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Transported computers now in use at Prescott

A couple weeks ago we wrote about the work of Partimus staff members to load up several machines for Robert Litt and schools in Oakland details here.

We’re now happy to report that those computers have been installed with Lubuntu and put to use!




Robert writes:

With these computers we were able to move into the classrooms more. The teachers are using them for Khan Academy and Xtramath

Thanks again to our volunteers who helped get these systems in the hands of students. Happy Holidays from Partimus!

More machines for Robert Litt’s genius

Robert Litt is an elementary teacher who has done some amazing things with computers running free open source software in education.  Today, he came to San Francisco with two of his own children to get some more equipment for his students and the students of other teachers also using free open source software in classrooms.  Robert and Partimus Board members Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph and Christian Einfeldt packed about 10 flat panel monitors into his van.

A monitor waiting to jump from a school bench into Robert's van

A monitor waiting to jump from a school bench into Robert’s van

We also got about 10 computers and 10 keyboards into his van.


Machine packed into the back of Robert's van

Machine packed into the back of Robert’s van

While we were loading and his children were running around in circles in the warm sunshine, Robert told us that he likes the green aspect of installing free software on older computers.  He lighted up when he told us that he loves to see new life breathed into old machines.  That is just one aspect of his fascination with free software.  You can go to this link a detailed discussion of why he likes free software on old computers.  And you can go here to see Robert’s presentation on how easy it is to put free software on older computers. I find Robert’s enthusiasm to be infectious and inspiring.  Working with dedicated givers like Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph and Robert Litt renews my spirits.  Thanks to both of you for all you do!

Partimus board member Christian Einfeldt caught in the computer storage cave

Partimus board member Christian Einfeldt caught in the computer storage cave

Partimus Advocates at Oakland Unified for Free Software

Past board member and current operations officer (a.k.a. “server architect” ) James Howard presented before Oakland Unified School District board in support of esteemed public school teacher Robert Litt. A long time Free Software in education advocate, Robert has built and administered two successful GNU/Linux teaching labs in Oakland schools. Robert spoke of his labs before the school board:

At ASCEND I built a lab from computers, donated to us, by running them on a Linux operating system that is free and open source… I was able to repair or replace computers, through the use of a free open source operating system… I turned Prescott around, using the model I used at ASCEND. … Prescott now has 65 fast working computers.

Supporting Robert in his efforts to sustain his lab, a school parent advocated for Robert’s lab, and James Howard of Partimus — which has long supported Robert in his Linux labs with hardware donations, hardware troubleshooting, and deployment of a custom build automated imaging process — also addressed the board on the topic of the robustness of Linux and the spirit of the Free Software movement:

I come to you today from the open source software community. Open
source software, also known as free software, is a gift from a global community of
technologists to the world.

Linux is a powerful, stable, and secure computer operating system. Though Linux has been
designed to be conversant with all other major operating systems, it was recently chosen
to replace those technologies for use on the International Space Station. The reason:
because it was more stable.

More significantly, Linux represents a collaboration between business and the community.
Contributions to Linux and open source projects come from people of all ages and
backgrounds, from people working in the public and private sector, from students and
volunteers, the world over. Before being shared, these contributions must adhere to both
strict government standards but are also carefully reviewed by community
based watchdogs and the most inquisitive techno-citizens. It is from its
transparency and openness that Linux draws its true value.

At the heart of Linux and open source software is the free exchange of ideas. This
value is one in which our country was founded — a value we instill in our children –
and is why Linux belongs in our public schools.

Robert was granted the autonomy to continue to operate his Partimus’ supported lab. Partimus engineers have now been tasked with developing and building a standalone custom lubuntu install CD for “Alternative Operating Systems” at Oakland Unified. Stay tuned for its release later this quarter. For James, it was a real thrill to enjoy the success of community collaboration.

Director Grant Bowman featured in Foundation Center Video

Partimus Board of Directors member Grant Bowman was featured in a video this month by the Foundation Center.


Link here: The Foundation Center-San Francisco: How can we help you?

“Get to know the Foundation Center-San Francisco community and how we can help you do good too.”

Grant has taken time out of his busy schedule to attend several classes at the Foundation Center to help further the growth of Partimis. Thanks to him for all of his work and taking time to discuss Partimus in this video, and to the Foundation Center for making these resources available to non-profits like ours!

CACS laptop install day wrap-up

On April 28th, the Partimus crew of James Howard, Morgan Wilson and Christian Einfeldt worked to take laptops that James had prepped for installation and finished imaging the systems with the provisioning server. All the laptops were then put together with their power supplies on cart. By the end of the day between already installed laptops and newly installed ones approximately 38 laptops were ready for the classroom!


James has provided the following “big picture” overview of the work completed:

The project we’re wrapping up today is perfectly representative of most of the school deployment projects we’ve done. A project begins with request from an educator for computing capabilities. Once it’s determined that suitable hardware is available or can be procured, we work with the teacher to determine software requirements. This process yields a list of software packages we’ll include in addition to the distribution base install. We also try to develop an approach to how the system will be administered, which users should be created and with which authorization. Lastly, we try to incorporate desktop tweaks to suit the preferences of the particular client. All of this information is translated into a post installation shell script. This script, along with other installer-specific declarations are hosted on a local installation server which also contains a full, up-to-date mirror of a particular Linux distribution’s software repository (usually Ubuntu). Our automated installs are currently exclusively network based, but much of the hardware we work with will only bootstrap by CDROM, so we usually master custom media for boot strapping the installer. Once we’ve worked out the install design and all the hardware kinks, we do some test deployments and conduct a little QA with our educator. Once design is finalized, we go to production. It’s really cool seeing dozens of machines churn through an unattended install in unison.

For this project we decided to go with Lubuntu 12.04 LTS to squeeze maximum performance out of these notebooks. Many of these notebooks will be used by the students to give multimedia presentations, and what’s really exciting is that some of these higher spec machines will be used for video production as they are loaded with about a dozen of the best video production tools available from around the globe.

Speaking of the specific tasks completed that day, Morgan writes:

When I arrived, I got to work assisting James with staging and loading about a dozen laptops with Linux. James already had a couple of CDs with the applicable configuration, so it was simply an assembly-line task of connecting power and network cables to two laptops at a time, and then launching the installation. Once they were running, two more laptops could be connected and launched.

There was one laptop that would not read a CD. In order to further pinpoint the cause, I swapped the CD drives between the bad boy and a known working lap. The CD drive worked in the other lap, and the bad boy continued to fail. This proved that the problem was elsewhere within the laptop. We marked the laptop bad, and saved the CD drive and memory cards for spare parts.


Then I moved on to bundling and labeling laptops and power supplies. By the end of my two and a half hours, I think we had labeled and bundled almost thirty laptops.

The highlight of the day was the two slices of broccoli-pineapple pizza that I inhaled with gusto. This was a flavor combination that I had never heard of before. Weirdly excellent.

Thank you again for the opportunity to pedal my wares.

CACS 04/28/2013 - 1

Special thanks to CACS parent Robbie Socks for procuring the donated notebooks from Lycée Français de San Francisco and thanks again to the crew for joining us in this event!

Installfest / pizza party at Creative Arts Charter School 2013.4.28 is going to be hosting a pizza party and triagefest / installfest tomorrow (April 28, 2013) at the Creative Arts Charter School at 1601 Turk Street at Pierce St in San Francisco from 1 pm to about 3:30 pm.   The Creative Arts Charter School is a public charter school.  Any child in the State of California can attend the school for free without paying tuition.

We have about a dozen machines to install with GNU-Linux. Mostly detail work (packing notebooks up, numbering them). If there’s human resources and interest, post installation work could be done (log in, connect to the wifi, validate that a browser works — that sort of thing. Q/A basically.

Bring USB sticks with Lubuntu 12.04 on them.  If you don’t have that, Ubuntu 12.04 will do.  No need to worry about UEFI.  Please also bring everything that you would need to triage hardware.  Screw drivers, needle nose pliers, etc.

When you arrive, please text or call Christian at 415-351-1300 so that I can let you in, as the school is quite large, and you could get lost.  Thanks! 

Christian Einfeldt presents on Partimus at SCaLE11x

On February 23rd Christian Einfeldt gave a talk at the Southern California Linux Expo on Successful Linux Labs in Schools.

Christian at SCaLE11x

Einfeldt writes of his talk:

This presentation is for a non-technical audience wanting to get the experiences of a simple end
user who has been involved in setting up GNU-Linux labs in schools. The single most important point
that I hope you take away from this talk is that for the Linux lab to succeed, there must be at least one
teacher on staff at the school who is given at least 3 quiet hours per week ON THE CLOCK to address
to the needs of the computer lab and who is passionate. Without this key ingredient, the lab will fail,
whether it is Linux or Apple or Microsoft.

The second point that I would like to impress upon you is that this teacher cannot do it alone. In
order for the computer lab to work, the teacher must have the support of at least one, but preferably two
or three, highly technical people who can come into the school to trouble shoot the machines. It might
be possible for some of these people to dial in to solve the problem, but for the most part, actual
physical presence at the school is needed, or the lab will fail, whether it is Linux or Apple or Microsoft.

During his presentation he shared photos from several of the Partimus schools, including the Prescott lab in Oakland, Creative Arts Charter School in San Francisco and he discussed his involvement with the KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy. He also focused on the people who make all of the work at Partimus happen, and how vital their commitment is to the success of our labs.

Slides from his presentation are available here: scale.11x.02.pdf (1.1M PDF)

Extensive notes from his presentation are available here: (75K PDF)

Laptops for Linux Users program: Update from Sky

In January of 2011 Partimus partnered with ZaReason for a Laptops for Linux Users program where we sought to “assist people who have tremendous potential to do good in free and open software education, but who may not have the funds to meet their computing needs.”

Our pilot was with a woman named Sky in Washington State, a retired programmer and system analyst who now helps people get set up with computers running Linux-based distributions. More details about her work can be found on our Laptops for Linux Users program page.

We were delighted this month when she sent us an update of her work, facilitated by this donated laptop and gave us permission to share it.

Two years ago in March of 2011, you graciously gifted me with a beautiful ZaReason laptop through the efforts of Cathy Malmrose of ZaReason Computers. I am writing today to catch you up on what I have done with the much appreciated machine.

Since March of 2011, I have collected through donations over a dozen old laptops. I clean them up, put a Linux OS on them and then give them either to low-income people who need to search for employment and/or housing or I give them to low-income “tech-adverse” seniors.

The machine you gifted to me is perfect for the job. I normally put a Puppy-Linux OS (Lucid family) on the donated machines. Often times the laptops are missing hard drives. I am able to make live CD’s and live USB sticks with the ZaReason because if it’s many ports.

I use Puppy Linux for the operating system as it runs well and fast on old laptops. And, Puppy can be easily customized to suit the user. For example, when I set up a machine for “tech-adverse” seniors, I put two big buttons on the desktop. One says, “browse the internet here”, the other button says, “get your email here”. Works every time.

I am grateful to Partimus, Barry Kauler, the creator of Puppy Linux and to the John Murga Puppy Linux forum for providing resources and good humor in this endeavor.

If anyone has any questions about how I go about doing this, please do contact me. This small effort to further the Open Source community is most rewarding.

Keep up the amazing work, Sky!

Smokin’ hot at Ascend and Prescott

Partimus volunteers, lead by James Howard, have done a considerable amount of work at two public charter schools in Oakland, California, for the 2012 – 2013 school year.  This blog post is the first of several that we will put up about this work.  Since most of the work has been done by James Howard, most of the blog posts will focus on his work.  We are truly grateful for all that James has done for these two schools.

A little background into the work that James Howard has done at the ASCEND public charter school in Oakland. For several years, James Howard, the chief Partimus software architect and engineer, had set up and managed a GNU-Linux computer lab at the ASCEND school in Oakland.

For this year, Robert Litt moved to the Prescott School in Oakland, and Francisco Nieto took over for him at ASCEND.  On October 5, 2012, James Howard and several volunteers took two big carloads of machines donated by Dan Hernandez, the owner of Professional Computer Support, from San Francisco to Oakland, where some of the machines were dropped off at ASCEND and others at the Prescott School.  Bryan Lafata at Professional computer support organized that donation on Dan’s behalf, as well as and others you will soon hear about.  What follows is Francisco’s description of work for the first part of this school year in the lab.  (His description has been slightly edited to correct typos and for context, but the essence is unchanged).

Many thanks to James Howard for his great work at ASCEND and Prescott!  And thanks to the volunteers who helped get the machines over to Prescott and Ascend in October, including Jim Stockford of Systemateka and Maestro!  And many thanks again to Dan Hernandez and Bryan Lafata of Professiona computer support for the donation of the machines!


(By Francisco Nieto):  “James Howard had been working with Robert Litt, my predecessor at ASCEND for some time, so a lot of work, actually most, had already been done toward setting up our computer lab, such as setting up an install server and running ubuntu 10.04 on all machines.

“When I arrived, I had to learn how to work with Linux from the ground up, and I had to learn how to manage a whole networked lab. James started working with me in September and has been helping regularly for the past couple of months providing indispensable support.

“I had a bit of a wreck when I came in. Many of the Internet jacks were not live, many of the legacy  machines I setu up did not take kindly to Ubuntu and there were constant headaches. James came and in and troubleshot them all, one by one, swapping hardware here and there, even using his own supplies and funds to get our lab going. He helped me change all my old hubs into new switches, and brought Lubuntu 12.04, which ran faster and leaner on all the old machines. He got the lab back up to speed in a few sessions.


Kids enjoying multimedia in the Linux lab which James Howard created.

“Then it came time to make some important upgrades, first and foremost, the addition of iTALC to manage all the users desktops remotely. Now I can screencast my screen to all the screens, lock screens of students who are browsing away from the assignment, send them text messages to remind them to stay on task, and remotely control all machines. The system is ocassionally a bit unstable, but it generally works and has made a huge difference in managing a bunch of middle schoolers as they surf the net.


A bigger shot of the lab that James Howard built.

“The partimus volunteers brought us a bunch of newer donations in October. These machines came in at the right time as many of the older ones couldn’t handle the upgrade to Lubuntu and had to be retired.

“Overall, the quality of my teaching has been improved. Now I don’t have to spend the whole period troubleshooting recalcitrant machines and restarting them constantly, or replacing them with old macbooks, and I can send my time actually delivering tech instruction.

“Things are looking so good on the tech end, and the machines are happy enough that I feel like next semester I’m going to start teaching the middle schoolers how to code.”

On “Giving Tuesday”, help us give to public schools!

You’ve heard of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”.  Now here comes “Giving Tuesday“, an effort to formally kick off the season of giving.  Giving Tuesday was started by a New York City community organization called 92Y, which is an educational organization on 92nd Street and Lexington Street in New York City.

giving Tuesday

The “Giving Tuesday” logo

We at Partimus focus on giving all year around to public schools.  We believe that free open source software can revolutionize public school IT budgets, by bringing high quality software on quality pre-owned computers to schools. The software used on our computers is the same software that runs the supercomputers of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and 70% of the world’s equity stock trades.  We want to make sure that public school kids will grow up with a deep understanding of how to use the incredible tools of the Internet. (The City of Munich has saved 11 million Euros since 2006 by moving to the software.  The same advantage can be enjoyed by public schools the world over.)

You can help us make this happen by either purchasing a beautiful Ubuntu-themed set of earrings or a Ubuntu-themed necklace, or by simply donating directly to our efforts.  Partimus is an all-volunteer organization, and your donations will help us grow our mission, reach more schools, and be more effective at bridging the digital divide.  Six dollar from each set of earrings and $10 dollars from each necklace will go directly to Partimus, a registered 501(c)(3).

Silver-colored necklace

The silver-colored necklace

The beauty of giving to Partimus is that you will help us teach schools that beginning now with free open source software such as Ubuntu GNU-Linux will assure that these schools will always have access to the latest, best software without burdensome licensing costs.

Ubuntu Notebook

A Lenovo notebook computer running Ubuntu GNU-Linux software

The story of free open source software is the story of “doing humanity to others”, which is what the word Ubuntu means.  Go here to see former South African President Nelson Mandela talk about the African concept of Ubuntu.

Thank you for your generosity.