[GLLUG] Recycling computers with Linux

Christopher Hunter cehunter at gb-x.org
Thu Nov 10 09:05:09 UTC 2016

I was involved a few years ago with a project up in Cambridge to recycle 
old desktop computers.  These were completely wiped using DBAN (Darik's 
Boot and Nuke), and then given a full functional check-over.  When we 
were satisfied that each machine was working OK, we did a network 
install of Edubuntu (the educational distribution) and then they were 
shipped to deserving schools in Africa.

More recently, my more modest computer re-cycling has included the 
installation of the latest version of "Linux Mint", together with a 
basic help file that's displayed on boot.  Practically, explaining to 
new users that "Linux is not Windows" isn't a problem.  Many are a 
little concerned that it might be "too complicated", but after use of a 
web browser and a word processor, they discover that it's not too 
different - it just requires the use of Username and Password at each 
start up - and they're always delighted to discover that a full, highly 
capable Office Suite is pre-installed, and that the mail client 
(Thunderbird) and web browser (Firefox) are just the same as they're 
used to.

As an example:  one of my work colleagues complained that his laptop had 
ground to a halt, took ages to even boot and was generally useless.  It 
was a nicely specified Toshiba model, about five years old.  I suggested 
the Linux remedy, and after some slight reluctance and a few minutes 
trying my Lenovo laptop, he said "OK - install it!".  Ten minutes later, 
I was explaining about Users and Passwords, and had connected the 
machine to the office wi-fi.  He hasn't looked back.  The user retired a 
few months later, and has carried many dozens of installations of his 
own since.  I made it clear that I would offer help and advice if 
needed, and in the last two years (since the initial installation), he's 
called twice with minor questions.

I would suggest a mainstream, easy-to-use distro like "Mint". This may 
not suit the purists, but it's a highly practical solution for users 
migrating from Windows.


On 10/11/16 02:10, DL Neil via GLLUG wrote:
> Is there a way to offer recycled computers for sale to 'Joe Public', 
> which takes care of relative ignorance (of Linux) and embodies both 
> realism/common sense and ethically-sound principles?
> I give my 20% time to the local Hospice who raise funds through 
> 'OpShops" and by holding a weekly yard-sale of items generously 
> donated by locals for locals... The funds-raised approximately double 
> the number of nurses and counsellors 'provided' by government funding, 
> to provide palliative care of patients and their families.
> The donated computers have all been WinXP or Vista driven, and of that 
> vintage. Clearing the HDD is a requirement. Re-installing the OpSys is 
> the easiest way to do this, but with WinXP being loyally-unsupported, 
> seems unsound - to say nothing of time-consuming. A Linux installation 
> has the potential, both to give the machine a new life and to provide 
> a secure and capable computing environment.
> Do you think that members of the public (cf 'us' computer enthusiasts 
> and professionals) might be perfectly happy to purchase a machine they 
> know to have only modest capabilities, running a familiar-looking web 
> browser, email client, word processor, etc?
> Thereafter, expecting such people to understand the implications of 
> Linux cf MS-Win is but a fantasy - even the garage sales manager who 
> suffered through the COBOL and FORTRAN 101 courses I enjoyed so much, 
> all those decades ago, and who uses a PC every day, confesses a lack 
> of appreciation... Accordingly, we wouldn't want folk buying a box and 
> then attempting to add some MSFT-compatible package purchased from 
> Argos, et-al!
> Such machines are likely to sell for less than $100, definitely in the 
> low hundreds, even for a 'big one'.
> I have a backlog of at least seven, and the 'arrival rate' seems to 
> average one or two monthly.
> So, whilst I would appreciate advice about the methodology of 
> preparing a viable user-image which could then be rapidly 
> copied/ghosted onto the various sizes of old HDDs; what's really 
> occupying my mind is the customer-relations and reputational aspects 
> of ensuring yard-sale customers know what they're getting into (and 
> how little).
> Will welcome any and all advice, particularly that born of experience...

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