Sunday, 27 April 2008

More on LAC and USB flash drives

It was a pleasure to be at an event at Library and Archives Canada on Friday evening to mark the acquisition and donation of archival materials from the descendants of former Governor General Lord Elgin. Ian Wilson managed the ceremonies with grace. Congratulations to those who organized the event so well.

I took the opportunity of a brief conversation with Ian to mention the question of LAC walking his talk regarding the use of USB flash drives at LAC. He seemed unaware that clients are not allowed to use them in LAC equipment.

By coincidence on Saturday Dick Eastman posted an item on these drives in his online genealogy newsletter. I took the opportunity to post a comment to which Dick responded:

JDR ---> Some local archives and libraries prohibit the use of flash drives on their computers citing the risk of virus transmission. How real is the threat?

Dick Eastman: It is real. However, it can easily be managed. The process isn't complex, any Windows system administrator should be able to handle it.

Two things pop to mind: (1.) the threat is no greater for jump drives than it is for floppy disks or CD-ROM disks. These threats have been around for years and properly installed and frequently-updated anti-virus programs have proven to delete 99.9% of them. (2.) Properly-installed public access computers in libraries, Internet cafes and elsewhere usually are configured to have the hard drives wiped clean and reloaded every day or so. Even if a virus infection occurs, it doesn't last long.

Proper anti-virus software installed in your own computer minimizes the risk of a problem being introduced to your system.

JDR ---> What can be done about it to permit the use of these devices?

Dick Eastman: Probably not much. We are the guests in the establishment and are at the mercy of the owners, whether we agree with their policies or not.

At this time of year, with income taxes due in a few days, being "at the mercy" of the administrators of a publicly funded institution does not sit well. As pointed out on Friday, Lord Elgin instituted "responsible" government in Canada rejecting the prior practice of domestic government decisions being taken in Britain. Could we find another Lord Elgin to institute the same kind of "responsible" administration at LAC?

Having mentioned Dick Eastman it would be irresponsible not to point out that he is a speaker at the OGS Conference coming up in London, Ontario.

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