The Heart of Linux
I’ve never been a big believer in luck. Some of us believe that in some cases some sort of predetermination takes place: one thing happening to allow another thing to happen that in turn produces something significant in one or more lives. Not all the time, but often enough to make it something to ponder when we’re in a position to ponder such things. But I don’t make predictions, whether for a new year or a new place or a new time. I simply no longer predict anything. I’ve been wrong too many times.
Example? Oh, you want an example? Okay, just a sample of my worst yet:
“Google? Hell no. It’s a stupid idea and you have to be a slobbering idiot to put any money into such a ridiculous startup. Internet advertising? Pfffttt. Might as well give your money to…” You can name your favorite way to throw money down the drain.
But by way of comparison, believe it or not, there have been some historically treasured wrong predictions in the recent and not so recent past. Oh, let’s take a look…shall we?
In 1966, Time magazine ran a bold prediction: “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop — because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.”
Arthur Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is perhaps best known for a prediction he made in 1959:
“Before man reaches the moon,” he said, “your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.” For anyone waiting for that special package from Amazon, this must sound like a tantalizing proposition — and it was briefly under development.
No, really. It honestly was.
In the same year Summerfield made his bold statement, the U.S. Post Office tested “Missile Mail” for the first and last time. A rocket was launched from the submarine Barbero to Naval Station Mayport in Florida. The entire trip lasted 22 minutes, and the two mail containers it carried were delivered successfully.
The program was never implemented. From what I’ve dug up, an unnamed congressional staffer from that period said it was an absolutely idiotic idea. Wow…I wish there was solid evidence of that statement. It would indicate that somewhere and at some time, at least one congressman has a brain with an occasional synapse firing.
Defeating running dog capitalist lackeys
However, being wrong can haunt you for the rest of your life and sometimes, into the lives of your children. For us old school folks, there will always be Nikkie K standing at the podium and threatening to bury the United States while angrily pounding the podium with his shoe. One such outburst occurred in 1956, when Khrushchev was addressing Western ambassadors at the Polish Embassy in Moscow. He was as combative as ever, telling his audience that that communism’s defeat of capitalism was inevitable.
“History is on our side,” he said. “We will bury you.”
Thirty-three years later, communism collapsed, and two years after that the Soviet Union was dissolved. I wonder if he ever found that other shoe? Maybe I could show him something in a nice velcro or slip on?
Sheesh. Dictators, right?
Making a difference
All of that being said, my days of predicting anything are over. However, that doesn’t have anything do to with a good set of plans and goals. I’ve set a few of them for the coming year and I want to share them with you.
I will start by answering a question, because it’s connected with our plans for the year. Did Reglue host the 12 Geeks of Christmas this year? Unfortunately no. Our annual fund drive this year was focused on raising money for a vehicle for Reglue, so there just wasn’t enough money this year for the 12 Geeks event. However, we do have 12 Geeks of Christmas in the 2016 budget, so stay tuned…
Our first major project for the 2016 year is establishing a program that insures every student who resides within the Taylor Texas Housing Authority has both a computer and an Internet connection. I have been working one-on-one with Mr. Bob VanTil to iron out the logistics of this effort. Bob makes sure that this subsidized housing project doesn’t look or feel like government subsidized housing.
The easy part of our effort at Reglue is installing the computers into these homes. The hard part is getting Time Warner to cooperate. As far as reliability and true broadband, they are the only game in town, and they act like the monopoly they are. Even if we offer to pay a lot of the money it takes to get these homes hooked up, the company is sluggish at best to get things going.
Big surprise there, huh?
When we first contacted Time Warner in 2011, we proposed that Reglue would pay the first three months of service for our clients. After that, the clients would have to pick up the service cost. That first 90 days gave our clients time to budget for the monthly charge for their Internet service. We would also pay any installation fees and if a client had an outstanding balance from a previous service, we would pay that as well, as long as it did not exceed $200.
That sounds like a good deal, huh? I mean, God forbid that we would ask Time Warner, one of the most stable companies on the Fortune 500 list, to donate even 10 percent to this project. Once we explained that we would be paying all the costs, we immediately received an email from Roger Castillo, a sales manager working out of San Antonio who introduced himself as the contact between between us and Time Warner.
From there, it went immediately downhill. I can only guess that an organization like Time Warner is so administratively bloated at the middle they cannot quickly deal with challenges. The whole project fell in on itself and we have yet to hear back from them on how we can get back on track. Bob VanTil has suggested the city of Taylor approach them for this currently-forming project, and I am fully on board with this. Truthfully, I am still punchy from our last round with Time Warner.
However, kvetching about this isn’t getting anything done, so we’ll see what the city can accomplish. Even as that partnership is gestating, Reglue will begin installing these kids’ computers and fill them with enough educational games and applications to keep them busy for at least for a while. We’re talking upwards of 90 machines. This effort will be spread throughout the year.
Educating outside of schools
Up next, Reglue will re-associate ourselves with our girls mentoring program. Come this spring, Reglue will approach young ladies who have expressed an interest in the technology side of computers. Moms and/or Dads are required to attend with their girls and we largely plan our outings and workshop sessions around the parent’s accessibility. If needed, Reglue can take our show on the road and have the sessions in the child’s home. We will then accept applications from these girls and their parents/guardians, in which they tell us why they are the perfect candidate for GirlsRgeekz2.
This is a good time to mention just how important the stable vehicle you helped us fund is to us. These kids and their parents ride in our vehicles and we cannot afford to transport anyone in an unsafe vehicle. Our fundraiser was successful, thanks to you, and we’ll be making that vehicle purchase the last week of this month.
Boys are not eliminated from our mentoring programs. We also hold a similar program for young men. However, their involvement is during the autumn, so as not to get us all scrunched up between ongoing programs. We have to take into consideration the availability of our volunteers; that plays a big part in how these programs and camps are scheduled during the year.
Between the young ladies’ project and the one for the young men in the fall, Reglue will be holding our annual Technology Learning Camp during the summer. In the past we’ve held these camps at a church in Hutto, Texas, but this year we’ve juggled things around to hold them at our Taylor facility.
These workshops and technology learning camps bring forth a huge treasure of local people who help us make these programs successful. Guys like Samuel Woods and Skip Guenter, Linux gurus who take their places, hands-on and in real time, to contribute to the success of these projects. They steer and assist these kids when their questions arise. It might surprise you just how often one-on-one spontaneous learning situations take place at these events.
And having fun…the hard way
Finally, but only finally for now, I will bring up our plan to Walk for Dollars this coming spring, in which we’ll schedule four Reglue installations between Taylor and Round Rock — but I won’t be driving to these locations.
I will be walking, and asking for pledges for each mile I complete. I will be pulling the computers behind me on a trailer made for motorcycles. We’re talking a good 40 mile round trip, so it’s not gonna be a quick turn around.
Yeah, I am serious. And, yeah, I know I’m getting old and have already crossed the finish line for the “getting” part of getting fat. The heaviest thing I’ve lifted in the past year is a good piece of silver while attending a graduation for a friend of mine. But I’ll start training for that right away…as soon as the chocolate and raspberry pies are gone. Oh yeah, and the home-made fudge. I’ll start training when the home-made fudge is gone. Honestly.
Oh, one last thing: I’ll write more about this in upcoming articles, but for now I’d like to remind you that you can help feed starving writers by becoming a subscriber to FOSS Force. Christine Hall has built FOSS Force into a première free and open source software website, and she’s built it on integrity and a hard-wired demand for keeping FOSS Force one of the best sites for fresh news and reviews available. Of course, she allows me to break that from time to time with things that might wander a bit from that direction, but you can’t scowl and concentrate all the time. Sometimes, it’s good to have some fun…
Sometime this week, FOSS Force will be going live with the second phase of our Indiegogo fundraising campaign. You can help us get a running start by making a donation now by becoming a subscriber.
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