March 2004 Reader Challenge

The Problem:

Recently, I eavesdropped on a meeting in which a consultant was explaining the way she planned to manage classes she would be holding at a training center. The center's network is a 12-station Windows 2000 domain with one server. The consultant told the folks who run the center that each student would log on with the same username ("student") and would save documents locally. She planned to instruct each student to create a data folder for her class, and all students would use the same folder name. She made the following announcement: "I'll create a folder on the server named StudentData. When the first class ends, I'll drag each student's folder to the StudentData folder on the server and remove the local folders to keep the data away from the students in other classes. Then, for my remaining classes, I'll either teach my students how to access their server-based folders or I'll drag the folders back to the workstations."

Sigh! Another IT professional who knows just enough to be dangerous. I'm so grateful that these people exist because they provide most of the fodder for my monthly challenges. What would I do without them? To be eligible for this month's prize, tell me what's going to happen.

The Solution:

The first folder that the teacher drags to the server will be copied to the server. However, when she drags the folder from the second computer, Windows will issue a message saying the folder already exists and will place all the files from the second and all subsequent folders in the first folder. At that point, individual student folders won’t exist. If any filenames in the folders that the teacher drags subsequently duplicate filenames in the first folder, the version that was dragged last will overwrite the version that was dragged first. Since this instructor tells students what to name folders, it’s probable that she also tells them what to name their data files. The second class session will be extremely confusing and frustrating for the students because it’s possible that only the student whose folder was copied last will have a file.

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