The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Desktop Linux...building the future

Just a short note to let you know that our raffle ends at midnight on the 2nd of July. To date we have broken even, which means that we will have to pay shipping of the prizes out of pocket. If you want to, we'd love you to take a cheap shot at one of our laptop prizes or some of the other cool stuff. See the TEXT link on the left side of this page. We appreciate you being part of what we do. - h

If you fall into the camp that believes that Linux/Free Software is at war with proprietary software for the future, there's good news...or fairly good news if you are a cynic. Look at what's being done.

June 22 through June 27th...2009.

The HeliOS Project built transported and placed 16 Linux Computers in and around Austin.

Big deal...right?

Yeah, it is and I want to tell you why.

In the past 6 months we have either set up or mentored 31 successful efforts to build projects like ours.

31 organizations across The United States are doing what we are doing in Austin. Some set 2 machines a week, some kick our asses on a regular basis. Some, we helped fund when we had the money to do so. Not much with the grand total in mind...but enough to get the roots down.

Big deal...right?

Yeah, it is.

This is quietly growing the base we need to insure the future isn't presented to our kids as a shrink wrapped set of chains. I have argued and presented the case for an organized advertising effort for the concept of Linux and Free Software for almost 5 years. That didn't do so well...too many politics and egos blocked the way. But this...

This is working, and it's working better than I had ever imagined.

On September 1st of this year, the East Austin Learning Center will open it's doors. Within those doors will sit 25 full Linux computers. Computers we hand-built and installed. We will staff and instruct that project with our own people. Two nights a week, one of us will be at the East Austin Learning Center to show these kids how to use their future. And two more centers are planned for this year as well. One organization...a few people that got tired of holding the line.

And so it goes...

In Boise, Lincoln, Seattle, Houston, The Central California Coast, New Jersey, Miami, Tucson, Oklahoma City and Lawton, San Francisco, Missoula, Champaign, Chicago...

Kids are getting Linux computers and they are getting Linux Computers from people who decided that it was time to stop holding the line.

Sometimes you have to do more than defend.

The next time you read the obvious Astroturfing articles and comments, just smile...those are people in some cases being paid to put doubt into your mind. They are being paid by people that are afraid. They are afraid of who you are and what you represent.

They don't know how to stop you.

I no longer have doubt...I take the calls at 1 am, asking about video card compatibility, 1.5 grub error 17 messages, "how do I do this, how do I make this many feet of Cat 5 cable will I need to finish this project?"

We take other calls, other emails as well. Sometimes, in the face of little or no funding, we've found a way to get done what needs to get done. Going here provided us the motivation to find a way.

So here in Austin we start each day with a simple reaffirmation statement:

"Today, we set a kid free."

And never, ever after making that statement, do we fail to do so.

And to my guess...Neither do 31 other organizations across the United States.

"A child's exposure to technology should never be predicated on the ability to pay for it." We live our project based on that one sentence.

Wanna be a part of this? It's time to take it to them. It's time to make our own future.

We are looking specifically at the number 32.

Let's talk. You know where to find me.....

All Righty Then...


NoobixCube said...

Looks like you well and truly have that feeling back that gives you a reason to put on pants in the morning! :) I'm amazed there are 31 other similar projects already! Do they have blogs too? I love reading about what you do, and more of it can only be good.

dirtvoyles said...

Any idea why using the contact form at doesn't work?

Just trying to make contact.

Unknown said...

No I don't know but I am about to. contact me at helios at fixedbylinux dot Kom. thanks.


Unknown said...

Noobix -

Yes, a few of them do. The great, great guy in Lawton does, and so does the couple in North Carolina...and the guy in Miami had one up but he runs his own site under his desk and even a digg day can get him wiped out. When I get this Linux Against Poverty project behind us, I will try to compile a list of who they are and where they can be found. They are doing just as good if not better work than we are.


Unknown said...

OK, I just clicked the contact us button on the HP website and sent a successful email to that address. There is a sort of small capcha just to the left of the send field...did you see that?


dirtvoyles said...

Yeah, I got the captcha and it looked like it went fine, then I got a bounce reply to the email addy I used on the form.

The bounce showed a DNS error, but whatev.

Stupid tubes. I'll use your direct email and include the headers so you can dissect further if you want.

Unknown said...

Thanks man, if you will send that to me I will take a look at it and direct the proper beatings.


S. Rajagopal said...

Dear Ken,

First off, a huge congrats from this part of the planet and my heartfelt wishes. (I am from India)

I cant claim that I am doing anything great. All I have been doing last 5 years is making a living by sneaking in Linux/FLOSS backdoor into (some) enterprises and SMEs. (Gosh are they thankful) And I have been following your activities for last six or so years.

I was wondering if you could post a small writeup regarding the various Linux distribution that you have used and short para regarding the suitability of it to various age group. I have not had the luxury of trying out various distros on various h/w.

It will help the other 2^5-1 groups that are active choose.

More power to you man...



Andy / Dallas, TX said...

What a great program you have here to help kids!
I have been using Linux with all my PCs and laptops with my three kids and everything has been working fine. No problems with any school related work (elementary, Middle and High school). Openoffice, firefox, gimp, inkscape works fine. I have heard that some school districts have started to require kids to return school project in MS xml (docx, pptx, xlsx) formats and that might be a problem.

Unknown said...

I have heard that some school districts have started to require kids to return school project in MS xml (docx, pptx, xlsx) formats and that might be a problem.

It used to be here until I went to my daughter's school and raised unholy hell with them about it. It was a short and not-so sweet conversation.

"I run a business from my home. My daughter runs her computer on our network. You want me to use the most vulnerable system and applications ever to plague mankind on a system that provides the living for my family? That ain't going to happen, and you are going to have to accept her work on OpenOffice documents"

End of story...never had another problem after that. They simply need educated. If they insist that antivirus protection is the answer just laugh and offer to hack their computer with their "antivirus" protection in place...then tell them they need to pay the subscription fees if they insist on making you use MS products.


PV said...

Ken, what you're doing is amazing and I wish you and the other 2^5 - 1 organizations the best of luck.
By the way, on average, how much (money) does it cost you to build your computers and how much do you sell said computers for (or are they essentially free)?
If I were to start a similar organization (farther in the future, as right now I'm just trying to introduce a few people here and there to Linux (specifically Mint)), I might have a better idea on how to do it.
Thank you,

a Linux Mint user since 1 May 2009

Unknown said...

@ PV

At first, while you are gaining your donated inventory, you can build the actual computer for about 100 bucks...once you get some decent parts stocked, that comes down to zero. The maiin costs involved are not the hardware but the fuel, storage space, and the incidental parts you may need once you get to the client's home and you find you forgot something like a power adaptor and must make a quick trip to the local Fry's or Radio Shack.

Rarely if ever these days do I build a machine from the gound up. THAT is expensive not to mention the timesink it becomes in seating the motherboard and liniing up all the power leads. Most donated computers come with motherboards and power supplies intact. Save yourself a lot of headaches and build with those things in's much cheaper all around.


Anonymous said...

Man, I need someone like you in San Diego. Someone who is firm and convincing at the same time.
I work for this stupid company that insists on using WindoZe. I am the only programmer in my firm that uses Linux and get far more work done with anti-virus or anti-spam to bog my system down. I also do their Sys Admin stuff, but these blow holes want to continue to use MS products. Anything I can tell them that will make them change their minds? I am about to quit this firm simply because they use windows and other MS products to run 75% of their business.
The funny part is that we are a small software firm and I was brought in to change the face of this firm. I wanted to start by switching everyone to Linux (at least the technical personnel and servers.)
I thought to myself that if I quit then my work of switching them to Linux will be lost. I just need a good way of pulling their heads out of their a$$@#

Unknown said...

Email me helios att fixedbylinux dott kom and include a phone number.

we can plot their Doze Demise then.


Anonymous said...

Awesome project you have Ken. Some friends and I do something like this in Pittsburgh, PA through our university's Association for Computing Machinery group. We've donated about 30 Ubuntu desktops to various non profits. All old Pentium 2/3 type machines we find for free. Generally costs us $10/machine for some extra memory.
We don't have a blog but I write about it sometimes in mine at

Chad said...

Hey Ken!
First off, please add Colorado to the states where linux is being shared. :-J
Also, I'm showing a little love today (hopefully not for the alienware, but meh). Keep doin' your thing man

Unknown said...

@ Chad,

You know, I've had the opportunity to use both computers extensively and while the Alienware gets the ooohh's and aahhh's, the Acer TravelMate 5720 is just a better computer, at least in my estimation. They are both in the same class hardware wise...the Alienware has a bit of an edge on graphics acceleration but not so much as you could tell. I can run F.E.A.R on them without a hitch.

I wish you the best of luck, as I do everyone. You guys have made a big difference in what we will be able to do for the next couple of months.


Unknown said...

I do want to take a minute and clarify something. PV mentioned above that he wished my other 31 organizations luck. I am sure you didn't mean it like that PV but for the record, they are not my organizations. All we did here was steady them until they felt comfortable with the training wheels off. We did supply some a bit of money but ir wasn't much and it wasn't often. All we did was give them a step by step and take their calls when they ran into something they didn't know how to deal with.

And as an aside, we didn't go into any detail about the over 89 that failed or just quit because they realized it wasn't their strong suit. And that's ok...we all give in our own way.

These 31 are their own guys...The proudest day I could have is the day they forget that I had anything to do with their being. That means we did something right.

h said...

There are more than 31 organizations doing this. I'd be surprised if there wasn't twice that many. I've already started compiling a list of them over at Growing Up Free and would love to get all of the ones you know about listed in our wiki. Anyone can register an account in the wiki to add organizations and pages (I had to disable anonymous edits due to vandalism recently).

Also, any of them can start a blog of their efforts on our site, and use the wiki to create a home page until they can get their own up and running. I don't have a lot I can offer, my own charity runs mostly out of my own pocket, but I can offer this much and am happy to do it.

BobK54 said...


Add Louisville KY to the list of cities trying to do what you do. Our little (multi-OS) user group, KIPCUG dot org, has a SIG-like group starting up to do exactly this kind of work. We are brand new, we have refurb'd a few computers, loaded them with random distro's and placed two or three. We actually have a "planning" meeting coming up on Tuesday to discuss the way forward. We need to decide things like a standard distro, minimum equipment specs and other nice things. Our website is CORLAB dot org. CORLAB stands to Computer Outreach Refurbishment LAB.

I see Michael from qimo4kids commented too. I was at Southeast Linux Fest in June and attended the session given by Michael and his wife from qimo4kids. Great stuff, learned some things.

The movement is growing but we sure could use some coaching on getting this thing going!! Keep up the great work!


Unknown said...


Bob email me at helios at fixedbylinux dott komm and leave a number and a good time to call. We'll get 'er done.