Laptop Lending Program for the School of Computer Science

CSCF Master ST item


Public service description

CSCF helpdesk guide

Project Charter



Instructors, lecturers, sessionals and other people who teach or use classrooms for lecturing and who do not have their own portable computing device to plug into the projectors are expected to use the IST-supported Nexus podium computers.

The SCS Executive (through Dan Brown, Director, Ungergraduate) has indicated that this arrangement often is unsatisfactory because of a lack of computing power or software or networking or some combination thereof.

He would like us to put together a pool of laptops that could be lent to individuals on a term-by-term basis, for instructional purposes. The pool would need to be evergreened to ensure that the systems stay reasonably current.

In some sense, this program is just a formalization of what we do anyway: we regularly have people asking for short, medium and long-term loans but never had a defined service offering. We would lend from one of the several little stashes of left-over laptops -- with nothing formal, no image or security management and generally invisible. The new program imposes a better management structure on such lending.

Project goals

  • provide course-appropriate classroom computing resources to instructors in the SCS
  • provide a "one-stop" service point for all laptop lending within the School

Project objectives

  • develop a pool of term-loanable laptops for use by instructors who have no other laptop/portable systems for use in classrooms. The laptops will be Linux/Windows dual boot drawn from the standard "Grad" laptop pool.
  • assume responsibility for the "short term laptop loan" program (currently handled by the SCS Admin staff)
  • use the CSCF help desk as the central point for laptop lending (short and long term)
  • be ready to provide laptops to the community for the W14 term.

Project sponsor

Dan Brown, Director Undergrad, School of Computer Science

Project leader

Trevor Grove, CSCF

Project advisory group

Fenglian Qiu; ISG; Phil Beldowski, CSCF; plus CSCF help desk personnel

Risks, assumptions and mitigating factors

  1. Risk: failure to complete project in time for W14. Mitigation: do what we do now, which is an ad hoc loan.
  2. Risk: demand too great; not enough inventory. Mitigation: make it clear in documentation that it's an "where available" program
  3. Assumption: that our standard grad laptop is sufficiently powerful. Mitigation: clarify "it is what it is". In the long run, look at up-spec'ing the pool of laptops and provide a quality of service selector
  4. Risk: damage/destruction/loss of laptops. Not much we can do here without imposing liability. OTOH this is no different that grad students or any other equipment that we provide.
  5. Risk: increase support load. All things being equal, we'd have that support work anyway, just not through a defined service offering.


As of 2013-11-27:

  1. determine software to add to standard grad image -- ST#91577 -- mostly done (stalled on paperwork)
    1. includes ST#91834 add guest userid to image for short-term loans -- done
  2. develop CSCF help desk procedures and documentation -- ST#91835 -- done
  3. develop announcement -- ST#92599 -- in progress
  4. retreive old loaner laptops from Helen (front desk) and advise on new process. -- ST#92598 -- in progress

Progress/status reports


To-do items

  • add software to image -- Phil, Fenglian
  • create "guest" userid -- Phil
  • develop help-desk procedures -- trg, "cscfhelp"


All tasks done or in progress (see Milestones).


2013-11-4: Dan, Fenglian, Phil, Trevor


The team met and reviewed the background information. There was discussion of adding Mac laptops to the lending pool but it was decided that was out of scope for the current proposal. There was general concensus of the project goals and objectives as outlined above.

It was observed that having the short-term loaners available for last-minute replacements (eg "my laptop is dead and I have to give a lecture in 30 minutes") would be useful. CSCF can never guarantee that a suitable replacement will always be available, so these extemporaneous arrangements will always be a "best effort" approach.

There was discussion of what software would be on the laptops and how would requests for special (non-standard) software be handled. It was noted that for term loans, there would presumably be some lead time between the request and delivery, and if necessary, specialized software could be installed. For last-minute short-term loans, it will have to be "best effort in the available time". Phil and Fenglian will look into revising the list of software that should be available (see ST#91577).

Another detail about the image: we should add a "cscf-guest" or similar userid to the image (along with cscf-adm etc.) so that there is a userid available for short-term loans (help desk will ujst reset the password at time of delivery). For long term, we would create custom userids for lendees.

The timeframe for an announcement of this new program was discussed. It seems reasonable to aim for W14 to have an image that has the extra software available. Other deliverables for this timeframe include:

  • developing training/procedures manual for the help desk (ST#91835).
  • developing a communications plan to make the client base aware of the availability of loaners. Fenglian will start to mention it "informally" amongst her staff, as that is the most likely place instructors will go. Sending an announcement to cs-faculty & cs-staff (which includes ISG and admin staff) seems appropriate.

2013-11-27: Rob, Trevor

Rob ("cscfhelp") and Trevor met to provide background for the project and what Rob's specific tasks are:

  1. develop material for the CSCFHelp manual describing the lending program and to outline specific procedures
    1. client initial contact
    2. interface with Phil/Infrastructure to acquire laptops for lending
    3. procedure to apply to laptop prior to handout
      1. create userid (long-term) or change password (short-term)
      2. check-out in inventory
    4. procedures upon return from lendee
      1. re-image: get current image and procedures from Phil/Infrastructure
ST#91835 has been created to document this task. Rob believes that Dec 6 is reasonable for a first draft.
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Topic revision: r13 - 2014-05-27 - TrevorGrove
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