Troubleshooting both printer and personnel problems

A stuck printer leads one techie to discover a different issue: a teacher's questionable Web browsing history

A few years back, I was providing tech support for an elementary school in Mexico. The teachers and staff were not particularly tech savvy. The problems I got called in for included even basics such as formatting Word documents or troubleshooting Internet connections.

One day fairly late, I received a call that the printer in a classroom would not work, no matter what they tried.

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By the time I showed up, all the students and most staff were gone, including the teacher whose classroom housed the troublesome printer. Another teacher showed me which printer was causing problems and which computer was hooked up to it.

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I started by trying to print some test documents -- with no luck. But very soon, I found the real problem: The printer application was stuck with several documents in the queue. For the sake of decency, I shall omit the real names of the documents. Let's just say there were about 15 pictures of "hot Latinas" waiting to print.

I asked the teacher about the owner of the computer. He said that the teacher in the classroom usually stayed after hours, working late.

The stuck printer queue was the first clue I had of the teacher's after-hours activities. I quickly fixed the printer problem, then started building a report about what the teacher was looking at, including the time of day. The cookies and cache revealed a lot of inappropriate websites he visited on an almost daily basis after school hours. Then I submitted the report, including screenshots and timestamps, to the principal.

A few days later, I learned that the teacher was confronted with the hard evidence and denied all accusations, despite the fact that he was the only one at the school at times that coincided with the timestamps. I was summoned to reproduce the results of my report.

Once again I audited the machine. The difference was that this time, someone had wiped all the browsing history from Internet Explorer. Little did they know that browsing history is not the only place you can see which pages have been visited. I used the cookies to file another report, but this time I made sure to include that someone tried to cover their tracks.

A few weeks later, I was informed that the teacher was reprimanded and transferred to a different school in another sector -- not the harshest of consequences, in my opinion.

I guess you never know what the end-users are up to, and sometimes, all it takes is a small glitch to cause an avalanche that leads to a techie being asked to troubleshoot a different kind of problem than broken hardware.

This story, "Troubleshooting both printer and personnel problems," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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