FLOSS PC Repair Shop

Jason Sauders jasauders at gmail.com
Thu Jan 1 04:51:59 UTC 2015

This is a great idea, but I would advise that a few things are kept in
mind. Windows users will still likely be the majority of a potential
customer base. That said, it doesn't detract from the roots and the real
point of a FLOSS related computer shop. After all, part of the point of
open source is to be open minded. Alternatives exist, and embracing that
open minded stance on accepting customers of all walks will only help you
from a reputation standpoint. I do tech work on the side, and on my web
site clear as day I have a dedicated page for Windows, Apple, and Linux.

Another thing I do is I have a PDF I wrote up in LibreOffice Writer. It has
a list of the common programs installed on the computer with a short 2-3
line description of each. That way people can use it as a quick reference
file to see what the Ubuntu equivalent for say "Windows Movie Maker" is. I
put this PDF in /etc/skel in the Desktop folder, so that way new user
accounts that get created also get the same file on their Desktop. Of
course, they can delete it if they wish, but I figured this was a nice
touch as it helps bridge the gap of what the heck Brasero is, or
Clementine, etc.

As far as tools and utilities, there are some I highly recommend. TestDisk
and PhotoRec are obvious ones. Sometimes people are careless about their
data, or perhaps they had an accidental whatever-it-was that caused a major
partition/file loss issue. Of course, I say up front there are *absolutely*
zero guarantees with any sort of data recovery work, but I'll always try as
much as I can for the customer. Recently I worked with a former co-worker
to get some pictures recovered. They thought they were missing about 100
photos, but I found nearly 3,500 that they were missing. That was quite an
emotional happy-moment for her. ;)

Gddrescue is a life saver as well. When a system boots up slow, before I
even bother troubleshooting it, I boot to an Ubuntu Live USB/CD and check
the drive with the Disks utility first. At a somewhat alarming rate, often
times the hard drives are failing, hence the slowness of the OS. I'll
purchase (after discussing options with the owner, of course) a drive of
matching/larger size, and do a gddrescue of the drive. Gddrescue works by
retrying bad sectors any number of times you specify (i.e. the -r3 flag
will try 3 times, if all 3 reads fail, it writes a 0 and moves on) in an
attempt to rescue the drive. Again, no guarantees, as sometimes the drive
is too far gone to recover, but sometimes this is the golden ticket. Make
sure you have data backed up before attempting this (I just copy the data
while in the live session if at all possible) and you quadruple check (via
serial numbers, etc) what is sda, sdb, etc. Gddrescue is in the universe

Clonezilla is pretty self explanatory as well. Sometimes it's necessary to
clone a system, whether they want to migrate their system to a larger hard
drive or whatever the case may be. GParted is likely to get lumped in here
as well if you need to do any partition based work. But of course, ensure
data is backed up before-hand. You never know when something is going to
throw a fit, especially when working with the heart of where the data lies;
the storage drive.

I'd also familiarize yourself with different products out there as much as
possible. Recently I added home backup/file servers to my list of services.
While dozens exist, it's kind of hard to deny that Synology is a very
attractive option. Likewise, I also have OpenMediaVault in my arsenal of
recommendations. OMV is rather FreeNAS-ish, but Debian based with an
exceptional web based UI and it works wonderfully on older hardware. That
way I can offer a pre-boxed solution or more of a DIY (but I'd happily set
it up for them) solution, provided they either agree to a custom build that
I can spec for them or have an available tower to utilize. I frequently
spec out systems on NewEgg so I have an idea offhand of what a custom built
NAS would run them if they were interested.

It's understandable for people to be a bit hesitant about having a totally
new operating system (to them) installed on their computer. As Scott
mentioned, being able to provide them with resources to getting help, such
as the forums, is key. That way people don't feel alone when it comes to
dealing with issues. The last thing anybody in their right mind would like
is an operating system on their computer where, in their world, only one
person can help; you. Of course, we all know that's not true as multitudes
of resources exist online for assistance, but they don't know that. This is
new to them. I think it's important to not push alternative resources in a
way that makes them feel like once you're done with the job, all ties
between you+customer are cut. I more-so push online resources as an aide
since I don't want people to get the wrong impression that I just want
their business one time and won't care about them whatsoever into the
future, but at the same token, deep down, I also don't want a flooded inbox
first thing Saturday morning either. ;)

Making a decision about what specific distribution/desktop environment you
want to utilize is also key. I quite like using stock Ubuntu, but let's
face it, Unity is not the lightest kid on the block. Sometimes people are
wondering how they can re-utilize their old XP box. If they don't want
their main system touched, but are curious about Linux for their old system
to check out, what will you use? Me personally, I use Ubuntu and Xubuntu
nearly exclusively (though Ubuntu MATE certainly has my interest, but I'm
hanging on to Xubuntu for those lighter tasks for the time being). Of
course, some people may prefer the idea/looks/feel of Mint, elementary OS,
or insert-30-other-distros-here, and if that's the case go with what they
prefer. I would be careful about going too deep into the distro exploration
world of things though as it can very easily seem overwhelming to a new
user. Keep it simple until *they* specify otherwise. After all, you're
going to be a FLOSS shop, right? It's not just a Windows world out there,
and likewise, it's not just an Ubuntu world out there either. ;)

Hope this helps!

On Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 3:01 PM, Amichai Rotman <amichai at iglu.org.il> wrote:

> Hi All,
> I am about to open my own PC Repair Shop in my neighborhood and I'd like
> to use FLOSS as much as possible.
> I will repair PCs and Laptops and I intend to promote FLOSS to my
> customers (GNU/Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular).
> I would like to hear your thoughts / ideas / advice etc.:
>    - Tools to use
>    - What to install on the server
>    - Which programs and apps to promote to new Linux user for faster
>    adaptation
>    - Resources I could use: Wikis, Knowledge Bases etc.
>    - Where to get Posters, stickers, stuffed Tuxes and the like to put on
>    display and sell
> You get the idea....
> Thanks!
> Amichai.
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