Monday, January 31, 2011

Dinosaurs and Cockroaches

This was going to be a New Years' post, but since it's almost February, I think I'll give up singing Auld Lang Syne and go instead with an evolutionary metaphor.

The equipment we receive as donations at Free Geek spans around 30 years. That covers a lot of revolutionary change, from the advent of the home computer itself, to the explosion of the IBM PC format whose heritage dominates the equipment that we deal with, to the Internet age, through to the increasing domination of wireless and portable computing. And a thousand smaller revolutions in between.

Sometimes it's interesting to note what hasn't changed in all that time. And sorry, folks: I realize that this is going to be a really nerdy post.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Laptop Station Chaos

I spent a Thursday working at the laptop station in the Mezzanine and I suppose it's no surprise to anyone that it's a mess.
OK, it's not the laptop station, but this would make a great tombstone. Whoever wrote this note, you're awesome.
In the interests of constructive criticism, consider this not so much an indictment of the laptop station as a celebration of how far the rest of Free Geek has managed to organize itself. Anyone remember what it was like a few years ago, when we first moved into the new space? Or further back, when we were in the old space near Science World? My memory is fuzzy going any further back than my last cup of tea [currently approx. 15 minutes], but I remember that waves of junk swept over every horizontal surface as though deposited by the tide twice a day, only to be fought back by diligent volunteers just in time for the next onslaught.

Both the Mezzanine and the Warehouse have been looking consistently sane, and the store is no longer a knee-deep snarl of wires. And I'm not making light of the amount of work that this takes: Free Geek takes such a bizarre assortment of equipment that there can't possibly be a proper place for everything. It can only be kept clean (in my opinion) by constantly paying attention to all the little corners where stuff can collect. So let me begin by saying: congratulations to all involved for apparently taming the lion.

The laptop station is a bit of a sore spot in the middle of all of this...
Laptop Station. Amelia Earhart is believed to be somewhere in this pile.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thursday's Mystery Device

Last Thursday there was a bit of a disturbance at the Receiving desk -- a batch of old equipment arrived in boxes, and one of the boxes turned out to have a dead mouse in it. (The meaty kind.)

The box also contained this:
Mystery Device
At first glance, this appears to be an ancient scanner, filthy and discolored from exposure to sunlight. When it failed to actually be a scanner (i.e. there was nowhere to stick paper into it), I rescued it for further investigation. This turned into a really fun teardown.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Network Device Testing Redux; Open Source & Volunteering

Last week I bemoaned the state of Network Device Testing. Here's how it looked one week later:
Network Device Testing, One Week Later

In summary, not bad, not great. It looks as though motherboard testing has partially migrated to the right-hand side of the desk, and a limited amount of junk accumulated again.

I spent most of the day working with a volunteer on Network Device Testing, teaching him how the station works and talking about volunteering, software development and the open source world. He is interested in studying software or hardware engineering and wanted to know about the prospects for both in Vancouver.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sisyphean Task no. 1: Network Device Testing

Some days feel like progress, and other days feel like swimming in molasses. Today was a molasses day.

Network Device Testing: Before