The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Case # 2010-5052271. Here be Scum

Joe Singleterry has it tough...

When a sister exhibited behavior that wasn't consistent with raising two young boys, the system decided they had no choice but to step in.

While I am no fan of ham-fisted government intervention, in this case, it probably saved one of their lives.

There was really little choice for Joe.  He is the brother of the boy's mom and unless he took legal custody of the boys, they would have been split up and sent to foster families.

Joe Singleterry was raised to a higher calling that day.  He did what he had to do and took the boys as his own.  It probably saved one of their lives.

Joe really isn't in the position to do this.  He is himself disabled from a work-related injury and lives on SSI and another small disability pension.  He lives in a small apartment with no air conditioning and the boys share a bed room...

But despite their poverty, they are happy.

The boys are now 17 and 10.  Tommy is the oldest and a Junior at Reagan High School while Sergio attends an elementary school in the area.  Tommy has another reason to be hopeful aside from being with his brother and a man who loves them like his own.

Tommy was diagnosed with acinic cell carcinoma shortly after coming to live with his Uncle.  The disease has been present for quite some time but because he wasn't being cared for properly, the cancer was allowed to spread way past the point it should have been.

Due to his Uncle's care, Tommy is now in remission and while this specific and rare cancer has less than glittering prognosis, Tommy should be able to live a full life.

Tommy is a scholastic star.  When a teacher recommended that we visit the family to qualify them for a HeliOS Project computer, we not only found a family that met the criteria, we found a 17 year old young man that was pulling straight A's in advanced placement Science and mathematic courses.  We found a young man with goals and dreams...

Not his head wrapped around an Ipod and wearing his pants to the point of almost falling off.

So you bet we gave Tommy and Sergio a computer.  We rebuilt them a damaged Dell Dimension E310 with a 2.8 hyper-threaded chip, 3 gigs of RAM, an FX 7900 Nvidia card, a 200 gig hard drive and two DVD/CD RW's.  We added a Dell 19 inch Ultra Sharp monitor with a multimedia keyboard and wireless mouse.

They were thrilled and Tommy now has the machine to do the work he needs to do.  I got the Windows-specific software he needed to run under Wine.

But in less than 2 weeks, I got a call from Joe Singleterry.

The door to their Northeast side apartment had been shattered, ripping the framing from the wall and thieves took everything of value in the home.  There is no doubt in my mind that it was gang activity.  The 200 unit low income apartment complex literally stacks people on top and next to each other.  There is less than 10 feet between the outer doors.  it doesn't take a sharp ear to hear what is going on beside or above you.

Violently ripping a door from it's frame at 2 PM should have notified someone of something going very wrong...

But then again, when you are afraid of gang members and know they did something like tend to keep your mouth shut and bullet holes from appearing in your body.

Joe didn't ask us to give him another computer.  He wanted to know if we would sell him one on payments.

I refused to do it.

Skip Guenter built another machine for Joe and his kids and I delivered it today.  While it wasn't quite as powerful as the previous one, it came with a wide screen monitor and sub woofer 2.1 sound system.

Their TV was stolen as well and they will be able to use their computer for entertainment until they can get another television.

We have a couple of problems though.  Joe isn't able to afford Internet for his home but Tommy...the straight A advanced placement student came up with a solution.

He will get a job working 4 nights a week from 6 pm until midnight to pay for it.  That means he will have to do his homework in the wee hours before he goes to bed.

Now I know we live in a tough world...I know life sucks at times, but for the love of Jove...

Sometimes others need to step in.

If you are interested in helping me get these folks a year's Internet connection, let me know via email...helios at fixedbylinux dott kom.  We're also looking for a TV card that will work well in Linux.  If possible, we could use some local help in setting up a mythTV box.  This way, the computer can replace a television.

We will help Joe directly.  We will supply you his address so you can help him.  There are other ways to get him and his kids help as well if you cannot send a check or money order.  A friend has allowed her paypal email address to be used if you prefer.  Email me for details.  However, direct mail insures no middle man but straight to him.  I will see to it that the service is ordered and payed for...for the entire year.  We will post pictures and possible video when we present him with the money.

Personally, I think Tommy should be spending his weeknights studying....not working at a pizza joint so his family can afford an Internet connection and an alarm system for his home.

Skip Guenter and I will pledge 100.00 right now.

All-Righty Then...


Anonymous said...

We rebuilt them a damaged Dell Dimension E310 with a 2.8 hyper-threaded chip, 3 gigs of RAM, an FX 7900 Nvidia card, a 200 gig hard drive and two DVD/CD RW's.

Thats just lame. Why would you build such a great computer and put in such a crappy video card.

Dude, get it right.

Mike Regan Austin Texas said...

Thats just lame. Why would you build such a great computer and put in such a crappy video card.

Dude, get it right.

Did it ever occur to you that this is the only video card option the HeliOS Project had on hand for this machine?

I'd post anonymously too if I were you. You aren't even a complete idiot. You are an incomplete idiot.

John Hardin said...

@Mike: Worse than that @amonymous is an insensitive and thoughtless b@st@rd.

Michelle Minkin said...

Yep, I would recommend to any-mouse that he purchase a "decent" video card and send it to HeliOS so they can upgrade it.

Your a coward and a jerk.


Unknown said...

Hi Ken. I'd like to send some money their way for internet. Can you also please get in touch with me about holding a linux against poverty event in Boston? I seem to remember you mentioning there would be plans available online but I'm unable to find them now.

Thanks so much, and keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

TV Cap Card specifically designed for linux:

This is, quite simply, unacceptable.

I'm gonna see if I can't get shipping together and send some of my upgrades your way. Got a few AGP and PCIe vid cards I've upgraded through, I'm sure you can find 'em a home. Wish I had cash, I'd just buy the cap card outright and send that, too.

bohu said...

This guy needs a CHL. Find out how much it costs for the class and I'll see if I can come up with the money. Of course, he will still need a background check and a handgun and holster, but hey, one thing at a time.

Anonymous said...

Good story. But I did find one of your statements a bit prejudiced and judgemental.

You can have your head in an iPod, with falling-down pants and still have dreams.

It's ignorant to judge people based on their appearance. Bad taste mate.

Dennis Haperson said...

"But I did find one of your statements a bit prejudiced and judgemental.

You can have your head in an iPod, with falling-down pants and still have dreams.

It's ignorant to judge people based on their appearance. Bad taste mate."

Actually, it wasn't in "bad taste" but rather truer than most people know.

Have you worked in the gang neighborhoods? Here in East LA, what this guy writes about is the uniform of the day for gang-bangers. I don't know about the Ipods but the dress code for gang members in many sectors are baggy knee length shorts with them riding so low on the hips that gravity seems to be on the verge of making them fall.

If for nothing else, they should be applauded for manipulating the laws of physics.

The author is pretty close. He obviously works the projects and slums. Have you?

hardbop200 said...

I've emailed you privately, but just wanted to say here:

This post has gained the attention of the Reddit community (, so a PayPal link in the story would be a great and easy way to make it easy for them/us/everyone to donate.

You guys are doing an amazing work!

Unknown said...


There is a paypal option but we prefer the family be helped directly...

We did not post the paypal email address simply because we don't trust paypal not to freeze this account for "suspicious activity".

Paypal has frozen millions of dollars in accounts across the world on a whim and they freeze those accounts for 180 days minimum.

Personally I despise Paypal but they seem to be a necessary evil. People who wish to donate via PP can email me for details.

And thank you...I appreciate what you are doing for these good folks.


Amanda Zapata said...

Ken, it is a pleasure working with you and I want to thank you for helping these folks out. Thank you for spotlighting them for the community.

I know you give away 300-500 computers a year. At least it was that way in 2008 when we worked together but it seems that the problem with providing Internet has persisted though. I was hoping one of the providers would have stepped up by now.

Email me if I can be of any help when I get back to town. I just sent Joe a check that should cover about 1/3 of his annual cost.

Hope that helps.


Unknown said...

Wish I could help directly - but while I can't, you and the family you are trying to help have my prayers.

Unknown said...

Well the way I see this is, I have more than I deserve and these kids certainly deserve more than they have. I haven't done enough for anyone else this year, so it's time to ante up. Thanks to the Helios gang for doin all our share for us. I am humbled. You have a pm from me , I'll be happy to help how I can.

Amenditman said...


I wish you had time to 'highlight' more of the families that you meet through the HeliOS Project.

It's stories like these that really motivate the Austin tech community to step up and pitch in.

Even those of us who are still stumbling from the economic affects of 2008 and 2009 are blessed by a comparison to these folks.

I hope to see more real life stories of your adventures in the field.

Amenditman said...


Unknown said...

Bob, we don't do as many any more because with the number of installs we do now, it might get pretty boring.

"Big deal, HeliOS installs another computer."

But when bullies break into a home that we've helped, I think that merits publication.

Not many people read the comments as they do the article so I'll put it out here. When one of the boys bragged about having a new computer, it was stolen the next day when the boys were at school and Joe was at a Dr's appointment.

The kid is thick with a gang.

go figure.


Anonymous said...

You are bound to collect more than is needed for Internet and alarm systems.

What is to become of the overage?

Unknown said...

What is to become of the overage?

Good question and thanks for asking.

We have collected enough on our end to completely pay for a year's internet and an annual subscription for a home alarm. Any checks Joe receives personally will be set aside for the boy's education. I have no idea how much he will receive from donors personally nor will I ask.

Joe will also individually write the people who sent checks and ask if this is ok or, since the reported needs were met, if they want the money returned.

He's a class guy.


FelixTheCat said...

To supplement the alarm, how about ZoneMinder ( with one or two cheap USB cameras? I personally have no experience so I'm suggesting something I cannot back up.