Friday, April 17, 2009

The Elonex Call Centre

Last year I bought Jaime and Kezia one of the first "sub-notebooks" specially designed for young children and only £100.

The philosophy for such computers originated with Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project at the Massachusett's Institute of Technology (MIT) which aims to produce a USD 100 computer for children in the developing world that can be wound-up or solar-powered.

OLPC hasn't quite achieved its aim of USD 100 (exchange rates last year, current economic crisis etc etc) but is getting there. MIT are not the world's greatest commercial operators in comparison with outfits such as Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Dell etc but as OLPC began to take off they began to see the potential off in the educational market of the developing world, huge markets (just imagine Brazil or India for such technology) and have started to promote their own sub-notebooks.

OLPC woke up to the interest of such notebooks to the children and their parents in the "developed world". The developed world also has poverty, although most often not as extreme as that found in the developing world. So, in response the corporate IT giants are responding to the MIT OLPC project by producing sub-notebooks aimed at both adult and child markets in both worlds. IBM, with its corporate might much greater than than that of MITs, has begun trying it "bribe" developing world governments to use their equivalent (with MS? check) as a better product to OLPC.

In the face of such competition OLPC has launched its own counter-marketing compaign - aimed at "socially-aware" developed-world parents "Buy one for your child and we'll finance one for a child in the developing world."

They use a Linux operating system (which immediately got my sympathy).

Then the French-based company Elonex, through its UK subsidiary, launched the child-focussed Elonex One series of sub-notebooks for around £100. I leapt at it!

Again a Linux OS (although proprietary preventing hacking parents from messing around and the machine has no BIOS setup allowing me to boot from a USB drive), it is truely a marvellous machine). But as with all machines designed by adults for children, they are never 100% child-proof. So Jaime, Kezia or Elonex managed to bust it.

My brother tried an OS reload and a hardware reset in accordance wth website instructions but to no avail. The power and disk lights remained red. So he phoned technical support on a national rate (not a premium commercial) phone number ...

... and was put through to Justin in Cape Town, South Africa.

After Justin had gone through his checklist (to which my brother responded "Done that, done that ...") , Justin instructed him to send it back to the factory.

A week later a new machine with a new version of the OS arrives.

I'm impressed!

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