Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Man is censoring me, or something (I better get my tin foil hat)

Just a note. I finally discovered that I can change the date and time of my posts. Oh, the things you learn when you actually look for the answers.

On Friday, my English class went to the school computer lab to work on research for a persuasive essay. The computer lab consists of approximately 35 or 40 computers running Windows 2000. But who can blame school districts for saving money?

Before I go on, I'd like to talk fondly about breaking Windows 2000 security features. Windows 2000 is more insecure than you think. Although admins can block access to certain drives and folders in Win2000 Professional, it doesn't work as well as it should. At my high school, the C:\ drive, which stores program info, is blocked. The block can easily be bypassed by creating a shortcut. This enables users to install everything from Mozilla Firefox to MapleStory, instances of which have remained on the network for months. The only limitation is that software installed can be accessed only on the computer on which it was installed.

And so now I will relate to you the wonders of bureaucracy. By the end of the period, I had compiled a list of worthwhile weeks that I needed to save. I went to my favorite online word processor, Google Docs, with the intention of creating a document full of links. To my surprise, I was greeted with the WebSense warning that the website I was attempting to access was deemed inappropriate under the category "Personal File Storage and Backup" or something of the same nature. Harrumph! I tried to outsmart the filter by going to (now transformed into Google Docs); such an effort was held at bay with the same WebSense Enterprise warning.

Frustrated, I did the only thing I could do: Beat the system with irony. And when you're battling WebSense, you need lots and lots of irony. I went to Zoho Writer, another online word processor with whom I had an account, and as expected, this time WebSense was nowhere in sight. Oh, the irony - the delicious, tragicomic irony. I created a new document and saved the links just as the bell rang, and I made it in time for my next class.

A couple periods later, when I again had to use the computer lab for an individual assignment. It was by chance, I suppose, that not only did I get access twice in one day, but both system administrators were in the same room, as well as one of my friends, who had the same problem as I. I approached the admins, having no time restraints on my assignment, and told them that I believed that WebSense was unnecessarily blocking a useful website. I told them about the situation, and my friend chimed in. They checked the site and found the situation I had detailed.

Next, the real kicker came: They couldn't change anything, because the district was in charge of the filter, and the district had chosen to add a bunch of new websites to to the blacklist that very day. You can just imagine me jumping for joy at learning about the tangled web of bureaucrats.

Naturally, I will have no trouble getting around the useless filter by going to a site that does the same thing as Google Docs - until the filter is removed, but there's little chance of the district actually doing anything useful. The irony is that only one online word processor was touched. Just Google Docs. I suppose it must be evil, and everyone is at risk of contagion when people use it. Or something like that. Come to think of it, I can't imagine a situation where the school district has ever proved to be good at much of anything. Did you know that Arizona is next to last when it comes to spending on public education per student? Just one of the nifty things I learned growing up.

Arizona: Come for the warm weather, stay for the... erm... um... warm weather, I guess

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