It’s the way of The Internet. What was once a raging firefight between two or more factions, is now a topic dead and forgotten somewhere on Slashdot or within other piles of forgotten Internetia. What was once a topic or cause over which to go to war, now only survives as fodder for The Oatmeal or other hip and funny sites. I’m talking about former the-tempests-in-a-teapot for such things as:
Well, you get the idea…
It was one of you who first presented this cartoon to me a number of years ago. Along with the attachment was a simple question: “How does it feel to be famous?”
“I dunno,” I replied. “I’m still waiting for the limo that isn’t coming to pick me up which will not take me to the private Gulfstream that was not sent for me in order to go to a concert I will never see when Adam Levine does not invite me backstage to hang out with his personal groupies that I will never meet.”
Is that the fame you were asking about? Nuff said. I still drive a 20 year car and buy my jeans at Goodwill. The senior citizen buffet at Golden Corral still beckons me on Wednesdays and WIC milk at the local grocery store suits us just fine. This argument I present does still have its back and forths, but I didn’t have to go online to find it. It was presented to me, live and in person.
Students must have Microsoft Windows and MS Office to prepare for life and livelihood.
One of our hardware donors emailed me and asked if I would come to Austin and pick up a dozen Optiplex 745s with 17 inch monitors and accompanying keyboards. These Dells already had scrubbed drives and had either 4 or 8 GB of RAM, depending on what they were originally assigned to do. I said I most certainly would and arranged a time to be there. This donor has been especially generous to us, and not with just decent hardware. They also present us an annual Christmas cash donation of $1000. On the years they do employee matching, it is more than that — a lot more.
Rick, the tech guy for this company, does all the paperwork and helps me load the equipment into our old Explorer. He’s also a big FOSS supporter. While he was helping me load the computers, he cleared his throat and began a conversation.
“The owners want me to ask you if you are anywhere near transitioning your computer donations to the Microsoft Surface Pro or Windows. Their kids attend a private school and Microsoft donates 140 units a year for their students. He wants to know when your organization can confirm that you will begin getting Reglue recipients switched over to these devices.”
I watched him for a long five seconds to see if I could see a “Gotcha!” moment coming. Unfortunately, that was not going to happen. He could see me struggling with a response so he beat me to it and he held up his hand in a “hold on a minute” gesture.
“Yeah, I know…I know. But These folks live in their ivory towers. All they know is that their private schools are using them so all students should have the same opportunity. If the schools says they have to have Windows devices to prepare for life, then they get Windows devices. They can reduce the clutter and environmental footprint and at the same time, have a superior learning experience. I know that’s not going to work for you, but my bosses want me to tell you that they will consider to continue supporting your efforts if you agree to use the annual cash donation and matching funds for Microsoft Surface devices or laptops.”
I didn’t want to open my mouth because I knew nothing but yammering and stammering would come out. These people’s donations not only represent more than 10 percent of our annual budget, but because of them we can place, at the bare minimum, 30 computers a year into the homes of kids who need them.
Finally, I gathered enough composure to respond. “Rick, you know I won’t do that, right?”
He nodded his head in affirmation. “Is that what you want me to tell them?”
I shook my head no. “Just tell them I have to gather my directors and talk about this. Did they say when they needed an answer?”
“I got the impression they need to know today,” he answered.
We both shrugged and began the goodbye handshake ritual to formalize that we were done talking and would be going our own ways. I had a knot in my stomach when I pulled away from the loading dock. This is a loss I never saw coming and hoped would never happen.
There’s no way in Helena that I’m going to agree to that. It makes me a bit sad to think that a company with their level of success could be so blind to the needs of the kids growing into the next generation. And for those of you who say, “Pfft…spend their money on MicroGarbage and continue with business as usual…”
Well, yes…that’s probably a good idea and it would solve the immediate problem, but since you brought it up: will it be you who supports those computers for three years? When virus or malware makes them less than paperweights…are you going to support those machines. I didn’t think so.
I’m going to be drafting my response letter to them this coming week. I’m going to explain that I will not spend their donation dollars on any Microsoft powered devices and I will tell them why.
I don’t expect to hear back from them. We’ll simply try to route around that damage and continue.
Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue