COVID-19 : not everyone has a computer at home

With institutions being shut down, students, school pupils and others have to work online from home. While quite a lot of people can’t afford to buy suitable equipment, and were asking for a solution before the present crisis. Plenty of XP - Vista - W7 PCs are unused though still in working order, and it’s easy to install Linux by following the instructions available here and elsewhere. We usually use Mint, though geeks younger than me put other distros on the most ancient devices.

Portables tend to be favoured because of lack of space.

Initiatives are necessarily local - ours (in French) is here: []


I’ll throw my $.2 in here, if you don’t mind.

  1. There are a lot of opportunities to get free working computers, as I know from my own experience. Sometimes you just have to ask someone if they have an old PC left.
  2. Local organizations are usually good and don’t want to rip you off. But I would recommend everyone to not donate more than $10 to any big organization like UNICEF, WWF or similar.
    They spend too much of the money on unnecessary stuff. You even partially pay their marketing with your money. They also have acquisition tactics that most sane people would consider immoral. They brush it off as “it’s for a greater good, so it’s fine” (literal quote from one of their leaders, spoken to me personally).
    I know that from reading but also when I worked for an organization like that a couple of years ago. Once you work for them, you see the true face pretty quickly.

Its Sunday morning and Im in meetings over this problem within my state and for some local schools.

I have access to 250 computers that they were going to sell off and I was going to use those with linux but the school system wont/cant support them. We are having troubles with so many accessing network with creds. They are centered on Chrome (I dont like it but… not important) and that should make it easier but we are having trouble with linux computers connecting.

This is both the best and worst time for this to happen but I dont think pushing linux right now is going to work. Videos on the network will not run on linux because of licensing. Being on ubuntu for so long I didnt realize silverlight was still a thing.

1 Like

My employer’s latest “Covid-19” bulletin, no international travel for business purposes

We have presences/offices in most Australian capitals, three cities in New Zealand, and Seattle WA, USA.

No travel between NZ and Au.

Seattle-ites work from home from today, until further notice.

Business as usual for Au and NZ office workers, domestic travel within NZ or AU okay, but no cross Tasman (i.e. between NZ and Au).

It’s all very well to recommend Linux as a “work from home solution”, but take my case? My company insists on using some crappy (it’s rubbish compared to Cisco solutions) proprietary VPN software from an Israeli company, and it’s well nigh impossible to get the client to play ball on many Linux distros, took me EIGHT months of constant trial and error to finally get it to work (and it turned out to be a bit of dumb luck, found a Portuguese language website/page [no longer exists BTW] with a download of a binary client that works with my employer’s version of the VPN “server”)… and my most recent attempt was unsuccessful (installing from scratch on a Ubuntu 19.10 install)… it currently works where I installed it on 18.04 LTS, and works on 19.10 machines where I originally installed it on 18.10 and afterwards updated to 19.04 and 19.10… I’m considering wiping that 19.10 machine, and installing 18.04…

For those first 8 months, I either had to use a Windows 7 VM with the client installed (i.e. using an ASP page in Internet Explorer!), or my iPad Pro… I’ve been on-call, and I also do lots of after hours, weekend work, remotely via VPN.

So - given I’d consider myself a bit of an expert Linux user (my job is Linux/Unix after all, server platforms) - and getting a proprietary VPN client to play ball was so difficult for me, an exercise not to be undertaken lightly by newbies… Similar goes for Juniper VPN solutions (both Checkpoint and Juniper VPN clients expect to have a legacy Java version plugin working, and lotsa 32 bit shite installed).

However, if your employer uses an Open Source (long live OSS! :heart_eyes: :+1: ) VPN product, or Cisco, things are a lot “rosier”! In fact with Cisco, you’re probably spoiled for choice…

1 Like

Your experience with business system corresponds in a more complicated way to the situation in education, where some establisments enforce the use of MS office, apparently on the ridiculous grounds that the students don’t pay for the licence (except, I suppose, via their tuition fees).

There are cases where MS office has the monopoly because the alternatives, including LibreOffice haven’t encouraged the evolution of macro programming ecosystems on the internet comparable to the dreaded VBA, which is often essential when working with spreadsheets. As a concrete illustration, while a schoolteacher can download any number of Excel macros for making flashcards (which are in very common use), I wouldn’t know where to start using LO Calc. That’s a real pity now that Calc can treat images as ordinary cell content.

If only for reasons of reliability of service and supply in a World of bugs and malware (Windows updates deleting data is just a small symptom…) we need to move to a system where nobody will be willing to install anything that doesn’t have a compatible and totally independent “second source”. I recall that decades ago, semiconductor manufacturers collaborated with rivals on that; otherwise they would get no aerospace or military contracts.
Finally, I like your concluding remark about Open Source, without the word “Free” which may be interpreted as implying that people don’t need to get paid for their work.


I was surprised, and somewhat dismayed, when about ~10 years ago, my daughters both started at University, me having been there some 10-15 years earlier (as a mature age student) - just when Open Source was getting some exposure, and various faculties were using Linux, which was a much cheaper solution than expensive RISC machines running commercial UNIX… Anyway - I digress, when they started uni, both of them (at different institutions) required Microsoft Office, and not just any office, it had to be Office 2007 or later (2010 I think)?

Was really surprise that Universities hadn’t opened up to Open and Libre Office suites… ridiculous… what difference does it make if a DOCX xml file was created in MS Word, or Libre Writer, or Google Docs for that matter!

Also - having said that - I have noticed, a lot of “how to” documents out there - for connecting to proprietary VPN solutions (Juniper and Checkpoint, I’m talking to you!) are from Education Institutions… From a marketing point, it makes sense, foist proprietary software solutions on students, and they’ll be ready to foist them on others when they join the workforce?

But to me, it goes against the principles of academia…

Anyway - my youngest daughter deferred for a few years due to health issues, and is now re-enrolled, and she got a grant, got herself a new Macbook Air, but she doesn’t need to install Microsoft Office, as she can use the online version of 365 through her university… phew… and she has her own subscription to Adobe Creative Suite (she’s doing media/marketing/advertising/graphics).

When I was at Uni, if we submitted “documents” they were on paper! Mostly however it was source code (Pascal, C, C++, 8086 assembler etc) on 3.5" floppy disk…



1 Like
1 Like

Got an NVidia or ATI (i.e. AMD) GPU in your Linux “rig” (can even do it on Windows too I think)?

Get it cracking helping scientists researching Covid-19 (and other stuff too) :

Here’s my home desktop Phenom II with GTX650Ti cracking away on some data for Folding@Home :

Is this a thing one does 24/7 (like BOINC, etc.) or is this one different and temporary?

Because the problem with such things is that certain countries have politics-related very high electricity costs. I think @Fast.Edi could tell you a story about that, if he wanted to. :laughing:

1 Like

I’m guessing it’s like BOINC or Seti@home, I guess, kinda sorta… no idea how much power it uses… looks like a lot, given four of my six CPU cores R@ 100%…

It’s official… got taken aside by my boss this afternoon, and told “sorry if you’re offended, it’s about your age, we’re sending everyone over 55 home to work from home, from tomorrow, until further notice…” I wasn’t offended, and was relieved… my wife, and one of my daughters are already immuno-compromised… I went in late today, to avoid public transport congestion, and still, people are NOT respecting the 1.5 metre “social distancing” etiquette!

In other news, the premier of my state (Western Australia), who’s doing a great job (he’s also from my hometown - Newcastle, on the other side of the country) - has promised, during the next six months of this pandemic crisis, there will BE NO RISES IN HOUSEHOLD POWER bills/rates…

Now all I gotta hope, is that Australia’s third rate, third world broadband infrastructure can cope with the extra load!

And when I say “third world” - some “actual” third world countries have better broadband / telecommunications networks…

A massive media conglomerate messed with democracy in this country, to ensure 90% of the population DID NOT HAVE FIBRE OPTIC broadband connectivity!


Hey, @Akito, don’t know, what you mean… :wink:
In Germany we have no interference from politics into industries (let aside all the lobbying, the rescue fonds for banks, the car industry, …)
Just for the lulz…
There are quite many options in case of electricity. You can take it from your local town or subscribe to one of the many electricity deliverers with various options.
I chose one who claims to generate it a 100% of ecological sources.
And you can switch companies after one or two years, so yeah, it could be worse…

1 Like

Well, Germany’s electricity prices are through the roof. Compared to other European states, it is one of the highest, always in the top 3. Also “EEG” is a big factor in increased prices, which is a political instrument and does not source from companies or the market.

1 Like

Despite that (wich is right), I think it’s not that bad if we try to take action for a better environment.
As always with such “big” issues, there are several downsides. One of which are the prices.

1 Like

Since writing my rant I had to report a design error in LibreOffice Calc: you can’t protect a sheet to prevent users from messing up the formatting while allowing them to input data.

This is nearly fatal in the educational and business scenes. We just don’t have time to find workarounds like linking cells in an unprotected sheet to a properly-formatted protected one.

Quite likely, teams working on major components of the FOSS “canon” like LO don’t have sufficient resources for development and for establishing user requirements.

1 Like

Interesting. Thanks for the insight.