Is an SLA a requirement?

One of the outstanding negatives of our project has been the hardware failure of one of our  Lenovo tablets.  It highlights one of the effective selling points that have made Apple products in education so workable. Apple promote their own Apple Solution Experts for Educationindependent service providers who have been selected by Apple for their proven expertise in providing technology solutions to education institutions.  When there is a problem the Service Level Agreement ensures continuity of service. In many cases a replacement device is sent out immediately.

Clearly a manufacturer’s warranty service is not adequate, particularly in our case! After a catalogue of Lenovo customer service errors we have decided to ask for a refund.

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Hardware build quality

Our recent tablet purchases included two Lenovo ThinkPad Tablets (1838-2BG).  First impressions were excellent – we liked the pen/stylus functionality particularly and the build quality seemed quite robust. We have used the tablets for only 1 week so far.

Unfortunately, a serious problem was identified when setting one of the tablets to charge one night.  I plugged the USB Micro B power supply into the port when the tablet was still powered on and noted the battery symbol did not switch to the “AC Charging” symbol.  So I powered down the tablet just in case the battery was so depleted that it needed some quality charging time.

I checked on the tablet later and noticed it hadn’t charged at all and the AC adapter plug was cold instead of warm, indicating the power supply was not working.  Fearing a faulty cable I checked it for damage, kinks or other physical abnormalities but it all seemed fine.  I then checked the USB port itself because it felt unusually ‘loose’.

It was quite difficult to see what could be wrong but I compared the port with my Android smartphone which also uses a USB Micro B port.  I could then see that the pins had lost their mount and were still attached to the inside, but loose.     😯

A little Googling uncovered a 15 page thread on the Lenovo Forums entitled: Warranty refused : broken USB port    😯

Some quotes:

Ok, this is the final straw for our company’s rollout of these tablets.

After 3 days use, the internal USB pins broke on the tablet.  Lenovo have said this is a consumer issue and not warranty and will effectively charge the full cost of a new tablet to “repair”.  – by justguy

I got my 18382BG five weeks ago. From the start the charger only worked when tilted slightly upwards. Now the black pice inside the micro usb broke off and came out with the charger. I am used to chargers like these from other tablets and cell phones and never had an issue and never misused any of them. – by knochentrocken

I don’t want to be alarmed, but we’ve just received an order of 700 of these after a too short trial period. We are in education after all. About 30 teachers have used them for a week, and four report charging issues. I have only looked at one so far. The one has broken USB pins. I’ll check the others shortly. These are adults. Can’t wait for students to get them next week. – by tcarter0

Lenovo support staff have also contributed to this thread, helping those who initially had warranty refused on this issue.  Apparently the Lenovo warranty repair centres have been notified to treat USB issues as in-warranty.  We shall soon see for ourselves!

A telephone conversation with Steve Gordon at our closest Lenovo Warranty Service Provider – Computerworld Wales in Cardiff – directed me to Lenovo UK Tech Support. We are awaiting the label and packaging to be sent so we can call the courier for collection.

Looking up the warranty for the device has also highlighted a separate issue.  Even though we have only owned the tablets for a week, the 12 month warranty expires in October 2012 (only 8 months left)!

Lenovo Warranty

A quick call to LaptopsDirect Customer Service confirmed that the warranty commences from the manufacture date unless proof of purchase is provided.

A solution to contract required paperwork in a digital age

This weekend I have been playing with some Android apps.  Yes, a shiny new tablet encourages me to take my work home!

Earlier this week Leia had converted one of our review forms for use with the app Documents To Go. This was a great solution but the designer in me was niggled by some loss of formatting and even though I didn’t see a print out, I guessed it might not be as nice as our current forms, which had the full functionality of Microsoft Word.

This had me wondering if there was a signature capture app which could be combined with forms. Wouldn’t that be fantastic, to use the Lenovo Thinkpad tablet pen to capture those all important signatures?

After testing a bunch of apps and devising a few work arounds when the free apps didn’t do quite what I was looking for, I finally stumbled upon the SignNow App.

It will allow us to use any of our previous documentation, whether it is a Word doc or template or PDF and add text and the all important signature, before saving it or emailing it to others, e.g the learner and employer.  How fab is that?

Upgrading to enable M-Learning

During our research into mobile Apps – The Wanted List we discovered we needed to upgrade Moodle and Mahara.

The much awaited official Moodle Android App is due for release any moment and requires Moodle 2.1 or higher.  Additionally Moodle 2.2 onwards has the MyMobile theme especially designed for mobile devices.  The bad news was our Moodle was lagging behind on version 2.0.4.  At the time of our last upgrade Moodle 2.1.1 was available but would not work on our webserver because it requires PHP 5.3.2 and we were restricted to PHP 5.2.

Fortunately, our web host, United Hosting had announced they were due to upgrade the servers from 5.2 to 5.3 on 10th January, so we upgraded to the latest Moodle 2.2.1 on 16th January.

Twitter announcement - Upgrading Moodle

Mobile Moodle

Everything went smoothly with the upgrade 🙂  With a little bit of configuring the MyMobile theme also works very well – though we needed to adjust the fixed width of the Google Calender and will also need to redesign graphical navigation so all elements adapt well to various screen widths.

We also upgraded to the latest Mahara 1.4.1 which supports the MaharaDroid app. MaharaDroid enables Android phones to share or upload content to Mahara and requires a minimum of Mahara 1.4.

Unfortunately we are experiencing a few browser and operational inconsistencies with the latest version of Mahara, particularly with regard to editing uploaded files in Portfolio Pages.  We are investigating:

  • Firefox 9.0.1: On some PCs the edit buttons not working on File uploads (but inconsistency between alike versions)
  • Chrome 16.0.912.75: Edit and Select buttons not working in the File uploads
These 2 issues also trigger a set of PHP errors:
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] [WAR] 8d (lib/errors.php:464) An exception was thrown of class PieformException.
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] [WAR] 8d (lib/errors.php:464) THIS IS BAD and should be changed to something extending MaharaException,
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] [WAR] 8d (lib/errors.php:464) unless the exception is from a third party library.
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] [WAR] 8d (lib/errors.php:464) Original trace follows
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] [WAR] 8d (lib/pieforms/pieform.php:528) No function registered to handle form submission for form "files"
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] Call stack (most recent first):
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] * Pieform->__construct(array(size 12)) at /home/administrator2/public_html/mahara/lib/pieforms/pieform.php:161
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] * Pieform::process(array(size 12)) at /home/administrator2/public_html/mahara/lib/pieforms/pieform.php:71
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53] * pieform(array(size 12)) at /home/administrator2/public_html/mahara/artefact/file/index.php:38
[18-Jan-2012 14:26:53]

The Mahara Bugtracker does not list these issues – the closest bug being Bug #891436 which mentions the same PHP errors.  I have made small customised changes to the Resume artefact as documented here, but I do not think it is at all related, so I will submit our own bug report.

Out of interest the demo Mahara site does not have the same issue using the same browsers, but I am not unable to confirm if the Mahara version is exactly the same version 1.4.1.

Also identified this bug:

  • Internet Explorer 7 to 9: Hyperlinks to uploaded content on portfolio pages only click-able on baseline of text.

And this is replicable on the demo Mahara website – this bug also needs submitting to Mahara Bugtracker.


Reported to Bugtracker 🙂

Summary Importance Status Heat
918262 Clicking links to uploaded files in Page view using Internet Explorer Undecided New 0 out of 4 heat flames
918259 Select and Edit files in Chrome and sometimes Firefox – different to Bug #819102? Undecided New 0 out of 4 heat flames

Further Troubleshooting

I updated Bug #918259 to reflect the fact that it wasn’t a bug after all.  The problem was caused by missing or corrupt files in the folder mahara/lib/pieforms.  🙂