Old Hardware Gets New Lease of Life with Ubuntu

Some sort of software CPR held by open-source software enthusiasts

Open-source fans worldwide have made a habit out of holding "install-fests", the equivalent of a practical training, where non-technicians get to know the benefits of using Linux and other open-source applications on computers.

A San Francisco non-profit foundation went a little further with the install-fest idea and joined swords with Untangle, a San Mateo-based open-source vendor in order to co-sponsor an all-day "Installfest for Schools" event. The new approach to install-fests targets 500 refurbished computers with older hardware that will be donated to underpriviledged students attending the nearby schools.

The 500 computers are outdated systems that have been donated mostly by businesses in the Bay Area, and have been the object of the install-fest. The computers have been distributed to four locations, where Linux fans installed the Ubuntu Linux 7.10 distribution, along with other open-source applications.

"132 million computers were bought in the year 2000 alone. They're all on the verge of being thrown out and none of them can run Windows Vista," said Andrew Fife, Marketing Manager of Untangle. "But older hardware works really well with Linux so recycling is a great way to ensure that kids in all school districts have the same technology access as those in the rich districts."

According to Andrew Fife, product marketing manager at Untangle, the computers will be donated to about nine elementary and high schools in the Bay Area.

"This is a very interesting experiment to see how nontech users who don't have a lot of computing experience can adapt to Ubuntu," Fife said. James Burgett, founder and executive director of nonprofit organization Alameda County Computer Resource Center (ACCRC), claimed that Ubuntu will give a new lease of life to outdated hardware, and put it back on track for schools that need it.

"Throwing away computers that could be used in schools is plain dumb," said Burgett. "Untangle has recognized this and decided to help fight the waste. For this we can only applaud and hope that others learn from their example."

Recycling outdated hardware is also beneficial for the environment, as it won't get disposed of in municipal landfills or trash incinerators. However, an one-day event is complicated business, as the two organizations had some logistics challenges, such as moving hundreds of PCs from various facilities to the four locations.

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