Our first Restart Party – repairing and learning

Thanks to everybody who attended our first Restart Party repair event in north London on Saturday – you made it a real success.

We had an excellent turnout – more than 30 people came by, from many generations, and the space was buzzing the full four hours. We had 4 humble repair heroes offering their skills in computer and electronics repair – sometimes this meant we could not help everybody immediately, but people were quite happy to meet each other, have a brownie and a coffee and talk about their electronics, green and local issues.

We had happy participants write to us

  • Thank you for fixing my printer! What a brilliant event
  • thank u lovely restart team for breathing new life nto my laptop speakers …I have music once more ..yayyy
  • It is a great idea and hope it will spread around the city!

People brought

  • printers (quite a few – including one really old HP Deskjet)
  • laptops including netbook
  • a clock
  • mobiles
  • an Android tablet (see above)
  • speakers
  • DVD players

We noticed a couple of things. The most common – and sometimes fixable – problems are software related. Sometimes drivers get corrupted, systems need updating, hard drives need defragmenting. And then some software wreaks havoc on the unsuspecting user. These are things we can often – but not always – help with. And they can take quite a lot of time to get sorted.

We repaired printers, laptops, a mobile and a rather stylish digital clock. We made progress with a number of devices that will need follow-up by their owners. And we introduced quite a few laptop owners to different flavours of Linux to regain access to their documents or give a new lease of life to computers slowed down by proprietary software.

Smashed screens are a big issue, but there is little we can do unless people can bring replacement parts. DVD players often suffer from terminal problems like laser failure or harder to fix electrical issues.

The owners of the stuff we could not fix allowed us to do some educational teardowns – many of us had never seen inside a Kindle or a DVD player before.

We also started mapping repair places in the north London area – and we have a wealth of shoe, clothes, bike repair places, but actually surprisingly few electronics repair store fronts. (People seemed to think rents were high and they could not survive.)

We feel confident that we can make this kind of event even better in future – we are feeling like fixing can be addictive!

Thanks to London Freecycle, Transition Belsize and the London ICT4D Meetup, all of which were crucial in promoting the event. And of course a special thanks to Nigel, Adrian, Ugo and Matthew, our repairers.

If you are itching to get repairing, come to our event this Thursday afternoon with Technology Will Save Us at KK Outlet in Hoxton.

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3 thoughts on “Our first Restart Party – repairing and learning

  1. Thanks for the report on your great work! Here are some initial observations based on our experience at http://www.fixitclinic.com :

    – “The most common – and sometimes fixable – problems are software related.” We rarely get software issues, even though we have the experience and skills to address them. I wonder what’s different here between our activities — perhaps the marketing? Or maybe people have more ready access to software help here in No. California?

    – “…we introduced quite a few laptop owners to different flavours of Linux…” It also sounds like you had a Linux installfest aspect to your event: If we had more people bringing us older Windows laptops we’d add this to our offering by involving local Linux user groups. Linux is just not popular as an end-user operating system in US, (unfortunately.)

    – “Smashed screens are a big issue, but there is little we can do unless people can bring replacement parts.” True. Since we (and the participant) can’t tell what’s needed until we disassemble the item, we often don’t have the part on hand either. In that case: we use the internet to see if the part is available to order. If it’s inexpensive, we encourage the participant to order it on the spot and bring it to the next Fixit Clinic for installation: that gets them committed to the process. Or we write out a “prescription” together, e,g, “1000uFd 15v electrolytic capacitor” or “1/4″ diameter wood dowel”

    Smashed screens on laptops are problematic because they’re a dearer item, even when replacements can be ordered. Sometimes used ones go for cheap on eBay (at least here in the US), but often the most cost-effective solution is to buy / use an external monitor with the laptop, essentially converting it to a desktop. Or to use their television as the monitor, perhaps even converting the laptop to a media center PC at the same time.

    – “DVD players often suffer from terminal problems like laser failure or harder to fix electrical issues.” Overwhelmingly, the issues we see at Fixit Clinic with DVD (and CD) players are mechanical drive mechanism issues: the little laser assembly needs to be nudged in its track, or there’s some foreign material buggering up the works. I’ve only seen a laser failure once, and I’m still kicking myself because I didn’t confirm that the tiny ribbon cable that supplies power the laser was seated properly before declaring it a lost cause.

    – “The owners of the stuff we could not fix allowed us to do some educational teardowns – many of us had never seen inside a Kindle…” At least here in the US, Amazon is very forgiving about replacing damaged Kindles gratis, even when it’s clearly been subjected to user-inflicted trauma. IIRC they consider a six foot fall something a Kindle should be able to withstand.

    Let us know if we can help with the next Restart Party: we used Google Hangout to telepresence in to the Fixit Clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA with satisfactory results.

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