Physical Environment Checking

This step is related to performing an initial check of physical environment.

Identify equipment

If you are following instructions provided by somebody else, then there may be some specific equipment that you are expected to use. (For instance, there may be a computer that a person is expecting you to use.) If you do not yet know which equipment to use, then find out. (Check any project-specific documentation that has been provided.) If you are designing a project, then determine which equipment is going to be used. Make sure that any important choices are sufficiently documented.

Hardware testing

Make sure that equipment looks like it is physically working. The goal here is not to spend tons of time performing extensive tests that precisely measure the speed of every component. The goal is simply to make sure that equipment will operate as necessary.

For example, check these things:

  • Does it power on?
  • Does it respond to basic input?
  • Does it seem to display expected output?

This doesn't necessarily mean testing every single component. For example, there may not be a need to check the Microphone jack, if no external microphone is expected to be used. There may be no need to check every single USB port, or some other ports that cannot be tested due to a lack of suitable equipment. The goal is simply to make sure that the devices work.


Some devices might be easier to test at a later point of the process. If there is no requirement to report whether equipment is working, then delaying the testing might be an acceptable method. However, that can raise the risk of experiencing a show-stopping surprises when people suddenly find out that equipment is not working as intended. When feasible, the recommended step is to perform the testing.

[#vfywrdsk]: Verify writable disk
Identify space that is available for notes

People who are performing a project that has already been designed will probably be expected to update some documentation (or even create, from scratch). Hopefully there is a clear understanding of where that documentation should be located. If not, check documentation that came with the assignment.

People who are designing a project need to make sure that there is sufficient free space, and that relevant “permission”-style settings will provide sufficient access to the people who will be performing the project. This includes permitting a person to be able to read necessary data, and also permitting the person to be able to write to locations where data is expected to be updated.

Perform a quick check to verify that information can be written.


Presumably, an operating system that is will be installed directly to a hard drive will be permitted to write to the hard drive, unless there are problems (like a malfunctioning disk) or less common limitations (like installing a hardware “write blocker” that strips commands from a data cable if they involve writing to a disk).

However, things may be more complicated in other cases, such as if virtual machines are used. Virtual machines use data stored in files, and those files are commonly stored in a way that may be affected by limitations like settings related to permissions. Verify that security is not causing a problem, and that data can be written.

Process to perform

Make sure you can write to the space. (In theory the Unix touch command could be used, although creating a file with more than zero bytes would also check to see that you're not restricted to be unable to use up more space. So, consider making a directory listing.)

Check free space.

Compare that to the requirements. ( These were determined at a previous step: verify that requirements are fulfillable.)

Consider other changes that are expected. For instance: if you need 8 GB free, and there is 28 GB free, that may be fine. In a classroom environment, that will also be sufficient if there are three students, but not four. (Although, if the work is not being synchronized and so students can move at their own pace, it might be sufficient enough for the fastest student. Some one student might be able to be successful, even though another student may have problems later.)

If you are working as part of a lab, and have problems, then you may need some assistance. Check any instructions that are available. If problems persist, then seeking help from a lab administrator may be a good idea. In fact, due to potential causes like incorrect security, problems may need to be fixed by authorized personnel, and so obtaining help may really be a required step to accomplish the desired goal.

The good news is that if all of the previous steps have been accomplished without problems, then many of the remaining steps can be resolved without needing assistance by an administrator who has additional permissions. (In contrast, a problem with hardware may be beyond a person's ability to control, and the person might even be unable to resolve the problem without using additional resources like budget. Confirming that you lack such problems is typically nice and comforting, because that confirmation is often a strong indicator that the project can be completed relatively smoothly.)