People have been sending me some great links which I’ve been consolidating for a “best of inbox” post here today. This is a rainy Vermont weekend coming up which means indoor projects and I’m waiting for the kitchen floor to dry.
The above image is from the Royalton Library up the road from here. I went there on Wednesday after recording the MetaFilter podcast. The librarian had a patron who had gotten a “free” computer (actually two) and needed help setting it up. I went over with Ubuntu CDs and a cheery frame of mind. That outlook soured somewhat when I learned more about the computers. They were given to this family by the VT Department of Children and Families. They were, I think, donated to them. Neither one worked right — one had no operating system (and a possibly broken CD drive) and one froze intermittently. DCF had given these computers to this family, this family already needing a bit of help, as a way of helping them out. All they wound up doing was giving them a project, a somewhat futile project. The mom and daughter were good natured about it, but I felt totally on the spot — if I fixed the computers, the family would have a computer. I took them home to mess with and I’ll probably just replace them with a working computer from my attic. What a pickle.
On to the links I’ve assembled.
That’s the short list for now, I have a few that are begging for more explication which I’ll be getting to shortly.
Doug Lord from the Connecticut State Library passed along a neat little post from the Conntech listserv from the Cheshire Public Library announcing their new Ubuntu computer. Notice how psyched they sound, how easy the install is, how familiar the applications sound. Got some old hardware? Try it yourself.
School Library Journal this month has a test drive of Edubuntu — the Ubuntu distribution that was created for use in classrooms.
When I installed Edubuntu on three different generations of laptops, each with different wireless cards, I was astounded at how easy it was. In every case, the first thing Edubuntu did was sniff the wireless card, install it, and hop right onto the Net. Plus, every display was configured and sized just right, every touch pad and sound card functioned, hardware just worked.
Jim Mann is the Technology Coordinator at the Greene County Public Library in Xenia Ohio. I met him when I was in Ohio last spring. He has created a series of very professional videos on YouTube on how to use Eudbuntu in libraries to maximize the hardware you have especially with old and outdated computers. These videos are very easy to understand and super clear.
We’re going to show you how to turn a pile of junk into useful inexpensive literally free computers that you can use in your library or that you can use with a public service group or with a school.
So it’s been a while since I checked in from the Ubuntu installs at the library. Life intervened in a ton of ways. I went back over to the library today. I spent most of my time helping a Ukranian artist woman wade through the 250 emails in her inbox spanning almost two years. Every time she’d see a lost job opportunity or a note from a friend from eight months ago she’d say "see, this is why I have to know this, I lose work not knowing this…" I had to agree to a point but also mentioned that checking her email — however that needed to happen — more than once every 18 months was probably part of it.
So, I was in prime form when I went downstairs to check on the Ubuntu machines. The handyman had installed the ethernet drop from upstairs and I had limited time. This is what I did in about 20 minutes.
– made basic user accounts on each machine and changed the password on the admin accounts from the one I put on the YouTube video
– Set up the desktop for that account to have Firefox and OpenOffice on it (for now, we’ll move to games and IM once this is established as working)
– Plugged both computers into the switch I got. Hey check that out, they’re on the Internet. That was simple.
– Plugged the printer into one of them (HP 6100 series all on one blah) and went through the install printer routine. Hey look IT JUST WORKS, and prints.
Now one of the machines prints, both of them are on the internet, they’ve got a non-admin account on both of them and a locked down admin account with a new password. Next time I’ll do software updates and get the other printer working via the network, flesh out the desktops some and write some documentation. Woo! (crossposted from Flickr)
Wow, so that was a crazy 36 hours or so. I posted that video, went to bed and woke up to find I was a minor media sensation. The video has been seen almost 14,000 times. Cory Doctorow called me an “Internet folk-hero” (which cracks me up). I wrote a bit more about that on my personal website. When people ask about social software and what it’s good for, I can now safely say that it’s good for having someone ship you a few boxes of your favorite open source OS on CD (you can get some too!), a few random marriage proposals from guys with hotmail addresses, and leveraging whatever your position is so that more people can know about it. More knowledge is good. The biggest piece of overall feedback I got was that my little video made installing an operating system look “fun” and when was the last time you had fun installing an operating system?
I do need to come clean and say that I haven’t even gone back to the library to see how the desktops are working out yet. I’m there for 90 min or so every week or every other week. I still haven’t tackled stickier issues like Internet and printer drivers. I have to change the root password now that everyone has seen it. I have installed Ubuntu a grand total of four times, once with an awful lot of help. Both my PC and my Mac laptops run Ubuntu but while it’s my OS of choice on the PC, I like the Mac OS better on the MacBook and I apologize for not being a True Believer. Here are some good Ubuntu links that people sent me either over email or in the comments. If you’re Ubuntu-curious, they will help you.