Reiser: Computer labs not for socializing

By Becky Reiser

I like to think of myself as a patient person. I wait in lines and listen to annoying,… I like to think of myself as a patient person. I wait in lines and listen to annoying, repetitive elevator music while on hold. I work with children and attempt to complete math homework.

But all of this goes out the window when I’m late for class. If it’s 10:45 a.m. and I just need to print one thing, I have zero patience. All bets are off, and it’s every tired, rushed, over-worked college student for themselves.

You’ve probably run into people like me before — people who point out empty computers to students who are so out of it that they don’t remember if they prefer Macs or PCs. You’d probably think, “God, who is this girl, half-finished coffee in hand, pacing back and forth in line?”

Why, that would be me, a self-described expert at using campus computer labs. I’ve decided that since we’re on the home stretch to finals, I’ll help you out a bit by sharing some “early” morning wisdom. Take note, because you could be violating some of these rules  … and not even know.

Becky’s tips to computer-lab etiquette:

1. Get off your phone

If there’s a line of people waiting for a computer, get off your damn phone or iPod  — or any other electronic device that is not allowed while in flight. Look out for empty chairs and report to one as soon as it opens up — or else I’ll point it out to you, and it will probably be embarrassing. While we’re on the subject of phones — please refrain from answering them while in the computer lab. It’s hard enough listening to ring tones featuring pop songs from the Top 40 without them going off in a quiet computer lab.

2. Full labs are not for Facebook

I really don’t care about the cute foreign boy you met on a Port Authority bus over the weekend or how debonair his lensless frames look — and neither does anyone else trying to print out English papers. Quit gossiping and publicly stalking — there’s a mob of late college students behind you.

3. Limited seats are available

More points off if you decide to enjoy the wonders of social networking with a friend right next to you but only use one of the computers between you. People, this is not OK. This habit breaks a cardinal rule of computer lab etiquette. There are a limited number of computers in each lab, and sometimes not all of them are even functioning. It is important that, in a full lab, students recognize the line forming. Labs are a valuable resource for students on campus. But they are just that, a resource. They should not be abused or taken advantage of.

4. Learn how to use basic technology

A new version of Microsoft Office was released and installed on all campus computers this past summer. The software doesn’t like Courseweb or students who try opening a document straight from an e-mail. Please, just save all downloads to the desktop to “enable editing.” It will really help the ResNet employees who are organizing printouts. They don’t have time to repeat the same instructions over and over. In case you forget: When opening a file from online (this applies to everything from PowerPoints to PDFs) click “save” instead of “open” when the download box appears. Choose “Desktop” or “My Documents” as the destination where the document can be saved. After the document has completed downloading, click “open.” Make sure you click “enable editing” on the yellow bar if it opens in Microsoft Office software. Yes, it’s an extra step, but you’ll feel more self-sufficient when you learn how to do it.

If you finished reading this and realized that, hey, these things annoy you too, then great. Spread the word and help students at Pitt practice safe computing. However, if you realize that maybe, just maybe, you are a perpetrator of many of these offensive computer lab blunders, then take note. Yes, I will continue to police the labs when I’m late and in a rush to use a University service. But if it’s 1:50 p.m. on one of my slower days and I see someone in line pacing back and forth, I’ll let them cut past me. And if they’re lucky, hopefully everyone will try being a bit more courteous, no matter how caffeine-deprived or late they are for class.