Removing NetIntelligence from Home Access Laptops

Home Access from Becta Grant
Home Access Grant

After replacing the hard drives in their Home Access laptops, a number of people have contacted us (probably because of our popular Acer Extensa 5235 post) about an issue with the parental control software that is installed on these machines.

From what we gather, some of (perhaps all) the Home Access machines were bundled with NetIntelligence parental control software.

Here is an excerpt from an enquiry we received: Continue reading “Removing NetIntelligence from Home Access Laptops”

OS X Leopard – Losing WiFi Settings

OS X Leopard
OS X Leopard

We just had a PowerPC G4 Macbook Pro in with Leopard running on it. A bit long in the tooth (especially with 512MB RAM) but working fine nonetheless. Well fine except the WiFi settings seemed to be getting lost each time the machine slept or was rebooted. You’d have to click on the list of available wireless networks to connect to the access point and re-enter the WPA Key every single time.

After much poking about and updating everything we could, we decided to tackle another issue – DVD Player was launching every time the user logged in so we wanted to remove it from Login Items. Off we went to System Preferences > Accounts > “Your Account” > Login Items and deleted DVD Player from the list. We left iTunes Helper and MobileConnect in the list.

This simple act of removing DVD Player from the Login or Startup Items FIXED THE WIFI PROBLEM! Go figure.

Laptop Disassembly Tips

Precision Screwdriver Set

Here are a few tips that may help you strip down and reassemble laptops:

  • Use a digital camera or camera phone to take a shot of each stage of the disassembly for reference when you are ready to reassemble it. Zoom in and take separate shots for areas where you have various plugs and connectors or wires running in a specifc way so you know exactly how they were before you took them apart. (unless you have a really good memory!)
  • Use scrap sheets of A4 paper to map out screw positions. Sketch a point (or points) of reference like a battery compartment or RAM module cover on the paper so you know what way up it goes and stick each screw to the paper with clear tape so when you’re finished taking all the screws out of the bottom of the laptop they will all be stuck in their corresponding positions on the piece of paper. Depending on the laptop I may have 2 or 3 sheets of paper with screws on – bottom of unit, under the keyboard and motherboard screws. Doing this will be a great help if you have to leave the laptop disassembled for some time (e.g. to order parts etc) as you will have no doubt as to which screws go where. Some makes and models will use the same length screws for most of the base assembly but others have all different lengths which makes it all the more important to remember where they go back. A ‘too-long’ screw in the wrong place could cause major damage! Continue reading “Laptop Disassembly Tips”

Parent Password for Home Access Laptop

Home Access from Becta Grant
Home Access Grant

At our Kent laptop repair shop, we recently did a complete system recovery on an Acer Extensa 5235 that had a dead hard drive.

This was one of the ‘Home Acess’ computers provided by Becta the now closed government funded grant scheme to help low-income families own a computer.

The client had neglected to make her recovery DVDs whiled the system was up and running.
Usually if we don’t have the recovery DVDs or CDs we can install an OEM version of Windows using the product key on the Windows sticker attached to the laptop, resulting in a nice clean Windows install without all the crap that the manufacturers install alongside Windows. However, the Home Access laptop in our care didn’t have a product key on the sticker.

The license sticker reads: “Windows 7 Pro Natl. Academic Only OA” with a few tracking numbers and bar codes on it. Not very useful for installing Windows!

Luckily we had created a set of 3 recovery DVDs on an identical model that had come in months ago – just in case!

So Windows installed – no problem there, but… When it was time to log into Windows, we were presented with two preconfigured user accounts – Learner and Parent. Learner had no password and was a ‘Limited Account’ which basically means we couldn’t install anything or even update Windows using that account. Parent was a password protected administrator account but we had no password since the client had misplaced the original documentation provided by Comet. Continue reading “Parent Password for Home Access Laptop”

Stupid Laptop Designs

Laptop Repairs
Laptop Repairs

Updated November 20th 2011

Some laptops are designed to be relatively easy to open and repair but others are the absolute pits.

Because we do see a lot of different brands and models it’s not easy to remember which are the ones that are going to need some extra time and expertise to disassemble and repair.

We thought the best thing is to make a note of them here where we can refer to them later and also possibly help other people who are looking for confirmation for: “Yes, you really do need to disassemble the WHOLE laptop to get to the bit you want” sort of thing.

Here I’m going to start on a list of laptops and netbooks that need to be put in the ‘Ridiculously difficult to open and repair for no good reason’ category.
We shall be adding to the list as we come across more stupidly designed models. Continue reading “Stupid Laptop Designs”