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Lessons Learned

Computer Installation, Thursday, December 7th

We loaded the computers, monitors, keyboards, etc. into the van at 11:30 and arrived at the site at around 12:15. We immediately unloaded the computers and supplies into the hallway outside of the lab. After we’d finished unloading, we emptied the computer lab of its existing computers, keyboards, monitors, mice, etc.. We noticed once we had everything but the tables out that the lab needed to be cleaned; we hadn’t expected this. Our site supervisor kindly brought us some brooms. We swept the floors and scrubbed down the tables. We would have liked to mop, too, but there wasn’t one available.

We moved the furniture into position. (Our original measuring was, thankfully, accurate and everything fit where it was supposed to.) We brought in the monitors first because they were bulkier, then the computers. We noticed once we started hooking everything up that the power cords either didn’t reach the power strips attached to the walls or there were more cords than outlets. Bobbi and Jenny ran out to Target to pick up more power strips while Willy stayed behind to finish hooking up mice, keyboards, and cables. The extra power strips fixed the problem.

We then attached the cables to the hub. Three of the cables had to be brought over the door to reach it. Bobbi turned on computers and checked software while Willy and Jenny tied the cables together with plastic ties and affixed them to the wall. We put two more pieces of software onto all the computers. (Geography and language learning software.) We ran into a slight problem with the IP addresses (two computers kept on getting the same ones), but since we weren’t hooked up to the internet, it wasn’t a problem.

Overall the lab set-up went well, and we didn’t run into any major hiccups. We finished in about three hours.

Troubleshooting

Learning to look, listen, and think logically through problems was one of the most important things we learned. On the whole our computers were pretty well behaved, but we did run into some problems. Khan, for example, didn’t boot and nuke. We switched out cd-rom drives, disk drives, and hard drives, all things that could have been the source of the problem. Geordi suddenly stopped working. We figured this was likely a problem with the power supply since he was working the week before. We switched it out, and Geordi suddenly worked again.

It was all about trial and error. We would watch the monitor to see if the computer was giving us any hints about what might be wrong. We would listen for odd sounds, like beeps, buzzing, or silence. And then we would think logically about what might be wrong. Some of the problems were more challenging than others, but overall, everything was solvable.

Organize and Prioritize

We didn’t map out what we needed to do at the beginning of the project like the wiki suggested. We weren’t sure what problems we were going to encounter or even what we would need to do. Instead we kept a journal. Every week we would write down what we accomplished and set some goals for ourselves for the next week. We always kept the end product in mind.

We worked on the computers as a group rather than individually. We nuked them all at once, then formatted, put on the OS, etc., etc. Sometimes one computer would give us problems. Instead of focusing on that one computer, we would work on the rest of the computers. We learned to prioritize; it was better to give the site seven working computers than none at all. In the end we were able to get all computers working. We accomplished this because we’d organized our labors.

Play to Your Strength

We soon discovered that certain group members enjoyed/were good at different things. Bobbi liked software. Jenny liked hardware and taking apart (breaking) things. Willy liked to fill in where needed. We didn’t force group members to do things they didn’t want to do. There was always someone who enjoyed and was willing to do it. We did teach each other, though. Jenny, for example, could format a hard drive, she just preferred not to. Bobbi could install a hard drive, but preferred formatting. Willy could, and would, do any of the above. All in all, though, it created a nice group atmosphere. Communication was excellent.

Appearance

Setting up a lab isn’t just about getting a whole bunch of computers (kind of) working and stringing them together with some cables. We thought appearance was just as important. We cleaned the computers, scrubbing them down with computer cloths and using canned air to get the cobwebs out. We cleaned the mice and keyboards of dirt and grime. We swept the floors of the lab and cleaned the tables. We put the names on the computers so they’d look nice. And finally, we tried to design the computer lab so it would be open and inviting.

We learned that appearance really is part of the process. No matter how nice the computers are, if they or the lab look shoddy, people won’t feel comfortable using the lab.