So, we got through the hectic deployment of all the iPads, netbooks and notebooks. After all the hours of blood, sweat and tears, the unboxing and reboxing, the late nights and the phone calls, they’re all out. Now we just have to support them all.
It wasn’t easy getting so many computers ghosted in time (about 700 of them), and we ended up only imaging most of them the day before or even on the day they were to be given out. This left us with no room for error really, but there were a few unforeseen problems, as some of the netbooks didn’t take kindly to the image. This meant they had to be reghosted multiple times, and in some cases hardware had to be replaced because it was faulty. The standard process for ghosting the netbooks and notebooks went like this:
- Lay as many as you can out on tables around the room
- Connect the power and Ethernet cables, so they don’t run out of battery while being ghosted and so we can actually communicate with them
- Boot each up individually and change its boot order in the BIOS, so that it doesn’t pixie (PXE) boot (this is where a computer boots up from the network connection rather than the hard drive)
- Insert a ghost USB into each machine for it to boot from so it can access the ghost
- Boot each machine up from the USB
- Hit “Yes” a bunch of times on each machine so they’ll load the ghost files
- Leave them alone for about an hour while they ghost and power cycle a bunch of times
- Check which machines joined the domain (the House’s network), and shut them down
- Attempt to re-join the others to the domain
- Repeat 8 & 9 till all machines are on the domain
- Log into all the machines as Admin
- Rename each machine so it matches who it’s to be used by
- Log into each machine individually as the person it’s to go to, so that it builds their profile
- Leave the machines running so the software can be remotely activated
- Shut them all down & bag them up
It’s not a short or quick process, especially if any of the machines are giving trouble. I had to ring the supplier (whose name rhymes with Fell) about 10 or so times in the space of a week to try and get some of the netbooks repaired in time for handout. But that was hardly any in comparison to the amount of times I’ve had to call them since. The clients are very good at smashing their netbooks, and we’ve had a few broken notebooks too. Up until now, we’ve been just repairing them as quickly as we could, because the House has insurance through Fell for the devices. But they’ve recently decided that there’s going to be a lot more paperwork from now on. All faults and damage will have to be logged, and a form will be filled out saying how it happened, and everyone and their dog will have to sign it. It’s fair enough but it makes everything painfully slow.
We haven’t just been having problems with netbooks and notebooks. The iPads have had just as many faults, with a few even having to be replaced. A lot of clients have been coming in to see us, because they couldn’t get things working, even though we told them how to do it all, through various documentation and a special session we ran for them to show how to set the iPad up to work on the House’s network.
Having said that, the iPads weren’t working properly on the network originally. Initially, neither employees nor clients could roam around the House with their iPad, and stay connected to the network the whole time. For this to happen, the WiFi array that you are connected to has to see that you’re dropping out, and pass you onto the next array that you are heading towards. For some reason, they wouldn’t do it. Mr Chief (a collective term for my supervisors at the House) actually spend a lot of time speaking to engineers from the company that makes the arrays in America, trying to come up with an answer, as we were the first to have such a problem. They actually resolved it by flashing (wiping the memory of) the central switch, where the whole wired part of the network meets, but not without some very tense moments.
I don’t want to drone on for too long, so I’ll cut it short here. I’ll post another post in a few days with a bit more about what’s been going on.
Until next time,
P.S. I’m yet to get any suggestions, so if you’ve got any ideas for a better sign off line than “Post again soon,” or “Until next time,” drop me a line, and there will be a prize in it for the one I choose!