Friday, March 11, 2011

Setting up computers: the frustrations and belated rewards from living off handouts

Note: apologies for any mistakes in my lamentable use of technical jargon. I am not trained on this stuff. Just enthusiastic. So bear with me.

So today, I finally managed to set up a donated computer in a classroom that has had nothing to date. It has taken me a few days to get this far.

We started with finding the computer - a donated vintage 2005 MiniMac that was sitting around at home not doing much. Then I found what I thought would be a suitable screen - it was an Apple - which I thought would help, but needed to be mounted to the wall. So I had to get the teacher to reorganize his classroom and find a wall that was clear enough, near enough to all the required plug points, and strong enough to take the weight.

Next step - test the screen. That worked, but then I found the screen didn't connect to my MiniMac. It was an ADC not a DVI. I needed an adapter or connector or whatever they are called. Cue a long session online wading through male and female plugs, and VGA, DVI, and assorted other acronyms I don't understand. Only to discover that they don't make them any more. Well why should they? Who on earth would want to connect a 10 year old screen with a 5 year old computer? Who of course except a parent in an underfunded elementary school.

At this point, a guardian angel stepped in. A dad at school has very generously donated 3 new flat screens to the school and they arrived yesterday. So this afternoon, I sat down with a new recruit to our tech team (well, he is now!) and started to work out how to set up this computer.

Should have been simple, right? Plug everything into the right places and it will all work. Well the computer switched on. The screen went live. So far so good. Then I tried to type in the account password and discovered that the letter N, on the keyboard I had found, didn't work. Find another keyboard. This time it wouldn't work because it only liked PCs. Don't ask me why, I have no idea. Finally I found a keyboard which worked. Then we couldn't get the Internet to go live. We had an ethernet cable connected and at first we thought it might be the classroom cabling. But we realized that in fact it was this particular ethernet cable. New ethernet cable and finally the holy grail that is the Google home page was found.

So I think, fingers crossed, all systems are go. I left a very happy teacher sitting on a very small chair in front of the classroom's new resource.