Head teacher: does the head teacher (HT) want cutting edge or reliable? Is he / she prepared to invest properly in ICT even if he / she can? Does the HT appreciate that you can’t develop, maintain and “firefight” simultaneously unless you have enough staff with the requisite skills, knowledge and experience?
7) Government interference: have you bought something because OFSTED or some other government organisation says you have to? Was it a huge waste of money or wise investment? Did you buy it from a government approved supplier but could have bought it elsewhere much cheaper? Did you purchase a system that could run a small nation all by itself when all you really needed was Windows 95 installed on a 486?
I’m sure a lot more questions will spring to mind later but the point is there are a lot of fundamental issues that you won’t be aware of unless you have worked in a school environment. I don’t believe Sebastian James has.
Growls? Whimpers more like..
"The watchdog will require Google to sign a piece of paper promising not to break the law again." So yet again the mighty ICO sends a major transgressor to the naughty step.
The ICO is a massive joke that costs millions, making it so unfunny I can't actually fully describe how bad it is.
"Here lieth 72362352965W
Loving Husband of 46347322897P
Date of death withheld for security reasons"
WIth a footnote saying that this data can easily be obtained on the internet or by buying the entire database a DVD-ROM from a bloke at the local pub for a reasonable fee.
@ The BigYin
It all depends of course where you are reading this stuff about "Climate Change". As has been reported here many times, there are far too many media outlets who are prepared to make a huge deal out of dodgy science (North Eastern Passage 'now open', Arctic ice thickness measured with a tape measure, etc) but not mention how unscientific their claims are. Those that dare are then pilloried as being as bad, if not worse, than Holocaust deniers.
I'm still not sure if it's because they're too lazy to check the facts, too stupid to understand the science, don't have the courage / backing to explain both sides or if they have some kind of vested interest.
Still, it's not like we are all going to pay for this dodgy science through higher taxes and a 60% increase in fuel bills so why worry?
Pros and Cons
I'm not happy about T-Mobile and Orange merging either - I left Orange to go to One2One (yep, that's how long I've been with them!) because the customer service was shocking and I could never get a signal. It makes you feel much better driving down a country road in the middle of nowhere in Winter at 4 in the morning when your mobile phone actually works!
On the plus side at least it isn't a tie up with Vodafone. My wife used to work for a company that they bought because "they liked the way they did things, especially with regard to customer service". 6 months later they were forced to change to the Vodafone way of doing things and their appalling customer service. Not only did this mean a lot of very unhappy customers, many of whom left, but also unhappy employees as they often had to deal with the Head Office staff themselves. If you work for them and get appalling service then what chance do you have as a customer?
"only £8250 a year"
Surely Ofcom could just allocate the spectrum to the RNLI for free? To the Government this is a ridiculously small amount but with the RNLI every penny counts. For example, £8250 is enough diesel for a Mersey class all-weather lifeboat to cover 937 miles at full speed (according to the RNLI's website £24 buys 30 litres of diesel and a Mersey uses 11 litres every nautical mile at top speed).
The RNLI are funded entirely by public donations not because they are "notoriously independent" but IMHO "correctly independent" from the MCA / Government. This means that they are entirely free from political interference and can concentrate on their core aim - saving lives at sea. If HMG were involved they would be operating lifeboats that entered service just in time to be obsolete at 3 times the original stated cost and the Minister in charge of Lifeboats would be on TV telling the public that they had the equipment they needed, how much money HMG had invested in the RNLI in the past 10 years, how much the budget would reduce if the Conservatives win the next election, etc, etc.
No real surprise
I used to have a HSBC credit card and one day decided to use their internet banking but couldn't find my details. So I rang them. After telling them my card number, name and post code (easily obtained from a statement or any other intercepted postal correspondance)
HSBC: Please answer security question 1
Me: Is it A?
Me: Is it B?
Me: Is it C?
Me: Don't know then. They are the usual ones I use.
HSBC: It's D
HSBC: Please answer security question 2
Me: Is it E?
Me: Is it F?
Me: Is it G?
Me: Don't know then. They are the usual ones I use.
HSBC: It's H
HSBC: Please answer security question 3
Me: Is it I?
Me: Is it J?
Me: Is it K?
Me: Don't know then. They are the usual ones I use.
HSBC: It's L
They then gave me all the details I needed to log in despite not answering any of the security questions correctly. I therefore decided to cancel my credit card.
"BT Customer Service" = example of an oxymoron
I've never had a problem understanding their accents just a problem understanding their incompetence.
When my father died we naturally cancelled the phone line. A few days later we received a letter with something along the lines of "we hope we can welcome you back sometime". Well if they have phones where he has gone he hasn't let me know his new number!
Trying to get them to refund the overpayments was a farce as well. Wait 3 weeks for a cheque and it has the wrong name on it. Call them and then wait another 3 weeks before ringing again. Cheque finally arrives 3 weeks after that.
Easier said than done
@ Humph "Why not train the kiddies this generation so they are in a position to capitalize on their knowledge when they enter the job market?"
Probably because the teachers are too busy implementing the latest Government directive, trying to control the disruptive elements, trying to improve the exam results, and so on. Also it depends on the ability of the staff to use ICT (sorry, that's what schools call it!) as it is used across the school and even some of the younger teachers can't recognise an on / off switch.
Plus, as the AC said, "When your users can't do anything any more because Linux or OpenOffice "looks different"". You have to be aware that students in the school can have english as a second language, may have learning difficulties, etc. and if the staff have no idea what they are doing how can they pass it on?
Finally, a lot of schools have managed networks using tools from the likes of Viglen & RM. I doubt those two will offer free software and even if they did you would still probably have to pay to have it installed on each PC.
Dormant doesn't equal dead
My concern is that now BT have said "we don't have immediate plans to deploy Webwise" the politicians will read it as "Phorm is dead so that's that". If they do, the EU won't press ahead with prosecuting the UK for its alleged fundamental law breaking and the UK Government can again attempt to spin their way out.
We still need to know why the Government thought it OK for the Home Office to advise BT and Phorm in private that they could proceed in secret without an explicit opt-in from customers but then claim law enforcement for this type of technology lies with the toothless Information Commissioner's Office. Next we need to know that they can't resurrect Phorm or anything similair that monitors a user's internet usage without them agreeing to it or even knowing about it.
Finally we need to know if any laws were actually broken and if so that those condoning it or authorising it are identified and sanctioned along with those who actually broke the law.
@ AC 09:07
Have to agree with you there. I no longer email our account manager @dabs.com but instead @businessdirect.bt.com as Dabs4Work is now BT Business Direct. At the moment we aren't having many issues but still more than we ever used to - I wonder how long it is before BT do drive more customers to their competitors.
Hmm, poor service driving BT customers to their competitors sounds somehow familiar...
More info needed
I'm not an expert on these matters but I can speak from experience of using PGP.
A lot of the laptops where I work have Whole Disk Encryption managed by Universal Server, the latter ensuring that if people forget their passwords or leave the company a recovery token can be issued to log on to the machine in question. These laptop users can all access the company systems via our VPN.
So as the AC asked, what part of PGP and I'd like to know what VPN?
Home = appalling; Work = too inconsistent
In January 2008 I had endless problems with the home division which left me incandescent with rage. Being told at one point by Customer Services (an oxymoron!) that I had "been misled" just made things worse. Fortunately my account manager at work was brilliant and sorted it out for me, despite it being nothing to do with her and actually taking her several calls to resolve
She was then promoted and her replacement has caused so many problems that we actually complained to the team leader and asked for a different account manager.
Calls to Tech Support at work are equally inconsistent, some faults being resolved extremely quickly whilst others take weeks.
In summary: not surprised at all
Nice to see the above statement about encryption wasn't anywhere within the letter that Vodafarce sent out. My wife is over the moon that having left their employ 2 years they are still managing to p**s her off!
Mine's the one with Arun Sarin's pension details in the pocket.
@AC "Horse and Bolted"
I pointed out the irony of sending information through the post that makes me uniquely identifiable to discover what information they may have lost that makes me uniquely identifiable!!
Mine's the one with the keys for the security doors in the pocket........
Advice is just that
No doubt the Home Office did seek advice from GCHQ but it doesn't follow that they paid any heed even if they bothered to listen. Surely everyone knows what a government "consultation exercise" means?
RE: Support, what support?
My experience of Dell support:
1 bad work-related experience out of innumerable calls over many years at 3 different employers.
3 bad 'home purchaser' experiences out of 3 calls related to one purchase including the immortal phrase "you were misled" which basically meant "the person who dealt with your order but refused to answer your calls or emails after failing to do what he promised to do shouldn't have promised that anyway and didn't get authorisation as he claimed".
What was I promised? That my personal purchase would be delivered to my work address at the same time as the 4 laptops and 3 desktops I had ordered for work that morning. Thankfully my account manager for work was an absolute angel and sorted it out for me but even she was surprised when I asked her again 2 weeks after the original request if she could help. She had been assured after the first time that it had all been resolved and the delivery redirected as promised.
Paris 'cos she'd know how to keep the customers happy EVERY time.
Home yes, work no
I have only been using Vista for a month or so and so far I like it on the whole. Having to delete a registry key to get my DVD drives to work again was extremely annoying but other than that I haven't had any real problems as yet. However, I only use Vista as a home user who doesn't play games (Command & Conquer is the only exception to this rule) and I paid for Ultimate not Home plus bought the highest spec possible for the memory, graphics card, etc. as my computers are replaced every 6 years on average!
At work we have machines so old that even Win2K SP4 struggles but they are adequate for the level of user that needs them. New machines are only purchased for new starters (i.e. not replacing someone) or if absolutely critical to the business, CAD machines being the only possible ones to fit this criteria at the moment. All new machines purchased are Dell with a Vista restore disc, licence and sticker pack but XP factory installed. We know that we will have to seriously consider Vista at some stage but we are postponing that day as much as possible whilst ensuring we have the hardware and licences required.
One of the major factors in this decision is staff training and support - we simply don't have the time to help with basic computer literacy as we do now and retrain everyone else on how to use Vista as well. Allied to that are some temperamental apps that we know how to install and configure on XP quickly now after a lot of hard-won experience and some legacy apps that my or not run on Vista but definitely do on XP.
I sincerely hope that I get to use Vista in an enterprise environment soon so that I can form my own opinion on its actual worth but unless I change company that is highly unlikely.
I spent nearly 4 years as the Network Manager in a Secondary School and BECTA had no relevance at all. Unfortunately, in the majority of schools these posts are filled by teachers as an additional responsibility and not professionals as a prime one. They therefore don't necessarily have the experience or depth of knowledge to recognise this irrelevance. Consequently they rely on BECTA's guidelines, sharp talking salesmen and often incompetent LEA advice when making important decisions.
BECTA has previous when making decisions that help its friends and it is unlikely to stop.
@ John Macintyre
Not forgetting the performance bonuses that are written into their contracts, which basically mean they'll get another shoebox full of cash whether the system goes belly up or not. These are necessary to "attract the right kind of people" i.e. those that have no integrity or ability just want the cold hard cash. Paris Hilton is therefore obvious.
@ Stuart Johnson
You sound fortunate enough to work where the RBC offers you good value and although I don't know whether that is widespread I do know that ours didn't.
The e-learning platform was not intuitive (even though it was also aimed at primary school children), had content that was quite poor and was often inaccessible as centrally hosted sites don't work if the internet connection controlled by them fails! Just before I left the school paid for it's own Virtual Learning Environment that was much more user friendly, powerful and expandable. The anuual cost was less than that taken off us by the LEA.
Why tell him, so he can tell them they've been naughty and not allow them to use their Playstation for a week?
Until Richard Thomas and his department hand out some meaningful fines vital data will continue to be posted on CDs, stored on laptops given to morons and dumped on roundabouts.
Having until recently spent nearly 4 years working in a school as an IT Manager my immediate response to the question about regional broadband consortia is "jobs for the boys" and to retain the unique way of having no accountability or recourse.
We had an upgrade from 4Mb to 10Mb that required the router to be replaced and that is when all the trouble started. Whilst trying to prove that it was the router at fault I demanded that they temporarily reinstall the old one, only to discover that they couldn't do that as the router was owned by another company and had probably been reconfigured and issued to a primary school. Over the course of many long phone calls I spoke to the ISP (broadband consortium), the company that managed the network infrastructure for them, the company that owned the router, BT who own the lines and finally our LEA's IT department!
As this was the latest in a long line of problems we tried to go our own way with a different ISP but were then told that the LEA would still take the annual fee from us and that we would not be allowed access to the County Council's servers. As they knew we were tied to them and couldn't take our custom elsewhere we didn't have that leverage to pressure them into resolving the problem.
Any handing of powers to the LEA sends a shiver down my spine as I know exactly what that means - one size that fits all but suits nobody. Wherever possible the school tries to move away from anything the LEA wants to do as it is usually expensive and doesn't do what they want it to do. The peanuts and monkeys analogy is usually true as well, with most problems of a slightly technical nature requiring the helpdesk to ring the supplier's helpdesk for them to then ring the school!
Give the money directly to schools so that they get the full value (no top slicing by the LEA), can decide where to spend their money and can employ people who know what they are doing.
I bet HMRC are saying "Please, Please, PLEASE Let it be EDS" as well. Isn't their compensation from the last SNAFU by EDS based on what contracts EDS are awarded in the future?
1) Why won't students be using GPOs on their laptops? Rather depends on the individual institution's setup, doesn't it?
2) I'm the network manager at a school that has the School's Agreement and for us it makes much more sense to use it but I agree that other licensing agreements may be better for other institutions. However, if educational institutions are going for "it's the latest, so we'll install it" then they are stupid. Although I have had the disks to install Vista and Office 2007 for some time I haven't gone anywhere near either yet. 300 PCs, 100 laptops of various makes and specifications run XP and Office 2003 with no problems and I ensure that any new hardware is capable of running Vista but also has drivers for XP. I believe that the best solution where I work is to ensure that it is currently reliable but also as future proof as possible within budgetary constraints.
3) BECTA are the organisation that decided on standards for Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and then happily allowed one of their preferred vendors to ignore those rules. This was reported to the European Commission in January and reported on these pages.
When we were looking at VLE solutions from different providers BECTA accreditation wasn't really an issue, ease of use and interoperability with other software was.
Extended Warranties & DSG
Correct, everyone is selling extended warranties, the difference is always "which are worth buying?"
Last year I wanted a new flat screen monitor and as usual decided the best thing is to look at them in PC World before buying one from somewhere else. I'd already done some research and laughed when I saw an extended warranty offered on a particular one. Not only was the basic price substantially more but the extended warranty only covered what was in the manufacturer's standard 3 year warranty it offers on all monitors.
I then went into Currys (another DSG company) next door and explained to the salesman (read 'University Student who's had 10 minutes training on all electrical goods') how to search the internet to answer the questions I was asking about response times, etc. This was necessary because the other technique of DSG group is to have the information cards display different features for adjacent items.
Naturally I agree that nobody should be expected to deal with abuse from customers but neither should customers have to deal with staff rolling their eyes when very politely asking a perfectly reasonable, vaguely technical question. Neither should it take several attempts to calmly explain "Yes I know that model has just been released but you are selling it for £250 and Comet, only 3 shops away, are selling the IDENTICAL one for £180".
1) Friend's brother-in-law goes into PC World.
"I want a computer that will play this game my daughter is buying me for Christmas".
Salesman: "You want this one expensive one here, it will cost you this ££££"
Rings PC Service Call at first opportunity after Christmas Day - game won't work.
"Of course it won't sir. The graphics card isn't powerful enough"
2) Sister-in-law buys new router but it doesn't work at all.
PC World guy "It's because it has the Super G wireless access point built in. That doesn't work with AOL" (I know - level of S-i-L's inteligence indicated by PCW & AOL!)
3) I also worked with someone who had previously worked at PC Service Call in Nottingham. He claims they were banned from PCW because they confused staff by asking for "a bag of IRQs" and then watching them go and 'ask someone else' or 'check the stockroom'.
The art of comedy is timing
I find it hilarious that they chose to release the guidance during the six week summer break. All teachers and head teachers care about during this time is their tan and the exam results, not necessarily in that order.
Any IT personnel that work during the holidays are only bothered about getting any projects completed, carrying out routine maintenance and their tan, in that order.
"In my experience all the plane spotters care about is the registration"
Probably so but that means they will realise that it should belong to a Boeing 747 rather than a blazing Jeep Cherokee.
Putting coat on now .....
re: Common sense?
I'm a Network Manager in a school and asking for teachers with common sense is like asking for an increase in my budget i.e it seems reasonable enough but you know it's never going to happen.
Half of them can't find their backside with both hands even after numerous training sessions and being provided with their own copy of "Arse Finding For Dummies".
Encryption VERY relevant
People are "getting so hung up over the lack of encryption" because of the way in which the data was lost. The data wasn't targeted it was sent by post through the normal mail from where it has never been seen again - as far as we know.
When found, if it hasn't been already, no doubt someone will have enough curiosity to look at what is on the disk and because it is not encrypted they will instantly realise that it is the personal details of approximately 62,000 customers. If they are dishonest enough they will either use the disk themselves to attempt identity theft or sell it to "someone down the pub" who will be able to exploit it much more efficiently.
As people become more and more convinced that honesty is not the best policy (£80 for dropping a cigarette, no penalty for shoplifting!) the possibilty increases of this data being used for criminal purposes.
Big questions to be answered
I want to know how spammers have got my e-mail address as I never use the PlusNet one despite being a customer for nearly 5 years and I have just left the first post ever on their forum.
The only reason I check my PlusNet e-mails is I have done so since day 1, using Outlook to receive notification of billing, etc. This therefore in my opinion disproves all the theories about people using webmail, spammers looking at the forums and working out addresses, and so on.
Once it has been determined how they got my address I want to know what other information they now have about me.
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