DIY

Do you ever send your users on a trip into the Twilight Zone? Take the poll.

With all due credit given to the late Mr. Rod Serling, the very talented writer and creator of the original television series The Twilight Zone, see how one organization uses the concept to make sure the users on its network have computers that will behave themselves.

With all due credit given to the late Mr. Rod Serling, the very talented writer and creator of the original television series The Twilight Zone, see how one organization uses the concept to make sure the users on its network have computers that will behave themselves.

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One of the challenges I face as a user support professional is finding the right balance between making sure my users don't introduce malware or unauthorized software into our environment and allowing them enough freedom and flexibility to do whatever they need in order to complete their projects.

I will admit that my company might be different than others. First of all, we're a relatively small company. Second, my users don't really want a lot of restrictions, and their needs are actually better met with a pretty open computing environment. We might have any number of vendors who bring in their versions of software that they'll make available for a specific task, or an engineer's research might take him to any number of Web sites that might be blocked by other organizations, and so on.

While some organizations might err on the side of being more restrictive, since we're made up almost entirely of professional engineers, ours errs on the side of allowing more freedom and flexibility. I'm sure I would think differently if I had thousands of users to support in a very large environment -- just as the Networks and Systems group in the LITC (Library and Information and Technology Center) at Trinity college has done. And they do it with a dash of humor thrown in -- Twilight Zone humor.

As stated on a Trinity College Web page:

When you return to campus this Fall, and open your web browser you may find yourself looking at a web page with skull and crossbones. Do not be alarmed! Your machine has entered the Twilight Zone..... The Twilight Zone, developed by the Networks and Systems group in the LITC, may be thought of as a prison for computers determined to be "vulnerable." If your computer behaves itself, you will be oblivious to the existence of the Twilight Zone network. However, if your computer misbehaves or becomes a hazard to other users, you will make your acquaintance with the Twilight Zone.

How does the Twilight Zone work? Here's a link to that Trinity College Web page describing the process:

http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/cc/News/2004TwilightZone.htm

Although I don't restrict my users in such a way, I'm sure others do -- and I can certainly see why it's a must in a college environment.

I was further reminded of this recently with a trip to my doctor's office. I was one of the first appointments of the day, and I actually arrived before the office receptionist. Upon her arrival, looking at a line of people about six-deep to check-in for their appointments, she turned on her computer and waited ..... and waited ..... and waited ..... and waited ..... and after about five minutes of waiting, which probably seemed like five hours to some of the people in the line, she tuned to a coworker and said that she couldn't log in to the network and didn't know why.

After about fifteen minutes of doing nothing except watching and waiting, her computer finally logged itself in to their network. I have no idea about how their network was structured, nor did I know the cause of the delay, but I actually thought about the Twilight Zone at Trinity College. Could it be that her computer was being evaluated before the network allowed it to log in? Considering the sensitive information in that particular environment, I wouldn't doubt it a bit. In fact, I would hope so.

How about you? Do you have anything that resembles a computing Twilight Zone?

I broke down the answers to see if there were differences depending on the size of the company. I'm not sure how to define the exact differences between small, medium, and large offices, but define yours however you wish.

Please share your experience and wisdom in the following discussion.

By the way, my favorite Twilight Zone episodes were the time travel and space travel episodes, with A Hundred Yards Over the Rim being pretty close to one of my very favorites.

7 comments
NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Time Enough At Last. As much as I love to read, I really felt for Henry Bemis. Edit: Oh, and a "Not allowed to connect" option would have appropriate in my case. Neither my employer nor my customers allow personally-owned PCs on the corporate networks.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Came home a few weeks ago, and he was watching it on tv. Perfect timing that the link for "To serve humans" was posted last week. We have been watching one or two a night together. As for a fav, between not watching much TV as a kid (no tv in house from when I was 8 till I was out of the house) so the ones I did see were when I was pretty young and didn't really understand a lot of it. Maybe this time around?

Joe_R
Joe_R

Burgess Meredith - love of reading - nuclear war - broken glasses - great episode.

Joe_R
Joe_R

Re: the original blog piece http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/helpdesk/?p=341 With all due credit given to the late Mr. Rod Sterling, the very talented writer and creator of the original television series, The Twilight Zone, see how one organization uses the concept to make sure the users on its network have computers that will behave themselves. How about you? Do you have anything that resembles a computing Twilight Zone?

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

We currently do something similar for our remote access clients. We set up an SSL VPN for them. Each time the user connects, and ActiveX is installed, and checks the machine for up-to-date virus definitions, as well as the presence of our encryption software. If either of these is missing, it is assumed the user is connecting from a home PC, and they are logged in to a very restrictive area, where they can only get to email through Outlook Web Access.

DadsPad
DadsPad

If outside consulters come in we usually suppy them with older spare laptops. If they must use their outside laptops, then a tech comes over and verifies the laptops are clean before setting them up to log onto our network. I like the 'twilight zone' for the students, though. Seems like a good idea for any environment that could have uncontrolled computers hooked to their networks.