Ubuntu Lab Built by Scouts
Members of Boy Scout Troop 534 chose Ubuntu for a new computer lab. The project was led by a 16-year-old Eagle candidate, Raymond Westbrook. St. Mark United Methodist Church in Chicago, IL provided the room and six ancient Intel-based PCs.
Raymond chose the following people for his project team:
- Four of his fellow scouts ranging in age from 11 to 17.
- The maintenance supervisor of the church, critical in choosing the best path for cable runs.
- Three adult advisors: Troop leaders who happen to work in information technology.
I gratefully served as one of Raymond’s advisors.
Several old systems became available when the church upgraded its computers earlier this year. Raymond learned about the old hardware just as he was deciding what to do for his Eagle service project. He developed a plan, presented it to the leadership of the church and the troop, and they approved. Then Raymond’s team got busy.
Every project has its challenges. One machine appeared to have a dead hard drive, but opening the unit revealed a loose ribbon cable. Problem solved. The team found a dead power supply in another unit. The machine is too old to justify purchasing a new power supply, so that box will serve as an “organ donor” for the other computers.
The team downloaded & burned a Live CD of Ubuntu version 10.04. It’s possible to run directly from the Live CD, but for faster performance it’s better to install Ubuntu on the hard drive. The project leader likes speed, so he chose hard drive installation.
Ubuntu is a distribution of Linux, a free operating system that preforms many of the same tasks as Microsoft Windows or Apple MacOS. Anyone can download a free copy of Ubuntu at http://ubuntu.com.
Ubuntu is open source software. Open source defies common sense because:
- It’s free.
- You get much more than you pay for.
- By contributing time & talent to open source, each person makes things better for all people.
Sounds like some crazy hippie madness from the sixties, right? Well… Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and many other successful tech companies run on open source software. A two-page newsletter tells more about the movement.
Producers vs Consumers
Some computer labs spend tons of money on the latest hardware and proprietary software to teach youth how to use a word processor or a spreadsheet. What a waste. When we do that to our youth, we’re just creating the next generation of consumers. America has too many consumers. We need producers!
If we teach our youth about open source software, if we give them the tools to get under the covers to see how the software works, if we encourage them to create something with what they learn… then we’re raising producers. Our world needs producers because producers have the skills and drive to make an economy grow. That’s good.
What’s next? St. Mark plans to make the lab available to members of the church and the neighboring community, especially the youth. After school programs continue to fall under the budget knife. Programs created by St. Mark and the Boy Scouts are here to fill in some gaps.
Earlier this year Raymond shared a story about classmates who teased him for being a nerd. “That’s okay”, Raymond replied. “You’re gonna ask me for a job one day.”