6:22:17 Free Geek: "helping the needy get nerdy"

Unlike Nature and its dust-to-dust cycles, Homo sapiens doesn't handle discards from our material world well. Too often we buy something without the foggiest of where it'll finally go.

[Free Geek logos]

Our consumption, especially in the Western world, has overtaken landfills. Images of trash & garbage from NYC, barged and bound for elsewhere in the world, make this point.

Something similar and more problematic happened with our e-waste. Burying electronics is toxic, so a first solution was to ship "used-up" PCs to Asia for them to sort out.

But in 2000, enter Free Geek, a Portland-based non-profit, whose mission is to keep our computer discards off those Asia-bound ships and recycle, reuse, and importantly--as shown by this refurbished Dell Inspiron I'm typing on--rebuild PCs to factory specs and see they find those who'll put them to use again. And in the process, a lot of volunteers are getting smart about computer technology.

Free Geek deals in donated goods, but one necessary expense is a Free Geek delivery van to make the rounds of businesses scheduled to swap out an office full of PCs. More are dropped off at Free Geek in Southeast Portland. For all donations, though, a suggested contribution will offset Free Geek's obligations to handle hazardous waste and erase hard drives.

Free Geek does this with a staff that is 98% volunteer. With 24 hours, a volunteer can earn a refurbished computer. No matter what task the volunteer is assigned, they will be surrounded by others in a learning environment that is as hands-on as it gets.

Free Geek has a computer academy within its warehouse walls. Classes for volunteers [and the public] to upgrade their computer technology skills are continuous and offered in several languages. Free Geek's founder, Richard Seymour, was gratified to see a class taught in Russian to some of Portland's newer residents.

Free Geek's standard offering now is a PC system [desktop tower, keyboard, mouse, and monitor] called a Freekbox for $100. IBM's open PC architecture, of course, makes Windows machines the sensible choice for refurbishing.

Free Geek is dedicated to installing Linux [currently the Mint Linux distro] on its systems. No licensing fees payable to Microsoft. Just open-source software in keeping with the Free Geek spirit to give more people, regardless of financial means, access to computers. Besides selling refurbished systems in their thrift store, Free Geek distributes computers to schools, churches, non-profit and social change organizations.

Image credit: http://www.freegeek.org


Read more ...
(click to enlarge image)

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.


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