The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

Search the Blog of helios and all comments


Saturday, November 06, 2010

Getting Linux Into The Right Hands...


That's the number so far.

As of today, that is the number of Linux-based computers The HeliOS Project has placed in the homes of disadvantaged Austin kids.

That number will reach 1168 as this weekend comes to a close.

From a relative point of view, I suppose that might represent the proverbial drop in the bucket.

Until you consider what forming that drop entailed.

Each of those machines represents at least 4 man hours.  From the time we receive a machine until the time we walk out of a fresh computer install, we've invested a substantial amount of time into it.

That doesn't touch on the fuel and parts costs involved in making it happen.

So in the larger scope of things, yeah...I suppose it is a drop in the bucket.

But try telling that any of the people we've served.

And as a brief aside...that raging argument about Linux not being a drop-in replacement for any other desktop OS?

Let it die here.

It's worked for our kids, and it works for the majority of people who use it.  You can nitpick the small details all you want.  The fact remains that our kids have been able to successfully use Linux as their Desktop from elementary school up through graduate school.

Granted, there are times when our kids do need a specific MS application and for that we try to find a legitimate copy of XP SP3 to run in VirtualBox.  Unfortunately, Microsoft's best offer to us comes with a price tag of $50.00 per license.  We are on pace to consistently place 400 computers annually.  The math is simple...we cannot come close to meeting that cost.  In a way, this has been a good thing.  It has led us to explore viable Open Source alternatives to these MS-specific apps and for the most part, we've been successful.  

We announced recently that I-Tech Electronics is sponsoring a computer drive for The HeliOS Project on December 11th.

We are out of computers to fix and give away.  The holiday season brings us dozens of requests to be filled from the middle of November right up to Christmas day.

We've submitted PSA's to the major radio stations and have even invited AISD to get involved.  So far, quite a few people have dropped off early donations for that event.  We've gotten some fairly good stuff.

Unfortunately, many of these donations are laptops that are either missing power adapters, have depleted batteries or have 256 megs of RAM.

We're not talking dinosaurs least from a usability perspective.  We have HP and Dells with large single core chips up to core duo's.  These are machines well worth fixing or upgrading.

But we need some help getting them serviceable. 

We've needed to spend some money recently in getting our new vehicle registered, past an emissions test and inspected in order to get it legal and on the road.  Unfortunately, that's left us little to work with.  I wanted to make a point in letting you know about our computer drive and that we could use a hand in getting these donated computers up and running so we can deliver them during the Holiday Seasons.

If you are interested in helping, simply click the HeliOS icon at the middle left column of this page or just click here.  We have also set up a HeliOS Project storefront on Amazon.  We have offerings on ebay as well.  Picture to the right shows our offerings there so if interested, email me for details.   We might have something you want and your purchases go to support what we do.

We will be spending money this year primarily on batteries and  DDR 400 SODIMM RAM in 512 sticks or above.  If you have any laying around, you can ship it directly to us.  You can find our contact information here.

As well, if you'd like to help with the drive or just come hang out with us, let me know.  This won't be anything but a computer gathering event so no L337 skillz needed.  We'll just hang out and have a good time.

I am looking forward to it.

All-Righty Then


Jeffrey Kill said...

Our charity is in a similar place. Were out of usable donations. The only way we can possibly continue is to ask for funding at this point so we can buy components to build systems.

I hate to say it but politics do matter. In this present climate our charity has seen a TOTAL decline in all charitable contributions.

So were rethinking the charity. The government can not do what we do better. So we have to stay in the game.

Were focusing on teaching people to fix computers as opposed to just giving away computers. So We are saving folks money by fixing there current computers. We of course are recommending Linux as an upgrade. This gives us an opportunity to ask for donations for what our work was worth to them.

We can then take the funds and apply them to some system builds. I'm hoping this model works.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Microsoft's best offer to us comes with a price tag of $50.00 per license.

That is absolutely outrageous. 50 bucks for an OS that is losing it's support soon? Microsoft has never been known for its charity work, unless it directly benefits Microsoft but to not recognize the work you do is stunning.

Far be it for me to ever recommend doing anything illegal but I know for a fact that MS has all but given up on keeping bootleg copies of XP off the market. I know your organization would never consider doing such a thing but it just seems poetic justice if you were to occasionally supply someone in dire need one of these on a virtual environment.

PV said...

Wow, over 1000? That's mighty impressive!
Also, out of curiosity, what do you do for upgrades? I remember you saying that one of your preferred distributions for installing onto these machines is PCLinuxOS which is rolling-release, but for a fixed-release distribution like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or Super OS, do you go over the upgrade procedure ahead of time or when the upgrade needs to happen?
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Unknown said...

@ PV

We've pretty much decided that the strong Ubuntu derivatives are the best bet. As mentioned earlier, we use a program called UCK to remaster our HeliOS install. Unfortunately, Mint does not at this time offer a product to let us do these changes or improvements on the fly.

We spend a good deal of our face to face time talking about upgrades and updates. We rarely if ever recommend upgrading distro releases and try to stay with the LTS versions. Recently, a kernel update in Ubuntu completely hosed ATI's open source driver and we had fits getting around to our families and getting it fixed. Needless to say, we now strongly recommend that they do only the security updates. Our stance on updates is that if it isn't broken. don't break it.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gavin said...

I should send you my copy of 64-bit Vista! I completely forgot about it until just now. I have not used it in forever, since Win7 went from beta to RC. I do not even remember how long ago that happened.

Vista is at least not the worst OS MS has released. =P More importantly, it is a 64-bit Ultimate retail license, the best that Vista could offer (although it is the original SP0 version). I will have to dig that out and send it to you. It does me no good in this world of Win7, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, and RHEL 6 beta! Not to mention I forgot about it...

And when you get to 1280 computers placed by Helios, are you going to have a 1.25K party? Haha!

PV said...

I'm trying hard not to sound like a spammer by saying this, but I've remastered Kubuntu 10.04 LTS with KDE 3.5 instead of the default KDE 4.4. I remember reading one of your articles a while ago detailing how you were an ardent KDE user until the release of 4.0, so I figured you might want to give it a shot. It's an LTS release, which also fits your other criterion (and KDE 3.5 runs a lot better on older machines than KDE 4, so that's better too), and I've themed it to look a bit more modern than standard KDE 3.5. I used Remastersys to do this, and it works like a charm (the installer is the standard Ubiquity installer, though I do not know for sure whether the installer works 100%); plus, the respin comes with Remastersys so you can make additional modifications and make a further remaster of it if you want. I have it hosted on SourceForge (, so please do check it out and tell me what you think when you have the time. Thanks!
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Unknown said...

I'll take a look at it. Problem is, we use background-checked volunteers to do many of the installs when it gets busy and we've unified behind Gnome just for logistical purposes. If Tom installs a system for one of our kids and Jerry has to go back to do a trouble shooting session, it's just easier for everyone concerned to be working from the same DE.

I actually run a version of Trinity on another partition. Those guys do great work.


twitter said...

Have you thought about starting a Free Geek?

Unknown said...

Even with missing & broken parts laptops have value. Sell them on Ebay to fund fixing the others.

internet marketing said...

Very interesting post, lots of good information. Thanks