The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Austin Group Prepares for Linux Against Poverty.

Lynn Bender called a meeting Saturday at the Triumph Cafe in Austin to begin organizing the Linux Against Poverty 2010 event.

 I think to Lynn's and my own surprise, the number of people who attended actually exceeded those who signed up to attend.  We had 30 people attend the 2 hour meeting and many stayed as much as 30 minutes afterward to mingle and iron out other details

I believe that speaks volumes to how important the Linux and Tech Community in Austin believe this event to be. They are the backbone of this effort and these volunteers are going to spend June 19th busting their backsides to aid The HeliOS Project.

What amazes me is the number of people we have returning from last year...they know what is in store for them.

Bless their hearts...

For those that do not know, Linux Against Poverty is an annual event organized by Lynn Bender that gathers some of the top tech people in the area and assembles them to evaluate, triage, repair and then install the Linux Operating System on those computers.  The computers are donated by local businesses and individuals.  The repaired and refurbished computers are then given to disadvantaged kids in the Central Texas area via The HeliOS Project.

Last year's efforts netted The HeliOS Project 219 usable machines.  Those machines were received in July of 2009 and were gone by November.  You can see some of the pictures of the 2009 effort by clicking the above link.

Now I am going to be honest with you here...despite Lynn's best efforts, most of the local media fairly ignored us last year.  With the exception of KUT radio and Omar Gallaga, this event was pretty much blacked out.  This year however, there are some publicity possibilities looming that will bode well for us.  While I cannot say until they happen, we have reason to believe that our mostly-unaided success last year will draw some good media interest.

We'll see.

Regardless of that possibility, we expect some great results from this year's event.  People are already talking to their employers about what we are doing and we've caught the attention of two major corporates here in Austin.

Now to the gear and pulley stuff.

Linux Against Poverty 2010 will again be held at Union Park on 6th Street on the 19th of June.  My sincere and humble thanks to Greg Bodle for his generosity.  As Lynn stated on his website, most bar owners would have taken one look at the transformation taking place and slammed on the brakes.  Greg saw the bigger picture, which was properly painted by our volunteers returning his place to its original state when we were done.  We are extremely grateful for his gift to us.

There will be five Team Stations working within LAP this year.  They are:

Intake and Evaluation

Salvage and Parts

Material Handling



Building on lessons learned from last year, we used Saturday's meeting to streamline the process and build a workable system.  My further thanks goes to Roy Hall, Alex Thurlow, Andy Krell, Skip Guenter and Tom King for stepping forward and shouldering the responsibility for leading these teams.  We are going to be needing a Team Leader for Material Handling (fancy name for hauling computers and parts on and off of trucks).  You can see how this is being organized here or if you want to take part and join one of our teams.

Our goal this year is to raise 50K in usable computers and components this year.  If you are an employee or work with any business in Austin, please let them know that we can use their decommissioned machines and components.

Because the needs of our kids are the focus of our efforts, we have to turn down some stuff.  We need P4 machines at 2.0 gig processing or better.  Anything less will not allow us to build the machines to do the work these kids are being given today.  You can see specific equipment requirements here.   Of course, any equipment donations are tax deductible.  They can contact me at and we will make the arrangements.

If you care to sponsor Linux Against Poverty on any level, please contact Lynn Bender at Lynnbender at geekaustin dott org

And to those who are taking part in Linux Against Poverty 2010....

You guys Rock.

All-Righty Then...


Mike Regan said...

Hey Ken,

You and Lynn amaze me. I was lucky enough to attend last year's event and it was truly inspiring. It was like everyone had worked together for years and for the most part it went smoothly. I am looking forward to working with you guys again this year. I will sign up shortly.

You might consider seeing if some PR outfit in Austin would be interested in doing some pro bono work for you. They can probably get into places that would ignore you or I. This effort deserves the attention of Austin Texas.


Xetheriel said...

You guys are awesome. I wish I lived closer so I could join the effort.

You know what you need to promote this, that would attract attention like crazy?

A Flashmob. :)


Kevin (Whizard72) said...

I sure wish I lived closer or could take a vacation to come down there and help out. Lord knows I have the skills, having built and repaired Desktops and Servers for a living in addition to lots of Linux experience which includes configuration and compiling software from source.

FastVoteFred said...

Here is my post for Portland Oregon area places to find cheap computers pre-installed with Ubuntu at ecobinary and Mint Linux 7 at Green Century Recycling.

Green Century also has locations in Salt Lake City Utah and Tacoma Washington.

Check out puppylinux for those older slower computers. I have used Puppylinux on a 500Mhz computer with only 192 Megabyte DRAM and it worked well including wireless internet connection to a neighbors WIFI access point.

Other Puppylinux derivatives to download. You might use Ubuntu Linux, but I would strongly suggest using Puppy Linux for older computers for kids.
Especially note the USB Flash Drive install that Puppy Linux offers from a CD-ROM boot up of Puppy Linux.

Molinux Zero 2.0 for Spanish speaking kids.

Wish you a good time at this years event. Look at installing puppy linux to old USB Flash drives to hand out. Could not believe that i was seeing 4.0Gbyte Flash drives for $10 at Frys Electronics just a couple days ago. Imaging your whole OS and Apps and Documents on a 128Mbyte Flash Drive!!

Application to use Windows 7 or Win XP to install various Linux distros onto a Flash Drive and make it bootable. Puppy Linux is
one of the choices.

Install various linux to a USB Flash Drive
Puppy Linux has its own installer to install itself onto a USB Flash drive. Easy to replicate when you don't have internet access.

FelixTheCat said...

Well, if we continued to take older computers and didn't cull them out, we end up as a dump instead of getting computers that these kids want to use. You and I might be able to deal with videos that stutter like crazy, but if we want the kids to continue to use Linux and learn (requiring the computer to keep their attention longer than it takes to turn it on and off), we really need computers that have some oomph to them.

To some folks, it sounds like beggars being choosers, I know. However, we want these kids to grow out of whatever situation is keeping them disadvantaged, and that means getting decent computers into their hands as our part of that equation.

Hope that helps, and Ken may have more to add.

Unknown said...

Concerning what FelixTheCat said...we've tried the P3 computers that were donated to us and they simply do not meet our kid's needs. The technology of that era does not allow us to increase the RAM to the levels needed. We have 8th grade kids running CAD and other high-resource applications. To saddle them with a machine that cannot perform those tasks is to fail.

Now I will challenge those who subscribe to the "beggars cannot be choosers" phililosophy.

If you are comfortable hindering someone's growth and future just because they don't have the means to access current technology, I would challenge you to apply that feeling to your own children or at least consider the plight of those less fortunate.

That's what we do.

Gavin said...

Add me to the list of "wish I could be there" people. Maybe next year. Hopefully. It would be truly awesome.

In the mean time, I hope it goes well and I am rooting for you!

Gavin said...

I have used Puppy Linux (recently) on an ancient laptop for testing. I mean like PII 233 MHz ancient! The experience was impressive on such old hardware - Puppy ran about as well as Win95 except that it was actually useful! - but a lean & mean OS cannot magically make hardware run faster. All it can do is get in the way less.

Lean & mean distros of GNU/Linux are great for older systems, but older systems still do not have enough raw power for the wide range of tasks that today's students perform on a regular basis. Puppy Linux cannot make a PIII 800 run faster, it cannot make old onboard video compliant with OpenGL 1.3, and it cannot make a 10GB HDD larger. Videos will play with slightly less stutter and the GUI runs far better, but needed programs still take the same amount of RAM and OOo files are still the same size. And with less RAM and older hard drives, load times and swap usage merely worsen.

For the average user, a lean & mean distro like Puppy Linux is perfectly fine. For the more demanding tasks that today's students perform, including keeping up with the Windows users whether you like it or not, lean & mean distros running on older systems are symbols of crutches.

What these kids need are solutions to their problems, not crutches for hobbling behind their peers. School exams do not grade students on what they have learned with limited resources; school exams grade students on what they have learned. The same concept applies to job performance.

Ken would ultimately be doing far less good with more effort if he elevated a greater number of kids to a "less poor" status than by elevating fewer kids to "middle-class" status. Break them out of the cycle into which they were born so that they in turn can help others. That is how progress is made. What good does it do the kids if they merely need less help by adulthood?

The key here is that these kids need to keep up with their peers who are using modern Windows machines. And right now, a modern Windows machine has a dual-core CPU, 2GB+ of dual-channel RAM, 250GB+ SATA HDD, and onboard or dedicated video that is at least OpenGL 2.0 compatible. Yeah, a GNU/Linux system runs leaner. But "leaner" compared to this means a P4 2GHz instead of a Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz, or 1GB of single-channel DDR RAM instead of 2GB of dual-channel DDR2 RAM, or a simple 80GB IDE HDD instead of a 250GB SATA HDD. Leaner is relative and leaner software can only get you so far in a comparison like this.