Leave your charger at home? This year, with the opening of the refurbished first floor of the Reg, IT (Information Technology) services rolled out the TECHB@R, a spectacular tool for all students. Despite having been open for much of the year, many students are not aware of the services offered by the TECHB@R. Located by the main stairs on the first floor, the TECHB@R is fully staffed and offers repair assistance, program glitch repairs, and a fantastic rental program, among many other things. Not only that, but the staff members are extremely friendly and eager to help.
I spoke with a few of them to learn some TECHB@R basics, and was greeted by three friendly faces whose interests seem to be fit right in with those of the student body. Jose (a professional open mic-er), Jason (LOLcats and Maru [the box-jumping cat] fan extraordinaire), and Phil (whose non-tech passions lie in sports and music) are wonderful assets to the University and its students. Goodheartedly, Jose tells me to mention that they also run a secret candy and snack company out of their back office, a joke, of course. The TECHB@R also employs students on evenings and weekends. On a note of interest to all of our readers, Jason pointed out that technology services are a relatively male-heavy field and that only one female applied for the student staff positions. The three agreed that they would love to see more females getting interested in the world of technology and encourage all students to apply for positions, so let’s get on it ladies!
Currently, the TECHB@R services over a hundred students weekly, of which they estimate 75% are undergraduates, and the staff is looking to increase that number and bring more awareness to the campus community about the services that they offer as well as make students on campus more tech saavy. Jason pointed out the collaboration between the research librarians and the tech bar staff, mentioning that students ought to consider coming by for help on a variety of projects, from BAs and dissertations to class research assignments. He also provided a few words of wisdom, namely that IT services will never ask for your password in an email or phone call (they already have your UChicago log-in information; after all, they do provide it!) and to avoid scams. While all of us have likely seen the Nigerian prince scam, Jason mentioned that scams mentioning other countries, including China, are becoming increasingly prevalent. Not only should students be ever vigilant when it comes to scams and phishing emails, but also about backing up data. The second Jason mentioned this, noting that perhaps their most used piece of equipment is their external hard drive, Jose agreed emphatically and Phil pleaded “Yes please!” While the TECHB@R and IT Services are able to make many repairs, sometimes data loss is inevitable, and a lost copy of a paper is no good. They suggest using something like DropBox or an external hard drive to periodically back up your data. In some programs, even a saved document can become ruined if the program has a glitch (one of note is when Microsoft Word turns all characters into asterisks, eek!)
The rental program is a huge asset to students on campus. This past week, my computer decided to fall apart, and I’ve been renting one every day from the TECHB@R since. Over the past few days, I’ve alternated between all three of their laptop offerings: a 13” MacBook Pro, a 13” MacBook Air, and my favorite, to my surprise, a Dell Latitude E6320. Laptop rentals are good for 8 hours and can be renewed up to three times. You can also separately rent power cords and iPads. With every return or log-in, all information is deleted from the computers, so you can safely log-in to secure sites without the fear of having your information stolen (as a rule, always sign out and close the browser before returning the laptops though, just to be extra sure). You can even check availability of these items before going in for a rental at itservices.uchicago.edu/techbar.
The staff at TECHB@R is exceptionally kind, knowledgeable, and helpful, and the programs they run can only be described as awesome. While I look forward to once more having a functional computer of my own, in the meantime, TECHB@R is a fantastic resource. For more information or policies on rentals, please check out their website. The TECHB@R is open from Monday through Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday: Noon to 5:00 p.m.