An Important Milestone

Given the last few posts, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I spend most of my time in the classroom trying to wrest the tattered remains of my sanity from a horde of unruly kids; In reality, most of my time has been spent in the computer room I mentioned in my first post.

The lab was donated to the school by an NGO at some point during the last year.  Before handover was complete, the NGO ran out of funding, and the computer room has languished since, minor snags leaving 6 of 20 workstations out of service.  None of the teachers having the training or, more pertinently, the time to fix things.  This is where I come in: I speak the same techie language as the people on the help-line, and more importantly, I can be spared to sit on hold for however long it takes to get a response.

When I arrived at the school 5 weeks ago (has it really been that long?!), I had 6 machines to get working.  Two would not log on if given the correct passwords, two had the incorrect cables for their monitors, one would not boot, and another would boot sometimes, but it also had a bad keyboard, so that even if it booted, you couldn’t log in anyway.  On top of that, the software activation was never completed successfully, so Windows is functional, and it nags you every time you log in.

My first IT job was many moons ago, setting up and re-imaging a lab full of computers in IT Tallaght.  The work here is similar to that in more ways than one.  Aside from the necessity to get a large number of PCs ready for students to use them for various purposes, there are also the constraints of working in a public sector environment.  Repairs must be carried out under warranty, and I don’t have a stack of replacement parts to hand, even if they didn’t.

I completed an audit of the computer room, taking note of serial numbers, machine names, and then detailing any problems that I found.  For the machines that did have problems, I ran through all of the troubleshooting steps that I could think of to try and isolate the source of the problem as much as was possible.  It turned out that I was able to fix the machines that would not log in (they just needed to be added to the domain), and one of the machines that had a problem with its monitor also seemed to be having motherboard problems.

With all of these issues noted, I proceeded to log a call.  This was not as simple as I had anticipated.  I called the Department helpdesk, and a call was logged pretty quickly.  A couple of days later, I got a call-back from the technician who told me that as those issues were all hardware-related, I had to call the hardware supplier and log warranty repair calls.  Why I couldn’t have been told this when I logged the call, I’m not sure.  I called the warranty repair line that I had been given and was transferred four times before being told that I would have to log a repair request over email.  I sent the email to the address I was given and I waited.

Then, I  spent a week with Grade 2, and as I was busy the whole day, I didn’t chase up on this.  Finally free of my obligations, I went to follow up.  I called the warranty repair line again, and I was told that I actually needed to call a different line altogether.  I called this line, and after 10 minutes on hold, I actually got to talk to the person who logs the calls.  She gave me her email address, and I sent her all of the relevant details.  It was Friday before the technician came out, and when he did, part of the email that I had sent had been truncated, so he was missing some parts.  He came back the following Monday, but then one of our machines with an intermittent fault was on a good day, and it started having conniptions again he moment he left…

As of Friday last week, all 20 workstations in the computer room were functional, and we were able to hold our first computer class.  It shouldn’t have taken so long to get 6 computers working again, but that assumes that there’s someone who has the time to work with the machines nearly full time.  Even I didn’t have that time as we filled in for sick teachers.  This is a minor milestone, and I’m pleased, but there’s still more to do – this is only the hardware issues sorted.  Software is the next milestone.  Until then, I’ve been giving people the following advice:


About Niall

I am a twenty-something tech-guy from Ireland. I like music and books and films and computers in that order. I also enjoy a good beer and a bad joke. I have played guitar and bass in a number of bands around Dublin for what has recently passed 10 years. I am looking for something new to say...
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