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University Card

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With this country in general and its universities in particular being firmly situated somewhere between 'old-fashioned' and 'backwards', it is quite a thing that we now get university cards. Until now you simply received a little sheet of paper with your name and university number on it. In fact that worked quite well, didn't take up a lot of space in your wallet and you could even jot down phone numbers on the back.

But, perhaps because of the new physics department with its eletronic door locks, or just to seem a bit more modern it was decided that everybody needs a fancy new plastic university card, complete with an implanted chip for some function or another (like opening doors in the physics department if you're a student there). This could be really useful if you could use it for everything – but right now you cant. Plus, there are the inevitable privacy issues.

But what I want to write about is the process of getting this card. A very quick process, yet one with a rather high numbers of flaws per minute. The first step towards getting that card is to have your photo taken. Inevitably you look crap on that photo and it's so small that it's completely useless anyway. Photos are taken automatically on public 'kiosk' style machines. Not a bad idea probably if it were done right.

And doing things right doesn't include using Microsoft software in its standard settings – even more so if you made that system web-based. To identify yourself to the system you have to use your university number and your birth date (the standard password for everything around here, extra secure!). You simply type these into the computer, realising that they cleverly attached 'small' keyboards without numeric keypads to them, disregarding ease of use. Upon typing the first digits, which are the same for all students, Internet Explorer will happily provide you with the university numbers of everybody else who used that terminal before. Same for the dates of birth. So with a few minutes and a pen you could at least match up a few university numbers, birth dates, names and courses of study with this.

Because of lazy and incompetent programmers.

Then you take the photo. Handily the camera is adjusted in a way that your head won't fit into the frame it takes the photo of either when sitting down on the chair provided or when standing up. Obviously this was devised by either a dwarf or, more likely, by people who didn't even bother to try it out once. The machines look quite expensive, btw, so it's good to see the little money we have to be wasted on that.

The final step at that machine is that your photo is 'improved' by the system. Just imagine 'auto levels' in Photoshop when it goes horribly wrong. This rendered the photo completely useless. I wondered why I had to run through that step at all as there didn't seem to be a way to skip it anyway – thus it could have been done in the background without me seeing it.

Next you go and pick up the card itself. This is done by humans at a counter next to those machines. They have fancy printers to print the stamp sized photo on there. Probably not cheap either.

The customised card also serves as a library card. Much to my surprise they didn't use my library number but adjusted it to be the same as my university number. How useless. I have never ever needed my university number for anything. However, I regularly use my library number for obvious reasons. Now guess, which of those long numbers I know by heart.

Of course saying 'adjusted' the library number in the previous paragraph just serves to indicate that they printed a library number which is the same as my university number on the card. It doesn't meant that this actually is my library number now. I'll have to go to the library and arrange for things to be transferred to the new number myself.

What a bunch of useless idiots.

July 7, 2004, 16:46

Tagged as uni.

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