The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

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Saturday, October 09, 2010

The HeliOS Project - How We Did It

People from all over the world have become aware of The HeliOS Project.  It's been a humbling and gratifying experience to receive the emails and phone calls from places like Perth, Sheffield, Bamberg, San Paulo and Los Angeles.

Emails and phone calls congratulating us on our success and sincere thank yous for what we do.  It's also been people from these far-away places that have supported our efforts.  I never cease to be amazed by their generosity.

Especially because the community we serve is thousands of miles away.

Often, I really don't know how to respond to these communications except to say that you are welcome and to in turn thank them for their support. 

However, many of these people want to know how to start a project like this in their community.  We're going to outline here, the basics of putting together an effort like The HeliOS Project.

Who needs your help?

You will need to realize from the first moment you commit to do this that there are going to be hundreds or thousands of people that will want your help.  You are going to need computers and parts to work with and we'll get into how to get those in a bit.

Don't look at The Big Picture yet.  Look at one family or one child that needs your help and focus on that.  Remember that this isn't about who "deserves" to be helped but who "needs" your help.  How do you decide that?

Start with teachers, Child Protective Service case workers or Foster Care administrators.  Tell them what you want to do and ask them for help in identifying those people.

However there are land mines here.  It's important to understand the following:

The word "deserve" gets tossed around a lot in this business.  If you analyze it, there is really little to nothing that anyone in this world "deserves".  All we really ever "deserve" is what we've worked for.  Trouble is, there are many people out there that confuse the concept of deserve with the fact that they "want".  I "want" a 50 inch LCD television but I don't deserve one.  Keep that in mind when you are choosing the people you help.

And while this is going to be a ghastly politically incorrect thing to say, it needs to be said.  Many of the people you will encounter have an ingrained sense of entitlement.  Years of being handed their monthly  sustenance. and income have    conditioned them to this mindset.  You will walk into a house or project from time to time and from exterior observation, believe that you've identified a child or family that needs your help.

But when you enter the home, you find my 50 inch LCD television in the living room with a Wii attached to it.  Every one in the family has a cell phone and every kid in the home has a TV in their room.  A cable premium package transmits 300 channels to every television in the house.

Now you are in a jam...

You've walked into this home with your meager offering and see that there are thousands of dollars of electronic luxuries already there.

It can make you feel a bit foolish.  Already the kids are guiding you to the place where the computer is to be set up.  This family doesn't "deserve" your help.

Never walk into a home with your offering in hand.  You need to "interview" the family first.  This way, when you see what they already have, or what they already don't have, you have an out.  You will call them back after you deliver your observations to your directors.

Of course, you will have the machine in your car.  If everything you see fits your criteria, just go out and get it after "the interview."

In 2005 I was stabbed by a family member for telling them they did not qualify for our help.  Not badly, but it taught me a valuable and painful lesson.

Your resources are not infinite.  Every computer you give to a family like this means that a family that really needs one won't get it.

This is going to happen to you more times than you expect so be prepared for it. 

The numbers on a paycheck don't always tell the story.  This is why a simple matrix or formula doesn't work for you.  Sure, you have a single mom working two jobs, seemingly making a decent income.  But what is she paying for child care while she is working those two jobs?  How much is her rent and food each month?  That "decent income" suddenly becomes an ongoing question:

Will it be school books for the kids this month or a computer?

Will it be shoes and clothes for the kids this month or a computer?

Will it be paying the rent on time this month or a computer?

These are the people you want to help.

This is why you cannot sit at your desk and make your decisions based on a pre-formulated matrix.  Get out there and visit the family.  Only then can you make a good decision.

Get your poop in a group.

Before you can build someone a computer, you need to have the parts and equipment to do so.  You need a place to do your work and a way to deliver the machines once they are ready.  Most people can work out of their garage for a short period of time but if this grows to the point The HeliOS Project has grown, you will find that you will need another place to work from.

We now do 300-400 computers a year.  We have been fortunate enough to partner with Lynn Bender.  Lynn has for two years, organized an event called Linux Against Poverty (  His efforts have gathered over 400 machines for us in the past two years.

Kids today are being given assignments and research projects that I would have choked on when I was their age.  Many of the children you will help will need fairly powerful machines to work with.  The Pentium III 700 chips won't do the job.  Sure, they can be used for simple internet browsing but for real work, these kids are going to need fairly powerful Pentium 4's...preferably at 2.4 gigs or more.

Often, giving these kids older or slower machines just adds to their frustration.  We won't even accept anything under a P4 2.0 gig anymore.  We just cannot upgrade it to the point that it is usable for them.  1 gig of RAM is minimum.

Start with your friends or announce what you are doing where you work.  When we first started doing this, I went to previous employers and got the machines I needed to get started.  You may find that you need a steady stream of machines so use the Public Service Announcement resources you have with abandon.  PBS and local NPR stations are great for getting the word out.

Your best bet is to find "drop points" for your donations.  Even if this gets moderately successful, you will find yourself spending over a 100 dollars a week just doing pickups and deliveries.  Fuel costs are the highest of our expenditures.  Skip Guenter, our Director of System Engineering spend over 1900.00 last year in fuel alone.

Find businesses close to where you live and ask them to be a drop-off or collection point for your effort.  Make sure to check with them bi-weekly to see if anyone has dropped anything off.  The last thing you want to do is piss off a good drop-point.

Most people will not take this to the level of The HeliOS Project.  This has turned out to be a full-time thing for me...albeit a near-poverty thing but I made that decision so there's nothing to discuss but remember.  This can spiral upward and get way out of hand.

You are going to be amazed at the number of requests you get when the word gets out.  Both on the machine donation and computer request ends of the project.  That leads to one more important tip:

Just say no to junk.

The "average" computer user won't know a Pentium 2 from a quad core screamer.  Sometimes this works out to your advantage but most times not so much.  Remember that these are "normal" people.  The computer they put in their closet 9 years ago, in their mind, does the same job today that it did when it was retired.  Their intentions are good but they are going to cost you money if you don't get a handle on it. 

They don't realize that today's technology has left that machine behind.  If you don't outline your needs specifically, you are going to spend your precious financial resources at the local recycling center.  Finding a place to get rid of CRT's alone has become a struggle.  At an average cost of 10.00 per CRT, the costs add up quickly.  That doesn't take into account your fuel and time costs.

We currently have 16 21 inch CRT's in storage costing us 150.00 a month and are 1 month behind in paying for it.  Be careful when paying for storage.  If you are like us and largely unfunded, you can get into a jam.  Unfortunately we have some good stuff stored there as well so we're going to need to find a way to get current.  We can't just default and let it all go, although I wish we could.

What software do I use?

If you use anything but Linux and the associated applications, you're cruisin' for a bruisin'.  The few Windows machines we have put out resulted in virus and malware calls within a week of delivery.  We have made a new custom distro derived from Ubuntu 10.04 using a great program called UCK.

Lord, we really need to work on our application names in the Linux world.

UCK has easily allowed us to add and remove programs from the original ISO file and make the distro we need to serve our kids.  We are currently working with Ron West to get server space from RackSpace to serve that ISO.  Watch the comments section of this blog for that link.  If you have server space to spare, we could use additional resources to serve that image.

First off, we did approach Microsoft for XP licenses in 2005 and 2008.  Even though they knew what we were doing and who we were serving, the best they could offer us was licenses for XP SP1 for 50.00 per.

Do the math...if you only do 10 computers a year, it's out of financial range for most anyone who wants to do this.  We never intended to use Windows except for within VM's like VirtualBox, but still you need legitimate licenses.

Screw Microsoft.  Of course I mean that in a loving and supportive way.

How do I organize?

This is the most asked question we get and it requires immediate action before you put out your first computer.

Never underestimate the saying "no good deed goes unpunished".  Regardless of your intentions, someone, somewhere is going to pee in your corn flakes.

Two years ago, we delivered a computer to a family in one of the worst housing projects in Central Texas.  At that time, we were deploying 21 inch Sony CRT's with the computers we delivered.  It was less than a month later that we received notification that we were being sued.

Allegedly, a three year old child in the household was able to pull an 80 pound monitor from the computer desk (which we supplied btw) and it crashed to the floor next to her.  The child wasn't hurt but the mother sued us for a number of reasons...her and her attorney.

Maggot.  Again I mean that in a loving and....

No I don't.

We were fortunate enough to have an attorney working pro bono for us at the time and his expertise was arbitration.  He was able to convince the mother that she couldn't win or be awarded anything due to to the dubious nature of her claim.  We replaced the CRT with a 17 inch LCD and walked away.

We were lucky.

Since that incident, we have completely stopped accepting CRT's.  Not only are they a potential hazard legally, they are costly to store and storage even in a semi-controlled environment will corrode the innards enough to get you a pretty blue ark when you get around to using it.

Besides, I refuse to carry another one up three flights of stairs.

You will need to become a 501(c)(3) or operate legally under one that is already organized.  At this time we do our business under Software in the Public Interest.  Being an associate project under SPI is by invitation only and we were fortunate enough to draw their attention.

Your best bet is to become your own non profit, recognized by the IRS.  Now, in Texas, you have to register as a state-recognized non profit first.  This is fairly simple and costs less then 25.00 to do.  Once you are recognized by your Secretary of State, you can then petition the US government for 501(c)(3) status.

Be prepared for sticker shock.

It can and most likely will cost you 1000.00 to do this.  The IRS has tightened their requirements for becoming a non profit and have raised the fees to do so in order to discourage people that want to either scam the system or not really use their 501 designator for the purposes stated.

Now you can find a local non profit to slide you in under their umbrella but there are downsides to doing so.  You will eventually want to apply for grants available to you.  You cannot yourself do this...the actual non profit hosting you will have to do all the work.

Not many are willing to do so.

We have a good friend who is no longer actively using his non profit.  He offered it to us and we've begun the task of making it our own.  While it is much cheaper to do this, it has been a frustrating and long process...bogged down by administrative obstacles and hassles.

Still, we will eventually become our own non profit for little to no cost.

Again, we were lucky.

Non profits can be set up in a number of ways but it is imperative that you pick the right model for your needs.  The HeliOS Project has Directors only, not members...there is an important distinction that you will have to investigate for your organization.  A non profit can have Directors AND members  It's critically important that you research the distinction.

A good starting point can be found here.

Can I do this myself?

Maybe...depends on how far you take it.

If you are  going to be doing one to three computers a month, yeah sure, you can manage it yourself.  If it gets any bigger though, you might want to consider forming a pool of volunteers.

But remember, volunteers are just that...they are not employees.  They do this on their own time and at their own cost.  Having a number volunteers fail you at any given time can be attributed to conflicting schedules or the simple matter of not having the fuel to help out at the time.

The HeliOS Project has a volunteer pool that exceeds 100 people.  That isn't to say they are all available the minute we need them.  Volunteers are a precious commodity and should be treated as such.  If you go beyond a specific amount of machines a month, you are going to need them.  Just remember that they work at their own pleasure.

Protect yourself at all times.

Never, and I mean never enter a home where there is no parent or legal guardian.  In fact, don't ever set up a computer without them in the room.  We live in an uncertain world and the even the slightest allegation of untoward behavior can cause you a life-time of grief...not to mention completely killing the credibility of your project.

Non profit liability insurance for your effort and directors is dirt cheap.  I'm just sayin'...

Do the prudent thing and get it.  It can save you a lot of trouble.  If you happen to damage or break anything in the household, you are covered.  Even if you are not a non profit, look into it.  Talk to your insurance agent and see if there isn't a solution.  It will be worth its weight in quad chips when you need it.

Where do I get the money to do this?

Simply put, just ask for it.  Let people know what you are doing and hope they see the value in it.  Although we serve a community of over 1 million people, contributions from the actual businesses here have been sparse to none.  It's been the FOSS community that has fueled our efforts mostly and bless their hearts, they've come through when we most needed them.

Just ask Joe Singleterry.

Make sure your donations are completely transparent and be prepared to open your books to most anyone who wants to see them.  We have had our detractors...those who accuse me of "profiting" from this.  We've been accused of being "Scam artists" and liars.  It will happen to you to if you reach the level of success we've enjoyed.

I live off of 12,000.00 a year on average so don't expect to get rich...or even be able to pay your bills doing this.  At this time, I do not receive a dime in compensation from The HeliOS Project but for full disclosure, I hope to make a modest salary in the future.  I make my "regular" money from taking in computer repair work and the occasional corporate contract for Linux admin stuff.

Much of what I make is used for HeliOS Project needs.  I then submit reimbursement requests through SPI.  Thanks to your donations, I am able to recoup some of what I spend.

Simply asking them to come work with you for a week or so generally shuts them up.  Most of these "accusations" will be from obsessed megalomaniacs or anonymous sources.  Be prepared to show your work but in most cases, just ignore them.  They will get tired of their singular chest-beating and move on. 

I am sure there are some things left out here.  My intention was to get the basic answers to your questions published and we will add to it as questions come up.  Make sure to check comments from time to time.  I will address specific issues there as they appear.

All-Righty Then...


Anonymous said...

Who actually does your installs? Do you do them or do your volunteers?

Mike K.

Unknown said...

This is where you need to be careful, The person doing the install is representing your effort. They need to follow the "adult present in the room" rule at all times.

they also need to be proficient in showing the kids and parents how to use their Linux systems. the last thing you want is someone reinstalling windows on the machine then calling you up crying because their computer "doesn't work" anymore.

We tell people now that if they put windows on their computers, we will no longer support them in any way.


Anonymous said...

Excellent and informative post. I am printing it out for future reference because at some point I would like to try doing this with Linux.

In my local area we have a lowlife character "claiming" to do this by taking old systems and installing Win7 on them. The copy of Win7 is of course pirated and the systems he advertises, yes he is actually selling these on Craigslist, are always woefully inadequate for the requirements of Win7. This same person has been convicted of check forgery and other crimes in the past. Of course he "claims" he does this for those who are less fortunate but its quite obvious he is simply running a scam using older machines he conned someone out of for free and installing current pirated software on them in an attempt to make a few quick buck.

With all the scum out there that pull the above kind of crap it is really nice to see someone as sincere and honest as yourself helping those that truly need it by not only giving them a decent computer but also introducing them to the freedom of Linux.

Anonymous said...

All we really ever "deserve" is what we've worked for. Trouble is, there are many people out there that confuse the concept of deserve with the fact that they "want".


In this political correct world, it's good to see someone who realizes the distinction.

Jacob Snyder said...

Ken, you are doing amazing work. Thank you for this article. It hits all the high points extremely well.

Concerning "old" computers. Wouldn't finding a way to use them be more beneficial than just recycling them? I have been fixing old P3's for a couple of years and putting light versions of Linux on them. It's worked well for me.

Unknown said...

@ Jacob

No, the use of those old machines has been a complete failure. Ultimately, the child or parent is going to want to do something outside of the machine's capability like stream hulu or play a low-resource game. Remember that most of these machines have only two RAM slots and most of them won't accept more than one gig of RAM maximum.

Like I said, machines such as you mention are ok for light browsing and some other tasks. Getting OpenOffice to open and work with any decent responsiveness is almost impossible with a P3 of a 650 chip or less.

Unfortunately, those are the museum pieces we are offered most times.

Better to scrap them responsibly than have them be the cause of the next "Linux Sucks" comment.


Michael Hall said...

@Jacob, The "Don't take junk" rule really can't be stressed enough. I've been doing this for almost 2 years now, and I still have some of my original junk donations hanging around taking up space.

Yes, a P3 can be turned into something usable, but it can't be turned into something helpful. The last thing you want to do is give someone without a computer to do school work on a large, power sucking machine that they still can't do school work on. Sometimes something is worse than nothing.

Like HeliOS, I've stopped taking anything less than a P4. I generally use Xfce, so I'm okay with 512MB of RAM, but try not to take anything much less than that. Unfortunately, I can't line up enough LCD donations, so I still have to take and give CRTs.

Finally, do not, under any circumstances, accept inkjet printers. Now matter how new and/or expensive they look. You're unlikely to find ink for them, and not even the scrapping guys seem to want them. Everybody has one they want to get rid of because new ink costs more than a new printer, and if they see that you accept them, you become a garbage dump in their eyes.

Michael Hall said...

As far as hosting your ISO, I would recommend setting it up on a bittorrent tracker, and providing a meager but constant seeding on your end. I and others can also offer meager but constant seeding, so that it's never dead. I do this for Qimo, and it's worked out remarkably well.

Also, contact your local universities about mirror hosting, The University of South Florida's mirroring of Qimo has been a life saver for me. Ask for mirror hosting on your blog and I'm sure you'll get plenty of offers from around the world.

Tracy Reed said...

" We are currently working with Ron West to get server space from RackSpace to serve that ISO."

Can you not set up a torrent?

Amazon S3 is cheap storage/bandwidth and will automatically create a torrent if you just reference it something like:

It is really cool.

Anonymous said...

Allegedly, a three year old child in the household was able to pull an 80 pound monitor from the computer desk (which we supplied btw) and it crashed to the floor next to her.

Where was the child's parents. Seems that they should have seen the hazard and dealt with it. A monitor would have to be precariously hanging over the edge of the desk before a child this young would be able to move it.

Sense of entitlement indeed.

Anonymous said...

Ken, this article is a fantastic resource. Thanks for putting it out there. I am starting to get the resources together to do a mini version of what you do.

My question is this: When you "interview" the family, how in depth are the questions. Do I come right out and ask what the monthly or annual income of the family is? What is the cut-off for helping them? If the child is under foster care, does the guardian receive any compensation from the government and do I count that as income against them?

I'm hoping you can sort this out for me.

Rick Meyers

Grant Johnson said...

Thank you for posting this. I have been trying to place machines, but so far, I have only placed 5. It will be a great resource. The biggest issue I have is holding down a full time job, and having a wife and two kids does not leave much time for working on this.

John Hardin said...

You can also use Coral to transparently mirror large files. Simply put the file up on a regular webserver somewhere, then publish the URL as
The Coral system will direct people to a dynamically-cached copy close to them. The only traffic you'll see is the caches retrieving a copy, and as they also retrieve from each other, that traffic to your site will be minimal.

For more info, see here:

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be better to distribute the machines through schools or community centers? It would be cheaper and safer for you to distribute the systems from a central location rather than going into peoples homes. A school or community center would also provide a venue to provide classes which would not only benefit the children who receive the machines but might also end up educating some of the school's teachers who would then become a support resource. Finally you could off load the decision of worthiness to the school rather than having to make the determination yourself. Offering machines as a reward for good academic performance or for showing initiative is better than doing it on income alone.

V.T. Eric Layton said...


Fantastic post, buddy! You ARE THE MAN! Keep Helios truckin'! You guys do good things. :)

~Eric, the Nocturnal Slacker

V. T. Eric Layton
Tampa, Florida, USA

FelixTheCat said...

I still get a kick thinking about the story of the guy trying to get a computer and you found his brand spanking new, shiny Ford F150 parked in the back yard.

I like Michael's thought on P3 computers, they might be usable but they aren't helpful. Nail on the head!

Many businesses have a three to four year imposed lifespan on their computers and refreshes usually mean some pretty good computers that need a home. Problem is getting to them before they turn the computers over to a resale store.

Unknown said...

@Anonymous @ 2:44pm : Sadly, most of the schools are underfunded these days- and they also don't want the "liability" that is presented. They might be nice to you and just pat you on the head and send you on your way...they might not. In any event, one of the things you're likely to get told is that they're not a charity and having them do that sort of work isn't their job.

In the end, Ken's going about it the right way. Ever since I heard about what Ken's been doing I've been studying what they've been doing and what is required- and he's telling you the dead truth on the subject.

As it stands, I'm re-appraising some of my machines I have in my bone pile and probably doing the responsible recycling thing instead of having the wife bring them down to here from Home in Dallas. A couple of them are "nice" luggables- but they weigh in below the floor he's mentioning and while they have 1-2Gb of RAM, I can see them running out of a bit of steam trying to do CAD type things, in spite of them having Radeon 7000 Mobility parts in them.

Some of the other machines, though... :-D

Unknown said...

@ anonymous

A school or community center would also provide a venue to provide classes...

We've done this in several financially disadvantaged areas in Austin but they fall far from an ideal solution.

Who's going to drive the child there and back if it's available after school? Who is going to monitor the child while he is using the resource. Schools have their own computers here in Austin. It's the kids that can't afford one at home that are given "alternative" assignments.

While community assets such as our Bruno Knaapen Technology Learning Center are good, nothing compares to the child being able to compete with her peers.

Traveling to a school or library doesn't get the job done.


Anonymous said...
You could use DropBox for hosting your .iso's or any files at all. If you use the referral feature you can boost the initial 2 GB free to 8 GB.

Anonymous said...

"We tell people now that if they put windows on their computers, we will no longer support them in any way."

Isn't that kind of unfair? What if the person doesn't want to learn Linux. What if the person needs Windows for specific software.

I think you are more a Linux Idealist than someone giving away computers.

Gavin said...

Anonymous #8 - "Isn't that kind of unfair? What if the person doesn't want to learn Linux. What if the person needs Windows for specific software.

I think you are more a Linux Idealist than someone giving away computers.

That is an interesting perspective. But look at it from the other side.

You buy a computer from, say, HP. It comes with Windows on it. Let us assume Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. It comes with support. Let us assume it is HP's business-class support, which is actually worth something. Now consider that you wipe the HDD and install Linux on your HP computer. Would HP support the Linux software that you installed after the sale? HP is no stranger to Unix/Linux, obviously, but what they sold to you was a computer with Windows on it. That was part of the agreement. Therefore, they expect to support what they sold to you. What you have done is changed the circumstances of the agreement, essentially making it null and void from a legal standpoint. From a logical standpoint, they sold you A & B, then you took away B and replaced it with C, and then asked them to support A & C - not logical.

Consider other circumstantial changes: you buy a cell phone in the US with national coverage, then bring the phone to Spain and expect to make a phone call; you buy a plane ticket to travel from Los Angeles to New York, but decide you want to go to London instead; you ask a friend to grab you a Pepsi from the refrigerator, then change your mind to Coca Cola. In all of these cases, if you change the circumstances of the agreement, the other people involved have to react to those changes. And they do not all react in the same way. Your friend would probably be willing to ablige you about the change from Pepsi to Coca Cola, but the airline? Most likely you would have to return your LA-NY ticket (if you even could, depending on how long you wait) and buy a new LA-London ticket. In the case of the cell phone, you would have to be very lucky (or plan ahead) in order to use a US phone overseas.

Logically speaking, a change in circumstances can change the results. Technically speaking, very few computer support agreements will cover both Windows and Linux. Subjectively speaking, buying a computer with either Windows or Linux installed rarely gets you coverage for the other OS - and this assumes that you buy one! In the case of The Helios Project, Ken is providing these computers, and the related support, for free to disadvantaged people. What makes you think that he must also provide free support for circumstances that most paid support agreements do not even cover?

Gavin said...

What you are suggesting does not exist in the reverse: a Windows computer being supported for Linux that is installed after the sale. The situation that Ken is supporting is the same, but with the OS types reversed. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that Ken is being unfair, unless you were to also say that HP and the others are being unfair by supporting Windows and not Linux for the computers that they sell with Windows pre-installed. Even that would be an erroneous comparison because Ken is operating a charity and not a business like HP and the others. If you could find a charity that gives away Windows computers but provides for them free support even after the recipients install Linux, then your argument would have merit and be at least logically valid. If not, I think it is ironic that you are the one being unfair in accusing someone else of being unfair.

As far as Linux idealism, I do not think you are entirely familiar with the Linux community and free software philosophy if you think that Ken belongs in those ranks. Ken often uses and installs software/code that is free-as-in-beer but not free-as-in-freedom, which automatically disqualifies him for the title of "idealist". Furthermore, Ken has actively sought to use pay-for proprietary software with regards to The Helios Project, but often cannot because he is severely limited by monetary costs. Moreover, Ken does not discourage the use of any software/code that is free-as-in-beer, regardless of the platform on which it runs or the technology that it uses (ie, no Windows Firefox vs Linux Firefox, no distro wars, no KDE vs Gnome banging, no vi vs emacs ranting).

I think perhaps that you do not yet know enough about Linux and its place in the world of computers and IT. Perhaps you are viewing this from the perspective of one who knows and uses Windows in a home environment. I encourage you to expand your horizons in this respect and become at least peripherally aware of the other platforms and how they are used. Linux, Unix, and Mac OS X are out there, too. And people use them to great effect, especially at the top and bottom of the market. (What, you really think the root DNS servers run a version of Windows Server?)

And by the way, I use Linux, too. But I typed this on a system running Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit while I ponder my pre-order options for Fallout New Vegas. (I am thinking the Caravan Pack from Steam. What do you think?)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

@ Rick Meyers

This is the gray area I was talking about.

Income doesn't always tell the story. We don't usually ask about specific income. Many of the people we help are on some subsistence aid of one sort or another.

Of course, if you see a "disadvantaged" family with all the luxuries, that should be a warning.

In Texas, very few foster care families are compensated for taking the child in and we most often give them a computer. Especially if the child is getting ready to "age out" of the system. When they leave the system they are given a laundry basket with some clothes, hygiene products and a bus ticket if they want to leave the area. If they are going on to college. we supply them with a laptop.

Let me know if you have any more questions and I will try to answer them or email me.


Anonymous said...

I'm curious about your 501(c)(3) status or lackthereof. If you operate under the SPI umbrella, doesn't that mean that any moneies you collect via PayPal or otherwise aren't eligible to be tax deductions by the donators unless you have all payments addressed to the SPI?

Isn't it risky for an organization of your size not to have your own 501(3)(c)? When I was at Northwestern, I used to volunteer at Free Geek and for anyone who wants to see a very successful and self-sustaining non profit that is similar in its aim, I suggest checking out what they do in Chicago and Portland.

I would think getting your non-profit status settled would be a bigger priority than trying to find space for a wherehouse or setting up donation drives.

Unknown said...

1. We're in the process of having our own 501 designator...waiting on the paperwork now. A recent blog of helios announced the fact.

2. Without warehouse and work space, nothing gets done. We've now delivered 1162 computers since we began doing this in 2005 and under SPI since 2008.

There is nothing "risky" about what we do or how we operate. That is why organizations like SPI were created.

If it is "risky" I would recommend that the other dozen or so organizations under the SPI umbrella be issued the same advice.

Anonymous said... might host the ISO for you


Sassinak said...

Apparently, LibreOffice runs on the RapsberryPI...just saying...