A while back, I complained about an annoyance in update scheduling on the computers at St. Catherine University. While my experience was disrupted for that one night, I don’t think I made it clear enough that overall, the St. Kate’s IT department runs things very well. Because of when that incident occurred—during tech week for Guys and Dolls—I wasn’t in the best of moods, and I think my writing the following day reflected that.
Compared to other institutions at which I’ve had the privilege of computing, St. Kate’s actually leads the pack in most areas. Augsburg College provides an especially good contrast to St. Kate’s:
- Operating System: Windows Vista (Augsburg)1 vs. Windows XP (St. Kate’s)
- Time To Internet:2 3 min. (at least, Augsburg) vs. < 2 min. (St. Kate’s)
- Startup Annoyances: Novell iPrint demands a second login, ZENworks and Novell run slow scripts before the user can do anything, Internet Explorer and PaperCut NG automatically open (Augsburg) vs. Internet Explorer and PaperCut automatically open (St. Kate’s)
Of course there are little annoyances. Auto-startup of Internet Explorer and PaperCut is common to both institutions, as is Firefox’s demand to be restarted to fully disable the unstable MetaStream 3 plugin. (In true Murphy’s Law style, the prompt always pops up right when I’m in the middle of something. And restarting FF logs me out of most websites. Of course, I could ignore the prompt, but experience has shown that all I’ll accomplish is a Firefox crash. At least it isn’t lying that the plugin is unstable.)3 However, once one gets past these start-of-session annoyances, the experience is very smooth and pleasant. The configuration stays out of the way for the rest of the session, and that’s exactly how computers intended for work unrelated to computing should behave: Pipe down and let users get things done.
When St. Kate’s is held up to institutions like Hamline University and Concordia University, the others pale in comparison. Neither Concordia nor Hamline offers a browser alternative to Internet Explorer. Fortunately it’s relatively easy to run Google Chrome from my flash drive or temporarily install it on the local machine, or computing at such locations would be unbearable.
Starting Internet Explorer at Concordia, even just to get a copy of Chrome downloaded, is an adventure in frustration. So many browser add-ins load on startup that IE loads frozen and takes 30 to 60 seconds just to initialize and begin loading the homepage. Concordia’s computers also have an annoying tendency to pop up notifications about all sorts of things. InstallShield constantly wants to update something, and Adobe’s Flash and Reader products run updaters every chance they get.
In this mess of different experiences, only St. Kate’s truly stays out of one’s way most of the time. For that reason, I consider it a great pleasure to have the privilege of sometimes using their systems, and I applaud Computing Services for creating such a uniquely user-friendly experience.
As a side note, I’d like to mention that I prepped this post for publication using a workstation at Augsburg College. I spent a lot of time waiting for Windows Vista to stop screwing around long enough to do what I needed it to do. Just to illustrate my point…
- It should be noted that Augsburg’s use of Windows Vista is unmatched in all the institutional computer facilities I have visited in the past two years. St. Catherine University, Colorado College, Hamline University, Concordia University, Emerson College, Normandale Community College, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and the University of Minnesota all (to my most recent knowledge) continue to use Windows XP. The performance advantages held over Augsburg’s workstations by all of the aforementioned institutions is amazing. Windows Vista at Augsburg College is run on machines designed for XP, and is abysmally slow when doing just about anything, even logging in/out. [↩]
- I define this as the shortest possible time between entering login credentials and convincing the computer to cough up a Firefox window ready to browse the Web [↩]
- Also, the public libraries in my area have begun having this issue too, much to my dismay. [↩]