The bigger the problem...the LESS you should do?

IT support pilot fish at a university gets a routine trouble call: This professor's laptop has gotten very slow -- and fish thinks a lack of disk space is the likely issue.

"But I told him I'd have to run some tests," says fish. "His field of study involved sound and, as expected, he had a huge collection of sound files. And his usual email heap dated back many years, with lots of picture attachments.

"Still, all that didn't add up to a problem. I'd specified the machine knowing this prof would store all this stuff. So what was the issue?"

Once fish recovers some free space, he ranks the folders by size -- and discovers that the biggest ones have some eye-popping names that appear to identify specialized sorts of smut.

Maybe that's just an odd code, fish thinks. He shuts his door and takes a peek. Nope, they're just what the folder and file names say they are: neatly organized porn.

Fish knows that university policy allows personal use of university-issued machines, even if what's on them is offensive. But this prof makes frequent trips abroad to make presentations, in places where laws are different. The prof getting busted at airport customs for transporting smut would be bad news for everybody concerned.

On the other hand, the prof is very highly regarded in his field, with many articles, several books and some major awards for his work. Academically, he's a real credit to the university -- and not someone fish wants to cross.

So fish takes the dilemma to the department chair. He explains that the prof's laptop is full of pornography, which may be OK with the university and may be legal in the U.S., but may not be in the places he travels to. And fish adds that if the prof keeps adding to his collection, he'll be asking for an even more expensive laptop very soon.

"The department chair thanked me for the information, and that was the last I heard," fish says.

"A few years later, the prof announced he was going to another university. That's about how long it takes for a prof to find a good position. Coincidence? I'll never know."

Got an IT dilemma? Tell Sharky about it. Send me your true tales of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt every time I use one. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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