Computer lab

Month 11: Final Workshops and Facility Recommendations


In May/June, I offered several training workshops, likely the last round of dedicated sessions as my year of VISTA service comes to a close. The remainder of my year will be devoted to compiling the training materials I've written, and writing the manuals I haven't had time to compose yet.

Computers, Kids, and CLANK!!!


*The following would have been posted last month if I didn't constantly close Firefox in mid-blog*

I have no idea what the heck they're working on next door but they're certainly doing a great job of constructing it as loudly as possible. It would be one thing if it was a steady-state din, but instead there will be a long stretch of quiet, followed by an ear-splitting CLANG! as someone (I'm guessing) starts taking a sledgehammer to a very massive, VERY resonant object. There's also the deafening buzz of a chopsaw gnawing through metal the very moment you start to get your concentration back, as well as the desk-rattling jackhammer to add insult to injury. To make matters worse, when they have a radio playing its top-40 stuff. Not like I have anything against popular music, I just don't want Ashlee Simpson as the musical backdrop to this chaotic production. Call me a purist, if you will.

Anyway, the big news of the past couple of weeks has been the arrival of 14 new computers. I say a couple of weeks instead of a week because Dell certainly did their part in making sure I had plenty of work to do. It didn't start off too bad. I did get bounced to 3 different sales reps (due to the quantity), none of whom could cut us much of a break (so much for a karma discount) and had some annoyances putting together a quote, but nothing I wouldn't normally expect. When the systems finally arrived (no hitches yet), I pulled them out and noticed the CPU sticker only denoted an AMD64, and not the 64X2 dual core that I had specified. Fired it up noticed the BIOS listed the CPU as the 64. Not cool.

After looking over the invoice, it turns out that we did, in fact, get the correct systems. However, the systems magically changed from 64X2s on the quote to plain-old-64s on the order. Blarg. About an hour and a dozen phone transfers later we finally arranged to the dual-core systems sent. They arrived without incident, and also without return labels for the old systems. Cripes. Another hour and a few more phone transfers later, we finally arranged for another pickup the next day. Fast forward 24 hours, and the Fedex man is here with 8 shipping slips in hand. Wait a sec...8 slips...14 computers...KHAAAAAN!!!

A couple of days later, everything resolved itself and we all lived happily ever after, until it came time to order mounting systems. We wanted to mount the computers under the tables and elevated from the ground. While not unheard of, this wasn't particularly common so of course nobody locally had anything. Most online sources had units starting at $60-80ish, with the most simple units consisting of mounting plates for the table and straps to suspend the computers from the table. Not exactly kid-proof, but the alternative were designs that featured drawer slides and swivels, so the strapping method won by default.

When it came time to order the mounts though, the lead time was pretty long and we already had volunteers lined up to help install the computers, so rather than arrange for rush shipping when we probably wouldn't get the units in time anyway, I cobbled together a knock-off from tie-plates, tiedown straps, and drywall screws. It used 3x7" tie-plates to hold the straps against the bottom of the table. Then, an old mouse pad was taped over the plate with some double-sided carpet tape. After cinching the straps as tightly as possible, the excess looped around the end on both sides and tied onto the other side of the strap as a safety measure. The remaining ends were cut and fused. To make the catches tamper resistant, wedges were cut from shim stock, sprayed black to match, then put into place and secured with cable ties. Not exactly foolproof, but good enough.

Between the smaller footprint of the LCDs, the under-table mounting, and some cable organization, the lab looks much cleaner all-in-all. Wish I could say all the kids loved it. A few really were wide-eyed and overjoyed, but most others just kinda shrugged, said 'meh' and went back to their regularly scheduled YouTube viewing. *sigh*

Installation was smooth and easy thanks to the imaging process, although our inital attempt at imaging a dual-boot XP/Vista install didn't go over particularly well. Alright, so it didn't work at all. That plus the lack of support for Deep Freeze and we're looking at a purely XP setup on most of the computers. 4 computers were manually set up with a dual-boot just for kicks. While it'll leave a big, gaping Deep-Freeze exploit, I'd be tickled to death if our kids were savvy enough to take advantage of it.

Anyway, enough blabber, here's some pictures:

Comment from Laura Hanley on March 21, 2007 - 1:05pm

Wow...way to problem solve; excellent job!  When reading your description of how you mounted the computers, I was having a difficult time imaging what you were talking about (because I don't know what half the things you used are) and was thinking to myself, "If only I could see a picture."  Lo and behold, to my pleasant surprise you were one step ahead of me!  Way to be resourceful!  Anyway, even if this kids aren't, I'm impressed. :)

Comment from Corey Funderburk on March 21, 2007 - 1:56pm

Wow, way to overcome adversity! Amazing job with the mounting, a true engineer. I hope you can get that dual boot up and running; I've only ever done a dual boot on a Mac, so I have no idea how it would work with XP and Vista. Good luck though! And sorry about the chronic Ashlee Simpson prob =)

What is going on at Cyber Y?


I think that I have just gotten over my first hump in introducing myself and what my role is in the organization, now it is time for action.

Here at the Cyber Y computer lab we just hired an intern to help maintain the computers and printers and also help with children when programs are running.

We are trying to set up a successful "open access" time. We want to find good ways to advertise to the community that we have open access and also we are looking for good surveys to give to the community to understand what they need and want out of the open access time. Because we would like to set up computer literacy classes for grown-ups and or seniors citizens.