Digital Divide: Taking Stock

February 18, 2009

This past Monday we took our first concrete steps towards our first workshop. Six people came together to deal with half a living room of computer parts. We took apart the computers, sorted and labeled the parts, set up a test machine and sneezed a lot thanks to all the dust!

We also took the initiative to do some organizational work, starting with a new email account. You can reach our group at digitaldivide.tlh@gmail.com

We are keeping close tabs on our inventory, so table_of_partswe can also give some of our initial numbers in regards to donations:

  • 8x Power Supplies and cases
  • 16x Sticks of RAM (average of 256MB)
  • 10x Video cards
  • 16x Ethernet/Modem cards
  • 10x Hard Drives (average of 40GB)
  • 9x Motherboards (7x with processors)

With our initial goal of 5 computers for 5 children we have way more than enough parts to build them suitable machines! We will be having another meeting next week to test parts and prepare for our event on the 28th!

boxen

A big thanks to Rob, Nathan, Ana, Michelle and Raymond for coming out and working hard! I know a few people could not make it because of class so we look forward to seeing you guys next week!

For those that don’t know, the term Digital Divide describes the gap in skills between those with access to computers and digital technology and those without. I propose a way to build a bridge. The great thing about computers for the last decade is that they are mostly modular and they keep getting cheaper. Computers have gotten so cheap that there are completely usable machines out there that you just can’t sell because they are over 2 years old.

That’s where we come in. I personally have 2 desktop towers and a laptop that I don’t use because they are much slower than the computer I do use. They just sit in my closet collecting dust, even though all the parts work, and they would be perfectly suitable for a large amount of common computing tasks such as web browsing, emailing and word processing. All they really need is a sponge bath, a fresh install of a light-weight linux operating system and a little bit of loving and they would be ready for a new home. I know I am not the only one with computers like this, and even more so, many people have older windows computers that they think are broken because of all the spyware and viruses, but will be good as new after a cleansing format and fresh install of linux. For those computers that are really broken, there is a good chance that only one or two essential components are unusable, but the rest of the pieces are in perfect working order. From these we can create frankenstien machines that are stronger, better, faster… (queue your choice of daft punk or kanye west)

And this is where the real fun comes in. I’m not just talking about assembling a couple nerds like myself to process and distribute these computers, but starting a workshop for the very kids at the bottom of the digital divide. For those of us who grew up upgrading our video card for the latest video game, and putting in more RAM or installing that internal burner so we could share our pirated music, pulling apart and putting together a computer is no sweat. That means we should have no problem showing a few kids how to do the same. Then we give them an Ubuntu live cd and watch as they learn.

I know personally several people with the technical skills and the heart to support this effort, in the beginning we need not be too ambitious. As long as we can put a few keyboards infront of the hands of a few kids who wouldn’t have had the chance, we will have made a difference. I think there are several places this could take place, either at a local community center, or even on Campus. If we find ourselves getting more donations, we should be able to recruit more volunteers from the IT department at FSU. If we can start a sort of organization, perhaps we could raise a few funds from technology companies like Comcast that we could use to shop at the FSU Surplus Auctions for spare parts and extra monitors. We can also take this opportunity to responsibly recycle waste materials, which is not hard to do, but most people don’t know how.

So if you have an old or broken computer, let me know. If you want to help put together computers and teach some kids at the same time, let me know. If you want to help tweak a custom linux distribution and pack it with fun and educational software, let me know. If there is anything I didn’t think of, let me know!

Even if we are just throwing a few rocks into the river, lets start building this bridge!

new year new semester

January 3, 2007

Next week starts Spring ’07. Had I stuck with the four year plan it should have been my last semester. Thank god that’s not the plan. It looks like I’ll probably be here for 4 more semesters, including this one. This could be one semester shorter depending on what happens with higher level math classes, but its still plenty of time.

This coming semester should be my most exciting academically so far. I am taking Discrete Math 2, Optimization, and Linear Algebra. Each of these classes interests me because they are all very important for computing. Hopefuly through them I will get used to the formalistic terminology and way of thinking that will allow me to understand the interesting higher level concepts and projects out there.

I’m also taking Business Chinese and Chinese Calligraphy, two classes which should help me continue to improve my Chinese, especially with respect to writing.

Another nice thing about the semester is that my classes are well timed and I have a relatively good work schedule. There is definately some progress going on at work. For one David and I got new computers that we loaded with Ubuntu. God damn it rocks my socks, I’ll never look back on windows.

Speaking of other new things I bought a complete new skateboard, its been years since I did that, always upgrading. Now my old board can be used for people to play with, but its not in good enough condition for serious usage.

And of course a very important newness is being single. I lost a great girl, and now its time to move on. At least I’ll have more time to focus on progressive longevity, creating and producing, and figuring myself out. No emoness here 😛

Yep, 07 should be good.  Lets just hope I can put the smokes down.