Wad's Repairs and support speech May 2008

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This is a transcription from the May country meetings. Typed/logged by Mel Chua - edits, comments, fixes very welcome. I may not have heard everything accurately.

A move to a sub-page of the Repairs section would be nice.

Meeting notes

[ Wad talking about Support and Repairs]

We don't know the answers. This one is much more individualized per deployment, per country. I want to talk about some of the things we see in common. I'd like to talk to [missed the name] from Uruguay for her viewpoint on what it's like in this situation because you're the farthest along.

Support is interesting because it's usually viewed as such a good way for the manufacturer to make money. We built our laptops to take a lot of that abuse, we think it's one of the best laptops out there in terms of taking that abuse, but it will break!

This [list of support problems to fix] is a work in progress. Some we know about and some we don't. What can we do to help students and teacher deal with it? Because in the end this is what we are here for. That's in the end what we are trying to do.

Country specific solutions are needed. What works in one country doesn't necessarily work in another country as far as in several places where we're setting up connections, contacts, network.

Finally, we are willing to help but we really don't have that much in the way of resources to help in this area. And the information that Uruguay is learning, we'd like to collect it and make it available to other countries.

As a nonprofit we are so small we can't provide the typical solutions - global repair service, same things with the hardware warranty - if I charge you this much more than the price [of the laptop] that will cover my costs in fixing machines that break, but we are [talks about why OLPC is not artificially padding the cost of laptops in order to provide a warranty program - keep individual laptop prices as low as possible]. What we are doing, Quanta [ships] an additional number of laptops with your order... [talks about a 1% failure rate - not sure if I heard this one correctly]

Other things we can't provide is a large software support team. Not just software support, but it needs to be working in the local language. Deployments have to provide the first level of hardware and software support.

What is this laptop support? I would call it providing students and teachers with a way of working around problems they encounter. [?]... so they can be fixed in later versions of the software. Support needs to be localized, if support is in English it doesn't do much good... it needs to be local to the laptop software that's in use right now. For example Uruguay is using build 656 and their support needs to be based around what problems [ with build 656; Peru is deploying with build 703, Update.1 and they have a different set of problems.

Countries build on top of the OLPC software... Sugar... some countries will have Activities that other countries don't. The last thing to make sure is that support should scale through community involvement.

[can't hear discussion at this point]

This is what we do. We have a community support mailing list, help at l dot o . This mailing list immediately creates a ticket in our support queue. We have support staff, this is reviewed by support staff and they can escalate that, I'm not sure if we have multiple levels [in the support queue], right now they can escalate up to development and do suggestions for improvement. Finally there is a public resource, our wiki, which is kind of like a swamp, it needs to be drained, it's a continual effort to keep that wiki up to date. You can see the strips of yellow [in the diagram he's pointing to] and you can see the strips of yellow that... I believe this is where the volunteers, where it's easy to come in [as a volunteer] and make an immediate impact. We have a couple of volunteers here... [introduces Sandy]

Sandy: The support-development link is a weak link right now. Many support issues don't make it to development. One thing I would add is that there is a public facing forum. RT is a closed system where one person can't learn from another, whereas in the forums if you post the question "how do you upgrade the XO..."

Wad: This help system is private - you can email and a ticket is generated but as a user you can't go in and search through there. The reason to this is in our mind so that users could send contact information and stuff that you didn't necessarily want publicly available.

Sandy: The RT software is open-source software that you could use in any country and modify it and you could keep it more open, so I think it's... Best Practical, is that the author?

Uruguay: [missed the beginning of the phrase] We generate frequently asked questions so they [users] can browse through them.

Wad: [missed the beginning] but you mean actually getting an answer to an advanced support question? [I don't know what this refers to.]

Sandy: I'm trying to be fair, after 4-5 months of helping with support issues, i think the path from support to development is a wish rather than a practice. And if there was a way of aggregating problems... maybe I'm not aware of it.

Wad: We track some of these issues, but we could improve our info gathering from support. So the deployment we see what showed in the previous page in just being the last stage in support. Uruguay has a similar system setup with their own help system and their own support staff and [?] this is the part we have to establish with working between the countries [and OLPC-the-organization] but we're working with Adam Holt to [?]... structure that we're recommending.

Ok, community. We've already discussed this. Activity development, you can... either brand new activities that a country wants that we don't have available... the activities are completely supported by volunteers. OLPC does not work on any of the Activities... work on localization... you contact through the community. [I'm pretty sure I didn't transcribe this paragraph well at all.] Support, list, forums that Sandy mentioned. [To Sandy] Is there a place for forums to get together for OLPC? [Continues question, I don't catch it]

Sandy: Well, I'm on a forum that started in Oregon, that's now the "official" forum, forum.laptop.org... there are other groups that form on their own, use yahoo groups, google groups, so it's... and OLPCnews is probably a reasonable source to search as well.

Wad: Additionally the development and localization for documentation is an area where OLPC has been laggy, and we're... [missed this part] ...partnerships with local open source groups.

Uruguay: [Can't transcribe! Speaker hidden by crowd!]

Wad: The reason for the tickets is... something we can track the individual problems, what is their resolution. By aggregating that confirmation we feed back for developers and in particular as I'm working with Quanta to improve problems with the hardware it's incredibly important that I know what are the failures.

So there's the support team... [and Wad turns around and I can't lipread the rest of this part]

So this [pie chart on the screen] is data from OLPC support tracking system from 5 months of G1G1 [something about how this isn't perfectly accurate] but it should give us some idea, let's go off and these are support...

[Wad goes through some examples of tickets in various categories]

Sandy: Some of these problems are getting-started questions, and RT did not allow cross categorizing problems...which you all can do better when you design your own problem tracking. For example, some keyboarding queued support questions might just have belonged in 'Getting Started' [A discussion with the pilot from NYC ensues. I can't catch it.]

Wad: Software is a slightly different issue. We continue to improve Sugar, a good question is... tech team covered a lot of [this slide] this morning but let's go through it one more time.

Activities are on a separate release schedule so countries can pull together a bundle of which activities they want on their laptops. Upgraded version of the OS, UI, collaboration... released two times a year, minor bugfix releases are probably... we'd like to do some... after major version, it's driven more by need as we've discovered major problems. We continue to update and those updates are done over the network. So you [Uruguay] upgrade over USB but we upgrade over the network, it's a little more difficult. We can store the update... [I don't understand the rest of this discussion]

[I do, however, try to follow the discussion through Wad's slides, which right now say...]

  • no profits to cover hardware warranty
  • 1% extra provided to support "early mortality" of laptops
  • Broken hardware can be fixed, given training and parts
  • System level repair training available from OLPC
  • Troubleshooting Manual in progress
  • Motherboard repair training through Quanta

Wad: (speaking about the last bulletpoint on that list) Countries can directly talk to Quanta [about motherboard repair, which is not directly available through OLPC.]

OK. So what's breaking a lot? OH! Where do the spare parts come from? The number one source of spare parts is a laptop that has died... it's because one component has failed... it can be scavenged for spare parts, [maybe the display is broken but] the keyboard can be reused on other laptops... but at some point you will need to purchase replacement parts. The parts can be purchased in bulk from Brightstar and Quanta, a typical minimum... something on the order of 5,000 - 10,000 components. What are the components we see breaking? The display, the motherboard is breaking so we have a shortage of displays over time. Motherboard is... a rather unique part in that the motherboard is approaching half the price of the computer, we don't offer it as a replacement part. The other reason for this is the one component that [if we don't offer then] you can't build a laptop out of spare parts. The motherboard can be repaired, we worked with the manufacturing process to try to make things that frequently burn out [replaceable].

Things that wear out... so we designed for a 5 year lifetime. Why 5 years? Number one is the battery, every time you charge it and discharge it you lose some of the [charge capacity]. At the end of 5 years it will have about 1/2 of original capacity, still usable for an XO. However, after 5 years or so, or even sooner in some cases, batteries will have to be replaced.

The light bar. In the laptop, the light that backlights the display, it's going to burn out over time. That light bar was designed, unlike any other laptop, it takes 6 screws to get at that lightbar. It should be readily replaceable, the lightbar itself is about a $2 part.

Finally there's the keyboard and touchpad. Firmware updates have resolved many keyboard and touchpad issues. Question from the audience: What about the individual users who need spare parts?

Wad: Well, there are no individual users... are you talking about users in their schools? A kid in Haiti will work through Haiti... a kid here, who purchased from G1G1, we're trying to think of a solution for that. The problem is to purchasing the components in bulk, somebody will have to spend a lot of money to purchase all of the possible replacement parts.

[Wad goes over bugs #5321, #5658, and #5575 in Trac.]

Wad: [talks about repair centers] What are the logistics of getting replacement laptops? What is the cost of somebody getting a part? [Talks about motherboard repair] We do assume that there will be some effort to repair [motherboards, because they're so valuable].

[REALLY LONG DISCUSSION LOTS OF STUFF I DON'T HEAR] There was a long, partially tangential discussion about the health risks of keyboarding for kids, with an observation that there were no inherent risks in XO design ( low lead, etc.) but that visual fatigue could be minimized by standard practices of suggesting that kids focus away from the LCD from time to time.

Sandy: Could the model for delivery include replacement parts rather than that 1%? chain. That's a different question. Should the model - or could it include - replacement parts? I'll list them out. Batteries, chargers, and... if it can't be done, then we'll just - it's not possible. John's response: I'll check on moving that idea up the channel.

Wad: [missed something in the beginning] My feeling is yes, as long as you set up ahead of time. [?]...trying to keep the costs down, so we don't want to demand... 1% extra batteries, to send.

Adam: I'd like you to meet Mel who has taken the lead on documenting community repair initiatives.

Wad: [says something] ...#1 Phillips screwdriver and a <something> - that's all I've ever used to take apart a laptop.

[The remainder of the discussion consists of rapid conversations between various country reps, and I couldn't follow it.]

[ I had the distinct honor of sitting next to Mel at this interesting forum on repair and support...clearly she took far better notes! http://wiki.laptop.org/go/User:Culseg ]