[sf-lug] Attn: Christian Einfeldt, et al. - Expanding the Linux userbase

Hayden Muhl haydenmuhl at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 5 11:30:00 PDT 2009

I've been doing some thinking since last month's BALUG where Christian presented his work putting Linux computers in some underfunded local schools.  I gathered from his presentation that there are two main goals in this project.

1. Make computers available to schools that may not be able to otherwise afford them.
2. Expand the userbase of open source software by introducing it to students in these schools.

It seems that the first goal is being successfully met, so the subject of this email is about how to better meet the second goal.

One of the difficulties mentioned in having more students using Linux at home was tech support.  Supporting a school full of Linux desktops is manageable because evrything is in one central location.  If students start taking computers home and expecting tech support, you now have many multiple locations where you will have to deliver tech support.  This situation is much less manageable.

How do we solve this?  Laptops.

If students have laptops running Linux that they can take home, the logistics of tech support become much simpler.  If something is wrong with their computer, all they have to do is bring the computer in to school for troubleshooting.  Once again, those people providing tech support have one central location to work from.

Of course, this raises a couple questions.

1. Where can we find laptops for these students?
2. How difficult will it be to deal with non-standard laptop hardware?

1.  I've asked around among co-workers and web forums, and one common suggestion is to solicit large companies for donations.  Many companies have a policy to replace a laptop that is two or three years old.  This would take some footwork, but I'm sure we could find local companies willing to part with their old hardware.  IIRC, Partemis has, or is applying for 501(c)(3) status.  If that's the case, tax write-offs for in-kind donations could be used as an incentive to donate.

Some organizations may remove and destroy the hard drives as a security measure, but hard drives are fairly cheap to replace.  Since the idea is that the students will own these laptops, I don't think this it would be prohibitively expensive to expect the students to covers some of these costs.

2.  Honestly, I don't know the answer to this question.  This is something we would need to gauge in determining the feasability of this plan.

So, I'd like to open it up to the mailing list.  Does this seem like a realistic plan?  Are there considerations I've missed?  Any other random thoughts?

- Hayden Muhl


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