Yeah, it's my charity...
But that shouldn't matter here. I'd write about this regardless.
About two months ago, nFusion Group LLC, right here in Austin donated a small truckload of computers to The HeliOS Project. 90 percent of these machines were "plug-in ready". I didn't have to crack one case on all but two of them.
It was a pretty and impressive site to behold for us.
These were not cast-off's either. Case on point.
Two Alienware i5500-xxxx laptops and the rest were a mix of mostly Acer TravelMate 5720's and 8210's....throw in a couple of Top of the Line Dells and a toshiba 13 inch tablet laptop and bingo...our kids have computers.
None of these machines were more than two years old and the generosity of nFusion is obvious when you look at the retail prices of these machines sold new. Heck, take a look at what they are selling for at current market prices on ebay and you get a good idea of just how generous a donation this was.
Aside from one of the desktops needing a power supply, everything just worked.
When I began triaging two of the machines to get them ready for donation to Austin Samaritans and ultimately Nicaragua, I ran across two of the Acer 5720's that had what seemed to be a bios password on them. Not a problem, either flash the bios or pull the battery for some amount of time and problem solved.
Uh...no. Not here. Not for these.
What I ran into was something that I have ranted about in the past to the point where I almost bored myself.
What I was running into was what seemed to be an even pre-bios window that read simply:
"Phoenix TrustedCore Setup Utility. It has a field for a password then two arrow-down's to accept - escape.
After stabbing around and getting locked out after the obligatory three attempts, I called Andy Krell, the IT Director at Nfusion. I told him of the problem and he said he would research it and get back to me.
In doing so, Andy assured me that no one remembered putting that "feature" on the computer and that his exhaustive search turned up no setup disks for that situation. He gave me the numbers to Acer Tech and Customer Service and I thanked him for his time.
A word about Andy and nFusion. Aside from their obvious generosity, these folks have bent over backwards to get this issue resolved. What we have are a small number of extremely expensive and much needed laptops that are essentially bricks....at no fault of nFusion. On two subsequent contacts with Andy, he further went out of his way to go back into the receipts and archives to find out where those disks might be stored if stored at all.
They weren't...and I fully understand that myself. Once you get employee's swapping hardware from one person to another, those disks generally vaporize into the nether-regions quickly.
Acer? I've spent at least 3 hours a day since Monday just trying to get through to someone who can help me. Either the tech support accents are so thick I cannot understand anything or I spend so much time on hold my ear goes to sleep.
These are the numbers I've called.
Let me tell you one particular phrase that these tech support folks did enunciate with clarity.
After explaining to the fine Acer folks that we were a charity...a largely non-funded charity and that these laptops were meant for disadvantaged kids, it really didn't matter to them.
The bottom line for The HeliOS Project?
"Pay us 100 dollars and we will fix the problem for you. Other than that, you have no other options."
So...several ideas have come to mind. I have the ability and know-how to disassemble most laptops to the third echelon level of maintenance. I'm thinking of Fedexing one small part each day to one of their top execs until I get their attention. Would I actually do that?
I don't know yet...as satisfying as it might be, I doubt it would do anything but cast a bad light on our efforts.
So Acer....a couple of Austin kids that were supposed to get life-changing gifts of technology will not. Thank you for welding closed what might have been an extremely good opportunity for them. Many now will remember Acer for that wonderful attribute.
We will not accept any donations for the 100 dollar extortion by Acer.
If they can't see past their company policy long enough to see an exceptable circumstance...
Maybe that idea of parting out these machines to their execs isn't a bad idea. Maybe purchasing any more of their products IS a bad idea. Maybe returning the product in a less than passive manner might get their attention.
Then again...there are some awfully smart people that read this blog. I am betting we get this resolved among ourselves.
I'm still thinkin' about it.
If you want a Linux machine, check out Zareason.com. They do nothing BUT Linux and they were Linux before Linux was cool... They also support financially many Free Software projects.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Yeah, it's my charity...
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 7:27 AM