The subject of one of the greatest controversies in system administration and, more generally, the management of computer resources. Are computers there to do well-defined things according to someone's master plan, or are they there to serve the often random and perverse needs of individual human beings?

(Or, as some sysadmins would Taoistically assert, are they there to simply exist and work, with the users representing a test load?)

This controversy is aptly summed up in a single scene in the movie TRON, an exchange between ENCOM engineer Walter Gibbs and executive vice president Ed Dillinger. Gibbs is concerned that the Master Control Program has begun to interfere with real users:

DILLINGER: The MCP is the most efficient way of handling what we do. I can't sit and worry about every little user request that --

GIBBS: User requests are what computers are for!

DILLINGER: Doing our business is what computers are for.

On a larger scale, though, any organization needs to be able to plan for its uses of computers and networks -- besides its organizational and financial purposes, such planning can improve system reliability, efficiency and security. Still, when a user comes up with some weird request for an exception to the rules -- which s/he naturally says is absolutely essential to his/her work, comfort, or sanity -- what is to be done?

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