Untrustworthy students: lighten your restrictions

Untrustworthy students: lighten your restrictions

Summary: You know the drill. You spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on higher education at your college or university of choice.

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argh-crazy-computer-run-awayyyyyy.pngYou know the drill. You spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on higher education at your college or university of choice. But when you go to use your Internet connection or a public computer on campus, you login and it's locked down so tight, you can barely fart without the IT personnel knowing about it. Where did the trust go?

I'm lucky because on my campus, we're trusted to some degree, and we don't have restrictions unless they pose a security risk to the network; installing applications without administrative privileges for example. Some of you though aren't so lucky - capped connections, locked down browsers, a Gestapo web filter and backend systems trying to catch every "naughty" thing you do.

Maybe you want to download something you know you shouldn't, but you know you need. Maybe you need to find some research which is blocked because it contains swearing. For goodness sakes, in my old school we couldn't Google the town "Scunthorpe" because it had an extremely rude word in the middle of it. I personally feel sorry for those living in this small village in Scotland.

A somewhat unethical post, you may think. You're right, but I'm hardly "Mr. Plays by the Rules", now am I?

[?]Wait a cotton picking minute: don't think for one minute you should do anything illegal with this. Oh no, this is merely for educational reasons, ie. accessing material which you need for academic purposes but for some reason you can't. Don't be breaking the law or University regulations now, otherwise somewhere a little kitten dies as a result of your law breaking. You've been warned.There are a few things you can do to relieve some of your restrictions. Let's just run through a few of them, and if you've got any more suggestions, feel free to post them in the Talkbacks.

Browse freely If you've heard of a proxy server, this is exactly the same principle. Instead of going through your ISP or university servers, you (somehow) bypass that and run through another websites' proxy server. By using a proxy, you can bypass any filtering software on the network, to access the research which you need. As I mentioned with "Scunthorpe", because it has a rude word embedded in there, some software's cannot distinguish this and blocks even legitimate websites anyway.

With many of these proxy websites, it also removes the title of the web page. If Rangersuite is on your network and an "unauthorised word" is mentioned in the title, your browser is automatically closed without warning, regardless of whether it is a legitimate site or not. This allows you to browse freely without having your work shut down in front of you. Not only that, a lot of social networking websites are blocked through filtering software on the network, and we already know social networks can be a major part of the learning process.

Portable applications Many networks block downloading and installing of software, and rightly so. The amount of software out there which many students download is packed with malware and bugs, which collectively can bring an entire network down. By downloading portable applications such as Portable Firefox, Portable OpenOffice and Portable VLC to a flash drive, this allows you to run the programs that you want to use without installing anything.

There are loads of portable applications out there and the list is getting bigger and bigger. Many IT administrators say Firefox is a security risk, when in fact it's more secure than Internet Explorer; they say that because IE is incredibly easy to roll out to an entire network with no more than a few click of a button.

Good news for Mac fans as well. If you're stuck on a Windows only network, like many networks are nowadays, you can even download a specialist "Mac on a stick"; Mac OS Classic 7 downloaded to a portable flash drive allows you to run a version of Mac OS, granted a little old, on any workstation.

Blocked or hidden drives Regardless for what reason, some drives in My Computer are hidden or blocked from access. There are, however, two methods of gaining access.

  1. In a directory where you do have full access, right click then go to New > Shortcut.
  2. In the New Shortcut dialog, type in the drive letter, such as:  c: then hit Next, then Finish.
  3. Double click, and there's your drive.

Should this fail to work, you could also try the computer drive browser. For security reasons, you have to download the HTML script and save it to a local area, as it won't run from the web. By typing in the address of where you want to go, such as C:Program Files, it'll load it up for you.

If these don't work, it's just not meant to be I'm afraid.

Lock an unlockable computer Have you ever wanted to go for a coffee, a smoke, or something to eat, and you want to lock your computer but you can't? Often IT administrators disable the "Lock Computer" function in Windows because in hotdesking areas, other people can't use your machine unless they ask the user to unlock it; failing that they ask the IT administrators, but everybody knows the IT admin's can't be arsed to do anything.

You can get around this by downloading a freeware application which replaces the Windows key + L replacement. With a quick Google search, you can find many to secure your computer when you walk away for 5 minutes.

If all else fails... Have you ever heard of a Live CD? It's an operating system on a CD or DVD, which you can download, customise, fiddle around with, burn, and then use instead of a computer. There are many distributions of Live CD's, especially Linux, but instead of using the operating system installed on a computer, this temporarily replaces it.

You turn the computer on, whack in the CD and it starts to load it before the hard drive kicks in. From here, you can load up a temporary operating system which you've downloaded and customised, enabling you to have full access to a computer. Once you take the CD out and restart the computer, the previous operating system kicks in - as if you were never there...

Topics: Software, Apple, Browser, CXO, Hardware, Networking, Operating Systems, Software Development

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18 comments
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  • Proxies

    "By using a proxy, you can bypass any filtering software on the network"

    Only if they're incompetent. I work for a company that has hardware that a proxy wouldn't get around the rules, even if it's SSL.
    rpmyers1
  • Your statement about proxies is wrong.

    If the university simply sets a rule in its firewall to only allow ports 80 and 443 through and only to the on campus proxy, you can't even use another proxy server.

    If so many college students didn't act immaturely and surf the internet in ways that can trash the whole or a large part of the campus network, they wouldn't have to lock the Internet down.
    bjbrock
  • The fact that your giving advice ...

    on how to go against the wishes of your schools network administration show your lack of maturity. Whether you like it or not, you should be explaining why you should be trying to abide by the rules laid down.
    bjbrock
    • there are many legitimate reasons why this is useful

      first off, he's talking about computers in the school's lab, so it's not like this is so you can surf porn or anything.

      filtering systems ate universities err on the over zealous side most of the time, and his example about the town name is a good one. as a student, you need access to information, and if you need to circumvent a few rules to get it, so be it. no one's killing babies here.
      lostarchitect
      • I would have thought that...

        It would have been easier to point out to a (tenured) professor that the work being assigned could not be done given the policies and software available.

        Then, either he would be slapped down and told it could be done because the professor had done it, or the professor would get sufficiently ticked off as to want to roast slowly on a spit (or whatever their favourite torture method was) whoever was hobbling their teaching effort.
        zkiwi
  • RE: Untrustworthy students: lighten your restrictions

    While being a former student of higher educational institutes at two different times in my life I can appreciate you trying to assist students (in what you seem to think is a helpful way) for them to access required resources, great idea. It???s unfortunate your article seems to describe IT personnel at these places as mere tyrants preventing students from getting the proper education they require. In earnest most of us IT personnel for these institutes are trying to provide an equal and high quality of service for the entire student and facility body while being dictated to by education comities, administration and government restrictions. We don???t see students as untrustworthy as you lead your readers to believe, in fact the solution to many of students problems maybe as simple as just asking to see what we can do to help, since after all if it wasn???t for the students we would be working here in the first place.
    SteveBC
    • I think that it must depend on the institution

      I too have attended several institutions of higher learning going all the way back to 1950. Even then, access to the libraries at some of them were more restrictive than others.

      As to English geography, I was invited to give lectures on heat transfer at The RAF Academy and at the Royal College of Aeronautics. I still confuse Canfield and Cranwell.

      My first contact with academic computers was in 1965, and it was very restrictive with computer operators, FORTRAN, punched cards and all that.

      Later, in the 1990's, for personal development, I took some courses in the computer science department of a state university. We students had almost unlimited access, including access by modem from home, to the department's DEC VAX. Students in the general school population were more restricted in their use of the main computer lab. Access by students, using a modem from home was terminated "for security reasons" while I was a student there.

      This year,I took a course in "Computer Fine Art" at the local community college. I had a problem with the preferences of the assigned MAC. The instructor was unable to help and I was told in no uncertain terms that students were not allowed to make changes to the computers. I tried the IT help desk and was told that only faculty could make requests. Another student quietly helped me make the necessary changes.

      I have concluded that "education" is often something driven down from above by "educators" while "learning" is something that students do, often with creativity and initiative. We must continue to "remove the obstacles" while attempting to avoid irritating the authorities.

      Incidentally, I sometimes think of Kent as having a bit more adventuresome attitude. Perhaps that is because of the old NATO Special Warfare school at Ashford.
      Seryy Volk
      • The control of learning started

        long long time ago .

        John Taylor Gatto has done some eye
        opening research on about the histories
        of educational controls .
        gkrwc
        • Thank you for the reference

          I was glad to read Gatto's views. I followed a link on his page, and was also interested in Mary Leue's input.

          I think that the most successful school avoider must have been John Stuart Mill, who never went to school at all.

          Gatto uses a different division of the activities involved, and I have noted that he has a higher opinion of the word "education" than I do, but it is easy to slide along the continuum, learning, education, schooling.

          In the 19th Century, Madame de Stael and Gauss were influential in the formation of other American institutions along the Prussian model.
          Seryy Volk
  • Scunthorpe?

    We are quite used to Americans knowing nothing of the geography of the rest of the world but we expect better of people who studied in Kent, England. It should be known that Scunthorpe is in Lincolnshire England about 300 miles south of the Scottish border
    misceng
    • RE: Scunthorpe?

      I knew that - I used to live in Nottinghamshire, right next to Lincolnshire. I never once said that I didn't know where it was; I was merely using it as an example. The line afterwards was a separate example of another town in Scotland which would be blocked under certain filters, even though it's a geographical place.
      zwhittaker
  • RE: Untrustworthy students: lighten your restrictions

    Re that small village in the Shetland islands, Scotland, there's another small village by the same name in the Orkney Islands, Scotland -- I've been to the one in Orkney, but the Shetland Islands are a longer boat trip and I never visited the other one.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl
    nazcalito
  • Firefox & Carl Sandburg Highschool's IT department

    They complain that Firefox doesn't play well with their utilities. When their utilities have screen shots of Mozilla firefox when the blocker comes up when you go to some site... Speaking of it, DeepNines suggests use of Mozilla Firefox.
    rebelxhardcore
  • Unfortunate names

    Then there's Forsyth Georgia, whose county seat is the city of Cumming.
    fairportfan
    • RE: fairportfan

      Fairport fan? As in, Fairport Convention? Cropredy festival? :-o

      I used to go when I was a littl'un, had some of the best days of my life there :-)
      zwhittaker
  • I can understand universities and IT departments being concerned

    about unauthorised downloads which could screw up a whole network, but interfering with access to sites on the grounds that they may or may not publish words which include the names of certain body parts by some considered unmentionable is simply asinine. Naive as I am, I thought universities and other institutions of (higher ?) learning were supposed to be temples to freedom of speech and expression, not their restriction !...

    Henri
    mhenriday
    • RE: Henri

      All UK universities go through a dedicated ISP called "JANET", which is an ISP like no other. It's dedicated, faster than all other ISP's in the UK and it's the biggest "hidden" ISP that only universities and colleges (with ac.uk domain names) can use.

      There are very few restrictions, no blocks or filtering unless the university puts them in place. My university doesn't; it values freedom of speech, research and studying.

      The article was primarily aimed at US and non-UK students, as JANET is one of a kind as far as I know.
      zwhittaker
      • ISP

        We have one that is intended only for the Highest Universities also. From what I know, it's pretty hidden, or at least to the majority of the public. It's called "Internet2", although I am not sure it's restricted by Universities, it's the fastest in the country, so I hear.
        megamanx