History of Free Software at Computer Reach

Since 2001, Computer Reach of Pittsburgh, PA USA has  experience with refurbishing and deploying Apple equipment in schools. They are champions in solving the digital divide with high levels of engaged recipient support. October 2012, Computer Reach adds GNU/Linux PC deployments to the mix.

The journey took two years. The launch is now.

In the summer of 2010, Dave Sevick of Computer Reach approached the Western PA Linux Users' Group for help. The question he asked was "Can the iMac G3 run GNU/Linux efficiently as a desktop?" Computer Reach had received donations of this model but found modern MacOSX sluggish.  Try we did but unfortunately Debian proved difficult to install. We came to the conclusion that the G3 was no longer suitable for desktop deployment.

As WPLUG board director emeritus, I thanked Dave for his time, thinking that this self-professed Apple-fan-boy would be scared away from what WPLUG had to offer. Thankfully I was wrong.  Dave was impressed by Free Software and started to include NeoOffice and locally-installed wikipedia. He quickly learned how Free Software adds value to refurbished systems Computer Reach deploys.

 In 2011, Dave vowed to add a PC deployments to Computer Reach's refurbishing efforts. Most recyclers use discounted copies of Microsoft software but Dave preferred Free Software. The GNU/Linux distribution of Edubuntu LTS was immediately selected. In January of that year, the Computer Reach Edubuntu system was built. I was physically present with Dave to embrace the moment as seen in the photo.

Computer Reach was impressed with the ease of automated network installs, the variety of baseline software included in Edubuntu, and the localization support. More challenges remained such as moving into a larger warehouse, procuring reliable hardware, vetting recipient sites, fund-raising, and staffing Computer Reach with competent system administrators familiar with GNU/Linux and associated Free Software. It took one year with my collaboration with Dave and Computer Reach staff to conquer these challenges.

Even though I moved to from Pittsburgh and Chicago in the summer of 2011, my heart remained with Computer Reach. Dave and I would touch base regularly with phone calls and emails to make sure Computer Reach would be ready for large Edubuntu deployment. I even made the trip to Pittsburgh to visit Computer Reach's new warehouse, recruit volunteers, and participate in the imaging process.When Computer Reach was vetting their first Linux deployment in Ghana, Africa, without hesitation, I said "Dave, I want in!"

This is why I have accepted the position of Chicago Technical Lead and Free Software Community Liaison of Computer Reach effective September 2012. I am pleased to have been there all the way for Computer Reach's 2 year journey to Edubuntu deployments and to see it through this October in Ghana.

After October, who knows? With your support, Computer Reach will continue to deploy Edubuntu systems in Pittsburgh, PA and globally. Together, we can resolve the digital divide with Free Software.