In my lab, I have been using a piece of software that I call "50 First Dates." It allows the student to do anything they wish, but it resets the computer's configuration at each bootup. It has resolved an incredible number of problems that we experienced previously and now I only have to reimage machines when we want to do software upgrades/installs. The student could reformat the hard drive if he wants to (it always seems to be a "he"), and the computer would still be ready for the next user, presenting a consistent interface and predictable behavior.
The particular software we have been using is Centurion DriveShield, not that I would recommend it over others. If I were going with that company again, I think I would purchase the more expensive hardware version, not the software-based one, just to get away from their preoccupation with licensing. There are similar products by other manufacturers that are less expensive and which I suspect do the same thing. The nice thing about this solution over a product that "locks down" the workstation is that there are no application issues and the student doesn't get treated like a restricted user. Heck, go ahead and make them administrators if you want to. They are only kings of their sandbox for a day.
There are many tools that harried network support people can use to simplify their lives and improve service. I encourage you to consider this simple solution. You'll probably spend $15 per machine to implement it, but it might be the best investment you can make.
"When we study music, we practice... because there is no other way to become a musician. Neither can we become engineers by just studying a textbook, because practical experience is needed to correlate the so-called theory with practice." Charles Franklin Kettering
I just read vince's last paragraph regarding single users vs
multiple users on a given machine....
I often try to describe my tech support challenges with the metaphor
of managing a fleet of delivery vehicles.........
with many different teenage drivers taking out different vehicles
each time they drive, some leaving the lights on, some locking the
keys inside, few checking the oil, and all with very different
driving styles...riding the clutches, burning rubber, gunning the
engine etc etc....
service and tune ups and ongoing driver ed are just part of my job
Most fleets buy a quantity of a specific model ( bread truck, police
car, delivery vans etc) which mean that the motor pool can easily
swap out parts, canibalize entire vehicles, and recognize/isolate
similar problems to make and model... new brakes 28kmiles.... new
engine 193k miles..... decommission 201kmiles
I on the other hand ( given my small budget ( small school) I buy a
few new computers each year to add to the mish mash mix... and
consequently have multiple makes and models, all with different
dashboards ... rearranged furniture, and idiosyncratic
behaviors....P3, celeron, G3, G4, G5, Printers, copiers, cameras,
scanners, switches hubs etc and many different engines Windows 9x 2k
ME xp OS9x 10x jaguar, panther, tiger.......... now ipods,
Plus my 300 plus drivers have all manner of driving experience and
confidence..... I still get new customers pointing a mouse upside
down and asking "what is double click?" ( I actually told one user
to "go file ... open new document" and they said " file... open...
new document" and waited for something to happen....
not that I see buying a whole new fleet of like computers every 3-5
years as a likely solution.......
There is a calculus somewhere in here but I don't have the time to
try to figure it out...... except to say that here at my understaffed
motorpool (i mechanic) there will always be a percentage of rigs in
for repair, rigs doa, and service calls to users to tell them that
"the battery cable was loose", "you have to depress the clutch before
turning the ignition" and "yes it is important to check the oil" and
"no gas.... no go"
I don't have time to go back and reread but often think of the book
"Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" which I first read prior
to touching my first pc... but described different user/operator
styles with a different technology...... I am sure there are very
appropriate passages to capture the joys and frustrations of our
multi hat responsibilities.....