View Full Version : NTR Laptop Project: need volunteers

January 13th, 2008, 07:31 PM
Hello everyone,

NTR (ntronline.org (http://ntronline.org)) is having a real problem with their laptop inventory. They have a big room where they keep them and it has become very disorganized. It's so disorganized that they are having a difficult time pushing them out to their thrift store and they can't find parts to fix existing customers' laptops. I told Stan that I think members of the PA LoCo can help. This post is my attempt to gather volunteers.

I tried doing this same exact thing last year but it was just me a few other people. Ultimately, it failed because we lost an inside man at NTR. Now with the PA LoCo matured, I think this is the right moment to try again. In order to go forward with this, I requested that Stan allow us to use Linux in some way. He said that any laptop that is too old or odd (no Win drivers) to accept any flavor of Windows, could have Linux installed on it. And by any flavor of Windows, I'm pretty sure that only means Windows 2000 but I'll have to confirm. If that's the case, it opens us up to fairly large portion of his laptop inventory.

The only issue I can foresee the LoCo having with this is that most of the laptops we'll have access to will only support stripped down Linux distros like DamnSmallLinux and Puppy. I see that as temporary. All laptops that we can salvage will be put into the thrift store an sold at low prices. The customers will be very aware that these have Linux install and there is no support included from NTR. I believe that eventually NTR customers will begin requesting higher end laptops with Ubuntu pre-installed. It could take a year or more. But when it happens we'll be ready for it.

OK, how will we do this? I'm looking for at least 4 volunteers from our PA LoCo that can be at NTR once a month. The minimal situation would be to have one of our people at NTR every Saturday to focus on laptop issues. Being a different person each time, we should only need about 4 people.

I know some of you would like to help but traveling into the city is just not an option. That's OK. You can still help! Jedijf and I rarely do our laptop work "onsite". We take the laptops home and, in our spare time, we hack the hell out of them. If any of you like that option, let us know we'll drop off batches to you or we'll help you pick them up.

There should be other areas where we could use support, like tracking any of the laptops take out of NTR. We could use a spreadsheet or web page for managing laptop information. Another area of support ... NTR sometimes receives laptops as lots on palettes. In those cases, they tend to image the drives one-at-a-time. Right now, they're doing this with a batch of 30 laptops. Perhaps one of you could introduce them to a Linux solution using networked imaging. Any Clonezilla masters in our group?

I'm sure I've missed some details or created some gray areas. Please post your questions and comments.


PS: I will be making a wiki page where you can sign up and commit to a task.

January 20th, 2008, 03:59 PM
Today was awesome!

Thanks to everyone that showed up. I didn't get a head count but it
looked like somewhere around 10 people. Here's a quick summary of how
things happened:
* we showed everyone the laptop room
* Jim and I then took everyone to the classroom and demo'd some
laptops with DSL installed on the hard drives and compact flash
* went back to laptop room, reorganized all laptops that were on the
shelves. all PIIs and lower (100-300MHz) were ours for the project.
i'm not sure how many PCs that was, 50 - 100?
* Stan Pokras explained to me and Brian Stempin how NTR does its disk
imaging. we have plans to make it better.
* pizza appeared and we ate it upstairs in the conference room.
* in the laptop room we started handing out laptops from a batch of
old IBM ThinkPads. guess what, not many power supplies. need to find
* Jim and I spoke to a guy that writes articles for the Philadelphia
City Paper. He's very interested in what we and The Hacktory are
doing. Wants to write something. May talk with him tomorrow at

Pics were taken with my camera phone. They didn't come out well, must
of had pizza grease on the lens. I'll bring a real camera next time.
sent them to pennsylbuntu AT gmail DOT com so they should be in the
gallery soon. If anyone else has pics feel free to send them there.

The sorting process has begun. Now we need a way to start tracking
them. Molly Crowley has some ideas for this.


January 20th, 2008, 04:05 PM
Yes, I think we accomplished a lot more than

Great group to start with !!! Awesome gang.

So, if you got a DSL cd and a laptop, and seem


Boot the DSL cd live on your regular box and get
familiar with it, and it's intricacies.

Read up on DSL at the wiki, and the forums; there is a
lot of good info there. Kevin and I have had a one or
two month (at least) headstart playing with this for
another project recently.


Communicate any issues or concerns through the mailing
list and don't forget that we also have the irc chat
at freenode in channel

Let the fun begin !!!

January 28th, 2008, 04:09 PM
Photos of the first meeting for the project are now up on the Gallery.


They give a great 'feel' of the project. :-)

February 7th, 2008, 02:05 AM
For the sub 300 Mhz Laptops we plan on installing DSL Linux (Frugal Install).

A quick guide is available here:


More INFO is available at the DSL Wiki:


And of course, assistance is available on IRC. Freenode in channel #ubuntu-us-pa

February 12th, 2008, 01:16 AM
Kevin has mailed the list about next Workshop:

Hello everyone,

What: Laptop Refurbishing Meeting/Workshop
Where: NTR (ntronline.org) in the laptop room
When: Feb 23rd, noon

Thanks to those of you that showed up and contributed during the last
meeting at NTR. I couldn't believe how much we accomplished in such a
short period of time. I'm hoping to do something similar at this next
meeting. I suppose these aren't really just "meetings" anymore.
They're becoming laptop refurbishing workshops. I'm hoping to make
a regular event on the 4th Saturday of each month. Check our LoCo
calendar for details and any updates:

And for any of you newcomers, check out the wiki page for more details:


Also, the third Monday of every month, from 10 am to 12 noon, will also be an NTR Laptop Workshop.

February 22nd, 2008, 02:21 AM
REMINDER: Meeting Saturday

On Monday we tested Kevin's Imager version 10. It worked amazingly well.



Have a blast!!


March 2nd, 2008, 02:34 PM
Instead of pushing the laptops into the thrift store prematurely, we've
decided to perform more testing. From what I've seen so far either the
hard drives, the power supplies, or the LCDs are prone to intermittent
failures. Testing at NTR is slowing us down. Therefore, we have 10
laptops that are ready for you take to your home or office for testing.

For those of you that signed up on the wiki as a Global_Hacker,
Home_Hacker, or a Distributor, the time has come for you to shine!
Only those that are listed on the wiki can participate. If you are no
longer interested in doing this, take your name off that list or change your
task label. Here's the link:

The laptops will be taken out from NTR in either my name or Jim
Fisher's. We will label who/where they are going. You can either pick
them up from NTR yourself or we will plan a trip to drop them off to
you personally. Testing duration will be limited to approximately 2 weeks.

The status of the laptop will entered in Jim's Google tracker

Oh yeah, what and how are we testing? Uh, let me set up a wiki page
for that.

Any comments? Ready, set, go!


April 22nd, 2008, 11:13 PM
Meeting Saturday the 26th 12 Noon til 3'ish.

Kevin wrote:

I met with Jim and Ben Agre at NTR today to test some of the laptops.
It's good we tested them. Some had strange issues. Here's our progress:
* 11 were tested
* 11 still need testing
* 12 are still waiting for DSL to be installed

I'm looking into getting pcmcia ethernet adapters to sell with these.
It turns out NTR has tons of the adapters, just not enough dongles.

There are some other issues with the laptops using very old, integrated
sound cards. They most likely use the ISA bus and need to be probed as
a PnP device. Jim suggested we install one the DSL's ALSA extensions on
Saturday. I'm all for it as long as we don't lose much time on it. We
also need to get these laptop's info entered into NTR's database - not fun.

At this point we have to start suggesting price options to NTR. The
prices are starting out at $50 for a 133 MHz laptop with 32 MB of RAM
and a 6GB hard drive. That could drop if it's missing certain things,
like a CD drive. We'll bump it up $10 for every additional ~100MHz in
processor speed. Tack on another $5 for every 64 MB increase in RAM.
It's rough but we're getting there. We may need to do a little research
for how much they go for on eBay with no OS.

See you Saturday.