Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Happy Earth Month!

Happy Earth Month, everyone! Did you celebrate? If you did, you joined over a billion people across 192 countries in raising awareness for environmental protection and preservation. Earth Day began in the 1970's and has become an inspiring annual event. Go team!

Free Geek commemorated Earth Day 2014 by participating in VCC’s Green Living Fair, where we helped attendees learn how to reduce their carbon footprint through ethical recycling.

How did you participate? Whether you finally recycled those bottles under your sink, remembered to bring your eco bags to the grocery store, brought your electronics in to Free Geek, or attended an event, we want to hear about it. Feel free to share with us in the comments, or on Facebook.

Want to learn more about Earth Day and how you can live green all year long? Visit or for more information and links.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

-- John Muir


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This post is all about people. In March, we celebrated the donation of another hardware grant to a local elementary school, and we partnered with First United Church in the DTES, donating computers for use in their resource centre. As always, we had a wonderful time getting involved in the community, and it got us thinking – we’ve profiled quite a few people and organizations, but never ourselves, and we thought we’d quite like to say hello.
So, this month, we bring you our first ever profile of a FGV staff member. Mike, who heads up Free Geek’s laptop department, took his turn in the hot seat and answered the same set of questions we pose to our Volunteer of the Month. Read on for more about Mike.

How long have you been at Free Geek? What’s your department?

I started as a volunteer in April of 2011, going through our Build Program and ending up in Laptop Build by June. In March of 2012 I was hired as the Laptop Build Coordinator, temporary part-time. By September I was on permanent staff, part-time, then by December 2012 full time.

What prompted you to start volunteering?

Doctor's orders. No, really. Stop obsessing about finding work in your old career, she said. Volunteer somewhere and you'll get your confidence back. She was dead right about that.

I had an idea of getting into some kind of tech support, since I knew a lot about software. About hardware, though, I knew virtually nothing. Free Geek turned out to be the best place to learn that.

What has been the best part of your experience at Free Geek?

At the beginning, it was the staff and the community of volunteers. Everybody helps you, nobody judges. It's not where you came from, but what you can do and what kind of person you are that count. Do you want to stretch your wings, try something new? Go for it, we'll help. Do you have a tweak, a trick, an improvement you want to try? Do it: if it works we'll keep it, if it doesn't, hey, no worries.

Later on, as staff, the best part was the rare privilege of teaching in the best classroom situation you can imagine (one on one, with all the resources right at hand), and the still more rare privilege of building something unique and worthy.

Where do you hope to go with the skills and knowledge you have gained?

I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right here. This is one of the very few jobs I've had where I look forward to going into work every day. I get to work with a lot of really first-class people, genuine citizens in the classic sense of the word, and that's a jewel beyond price.

Please tell us anything you would like to share about your hobbies and interests.

Books, movies, history, politics, science, science fiction, British detective dramas, Stan Rogers, how the human brain works, why people believe in things that aren't true, and at the bottom of it all, origins. Of people, names, memes, myths, customs, nations, technologies, matter, energy, mind, the cosmos. Endlessly fascinating.

Any final comments?

Free Geek is a really unusual organization, an experiment really. An enterprise that operates on the premise that cooperation achieves more than competition, equality more than hierarchy, altruism more than greed. Sometimes experiments fail, but not this one, I think. I'm proud to be a part of it.

We couldn't agree more. Free Geek is very proud to have someone with Mike’s experience and dedication on staff.  Recently, Mike also acted as the FGV ambassador during the filming of a documentary at the Free Geek warehouse. Stay tuned for more on that in our next post!

Of course, we can’t go without mentioning our Volunteer of the Month. Meet Roxana!

How long have you volunteered with Free Geek? What's your department?

Since October, 2013. I spent most of my time in hardware and RAM testing. I’ve recently moved to laptop build.

What prompted you to start volunteering?

Because of my environmental convictions. I want to help the environment. Free Geek lets me do this in a very tangible way.

 What has been the best part of your experience at Free Geek?

The staff are very supportive and professional. They reflect better ethics than the mainstream.

Where do you hope to go with the skills and knowledge you have gained?

I would like to help others. I would like to in the future help my friends fix their computers, and have more knowledge in this direction.

Please tell us anything you'd like to share about your hobbies and interests.

I like to spend time in nature (hiking). I like to watch documentaries, read, and sew by hand.

Any final comments?

I just want to say thank you for this opportunity.

Thank you for your commitment to Free Geek, Roxana. We’re happy to have you on the team J

That wraps it up for this month, but as always, stay tuned and connect with us on social media to keep your finger on the Free Geek pulse.



Friday, February 28, 2014

We’re feeling famous here at Free Geek! We've been mentioned in the media twice this month, and we could not be more excited to get word of Free Geek out to the community.
Firstly, an article in the Georgia Straight highlighted Free Geek’s use of Bitcoin as a payment method in the thrift store. What is Bitcoin? In the simplest terms, it’s virtual cash, and may be the future of money as we know it.

The article included comments from Free Geek’s sales coordinator Tim Adkins, who discussed Free Geek’s use of the service. Because Bitcoin operates using open-source technology, our use of it in the thrift store reinforces our dedication to accessibility and free and open-source software for our organization, our volunteers, and members of our community. Three cheers for Bitcoin, and to Tim for bringing Free Geek into the spotlight.
For more information, check out the article here.
Click this link for more about Bitcoin.

Our second mention came just a few days after the Bitcoin article. A press event was held in the Free Geek warehouse to publicize the staggering success of the Cell Phones for Seniors campaign that we covered in our last post. To date, the campaign has collected over 1,700 phones, all of which are being stored in the Free Geek warehouse as they await processing by our staff and volunteers. Due to the generosity of the donations, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are steadily making progress, and we know that this combined effort will make a great difference to people that receive the refurbished phones.
Click here to read the full article.
We also took a few behind-the-scenes photos of our own for you to check out....

We were happy and proud to host this event and celebrate the success of the campaign, thank you to everyone who helped make it happen! 

Speaking of feeling celebrated, let us take a moment to spotlight our Volunteer of the Month, Brian!
Brian has been a member of Free Geek Vancouver for six years, donating his time at our weekly Open Help Night, where members of the community can seek help with their open-source software issues or hardware problems.
Brian started volunteering with us because he likes the ideas behind Free Geek, namely, the recycling program, the education, and the ethical components. He says the best part of his time at Free Geek has been meeting people, and the shared experiences Free Geek offers. As for where he might go with the skills and knowledge he has gained during his time with us, Brian says, “Because I am one of the most experienced technical volunteers, I see myself here as giving back rather than getting ‘from’ Free Geek in terms of education and help. But I still learn while I’m here.” He continues, “I've enjoyed my time at Free Geek and I look forward to continuing my experience and meeting new and interesting people through this.”
In addition to helping others in the community, Brian’s interests and hobbies include ham radio, and open-source advocacy.
Thank you for your dedication and enthusiasm, Brian. Here’s to another six years!

That’s all for this month, folks! Join us next month for more, and be sure to keep an eye on our social media for articles, insights, and geeky good humour.

Cheers, FGV

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hello again and Happy New Year! Here at Free Geek we are back to business as usual after a relaxing holiday season, and we’re excited to take a crack at 2014.

Our first community project of the year is already in full swing, and we’re eager to share it with all of you. Free Geek is working in partnership with the Vancouver Parks Board and Commissioner Sarah Blyth on Cell Phones For Seniors, a campaign which aims to donate cell phones to elderly residents of the DTES, so that they may be able to contact emergency services. The campaign started in December, and has received a wonderful response - Vancouverites have donated over 1500 new and used cell phones to the cause.
What’s our part in all this? The phones, of course! Free Geek will be receiving and processing all the donated cell phones to prepare them for donation to seniors, as well as ethically recycling any phones that don’t make the grade. We’re honoured to have been chosen to help our community in this way.
These boxes are full of phones! 

 So are these! 
And these! 

Free Geek’s regular operations are still going strong as we process the phones, and we are actively taking on volunteers for the new year. Never volunteered? Keep reading for a rundown on all of Free Geek’s volunteer departments – there are lots of job-applicable skills to be learned and lots of fun to be had, Free Geek style.

Shipping & Receiving
Every laptop, computer, cell phone, mouse, hard drive and power cord that comes into Free Geek starts its journey in Receiving. As a volunteer in this department, you will learn to classify and sort all the items that come through the door. You will also prep certain items for shipment to our downstream recyclers. Keep your eyes peeled for the weird and wonderful, as well as rare tech finds.

Many of the items that Free Geek receives are too old or too broken to be reused. These items are moved into the dismantle department where volunteers take these items apart and separate the various components. Raw materials such as steel, aluminum, copper, plastic, and wires are sorted into bins to be recycled. Computer hardware such as hard drives, RAM, and expansion cards are set aside for further testing.

From receiving, potentially reusable desktop computers move to the Evaluation department. As a volunteer, you will learn to test each computer’s functionality, and decide whether it is suitable for refurbishment, or recycling. This department will also teach you about the inner workings and components of computers. Computers found to be suitable for refurbishment are known as “keepers” and are set aside for builders to work on.

Volunteers in this department test a variety of computer hardware including hard drives, RAM, video cards, network cards, routers, and peripherals. Testing procedures are taught to volunteers who assess the health and functionality of the hardware. Donated hard drives receive extra attention; they’re processed to ensure that any personal data is either physically destroyed or thoroughly erased. All hardware that passes the testing phase can then be reused, donated, or sold in our thrift store.

Desktop Build
In this department, volunteers are taught to refurbish “keeper” desktop computers that have passed initial evaluation. This often involves swapping or upgrading components with tested and reusable hardware. To ensure the durability of our computers, volunteers learn how to perform quality control procedures. Fully refurbished computers are either given to our volunteers through our “Adoption Box Program,” donated to community-based organizations through our “Hardware Grants Program,” or sold in our thrift store. In terms of education, this department is a gold mine. Although the work is detailed and challenging, plenty of Free Geek staff and experienced volunteers are on hand to help you as you go.

Laptop Build
This department is much like Desktop Build, except that volunteers work on laptops. Working here can be especially challenging, as laptops are smaller in size and quite delicate. And, when something goes wrong, their proprietary nature makes diagnosis and repair more difficult. Nevertheless, determined volunteers with patience and good detective skills can volunteer here.

Thrift Store
Much of our refurbished electronics end their journey in the Free Geek thrift store, where we have a need for friendly and helpful sales staff to assist our customers in their purchase decisions. If you are looking for retail experience to pad your resume, or you are a people person wanting to help others find solutions to their tech queries, this is the place for you!

If any of these departments sound like they would suit you, come on down for an orientation and learn more about us. Orientations take place every Wednesday at 4pm, and every Saturday at 2pm and 4pm. An orientation takes about 45 minutes. No need to make an appointment; just come in a few minutes before the hour and let us know you’re there.

Because they are the backbone of our organization, we have decided to pay tribute to Free Geek’s Volunteer of the Month in each blog post. Allow us to introduce you to Stanley, January’s honoree. We asked Stanley to answer a few questions about his time at Free Geek.

How long have you volunteered with Free Geek? What's your department?
            3 years. I prepare the motherboards and circuit boards for recycling and then box them for shipping.            

What prompted you to start volunteering?
                I'm retired, and have been active all my life. I didn't want to sit around my apartment all the time. I found out about Free Geek on the internet.

What has been the best part of your experience at Free Geek? 
                 I've met some new friends here, and learned about the properties of different metals.

Where do you hope to go with the skills and knowledge you have gained? 
                I'd like to try and build my own computer. I've been looking after my son's old computers, but I'd like to try to work on new ones.

Please tell us anything you'd like to share about your hobbies and interests, other than volunteering.
                I look after my son's and his friends computers. I'm hooked on computers. I used to go motorcycle bush riding.

Since joining Free Geek in March 2011, Stanley has committed over 1400 hours of his time to our organization. His long and consistent volunteer record is worthy of recognition– thank you for your dedication, Stanley!

See you all next month!  Please be sure to check our blog and social media for updates on events and Free Geek news.


Free Geek Vancouver  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Holidays from Free Geek

Whew, what a year! As 2013 draws to a close, we at Free Geek are looking forward to the holiday season. We hope this has been as great a year for you as it has for us. With the help of the 788 volunteers we’ve welcomed this year, we have been able to accomplish so much, including tackling veritable mountains of electronics with our (gloved) hands. Just look at these numbers!

12,262 pounds of wire
11,280 pounds of e-waste
9,536 pounds of circuit boards
6,301 pounds of steel
3,736 pounds of hard drives
3,583 pounds of batteries
2,943 pounds of fans
2,904 pounds of transformers
2,745 pounds of motherboards
2,280 pounds of aluminum

All this adds up to a dizzying total of 57,570 pounds of e-waste, roughly the equivalent weight of two Metro Vancouver buses packed with commuters at rush hour – quite the haul.

We are proud to say that we, along with our indispensable team of volunteers, have refurbished, resold, or ethically recycled every item listed and saved it from its fate in a landfill. Cheers to Free Geek, and three cheers to all our volunteers! Your commitment and enthusiasm made this achievement possible. We look forward to working with both new and familiar faces in 2014.

We are also very excited to greet the upcoming year with projects that will help us to further educate and inform our community about ethical e-waste recycling. Look for us at community events and trade shows in and around Vancouver – we are still finalizing the particulars, but we will keep you posted on Facebook and Twitter, as well as here on our blog. We are planning monthly blog posts to keep our volunteers, followers and fans abreast of all that is happening. Make sure to check back for the latest news, and as always feel free to contact us with your questions.

Best wishes from the Free Geek Vancouver family. We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and a safe and happy New Year.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Free Geek Toronto

I was in Toronto at the beginning of March, and while I was in town I paid a visit to Free Geek Toronto.  They are located in a west end neighbourhood called The Junction.  

Here are a few pictures that I took:

Free Geek Toronto alley entrance
The entrance is through an alley, the sign was slightly buried in the snow.
Main entrance
The store area. 
A build station.

Friday, April 12, 2013

I found this posted on the Free Geek Vancouver Google+ page, it's pretty awesome: Free Geek Commercial

Go watch the video, the you tube counter is only at 50 right now, let's see if we can double that!  Who said we don't think big at Free Geek.

Brought to you by Orange Peel Productions. Thanks organge peel for the awesomeness.