One of the high points of my last trip to California was meeting James Burgett. Burgett is an utterly fearless man, a former drug addict who candidly admits he originally began recycling and assembling computers to finance his habit but then got clean and founded one of the most effective and remarkable nonprofits I know of.
Alameda County Computer Resource Center collects donated and PCs and parts, assembles them into working systems, and makes them available to schools and nonprofits and poor people for nothing but the cost of transport. The parts they can't use get recycled safely, keeping all manner of toxic heavy metals and solvents out of landfills.
Burgett salvages people too. He makes a point of working with (and challenging!) ex-addicts, street people, deinstitutionalized mental patients, and others who'd normally be considered unemployable but are trying to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps as he did.
ACRC and Untangle are sponsoring an installfest this coming Saturday in Berkeley to assemble computers, put Ubuntu Linux on them, and donate them to needy schools throughout northern California. This event will:
* Promote open-source software
* Keep toxic electronics out of the waste stream
* Help the needy
* Bring the open-source community together in a good cause
If that isn't enough, the Mozilla Foundation will be providing free pizza, too.
It sounds like a great time to me and I'm sorry I'll be three thousand miles away on the other coast when it happens. But you can be there! Donate a computer or parts, help install and test systems, and improve the state of the world with like-minded geeks.
The event is Saturday, March 1st from 10AM to 6PM and will be distributed across four locations in San Francisco, Berkeley, San Mateo and Marin County. The event home page is here.