Using Technology to Torture People

I was thinking about my post about print Nazis and I thought “boy, printing is a real easy way to screw with people.” What other ways have I seen technology configured to make people’s lives more miserable, and sysadmins busier, all unnecessarily?

It’s easy to say that these are caused by management, but in fact it’s caused by the users not speaking up. If you are a user and don’t like something you should say something. It’s more than likely that the people who are doing this to you haven’t even thought about it.

Then again, sometimes they have.

1) Labyrinthian print queues with fascist permissions: if you print something by mistake there is no chance you’ll ever be able to fix it yourself before it gets stuck somewhere, because you don’t have rights to delete your own print job.

2) Print accounting: ignore the fact that the cost of staff time to audit accounting records far outstrips the cost of a ream of paper and some toner. It’s the principle of the thing.

3) Web proxies that block certain web sites: because letting people play a web-based game on their lunch hour is a slippery slope towards them never doing any work again. Honest. And God help your company if they ever see their Gmail account. They might email their sister in lieu of stepping completely out of the office to call her to find out what movie they’re going to tonight.

4) Firewalls that block certain outbound ports: I’ve never been sure why sysadmins at places with hardcore, stateless firewalls don’t rise up and smite the firewall admins. Sometimes to troubleshoot something I just want to telnet to port 25 somewhere else. Really.

5) Wireless access points for visitors, with a crazy WEP key: if you’re going to offer wireless networking to people set your WEP key to ten C’s or something simple, not ‘A0384BE32C’. You already have it outside your firewall, right? So who cares? If you’re concerned schedule a time to change it periodically.

6) Wireless access points for visitors that require proprietary security software: ’nuff said.

7) Workstations permissions that don’t let you customize your desktop: we know that OSes are customizable, but this is a corporate setting and independent thought is disallowed. Even if it was just changing your background. Even if it is just an easily-changeable setting in some global security policy. Screw you, users! We will break your spirit!

8) Laptops with fascist permissions on the network connections: we gave you a laptop to use but it is never to be used anywhere you might find it useful, such as a customer site. Plus our lawyers said you might browse porn with it, so we locked it down. We don’t trust you to do the right thing so we’ve guaranteed that you won’t ever be able to. That way we’re right.

9) Laptops with the USB ports disabled: we know you’re going to use one of those little USB flash disks to steal our corporate data, so we disabled the USB ports. We don’t care if you want to plug an external mouse in.

10) Workstations without speakers: all the workstations we order come with speakers but nothing you do absolutely requires them, so we don’t install them. We don’t care if it’s nice to hear the beeps. Your speakers will remain in a storage closet, safe from you.

11) Quotas: the manager with 10 GB of documents has instructed us that nobody should need more than 500 MB of storage space. After all, you might copy an MP3 to the server. OH. MY. GOD.

12) Anti-virus software that scans during the day and can’t be stopped: you users shut your PCs off at night so to fight back we scan during the day, rather than solving the problem more constructively (*cough* wake on LAN *cough*). You also can’t cancel the scan. See if you get anything done now, suckers!

13) Network ports intentionally set to slow speeds: our business pays a lot of money for the connectivity we have, and we know you are going to abuse it by downloading things. So we’ve set all the network switch ports to 10 Mbps half duplex to prevent abuse. What, you say the file servers are slow? They wouldn’t be slow if you didn’t download things.

14) Arbitrary and unannounced reboots of workstations: we are the sysadmins and we will reboot your machines anytime we want. We don’t care if you leave your applications open at night. Don’t do that. It is about us and not about the work you do.

What else?