The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Treasures beyond measure


Sometimes I think She is mistaken for just being in tune to what is going on around you.

Sometimes not....sometimes it simply cannot be explained that easily.

I do it every day. I stop by the Land Air Freight Company and see what has come in for our delivery service. I then load it and take it back for breakdown for the different routes.

Scott runs Land Air in Austin and he himself is a part-time geek. Of course, I am in full conversion-mode with Scott and it is an ongoing process. My daily visits there probably would be 15 minutes shorter if I didn't think I could convince him to use Linux.

I noted someone else sitting in the other dispatch chair and recognized him as a fellow truck driver.

This is a bad time for our economy...probably one of my most profound understatements to date. It has hit the freight industry hard. Manufacturers are not manufacturing due to the lack of demand so less commodities made means less commodities shipped. Major shippers like Pegasus have laid off 60-100 people at a time. It's happening all over the shipping industry.

Simple math, devastating consequences. I'm holding my breath.

Scott had hired my road buddy more as a favor than anything else. He has a family and needed work. Who else better to dispatch truck drivers than a truck driver...he knows the nuance of the business.

The conversation between them was personal. He was mentioning to Scott that before being laid off, he had been shopping for a laptop for his little girl. She's only 11 so it wouldn't have been anything fancy, just something that she could use for school and to help her learn how to do graphic art. She wants to learn how to do it on the computer. He was pretty bummed that he wasn't going to be able to do it for her.


Sometimes I think She is mistaken for just being in tune to what is going on around you.

I turned around and walked out the door and approached my truck backed against the loading dock. Unlocking it, I opened the door and took the OLPC from the front seat along with the charging cord. It was donated by Dr. Joyce Statz of Austin Texas during our hardware and funding drive.

It was a simple exchange. I told him what we do and that this computer was for his Daughter. He waited for a bit after I told him that....he was waiting for the catch.

Nothing in this world is free...especially to an out-of-work truck driver.

I assured him that there indeed was no catch and that the computer was for his Daughter. I took a few minutes to explain the computer, OLPC and Linux.

He was grateful beyond expression and I began to feel just a bit uncomfortable. Men do that when emotional stuff happens. We like our emotional expressions infrequent and mostly bottled up. If it isn't a high-five moment, we're pretty much lost and confused by emotional expression.

I left and began my wasn't until I got home to check my email that I found something I think I will put away. I will only take it out and look at during those times when I think the world sucks and 90 percent of the people in it do as well.

She's never seen Linux or an OLPC until now. She's 11 years old and she wants to study graphic art on her computer.

This is why we do what we do.

All-Righty Then


Anonymous said...

black text on a black background, though? she's got some learning to do

Anonymous said... dare she be 11 and not have a degree in graphic arts already. The nerve of some new-to-computing children.

Well done, Ken. It's obvious how happy she is.


Unknown said...

she's got some learning to do

If I put you in touch with this 11 year old child who figured out how to do this all by herself, without a bit of help and without ever seeing Linux or an XO before, will you promise to be her personal graphic arts tutor for 30 days via email?


Anonymous said...

hey helios, was that a presentation from openoffice? looks like it. If it was, that is even more impressive. You might want to keep in touch with this one...may have a prodigy on your roles.


Anonymous said...

Ken, what an inspiring story.

I am in awe of your focus and dedication. You give more freely than most people give as paid employees.

I am going to email you shortly. I cannot sit behind this keyboard anymore and just read about what you do. I must do it now myself. Please tell me how to get started.

Angelena Bartlett
Humboldt County

Unknown said...

We should get her a book about gimp

Jacob F. Roecker said...

Digital standing ovation from Lawton, Oklahoma.

Ken someone ought to write a screenplay about this. It's moments like those where it seems like you're living in a Disney movie.

Take Care!

einfeldt said...

Wow, Ken, what an awesome story! You really have to get some video of this story. This is simply moving.

One of the things that I like best about you Ken is that you take emotional risks. Bonding with people the way you do is risky, in the sense that when you become close with people like you do, then you feel moved to do something to become part of their lives, and that can be scary for some people, because it can seem like a real time sink. Once you know them, it becomes difficult to tell them to go away, you have other work to do. You are sort of part of their lives, and that can be scary for many people. So congrats to you for your strength!

Christian Einfeldt,
Producer, The Digital Tipping Point

Unknown said...

It's moments like those where it seems like you're living in a Disney movie.

Yeah, I don't tell the stories (and there are plenty) that more closely equate to Friday the 13th...Jason Slashes Helios.


Unknown said...

Helios I shed a tear for this post. I also Dugg it. I want to thank you for what you do. When I get enough spare parts I do the same thing. Take care and remember that your reward may not always be visible, but it is the best reward of all.

Anonymous said...

"I will only take it out and look at during those times when I think the world sucks and 90 percent of the people in it do as well."

Dare we ask. Why did you pull this out now?

Anonymous said...

This story inspires, ignites and makes me feel like there is so much hope in this broken world.


Amenditman said...


Pass the tissue box my way will you?

Simply amazing!


Unknown said...

Dare we ask. Why did you pull this out now?

Sure...It's to show others how even a "child" can work with Linux without any real experience or exposure. It's we adults that make it difficult. Linux isn't hard to learn, We are too lazy to unlearn Windows.

Displaying it now had nothing to do with anything else but simple expression of a child's thanks.


David Gerard said...


You're one of the good guys.

Anonymous said...


I'm very happy that you were able to do this for her. I got my first computer at about that age, and can remember exactly how excited I was...the initial euphoria didn't wear off for months, and it spurred an interest that has lasted a lifetime. You just made it happen for her, at a time when she expected it the least.

THAT is something that I am filing away to read on those dark days when I wonder what is wrong with people.

Also, I think that is something the rest of us might consider. Maybe instead of hoarding our old computers, we might consider throwing on a lightweight, easy-to-use Linux distro, setting them up with software that the young ones would really enjoy using, and giving them away to families that would love to have a computer but really can't stomach the initial expense.

I think that would do a lot more for promoting Linux than endless flamewars with MS/Mac zealots could ever do.

Good job, Ken!

Anonymous said...


Does the XO laptop you gave run Sugar or was it replaced by another distribution (on a flash card)?

If she would want "contacts", she could try out OLPCnews ( and contact one of the people there. They also have forums:

I am sure she can find people there who would be willing to help here with every question she would ever want to ask.


Anonymous said...

Nice, very pleased that you managed that. It makes it all worth while when your efforts are rewarded, and I don't mean with money.

Well done.

Anonymous said...

Perfect. Well done.

Anonymous said...

During those, hopefully infrequent, long dark nights of the soul when you wonder if you are doing anything worthwhile - I think you have your answer, Ken.
Well done!

Socceroos said...

The best rewards are never money.

Money has wings, and will fly away. But experiences like this one last a lifetime.

Well done mate. Great story. I love what you're doing.

The world needs more people like you.

Purple library guy said...

That thank you note actually looked really cool. The red is gorgeous and the gradient made it dramatic. Readability, whatever, it's not like she had long paragraphs on there. I like her panache.

Unknown said...

Does the XO laptop you gave run Sugar

Yes, it was the original system. I have forwarded her dad the links and have received some exceptionally generous offer to help her professionally.


Anonymous said...

Ken someone ought to write a screenplay about this. It's moments like those where it seems like you're living in a Disney movie.

Well if so, ken writes his own scripts. Whereas people like me make excuses and justify our not doing the same thing Ken and you seem to find the time to go do it.

It should serve as a reminder to many of us. Stop talking, start doing. It isn't any more complicated than that.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Ken.

Dorothy Annette said...

I am not a Linux user, but I am a mother and grandmother. The link was emailed by my husband. This is a beautiful story about beautiful people. I once read in one of the weird books I read that the only way to be truly rich is to give away half of what you have.

I haven't done that much, but I have learned over a pretty long life that giving IS always much more happy-making that receiving.

The young girl received a wonderful gift and has already given back to all who read this. But the giver of the computer Is much richer than those who don't understand loving and sharing.

Thank you for the story, and thank you all for your uplifting comments.

Dorothy Annette

Unknown said...

Beautiful story.

Just so you know, the programmers behind the "Sugar" interface have kept on working at, and in a week or two we'll make a big announcement about the next version. That announcement will come with bootable system images for any x86 machine, designed to run right off a USB stick.

Sugar is designed to run in 256 MB of RAM with no swap, on a 433 MHz processor with no graphics accel and almost no cache. I don't know anything about your goals with Helios, but I hope you'll keep an eye on Sugar.