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Roxio’s GoBack: Working with a Clean Slate

Notre Dame College is a small school that has a diverse student base and a number of student labs, including two main labs and a number of smaller labs scattered in different buildings around campus. The main labs double as classrooms, so it is critical that computers in these facilities are functioning at all times.

To achieve this, we have a lab manager who has been able to keep the two main labs running most of the time. Our problem has not been machine failure, but that the machines have become unusable as some students downloaded programs that interfered with software drivers and others dropped foreign language sets onto the machines and did not remove them. Even some of our educational software would lock up and render a machine unusable. Moreover, due to the location of the labs, some facilities were only getting checked once a week or in some cases once a month.

Our first attempt to fix the problem was to create system policies that would stop students from being able to download to the machine and to lock in the settings. But this did not give instructors the freedom to use their educational software, as it inhibited certain functions of the software.

We then tried GoBack from Roxio Inc. We first installed it in on machines in our labs that were running Microsoft Corp. Windows 98. After a small learning curve, we got an imaged drive on a machine and then installed GoBack on it.

The idea behind GoBack is that it creates a buffer that the user writes to when they log onto a machine. The user can then download anything they want to and even change program parameters, but when they log off, the buffer is erased and the original image is restored. The installation of this software has reduced our maintenance time by 40 percent. We then installed GoBack in the dorm labs that run Windows XP. The software has behaved as advertised and we have been able to use the remote access features of XP to maintain these machines at a distance.

The only downside of the rollout of GoBack was that we had to re-train our faculty and students not to save files to the hard drive because when they logged off, their work would be gone. We already had zip drives on the machines and so it was just a matter of re-training, but we did go through a period of lost work and unhappy users.

The software itself is fairly simple to use, although you have to go through a lot of steps to change an existing image. We actually have found it to be easier to burn a new image to a CD and then re-install everything, depending on the size of the changes that need to be made.

Our typical cycle is to re-burn an image at the beginning of each semester, and do other changes on the fly. The machine takes longer to go through a reboot cycle, but nobody seems to mind because the machine comes up clean and is always ready to use once it boots. Although I would not recommend GoBack as a substitute for a good anti-virus program, I have noticed that we have not had the virus problem — especially in the unsupervised labs — that we had before GoBack was installed on those machines.

I have been very happy with the results. Our lab manager is able to spend less time maintaining the machines in the lab, our students are happier because the machines work when they need them, and the instructors are happy because they don’t have to worry about restrictive system policies. The remote labs are functioning well because they require little or no IT intervention, as GoBack cleans up the machines after every logoff.

In short, this product has effectively solved our public access problem.

About the Author

Mike Kiec is the director of information technologies at Notre Dame College.

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