View Full Version : Help us use Ubuntu to change lives and reduce waste

June 1st, 2010, 09:36 PM

I'm posting as a longtime lurker and occasional poster. I've been using Ubuntu since Breezy Badger and this forum right here has always been the primary reason for that. You guys rock.

Recently I've gotten involved with a not-for-profit. We accept donations of old hardware and have volunteers rebuild the machines into something useful, typically using Ubuntu.

Which brings me to you guys. We need ideas of things we can do to make older machines into useful devices. We've been thinking of building web-kiosks and Boxee boxes, for example. The idea is to set these machines up to do one thing very well.

What I'm wondering is if you clever people can help us think of more ideas. I've read this forum long enough to know that you guys can think of no end of things to do using older hardware with the power of Ubuntu.

I'd love it if you read this blog post (http://bococo.org/2010/06/01/help-us-use-ubuntu-linux-and-open-source-to-change-the-world/) and told us of any ideas that you have. I'll be watching this thread too, so please don't hesitate to share with us. I know you guys can think of something awesome!

Long live Ubuntu!

June 1st, 2010, 09:54 PM
I've run into the problem with people handing me equipment too old for Ubuntu, so I end up having to use other distros to get them working in any formal matter again. The next hurdle is giving the system to someone who doesn't mind not having Linux. Regardless of the old saying, Beggars can be choosers. So I understand why you want to make one trick pony machines.

I myself am an avid reader, and have a small personal library worth of books. Which gave me the idea of building a Kiosk machine running Alexandria, which is a book cataloging program. Maybe a few small under-funded Libraries could use something like that.

You could also build machines utilizing business software, and give them out to small businesses for free in the hopes they can later help sponsor your program.

June 1st, 2010, 10:09 PM
Both great ideas. Another thing mentioned by someone on Twitter was using DansGuardian to make child-safe computers, which I also thought was cool.

I'm wondering if there are any similar organizations out there also wondering about this...I'd love to connect with anyone with advice...

June 1st, 2010, 10:12 PM
Web kiosks would definitely be a good idea because even older hardware can handle most web sites.

Other ideas -

Juke-Box Computer:
Another idea is that you could set up the computers exclusively for music listening. This can then be used as a juke-box. Load the computers (initially) with a bunch of good-quality Creative-Commons music and then allow the users to burn CDs to it to add more music. Playing music isn't that resource intensive and should work on even really, really old boxes from the 90s. Just make sure the computer has a decent sized HDD (20-80 GB) so that whoever gets it can put plenty of music on it.

Print Station:
Also, a print station might not be a bad idea. Set it up with USB ports, a CD/DVD reader, and Internet access so that people can load their files onto it. With OpenOffice, a PDF reader, an image viewer, and Firefox users could print almost anything they want. This could then be used in libraries and schools that have a limited number of computers so that those who just need to print something won't have to wait. My college has a similar setup, with certain computers designated as only for printing. The only issue here would come from a lack of printer driver support, but if you supply the printer as well, you could test that before hand.

June 2nd, 2010, 03:34 PM
I really like that jukebox idea...does anyone know of any software that would be effective in such a way? I'm thinking of something a little more slick than Rhythmbox or Banshee...something that looks and behaves like a jukebox maybe?

Keep the ideas coming guys, you're awesome!

June 2nd, 2010, 03:42 PM
I really like that jukebox idea...does anyone know of any software that would be effective in such a way? I'm thinking of something a little more slick than Rhythmbox or Banshee...something that looks and behaves like a jukebox maybe?

You could try Subsonic (http://www.subsonic.org/pages/index.jsp).

June 2nd, 2010, 03:48 PM
The jukebox is a good idea. I'm sure there are plenty of bars/restaurants out there that just play local radio stations that wouldn't mind hooking a computer like that into their stereo system.

I'm sure you could also donate some computers to schools that can't afford new equipment. Even an Ubuntu computer with OpenOffice or using Word through Wine would be good in school libraries/labs for kids to do reports and research on.

June 2nd, 2010, 03:49 PM
BTW I second the "print station" idea, maybe make it a print & scan station.

Another single-purpose kiosk idea would be a skype terminal maybe? Not sure what the computational requirements of those are though.

June 2nd, 2010, 04:07 PM
Web servers are good as well. They usually don't require too much ram. 128mb is plenty.

June 3rd, 2010, 02:04 PM
Web servers are pretty smart, you're right. I'm also pretty excited about the idea of a print server for non-profits.

Does anyone have any media software that's easy to control from a remote? I like Boxee but it's very beta and requires constant manual upgrades...

June 3rd, 2010, 02:10 PM
MythTV works great with a remote, and can do many things your looking for, like video and music playing.

There is also Hulu Desktop, but it needs a few commands in LIRC to work perfectly

June 17th, 2010, 10:22 AM
renderfarm? not necessarily ubuntu (or linux?) old pcs use more power, though.