[sf-lug] christian, need another computer?

Christian Einfeldt einfeldt at gmail.com
Wed Jun 11 16:43:35 PDT 2008


Ron, this is a really nice offer, but I need to give you a long answer,
unfortunately.  Please bear with me.

On Wed, Jun 11, 2008 at 3:57 PM, ron <rondosxx at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Christian, I'm cleaning house and have a P3 450 MHz tower computer to
> decide what to do with.

I would say that ACCRC.org is your best bet for that box.  I really
appreciate your offer, though!!  But I have found that our students want to
be able to do stuff with video, and I have not had a lot of success with
getting video to run well on a 450 mhz processor, at least not to the
standards that these kids expect.

How big are the monitors?  We need at least 17" monitors, working monitors
only, please!

I am a big believer in adopting a long term goal of teaching kids the
advantage of light-weight distros running on older boxes such as a P3 with
decent RAM.  But the problem is that this school is so very focused on
teaching kids to the California testing standards that they really don't
allow much to get in the way of that effort.  Computers are used for very
limited, specific tasks such as email or simple Internet browsing.  The 15
Mac notebooks in the school are used for creating music and multi-media
presentations, and _that_ is what we are really competing with.

The kids get on those dawgone Macs and they are wowed.  After that,
everything else is yesterday's news.  The kids do appreciate being able to
have their own computers, which they can do _only_ in the Edubuntu lab.
Fortunately, the Macs are so expensive that there is a limited number of
them, and they will certainly start to fail soon.  As those Macs fail, I
want to be there with our LUG's FOSS solutions  to show them that FOSS has
solutions for them, too.

The fundamental advantage that FOSS has over solutions from Microsoft and
Apple is 1) freedom; and 2) cost.  The kids are not tracking the freedom
advantage.  They don't get it.  From their perspective, they just want to
get on a computer that will let them do what they want to do.  Currently,
the Edubuntu lab does not deliver video or audio the way that dawgone
collection of Macs does.

The good news is that the teachers now really rely on the Edubuntu lab for
getting an entire class in front of the Internet at the same time.  The bad
news is that in the minds of the teachers and the students, there is still a
performance deficit by the Edubuntu lab at the school.

My other limitation is that I don't have that much time to configure boxes.
I am very lucky in that James Burgett of the ACCRC has given this school
some good boxes, and he has supported the school with the March 1
installfest (along with Untangle.com, and thank you very much to Robert
Scott and Andrew Fife and the other Untanglers who have helped us).

Unfortunately, I believe that in order for us to stay relevant in the eyes
of these kids and the teachers, we will need to deliver audio and video to
them.  The teachers would probably continue to use the Edubuntu lab for
another year without audio or video, but you can bet that the teachers will
be looking for other solutions, and then, one day, I will show up at the
school (as I do every day, twice a day) and I will find out from some
teacher that there are plans to dedicate the space that the Edubuntu lab now
occupies with some type of Mac lab, or, even worse, a Microsoft lab.  Thanks
to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, you can bet that Microsoft is going
to leverage the tax advantages and the funding advantages that it has
through the BMGF to get Microsoft solutions embedded into schools like

I have actually had stuff like this happen to me.  One day, I came to the
school, and the science teacher (who is a big supporter of FOSS, to the
extent that he has time to think after working 12 hour days) tells me that
he is going to use a Microsoft-based solution (called Booksmart) to help the
kids prepare a photobook that they school can purchase with some funding
that he has dug up from Donors Choose or some similar funding entity.  I sat
him down with Lulu.com, which works with a Firefox browser, and therefore
works in Linux, and he didn't dismiss it right away, but after sitting down
with the various options, he chose Booksmart.  Why?  because there were more
templates for more varied page lay out, and more fancy little decorations
with which to frame the pictures!!!!  Am I making myself very clear here?
Just in case I have not made myself clear, let me state it in no uncertain

These teachers don't care about freedom.  Not one bit.

They want buzz and glitz and glamor.  And so do the kids.

I have talked with the teachers ad nauseum about how FOSS is really about
civil rights and an open Internet and open formats and really owning your
computing space and not being a cyberserf, and their eyes just glaze over to
the point where they have made it very clear to me with facial expressions
and body language that they do NOT want to hear it any more.  These people
will sell their freedom for window decorations.

After four years of supporting this school, I am firmly convinced that the
one and only, sole and singular reason that we are still there offering FOSS
solutions is because of cost.  Plus the fact that we had the good fortune to
have had an administrator there, a business manager who is now dating
someone working for Eric Allman, to make a really sound business case for
FOSS.  This woman, whose initials are CA (I'll call her Cathy Anderson, not
her real name) was trusted by the school because she was good at delivering
cash to the school in terms of fundraising.  In fact, it was this woman who
delivered the money which purchased the Edubuntu server and the media boxes
in the Edubuntu lab:


Sadly, the principal was forced to cut the funding for her fundraiser's
position!!!  The primary reason for that decision was that the school joined
a fundraising consortium of similar schools, and each of the principals
agreed that all fundraising would be done through that consortium only, so
as to minimize competition among the various schools for funding.

And now the principal must cut 10% out of her budget for next year, due to
Schwartzenegger's budget.

So I'm hoping that the picture that is emerging here is that we are dealing
with a school system (Calfiornia) that undervalues kids.  Period.  Let them
get low end service jobs, because kids in wealthy school districts will be
funding by the wealthy tax base in that school district, and too bad for
kids in urban centers like San Francisco.  The problems that we are facing
in keeping FOSS in front of these kids is deep, indeed.

I can say quite confidently that without the simply amazing support that the
school has gotten from this list and from James Burgett of ACCRC.org and
Untangle.com, we would not have been able to be at this school for four
years running.

> If you can use it at the school or know a student who'd like it, it's
> available. It needs a hard drive. I also have the two monitors donated by
> Mark Z. over in Concord to get to you. thx, Ron Wellman

Monitors, yes, that would be good.  James Burgett actually gets paid to
process monitors, and so any monitors that we get from him reduce his
budget, which is not something that we like to do.  We have given out a
number of boxes to kids, and of course, they had to have monitors, too, and
so we have burned through 75 monitors over the course of the last four
years.  We now have only about 8 or so back up monitors that we use for
events such as the St. Anthony's event (video here):


How can we get the monitors to the school, which is at the corner of Geary
and Scott?

Thanks Ron!

Christian Einfeldt,
Producer, The Digital Tipping Point
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