The Refresh - Day One

Our new set of iPads rolled in today. We have gone with 4th Generation 9.7" iPad, WiFi and, this time, 32GB. What follows is a story about opening boxes.

In the UK, iPads ship in what is basically the same boxes they ship to the Apple Store in: a shipping carton, containing a smaller carton held in a spacer inside which are five iPads in shrink-wrapped retail boxes. Once you get rid of the brown cardboard, you're holding the exact same thing you'd get in a plastic bag from the Apple Store.

Today, we spent the entire day unpacking, breaking down the shipping boxes and getting the devices into their cases.

Sidebar: The Case

There are basically only three kinds of iPad case:

  • The Folio style, which folds into a typing stand similar to the original Apple case.
  • The Kickstand-style, which props the iPad against ridges on the inside front of the case.
  • The Milspec-style, which turns the iPad into a colossal Triganic Ningi of plastic and rubber with all the ergonomics of Batman's toilet seat.

We ended up going with the Belkin Cinema Stripe Folio (, This case is unusual in that it can be used in either a kickstand mode or as a folio-style typing stand. It also protects the corners and has a very reasonable price.

Taking Inventory

The outer shipping cartons have a sticker and barcode that shows the serial numbers of the five iPads contained within. The first step, therefore, was to capture the serial numbers of all the devices.

My terror at this point in the operation is somehow getting confused between all the devices and ending up not knowing what is where, so I decided to try and keep it manageable.

First, I labelled each of the 22 boxes with a letter A through V. Next I built a simple spreadsheet that had A through V in column A, each spaced out by four intervening cells. Then I used the barcode scanner I bought for the job ( to fill column B with the serials.

So far so good. Now we have groups of five serials in a spreadsheet. For a bigger deployment, your reseller might do this for you but I knew it wouldn't take too long with a scanner in hand.


The next job was to separate everything out without mixing everything up. Each of us took a box and 5 cases and followed this procedure:

  • Unpack the 5 retail boxes and keep the outer shipping container marked with the letter.
  • Unwrap the iPad and put it in its case.
  • Assemble the charger and drop it in a communal box.
  • Drop the cable - still wrapped - in a communal box.
  • Throw out the in-box documentation.
  • Stack the iPad in its case, with the base of the retail box (and, hence, the serial number of the device) back in the shipping container.
  • Stack the retail box-top in the corner for later reassembly.

Now, we have the same 5 iPads, in cases, back in the boxes they came from.


I wanted to put a barcode somewhere on the case of each device for later ease of troubleshooting and lookup if we ever need to. I used my list of codes and an app called Code128Encoder to generate PNG barcode files, then printed one sheet for each box.

Each person then took a box, trimmed the barcodes and passed the device, the serial number barcode and the lower-box to me. I double-checked that the barcode matched the lower-box and then stuck the barcode into the inside of the case.

At this point, every device is in its case and its serial number is stuck into the back of the case with a barcode. We can now discard the shipping boxes entirely.

Turn-on Test

We'll do more testing tomorrow but the last job for today was to simply ensure that each device booted up to the setup assistant. We finished that job and found no DOA devices.

Time Taken

There were five of us working today. Here are some rough timings for the day:

  • 11am: Start opening boxes
  • 1300: All iPads in cases, stacked in their shipping boxes, without barcodes
  • 1300-1345: Lunch
  • 1530: All iPads in cases, with barcodes, sorted into class groups.

So nearly 19 person-hours of work for 110 iPads, working out at about 10 minutes of physical prep per iPad.