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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.

Beautiful new Ubuntu necklaces in time for the holidays!

Partimus co-founder Maile Urbancic has outdone herself again. As we blogged about here, Boutique Academia, a small company run by Partimus co-founder Maile Urbancic, has created some beautiful gold-colored and silver-colored earrings created in the shape of the Ubuntu human family logo.  Now, she has added gold-colored and silver-colored rhodium necklaces with the Ubuntu theme.

The Ubuntu necklace, in gold color

The Ubuntu necklace, in gold color.

Maile has graciously decided to donate $10.00 from the sale of each pair of earrings to Partimus. She will send Partimus checks reflecting those earnings every time she receives enough sales to send us at least $100.00 in earnings from the earrings and from the necklaces.

We are so proud of these earrings necklaces, because they are beautiful, and they promote the Ubuntu theme of one human family. Partimus’ work in schools is about delivering high-quality pre-owned computers to students, but the bigger picture is teaching students and teachers about the power of sharing. The Ubuntu human family logo fits right in with this theme, so Partimus is certainly thrilled to be able to be associated with this wonderful theme, and these beautiful earrings and necklaces.


This necklace is exciting, because it continues a Partimus tradition of beautiful, smart innovation by a team of women who have founded Partimus and continue to make Partimus move today.  Partimus was founded by two women, Cathy Malmrose and Maile Urbancic, and today, half of our board members are women.  Women have been instrumental in developing the Partimus vision, setting policy in Partimus, and executing on the Partimus vision.  The new necklaces, which are based on the theme of the Ubuntu GNU-Linux operating system, extend the Partimus theme of blending technology with beautiful aesthetics.  Here is a close ups of the silver-coloried rhodium necklace (rhodium is a non-tarnishing silver):

Silver-colored necklace

A close-up of the silver-colored necklace.


We are also thrilled to be able to show our major donors that we are making headway in our goal of growing Partimus as an organization. Major donors are always happy to see that the organization they support has multiple sources of revenue, so that the organization is sustainable in the long run. Thanks to Maile for starting this fundraising campaing, and thanks to all of the Partimus volunteers who are publicizing the campaign and are making it a success! And of course, thanks tons for all of you wonderful donors who purchase a set of earrings or a neckace!

Partimus is a registered 501(c)(3).  All donations to Partimus are tax deductible.  Our Donations Page is here.  Donations will help us advance our mission of placing computers in under-privileged schools.

Board Members Beth Lynn and Elizabeth are going to Ghana!

In August, Beth Lynn Eicher sent an invitation to Partimus board members who were interested in joining her with a team from Computer Reach in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on a trip to Ghana to deploy 100 computers running Edubuntu to schools and community centers.

Elizabeth Krumbach volunteered to participate and the two of them have been working with volunteers Dave Sevick and Nancy Latimer as the US team contingent who will be traveling to Ghana to aid with relationship development and helping to develop lesson plans for teachers at the various schools. Both Linux systems administrators by trade, Beth Lynn and Elizabeth will lead the technical portion of the team.

They will be arriving in the capital of Accra on October 11th and Elizabeth will be staying with the rest of the team for 2 weeks before leaving to attend the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Copenhagen. Beth Lynn has decided to spend more time on the ground, staying through the beginning of November.

Computer Reach has a history working with centers in Ghana, providing 5 laptops to The Street Academy in Accra, story here and continued here. Our board members plan on also visiting this school on their trip, the photo below is from that academy:

It’s an exceptional opportunity for our board members and we’re looking forward to not only hearing the stories from their travels and drawing upon the expertise of the folks from Computer Reach and on site volunteers to help us develop metrics for tracking usage and effectiveness of our own deployments.

Lots of computers donated today!

Today was a very huge day for Partimus the two of the schools that we serve, the ASCEND school in Oakland, and the Prescott school in Oakland, which you can also read about here.  These schools are both part of the Oakland public school district, but these schools stand out in their reputation for academic excellence and for instilling an understanding for good behavior among students who come from challenging economic backgrounds. The technology teachers at these two schools, Robert Litt at Prescott and Francisco Nieto at Ascend, are doing incredible things in working with Partimus volunteers led by James Howard, to build their computer labs with free software and donated hardware.

Today, our volunteers, James Howard, Jim Stockford of Systemateka, Christian Einfeldt, and Maestro, moved about 40 machines from the San Francisco Office of our gracious donor, Professional Computer Support, owned by Dan Hernandez, to the two Oakland schools.  It was a lot of sorting, lifting, loading, driving, and unloading, and we are grateful to our volunteers for doing such great work, and offering so much of themselves to help underprivileged kids.   James Howard and Jim Stockford very generously donated the use of their personal vehicles as well as their backs to lift and transport the machines.  Maestro energetically loaded and stacked machines, and kept us all laughing with his jokes.

We are, of course, also very grateful to Dan Hernandez for giving such a generous gift, and to his right hand man, Bryan LaFata, an account manager at Professional Computer Support, for organizing this donation and making it happen.  We will have more info in the near future about the work being done at these schools and the great things that our volunteers are doing with the fabulous donation by Professional Computer Support.  Thanks again to everyone for making this happen!

Successful Raspberry Pi Silent Auction!

Several months ago James Tatum donated a Raspberry Pi to Partimus to use or sell as a fundraiser. This past week we were finally able to take the time to organize a silent auction at a Bay Area Linux Users Group meeting.

Photo by Sameer Verma

There were 3 bidders in the auction, all of whom made generous offers to support Partimus! The winning bid of $100 was accepted.

Huge thanks to everyone who participated and to James for the donation that made this auction possible.

The meeting itself was about the Scratch programming language, presented by Gary Longoria who used it to teach programming to high school students at the UC Berkeley Pre-College Academy during the summer. It was a really interesting presentation and I’m now hopeful we can find a way to integrate use of this tool in our work with Partimus.

14 notebooks up and running Ubuntu GNU-Linux!

Today was a really great day (Saturday 2012.8.18).  Two volunteers by the name of Maestro and James Ouyang (@jyouyang) came to the Creative Arts Charter School today to help get the school ready for the start of the new school year on Monday, 2012.8.20.  Together, we were able to manually install 14 of 19 notebook computers with Ubuntu GNU-Linux 12.04.  This means that two kids will collaborate on each machine, as there are 28 kids per class session in the classroom of Maria Jenerik, who teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade social studies.  There are an additional 3 working desktop computers in Maria’s classroom for a total of 17 working machines.  Here is a shot of the notebook computers stacked on a cart ready to go for Monday:

Notebooks on a cart

19 notebook computers donated by Intuit, 14 of which are now installed with Ubuntu Linux!  Thanks Intuit!


These computers were donated to Partimus by Intuit, so many thanks to Intuit for that!  More details about the Intuit donation can be read here and here.  This donation is going to make a big difference for Maria Jenerik’s classroom, because there was a fire in one of the buildings housing the Creative Arts Charter School, so space is at a premium at the Creative Arts school.  Thanks to Jim Stockford of Systemateka for introducing Partimus Board member Christian Einfeldt to Steve Camuti of Intuit.  Steve orchestrated the donation through the halls of Intuit.

Today we put in 17 hours of work installing Ubuntu on those 14 computers; and running wire and cable to hook up the three additional machines.   Thanks again to James Ouyang and Maestro for your great work!  We are particularly grateful to James Ouyang for getting the wifi router running.  Maria Jenerik was really thrilled to see that she is now able to get access to the Internet wirelessly in her classroom.   Thanks, James!  Sometimes such small things make a big difference.  Getting the wifi running was the key final bit to making the Intuit notebook computers work well for Maria and her kids.

This work today in manually installing the notebook computers was just a temporary bridge step until we are able to mass install a uniform configuration across all of the machines to be administered remotely by our Partimus gurus.  It was a really important bridge step, because now Maria Jenerik will be ready to go with her kids on Monday.

Networking and Pizza

The school year is starting at the Creative Arts Charter School, a public charter school in SF, and so we (Partimus volunteers) will be working there tomorrow, Saturday, August 18, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 pm, at 1601 Turk Street at Pierce Street to take the first steps toward assessing the network with an eye toward installing wifi and Linux on the notebook computers that arrived recently:

Our goal for tomorrow is to look at the network; assess it for wifi; assess whether we can put a server in the telco closet for a variety of services; and then potential mass installation of Linux onto the notebook computers.  If we are not able to mass install Linux on the notebooks, then we might have to just take as shot at installing Linux individually on as many of the computers as possible.  The kids start school on Monday, so we are going to try to get as far as we can tomorrow.  If we only take a few baby steps, that is fine.

Please bring with you copies of Ubuntu 12.04 on USB sticks and CDs, in case we need to manually install it.  Please also bring cable testers, screw drivers, pliers, and anything else that you would need to get into notebook or desktop computers, triage them, and fix them.  If you have any spare wifi routers to donate, that would also be a plus.

Our other goal is to have our special yummy pizza at 1:00 pm.

If you would like to help, please come to the corner of Turk and Pierce, and call me or text me at 415-351-1300 as the school is quite large.  If I don’t respond right away, please understand that there might be other people who are calling me or texting me at the same time, and I will get to each of you as soon as I can.

Any re-tweets, re-dents, and re-posting of this email is appreciated.

30 hours of work in just a few days

During the past 8 days, Partimus volunteers have put in 30 hours of work spread over 4 days.  On Saturday 2012.7.28 and Sunday 2012.7.29, we moved about 1,000 lbs of equipment a total of 2.5 vertical miles going up and down stairs, due to the fact that 1) we lost equipment storage space at one of our schools, due to an expanded gym program; and 2) we were upgrading the and expanding a computer network for the 5th grade math teacher at the KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy, a public charter school in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood.   Today, we finished the work of upgrading that 5th grade teacher’s network, and here is a picture of the new monitors that she will be getting:

Lacee network

These old computers run just fine with the most modern Ubuntu GNU-Linux software installed on them!

The 5th grade math teacher, Lacee Phillips, will be using those computers to allow students to perform drills on the Khan math academy, among other things.

Today, we also moved the notebook computers from their temporary home at the Law Office of Albert G. Stoll to their permanent home at the Creative Arts Charter School, another public charter school in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood.  There were 19 notebook computers and 2 desktop computers that had been donated to Partimus by Intuit, but we had to have the shipment delivered to Al Stoll’s law office due to the fact that we were unsure when we were notified of the donation in the spring whether school would be in session or not when the machines arrived.

Partimus Board of Directors member Christian Einfeldt was in the middle of a deposition (he’s a lawyer), when Al’s office manager came into the deposition with a note that the computers had arrived.  It was a contention deposition that Al’s office had been trying to set up for more than one year, but when Christian heard that the computers had arrived, he was elated, and interrupted the deposition to briefly go to the FedEx truck to review the computers and sign off of the FedEx delivery slip to get the computers delivered.  Exciting!  Fortunately, opposing counsel and the deponent were gracious about the interruption, but the deposition was later suspended so that it could be completed on another day (not because of the interruption).

The computer delivery sparked some interest among the hard-core trial lawyers and their staff who occupy the suite where the computers were delivered, because there were two big boxes with machines, and two monitors in bubble wrap sitting right in the middle of the floor of the office.  Pictures of the boxes can be seen here.

Today, Sunday 2012.8.5, Partimus Board Member Elizabeth Krumbach picked up Christian Einfeldt at the KIPP school, where they grabbed a cart to move the boxes, and drove to the Pier 39 area of San Francisco, where Al’s office is located.  They loaded the boxes into Elizabeth’s small coup.  The boxes barely fit.  Elizabeth and Christian then drove the boxes over to the Creative Arts Charter school, and picked up another computer for a non-profit dedicated to stopping human trafficking in California.  They dropped off that computer, and then went over to the KIPP school again to drop off the cart and to set up the Ubuntu GNU-Linux computer network shown in the picture above.  They got the network set up just 5 minutes before they had to be out of the building and the school alarm was set.  The work went right down to the wire.

And, of course, Elizabeth and Christian enjoyed the Partimus Pizza special, broccoli and pineapple pizza from Extreme Pizza on Fillmore and Sutter Street.

Now, Elizabeth Krumbach is already in the process of investigating the notebook computers, shown here on her Flickr page.  The next step is for Partimus core volunteer emeritus James Howard to pour over these machines to prep them for a mass install with Ubuntu and eventual addition to the CACS network.

Intuit notebooks

These are the notebook computers that were recently donated by Intuit. Thanks Intuit!

It was a great day with a sense of real accomplishment.  We have been waiting for these notebook computers for a long time, due to the fact that the Creative Arts Charter School (CACS) had suffered a fire on 2011.12.22, and so CACS has no room for an independent computer lab, at least for the remainder of 2012.  CACS had to cram students from 2 buildings into one building, so they had to close the computer lab and use it for a classroom.  That is why the notebook computers were so crucial; they can be used in a classroom, due to the fact that they are small, and it is not necessary to run wires all over the place to get them working.  So thanks again to Intuit for this wonderful donation of notebook computers; it will make a huge difference in the lives of the teachers and kids using them!


Advance peek at the Intuit notebook donation!

Partimus has received a donation of 19 notebook computers and two desktop computers with flat screen monitors for placement in underprivileged public schools!  Yay!  Thanks to Intel for donating these computers; thanks to Steve Camuti of Intuit for carrying the ball inside Intuit to make this happen; and thanks to Tom Stevenson of Arrow-Intechra for executing the donation!  Thanks very much to Jim Stockford of Systemateka for introducing me to Steve Camuti.

notebook in crate

Here is a shot of a notebook still in the crate, fresh from the donation by Intuit.

Thanks also to attorney Albert Stoll for providing the space to receive this donation, because school is now out of session, and so we had the computers delivered to his law office.

Pics of the unboxing are here.

Now we just need to find a volunteer with a car who can drive the equipment about 4 miles from their current location to the school where they will be used!