Magazine article Computers in Libraries

OH NO, I Lost All of My Work!

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

OH NO, I Lost All of My Work!

Article excerpt

Librarianship became a second career for me when I retired from being a computer specialist for a large municipal government agency. In my prior life as a computer specialist, I was more concerned with setting up operating systems and loading applica tion software than I was with helping individuals who asked, "How do I do that in Word?"

Now, years later, as the electronic services librarian at the Brooklyn campus library of Long Island University (LIU), I find myself worrying more about the latter.

Save, Save, Save

Having been in the computer industry for more years than I care to think about, Fm reminded of one of the earliest tenets of word processing: Save your work, and save it often. I am a strong advocate of saving documents using Ctrl-S. This is the shortcut to save a file and has saved (no pun intended) many a Word document. However, no matter how many admonitions IVe given to save, save, save, the results are frequently the same - people forget. On the one hand, it's encouraging to see that people trust computers not to lose their work. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, aging computer hardware, a possibly questionable electrical supply, and sometimes erroneous keystrokes, things will happen that endanger our work on computers.

I'm responsible for setting up the computers in such a way that they will not cause problems for the students. It's a bit better these days, with the use of USB flash drives rather than always -failing floppies. Not to say that USB flash drives never fail they fail, but far less frequently. The problems encountered by students using Word or Excel usually occur either through a power loss or when the computer freezes. It's very difficult, not to mention traumatic, to have to tell students that their work is irretrievably lost. At that point, the loss of 20 pages and hours of work can cause demonstrable grief and anger.

Ordinarily, when Microsoft Word freezes, it places a somewhat recoverable copy somewhere on the system, which, when the system is rebooted, asks you if you want to recover the document. That doesn't seem like a problem, until you take into consideration the security measures taken by our very own IT department. Several years ago, we im- plemented the use of the Fa- ronics Corp. program Deep Freeze. Faronics' Deep Freeze is a software solution requir- ing no hardware modifications at all. The program accommodates the various file structures that we use, namely FAT32 and NTFS, as well as supporting SATA and IDE drives. We initially had installed this program because some students were doing inappropriate things on the computers, thereby inviting in viruses, Trojans, and worms and causing all types of mischief on the PCs. Our intent was not to stop or block anything except malicious intrusions. We had to find a way to balance our security needs with those of student productivity and, at the same time, not slow down the systems. The way Deep Freeze worked, the computer was reset to its default condition each time it was rebooted. Deep Freeze functions by creating a virtual snapshot of the computer each day. At the end of the day, that snapshot is compared to the current state of the machine, and anything that has changed is discarded upon reboot. The problem, as you may have guessed by now, was that any recovery files created by Word or Excel were also removed.

When I saw this happening more and more frequently, I decided to try to put together a plan.

A Plan to Recover 'Lost' Documents

At the Brooklyn campus of LIU, the library's public computer labs are segmented into three areas. There is a cyberlab area consisting of about 23 computers that are fairly modern, a reference database area with 22 computers that are the newest machines on the floor, and an area of two older sections called paralegal and OPAC with 15 computers and 6 computers, respectively.

All of the machines are running on the Windows XP operating system with Service Pack 2 or 3. …

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