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The Help Desk


By Eugene Koh

People have been telling me over the past few weeks that I've been too easy on. HASCS, the Harvard Arts and Sciences, Computer Services. The group has, in fact, been doing an admirable job getting Harvard online.

(The much maligned "fas" machine by the way, is about to be upgraded to six processors and $20 Me of memory--fellow love computer science concentration will join me in drooling.)

The problem with HASCS--well, the most urgent problem, anyway--lies not in their network administration but rather in their user support. Though the majority of everyday problems can be resolved by the user support team, this "help desk" needs help--badly.

About two weeks ago I needed to use a typical program from the High Speed Data Network (HSDN) to complete a typical assignment for a typical class. My network connection was down, so I called the help desk at 5-9000 and listened to a taped announcement of the desk's hours of operation. If I were calling during these house (which I was), the message stated that I should call back later because all "user consultants" were busy.

Call back later. No opportunity to leave message or to hold for the next available uses consultant." I tried calling back several times that day and again throughout this week, only to get the same announcement each time.

This lack of phone support define the purpose of having a help line in the first place. Students should at least be able to leave voice mail for the help desk to time they don't have to keep trying to get through.

Soon I got clever and decided to use my modern to a mail from cyberspace. In my frustration at being unable to get technical support for nearly a week. I did a morally reprehensible deed: I copied the network managers on my e-mail to the help desk.

Promptly I received a message to response to my plea for help desk. It was from the network managers, who lambasted me for contacting them directly.

After a few more days as a network overcast, I was back online, I proceeded to complete the assignment, which was due the following afternoon. I then made the foolish mistake of not printing my work when I had the chance.

The next day I returned to my computer to print my assignment. Lo and behold, the net connection was not working again blasted "call back later" recording. The assignment was due in an hour.

I hurried to my house's computer lab, floppy disk in hand, only to find that the printer there was networked in such a way that the computers in the lab could not access it. Surely an oversight like this could be avoided by making use support staff available to the houses.

I then made a last-ditch effort and went to the Science Center basement. The Every Mac was in use (the program I needed was Mac-only), so I joined in "organic queue of folks waiting for machines to become free.

Finally I got to a machine, popped in my floppy, and tried to print my assignment. No go; the Mac gave me a stack-looking error message. Upon going into the Chooser to verify that my printer selection was correct, I noticed something amazing the printer in my house's computer lab, inaccessible from the machines in the same lab, was accessible from the Science Center.

But it was too late. My assignment was due, and no, "use consultants" were available to the printing problems. I went to my section leader, empty-handed, and begged for grace due to printer failure, My section header understood, for I was only one of many who had tried to complete the assignment using High Technology.

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