Machine lockdown purgatory

Posted on Posted in Everything, Software Testing

Clearly I’ve had it far too easy for the past 10 years. Working for internet-based companies with unfettered access to install whatever I like on my machine, all the internets I could eat, complete control over my testing environment(s).

I have a question for all of you who have in the past experienced complete machine lockdown in your role as a tester (or developer or similar). Imagine the following completely hypothetical situation:

You need to install stuff on your local box, but can’t because you don’t have privileges. Getting stuff installed on your box requires going through a cubic buttload of bureaucracy and can literally take 3 weeks. No (instant or semi-instant) comms with the outside world, disabled USB ports, the works. Does this hypothetical situation sound familiar to anyone?

Does one

a) Politely request that ones machine (and the machines of one’s team mates) be unshackled and cite decreased productivity as a reason (and possibly offer to instead abide by a set of guidelines that are reasonable)?
b) Rant against the concept of treating intelligent adults like naughty children or criminals?
c) Say nothing, but add a couple of weeks per app one may need to install to project test estimation?
d) None of the above, but something awesome that I have neglected to mention here?

Teh Google shows a lot of hits for people who are in favour of lockdown. Guess it’s okay when you’re on the other side of the fence. I found a few articles that were in favour of trusting users – I enjoyed reading through the comments here. I think it comes down to finding (begging for?) balance. I know not every user out there is savvy enough to stay safe on the internets, but there are plenty that are. Why should they suffer?

I’m interested to hear how people have handled this situation and what the results were.

4 thoughts on “Machine lockdown purgatory

  1. The IT staff probably doesn’t want to spend hours upon hours filling tickets to install stuff on your computer. Your current situation is lose/lose and should be easy to improve for both of you. I would hope you could reason with them.

    As a compromise w/ IT you might be able to test on VMs that don’t have the locked-down assets on them. Assuming you can actually download whatever you need to help you test. And assuming you’re not doing perf testing. Or, depending on the VM you use, kernel testing/debugging.

    If you have physical access to the boxes and *any* way to insert boot media you should also be able to get root/administrator. I’m going to assume you’re running Windows and recommend the Nordahl tool – ISO available on the internet. You might want to save that as a last resort. Could lead to termination.

    I faced a similar problem at work recently, but our (new-ish) director of IT is a really resonable guy. He didn’t understand why engineers needed an IT roadblock and didn’t want his staff spending time on things that other people could handle on their own. Now we can install software as admins. With the understanding that we’re normally doing our work with more limited privileges, of course.

  2. I’m sure you’re right about it being a lose/lose situation.
    In this (purely hypothetical) instance, I would probably lean toward attempting such reasoning via the proper (bureaucratic, time-consuming) channels and see how that goes. It might take a while 🙂

  3. I’ve made a deal in the past where IT was relieved of any responsibility for working with the computers of the testing department – in return we could do whatever we wanted to our machines. We got the freedom, but had to be responsible for any problems. We had a very savvy team, so it worked out. Depending on the skills mix on your team, this might be worthless advice 🙂

  4. In our hypothetical situation, it might have turned out that there are multiple ‘correct channels’ to go through and while one might have returned no results, another was almost immediately successful – especially when put in terms of ‘The issue I warned you of, whereby the testers are unable to do any useful work due to machine lockdown has come to pass. Can you please sign off on this change request to reinstate installation rights?’

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