The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Linux Against Poverty - It is a GO

For those that don't know yet, The HeliOS Project is raffling off two killer laptops plus some other cool stuff. Drawing is on the 3rd of July so get your entries into the hopper soon. You can click the TEXT link on the left side of the page or you can click here to enter. Details of the raffle can be found here.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. ...Helen Keller

Quoting Helen Keller in a Linux blog may seem strange, but there are many parallels between this magnificent woman and Free Software/Linux. We both started way behind the competition with handicaps and hindrances that made it almost laughable that we would compete.

First they Ignore you
Then they laugh at you
Then they fight you
Then you win...

Of course you can only win if you compete.

Common sense. And not being afraid.

We've given much thought and study to the dynamics of change...personal and sociological dynamics. None here are scholars in the matter but some of us have had the educational background to at least pursue the rudimentary aspects of the topic. We've collected some extremely good empirical data, Our assessment of the situation? Getting Linux as a viable alternative to Windows on the desktop?

We're in for a slog.

But we can win, in time.

Personally, I have all but written off the current generation of computer users. We have had and will have our victories, but the genius of Bill Gates was not in keeping an operating system cobbled together. His genius was understanding human nature and behavior.

He only had to hold monopoly status long enough to ingrain Microsoft Windows into our society. We would do the rest for him. The Anti Trust sanctions leveled against him pale in comparison to the profits realized by his monopolization of the desktop.

We are lazy, and as a rule, most of us would rather deal with the devil we know than the devil we don't. We detest change.

Gates understood that...and built the most powerful business and political lobby in our history based on that knowledge

So how do we win?

We start with a clean slate...the minds of those not yet corrupted. Minds that can understand freedom without a mental boat anchor tied around their leg.

Linux Against Poverty is much more than an installfest. It is an effort between the Free Software Community in any given place and the greater community that holds it.

Lynn Bender is a professional organizer and the brains behind Linux Against Poverty. When Lynn first heard about The HeliOS Project, he immediately wanted to help and began outlining a plan to do so. He would gather Geeks, Community Leaders, Corporates and City Leaders together to accomplish one goal.

Collect enough computers and money to give organizations like The HeliOS Project some breathing room. Materials and funding for one year.

Lynn's contacts are impressive. He's been doing this for 20 years and he's either friend or acquaintance with mayors, City Administrators, Council Members, Police Chiefs and other leaders for at least a decade past. Lynn has had some ragingly successful events and he hopes that Linux Against Poverty can be one of them.

Here's the plan. It all comes together on August first, 2009.

Lynn's people will now begin soliciting companies and corporations in the Austin area
for physical donations. He has secured the swank and popular nightspot known as Union Park for both the actual event and the party afterward. The Park will be full of volunteer Austin Geeks, ready to accept the incoming machines, triage them and place them into different staging areas. One of the brightest tech guys I know, Andy Krell from nFusion will be there in person to lend a hand. There is a place to sign up as a geek extrordinaire if you want to be part of this event. Email Tom at the above link and he will get you scheduled.
Tom King - HeliOS Project Network Guru and volunteer coordinator

While LAP has been scheduled for a while, we went through some changes in getting to the point to announce the event. Initially, it was planned as a global event...several cities on 4 different continents would be doing the same thing at the same time. We had the resources together to do it. The HeliOS Project, being the technical arm of the project had built the servers to feed the different project sites ISO files and distro manuals...we were all ready for it.

It didn't take long to realize that there were just too many people that didn't have the tools or know-how to do the actual organizing. That's when Lynn wisely decided that we would do the Austin event first, painstakingly document the process then let other cities digest the information and do their individual projects as they felt comfortable in doing so. Rushing this would not have ended well.

It was a smart call.

Mayhem would have surely ensued. This type of project, marrying the various components of the city to the techs in that city is brilliant in concept but not the easiest plan to successfully execute.

It's the kids that need these computers...and folks, having done this for several years, I am still in awe of the number of children in Austin Texas that do not have a computer or internet access in the home. We've barely made a dent. I can hardly imagine what it is like in LA or New York City or London. I receive emails on a daily basis, asking how to set up projects like The HeliOS Project and by those numbers, I am encouraged. These kids are the future of Linux and Free Software proliferation. It is up to us to see to it that they know they have a choice.

As of now, they do not.

A child's exposure to technology should never be predicated on an ability to pay for it.


If you are a member or owner of a company and wish to schedule your donation or become a sponsor, contact Lynn here

If you have immediate hardware to donate and cannot drop it off at the actual event, contact Ken here.

We can make a difference...if we care to, and keep the quotation of one of the most famous Americans to ever live in our forethoughts:

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

All-Righty Then...


kozmcrae said...

I like that room with the retro furniture. The lighting is great.

I think you are correct Ken. The only way to "remove the giant" from our life is to stop feeding it. My daughter won't let me near her Vista laptop. That doesn't mean she likes it, far from it. She hates it. But it's the "devil you know" conflict. My grand children were both given Dell Latitude D600 laptops by their father. They came with XP. Both of them have requested that I make them dual boot with Linux.

All three laptops are suffering from "Windows" disease. My daughter had a friend clean it out. My grandchildrens' XP installations, however, will have to wait until they see their father this Summer.

Unknown said...

Your last few posts ooze with resentment. I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I hope there are other people who feel the same, and you will gain strength from us.

You are not the brick layer. You are a paver of roads. Those that follow behind you are the brick layers.

I've looked toward your words as encouragement. Many of us... again I should only speak for myself: I lose hope on a daily basis. I've been a bench tech for 12 years, my family and friends rely on me when their computers are finiky, I've instructed them on computer safety, back up measures, and anything else I can think of. No one listens. It is very disheartening.

A year ago I was at my wits end. I has just revived the third harddrive to salvage some data for another friend. People will not learn even the basic principles of backing up. No matter what OS or program you are using doesn't negate hardware failure.

Last year, I stumbled upon your blog. Granted I have not read much about Helios Project, but I have read all of your blogs. I'm not registered to vote for the same reason I don't watch news, read blogs, or pay attention to politics. There is no feeling in them.

I do not agree that politicians should be voted in based on who is best. I think they should show concern, caring, remorse, anger and ever other human emotion all of us feel. I do try to follow debates, but I lose interest when the people talking are just reading a script and not speaking from what they feel.

When I read your posts I sense the emotions. That is the only reason I keep reading. Granted I do no always agree with you, but that is another matter. The only thing that brings me back is that you care.

I hope I speak for at least a few other people, but if not: I care. I care about people. I care about freedom of information. I care about availability of technology. And I believe you care.

If I had the time or money I would do more, but as a wiser man than me said, "you cannot help others until you help yourself" Currently I'm trying to do that: getting out of debt, starting graduate school, figuring out how to better myself, etc...

You, my role model, are not unnoticed. There are some of us who sit in the background and listen, waiting for the opportunity to strike. This may be mine. I hope I do well.

Be strong, blaze the roads, give us someone to look up to. I, if not other people, need you.

Thank you,

Chelle Minkin said...

@ Matt

I don't think it is resentment as much as it is just being bone tired. I will qualify this by saying I work with Ken from time to time and I've never in my 39 years seen a person so driven, so focused on any one purpose. You perceive correctly though Matt, He does care, he cares too much sometimes...and as a result comes to low points like this. The fact that he is writing and carrying on is a good thing.

Ken will be fine I think. Today he called me with some good news about funding possibilities and they are fairly substantial. He has spent so much of his own money and time in this that when he hits bottlenecks and loses momentum, it frustrates him. That is what you were reading Matt, not resentment, but frustration.

I'm proud of you for supporting him like this. He needs friends like you more often.


Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Ken. I too have been trying as much as possible in this monopolized environment to move users to Linux.
In my experience users generally do not care that it is not Windows. To date and as far as I know I have only had one person request a move back to Windows. The rest have been completely fine with Linux and have had zero needs for on site support. Other than an email or phone call here or there they are all doing fine.
In my opinion the best candidates are those who know the least about computers. These folks have the least amount of problems moving to Linux.
To anyone still suffering being in the position of being the closest available freebie tech support for your Windows using friends and relatives........STOP. You are doing them no favors by continuing to support their "drug" habits. Cut them off. Tell them you'll support them for nothing if they move to Linux or you will have to charge them the going rate for continued Windows support. You'll not only be doing them a favor, you'll be doing one for yourself as well. The peace of mind you experience knowing they are either using Linux or not bothering you with their problems is wonderful. Been there....done that.

FelixTheCat said...

Awww, Ken, you picked the worst picture of me! :-/

We already have some folks interested in helping, but the more the merrier. Once the LAP site gets a wiki set up, I'll have one page with a list of technical needs/procedures and what resources we have to meet them. This is going to be a good event, folks!

kozmcrae said...

@ FelixTheCat

It's not you, it's the horizontal lines in the background. They'll make anyone look ungeeklike. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Ken, I hope this gets publicized enough. I know you've had your problems in the past getting past a couple "gatekeepers" to get your news out. I've followed a link from lxer to get here so it has hit the wires.

This is a brilliant idea. Get the entire city involved and in the end, use those efforts to put computers into the hands of those who need them.

Great idea. Once again, you give, others take.


Justin Carnahan said...

I have great news:

My sister just got a new netbook for her birthday. Naturally, it comes with Windows pre-installed. However, my sister is eager to have me install Linux, so she can get the "Penguin software!"

I carry SuperOS on a pen drive attached to my keychain, as some sort of "SuperOS MAN!" I've convinced my parents and a few other people to try out Linux, just take a gander. Sometimes it takes some serious cajoling, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

I think you may be right, that getting casual but regular users to make the full switch is difficult, but very experienced users and newbies are the crowd to win over. A few theme changes from and the winning's actually pretty easy. Just for kicks, I even made my dad's laptop look like it was running OS X, just for the insult to injury of it.

Just saying, coldest hour comes just before the dawn, and it's getting pretty cold out there...

Anonymous said...


We in Perth were a bit disappointed that the global program was canceled, although I fully understand why. I was in the midst of becoming the Perth coordinator for LAP when the announcement was made. We already had about 25 volunteers laid on and were just getting ready to sign the agreement for the venue. I might add that our place will be nowhere as upscale as you yanks have arranged.

When do you anticipate the "blueprint" to be finished and where can we come to retrieve it for our use?

I honestly wish I could be at "ground zero" for Linux Against Poverty. Something tells me that this is going to be a ground-breaking event and possibly have historial ramifications. You are indeed lucky to be part of the initial undertaking.

Ian said...

Pragmatism vs. Elitism. That's what you're seeing.

The poor have to be pragmatic. They can't afford not to be. If the job site requires Internet Explorer to view, a resume in Word format to apply, and knowledge of Office to land the job, then Firefox and OpenOffice are truely godsends, but when Firefox won't emulate Internet Explorer's bugs to render the site as intended and OpenOffice's Word exports look distorted and messy when HR opens the resume in Word to read it, then open source is not helping them. This is exactly how Microsoft wants it. And the apathy of their customers maintain this wall.

The computer industry is elitist. Without elitism, computer and software sales wouldn't be high enough to bankroll the expensive R&D to make new chips, new bus technologies, new applications, and to pay all those college educated developers with expensive mortgages and kids in private school. Computers in the 80s promised to make your kids smarter, your lives richer, your work easier, your business more lucrative. These are all partially true. But they are true-est in the sense that they move product. Financially, the computer industry has no financial incentive to settle on standard file formats that would level the playing field for the poor and allow them to get by on hand-me-down machines. The only incentive they have is their conscience, and they assuage that with donations, often very generous donations.

Microsoft deserves a little credit along these lines. They routinely donate software and hardware to poor school districts, and when they donate money they've relaxed their grip and allowed the district to buy Macs if they want them. Those are really the only two choices, if they want to make a pragmatic decision. Microsoft also donates Windows license keys and CDs to Goodwill and the Salvation Army so they can reimage donated PCs legally. That helps solve the privacy problem of donors who fail to erase the hard disk before donating.

Pragmatism: If you can show the poor how practical linux is, how they can use it to solve their problems, and you can show school districts and charities the practicality of linux, that's progress. But I think elitism is the real enemy. Because linux is very practical already. But school districts want brand new computers to impress the PTA. They want the latest software that will appease parents and senators alike. It's like how charities will blow a few million on a fleet of new Dells and an ActiveDirectory network when their mission is to feed the poor or provide free medical care. They do this because they need to impress their wealthiest donors to show them how well their money is spent. It's an improvement they can see, visable progress in the war on (fill in the blank) whether the money could have been better spent elsewhere or not. Very few millionaire donors will be impressed by how much money a poor school district has saved by using Linux and recycled machines. They'll write a check so they can afford Windows and Office ASAP!

I'm sure you know much more about this then I do. But that's what I've run into in the past. Poor people (like homeless people with kids) need practical, not theoretical or idealistic computer help. Institutions, like hiring workplaces, charities, and school districts buy heavily into the elitist image of new computers.

Maybe the solution is for linux to be seen as "more elite" than Windows and MacOS X? I'm only slightly joking. Have a great day.

Unknown said...

Microsoft deserves a little credit along these lines


Do I have your attention Ian. It was only raised in caps to insure I did.

2004 - "We hold no interest in your project at this time"

2006 - "We hold no interest in your project at this time."


I hold the emails with those quotes in reserve for the day I decide to post them, along withe the signature line of the person from Microsoft who sent them.

Microsoft wants no competition in the "good guy" market. No one will give away their product but Microsoft.

And Ian, you are also wrong about free licenses of XP. They charge GoodWill 5.00 a pop for them, like they want to charge us. The only thing they give to a non profit is Windows 2000

Besides, Linux and open source are the future of computing. These kids need prepared, not shackled. Microsoft will be a bright supernova in history. Linux and free software will take the world into the Galaxy and beyond. Look at the space shuttle command flight software. It already has.


Chelle Minkin said...

So Ian, What you are saying in essence then, is that helios is wasting his time and he has accomplished absolutely nothing.

What I just read is a multi-paragraph justification for sitting on your elitist ass and doing nothing while others bust theirs to make a difference.

I believe your comment deserves a newspaper audience Ian.

Chelle Minkin

Chelle Minkin said...

Ian, I'm not quite done with you yet. Helios isn't giving his kids junk. These are computers that are 6 months to a year old with Pentium 4 chips and 3D capable video with 1-2 gigs of ram. Your statements make it sound like he is giving them paperweights and I resent your not checking your facts before you put your uninformed fingers to the keyboard.

Besides...this is the guy who just ripped a major tendon in his left arm while carrying 70 21 inch monitors down three flights of stairs so his kids could have their "hand-me-downs"

As a member of the press, I am not surprised by your statements...I see people like you everyday dragging good people down.

I am glad Ken Starks has the strength to shake off smarmy comments like this.

Chelle Minkin

Anonymous said...

Besides, Linux and open source are the future of computing. These kids need prepared, not shackled. Microsoft will be a bright supernova in history. Linux and free software will take the world into the Galaxy and beyond. Look at the space shuttle command flight software. It already has.

Ken, That statement above proves you are a visionary. I've been a computer user for 30 years. The first mainframe I worked on took up an entire wall. 8 months ago, a friend made me aware of your blog and I've been a fan since. Three months ago, I did it, I cut my ties to Windows and am now "operating without a net". Following your advice, I installed Mepis Linux and I have never, and I honestly mean never, have had such a pleasurable computing experience in all these years. No viruses, no blue screens, no more worrying over if I am "patched".

Someone named Ian very subtly told you that you are wasting your efforts by giving these kids Linux.

In Ian's name, I am donating 100 dollars to your cause and I will be delivering to you my brand new AMD dual core machine for you to give to one of your kids. My "spare" is only a year old, it will serve me nicely.

Thanks Ian, I would have never done this without incentive. And without a bit of sarcasm Ken, thank you for all you do for those who cannot do for themselves. You show us all how big we can be.

Randall Hopps