Sunday morning started with a very unhappy surprise.  My MacBook Pro failed to start, likely due to a failed hard drive.  After trying a half dozen times, I resigned myself to the Haiti fates and did a damage assessment in my mind.  Time Machine had run just before I left, so most of it was okay.  The Waveplace website work I had done on the plane was gone.  The photos . . . ah!   I had transferred all photos from my Nikon card the night before, including the names and addresses of the hundred laptop donors.  Damn!    Okay, so from now on I’ll follow the rule of threes.  All important data must be on three different storage mediums at all time, even on trips.  No exceptions.

After one laptop mess, I turned to the next:  prepping enough laptops for the kids on Monday. Prepping laptops is more time consuming than difficult.  You plug in power strips, arrange them in rows of five, turn them all on, and hope for the best.  If you’re lucky enough to see the screen light up, followed by the XO boot sound, you power down immediately, pop in a USB stick, press the four game keys, and let go when it tells you.  It’ll then reflash the laptop, which erases everything and replaces it with a fresh install of Sugar and the rest.  Once that’s done, we run our custom “prep” script that changes some Sugar settings and copies other things we need.

More often than not, you’re greeted with a dark screen and no sound.  This indicates the infamous “give one, get one” clock problem, which happens with many of the XO laptops shipped to North America in 2008.  Apparently, with the firmware version from back then, if the clock battery goes dead (which it does when not used for long stretches), it’ll forget the real time and cause the machine to “brick”, i.e. become as useful as a brick.  This has to do with the Bitfrost security mechanism, which acts as a theft deterrent.  To “debrick” these laptops, you need to open them up and perform a little magic with a custom made “debricker cable” (serial cable), setting the clock correctly so you can install new firmware.

After starting thirty laptops it became clear that I would need more if I wanted twenty by the next day.  I called Sarita to arrange to get the remaining laptops at the AMURT office.  Ysmaille got me and Beth and we brought them all to my hotel room so we’d have ample time to work on them.  Hours later, we’d gone through all of them.  The good news, we had enough for the children’s class.  The bad news, sixty laptops needed to be debricked.  At ten minutes apiece, that’s 10 hours, or 5 if we double up.  Yikes.

Given that I didn’t have a Mac anymore, I started work trying to get the debricking working with Beth’s Windows machine.  After several attempts, I finally gave up.  A mystery.

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