Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Extegrity Exam Software

Our law school requires the purchase of a specific piece of software for taking exams. It functions akin to a basic featureless text editor that locks out every function of your computer – except for the operation of the exam program itself. It’s not a bad little program and does have some handy features – like a timer, a silent warning that can be set for different intervals (5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc) and the ability to do some very minor text editing.

I was unable to get the program to work in my Windows XP SP2 partition, and likewise suffered the same fate with a fresh installation of Windows XP in another partition. This program, at least in my case, does not seem to like the flavor or aspect of my particular laptop or Windows XP installation(s).

Figuring the problem might be the Service Pack 2, I went ahead and installed Windows 2000 on a separate partition and seemed to have it working on one single occasion, then after each subsequent attempt the program would complain that my computer failed the “Security Test” due to “Power Toy Task Switcher” – rather odd considering I was running Windows 2000 and no such power toy had been installed or even exists.

Figuring the program was complaining about the built-in task switcher (the thing you get when you type Alt-Tab) – I disabled in it the registry and rebooted for good measure. Still no joy – it lodged the same complaint and kicked me out of the program.

Feeling clever, I fired up my regular XP SP2 partition and attempted to use the program in VirtualPC in a virtual machine – it complained again, but gave me (what I later learned via email from the company) the super-secret “Error –501” message, or maybe it was –502, or –500. It was 500-hundred something, that much I know. It was also utterly useless information to me and the company wouldn’t tell me what it meant for “security reasons.” Oh-kaaay….

My instincts told me this is/was probably a dos-ish / Windows 9x based program and needs a totally, 100% useless, insecure operating system to function properly. The bigger the security holes, the better. Not wanting to take my exam with pen and paper, I decided to foist that heaping pile of stinking, steaming hot giant turd of an operating system known as Windows ME onto the partition that previously held the Windows 2000 experiment.

Lucky for me I’m a geek and I know how to install Windows ME AFTER Windows XP has been installed. Let me tell you, it’s anything but a joyous experience. After about 20 minutes of bitching and moaning, I had bare bones Windows ME shoehorned on my modern laptop. I will spare the details related to the the hell I had to go through to locate and install a working set of video drivers, but after some more swearing I got ATI Radeon M6-P installed and was set to go. Mind you, ATI won’t provide the Mobility drivers – referring you to “your manufacture” instead. If you have a Toshiba with ATI MP-6 Radeon graphics, you’ll probably find yourself paying a visit to FTP servers in Russia or Kashitiskan or Compaq in the UK. Anyway – it was bitch, but the deed is done.

Extegrity Exam software works fine and without incident under Windows 9x/ME. If you are having problems under Windows XP or Windows 2000 – I am not certain how much help the company will give you, but I am very curious about how its going with other students. I suspect my own problem centered around the fact that I have multiple partitions on my laptop, several operating systems, and the software does NOT check to see what services are actually running or loaded, but rather if the programs themselves simply exist on the hard drive.

Knowing that most people are using Dell’s or HP's with pre-loaded crapware, trojans, etc, I have a sneaking suspicious the proctor is going to get lots of complaining students. That would be great. I’d love to take my exam in a room with about 10 other students instead of a 100.


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