Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 216

An Anonymous Coward writes "Out in Oakland, CA a group is taking donated PC's and breathing new life into them with Linux. They turn around and donate the computers to schools, build POVRAY render farms (with MOSIX) and generally promote Linux."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Comments Filter:
  • Cool program (Score:2, Informative)

    by NoahsMyBro ( 569357 )
    That's a pretty neat program - reuses the old tech, trains the unskilled volunteers in an up-and-coming technology (Linux), AND produces more Linux-skilled workers, increasing Linux's mindshare.

    Sounds good to me.
    • "ACCRC is a self-sustaining, self-funded organization that trains unemployed, unskilled volunteer workers how to build and maintain Linux computers"

      Why does that scare me? A non-profit training organization that takes the unemployed (lots of people are unemployed, this isn't the scary part) and unskilled people in the art of system administration? Damn. How about unemployed and skilled volunteers? There has to be more too this, otherwise I don't see how the program could churn out admins ready to work in a production enterprise environment. We've got enough junior hacks in the industry who think they know how to run Linux properly... "Hey! I know Lunix, hire me to run yer servors and computors, I am Linuxconf Certified"... *shudder*

      Maybe its a <sarcasm>cleverly hidden school for 31337 hAx0rs who will run a flotilla of platforms useful for waves of DDoS attacks</sarcasm>

  • But... (Score:1, Troll)

    by adam613 ( 449819 )
    This is probably illegal [] if any of the donated computers had Windoze.
    • That's assuming we believed any of that FUD.

      Maybe we should start buying the Wal-Mart OS-free machines. I'd love to see Microsoft try to take Wal-Mart on over that.

    • Re:But... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Hyperfrog ( 575345 )
      What an absolute crock of shit []!
      Warn customers that acquiring the PC "naked" exposes them to the possibility of unwittingly purchasing pirated software. Explain the risks: technical troubles, upgrade problems, viruses and the law. Politely decline to expose your buyers or their businesses to such troubles.
      1: Warn customers - Yes, do warn them about buying into a monopoly.
      2: "Naked" - So? You need an OS.. it's your business what you do with the hardware you purchased.
      3: "exposes them to the possibility of unwittingly purchasing pirated software": Which has more pirates... those for linux or windows?
      4: Technical troubles: I'm not even going to comment, after all this is MICROSOFT saying this.
      5: Upgrade problems *cough* *splutter*
      6: Viruses. I really can't believe microsoft, #1 willing (outlook?) distributer of viruses is saying this
      7: ..and the law (says the company who calls down the law upon its customers and who's EULA is unreadable by anyone but a barister)
      8: I'll translate the last bit: Tell them to buy windows or we'll stop supplying you.

      Three cheers to this group and their efforts to promote Linux. I hope they convert many people to the Power that is Linux. This article has impressed me so much that I'm going to donate towards this scheme: It's a hell of a lot better than paying the annual M$ tax. Cheer's to an organisation that is 100% Microsoft Free []

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:52AM (#3408282) Homepage
      In a word, bullshit.

      If I take a computer I own, format the hard drive with an electromagnet, and donate it to a public school with a free copy of a Linux distro, what the screaming Hell(tm) does it matter that it once had Windows on it?

      1) I am not giving them Windows. I am giving them the hardware.
      2) I am not encouraging them to steal a copy of Windows in any way, shape or form.
      3) Microsoft does not own the computer. They never did. It was my computer, therefore it's entirely my choice what to do with it.

    • by Guido69 ( 513067 )
      Q&A #1 from MS's donated computer FUD...

      "Q. Why should a donor include the operating system with their PC donation?"

      "A. It is a legal requirement that pre-installed operating systems remain with a machine for the life of the machine. If a company or individual donates a machine to your school, it must be donated with the operating system that was installed on the PC."

      Bullshit! This is just MS FUD twisting the language of their EULA, which they assert is a legal document. True, per the EULA, you cannot move an OEM license to another PC. But that has nothing to do with any legal requirement that the license must transfer with the PC.
      • Define a "machine". I've got an official copy of Windows 95 that I originally had on a 486DX4-100. I upgraded it to a P233, changing the case while I was at it. The only thing that remained of the original was the hard drives and monitor. I then donated it to a school when I upgraded further. I paid for Windows, I'm keeping it. The school didn't want it, they already had loads of copies. They just wanted hardware. Having a finely tuned Win95 installation (oxymoron I know) was icing on the cake for them. Did I break this "legal requirement"? No. It was mine to do what I liked with and fsck off M$ if they think differently.
        • In the past the company I work for discussed that point with Microsoft who told them that the case was the definitive point that could not change. So all upgrades had to keep the same case. Everything else could change, but unless we wanted to buy a new license, the case had to remain.
        • Windows almost certainly defines 'machine' differently then most people considering how little you can change on a box running XP before it thinks that you're "stealing" from the Evil Overlords in the Lands of Redmond (where the darkness lies).

          Not that the majority of regular /. readers consider anything M$ likes to be of major concern.

    • This is just a typical example of Microsoft being intentionally misleading. What the *law* says is that you can't donate your PC to the school with Windows on it and keep a copy of operating system for installation on another PC. Of course, in practice this is largely irrelevant, as Microsoft's agreements with computer manufacturers make it nearly impossible to buy a PC without Windows, so who would want an extra copy of an obsolete version? But Microsoft manages to explain this in such a way as to give the false impression that you (or the school) cannot simply erase Windows, destroy the license and the Windows disks, and install LINUX.
      • Oh wait, I want M$ to try and fine someone for this, that way the potential donor can bring a harrassment suit and fraud case against them.

        Hey, M$, look over here, I'm giving a computer away... please come and try something.

    • This is probably illegal if any of the donated computers had Windoze.
      Only if you believe Bill's FUD.

  • Impressive (Score:2, Funny)

    by agm ( 467017 )
    It takes a fair bit to impress me, but this article does. "ACCRC is a self-sustaining, self-funded organization that trains unemployed, unskilled volunteer workers how to build and maintain Linux computers" They must get their money from somewhere to be able to afford a 38,000 square foot complex. Good on them.
    • The question that pops into my mind is:
      Are there any other operations like this around (and if not, why not), and where do I go to voulenteer?

  • 850 MHz (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrBlack ( 104657 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:20AM (#3408168)
    Linux cluster is 30 Athlon 850MHz PCs and up to 350 recently refurbished PCs that are Pentium 166 or better
    I sure hope the 850 MHz Athlons weren't donated by anyone....until this week my main home machine has been an PII 300. If the Athlons were rescued from landfill that makes me feel _really_ inadequate.
    • by MrBlack ( 104657 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:23AM (#3408182)
      as does my inability to close italics properly :)
    • I think one of the greatest benefits of this program will be to get Linux into schools - showing a whole generation that there are alternatives to M$.
      • ...are alternatives to M$.

        Yeah there is Apple. All my schools from KG to grade 10 used Apples with System5/6/7.

        I think unless you put a flashy gui on Linux no 6 yr old is going to want to use it. If anything it will push kids away from computers.

        If you are going to put a flashy pretty gui on Linux you might as well use MacOS [or winXP] anyways!

        The only benefit to Linux for schools is that it is free. However, being free and shitty is not a good selling point.

        • Oh, that's great thinking. Teach the kids to use systems that are practically useless because "it's easier". Lets make sure we don't move into Algebra or Trig later because that might take some effort. So what if it will benefit them, it might be hard.

          Requiring effort, and being shitty, are two VERY different things. Having a knowledge of multiple diverse operating environments is a GOOD thing.

          P.S. Schools teach more than just 6 year olds...
  • by DeadSea ( 69598 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:21AM (#3408172) Homepage Journal
    Here is a link directly to the The Alameda County Computer Resource Center [] who are the folks that are doing the recycling. From their website, they charge $5 to take most computers. Their website has some broken links on the front page. You can probably figure out how to get to their donate page [], but the link there is broken. It looks like you would have to bring the computer in to them, they don't have an address posted where you can mail it. (Too bad for us slashdot folks who aren't in CA).

    There site navigation is totally borked so here are all the links on the site I could find:
    Home []
    About []
    Donations []
    Internships []
    Press []

  • by Gibbys Box of Trix ( 176568 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:23AM (#3408185) Journal
    I thought this sounded familiar... seems there are many groups working in this worthwhile way. Google directory [] links a few here.

    If you don't live in the Oakland area there may be a group near you who you can either volunteer to help, or donate those old PCs gathering dust in the attic.

    If you can't find anyone near you, why not go it alone? I installed Linux on an old box and gave it to the neighbours kid, with a bashed up old 15" monitor from the local tip.
  • OH GOD NO! (Score:4, Funny)

    by GutBomb ( 541585 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:26AM (#3408196) Homepage
    Incidentally, Johnathan and Alan show that nothing is too old or useless for us. if you have anything strange or odd that you don't know what to do with. Give it to us.

    I hope my wife doesn't see this site. she will try to donate my he-man figures.
  • by Saint Aardvark ( 159009 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:27AM (#3408198) Homepage Journal
    Kudos to everyone involved. But hey:

    "We recently turned down donations of an aircraft carrier and a 727", says executive director James Burgett. "But we are ready to handle a 727 the next time one is offered."

    C'mon, guys...we were this close to having the Linux Air Force!

    "Roger, Blue Leader, this is Blue 6...I'm taking another pass at Redmond." "Stay on target, Blue 6, stay on target..."

  • by kipple ( 244681 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:27AM (#3408202) Journal
    before I had to go back to italy to serve the army. It was an excellent opportunity to learn, I was taking care with other people of the beowulf cluster - and the rendering speed was impressing, around 12 seconds to render the 'famous' pvm x-vase when the cluster was around 60 nodes.
    the interesting part was that there were little optimization on the network and on the linux - it was a standard redhat 6.2 kernel, and the computers were just put on a shelf, connected, booted with a floppy that got the image from the network and self-installed the machine, rebooted, and you had a node ready for rendering.

    on the other hand, the people working there were the most easy-going and honest I've seen so far - there were no hypocricy going on, and basically there was a place for anyone in it - still without too much trouble.

    just wanted to share that with you guys, in case you wondered if such a non profit company was really working - it is. definitively.

    anyone wanting to start something like that in norther italy? :)

  • Linux and Schools (Score:5, Informative)

    by kvn299 ( 472563 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:28AM (#3408205)
    As a former educator who worked in a "resource-challenged" school district, I applaud these types of programs. Unfortunately, often schools like the one I worked in would get money thrown at us for certain tech projects, but since there was often no follow-through or training, the money was pretty much wasted, or used for other purposes deemed more important by the school administrators.

    It seems this organization not only refurbishes the computer, but also trains people to do it as well. If Linux is ever to get a foothold in schools, it will take a lot more effort than just donating X number of computers with Linux preinstalled. The community will have to invest time in making sure those computers are filling the need and that people on site are trained and commmitted to maintaining them.

    Linux and public schools seem like a match made in heaven. Even though Microsoft gives a lot of lipservice (and money, you do have to give them some credit) to supporting schools, it still doesn't make sense to spend that kind of money on Windows licenses. One could make the argument that exposing students to an alternative like Linux will improve their technology skills (they're still gonna get the Windows exposure, no matter what's used in the schools).

    Just my 2cents.
  • Toronto... (Score:3, Informative)

    by swagr ( 244747 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:37AM (#3408235) Homepage
    We do that
    here [] and
    here [].
    • Except that according to the BIG GIANT NOTICE on top of the [] website they are closed. And the website is frozen as of March 2000.
    • Re:Toronto... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tim Doran ( 910 )
      Y'know, I've tried three times over the last few years to contact ReBoot to donate my considerable PC skills. Never any response. Voicemail, email... nada.

      What does it take? It's shit like this that holds volunteer organizations back.
    • We did that too:
      Oh wait, that site doesn't exist anymore. Now I remember. We set up a bunch of computers by holding two night a week classes and training the kids and the parents together how to build machines from scratch (not literally, but from donated parts) and how to install and run Linux (RedHat 6.2 in this case) as well as how to use the Internet, type, etc. Built a fairly decent lab in the basement of their apartment building in FoxHill NJ. Then we ran into problems...

      You see, these machines cost money to run, and the dsl line cost money too. While old computers are fairly easy to find, money is not and these folks didn't have any of it. That and more fundamental problems like trying not to get shot or beaten by cops occupied a lot of their time. So, when we volunteers could no longer afford to come down there all the time, the site disappeared.

      The problems with these types of operations are the same problems that many groups from the Peace Corps on down have faced for years: maintenance. Until the kids/adults/whoever is being trained on these machines are able to make enough money themelves through the use of the machines to keep them running, they going to eventually fall by the wayside.
  • Just curious, but what the heck do they update it with? I tried "reviving" an old pentium 133 with 32 meg ram....every installer I tried complained that there wasnt enough ram, and that they require a minimum of 64megs. Although...i did not try slackware which might be what I need. hmm.... okay I think I answered my own question, so thanks! =)
    • I had exactly the same problem - newer distributions of Linux seem to expect more out of the hardware, so the installations work, but are extremely slow, or they don't work at all. Not to mention the winmodem problem - if you have an old computer, you probably need an older external modem as well.
    • I just installed Slackware on a Pentium 75Mhz with 32 MB RAM. No problems. In the past I had Red Hat running on that box as well. My advice: Install in text mode, and while you can install the KDE/Gnome libraries, if you *must* use a GUI desktop, use something like Blackbox, AfterStep, Icewm, whatever, just so long as it's lightweight. That box makes a great NFS/SSH/FTP server, BTW...
  • by anshil ( 302405 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:39AM (#3408241) Homepage
    I don't like that taste, yes linux is far more efficient with resources than win2k or xp. However only making it public by allowing it to run on lame machines also makes a bad reputation.

    One day one student will say, "all linux boxes I worked on were lame-ass". Because they runned on some old Pentium 166, while the windoze of course just had to have the new 1.5 GHz processors, with 40x cdrom speed.

    I remember a friend telling me that installing his linux told so much longer than the winxp. Of course! He installed linux on an old PC with a quad 4x speed cdrom, but winXP on one with a 32x cdrom. Now who wonders....

    Same with people "trying" linux they give it a 512MB partition on the harddisk and nearly no swap drive, while windows is allowed to take the other 20GB. Now who wonders why you have that less hard disk space available on linux... (or just run it in some linux emulator at all)
    • Yes, Linux is far more efficient.. to the point where running it on a 'lame' computer is better than windows. My P166 over there in the corner has FreeBSD (4.5!) and Staroffice and it sure as hell runs a lot better than if it had windows 95 or 98 on it.

      How about you take out the HDD one day, swap it with a blank one, and get him to run windows.. from installation to using it with office. Better leave a whole day for this activity though, cause you're going to need it.

    • However only making it public by allowing it to run on lame machines also makes a bad reputation.

      I uderstand your sentiments, but I'm starting not to care about what the Lexus-crowd thinks about Linux and free software.

      Here's an amusing story:
      We do competitive bids on services/projects, and one of our prospects decided to do some due diligence on one of our bids that contained OpenBSD. [] We'll he wasen't amused with the funny-looking pufferfish. Microsoft doesen't have pufferfish.

      With a little education, I was able to show him that the funny little pufferfish, doesen't BSOD, and doesen't have hardly any security holes.

      He now has the set of OpenBSD 2.9 stickers that you get when you order CDs from Theo et al.

      Just give a little bit of education and thinks will work out fine. If not, then screw them. Laugh when they get rooted, send their money to bill, and put up with BSOD's.

    • I don't like that taste, yes linux is far more efficient with resources than win2k or xp. However only making it public by allowing it to run on lame machines also makes a bad reputation.


      You just contradicted yourself. "Far more efficient with resources" means that Linux (or any other *nix for that matter) doesn't NEED as much in the way of resources on those same "lame" machines to run rings around Redmond. You say the INSTALL took longer: I wonder how well the OS itself ran overall AFTER install? And how much more robust it was than anything Billy-boy and his gang ever turned out?

      No machine is "lame" in my eyes if it lets someone discover that the Way of Bill is not the only option, and teaches something about networking and such along the way. Criminys, my NIS server is a MicroVAX (NetBSD based) that I saved from the local landfill! How "lame" is it to cut back on filling said landfill? Or any other for that matter?

      No "bad reputation" here. If anything, just the opposite. Think about it: If Linux runs as well as it does on these older, slower systems, that should definitely make people wonder how much quicker it might be on a much newer box.

  • This article was on linuxjournal yesterday.. and now it's up at /. ???

    Boy.. talk about slow newsgaring...

    For what it's worth, the centre is running on volunteers. If you happen to live nearby why not go and help a hand... i would like to know what their "bussiness model" is. Here in the Netherlands we do not have something similar while we really could use one.. Perhaps something to start up here as well...

  • is that the schools will be charged by microsoft for the computers because they are capable of running windows.

    Oh well.
    • Um, how? Like Microsoft is going to send someone to every school to count the number of computers? And it's not like the computers are running Windows...

      It would be like a health inspector fining a restaurant for having eggs kept too warm when the restaurant doesn't even have eggs.

      Inspector: "That's a $200 fine. That area of the kitchen is too warm to store eggs in."

      Restaraunt Manager: "But we don't store eggs there. In fact, there isn't an egg in the entire restaurant!"

      I: "Doesn't matter. You could store eggs there, and that's all that counts."


      • Unfortunately, this appears to be exactly what Microsoft is doing []. Here's the article summary:

        from the must-eat-more-money dept.
        razvedchik writes: "As reported in this article [] in the Portland, OR newspaper, The Oregonian, Microsoft is pressuring 24 school districts in the northwest to agree to their Microsoft School Agreement licensing scheme or undergo an audit in 60 days. Multnomah ESD [], which covers the greater Portland area and has around 25,000 computers, has to either decide to accept the license at about $500,000 or undergo the audit which it does not have time to prepare for. Of significant interest is the fact that a significant majority of these schools are experimenting with using Linux. Multnomah ESD has its own thin-client Linux distro called K12LTSP []."

        • Refuse to allow Microsoft employees to enter until and unless they show cause to a judge that there might be a violation. Or arrest them for trespassing. Microsoft does not have the right to enter property just because you have a copy of Windows on your computers.

          Hell(tm), schools are usually incredibly restrictive about allowing people onto the grounds who normally do not have a right or obligation to be there. Claim security issues.

  • When Linus built the kernel it was so he could run it on a 386. Now that ability of running on old, available, otherwise defunct hardware is going to make Linux permeate the world.

    Total world domination is just around the corner :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:59AM (#3408315)
    You hook up 10 486dx2's to make a povray render farm. It consumes 10 times as much power to do the same job as a modern intel chip. Not only did you waste your time, energy, and networking hardware; you just contributed to the fact that you local nuclear or coal power plant has to chug that extra electricity,
    just to help you "reduce, reuse, and recycle".

    Does that make any sense?
    • They aren't using 486DX2's - they are using Athlon 850's and P166's or better.

      And when children are in school learning how to use a computer, any computer beats no computer.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You are right that old hardware for a POV render farm is a poor environemental decision. However, a classroom full of 486dx2's will chug less 'lectricity than a room full of 2.2GHz P4's.
    • if only it where so cut and dry, eh?
      thats 10 computers not in a land fill, 10 computers not seeping toxic chemicals into the ground water, its teaching someone how to do a cluster, its teaching people that they can use old equipment to get the same power as new.
      That means fewer new computers that need to be made, which mean your saving production energy and production by products.

      I doubt its actually 10 times more power, but you point is certianly a valid concern that should be put in with as many factors as possible. Its also a concern that often gets overlooked.

      It is important to rememer that computer are dreadfully toxic to the enviroment in all phases of their life cycle.

      now if I can only figure out an after market need for monitor glass, I'd have it made.
  • Some time ago I thought about taking older computers from the University and turning them into machines for the unfortunate in my town. The only problem I had was that Windows 95/98 costs money and normal people might not be able to use a Linux box. However, with the features X has nowadays and the idea of maybe giving them to schools instead of (or in addition to) just people/families in the city, I think it could work. Now if I could just get startup money... HAH!
    (this is the correct story for this reply, btw)
  • Beowolf Cluster (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Chayce ( 199487 )
    Can you Imagain a beowolf cluster of... wait they did that...

    Can you imagina a beowolf cluster of 727s?!
  • Computer Angels (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skribe ( 26534 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @09:19AM (#3408435) Homepage
    There's a group in Perth, Western Australia that does something similar. They collect used computer equipment, repair and refurbish it, load linux and assorted applications and then donate it to people in the community who would be otherwise unable to afford a computer. A great idea.

    They're called Computer Angels []


    If you want to see some example of what can be done with Pov-Ray, check out my site at and click on "Portfolios"-"Renderings".

  • ... I tend to recycle my own PCs but what do I do with all these useless CDRs I've coastered over the years?
    • Hey DIY fan!
      Check this [] out.
      It's actually about PET plastic, but should be workable for polyacrylate as well. I've welded them together with solering irons, works great.
      If you want to see a hardcore plan for using CDs, then check this [] one. I aint fucking around when it comes to recycling used CDs, or plastic bottles for that matter.
  • This is so amazing. These guys are doing society so much of good, it pains me to see guys like MSFT ripping people off..

  • So I just loaded up /. for the first time in a while only to see the words "POVRAY render farms"

    My heart swooned joyfully. There is still life in POV-Ray :)

    Please note my name :)
  • Nothing like being a bad neighbor to a group like this.
  • Another site [] looks like they are doing this for even older machines to build Linux routers and firewalls for those who have broadband. Not a bad idea.
  • Free Geek (Score:2, Informative)

    by healy ( 234314 )
    Portland Oregon has a great non-profit that does this sort of thing as well: Free Geek []
  • Recently a family-member donated her old PC to a charity organization. She kept lots of sensitive information on it, including most of her finances. To destroy the data, I formatted the hard-drive, overwrote the hard-drive once with random-data, then reinstalled windows. I wonder if the security experts on here believe this is sufficient for destroying data. And if not, what is sufficient?
    • Thats good for casual protection, I think you're supposed to do the random writing over 25 times nowadays though for the paranoid.

      I've hear other people prefer to drill a hole through the drive.

      Yet others disassemble it, wipe off the oxide and burn the rags and stomp up and down on the remains and put it in a canister of nuclear waste and bury it in a volcano.

      I think mailing it to the sun would suffice.
  • I'm a volunteer at Puscii. Puscii is a internet workspace where people can use the internet for free.
    this helps people who can't afford a computer very well.
    Puscii is built out of old hardware like 486's, slow pentiums, sparcstations, old alpha's and even an ultrasparc. all machines run linux
    people are very content with the service we provide.
    the only thing which costs money is the coffee (30 eurocents)
    for more info, please visit the website

    have a nice day

    • Don't you feel horrible exposing all these people who previously didn't have to deal with the intense RF radiation of a computer and monitor to debilitating RF radiation?

  • Judging from the fact that we heard about Microsoft's freshly updated guidelines for accepting computers donated to schools (most memorable line: "must include the original operating system"), like, a week before hearing about an actual program that donates computers to school with linux installed and provides support...
  • I love this quote from the website:

    Sometimes we get bad components.
    We see to it that they are recycled and not filling up our landfills.
    Sometimes we break them first.
    Why? Because we can.
  • What about old monitors? It's too bad there isn't a good solution for getting rid of those. I remember that we actually had to pay something like $90 to get rid of a dozen. For all I know, they probably just ended up in the landfill.
  • They turn around and donate the computers to schools, build POVRAY render farms (with MOSIX) and generally promote Linux.

    I just attended a small presentation about Linux clustering, and the talk about openMOSIX was really interesting. Since we are experimenting with small clusters (6 PCs for now, just to test things out), I went to but found the web site a bit confusing. Anyone can point me good resorces?

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN