Wednesday, August 13, 2008

LinuxWorld Attendees Refurbish Aging PCs For Schools

Help Wanted

This year's LinuxWorld was the scene of an "Installfest" effort to refurbish hundreds of old, discarded PCs for use in local schools in need. The idea was to get LinuxWorld attendees to donate some of their time at the show to provide the manpower. Sponsors included Untangle, a developer of open-source network gateway systems, and the Alameda County Computer Resource Center, a non-profit computer recycling organization.

Programmers At Work

A section of the LinuxWorld show floor at San Francisco's Moscone Center was carved out for Installfest. Show attendees and the public dropped off discarded PCs for refurbishment, including installing free and open-source software. A similar Installfest in March rebuilt 350 computers for Bay Area schools, including the Ascend School in Oakland, a K-8 school with the mission of closing the educational achievement gap in that city.

Give Me Your Old, Your Tired PCs ...

James Burgett (seated), who runs the Alameda County Computer Resource Center (ACCRC), oversaw the Installfest effort. When asked by an attendee what kind of PC would be considered too old, he replied: "Nothing's too old, nothing's too weird, nothing's too dysfunctional. Obsolescence is just a lack of imagination."

Mobile Computing?

Jason Moyer, who works with the ACCRC, unloads a cart of PCs he wheeled in from the Moscone's loading dock. "We've got pallets of them out back," he said.

Product Evaluation
Volunteers evaluate the PCs and identify what's working, what isn't and what needs to be done to each system. Working with Moyer is Cecilia Lee, a freelance software engineer, who was volunteering her time.

Disassembly Line

The first step is examining the PC hardware and components and determining which PCs can be refurbished and which ones can be cannibalized for parts.
Getting To The Heart Of The Problem

Sellam Ismail, who also works with the ACCRC, disassembles a PC.

So Many PCs, So Little Time

PCs lined up for refurbishment. Attached sticky notes describe the problems each computer was suffering from, such as a missing CD-Rom drive or a dead power supply.

Off To School

Volunteers rebuilt about 750 PCs for area schools using chassis and components from about 1,000 donated computers. Rebuilding the PCs and safely disposing of unused components prevented some 50,000 pounds of potentially hazardous materials from entering the waste stream, Burgett estimated. Although the Installfest effort could have used a few more donated PCs, Burgett said there was no shortage of volunteers at the show.


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