Hardware

Journal of an IT manager: Budget spending and broken scripts all in a day's work

Getting permission to spend part of your shop's budget on new equipment or fixes can be a tough sell. Find out how one IT manager makes his case in this final installment of his week-long journal.


This week, IT Manager Republic is featuring the daily journal of Tom Rule, an IT manager and teacher for a school in Macon, GA. The following journal entries are from Friday.

7:30 A.M.
The librarian met me at the door to tell me the library database backup had failed. I know what happened. The hard drive on the server is failing, so the OS takes too long to copy the files, and the AppleScript times out.

Norton Utilities hasn’t found anything on the drive, so I scanned it with my copy of TechTool Pro from home. It finds some serious issues with the drive. This is not good news on a Friday.

Catch up with these journal entries
Monday: "Journal of an IT manager: Juggling tasks is part of the high school curriculum" Tuesday: "Journal of an IT manager: Backup plans and patience help pass the test" Wednesday: "Journal of an IT manager: Problems with scripts" Thursday: "Journal of an IT manager: Strategy for installing new equipment"

First period
In the Web design class, we’re covering graphic file formats for the Web and connecting to your personal Web space from a Mac. Each student and faculty member has a network account for file storage. Part of this space is Web-enabled.

I was hoping to use the iBooks, but they were checked out, so I had seven students sitting around a 15-inch monitor while I demonstrated the procedure. Not a great situation, but it could’ve been worse.

Second period
For my planning period, I caught up on some e-mail. I was supposed to grade some papers, but I worked on the library server and the iMac instead. The problem iMac can’t “see” the network, although the hub says the port is active. I hope we don’t have a hardware problem. The iMac is a bear to open up.

I ran about every drive-related diagnostic on the server drive. The mechanism checks out, but there are some sector problems that even TechTool can’t fix. I’m looking at a reformat, but for now the drive seems to be stable. I’m going to leave it be. I don’t have time to reformat and set it up.

I also backed up the ID card database, which resides on the Windows machine in the library. That program has been a valuable lesson on the interconnectedness of IT. It was purchased without my knowledge and was not a good investment. It doesn’t integrate with anything else we have, works with only one digital camera model, and will never be updated. For now, though, it works.

I’ve often thought about how we could have avoided that issue, and I have yet to come up with a solution. For now, we try to make people aware that if something is purchased and has to integrate with our technical infrastructure, we need to be in on the buying decision!

Third period
Brenda Timms, the other half of the IT department, is trying to finish the setup of Sister Geraldine’s iMac. We sent several instant messages trying to figure out why the iMac won’t see the parallel presence detect (PPD) for the HP 2100 in the middle school.

It turns out that the AppleScript I wrote isn’t copying it over from the network. It’s a simple matter to hand copy it over, but I’m bothered by the failure of the script. Something to add to the fix-it list.

Fourth period and lunch
I’m far behind on grading papers, so I have my eighth graders work on their keyboarding skills using our typing program. They seem to enjoy it, especially when I tell them to shoot some asteroids with a typing game program we have.

Making a case for budget spending
During the past week, IT manager Tom Rule mentioned that some of the high school’s IT equipment needs replacing or repairing. As many managers know, gaining permission to use part of a budget for fixes and new equipment is a bear. Here are Rule’s strategies for getting the okay:
  • ·        Research expense and equipment involved for solutions and limit your findings to the two best solutions.
  • ·        Find products in three price categories: low, medium, and high.
  • ·        Fully understand the capabilities and limitations of each product.
  • ·        Talk with management and present facts about your choices in this manner:
    State the problem.
    State who in the organization the problem affects.
    Outline possible solutions, including the costs.
    Predict what will happen if the problem is not addressed.
    Ask management what steps they want you to take next.
Rule said to remember to use an appropriate level of technical language that matches management’s level of technical comprehension.


Sixth period
In the four minutes between classes, I checked the library Web server, looked at TechTool reports, and rebooted the machine. I’ll pop back down to check on it later.

Keyboarding class was uneventful. I decided I was too tired to try and fix anything during class, so I graded some more papers. The students are all tired, and I see that there is little use in grading them on any typing today, so I let them have some free time.

Seventh period
The new HP laser jet has arrived, but there’s no time to open the box today.

I popped down to Brenda’s office to give her the invoices for two repaired iMacs that were left in the lab and started a discussion with the chemistry teacher about using the iBooks for his class. He needs to give each iBook a different data set for a particular lab and is trying to figure out how to do it.

We decide the best way to do that is to use Network Assistant. I need to check out the technical information library (TIL) on Apple’s Web site about configuration issues with the Airport and Network Assistant since the program crashes at the most inopportune times.

After school
Earlier, I relayed the soccer schedule files to the soccer coach. He placed them in his Web space, but PageMill can’t “see” them. I think it’s an issue with the type and creator codes, which were probably lost with all the FTP-ing that was done to the files. I’ll have to check on that Monday and put it on Monday’s to-do list, which already includes two dead iMacs in the library.

I also realize I need to order an Apple technical training course. I’m spending too much time guessing what’s wrong with the newer machines.

We’ve been using a Web program a former student wrote (called “action register”) to keep track of our activities period by period. We’re also using it to track tech issues.

But today Brenda was pulled in so many directions she wasn’t able to track what she did. We are both just barely hanging on, and the semester is still young. I hope things will slow down for her after her daughter’s wedding.

On the way to the car, I ran into a teacher who was absolutely thrilled with the iBooks. She used them today in her math classes, and they worked beautifully.

That is why we work so hard to integrate technology. Obviously, the iBooks created a magical time in her class when things came together. The students were fascinated with the computers, they learned the material more efficiently than with another teaching method, and they had fun doing it.

The compliment was a nice way to end a very long and hard week. But there are still challenges waiting for us next week, which reminds me, I have to create my lesson plans this weekend.

Do you go by your gut?
Rule believes in having a backup process in case your first problem-solving strategy goes belly up. What type of backup strategy do you use in your shop? Let us know by sending us an e-mail or starting a discussion below.

 

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