Ciberlinux-desktop-screenshot

Will, his boss Rita, and Nick from HR huddled around a conference room speakerphone, listening to their new marching orders from the giant company that’d just bought out their small 100-person shop. Big changes would be avalanching down from Corporate over the next several months. For the moment, they were going over the modifications required to be compliant with their new overlords’ IT policies.

Twenty minutes into the call, nothing major had come up. Will dashed down notes, thinking this wouldn’t be so bad after all…

Then the voice on the other side intoned, “Local admin rights for all users.”

Will and Rita glanced up from their laptops with a start, sharing the same wide-eyed look of alarm.

Nick glanced between them, picking up on their consternation, but unsure what it meant. “Uh, guys? Is that doable?” he prompted.

“Hang on a sec.” Will reached out to swat the Mute button on the speakerphone. Then, he couldn’t help himself. His glimmer of amusement turned into a snort, then a giggle, then full-on loud laughter—laughter that Rita joined him in.

“What is it?” Nick asked, more confused than ever.

“Local…? Sorry. Local admin rights for everyone?” Will sat back in his chair, pressing his palms against his eyes as he recovered his breath.

“It basically means we’d be giving everyone here carte blanche to install and run and change whatever they want, whenever they want, on their computers,” Rita explained. “That doesn’t sound so bad, but in reality, it makes us vulnerable to malware, viruses, security attacks, you name it.”

“Some people do need admin rights to perform their jobs, but not everyone,” Will chimed back in. “It’s gonna open up huge cans of worms.”

“Well, shoot,” Nick said, concerned. “I don’t know if we have much wiggle room. Let’s see what we can do.” His finger hovered over the Mute button. “You’re willing to explain to them why it’s a bad idea?”

“In depth!” Will said.

“OK.” Nick un-muted the speakerphone. “We’re back now, thanks. Um, so, about the local admin thing—”

“We know you have objections,” one of the disembodied overlords replied casually.

Will, Rita, and Nick traded surprised looks.

“Most of you small fries do when you come aboard,” the voice continued. “Sorry, but that’s our policy. Non-negotiable.”

This marked the first time Will had a pronounced sinking feeling about their acquisition. It wouldn’t be the last.

“I really don’t want to do this,” he told Rita a few days later, poised to make the ordered changes.

Rita gave an apologetic shake of her head. “I appealed it as high as I could, kid. We don’t have a choice. Do me a favor: keep track of the extra tickets and problems we get as a result of this, OK? Maybe then I’ll have the metrics I need to get someone to listen.”

“It’s the metrics that matter.” With a distasteful shake of his head, Will got to work. “Can’t wait to see what comes in first.”

To their surprise, a full week of peace and quiet ensued, but this was merely the calm before the excrement-storm. Early on a Monday, emails flooded the support box.

Oh no where are my database icons?

Did you guys do something to my machine over the weekend? I’m missing a bunch of shortcuts…

Mysteriously, each user was missing the exact same set of desktop icons: 5 shortcuts leading to the databases located on the network.

His unfamiliarity with the problem, and horror at the sheer number of emails, sent Will careening to Rita’s cube. “Ever see anything like this before?”

“No,” she replied. “Does this have anything to do with enabling local admin rights?”

Will frowned. “I don’t really see how. I’m not sure what it is. I’m just gonna write up a quick batch file to re-add the shortcuts and push it out to everyone.”

So he did. The shortcuts reappeared, and worked perfectly. Everyone was happy. It was tedious, but Will made sure to log and close out a separate support ticket for each email he'd received, just in case he needed those blessed “metrics” later.

More like ammo, Will thought. Oh well, he doubted he’d ever run into this again.

Exactly one week later, the universe told him what he could do with his doubts.

“Those same icons are all missing again!” Will told Rita.

“OK, it really does seem like this has something to do with the admin change,” Rita said.

“How?!”

She shrugged and sighed. “Let’s find out.”

They pored through event logs, antivirus logs, GPO lists, and logon scripts. Nothing pointed to anything.

“Maybe Google is our friend?” Will proposed.

A few searches later, he had the answer: the infamous Windows 7 Computer Maintenance. If there were more than 4 broken shortcuts on the desktop, it deleted them completely. No Recycle Bin, no Unused Icons folder, just obliterated. It ran its maintenance tasks once a week on startup, after the desktop icons loaded, but before the network drives finished mapping. That meant the database links were "broken,” and were therefore deleted.

Windows Computer Maintenance required local administrator access to automatically delete icons off the desktop.

The icons could be retrieved via system restore, but Will wasn’t about to walk dozens of people of varying degrees of computer literacy through mounting a restore point and browsing to where the shortcuts lived. He ended up writing a startup script to manually recreate the shortcuts after all the other bizarre startup processes had finished doing their thing.

Again, he logged and closed support tickets for each email received. Two weeks after making everyone an admin, Rita had metrics-ammo spilling out of both pockets, but after a round of emails and conference calls, their overlords did not care.