The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Visits The HeliOS Project


It was pretty much the last thing I expected...

But then again, I never expected a nasty cold on Christmas Eve...

But, ya take the good with the bad, right?

Things had been slow here.  Our prime vehicle had sat for a few days, crippled and unsafe to drive, deliveries were piling up and I really wanted to get these computers delivered by Christmas.  Things do work out though if you give them a push from time to time.  Rick Meyers stepped up and took four of the computers we had ready and delivered them, I took the three closest to me and prodded the Rodeo to do her duty...

We got caught up...Thanks Rick.

But we still had the pressing matter of not having a reliable way of getting around.  Our delivery vehicle was unsafe to drive and we needed a new one.  I had put 800.00 dollars down on a rebuilt Jeep Grand Cherokee but we owed 1800 dollars to pick it up.  Generous readers had donated 500.00 to the cause but that left us short 1300 bucks.

That's a lot of money when you operate a charity or non profit...at least for us it is.

And then I heard sleigh bells.

Funny thing though...you associate Christmas with snow and cheery fires with ice-glistened trees and heavy coats accompanied by frosty breath.

A far cry from San Diego California where the daytime winter temperature is 65 degrees.  Looks like Santa is wintering in San Diego this year.  He emailed me a couple days ago and it was a simple one line email.

If 1300 dollars is all that is stopping you from resuming your work after the holidays, I can donate it to you.

How do you reply to something like that?  I mean, aside from humble thanks.

"Santa" does not want to be named nor does he want a lot of fanfare around this.  He was kind enough to help us with this generous gift at a time when it was needed most and for that I am not only grateful, I am rejuvenated.  I want to publicly thank this wonderful person for the Christmas present he left under our tree.  It is going to allow us to continue doing what we do.

I also want to publicly thank Andy Krell, Skip Guenter, Tom King and Ron West for the generous donation of their time.  Each had volunteered at a moment's notice to deliver or pick up equipment if needed.  For that generosity, I thank each of you.

Virginia already knew there was a Santa Claus...

Now I do too

All-Righty Then

Monday, December 21, 2009

Of Thunderbolts and Revelations


Thunderbolts and Revelations.

Metaphorically, they can be perceived as the same thing.

Of course, "Thunderbolt" carries a bit more drama and impact...an idea or fact that comes upon you so swiftly and powerfully, it is perceived as profound or moving.

...Pretty powerful for something that really doesn't exist, but I think we all get the idea.

His name is Daniel and he is a Scotsman.  A Chef by trade, Daniel has traveled extensively across Europe and the US.  He now calls Italy home and spends much of his time teaching the locals English.

Ahem...just an observation here, ok?  I've been to the Highlands.  I've got falling down drunk in Pubs that had sheep gathered ten feet from the back door.  (ok...no jokes...)  I've spent my share of time on the Emerald Isle from top to bottom, albeit rushed at times.  And don't even get me started on my Isle of Man stories...this is a family-friendly blog.

I do have one rhetorical question.

What would an native Italian sound like after learning English from a Scotsman?

...Just goofy stuff I think about sometimes.

At any rate, Daniel was a guest in the home of Mark Van Kingsley.  Mark is a long-time Linux Advocate and has his own Linux-based business in New York.  He is also a good and treasured friend of The HeliOS Project.  He's one of many who have put their sweat equity and money into doing what we do.

By the way Mark...May 16th...2nd Annual LAP.  See ya there?

Mark and Family were having Dinner with Daniel in their home when the subject of technology and computers came up.  Daniel complained about the lack of privacy and the hassle-in-general of using Microsoft Windows.  Van Kingsley might as well of had a bear trap set for the poor guy.

"You ever heard of Linux?" Mark asked.

Daniel shook his head and said that he had not.

Game On.

Mark explained the concept and facts of Free Software.  He explained how Linux was created, how it was maintained and how it was improved.  He also mentioned that it was free of cost as well.   He showed him three different distros on three different computers.

But then came the inevitable question?

"What's the catch?"

Mark told him.

"If you like it, use it.  Tell other people about it and tell them how to
get it. If you find a version of Linux or application for Linux that
absolutely knocks your socks off, give them praise and money if you
can afford it.  That's the catch."


Before the evening was over, Mark burned Daniel a Linux Mint CD and sent him home with it.  Daniel promised he would call Mark if he had any questions.


Daniel called him about an hour later.

He was amazed at the amount of software and functionality Linux had straight out of the box.  He did have a bit of a glitch with his webcam but Mark, being the advocate he is, directed Daniel to the Mint forums where he figured the problem out for himself.  Fact is, it wasn't really a problem...just a matter of a quirky driver.  Odd brand, stodgy driver support.  Heck, that happens more than often in Windows.

Oh, did I mention that Daniel had figured out how to dual boot his Windows partition with his new Linux one?

He called Mark the next day too.  Not to ask questions but to let him know that he had installed and configured Skype and was talking to his friends in Italy about his new operating system and all the things it could do.

They did not believe him.

Not one of them had heard of Linux.

They have now, I have been so assured.

The last few calls Mark got during Daniel's last few days in The States pertained to questions about Synaptic, the command line and how other distros differed from what he was using.

The very last call Mark got from Daniel was to tell him that he had backed up his Windows System and had did a full hard drive install of Mint on his computer.  No more dual booting.  No more windows.

Daniel didn't see the need for it.  He now had freedom, he now had privacy and he now had a computer he could trust.  Daniel, like many of us admits that he has used cracked or "fixed" versions of Windows at one time or another.  If there is one message that needs to be sent, it would be this.

Hey Redmond...there are millions of us who don't even think your product is worth stealing anymore.

Your stock closed today at 30.48 per share.  It was 27.00 and change the day Windows 7 was released.

Hey...not saying anything here...just an observation...those thunder clouds are beginning to look a tad bit ominous.

All-Righty Then

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Takin' 5...


Before anything else, I want to extend my warmest and most sincere wishes to everyone during this holiday season.  Regardless of whether you celebrate a traditional holiday or are just along for the ride, I want the best for you this season.

This comes at an unfortunate time but it is necessary.  The HeliOS Project will suspend our current operations as of Monday.  We will take the next 30 to 45 days to re-evalute many aspects of what we do and how we do it.

At this time, we are without a vehicle to make our deliveries or donation pickups.  We are still 1300 dollars short of taking delivery of our new one.  Often, pickups or deliveries are scheduled or necessary when volunteers are simply not available and the stress of trying to get things scheduled with little to work with has given me pause.

Let me be more honest than some people will be comfortable with...aside from ending a sentence with a preposition.  The HeliOS Project serves the city of Austin and the surrounding area.  It is that city and that area that benefits from our labor.  To this point, the Linux Community has largely supported our efforts and for that I am extremely and forever grateful...but you are not being directly served.  The people of this area are.  We are going to talk with key elements of this population and seek funding.  If they don't see the value of what we do, then maybe it's not as valuable as we thought it to be.

We do have obligations to teach classes at different learning centers and will honor those.  As well, Our Texas Grandchildren, a foundation built by Carole Keeton Strayhorn, will take delivery of the 30 computers we promised them.  Aside from those commitments, we are going to stand down for a bit to see if we cannot find alternative ways of getting what we need in order to do what we do.

Of course, the Blog of helios will continue...probably at a greater rate now, so those who have noted the sparse postings, let me catch my breath and we'll get 'er done.

Again, please take a minute to enjoy this season.  We don't always have the luxury of catching up with the next one.

All-Righty Then

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Linux Against Poverty 2010 is a go...


Folks, I sincerely apologize for my absence the past three weeks. Important family matters needed attention and I attended to them. Many of you have called and emailed but I was out of pocket for the duration. Again I apologize. I will catch up as time permits.

It was simply necessary.

But boy, do we have stuff to talk about.

First, we have made the move to our new location in Lakeway Texas. Lakeway is a small community about 30 minutes drive from my home and sits on Lake Travis. It gives us not only room to work but room to grow...and that's a good thing.

Our new address is:

The HeliOS Project
2009 Ranch Road 620 North
Suite 530
Lakeway, Texas 78734
512 739 9707

We want to specifically thank Skip Guenter, Tom King and Jean-Claude Magras for their help in getting us moved and organized.

Of course, organized is relative and it shouldn't take me long to turn it into a shambles again. Trust me.





Now...for the important stuff. Lynn Bender of geekaustin.org has announced that he is beginning preparations for LInux Against Poverty 2010. I was pleasantly surprised to find that 25 people volunteered for the event within an hour of the announcement. That is roughly half of the geek/tech workforce we were graciously provided during the last event. As if this writing, there are 55 signed up to help....but that's good. we're shooting to double our machine intake from last year.

Lynn has some fairly spectacular options open to him for this years event but until they are locked down, I've been asked not to be too specific. The event is scheduled for the 16th of May this year. If you wish to participate in LAP this go-around, please leave your comments here or email me helios at fixedbylinux dott Komm. We'll get you slotted into a place where you feel you can do the most good.

There is also a google group for installers and hardware folks if you are interested in joining. Just ask for an invite. There is also a Facebook page for the 2010 event as well so you can RSVP when you are ready.

And it is at this time that I must announce to retirement of our beloved old Isuzu Rodeo. Thanks to Tano Garcia, we got an extra 20K out of the old girl after what seemed to be a terminal breakdown. Tano, at his own cost; replaced the crankshaft, clutch, throw-out bearing and other parts. All we had to pay was a partial 300 dollar mechanic's fee to do the work. Tano paid the rest. Bless his heart.

We now are in the process of gaining a new vehicle.

The same guy, Tano Garcia; has a mechanic's lien on a completely rebuilt 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee. This vehicle has a rebuilt motor, Transmission and replaced differential.

He's selling it to us for the remaining bill on the Jeep. I've already given him $800.00 of my money as a down payment on it but we are short $1800.00 to take delivery. We have applied for several grants in the past few months but with this economy, the competition is fierce and we have yet to be awarded one. If you are in the position to help us get our vehicle, we would be extremely appreciative. And as always, donations can be made via the link at the top left of this page.

We are having a meet and greet at the shop this Saturday afternoon...just a few Linux geeks getting together to look the place over and talk about upcoming events such as Linux against Poverty.  You are welcome to come out and we'll order some pizza and pass the time.  We might mess around and even enjoy it.  Come out and see our new digs.

So, we are almost caught up on what's been going on. Coming soon is a cool story about a family that reached their pain threshold and made the migration to Linux. Also, if I get the information, we'll talk about a visiting Scotsman that was hit by the Linux Thunderbolt and switched within a few minutes of playing with the Live CD.

Stay Tooned.

All-Righty Then

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Linux Contractor Fired for Using Firefox/Linux




This is a complicated story but one that must be told. I'm not sure there is anything that can be done about it except rage at the moon...

But it needs to be told none the less.

Did I mention it gets complicated? It does, but it does so for a reason. Let's introduce the starting lineup.







The Players:

*Our Principal - In the US.

*An Indian Contracting Company

*A large computer/server company with three letters in their name.

*A large credit card company with four letters in their name.

*A friend of The Principal

The Principal is a guy who works with Linux Servers for a living. He was contacted by the Indian Contracting Company and asked to apply for a project position through the large company with three letters in their name. The contract was to patch the 1000+ linux servers with some proprietary SAN access software

With me so far?

Ok...so our Principal went through a grueling month-long process of applying for employment to be awarded this contract...a lucrative contract at that.

Of course, when you've been unemployed for any period of time, the term lucrative becomes relative.

He jumped through all the hoops...ran the gauntlet so to speak, and came to the very last step...a simple competency test to be taken online. He was given the URL and instructed to complete the test and notify the Project Manager at the computer company with three letters in their name when finished. He dutifully logged into the website and hit enter.

The page would not render.

At all.

Our Principal called the Project Manager and told her of the problem. It was soon deduced that our Linux Server Guy was using Linux on the Desktop with Firefox.

Now, I'm going to ask you to remember that he was dealing with a Project Manager that is employed by a huge computer/server company with three letters in their name. She was in charge of switching a large credit card company with four letters in their name over to Linux Servers. It isn't completely out of our realm of understanding that she didn't know what Linux on the desktop is. I will give her that. But I cannot let slide her next inquiry:

"What's this Foxfire thing?"

You've got to be kidding me...

No really.

But wait...it gets better, or worse...depending on where you sit.

The Project Manager mentioned that she would ship our Principal a laptop with Windows/Internet Explorer to him so he could finish the process and begin work. He was going to need it anyway to access MS Windows VPN only...it was how they would access the large credit card company with four letters in their name network. That was the setup for the project.

Not ideal, but it facilitated getting the job.

While waiting for his laptop to be over-nighted, our Principal decided that he might be able to contact someone who was in charge of the Windows/Internet Explorer site only, and see if there was something he could do at his end. IE4Linux had not worked and neither did trying to fool it into thinking Firefox was IE. He called them and asked for tech support.

They did not have a tech support but did take his number down and assured him he would receive a call back.

Turns out this probably wasn't the wisest move.

But who knew?

The company that ran the testing website ended up calling the Project Manager at a large computer/server company with three letters in their name and relayed the information they had received from our Principal.

Within a couple of hours, our Principal received a phone call from the Indian Contracting Company and was informed the project had been canceled. His services would no longer be required.

It stunk...it stunk of high suspicion if not outright lies.

Our Principal had spent a month of his time securing this contract and rightfully suspicious, he called his friend...the friend who had gotten him on the list for the project in the first place.

His friend made a couple calls. His friend called him back within the hour.

The Project had not been canceled. He had been fired. The reason?

The project manager reported that the Principal "refused to use Windows and Internet Explorer".

Which was not true.

Not only was the Principal taken off the project list...

It is reported that he has been blackballed from any future projects funded by this large computer/server company with three letters in their name.

So now let ME rage at the moon.

Because that's all I can do...

The irony? The "compentency test" was a Security & Privacy test from the four letter credit card company that HAD to be taken on MS Windows with IE?

I'll let you be the ones to point out the obvious...the fact that this large computer/server company with three letters in their name is reportedly a "friend to Linux". I'll let you talk about how a Linux Professional who uses Linux as their desktop environment was denied access to employment. Employment that was based on his knowledge of Linux. Yeah, the server side...but still...

Now let's brag about how much ground Linux has made...

And a Linux Project Manager for said company asking the question:

"What's this Foxfire thing?"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stunning Breakthrough in Wireless Reception Technology

Wireless innovation is evolving...and Skip Guenter is the architect.

The call came in about 7 PM last Monday. It was from Skip Guenter.

"You on a secure line?"

"Yeah", I said..."I guess so".

"Well, I can't take the chance it's not secure. Stay there, don't leave and don't tell anyone I'm coming by."

With that he hung up.

Within the next two hours, Skip "skipsjunk.net" Guenter revolutionized the PC wireless world. His innovation, while shamelessly stolen, did miraculous things and I am here to present it to you today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the DSWD - V1 and DSWD- V2 .

Original night research at Skipsjunk's remote facilities to maintain highest security levels on development.























Note the surgical precision by which Guenter cut and splayed the metal mesh to insert the highly developed usb wireless adaptor extension. You won't find that quality of craftsmanship anywhere in today's manufacturing environment.

Of further note and interest is the high-tech USB signal routing cabling device used in this technological marvel. Yes, I know...it's breath-taking. Drink in the precision of its placement. Understandably overwhelming, I know.






















Of course, the calculations used to increase signal strength took hours. Using the Linux Super Computer at the secret night time testing location, Guenter was able to hone the signal from a constant 47 percent to a signal that ranged from 72 to 94 percent.

But despite his brilliance and tenacity, problems persisted. The signal would fluctuate between the afore-mentioned percentages. For anyone else, this vast improvement would have sufficed.

But not for Skip "94percent" Guenter.

After crunching the numbers for what seemed to be hours, Guenter began to develop an answer to the problem. Sheer genius prevailed, along with brilliant engineering to steady the signal to a 5 point fluctuation...an acceptable range for Guenter. While solid signal strength did drop from the previous peak of 94 percent - the constant range of 83 to 88 percent insured a steady signal.

Given the wireless router is 168 feet away and sitting behind two load-bearing walls, it's nothing short of amazing.

The new improved version (v2) provides steadier signal levels with the new specially designed and formulated "double backplane reflector".






















Not only was the engineering and focus of this project without peer, the mounting of the device was stunning.

Because of security concerns around the avant guard mounting method we've had to exclude any photos that depicted the mounting mechanism.

Besides the giant black zip ties don't show up so well at night and nobody has a lens that'll show the nail jammed between the sheet metal roof and the 2x4 beam it's hanging from.

Once the appropriate patents were applied for and all components of the DSWD- V1 and V2 deemed as proprietary, we were able to present the DSWD - V1 in the daylight.

















All kidding aside, this was built for about 30 bucks and did boost the wireless signal about 44 percent. What you are seeing is a Belkin USB dongle attached to an extension coupler and run inside through a crack in my door. The "parabolic" effect is actually a dumpling skimmer used by many Chinese eating establishments to dish dumplings and strain them from the cooking pot. You can purchase one at any Asian market for about 10 bucks. I've bought signal boosters that cost almost twice what building this did and it didn't increase the signal but by maybe 20 percent.

My thanks to Skip "operators-are-standing-by" Guenter for his time and patience in putting this together. Please note much of the descriptive or bold text is his.

All-Righty Then

Arabic Speakers Needed in Austin


Recently, we took on a project for a Iraqi couple who had spent 3 years in a refugee camp prior to finally getting to the US. Their names are Ziad and Mona and they need help far past my ability to help them.

It's not just a matter of the system we gave them being Linux...these folks are not computer users and the concept of right and left mouse clicking eludes them.

A challenge I know...

Now try to imagine trying to teach them with the Language Barrier in place.

We will be helping people like this from time to time. Their story would tug at your heart, but having seen a ten thousand refugee migration in 1991, I can only imagine. These are great people and need our help.

I have also been unable to find an Arabic keyboard or overlay locally so if you know of where we can get one without the wait induced by Internet ordering, we would appreciate your help as well. These folks live on North Lamar in North Austin so if you are able to spend an evening or two with them and help them learn to use their computers, I would be grateful.

This will truly objectify the "community" in The Linux Community.

شكراً

helios

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The HeliOS Project Drawing Winners Announced


Try as we did, we were not able to do a live drawing via Twitter this time. We've had spotty wireless signal for over a week but hopefully, Skip Guenter's directional device to be installed later this evening will solve that.

Here are the winners of our drawing. Each winner will be notified by email and we should ship all prizes by this Wednesday. I want to personally thank those who participated. Your participation has allowed us to continue our work and for that I am grateful.




First Prize: Larado Quadrado Cube

Alan Jones

Second Prize: Toshiba Tecra M2 laptop

Jordan Schwartz

Third Prize: AMD 50x15 Internet Device

Samuel Seib

Live linux CD Do It Yourself Kits/Tuxbymail:

Sandi Raston
Phillip Marquez
Dana Johnston
Gregory Detrich

Edit: Our thanks to Alan Jones who has graciously refused the first place prize and asked us to use this computer for The HeliOS Project. We will post pictures of that install for Alan and the Linux Community when we do that particular install.

From the Directors and Volunteers of The HeliOS Project, we want to thank you for helping us do what we do.

All-Righty Then




Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Linux Dairy Council Steps to the Plate...

I've found myself in some pretty impressive company lately...

online anyway....for now.

Regardless, I am way out of my league here. They are called The Linux Dairy Council (got Linux?)

Here's a listing of the initial attendees of the first LDC meeting. If I missed you, it's my bad...please comment or email me and I will make the edits


Bryen Yunashko - Gnome Dev and OpenSuse Volunteer
Beth Lynn Eicher - Ohio LinuxFest
Organizer
Mackenzie Morgan - Ubuntu
Larry Cafiero, Fedora Project and Redwood Digital Research

Joe Brockmeier, OpenSUSE

Nate Willis, - missed you at OSCON...hope to see you at SCaLE
Clint Savage, Fedora Project and Utah Open Source Conference

Alan Pope, Ubuntu

Will Smith (the Utah one, not the Hollywood one), Utah Open Source Conference


Many of us are stumbling around, trying to find the best way to get Desktop Linux into the awareness of the average computer user. There are millions of us already and I am fairly certain that even the most generous stats pertaining to Linux Desktop use are wrong.

There are more of us than I think many of us imagine.

But still...

on whole, the general computing public remains ignorant to the fact that they have a choice in how they use their computers.

Some that will read this blog will shrug and mentally file it under "WGAS"

(you'll figure it out.)

Well, there are many of us WGAS.

I'm going to equate it to a personal experience from a few years ago. I was in Tucson Arizona on Speedway Blvd, walking back to my seminar from lunch. At the curb, was a man in an obvious jam. He was trying to take some small but heavy boxes into a business from his car. I was able to observe him the entire block and while he struggled to keep them balanced and in his arms, maybe 25 people walked by him.

Like he did not exist.

Long before I was able to get within helping range, two young men spoke to him for a second and picked boxes from the top and helped him carry them to his destination.

I don't want to get into the social aspects of how we've become an untrusting society or how doing so might have been dangerous. We should help those who are struggling.

He was obviously on the downside of 60 and struggling with getting something done. He needed help. Could he have done it himself? Sure...stack them at the curb and take them in one or a few at a time.

Seeing the parallels here?

Windows Users do this almost every day. They've developed coping techniques to deal with the shortcomings of what they have to work with...from protecting their computers to transferring files from one folder to another. Tedious tasks most often that could be done much easier in most cases....and we all know examples of this beyond my simple two.

What The Linux Dairy Council prescribes is finding people that will stop and help someone in obvious distress carry some boxes inside.

Or show them that there is an easier way to use their computers.

The Linux Dairy Council Vision Statement:

The LDC is a project to help promote Linux in general, rather than specific distros. To help coordinate marketing and education activities around Linux by creating materials and organizing activities with other projects.

Many people might have some problems with being an active part of the Council...

You must, before anything else, check your distro bias at the door.

See, while we are seeking active and stable distros to take part in the LDC, it isn't a competition...we are going to attempt to use a cooperation model to get this done. Sure...you are a member of the LinuxMint or PCLinuxOS Community...great...get those distros onto as many computers as you want...after all, the goal is World Domination...right?

For Linux...not for any particular distro.

Within the LDC, distros are tools, not religious icons.

We are just now fleshing out some ideas to make this work. I am going to try my best to make it to SCaLE this winter and many of the LDC will meet there, hopefully having our own booth or one that we can at least form a presence. From there, we might be able to put some of our bigger projects into play...many smaller ones should be working by then.

But it's just starting and I wanted you to know. You are an important part of this...the most important part.

Marketing Linux will work...maybe not in the traditional sense, but it will work. We need your ideas.

And I wanted you to be a part of it.

All-Righty Then...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moving Day Approaches for The HeliOS Project


Finally...

Luck broke our way and in a big way.

Darrel Raynor, the Director for Asset Management for The HeliOS Project has secured for us a warehouse and office. It will be free of charge for a while...

You have no idea what a relief this is.

Instead of working out of a large, converted metal building with minimal climate control (do closed windows count for climate control?), we will have an actual warehouse and repair facility for our work. I even get a desk.

Go figure.

At any rate, we are looking to move the first week of November I am thinking. What we might well need are a couple of volunteers to supply a truck/van to move the computers and various components/boxes we have as well as giving us a hand in bringing them into the facility.

There is quite a bit to move.

I realize this is short notice but we need to vacate the facilities currently being used in order to stop any further rental fees from being brought to bear. The 500 dollars we are now spending on space and facility rental can now go to more important things....

Like securing machines needed to do what we do. If you can help, please contact me at helios at fixedbylinux dott kom.

We are also going to need shelving and some fairly sturdy tables. Skip Guenter has volunteered to do some carpentry work for us with one condition.

I am not to pick up or even enter into the room where power tools are being used.

Agreed.

Thanks for giving us a hand.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Salting the Bones...


We've talked about killing Linux Myths before.

Whether it be security through obscurity or Linux is just not ready for the desktop.

Logic and current unbiased data have proven otherwise. But there is still one that persists...

Linux Users are cheap and Linux Users are not a profitable market for gaming developers.

Ahem...

I think we, at least on some scale, have disproved that. Flash Forward to 2dBoy and Frictional. While we agreed not to divulge some fairly intimate statistics about each company sales, we are able to, and did report at the time, that Linux Users slayed all previous sales records for each game.

See, some myths and even some cultures believe to stop a spirit or ghost from haunting you, someone must unearth their remains and pour salt on their bones...

Demons and Spirits, reportedly, cannot cross a salt barrier. Some say to burn it for good measure.

So metaphorically...we are trying to stop this persistent haunting...

Yeah right helios...initial Linux momentum for sales then the Win and Mac folks resumed their purchasing pace.

Wanna bet?

Please...bet me now. Baby needs a new pair of shoes. She wears a size seven, loves heels and is 38....

nevermind...

I not only want you to look at the numbers here...I want you to do the math.

It's pretty amazing. Now, given some of you are as mathematically-challenged as I am, here is what I am driving at. Taking the market share for Windows, the number of Linux Users both paying the most for this special "name your price" sale and the fact that they remain customers since they discovered 2dboy...

Well, all there is to do now is to salt the bones.

Linux Users will buy games they enjoy....but given DRM and other restrictions, there may be a caveat or two there.

From the 2dboy website (linked by graphic below)

Breakdown By Platform

We were expecting the average price paid to be highest for Linux users and lowest for Windows users, but the gap was larger than we thought it would be…

dailyavg

Also, the per-platform download breakdown was pretty surprising, with Windows accounting for 65%, and Mac and Linux pretty much splitting the remainder evenly:

dlbyplatform

As well, given that many Windows users feel it is fine to steal games and apps, these numbers are not surprising...

And stop it...you know who you are. Anyone who would rather steal a game from these guys than pay a few lousy bucks for it will mug girl scouts without hesitation.

So...is this going to get the attention of companies like EA and other big name game distributors?

Probably not...too bad...

Their loss.

All-Righty then

Friday, October 23, 2009

Linux - T + 180 days

Let me take this opportunity to remind all that the prize drawing for some pretty cool computers is still running. This drawing gives us the funding to run The HeliOS Project. Come see us here to see what we are offering.

It's been something we've been needing to do for a while now.

Time, or the lack thereof has prevented it.

So here it goes.

We looked back 6 months and chose 10 of our Linux computer recipients and spoke with them individually. More to the point , we presented them with a series of questions.

See, none of the kids or parents that received HeliOS Project computers had ever heard of or used Linux. One of the screening questions we asked was: "did you use or do you now use windows outside of your home?"

In order to qualify the people, the answer had to be yes...although they did not know it.

Our goal was simple. Gather empirical data to indicate whether a Linux user of 6 months was comfortable with the system and how they saw it in relation to Microsoft Windows
TM

This was no where near scientific of course. And as stated, the data collected is empirical at best but it gives us an idea of what we are working with and how we personally might be able to make it better.

So here is what we found.

The people queried ranged in age from 15 to 31. Of the ten people agreeing to talk to us, there were six female and four males. Not that it should make any real difference, I simply note it as a statistical fact.

Seven of these people either worked with Windows at school or at their place of employment. So is Linux vs. Windows equal to mixing oil and water?

Not even close.

What we found most surprising is the way our Linux Users adapted and researched in order to make things work between their machines. They actively sought answers to their problems. Spreadsheets via Excel transferred to Linux machines caused some problems in formatting but not enough to cause any real issues.

Reportedly, documents originating from Calc which contained inserted graphs, diagrams and graphics did not hold their formatting perfectly when saved as an Excel document and opened on the Windows end. But to be fair, neither did the same graphs, diagrams and graphics when sent from a 2003 Microsoft Office Excel document to a Microsoft Office 2007 user. In fact, some of the inserted graphics were completely absent between the two MS offerings. A bit of fiddling with the Calc-created spreadsheet rendered the document completely usable.

DocX continues to be a problem for many.

Three of the Linux Users found themselves in a position to install Windows Vista either at work or at school. In speaking to these users, it was a bit amusing to listen to their complaints about the install process. Six of the ten had installed Linux for friends and family, so they were somewhat versed in the installation of a Linux distribution.

In all three cases, none of the folks had driver CD's or internet access after installing Windows. They found themselves having to identify the specific hardware on the computer, find another computer with Internet access and slog through the Google process of finding the needed drivers. One of the biggest complaints in finding the needed drivers were the PITA redirects to sites for Driver Doctor and Driver Robot which puts a ton of spyware on your computer in the name of helping you automatically update your drivers.

What stuck us as most surprising is that every person who used Windows at work has inquired to their employer as to whether they would be allowed to use Linux at work. All but one were told no. The young Intern at an insurance company was given permission to dual boot her computer with Linux. An install she did without any tech support or help.

This brings us to the conversations where eight of our people commented that when they got home, they experienced relief or happiness that they could use a computer that "just worked". They noted that there were no 30 minute update procedures to tolerate, no warnings of virus threats and no having to reboot because their mouse wouldn't move correctly or that the current page showing was locked up.

While the comments and answers were largely positive, we also asked how Linux could be better in their opinion. Here is a list of comments or suggestions from some of the participants. Note some of them may seem like "old issues" to many of us, but also keep in mind that these are relatively new Linux Users. Keep in mind as well, these users have either Linux Mint or SuperOS installed on their computers...both derivatives of Ubuntu.

"The only decent program I've found for my ipod is Songbird but it crashes constantly. Can't the people making other Music apps like Banshee make ipod support easier?" Traci - undergrad UT

I do not own an ipod or any type of device like it so I could not comment on the question. Maybe someone here can address this.

"I have a USB storage device plugged in where I keep my music and movie collection. At any given time, a box pops up saying that a device has been detected that has pictures on it and wants to open F-spot for them. It happens a dozen times a day and is really annoying. How can I make this stop?" Mike - high school senior

This is a problem I have encountered often myself. It seems that 2 usb storage devices are constantly being "discovered" and announced. Annoying indeed, but personally not bothersome enough for me to investigate. Any ideas here?

"I want to install a couple KDE applications on my computer, one of them is Kstars but I am worried that mixing KDE stuff with Gnome is going to screw things up. It's happened before and I had to start all over. Is this ever going to be addressed?" Lisa - ACC student

Agreed, it is a crapshoot when you do this. I personally found that SuperOS comes with many of the KDE libraries already loaded so when you install a KDE app into this Gnome environment, all the knots are already worked out. YMMV however and I've found that mixing environmentally-specific apps can cause trouble down the line a bit. Long enough away so that you can't remember what you installed that is now causing the problems.

"When I have desktop effects enabled, there are times when I click something and the screen darkens for up to a minute before anything happens and after that my computer runs slow. When I turn off the effects it fixes itself. I have a one year old computer running two gigs of ram. This should not happen." Juanita - restaurant server

Noted this myself and not quite sure why this happens. I only run effects on my demonstration laptop...only so long I can tolerate wobbly windows and pretty sparkles before they get annoying or in the way of my work.

"I like the way you install applications in Linux. It is so much easier than in Windows but sometimes I cannot find specific programs that I need. I usually end up going onto the internet and searching for something that comes with a deb installer but they crash because something isn't in the deb that is needed. Is there ever going to be a time when all packages work on all Linux machines?" Amanda - freshman TSU

No, probably not and I feel your pain. We either have to learn how to compile our own or go to the forums and ask someone in the packaging threads to do it for us. Slashdot had a piece on someone working on universal binaries but I don't think the politics will allow it to happen.

The thing that stood out most in these meetings was the overall happiness with the stability of their systems. What made a big difference in the majority of the users was the fact that they did not have to do the reboot dance after an installation or regular machine update. Of further interest was the non-issue of virus protection. Every person spoken with that used Windows at work or school voiced annoyance over having to deal with it on the Windows machines.

When asked about the "learning curve" when they first started using Linux, all but one just shrugged and said it wasn't a big deal. Of course, we sat down with each of them when we installed the computers and spent an hour showing them the system. However, no one stated any real problems in acclimating to the new system.

No this is not all-inclusive by any stretch but this gives us some idea of what the new Linux User thinks and how they adapt to Linux. I am sure there are many that took the dive into Linux and ran back to the safety of Windows. We plan to speak with 10 more users as they mature to 6 months use in May.


Let's see how they differ from the above observations.

Those who insist on reiterating the same tired line that Linux isn't ready for the desktop may have axes to grind instead of opening their minds. When we have Professionals of many walks using Linux on a daily basis and as their only OS, then you have to question the motive or experience of those making such statements. Besides, we have 12 year olds using it on a daily basis.

Maybe these folks would appreciate one of our kids stopping by and giving them a hand.


All-Righty Then





Monday, October 12, 2009

Linux - Fostering Hope


When Lynn Bender came to me with his grand plan for Linux Against Poverty, I never in my 56 years imagined the impact his efforts would have on not only us, but the disadvantaged kids of Austin and the surrounding area. Through Lynn's efforts, we were able to put together over 200 workable computers and give them away to those needing them most.

I don't know if many of you know or understand the numbers that are in need...I mean true need, not just a matter of bad family budgeting.

But it's like one of those troublesome dreams.

The faster you run toward your goal, the farther away it gets.

The goal posts moved on us again today...

but that's a good thing. They were moved by Carole Keeton Strayhorn. I have followed and supported her politically and always admired her strength and courage...not to mention her tenacity and thick skin. But after an hour and a half meeting with her today...

I'd charge the Gates of Hell with a bucket of ice water for this woman.

See, she's not just a politician, Carole is a person who takes personally the fact that many kids are in a hell of their own. As we saw at The Settlement Home, there are kids who's lives have been so disturbingly disrupted by death or disaster, through unspeakable abuse or neglect, that they need every break they can get. Not all foster children are like that...but enough of them to completely turn my insides to ice when I hear the stories.

They need to be shown that they are loved.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn has given us a shot at giving them just one of those breaks. We agreed today to be their computer supplier and technical support for her Foundation, Our Texas Grandchildren.

And we do so with a mix of pride and humility. Two attributes that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. We will start with a group home and a few individual home installs...I will personally attend these to give guidance until her volunteers are comfortable with the process. Her volunteers will take over the physical install of the Linux operating system and performing the installs.

We are honored to be a part of Carole's work.

So... This is as good of time as any to announce our Christmas Season hardware drive.

We will be needing P4 computers, flat-screen LCD monitors, keyboards, mice, decent Nvidia or ATI video cards, usb wireless devices and sound cards. Of particular need are DVD/CD rom drives and PCI wireless cards.

If you care to donate computers or equipment, contact me via helios at fixedbylinux dott komm. We are also posting a PSA with KUT radio, the public radio affiliate here in Austin.

We have earmarked 30 computers for Carole and her Foundation and have those machines on hand. That will leave us enough to finish Space12 and about two weeks of individual installations for kids who need a computer. After that...

We'll be out of machines.

So...

Here we go folks. Like my dad was fond of saying when life threatened to get chaotic...

"Hold on boy, things are fixin' to get western..."

It does indeed appear that this may be one of those times. We welcome it.

Now if you will excuse me...I need to go make sure I have a good supply of ice water.

All-Righty Then...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Unique Prizes Highlights HeliOS Project Drawing


We've had drawings in the past...drawings that fund our efforts. It's particularly challenging this time of year as we struggle to keep our doors open. It's been a tough six months for us but we've managed to hang in there. Many thanks to those who have helped us. I wouldn't be writing this announcement if you had not been there to help

But extraordinary times demand extraordinary effort...

And sacrifice....however we are glad to do it if it keeps us afloat.

Welcome to our semi-annual prize drawing. We have a unique if not a collectors item offered as first prize so let's get to the good stuff.

The Larado Quadrado

Last year, when everything seemed to be pointing to success for Loye Young, the economy took its nasty downturn and the computer manufacturing company, Issac and Young Computer Company had to close down. Loye and his company manufactuted the Larado Quadrado. A larger version of a shuttle computer with a dual core 64 bit chip, complete with ATI video, a gig of ram with dvd/cdom burner and a generous hard drive. It also has a pci wireless adapter. Loye put a lot of love and sweat into manufacturing these machines but he did not get a chance to make many.



Loye presented me one of these machines during a visit to Austin.

I am offering this machine as our grand prize. As much as I hate to, I think that this great computer stands as a testament to those who struggle until they win. What I like is the LED on the face that monitors hard drive and cpu temperatures. No need for widgets or panel apps...it stares you right in the face. In the 3 months that I used it, it performed in a stellar manner. I only put it away because I didn't want to put a bunch of hours on what may become or may already be a collectors item. Be aware though, we are only offering the computer...the picture is just to show you the machine in relation to the monitor and perephrials.









Note on the back of the machine, the serial number...that should fairly well verify the rarity of these machines.







The Toshiba Tecra M2

This is a great little laptop...not exactly new, but with Linux driving the 1.6 gig chip and with a gig of ram and an intel chipset, we've had great success with these machines. Our thanks to Andy Krell of Nfusion for giving us a cartload of these. This is the last of the bunch, as the rest were given away to our HeliOS Project kids.

For those that don't know of us, The HeliOS Project has given away just shy of 1000 computers to Austin and Central Texas children in the past 4 years. We have built two great computer labs in Austin and may be slated to be the donated computer suppliers for a foundation called Our Texas Grandchildren, founded by Carole Keeton Strayhorn, former Comptroller for the State of Texas.

These are the kids that have had the roughest times in foster care. They have a special place in our hearts and we aim to pave some of the uneven road that lies ahead of them.

AMD 50x15

And of course, our drawing would not be complete without a prize of dubious worth and mention. We are offering our last AMD-manufacured 50x15 mini computer. Unique in that we seldom offer anything that runs Windows but in this case, we will make an exception. It fits in a drawer or huddles on the corner of a desk, fully capable of web browsing, word processing and has apps for photo manipulation. USB ports abound for you various needs as well. And we promise, if you so state, we will not announce the name of the winner for this prize.

People do tend to talk...

Tuxbymail or do-it-yourself Certificates

Know someone who is serious about using Linux but is still hesitant? Give them a certificate for Tuxbymail? They ship us their laptop and we install Linux either as a dual-boot or clean install for them. They pay shipping and insurance but in return, new life is infused into what they might consider a doorstop. Also, we offer to send someone you choose a do it yourself kit from out HeliOS Solutions store. Live CD's for them to explore with the entire user manual for the distro. We are offering 4 of each prize.

Please bookmark this announcement as we have others who may add to the prizes. The drawing is 10 dollars per entry and you can click our non profit conduit icon at the top left of this page to enter. Or, you can click here. Each 10.00 entry gives you a different chance at one of these prizes... so a 30.00 entry will secure three chances. If you are unable to participate using this link, email me at helios at fixedbylinux dott kom and we can give you an alternative.

Because of shipping costs and ambiguous export laws, we cannot ship the machines overseas and I apologize for this. We've ran into problems before shipping even new computers so unfortunately, we cannot ship them outside of North America. However if someone outside those borders does win a Do It Yourself Kit certificate, we will be glad to send that anywhere in the world.

The drawing will be held on November 8th, 2009.

My warmest and most sincere thanks to those who help us do what we do. We count on your support and are most grateful for it.

All-Righty Then

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Grand Experiment - Linux Ads on Radio


For those that are not aware, two radio ads introducing people to Linux and our services/non profit recently ran on KLBJ AM radio in Austin Texas.

The results were surprising in part...some of them confirmed wide-held suspicions about computer users in general.

Some of them fostered thoughts of running knitting needles through my eyes...

often.

What follows is our analysis of those ads and some potentially important information that may prove useful for anyone wanting to do what we did.

The ads were scheduled to run multiple times during the week and weekend. The 30 second spots would run during the week and the 60 second spot would run exclusively during the Kim Komando show. It ran once an hour for the duration of her program.

In total, there were just at 100 ads played for a two week period. We had scheduled a month to do this but budget restraints just did not allow it. The first surprise is that our web traffic did not jump like we anticipated. People chose to call us and talk rather than visit a website and get their information. Those that did visit the site were there for a short period. noting the duration of visits and pages clicked on by the visitors...they went to the "contact us" page or to get the phone number.

The fact that many chose to call instead of reading a website for information, at least to me is telling. As well, Thomas Holbrook of freedomwareproject.org graciously placed our ad on The Oracle Broadcasting Network online radio site. To date, we have fielded four inquiries from that ad. One sale pending the upgrade of his current computer.

We fielded 179 phone calls, 63 emails and 4 personal visits of inquiry from the ads. There are three categories in which I have placed these communications.

Cautious and curious.

Interested but skeptical.

Should never be allowed to touch a computer without professional on-site guidance

The first group comprised the largest and ranked at just over 62 percent of the calls. Their questions were probing and showed sincere interest but almost all of them asked more about the legality of Linux than they did the efficiency of it. Once the Free Software concept was explained to them, caution dropped significantly, especially when they found that large corporations were involved with the effort. Many expressed concern that there seemed to be "no one at the helm".

We explained this to them to the point of becoming a potential and unacceptable time sink. Some but an obvious minority, thought that a loose-knit group of thousands of developers is superior to one company holding the reins.

It was this group that purchased our services with the exception of one.

The second group, the ones that I identify as skeptical, were so for a reason. The 60 second ad produced the majority of the calls. 83 percent of them to be exact.

The skepticism stemmed from the 30 second ad. I will take direct responsibility for this particular failure.

The trick was to encapsulate the essence of Linux, or the benefits therein within 30 seconds.

It was kind of like trying to fill a pillow with goose feathers using a fork.

I wrote the ad, thinking that if people knew what the various EULA's allowed Microsoft and third-party vendors to do in and to their computers, it would prompt them to investigate further. As well, I did not proof the final and consequently, there were some untrue things stated in that 30 second ad. "all the software you will ever need is free".

A third grader can pick that apart. My bad....

lessons learned.

The skepticism stemmed from that ad.

"No one can do that to my computer", said one email. "It's illegal and Microsoft didn't get where they are today by breaking the law."

Sigh...

Where do you go with that? Espeically when your phone has three calls waiting on hold.

You simply guide them to the EULA and wish them luck.

The third category made me sincerely consider large amounts of narcotic pain medications.

All of them, to the last one, thought Linux was a "program" they could run on Windows and solve these problems.

Question from us: "Did you go to our website and read about Linux and the advantages?"

Caller/emailer: "No, I just want to know how to get this free program"

Response from us: "Linux isn't a program, it is a different operating system. It is designed for security and ease of use."

Caller/emailer: "A what?"

Response from us: "An operating system. Microsoft Windows is an operating system, Linux is an alternative operating system that will stop the problems you are currently having with your system now."

Caller/emailer: "OK, then I want to install that program on my computer. Will I still be able to play online poker?"

And no, I didn't want the narcotic pain medication for pleasure purposes.

I thought it would dull the pain when the knitting needle penetrated through to the eye socket.

It was during these little talks that I sincerely wished that spontaneous combustion was a common occurrence...my end or theirs...

Either way would have provided the desired relief.

In all, we made six sales. out of all the calls and email inquiries we received, there were six sales. However, there is a fairly well-known employment agency that is working with us to migrate 30 percent of their clerical machines to Linux. That isn't sealed yet but should it become so, these ads, from our perspective, would be a success.

An interesting side note...four out of the six people that hired us to install Linux on their home computers were female.

As it stands now, even in my most delusional of days, I cannot present this grand experiment as a success.

Monetarily it failed. When you recover less than half of what it cost to run the ad, it just plain didn't work.

Now, had we run the sixty second ads exclusively...would the outcome be different?

We think so...we simply didn't have the money to find out. As well, maybe running fewer ads during the week but stretching them out over a 30 day period might have been more efficient.

So...the forkable ads are out there for whoever wants to use them. We may try it again with the 60 second ad at a later date, but for now...we are chalking it up to experience gained and moving forward.

knit one - pearl two...

All-Righty Then


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Bank Robbery via Broken Windows


Most of us do it on a weekly basis...

bank online.

The majority of us have become comfortable with it just as we have most of our online tasks...

It's time to take pause...if you are a Windows User that is.

A recent story told of a new or re-engineered trojan that was allowing Russian, African and possibly US hackers access to bank accounts across the globe.

And as the media is fond of withholding, this isn't a Computer Problem...

This is a Microsoft Windows Problem.

Reports differ greatly but many report that millions are going to be stolen if they have not been already. Will they "patch" it?

Probably, until someone comes up with something new...some 15 year-old kid will have it ready within hours of the patch.

There is no sense in preaching to The Choir...you all know the sermon chapter and verse...

I won't bore you with the sermon.

Just let your Windows-using friends that Microsoft has again allowed thievery and shenanigans to reign supreme within the plastic, wire and metal that makes up their computers.

Windows User's are not all morons or lazy....or apathetic.

Some have gotten a clue.
(my thanks to Richie for the link)

Pass it on.

All-Righty Then

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Twisting Path To Linux

We all have our tolerance for pain...

some of us have higher limits, some just won't deal with something that causes us discomfort at any level.

Life's too short.

Dave Kaplan, a friend and colleague of mine who spearheaded the Portland Lindependence event, emailed me a few days ago and told me about a successful switch to Linux.

There were a few surprises to say the least...none as surprising as how it came about.

Bill Mathis is a computer user. His old machine just wasn't doing what he wanted so he did what most people do.

He bought a new computer...

It came with Windows Vista tm.

Now that wasn't the agent of change for Bill. Oh, let's talk about the path that led to the current situation.

Bill is a retired graphic designer. Bill did most of his work with pen and ink...there were no "graphics programs" to do what Bill did. Bill worked for an ad agency and his work was hand drawn. By the way...have I mentioned that Bill Mathis is 85 years old?

You might want to take that into consideration...especially if you know those that argue against Linux because it is too difficult to learn.

I would hazard a guess that any 85 year old person is fairly well set in their ways.

Unless something becomes t0o painful or inconvenient to maintain...

So Bill settles in with his new computer, but something bothered him about it. He couldn't get the fonts to look right, he didn't like the available color combinations and he found that making the computer do what he wanted entailed either downloading third-party software or purchasing said software.

Bill did what most Windows Users do when they are not sure how to proceed.

He called Microsoft.

Go ahead...groan, it's ok. I did too.

Bill was summarily told to call Acer...it was their problem. Since there was nothing "wrong" with the operating system, the ball was in Acer's court, not theirs. He called and searched until he found the right number for their support...the support that deals with new and warrantied computers.

Guess what he was told...told a few times actually because the tech agent had an accent that Bill found hard to understand...?

Take the computer to a local repair shop and let them deal with it.

Pain threshold reached.

Bill Mathis boxed up the computer and shipped it back, demanding a full refund, which he received.

Hang on, this twist will pull a few G's. Dramamine for the squeamish available.

Bill frequents a book/record/CD store. The owner, Scott; knows Bill well. Bill was complaining to Scott about the recent events and asked Scott if he know anyone that might look at his old computer...the one he had prior to purchasing and returning the new one.

Scott looked up and around the store aisles and then pointed...

To Dave Kaplan, who The Fates had dictated be there at that precise time.

Dave went over to Bill's house later and assessed the situation. Running 256 meg of ram, Dave 'splained to Bill that a memory upgrade was in order. For a small fistful of one dollar bills, Dave upgraded the machine to one gig and installed SuperOS on it. As well, since he had his money back from Acer, he bought a new LCD flat screen.

Good move.

SuperOS
along with Linux Mint are the two standards for our HeliOS Solutions and HeliOS Project installs. No muss, no fuss...everything works out of the box...no futzing around with enabling Multiuniverse repositories...the average computer user wouldn't know where to look.

Hence, our choices of distros.

Bill was at home with the Gnome Desktop within minutes. He didn't care for the color theme so Dave showed him how to change it, modify it to his liking and get new themes to play with.

Bill was pleaseantly surprised at his ability to control his environment. That is extremely important to him.

So...for those that still want to carry on the argument that Linux is too hard to use?

Please...with a few minutes of personal support, we have 10 year olds using it as part of our project and they don't need any more help than Bill did...probably less as they have not been indocrinated yet.

Seems the Windows Way can be unlearned...

And I don't care how old you are.

Bill Mathis, my hat is off to you.

All-Righty Then...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Three Legged Ponies

If you were to give somebody something.... Something they honestly needed, and I mean needed badly...

Would you cripple it in anyway in giving it to them?

Of course not.

Unfortunately, I've been doing just that for a number of years now, but it wasn't supposed to be this way.

As The HeliOS Project nears its 1000th computer delivery, more than half of those computers are still without Internet service.

And trust me...I've been to the major broadband carriers. There is no help there. We've went above and beyond in trying to get a deal worked out.


I've in essence given these kids just over 500 three-legged ponies. To carry the analogy a bit further...I've inadvertently put blinders on these kids.

Gcompris and Childsplay along with other educational apps only go so far...they keep the child in the box.

As I've mentioned before, most of these families have to make financial decisions. Shoes for the kids or Internet? Car insurance every month or Internet...? There just doesn't seem to be much ever left over for the broadband service they need.

One of you is sure to suggest that they should just settle for dialup. Please...don't do that. You would not cripple your kids that way...don't ask me to do mine as such.

And yes, many of them have opted for dialup.... And found it sorely lacking.

The kids they have to compete against are not thusly hobbled. Recently, students in a middle school here in Austin were assigned homework to watch either the Presidential address to students or a YouTube video by an 11 year old prodigy giving a motivational speech.

Ever tried to watch YouTube on dialup?

Those who could not access the Internet were assigned to read three chapters from: "The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens"

Personally, I think the third option is the best but that's not the point.

Kids without computers or Internet access were asked to stop by the teachers desk and check out the book prior to leaving the classroom. Thusly gaining the stares and attention of the other kids while they filed out of the classroom.

I began to take matters into my own hands. Following Seattle's lead, I began building a Guerrilla Network in East Austin. We actually started doing so back when we first installed the initial computers at Space12. A project which will be completed now that Sam Lee has the room for the Learning Center remodeled and ready.

But our wireless network for East Austin...?

We've run into a bottleneck of sorts. USB wireless devices.

Trust me, we've field-tested 16 different makes or models.

Keep in mind, many of these computers are in "the projects"...multi-story brick and concrete structures that may be built in rows and blocks of buildings...many are denied wireless access by the other buildings around them.

The one device that we've found that works and out performs everything else we've tested is the Hawking HWUG1. it not only out performs more expensive devices, it has lasted for over 9 months so far, exposed to the elements without any measurable damage or degradation of signal.

The worst we've tried? the Netgear USB dongles.

They have consistently failed at 4 to 5 weeks of continuous use, and that is in an indoor environment. They just plain quit. We bought a bunch of them from Frys on sale for 7.99 per.

Now I know why.

We need to get as many of these USB devices and six foot usb extensions as we can. No they are not cheap until you realize that the price of one of these, especially at NewEgg equals the cost of a month of broadband service from Time Warner.

So is what we are doing legal? Marginally....as long as I don't juice the repeater output...

and we all know I wouldn't do that.

I am going to be purchasing a high-gain antennae shortly to facilitate the building of the East Austin network. I will have the expertise of two wireless security people guiding me, but for now, we need to get at least 20 of these folks online so I can start putting in the repeaters.

Should you have any experience or unique input into networks like these, I would like to hear from you.

If you have one of these beauties and can spare it, email me and we'll make the arrangements. Otherwise, we can see if we can't strike a bulk purchase deal with someone. We're talking with NewEgg now, although you may be able to find them cheaper.

If so let me know. Should you be so motivated you can donate to the project by clicking the icon at the top left of the page through our Non Profit conduit Software in the Public Interest.

Your help is greatly appreciated.

40 dollars a month for Time Warner Roadrunner or one single device that will easily deliver a years worth of wireless for that monthly price?

All-Righty Then