The Laptop Project

TLP is a project with a temporary name at this stage – as I’m sure you can tell 😆 Nonetheless, it’s a project I’m passionate about and that I’ve spent a long time researching already, even as I write this.

This project is not yet active

This project is still in planning stages and subject to potentially drastic changes.

Any services or products described in these plans are as-yet unavailable.

History

TLP began life as the Education Assistance Project within a partnership I was previously a part of, which no longer trades. Unfortunately, like many other things within the partnership it wasn’t taken seriously enough and ultimately never progressed from the “I have a cool idea” stage.

However, the concept of the project is something that I’m passionate about. It’s something I really needed when I was in college but wasn’t available, and something I’ve seen friends, classmates and more need over the years.

Concept

The basic concept of the project is to affordably provide laptops to people who may struggle to buy their own, but need it for work, school, college or university.

The target per-unit price for this project is £100 (maximum £150), including any repairs, replacement parts of refit components but excluding delivery costs.

On the topic of profits, this project is intended only to be sustainable, not profitable. I.e. I do not seek to make large profits from this project, I simply seek to prevent it from making losses. The bulk of my income is to be generated by my other projects and sales.

The method involves purchasing used or damaged laptops from places such as eBay, repairing them (if necessary), wiping them clean of data and then using those for supply. This could be done without requiring additional funding, however the supply would not be particularly reliable. These laptops would have to meet or exceed the hardware requirements, or have the ability to be refitted to do so (e.g. swapping a mechanical hard drive for an solid-state flash drive).

Hardware Requirements

I have a list of requirements for the laptop design;

  • Screen size between 12 and 14 inches (30cm – 35cm)
  • All hardware should be fully compatible with generic Linux drivers (Linux kernel 5.4 LTS) OR drivers should be readily available via Ubuntu’s default software repositories, for example Lenovo’s late-model touchpads don’t work, and wouldn’t be acceptable
  • Screen resolution 1366 x 768 or higher
  • The screen should be sufficiently bright to support outdoor usage
  • The device should have at least a headphone/microphone combo jack, 1 USB 3.0 / 3.1 type A and a charging port
  • 2.4ghz WiFi is required, 5ghz WiFi and/or Bluetooth connectivity is optional
  • Storage technology should be eMMC or an SSD of at least 64 gigabytes. Mechanical storage is not acceptable
  • Battery life should be at least 2 hours in a reasonable use-case test

Finances

The finances of this project will be based on a “funding pool”. Laptops will be sold for the target price, regardless of their combined price for purchase, repair and refit.

When a profit is made, 100% will be placed in the funding pool. When a loss is made, the impact will be on the funding pool. All purchases of laptops, parts and consumable supplies (e.g. cleaning equipment for these devices) will be drawn from the funding pool, as well as any recurring costs such as memberships.

Additional external funding (e.g. grants or donations) may allow for concessions to be made for consumers in particularly dire financial condition, as doing so without extra funding, while theoretically conceivable, could affect the project’s sustainability over time.

Furthermore, sale of spare parts from irreparable laptops can help to fill the funding pool for future devices. Consumable components such as batteries cannot be resold in this way.

Policies

Usual practices that help to make things cheaper such as credit or renting are difficult to implement and enforce, and are often regulated strictly. Therefore, initially I believe it will be beneficial to keep things quite simple. Once a laptop is purchased, it’s owned in full by the consumer.

In terms of Warranties / Guarantees, I feel the best option is simply to follow the Consumer Rights Act of 2015. I am dealing in used goods, so cosmetic damage is part and parcel of the project. Webcams, fingerprint sensors or other non-essential hardware is not required to function, as long as the laptop meets the hardware requirements.

Of course, I understand that I’m not impervious to making mistakes. If consumers contact me with issues about their laptops, I will consider them on a case-by-case basis based on the hardware requirements and on the specific circumstances. A full explanation as to the reason behind my decision will be provided.

Obtaining

As plans currently stand, I may sell this service via my own website using the (mostly) free WooCommerce plugin. This will also simplify selling the URL-S project for me.

However, this raises the concern of security; see here for more information on that particular concern. I have already begun proceedings to address this, such as requiring a Google Captcha to be solved in order to sign up successfully, along with other internal differences.