I got the call last week to cover a free computer repurposing workshop at the library, where Mahopac High School students would make usable computers out of the worn out versions of attendees. It sounded like a good old fashioned hardware revamp. That said, I expected to find generation Big Bang Theory swapping out mother boards and hanging wires together into quaint little Kludges that only others of their ilk could appreciate. Not quite so theoretical, this gang of three superimposed my sorry excuse for a computer into something well beyond usable.
The elixir turned out to be a fully functional operating system known as Puppy Linux. “It’s small and easy to use – not even taking up a gig,” said team member Glenda Clarizio.
Having a pathological disdain for technology, due to years of suffering as a computer science grad and highly unsuccessful IT professional, I made no attempt to remember or understand what this meant. Instead, I’ll just tell you what you need to know and do for next Saturday.
Leave the wallet home, bring your computer and a USB port and let the kids work their magic. Fiona Chin, who initiated the community service project, did the honors.
Of course, I knew the highly anticipated miracle would mean enduring all the iterations always found on the way to getting all the temperamental components talking the same language. Like a pro, Fiona exhibited a calm that had always eluded me.
As far as I could tell, she was trying to incorporate the Puppy Linux operating system on my hard drive. Sorry, but the little man inside my CPU would have none of that and I just assumed this to be another reason to go on hating computers.
But I would have been right to put my faith in Fiona’s calm. Overriding my Gateway’s gremlins, she simply copied Puppy Linux to my USB. Now, all I had to do was go home and boot my computer with the port attached.
I’d then be presented with my new Puppy Linux screen and I could browse the internet without actually seeing my remaining hairs turn gray. A seasoned veteran of, “this should work,” I had my doubts.
Impressed no matter – especially since these words were never uttered by any of my deliverers – I delved into the nonprofit’s emergence. Aside from all the money people can save on simple solutions such as this, Fiona’s inspiration carries a larger aspiration. “Ewaste is often dumped on communities in the developing world,” said Mahopac senior.
Referring to a Frontline Report, her concern spiked in learning of an entire Chinese city dedicated almost solely to the hazardous refuse. Rife with dangerous heavy metals, she relayed that children often take to collecting the valuable material, while seriously compromising their health.
Fortunately, these young people can make the most of their confines and have a little fun as they do it. “She’s a pretty nice boss,” said Kyle Napolitano coyly, but he was quickly reminded of his place among the three.
“Sometimes I have to crack down,” she joked to each other’s amusement.
Given that, Puppy recipient Hugh Brennan felt confident enough to ride their camaraderie home to a rejuvenated computer and predicted a bright future for each. “They will accomplish great things – especially Fiona,” said the Mahopac retiree.
But me – in terms of perceiving technological outcomes – is no Mr. Brennan. Fully expecting the worst, I rushed home and hooked up my computer. Booted, it thought a bit as the attached USB got acquainted and miraculously the Linux screen appeared as designated.
The browser ready, my pessimism was justified and the connection was not made. I pouted but decided I should take a look at the sheet Fiona provided. Network setup, it said and I did so. The computer complied in agreement. I gave the browser another Aol.com and…Welcome back to the 21st Century.
I still hate computers but these kids are great.
Rich Monetti coverage of event at Mahopac Library with Glenda Clarizio, Hugh Brennan, Fiona Chin, Kyle Napolitano