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Re: Repair center app

Thanks for posting your letter to Adam to the Talk:Repair centers page - it is in fact the best way to get started right now. (I've also dropped Adam a line to make sure he sees your proposal.) They are working on a supply chain solution that isn't "use broken XOs for parts," but it's not clear what the alternative solution will be yet - hopefully Adam will give you a call soon and fill you in on what's going on. Best of luck. Mchua 12:05, 12 March 2008 (EDT)

Dealing with the Major's Office (City of Birmingham, AL)

I first called Robert McKenna's Office on February 14th trying to find out how well the City was prepared for the XO roll-out. In the process of exchanging some emails I sent them a list of show stoppers and other points to consider as well as a hardware and business proposal. You can find these emails along with the responses here. All in all they were a little less forthcomming with answers to serious questions than I had expected, but on the grand scale at least they responded.

Dealing with the Board of Education of the Birmingham, AL, City Schools

There is a very closed circle doing business with the city / board of education. This might be interesting for future reference, so I'll just post a bit of the correspondence and the lack of response.

Situation / personal motivation / interest:
a) I love the OLPC project
b) I own a (small) company trying to help / sell services (--> XS setup / school infrastructure / XO repair) to intrested parties (e.g. the Board of Education seem like a natural fit) in Birmingham. The primary focus is on making the XO roll-out a success story. Making a profit on Birmingham comes in second. I consider being involved in a successfull BHM XO roll-out advertising $$ well spent.
c) Email (3-18-08) to Dr. Joanne Stephens, in charge of the XO roll-out on the side of the Board of Education:

First Letter to Mrs. Stephens (3-18-08)

Hello Dr. Stephens,

just a short introduction: We met at the Tech. Comm. of the BoE meeting on Feb 19th, when you were reporting on the the XOs and the erate program and at Glen Iris one week later. I am the tall blond long haired german guy....

For quite a while I have been in touch with Bob McKenna and Elaina Fowlers from the Major's office.

I have also been in touch with OLPC, Boston (there: Walter Bender (general), John Watlington and Martin Langhoff (both XS server), and Adam Holt (repair / spare parts)). The OLPC project is very dear to me and I want to see it succeed. Not only in Birmingham, but also in the greater state of Alabama and beyond and I think a successfull pilot (--> Bhm) is essential for this. I do have some commercial intrests in cooperating with the BOE, but I wouldn't consider them the driving factor. If no commercially intresting aspects arise I will still be working with OLPC on server and repair scenarios.

So far I have been working on three focal points:
A) The XS server setup
B) The environment (possible portability of moodle data to 'XS-like' servers at community centers, churches and the like)
C) Getting an XO / XS repair shop started (I am a trained PC / electronics repair specialist)

As I understand from my communication with Walter Bender 'co-location' is the key word to discribe the XS roll-out. Meaning the school(s) will have its/their own XS on site. The specification of the XS is nowhere near a "Gartner Tier 1" server. And IT will not have anthing to do with it besides providing a single network port per school which will provide CIPA compliant internet access for the local OLPC network. The 'Help Desk' will be staffed / done by UAB.

Will there be a bidding process for companies to bid on contracts to provide the hard- and software setup and installation? (I happen to own a company which specializes in just this: Reitz Industrial Services .)
Have any thoughts been given to the repair environment? 15,000 units - If there were an 'accident rate' of 1 - 2 % per year this would call for 150 - 300 repairs that would better be handled locally.
I know that OLPC is encouraging local community selfhelp. So far I haven't seen too many jump to attention (like by responding to that this would allow for feeling secure that service is available when the warranty runs out. Which would be in two months from today. And right now there is literally nobody you could ship them to for repair.

I'd be happy to talk / meet with you to discuss ways of securing the project's success. Please feel free to call or email me.

Best regards
Stefan Reitz

-- No response whatsoever

On the Phone

- On the phone (3-24-08) Mrs. Stephens explained that the Board of Education would vote on the pilot school roll-out on 3-25-08 and that until then everything would bo on hold.
- Talking to the Board's Superintendant's office on 3-26-08 nobody would reveal the outcome of the vote but they took my phone number to call me back (hasn't happend yet - 3-28-08).
- The Major's office told me (3-26-08) that the the board had voted to postpone its decision until their lawyer could make changes to the (proposed) contract with the city (which pays for the hardware). - He had previously been on vacation (... - this issue did not just pop up out of nowhere).

Second Letter to Mrs. Stephens (3-26-08)

Email to Dr. Joanne Stephens:

Hello Mrs. Stephens,

with yesterday's vote (or failure to do so effectively) time constraints become more essential. As I understand from talking with Mrs. Fowlers, there will be no bidding process for the hardware setup at Glen Iris as you / 'The Board' are already cooperating with 'T. A Lewis'.
Is this only for the pilot or have contracts for the subsequent schools been signed? Do you intend to have Mr. Lewis' company also do the XS server administration, or will they only be responsible for the wiring and installation of server / switch(es) / access points?
I have not seen his company actively involved with the XS server project (like through the mailing lists or the wiki) and am just wondering to which degree they are aware of its challenges / deviations from standard fedora server installations.

Best regards
Stefan Reitz

-- Again: No response whatsoever

More Communication Pathways

Also on 3-26-08 I emailed T. A Lewis (--> trying to get in touch. I particularly mentioned wanting to talk about details of the XS server deployment but did not receive an answer. I think I'll try calling them today... 3-28-08: called his office to ask for response to my email. My call got transfered to Mr. Lewis himself. Or actually his voice mail. I'll try again Monday.
3-29-08: I got a response from Mr. Lewis (--> before Monday! I am impressed. This is probably because he is neither with the city nor the Board of Education but a private company ;-)
He suggests talking about roles and contributions once the Board has made up its mind and manifested this in a vote to go ahead. I am a little afraid that by then lots of facts will have been established and there won't be much left to talk about (and substantially influence). I am reminded of one of Murphy's Laws: What can go wrong, will go wrong.

-- 3-28-08: Called Dr. Stephens' office. The assistant told me Mrs. Stephens was very busy but she'd tell her I called and that Mrs. Stephens would get in touch with me.
Well, maybe she meant Monday.
-- 4-1-08: Update: Monday came and went without contact to and from the BoE.
-- 4-2-08: Update: Still no response. I am investigating all available options. Doing this I am preparing the past email communication for use in a law suit against the BoE. This does not feel like the beginning of great (business) relationship. More details are at CoB mails.
I just called her office again, received some nice words, but have little hope I'll get real answers to my questions posed in email #2. I have already drafted an email threatening legal action but am giving them (yet) another 24 hours to respond to my latest call. Don't anybody come to me later suggesting I didn't try acting civilized...
-- 4-4-08: Update: Talked to lawyer. He sees no basis for civil litigation, maybe something criminal (but that wouldn't be for me to pursue), but much more likely they (= BoE) just don't have their act together. And I am afraid he is right. Blunt amateurism in the face of a good / fairly large project. I left a message on Mrs. Stephens voicemail, asking her to call me back. Little hope there...

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