Sunday, July 18, 2010

Boulder Community Computers

I finally got around to taking some pictures at Boulder Community Computers (bococo), a non-profit organization that caught my eye in an article in the Daily Camera a few weeks back. I've volunteered there four times this last week, and enjoyed every minute of it.

About Bococo :

Boulder Community Computers (Bococo) is a non-profit that bridges the digital divide and prevents electronic waste in Boulder. We refurbish old computer equipment and allow people to purchase, barter, or earn it through work trade. We also host classes at our shop and in select communities around Boulder.

 I sauntered into the shop at 2232 Pearl St. last Saturday to find about 10 people wandering around, taking apart computers and having a bunch of fun. I was immediately welcomed by several people, including Eric, the guy who runs the place. He has a mohawk, ergo he is awesome.

Photo by Mark Leffingwell for the Daily Camera

The boss has a mohawk and the goal of the organization is to tinker with computers. Pretty much my idea of total awesomeness in a nutshell. 

Anyway, after meeting and greeting the people in the shop, I was immediately put to work ripping apart a computer. Complete disassembly. I worked with a gentleman whose name I dont remember, but who I have seen often around the shop. He taught me how to take out the power supply and the motherboard, neither of which I had ever touched before. I knew how to get rid of the RAM and the hard drive, as well as the various optical drives. The point is - I learned something new within the first five minutes of the build session!
Bridging the age-gap as well as the digital divide, two volunteers teach each other about the inner workings of a Dell computer.

I disassembled computers and sorted parts for the better part of three hours. Lunch was served (very important to keep volunteers fed) and then I wandered around the shop doing whatever I could and trying to stay out of the way of the people doing actual work.

Super-Geeks creating an imaging server or some such fancy device

I came back on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and again on Saturday to be as helpful as I could. In exchange for (so far) 18 hours of service, I was given an Apple G5 tower. They don't get many macs which is good, because the current operation involves stripping the operating system out of all the computers they build, and replacing it with various flavors of linux. Ubuntu, Lubuntu, Kubuntu etc.
Though the Apple OSX is linux-based, they don't try to run Ubuntu on mac hardware.

The guts of the G5 tower for which I traded my time

With my 18 hours, plus Eric who is there full time, plus a few interns, we managed to reorganize the interior of the shop into a much more usable space in under a week. We moved shelves, created workspaces, labeled and sorted parts, and stacked oodles and oodles of computers.

One of the workstations

One of the big goals of the operation is to educate people about computers. Teaching not only how to take one apart or put one together, but also how to use a computer, specifically one using the free Ubuntu operating system. While volunteering, everyone in the shop is dedicated to educating and helping one another. There are super-geeks working alongside the computer illiterate, and everyone has an absolute blast.

It doesn't matter how old you are, how computer savvy you are, or how sociable you are - Boulder Community Computers is more than just a computer shop, it's a free and open community. 

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Help spread the word!