Monday, May 20, 2013
A few years back, Christina Collazo asked us if we could put together a community computer center for her non profit. It was to be a 25 seat facility, to be made available to the people in the surrounding area. Christina didn't think she had a chance in a million for such a large center but she figured if she went big, she could at least have a few computers for the project.
Christina was more than amazed when we said that we would put it together.....
All 25 computers.
To this day, the computer center is still open and functioning...available to anyone that needs to use it.
The center was named The Bruno Knaapen Technology Learning Center. It was named after Bruno Knaapen, a selfless and humble man who devoted almost all of his spare time to helping those who wished to learn Linux.
Bruno was the person who first taught me scripting and the ins and outs of Linux. I think of Bruno every time I open a terminal.
So when a local group asked us to help them with a six seat center within their
church, it was like being asked to do something easy...
Easy is not having to carry 23 inch CRT monitors in +90 degree heat.
And since the center will be open to people in the area that have a need to use a computer, we of course agreed.
Rudy Chuckran, a fantastic volunteer for Reglue, met me at the shop in Taylor 30 minutes before the project start time. We loaded all of the equipment into the Explorer and made the six minute drive to the Oasis Church.
In comparison, it was a fairly easy install. The center is powered by the Edubuntu or Zorin Educational releases. Both are great systems and the included software can aid students from kindergarten to post secondary education. These choices are temporary until the release of SolusOS 2.0. Ikey Doherty and Justin Krehel are getting ready to release their first beta soon, and from that will come the Reglue.org respin...a special release of SolusOS that is tailored to meet the needs of our Reglue kids. Oh, and the name for that release...?
Quantum of Solus.
Yeah, I know.....but it works for us.
Raymond and Mary Flores were a great help. Mary is the President of Oasis Church and Raymond is the Director there. They did a lot of the grunt work in getting an access point strung out where it would aid the center's wireless signal. They also made sure all the desks were in place and ready to do when we walked in with the equipment. Raymond, Mary, Rudy and myself get a group shot of those who helped with the install.
But most conspicuously missing is John Matthews. John will be taking over the HeliOS bi-weekly classes, held for adults who have few if any computer skills. While I am recovering from cancer treatments, both my voice and my hearing are collateral damage from the treatments. Since I cannot speak to teach and our main instructor, David Ashley has to come in from Austin to teach...John stepping up to take over the classroom was indeed welcome. John is heavily involved with the Taylor Community, both within the Taylor Independent School district and as a citizen of Taylor.
Technically, everything went off smoothly. Had it not been for Mark Van Kingsley, setting up the network for this center would have been pretty rough. Mark purchased and shipped us the USB wireless adapters we needed to connect these computers. Our funding is at an all-time low, so even the cost of a few wireless adapters was impossible for us to come up with. Mark is not only a contributor to Reglue, he is a personal friend and I want to thank him publicly for his help.
This week promises to be busy. With three installs and 30 slimline dual core Dells to pick up, we won't be setting around doing nothing. Add several meetings with City Fathers and an air conditioning repair at the shop...well, there's little time to waste.
And you know who you are.....
Thank you for helping us do what we do.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 2:32 PM
Monday, May 13, 2013
And comforting....like a warm blanket being tucked around you on a cold winter night.
I am sitting behind my desk at the Reglue shop, taking care of some administrative stuff, getting some bills paid...just the normal day-to-day things that many of us do in our daily work life.
Out of nowhere came this crescendo of peace...a wave of harmony that can only be profoundly experienced in a few ways. I felt it each time I held my newborn children for the first time. I felt it when the pilot finally announced that we were no longer in the vicinity of enemy air space.....
and I felt it today.
I didn't recognize the source at first. I closed my eyes and enjoyed it for what it was. It didn't take long though. It came to me with a clarity that was surprising.
I am where I am supposed to be and I am doing the things I am supposed to do.
It felt like...like everything was in complete balance and perfectly in tune.
Like when the sun shines on you and it feels good to be alive.
I told you it sounded silly. I suppose it's one of those "You Had To Be There" moments.
So that led me to ponder...to reflect on this quiet revelation. It's administrative work that I've done in one manner or another for most of my adult life. But still, I couldn't think of any reason to feel this sort of emotional caress. The thought came to me instantly.
I can be where I am supposed to be and doing the thing I am supposed to do.
Not where I am supposed to be and doing...where I can be where I am supposed to be...
As in Physically able... as in not restricted by physical constraints. So the conversation between Someone and Myself might be short-lived:
Someone - "So Ken, what do you do for a living?"
Myself - "I do what I am supposed to be doing."
Someone - "That works for me....good luck with that."
I am fully back to work now. After just over a year of cancer treatments and recuperating from those treatments...I didn't know how much I missed doing my job.
No, not my job...that's not right. Telling myself that this is "my calling" sounds pretentious, pompous and arrogant. It's just what I am supposed to be doing.
Of course, when I have experiences with people like Misha Washington and her kids, it starts to make
Misha is the mother of 4 beautiful children. She works a full time job and a part time job to pay the bills and put food on the table. She refuses local, state or federal aid even when it's offered. She passes on that lesson of self-supporting behavior to her kids and practices what she preaches as well.
But like so many people in her position, she makes enough money to pay the rent, the utilities and put food on the table. There is rarely enough money left over to buy much of anything else. I asked Misha, as part of the qualification process, if she knew that she was eligible for different levels of aid. She looked at me without blinking:
"That's for people that need it. Eligible doesn't mean deserving."
The oldest boy is Anthony (pictured above hugging his mom and sister). He is sharp enough to cut your finger on and considers himself the man of the house. Misha was amazed at how well Anthony worked and played on her sister's computer and told Anthony that some day she would buy him one.
Truthfully, she had no idea when "some day" might be.
We heard of Misha and her kids via another family we had given a computer in the same apartment complex. I called her later that day and talked to her a while on the phone, trying to get some idea of their financial situation. A bit of checking was all it took to qualify Misha and her kids for a Reglue computer.
So yeah. I've seen kids as young as Anthony (age 6) be able to use the computer after some teaching, but I wasn't prepared to be jostled out of the way so quickly. Anthony navigated the Zorin gnomenu with confidence and chose to play Tux Math when he found it. His siblings looked on as he skillfully shot down the math problems one by one.
Misha Washington is extremely proud of her son. She is hoping that Anthony will be the first one in her family to attend college. I hope that we may have contributed to that possibility in some small way.
129 families like Misha Washington are scheduled for Reglue visits this year. I've gotten a slow start to 2013 but our goal is to provide 150 Linux-powered computers to these families. As long as I keep feeling as good as I do, I am looking forward to the challenge.
And there will be other challenges as well. Although we've obtained our own non profit status, we are still months away from any possible grant money. Because I was sick for much of the past year, I just wasn't able to do the fund raising we need. It is becoming more difficult daily to find the discretionary kind of funding we need to support ourselves, so we will need to ask the community to help us out through this year. As always your donations are tax deductible and appreciated more than you know. If you prefer a Paypal option, contact me - helios at fixedbylinux dott kommm.
Now for the fun part. I get to give a kid a computer in about 45 minutes and on Wednesday we will install a 6 seat computer lab in an area where few if any people can afford a computer.
I will be doing the things I am supposed to be doing.
Life is good.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 11:53 AM
Sunday, May 05, 2013
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 1:41 PM
Monday, April 22, 2013
Our last distro was an Ubuntu 10.04 respin that housed the educational apps and games that make the reglue respin unique. In that support for that LTS is now gone, we've had to move on to find another long term solution for Reglue.
This wasn't an easy decision to make.
Reglue is challenged in many areas. Besides the financial struggles we face, there just isn't a lot of time to spend adding and removing individual apps and games on each computer. Many days, I am the only one working. When those machines hit my workbench, I need a one-stop solution.
Get it on the bench, get it working, and get it in the Ready Stack. SolusOS is my solution.
Just to give you a peek behind the curtain, there were some in the organization that balked at my choice. Given the recent turmoil in The Linuxsphere, the question was asked pointedly:
Is a small developer choice going to last for us?
It's an honest question.
The recent news that Fuduntu was going to be folding their tent in September took many of us by
Then you go away too. Or find another way to build your product. Quoted from the above-linked source:
So with Gnome 2 in it's death throes and GTK3 being the new standard
SolusOS, seeing the writing on the wall, not only began building their distro with GTK3, they got tired of the upstream battles with Debian and moved to rebuild SolusOS from the ground up, using the PiSi package management system. I am not inferring that the 1.X release was unstable...I'm speaking of the stratosphere that supported it. Not only will it be more stable than the 1.X solutions, it will, in almost every way, behave and appear just like the Gnome 2 desktop many of us still use.
I thought long and hard about this. If I did not know the developer as well as I do, I would say without reservation....
No. We would go with a more mainstream solution.
But, I have come to trust Ikey Doherty. Ikey knows full well how many people are counting on him and Ikey and me have already had this conversation. So yes...I do trust Ikey Doherty to not only deliver a superior, innovative product. I also trust him to be there in the next 5 to 10 years, depending on his health, which at this time is excellent.
Of course, we have looked at other alternatives and while the new SolusOS Reglue respin is in the cooker, we are using Edubuntu. Unity is not my first choice for a DE but it offers the closest solution for us until we get our own respin.
In the mix also are Fedora and OpenSuse. OpenSuse gave us fits with the particular graphics card we put in our computers, the Nvidia Gforce 9800GT. Fedora is a work in progress but eventually, we will drop these distros in favor of the SolusOS effort.
My sincerest thanks to Ikey Doherty and Justin Krehel for their hard work and dedication. And as promised, we will be publishing an introduction to Justin in the next few days. Justin works way too hard to be kept in the background.
We hope to bring him the attention he deserves. He would be much happier working in the background but we at Reglue just aren't going to let that happen.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 1:31 PM
Saturday, April 20, 2013
This has absolutely nothing to do with Linux, Open Source or any other topic we usually cover here. It's just something that I was talking about on G+ and wanted to share with my friends.
I have mentioned before, I was in a rock band (what we called ourselves anyway) during high school and I played keyboards. I had a small Vox Jaguar organ that was built from a Heathkit via radio shack. I was pretty much just a chord player that added some dimension to our sound...never much for solos or the like.
But one guy who I admired for his keyboard skills was Booker T. Jones, better known as Booker T from Booker T and The MG's. Among others, they had a hit in the late 60's...a song from the soundtrack of the movie, Hang 'Em High.
Hang 'Em High not only hit the top 10 charts, the style of play fairly well established the masterful use of The Leslie Horn speaker in rock and roll. Booker T. showed everyone how to deploy the Leslie Horn for the most dramatic outcome possible.
My little band didn't do this song, but I practiced it and practiced it until I had it down, beat for beat. It was just something I wanted to learn and I did.
So fast forward to 1979. I was a young Staff Sergeant stationed in Bamberg Germany and I was on my first tour in Europe. Hanging around the Rec Center on Saturday, I found myself listening to a bunch of guys on stage, practicing but mostly just jamming and getting to know each other's playing styles. But their music wasn't what caught my attention.
It was the Hammond B3 organ sitting unused in the corner. It was hooked into a Kustom 150 amp with twin Leslie Horn speakers. I couldn't help myself. I introduced myself and was soon behind this magnificent cornerstone of rock and roll. I had only dreamed of sitting behind a Hammond B3. but there I was.
To make a long story just a bit more tolerable, we ended up entering a talent contest and our entry was of course, the only song I could play proficiently and actually sound good. We took first place in the local contest and placed second in the USAREUR finals.
It was my moment in the sun....A standing ovation. We brought down the house and for just a few moments in time, I was a keyboard player in a real rock and roll band.
I was such a fraud....it was the only song I knew how to play, but no one ever knew...well, besides my old band buddy Kirk Ellsworth .
Here's the real thing, and the REAL way a Leslie horn should be used....slightly at first and building to a huge crescendo.
If you would like to know what a Leslie Horn is and what it does, here is a good short clip of the Leslie in action. It is usually cased in a speaker housing so you really never see the mechanics of it.
Leslie 122 during Santana - Everybody's Everything
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 8:58 AM
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Anything we do from now on will be too little, too late.
That ship has sailed, it's water under the bridge, however you wish to express it.
Linux, as we know it, is not going to ever become a major player in the Desktop market.
I've made peace with that. Since 2005, I've chewed my lip over how this can change, but the fact is, there are simply too many people not willing to do the things necessary to make it a reality. Whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not...
The absence of A Linux Product that's visible in the consumer market has been our greatest failure. Now, I will be the first one to admit, I never saw this coming. Linux is a player on the desktop, or laptop; as you prefer. It's just not called Linux...
It's called Chromebook. It's called Android.
Pick all the nits you want, argue that it's only the kernel and not the system. The fact remains that Linux has found a place in the consumer market.
it's just not the way many of us would have liked it to come about.
Some will blame the fragmentation of the Linuxsphere. Some will say that too many choices have diluted the product and confused the customer. I'm not going to disagree with that theory. Friend and colleague Dietrich Schmitz argues that point strongly.
So if we are to embrace that particular theory, what is to be done?
Let's fragment it some more.
I'm not being flippant. I mean it and I fully support it. If the damage is already done, as we watch our train picking up speed without us on it, then I will argue:
Fragment away...what's the downside?
The way he thinks it should be done. A pure fresh start from top to bottom, bottom to top.
Doherty isn't some hack that's taken the remastersys ax and chopped up a distro to claim as his own. Ikey is a brilliant distro developer and he's had a nagging, almost compulsive belief that his Linux creation could be better. Constant upstream battles with both Gnome and Debian have brought Ikey to the point where he spends more time patching and shoe-horning than he has in creating.
It's easy PiSi.
Let me turn this over to Ikey Doherty....he makes it abundantly clear about why this change, and why he's doing it now. Ikey knows there is dissension in the ranks, but he believes his vision for what SolusOS can be, is the best of all choices.
Why Pisi and Why Independence?
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 8:25 AM
Thursday, March 28, 2013
52 computers placed in a 14 month period.
There was a time when I did that in 3 months.
But a protracted illness and recovery from the treatment of that illness acted as a boat anchor. Physically, there just wasn't much I could do. For a big part of that period, it was all I could do to get up and go to the bathroom.
Fortunately, that is past and it's time to get back to work. I've been putting in strong half or 3/4 days at the shop. Our installs have picked up and aside from the facility looking like a bomb went off inside...things are looking good.
Recently, we were donated a number of great laptops. Ranging from Dell Latitude D620's to Lenovo T-61's and a slew of later Toshiba Satellites, we can get some serious work done now.
Problem is, a lot of them were donated without adapters or RAM. I have the adapters covered...we had enough money to buy those, but that left us without the means to get the RAM we need.
It ranges from SODIMM PC2 3200 up to DDR2 667's. Ideally, we would like to obtain 2 gig sticks, especially in the PC2 4200 variety, but we can work with 1 gig sticks as well. The majority of laptops we need to put out run on the latter-mentioned RAM.
As well, our trusty shop vac, kindly donated by our good friend Gavin, finally bit the dust...er, so to speak. We are in need of a new one pretty soon. You should see the dust that gets blown out of some of these donated computers.
A lot of people who read this blog are Tech Honchos at their company. So basically, I'm asking if our great supporters can go through their stash and see if they have any of this RAM. We're kind of at a dead end until we can get memory into these computers.
Oh, I do want to give special mention to someone who has helped us greatly through the years. Andy Krell who is the Tech Guru at nFUSION here in Austin has time after time, stepped up to help us when we needed it. Andy has probably done as much or more for us than any one person should. Andy, thanks a bunch buddy. Those T-61's have all found homes, short of one of them and that one will go out this Saturday.
The shop vac isn't a critical thing....I'm a big boy and I can operate a broom and a dustpan, I am licensed for those appliances. Just don't trust me with power tools and no one gets hurt.
If you are in a postion to help us get this Spring Surge started, contact me via email, helios at fixedbylinux dott komm
Again, thanks to everyone who has allowed me to work at my dream job. I don't think I would ever be happy doing anything else.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 12:48 PM
Sunday, March 10, 2013
To say that I coexist with Chrome is more accurate. Two months ago, I absolutely despised Chrome. It was a white-hot hatred that transcended the Mortal Plane. I'm sure such powerful emotions were the trigger to some short bursts of telekinesis around me.
I've been a Firefox user since the beginning. I watched as Netscape was publicly executed by Microsoft years ago, and swore I would never again use IE. Of course, that was only a precursor to my migration to Linux as my one and only OS.
The addons and extensions for Firefox sealed the deal. Suddenly with a flick of my wrist, I could move the browser page forward or back, up or down. I could right click and be presented with a multitude of choices to do stuff. I could change the way Firefox looked, acted and responded.
It was love at first byte.
Fast forward to this year...Just a few months into the Adobe decision that they would discontinue Linux support...
Roughly the same time frame that Oracle took over Java.
Suddenly, My Firefox Browser began to show wobbly legs and a weak back. Flash was crashing every time I tried to take a video to full screen, websites like Pogo.com insisted that I needed an updated version of Java...even though I had the latest release from my repositories...
Even manual installation of the very latest via tar.gz didn't satisfy many of the "requirements" for Java.
And yeah...I'm sure there will be comments..."well, it works fine for me..."
Great, then I guess it doesn't suck to be you.
Help forums that span many of the major distros are full of these particular complaints.
And for seemingly no reason, in the middle of any given task, Firefox just poofed out of existence on my monitor.
"Would you like to send a crash report" it asked?
"Uh, you mean like the four dozen I've already sent today? No thanks."
I installed Chrome like I was writing a eulogy. In comparison, it was much like dancing with a corpse. Stiff and unyielding, rigor that had set in deeply. It insisted that the tabs reside on top of my URL bar....
No option for change.
Some of the cool and nifty addons that were masterpieces in Firefox are akin to a six year old's scrawl in Chrome. Mouse gestures refuse to work as advertised. It refused to give me a dedicated search box like the Google Toolbar and my Gmail checker rarely announced new email in anything approaching a timely fashion.
But...It remained in the back of my mind that as Google goes....
So goes the Internet.
Like it or not, Google is our Internet Overlord. In many cases, they dictate what we see, hear and experience on the Internet. And in the past, they have intervened for the everyday computer user, protesting outrageous controls and censorship. Living a Google-free existence online is like taking a shower with your clothes on. At first, I was fairly disgusted with myself for capitulating so quickly to them. Like a caged animal, I looked feverishly for a way out.
There is no way out. They have their hook in me. My work and personal life lives in Googleland, in email and documents. Our company calendar keeps track of Director's meetings and functions...it keeps me on track regardless of where I am. Important documents are stored there...part of our three tier backup plan.
I have gotten used to what I consider to be an absence of features in Chrome. I waste an entire tab on search results instead of being able to use a search box. The jammed-together tabs and URL bar are an annoyance I live with. I must exert myself greatly to move the cursor to the slide bar to navigate my web pages.....
because it's 2013. We have two rovers on Mars and Cancer is becoming a maintenance disease. Information that was formally available to a given few is now open to anyone with access to a computer and internet. But yet, after all of these accomplishments...
mouse gestures in Chrome still suck.
I'm seeing a world where Google is not only our vehicle to travel the Information Highway...they may or may not be our toll gates as well. I've come to live with that.
Because in the end...what good is a browser if it can't do its job? Eventually, Firefox fails me shortly after a fresh install and I end up installing Chrome anyway. I no longer include Firefox on Reglue computers.
I haven't learned to love Chrome...but only to coexist with it. It's the best option available to me at this time.
And Flash, as evil as it is.....
Still works with Chrome.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 1:38 PM
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Reglue is no different. From picking up and diagnosing donated computers to taking care of vehicles, coordinating volunteers and making sure computers get into the hands that need them, sometimes the little things can slip below the horizon.
Little things like getting some signage for the building.
While HeliOS still operates as the Free Software educational branch of our effort, Reglue now carries the main load. But you wouldn't know it by looking at our building.
Nowhere can you see anything that lets you know that you are at Reglue.
As of last week anyway.
Jeff Walsh is a Senior Technology Security Specialist with AT&T and a Dad to two young boys, Jake - 10 and Ryan - 8. Jeff grew up with a father that taught him the importance of working with his hands. He would spend hours with his dad, learning about the mechanics of electrical work, fixing and painting things, figuring out how things work, and more importantly, why they don't.....
Things that can create a lifetime of security,
Jeff is passing along the same knowledge and work ethic to his boys, knowing that in an uncertain economy, having mechanical and maintenance skills can make you a survivor.
Now in contrast, you have guys like me. I thought a Carpenter was one member of a singing duo. To me, electrical work and AC theory is voodoo, black magic that dwells behind plugin wall sockets.
Tesla wasn't a genius, he was a wizard.
I'm the guy that cuts a board three times just to find out it's still too short. I'm the guy that Googles "Please-come-help-me-fix-the-thing-I-was-trying-to-fix-and-screwed-it-up-so-bad-I'll-pay-you-money-to-fix-it."
Yeah, I'm that guy.
So a while back, Jeff Walsh emailed me and asked if he could be of assistance. Knowing we would need some kind of signage for Reglue, Jeff offered to make the vinyl application for our front door.
One of those little things we tend to put off until the big things are finished.
The big things seemingly are never finished, so the little things just get pushed farther down the list until you forget about them completely.
Jeff asked me to send him graphics and the wording for the door sign and he would send me the finished product when it was done.
And no...Jeff doesn't do this for a living...it's just one of those things he learned to do as a son sitting on the knee of his Dad. To Jeff, making vinyl appliques is just a hobby, to Reglue, it was a couple hundred bucks that we didn't have for a door sign.
Once they arrived, we had the task of getting the vinyl applied. Easy enough, right?
No....remember, I'm that guy. I couldn't apply vinyl lettering and graphics ever...I'm lucky to get the box open without cutting myself.
After waiting three weeks for a guy to come out from Austin and put the sign on the door, I got tired of calls not being returned and approached a local guy. Jayson Ballard has been a volunteer for our program for a couple of years. He told me that his mom had experience doing this sort of work so they came by the next day and between the two of them, they got the job done perfectly.
So yeah...the big things? It feels good to accomplish them, but the little things...the things that snap you wide awake at 2 AM...the little things that fester in your mind like a sore.
It's those little things that are important. But more important are the people that come together to make them happen.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 9:53 AM