Computerbank installs Ubuntu on recycled PCs

Charity on the hunt for Linux gurus

Computerbank Victoria is installing Ubuntu on recycled PCs as a way of making computing accessible to low income earners.

The not-for-profit organisation, which is run by volunteers, has been using Linux in its refurbished systems since 2006. The organisation recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and is on the lookout for volunteers with a strong Linux background.

Computerbank began installing the Debian distribution on PCs and now uses Ubuntu version 9.04, Jaunty Jackalope, customising the OS specifically for non-technical users.

“We call it the ‘Computerbank distro’,” said the organisation’s president and founder, Kylie Davies. “We tweak it, adding media codecs and flash because some of our users are very new to computers and they just want things to work.”

The group receives computers from individuals, businesses and educational institutions, with Pentium 4 PCs being the cut-off point.

“We work with working computers, so if there’s a small problem such as the optical drive, we’ll replace it. Otherwise we’ll strip it down, reuse the parts and recycle the rest," Davies said.

Plastics are recycled into building posts, while monitors are recycled through the Byteback scheme. The team refurbishes 10-11 computers each week on average.

The computers are available to people with a government healthcare card and Australian students via a shop, which is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays and is located close to North Melbourne station. (See a map of the shop's location). Prices start at $30 and customers must sign a short application form that specifies they’re receiving a Linux-based system; many of the customers are new to computers and are often unaware of other operating systems.

“Some people don’t even realise you can put other things on a computer,” Davies said. “We also provide our own user guide.”

Unlike many Linux enthusiasts, the recipients of the refurbished PCs are not always technically savvy — and using the command line is most definitely out.

The group has evaluated the latest Ubuntu version, Karmic Koala, but boot times for the new OS remain an issue. “The boot times for Jaunty are very quick, but when we installed Karmic Koala, our times went from about 45 seconds to more than a minute, so I think we’ll wait for the moment,” she said.

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6 Comments

Indian-Art

1

Great article, this will help people know there are other good Operating systems available.

I use Ubuntu for more than a year and now hardly use Windows, which I used to use a lot earlier.

Ubuntu is a great Windows replacement that is stable, efficient, safe and free.

Computerbank Victoria keep up the good work!

Andy

2

Thank you! I am a volunteer at Computerbank Victoria. We get no help from the government; but we still do our best!

theAntagonist

3

They should have a look at using Linux Mint. I haven't tried it yet, waiting for version 8 to come out this month. It's based on Ubuntu and design to work out of the box. Apparently, it's very user-friendly.

xutre

4

I second that for reasons including the following: Mint does include many of the necessary codecs for playing the most common multimedia files; the look is aesthetically more pleasing to many more people than the default 'Ubuntu' (?African earthy) look; it's ability to automatically install the nvidia or ATI drivers via 'EnvyNG'; the little extras like 'mintUpdate' et al; all the repositories and help available to Ubuntu is available to Mintees'...

thelionroars

5

I've yet to try Mint but I can tell you that many of the features you've mentioned are extremely easy to implement in the version of Ubuntu they are using. All of the codecs are available by typing in one command 'sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras, or by selecting 'ubuntu-restricted-extras' in the package manager (synaptic). The restricted drivers can be installed from a click on a menu option. And the theme and desktop background are easy to change. Computerbank are using a modified distribution anyway with most or all of this already configured so this is really a moot point.

Sean

6

Great job Computerbank! You have helped my family and I with a cheap $35 PC which is complete with LCD, keyboard and mouse. That's one thing less to worry about financially. I'm typing using that PC now! Kudos to all the volunteers. You are certainly helping for a very worthy cause.

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