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Schools need a computer testing lab

October 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Events this past week made me realise just how useful it would be if a school had a dedicated lab environment for testing out software, hardware and updates before they went live onto the production network. Unfortunately, such a luxury is something that few schools would be able to afford for various reasons, mainly lack of space and lack of funds.

This past week, I approved some Windows Updates through WSUS. They downloaded fine and were distributed without much fuss. Until they hit a certain combination of software that is. Computers that were running Windows 7, as well as NOD32 version 4.2.58 were affected. The updates would install, but upon reboot, the computer would hang at “Configuring Updates – 15 percent complete” Through sheer luck, one of the computers I was attempting to solve this issue on blue screened, and I was able to see the faulting file causing the issues.

Using logic, I could see that other Windows 7 computers that received the updates didn’t have an issue. The major difference between the computers was the NOD32 version on the computers. The eventual solution to the problem was to boot the computers in Safe Mode, let the updates revert themselves, boot back into normal Windows, upgrade NOD32, reboot, install updates and reboot one last time.

It hit me after the initial crisis how such a situation could probably have been avoided if we had a test lab. With a small selection of identical computers to the production network, we could have tested the impact of updates. Unfortunately, the wide range of computers on our network means that we will never have true uniformity.

At least at the end of this year, we will be purchasing 40 new computers for our main lab, which will have a cascade effect on our older equipment mostly being phased out, something I’m quite glad about. Pentium 4’s, Pentium D’s and older Core 2 based computers need to be retired now.