Laptop Service Program Ideas


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This page has a more up-to-date location: Repair Centers

This page follows from a suggestion in the Other Ideas page.

Please include in this page ideas for how a Laptop Servicing Programme may be instituted and how it could operate.

Youth Based Tech Support

In keeping with the spirit of this project, it is obvious that the service and support of these machines should be done by the children themselves. When the machines are distributed, there should also be a basic troubleshooting workshop, and each village should be given a technical support kit that includes a detailed troubleshooting guide, replacement parts (?) and/or instructions on how to contact home base for replacement parts and RMA for machines that can't be fixed in the field. If these machines eventually get hooked into the internet, you can make it even simpler by allowing kids to contact a central tech support center. I know, its expensive and etc, but this is the project that will change the world inside a generation, no expense is too much.

Similar youth tech support programmes exist and could help inform this discussion. One such program is MOUSE Squad, "prepares and supports teams of teachers and students in establishing and sustaining technology support help desks in their schools. MOUSE Squads improve a school's capacity to integrate technology into teaching and learning by providing much needed onsite technical support while simultaneously creating a powerful, hands-on 21st century learning experience for students. The core elements of the program include student and teacher computer troubleshooting, help desk operations and database training, a comprehensive standards-based online curriculum, and information and communication technology (ICT) career pathway development programs for participants. MOUSE Squad currently operates in numerous elementary, middle and high schools in New York City with programs operating in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Washington D.C. and Jordan."

Background on Youth Tech Support in General:

Other Student Help Desk Programmes:

The analogy to the UK automobile service programme (MOT) mentioned below seems to apply only to hardware.

For software problems, I'd rather use the analogy of first aid helpers, where one human can heal basic injuries on another: Equip the laptops with a small collection of repair tools and a guide on how to use them to repair software errors on another laptop. For instance, this could be used to restore the operation system to its original state after something has been messed up or deleted. Possibly also involving WiFi remote diagnosis or an old USB stick (as mentioned elsewhere) to boot from.

Most current operation environments have some basic troubleshooting help installed, but it is usually only focussed on solving standard tasks like "how do I free up disk space?", but they hardly ever contain information and/or software wizards on how to repair another computer when it is not bootable anymore. I think, however, that there is a high probability that when one olpc laptop stops working, there will be another olpc laptop nearby. I think it might be be good idea to maximize the ability to use any olpc laptop to repair any broken one, for minimizing the costs of a large, centralized support organization for software.

All software repairs and hardware error diagnosis should be possible without putting people through an expensive training programme, but by letting them use an intuitive, step-by-step guide to solve any such task as the need arises. Running on a second laptop, this guide could even assist people making hardware repairs on the first, broken one.

Still, an infrastructure for supplying spare parts needs to exist. But perhaps the costs of this could be minimised this way?

In the United Kingdom there is a system known as the MOT test which applies to vehicles used on the roads, of which the majority are cars. In speech one says "em-oh-tee", not "mott". This is because the name originally came from Ministry of Transport test.

In relation to cars, the situation is that a person may not lawfully take a car on the road without a currently valid MOT test certificate, except for certain limited purposes, such as taking a vehicle to a pre-booked MOT test.

For cars, the test applies to all cars over three years old. Certificates last for a year, though there is an arrangement that a test certificate can be issued so as to expire twelve months after the expiry of the previous certificate if the test is carried out during the last month of validity of that previous test certificate and that test certificate is produced to the person issuing the certificate.

Tests are carried out at garage businesses which have permission to carry out the tests. The person carrying out the test needs to be personally qualified as a vehicle tester. There is a list of items all of which the vehicle must pass. These are things about safety and legality, such as brakes and steering, structural integrity, lights, exhaust emissions, lack of jagged metal and so on.

Although it is certainly possible to work on one's car oneself and take it to a garage just for the testing and take it home and work on it again to repair any faults and then take it back for retesting, in practice most vehicles are repaired by the garage businesses, so it is an important part of having a garage business to be a place where the tests are carried out.

The above is mentioned as a starting place for designing a system for the laptops. Certainly, it would not become illegal to use a laptop which had something wrong with it, yet the idea of having a test which covers a specified list of items with a report document issued either that all items passed or saying which items did not pass could be a good idea.

There could be training so that various people could qualify to test the laptops with respect to the specified list.

How big a task would it be to test a laptop in the field to determine whether it is fully functional to its specification?

How big a task would it be to train someone in the field to be able to carry out such a test?

What test equipment would he or she need? Would that be supplied as part of the rollout process for the laptops?

Would it be possible to issue an OLPC certificate to people who qualify as laptop testers?

In relation to the testing of the laptops, it would be best if each laptop had a unique serial number so that records can be prepared. Will each laptop have a unique serial number?

Two issues arise.

If a laptop did not pass the test, how would it be repaired in the field?

There would need to be trained and preferably qualified repairers. There would need to be a stock of commonly needed spare parts and an infrastructure for replacing the stock of such spare parts and for obtaining rarely-needed spare parts.

As well as being tested that it is working to specification the laptop may also need servicing. For example, it may have been dropped into a muddy puddle or dropped onto concrete and the case fractured.

Visual flowcharts offer and excellent teaching tool for new technicians. A collection of four charts is located on the Hand-Me-Down PC site, namely:

Power and dead laptop troubleshooting

Battery life and charging diagnostic flowchart

Laptop LCD, backlight and inverter troubleshooting

Troubleshooting notebook overheating

I see why no one has mentioned this but, what about volunteer computer repair people? I mean some doctors go over to places like Africa and Asia and some people volunteer to help in religious work or aid programs. So why not computer repair people that volunteer to help stay over in some village and help monitor the laptop systems. Or a program can be created where you train those that volunteer to help the needy over there how to fix the laptops. Just a idea I had it, could work.

Mary Lou Jepson stated that these can be assembled by 5 year olds as it has been designed to be very easy to assemble. Therefore, it should be easy to disassemble and canibalise for spare parts too. So using broken or new systems as spares makes perfect sense.

There are a few issues remaining - 1. A mechanical design flaw becomes apparent (e.g. broken wireless aerial or cracked hinges) - this would be very difficult to rectify (with or without spares). 2. When the MkII version arrives, who will continue to make MkI versions and components for use as spares/replacements?

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