Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A word of caution when working with VITA depot computers

The standard VITA depot imaged laptops require a lot of Windows and Microsoft Updates before they are ready for use - otherwise, there is the danger of being exposed to new malware and computer exploits.  It takes the better part of a hour to update the required patches.

On January 12, 2009, there was a message on one computer that the date and time was off.  On looking at the time, it appeared to be January 19, 2009.  The natural tendency of someone who is familiar with the workings of a machine is to set the time correctly and check that the timeserver is tell properly, and to correct the time zone.

Anyhow, that is what I did.  After restarting the machine, it was not possible to log in. The error message was different from the usual error messages displayed when an incorrect password is provided.

On going through the documentation on how to get started, somewhere at the end, there was a warning not to adjust the time because it would cause problems with the disk encryption. (Now you tell me !)

A talk with the depot technician revealed that we should NEVER adjust the time.  Having the computer think it was a week later than the correct time would certainly cause problems with TaxWise when the date was printed on returns.  There was no simple fix that could be made at the customer site even by an experienced IT technician.  They could only fix it at the Depot with extensive troubleshooting steps to determine what might have caused this to happen.

I was also told that the time zone would take care of itself. I hope that statement is correct.  Since the default setting is Central time, and VITA/TCE sites are usually not open within 3 hours of midnight, the dates would still be correct for returns prepared  in the Continental United States.

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