Category: Linux-Open Source

Resources for Recent Presentation

I’ve recently attended the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE 15x) conference in early March 2017, paid with professional development funds by the community college where I work in the IT department at a local campus. I had an amazing time learning about some recent technologies within the Linux and open-source software communities. I heard some amazing speakers who inspired me and helped to renew my evangelistic enthusiasm for Linux, open-source software. Many of the conference presentation sessions are available in the SCaLE-15x YouTube channel. Some outstanding presentations, especially the keynote speaker, Dr. Christine Corbett Moran on Saturday morning!

Southern California Linux Expo 15

I felt compelled to do a bit of “pay-back” and share some of the information and enthusiasm I have regarding the:

  • Linux operating system
  • open-source software
  • courses available within the College (and beyond) to help kick-start technology careers for students
  • and to help promote the need for more Women in Technology.

To facilitate this desire to give something back, I developed a presentation for students, faculty, staff, and community members. The presentation slide-deck is available on GitHub and the links to that and a list of resources mentioned in the presentation and more are hosted at a quick site I put up via Blogger: Check it out! I do plan on cleaning the presentation up substantially and modifying the presentation of the resources – kind of cobbled together.

Feel free to comment below.

Technology Haves Have-Nots

[Here’s an older article that is still pertinent in today’s world, where access to technology, not speaking about the Pokeman Online or Ingress, is what helps to give students an edge in how education is done.]

I have an article elsewhere on Beelybox about more students using cell phones and those students being technically savvy. What about the students who have very limited access or no access to technology at all? What happens to them in this flattened world? Here are some points to consider and ideas that can be implemented.

I read reports about the huge numbers of teens and tweens who have their own cell phones (thanks to the plans for $9.95/month for additional phones/lines.) OK, that’s great, I’m OK with this if their parents are. But what about the families and kids who can’t afford technology: cell phones, a home computer with access to the Internet? Where does this leave us as a nation: a nation of technology haves and have-nots! Of course, this is nothing terribly new–the whole Digital Divide has been discussed over and over again without much of a resolution.

Families do have access to computers and the Internet at their local library branch or school library (that makes systems available for community use.) But you don’t learn and be competent on a computer if you don’t have one available at home. You don’t gain enough skills to increase your potential for getting a better job unless you have a computer you can use and learn on every day.

How about schools releasing their old, used computers that are still viable (for word-processing, surfing the Internet, using email) instead of sending them to the warehouse for auction. What family will wait for the annual auction and have enough knowledge about what they’d be getting with a school cast-off? I think the school technology staff should be able to remove systems from Inventory and make them available to families identified from the free-lunch records. These are families who are known to have limited income and can be contacted to see if they could benefit from a well-used but functional system.

Of course, school districts can’t release older systems with intact licensed operating systems (read Microsoft Windows) and licensed productivity software (read Microsoft Office). That should never be a deal-stopper. The tech at each school could invite technology class students to help securely wipe the hard drives of the cast-off systems and install/setup a well-rounded Linux distribution that has low hardware requirements (Damn Small Linux is a great option as is Slackware Linux, others are described here.) The student who would be receiving the the old system could help in this work as payment for the system.

The tech students could also set up and maintain a tech support network through the school’s web site with links to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) via a wiki, discussion/help forums via a phpBB bulletin board system. They could even use the support structure to do house calls to these families and earn community service recognition for their resume/CV.

The foreign language department could involve students to translate the technology support info for non-English speaking families. Tucson has a large Spanish-speaking population and the tech students could work with the Spanish language class students to translate the wiki pages, the FAQs, and other pertinent info. Another opportunity for students to earn community service hours.

I have dozens of these older, viable systems sitting around because they’ve been replaced with a slightly newer system capable of running Windows XP. Isn’t this how we look out and take care of all the members of our communities? We can also take care of the community of current PC users who are being abandoned by Microsoft’s ending support for Windows 98 and the joke that is Windows ME. These folks may not be able to replace their older PCs, if they could they would have done so with systems that could run Windows XP. So, Linux is starting to look very good for these abandoned users. What are we waiting for?

Mass Transit Options

I’ve had this vision in my head about buses, light-rail vehicles (LRVs), electric trolley buses running up and down the streets of Tucson. I expound upon my vision to anyone who will listen. Could that be why I don’t have many friends? Be a witness to my vision…

120px-sfrancisco_trolleyI lived in San Francisco for almost nine years from 1977 to 1986. I didn’t own a car for almost six years during that time and I loved it! I lived and worked and went to school in San Francisco, taking street cars, light rail, electric buses and diesel buses all over The City. I could stay out late, get home in the middle of the night and still be able to catch a bus. I visited S.F. for a few days this fall and rediscovered how creative San Francisco is, how much of a “can do!” kind of spirit is still alive. This is cool and totally awesome!

I was staying at my brother-in-law’s house in the Bernal Heights area and had taken the bus to that area many times in past years. The bus to that part of town was previously a diesel bus that strained to get up the steep hill to that neighborhood after winding its way through other areas such as the Fillmore, Western Addition, the Castro and Noe Valley, and down to Bayshore Blvd. These latter neighborhoods have fairly narrow streets, some steep hills–very tough on fueled buses. Turns out that S.F. decided to convert the diesel bus line to an electric trolley line–no easy task as I will describe.

An electric trolley bus in San Francisco typically has a set of poles attached to the roof of the bus. Each pole is connected to the rear of the bus via a cable on a reel. (I don’t know the terminology, please bear with me.) Both poles connect to a pair of wires running overhead that provide a connection to the electricity necessary to generate the power for the electric bus. The overhead wires are supported by guides and tracks around corners and intersections with other electric vehicles. The electric trolleys are quiet and clean running. They are quiet inside for passengers and quiet outside for residents of the neighborhoods the trolleys pass through. You hear the wires singing as the bus approaches and occasionally the wires rattling and shaking as the bus passes by. No diesel fumes in the air. No loud diesel engine grinding by while straining up a hill. The electric trolley bus is powerful: a bus full of people and it just plows its way up a hill–piece of cake! Can of corn! Easy as pie!

So, the city of San Francisco decided to retrofit this bus line with electricity and run the trolley through the narrow streets of the neighborhoods. This is sheer gumption! Someone had a huge set of cajones, let me tell you. It is quite a feat of engineering to design the system for this trolley, string up all the wires and support guides, connect all the tracks through the intersections so the bus can pass through and not loose its source of electrical power from the overhead wires. Brilliant! If San Francisco can overcome all of the obstacles in its path and put a clean running, quiet, environmentally sound bus line in place, why the hell can’t a city like Tucson do the same?

Tucson has these ridiculously wide streets for almost all of its arterial surface streets to carry all the cars commuting to work with single passengers. (Look at the lines of cars flying by and count how many of the them have more than one person in the car: 85%? 90%? 95%?) Most of these streets (Broadway, Speedway, 22nd St., Oracle, to name a few) have an existing right lane that is usually marked as a bus lane. How simple it would be to engineer the supports for the wires, string up the electrical system, put a bunch of new, clean buses on those lines. Tucson would have to have the vision of a city with fewer cars on the city streets, a city with a conscience: using less fossil fuels for private citizens to go between home and work. Tucson would have to promote the hell out of a project like this to get an increase in ridership, get people out of their cars for their commute.

So, where is the electrical power coming from? Yeah, Tucson does recover methane gases from the landfills and then uses the methane to be burned and power the turbines that produce electricity. That’s one way. How about passive solar array panels in “fields” around the city or drawing power from the Springerville solar project in the White Mountains that Tucson Electric Power (TEP) owns?

Of course, there will be the whiners and nay-sayers who state that they will loose their views of the surrounding mountains if all these overhead wires are in place. (Like they ever get out of their cars long enough to look for the mountains!) My response to this is: will you be able to see your mountains in a couple of years when all the smog produced by the increasing hordes of cars obscures the view?

What about the stress of driving in traffic? The wear-and-tear on your car taking you to/from work? The expense of your gassing up the car each week (well, hopefully only once a week–you are driving a car that gets over 30 MPG in the city, aren’t you?)

If enough buses are on the street, you won’t wait long for your connection. I lived off a street car line (the J Church line–ran past the Catholic church and school shown in the Whoopie Goldberg movie, “Sister Act”) and I had to wait 4-6 minutes during commute hours in the morning for the next streetcar to come along. The trip home at night was the same. Since I was downtown, other street cars for the other lines distributed throughout the city would come by every 2-3 minutes. Traveling was easy: I could read, look out the window, listen to my headphones. I was never accosted on any ride at any time in the years in which I took mass transit in San Francisco.

Stephen Farley has had a vision to have light rail vehicles in a few lines around Tucson. I say, that’s not bold enough! Tucson needs more and Tucson can do more! I have faith. The people have to hear about this and they have to want this: they have to understand the benefits, they have to understand how their quality of life will improve with fewer cars on the road, how they will meet more of their neighbors while riding the buses, appreciate their city and all it has to offer.

That’s my vision. I haven’t been locked up for it, yet…