The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The blackness within.

It's the most unsettling memory of my childhood.

Watching my father physically drag my mom out of bed, her body thumping onto the floor, and him throwing clothes at her while screaming. Every few words, he would hurl an item of clothing at her.

For Christ's sake Lois, get out of the *** ****** bed and take care of this ******* house. He stood over her, glaring while my mother curled into a fetal position and sobbed. He turned around and saw me in my doorway across from their bedroom. Fear raced to the pit of my stomach and ballooned out from there. I quickly pulled my arms around myself in a protective posture and dropped my gaze to the floor. The hard slap to the side of my head never came.

He didn't say a word to me. He left the bedroom, slamming the door behind him and stomped down the stairs and out the kitchen door. The glass in that outer kitchen door shattered violently as he slammed it for punctuation. I waited to even move an inch until I heard the engine of his old truck fire to life. I slowly lowered my cramped arms when I heard the sound of tires on gravel as he left our driveway onto the main road.

Only when I turned to go back into my bedroom, did I realize I had urinated in my pajamas.

This memory played and replayed over and over and over...while I laid in my bed for the 6th day in a row...only leaving it for the 10 steps or so it took to get to the toilet. I had thought about bringing in a plastic milk jug to urinate into so I would not have to leave the bedroom. I would cringe and pull the comforter over my head if someone rang the door bell or knocked at the door. Many years later, my mom explained it to me as being lost in desolation and never having even one tiny hope of getting out. Diane knew not to bother me, unless she needed help doing anything, but when she truly needed me, I was there...she knew not to bother me with anything trivial. I just wouldn't respond.

I had long since turned my phone off. I had not set myself at my computer for over a week. And then it was only to answer the most important of friends and family. It had been over a week since I had properly bathed. My beard had gone wild in the two weeks before this. I know what what the problem was. And I knew it was something that wouldn't get better until I decided to do something about it. Diane made an appointment with my GP. The psychologist who had diagnosed me as bipolar was full of crap. My reluctance to see him again was substantiated by my medications not really doing anything to help me. Come to find out, they had probably heightened my condition.

I washed the most likely parts of me liable to offend any surrounding olfactory
senses and I sat on the edge of my bed rocking back and forth...terrified of the idea of leaving my home. The act of even navigating my way to Georgetown seemed insurmountable. With Diane's coaxing and support, I opened the door with car keys in hand and I set myself on autopilot, not wanting to think about the stack of things I would have to do, in order to make this trip. That included the most terrifying thing.

Talking to people.

My hands trembled on the steering wheel as I backed our car out of the garage, taking much more time than necessary to insure the roadway behind me was clear. It felt like I had never drove in my life. After three hours and four doctors, I set off on my trip home. Armed with a hand full of doctor's prescriptions, I made my way to the pharmacy on the way. Every doctor who examined me that day, assured me that the chemical cocktail of pills would have me back to normal in no time.

Well, it's no time and what in the hell did they know about "normal"? And while I am beginning to feel better, I know the task ahead of me will be worse than anything I will have to face otherwise. I have to tell you that I'm sorry for just dropping out of sight. There are some of you that I've failed in the past few weeks. I've failed you greatly, friends and family both; and while telling you how sorry I am to have failed you, it doesn't seem like nearly the amount of recompense due to you. Some of you counted on me heavily and many of you will say that just an email explaining my circumstance would have been nice.

I'm sure it would have. It's due to one of those emails that I am writing this. You have no idea of how much your words hurt me.

If I had not been frightened out of my own wits to even answer the door or answer the phone. If it didn't frighten me to go creeping out of the bedroom at 3 in the morning to take a bowl of cereal back with me. Or just by the act of turning on my computer. Never in any of my day's past would I have thought a day would come when I would be frightened by the act of  turning on my computer. My computer is the Third Hemisphere of my brain...and I've only turned it one twice in a week.

So while my doctors figure out the right ratios of the right medications it will take to make me "better", I will ask of you some tolerance. Especially from my family. Just as my father couldn't understand why my mom could not bring herself to get out of bed for days, I get the feeling that some of the closest of my family might fail to understand what is happening to me. I didn't do this to myself. And while I may deserve the cancer that attacked my body...this mental aberration was a sucker punch to the side of my head. The only thing I can say is to be aware. It appears that someone pee'd in our gene pool kids, so forewarned is forearmed.

My most sincere thanks go out to Pete Salas and our great volunteer James Lantzch for keeping the fires burning and and the wolf from the door. I would be facing insurmountable tasks without these two guys keeping the Good Ship Reglue afloat.

Of course, my deepest thanks goes to my partner Diane. For her understanding. For her love. For her care.

I'm back to work tomorrow. There are over 300 emails I have to answer and over a dozen phone messages, and I've lost count of the text messages that have yet to be answered.

So for those I've failed in the past few weeks, I'm sorry. Some of you will understand, but many of you won't. You won't understand the total fear that clutches at your guts when someone rings the doorbell...or calls your phone. The best way I can address those people is to wish this black blanket of terror upon you. But I cannot do that. Anymore than I can wish upon you the plague or leprosy.

And if I don't answer your email for the next few days, all I can do is to ask you to understand. Hopefully, those most important to me will be able to do so.


All-Righty Then.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Misogyny Didn't disappear, It Evolved.

There's not a lot that gets to me these days. I let most stuff just roll over me and I go about my business. That's not always easy to do. I lost my Astro boy a week or so ago. I mean, I know he was old. He was 12 when I rescued him and the vet that examined him prior to intake at the shelter said he had a bad heart and wouldn't last another six months. We bonded inside his shelter cage and I decided I wasn't going to allow him to die alone on a cold concrete floor. That was 4 years ago. Love keeps your dog alive, sometimes long after it should. But it does.

Truth be told, he adopted me.

But all at once, bad things happened to Astro. He became afflicted with the equivalent of canine Alzheimer's. He would walk in tight circles for hours, oblivious to anything around him. He insisted on wanting to go in or out the wrong side of the door and he would walk around the house all evening, panting and not responding to verbal commands or cues. If that wasn't enough, his kidneys began to fail and I did not want to risk him being in pain, we took that last ride to the vet. I brought his bed with us. The vet had given me a strong sleeping medication for me to give him 30 minutes before we arrived.

The last thing he remembered was me laying on the floor next to his bed, holding him close and whispering and stroking his silky ears. He fell into a deep, deep sleep. He never felt the needle that sent him home.

My heart is terribly, terribly broken this time, I'm not sure I can do it again. Twice in 6 years, I've had to make the same horrible decision for two little guys I loved deeply. Astro was so bonded to me, it was heartbreaking. I can't even talk or think of him without tears rolling. As much as I fight them back, they won't be held.

So yeah, it's been a tough week or so. I've went through the motions of my life, getting the important things done, and pushing the other stuff to the back, until they become important stuff. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I'm not in the best frame of mind at this time, but that doesn't stop bad stuff from happening. Bad Things don't take a break just because my emotional stability may not be able to cope. My friend and the creator of Foss Force, Christine Hall; emailed me and told me she had cut her stay short at the SouthEast LinuxFest better known as SELF. And while she did not say so, I get the impression that she did so because she felt threatened. I would have felt threatened too.

Some passive-aggressive-mama's-boy, Some dweeb, feeling threatened or insulted by a strong,
confident woman chunked a brick through the back window of Christine's car while parked in the parking lot of her lodging choice.

"Well Ken", you might say, "What's with all the name-calling, especially when you don't know anything about what happened?"

Well pal, I'm going to tell you. It's been talked about ad nauseam, the problem many women face within our world. The Free Open Source Software world and in the BSD/Linux Communities. From Caitlyn Martin, to Deb Nicholson, my friend Beth Lynn Eicher and many more. They have all suffered psychological, emotional and physical assault from men who are not balanced or mature enough to accept women as their peer, and God forbid, their superior. This has been going on for  almost from the beginning.

Christine Hall is one of those women. She learned early in life, how to work and succeed in male-dominated workplaces. She has worked as a Journalist and within and around the tech field for much of her adult life, and to quote a current television commercial, she knows a thing or two because she's seen a thing or two. And she isn't shy about letting that be known. Not in a brash or offensive way, but in a way that says, "If you can't get that done, step aside and let me do it". Christine may have one fault many confident and assertive people have. They don't suffer fools gladly.

The rock throwing thing...can I prove this happened the way I believe it happened? No. Can I for sure say that someone did this fueled by misogynistic rage?

I'd wager about 80 percentage points that it was. There were a number of vehicles in that parking lot and given the place her car was parked, someone went out of their way in choosing to damage Christine's car. They risked being seen or heard throwing that brick in that location. Right next to the main entrance. Many suitable targets were parked much farther away if the purpose was just mindless vandalism. Her car wasn't randomly vandalized.

This was a direct and pointed attack.

So, when it comes to women being accepted in The Tech World, sure it's gotten better. A lot better. But that strong dislike for women in our field exists just under the skin of some men. They know they can no longer gain the support and the 'at-a-boy' slaps on the back for approaching and demeaning a woman in public. In fact, they know they well be rejected and punished for doing so. The only difference between then and now? They do it in the wee hours of the morning with bricks, knowing that they would be rebuked by their peers for assaulting a woman in in The Old Days.

And to me, that is more frightening than it ever has been. I now understand why Christine left SELF early. Her fear was real. She did the only thing she could do to protect herself. I hope the little maladjusted twerp feels good. I am sure he does. I hope he slips up and brags about it.

I can only hope.

Christine lives on Social Security retirement and she cannot afford to replace a back window or pay for the treatment needed to kill the bedbugs she picked up at the flea-bag motel in which she stayed. Oh and just sayin'...You might want to bypass the Econo Lodge and Suites in Charlotte North Carolina.

If you can help her in some way to get these things behind her, email her I would consider it a favor.  That could come in handy some day. Just sayin'.

All-Righty Then,

Monday, March 14, 2016

Be Careful of What You Wish For...No, Seriously.

It was a month ago, give or take a sol or two, since the Taylor Housing Authority contacted us at Reglue to ask for our help. Seems that there are a lot of school-age kids living in that government housing tract and as we might imagine, a computer isn't one of the things you might find in that household.

Now this is where I had to just shake my head. In 2013, someone from that neighborhood contacted me and asked if I might be able to assist them in providing a computer for their kids.

"Well sure, that's the job Reglue came to Taylor to do"

We went on to make an appointment for the first of the week and parted ways until then. When I showed up at the door, I was invited in but told that the housing authority had to ok all major appliances before installation and that included computers.

Really? Appliance inspections for a computer? That was the last I heard from her or anyone at the housing authority. Until about a month ago.

It was then that we were asked to provide computers for the kids in that exact same tract. At first, we were informed that we could plan on doing about 40 in a year's time. Yeah, we can do that. But after The Taylor Housing Authority did a door to door inventory on those with families that need a computer, we're now looking in the neighborhood of 125 machines.

"Houston, we have a problem."

Oh we have the machines. We've stockpiled about 170 for the 2016 year. We also have enough flat panel monitors, mice and keyboards. We have all of that. What we don't have are speakers and wireless usb receivers. In fact, I did my 9th install in 4 days today and I set the last pair of speakers we had. But that's the problem we face and the help we need. The wireless adapters we use, and use because they work first time, every time can be seen below. they are without a doubt the best we've ever used.

Time Warner has agreed to provide these housing units with "adequate" wireless connections and from what I am seeing, these folks are getting a bit over 20Mbps down and 1Mbps up. And that's being provided as a service to the community. Just about the time I'm ready to declare war on Time Warner, they go and do something nice like this. And that's not all. They tripled the speed for Reglue and set us up a hotspot for our neighbors...and they did this to retain our contract without us paying a dime extra. Did I mention that they tripled our speeds?

So with Time Warner providing these folks free wireless service, it's up to Reglue to get them hooked up. Without the adapters, we can't do that. So if you can help and send us a couple, we would more than appreciate it. the wireless adapters we use can be found here.

The speakers we use are pretty good, given their size and cheap price, but these found on Ebay are excellent as well...for the price anyway. So either Ebay or Amazon have the speakers we need

Our shipping address, should you want to purchase from Amazon or Ebay and send them directly, is:

Ken Starks
C/O Reglue
319 Sloan #110b
Taylor, Tx 76574

If you would rather just leave a donation, you can do so via the Donate button under our thermometer at the top left of this page. Or, just paypal us via Any amount will be greatly appreciated.

So, finally...after a tough couple of  years with health issues, it feels good to be back to work on a daily basis, even with jarring surprises like this. I attribute my high spirits and outlook to you folks. You've helped me when you didn't have to and I appreciate that more than you know. So yeah, stuff just got real for us in Taylor Texas. This is the way it's supposed to be. I'll show you in dead-tree print in the coming days.

For now, thanks for all that you do for us. These kids wouldn't have computers without you. I don't think many of you realize just how important your contributions are.

Stand by for NEWS!

All-Righty Then...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Free.  From an early age we all know what it means. It means that you can obtain something at no cost to you. Mostly anyway. In the past few years, some businesses and people have tried to tempt us with a "free offer", only to demand a credit card number in order to qualify. Then you have to jump through a bazillion hoops to cancel the "free" offering, before the small print and the automatic bank drafts kick in. Free credit report anyone?

But in a simpler day and much simpler time, free was a good thing. We all want something for free. And me, being no exception, discovered in 2002 that there was indeed free software. However, I discovered that in the free software world, the term "free" has multiple meanings. How so? Let's see, channeling W.C. Fields as the carny barker.

"Step right up folks. We got'cher Open Source software… free as in beer
and free as in free. Step into the tent and see the software that'll set you free. Free yourself from greedy corporate interests and vendor lock-in. No sonny the beer's not really free but the software is. It's all here folks, step right up…you won't believe your eyes. That's right Sonny, I said free. Now go away kid, ya bother me."

Wait…did he say free as in beer? What the heck does than mean? That phrase has always irritated me, and for reasons I cannot readily explain. Is beer the ultimate thing we all want to be free? Apparently so. How about free as in mortgage payments? How about free as in a brand  new  car? (Tell the folks what they've won Bob). No, those don't really work in the end either. It turns out that maybe the analogy of free as in beer is the best choice. Go figure.

 However, the deeper meaning of free is what is important here. It always has been the most important thing. Getting the everyday computer user to understand the whole GPL thing can be a challenge. In my experience, if we get one out of ten to understand the concept and become interested, we are doing good. The whole "free as in freedom" thing? Most people don't know how their software works.

"Computer code? Universal access? Sure. Great. Now can I go back to my leased copy of Windows solitaire?" 

 Sigh. Another day, another dollar, right? When I finally did grasp the immensity of Free Open Source Software, I wanted to announce it from the mountain tops. The revelation hit me deep, and it dawned on me just how important this whole FOSS thing is.

And that's when it all started  going south on me.
From there, I got the free fever. If it came to Linux or anything even nibbling around the edges of Linux, it had to be free or I was walking away. Some of the best software I have ever used didn't cost me a dime. it literally changed my life. And at that time, I couldn't code a lick. Well…I still can't but that's not important now…

 There was a huge disconnect within me regarding all the hard work the FOSS community or individuals put into a FOSS project and and that overall effect it had on the community. That didn't come close to entering my awareness. All I knew was that FOSS was indeed free and screw paying for anything when it came to software. Or anything within the FOSS community or Linuxsphere at large. If it was in the Linux Community or within the community purview, it had to be free. As in beer. Yeah, as in beer. It had to be free as in beer.

 This is a good time to pay attention. This particular span of time can be the moment for many of us when the FOSS well becomes poisoned.

 I try to stay active in the Google Plus community. You know…that huge fail that was supposed to compete with f̶a̶c̶e̶p̶l̶a̶n̶t̶ Facebook? That "ghost town" that shows 5 million page views in my profile? Yeah, that "ghost town". There isn't a day goes by, that I am not spending time with astrophysicists, engineers,  professors, artists, actors, scientists, political leaders or friends that span the globe. The one thing that many of the people in my circles share, is our involvement and use of FOSS. It has indeed a global reach and impact. 

 In the beginning, at least for me, it was these protracted spans of time when I grew aggravated at the amount of advertising that actively found a way to get in between my line of sight and the things I was trying to read or see. I mean, like some 300 pound drunk that crashes in between you and another person at a party having a discussion, just to tell you that his car is for sale and would you like to come outside to look at it?

 Uh, no. I would not like to come outside and "look at it". I'm not in the market for a car, and even if I was, I sure as shipping ain't gonna buy one from you, the rude, unaware jerk that you are


However, in the realm of ones and zeros, I can do something about the rude, line-of-sight-blocking advertisements that pop up on many pages when I am trying to read something. You know…those ads that follow the track of your mouse? The ads that defeat every attempt you make in pushing it out of the way or closing it. Some of those ads open anyway when you click the x mark on the top right. But let me tell you something that you may know, or may not. That ad that opens does not have the decency to open another tab. It over-writes the page you are on and no amount of clicking the back button or machine-gun clicking the X at the top of the browser does a bit of good. Finally, you go all nuclear on it and drop to terminal with the command killall firefox. That's how competitive things have become, vying for eyes on web pages, multiple click-throughs that rack up stats to impress firms to advertise on your website.

 I put up with it long past the point of being a good netizen. Adblock Plus became my best online friend and from then on out…it didn't matter what advertising it was or how little real estate it took up on an unobtrusive part of the web page. If it was an ad, it was gone. That's how angry I was when it came to internet ads in my line of sight. Even on my blog site, I included a link on the side to allow visitors to temporarily turn off their ad blocking software. It would turn itself back on once you left my domain. My offer went largely ignored. over 80 percent of my visitors utilized ad blocking software of one sort or another.

Those checks from Google came fewer and far in between, not like they amounted to much but I donated any income from my blog to Reglue. But it was a recent event that prompted me to re-evaluate my iron-clad stance against advertising.

One of the good guys I associate with on Google Plus is Jake Weisz. Jake's a good enough sort. He's extremely good at what he does in the fields of technology and he's not shy about sharing his opinion. I posted an article that featured in their technology section. It asked a question.

"Should people who use ad blocking software be blocked from using that website"? That infuriated me. How dare they even suggest such a draconian measure. By Deity, it's my right to be able to visit any website I wish to visit and they can stuff their ad blocking policy into uncomfortably close quarters to their mid-bottom.

Jake took me to task on this stance fast. If I am offering interesting or important data and I choose to ask for a few cents to access that data, that is my right. As a producer of said data, if I plan my production carefully, I can at least impede the spread of that data to other web sites. I spent my time and my money in order to bring you this information. I should be able to gain a few cents from each person who accesses that data, even if it's in the form of allowed advertising.

As a culture, we've become all too accustomed to "free as in beer". Information flows in every direction and for the most part, that information can be accessed at no cost, but there is some data that took a lot of work to bring up and into the public awareness.

I spend my time and talent in investigating, writing and presenting this data to the world. Is disabling your ad blocking software for just a few minutes too much to ask? I thought so, screw advertising. It's a blight on the internet. Uh, no…it's not. Jake Weisz took me to school on this issue and he was right in doing so. Here. Let me show you. You see the web page presented a few paragraphs above?

Those are ads that the publisher of that site decided to make you look at. They purposely block your vision and impeded your ability to close that ad. That way, it extended the time that ad was active and in front of you, regardless of whether you read it or not. The obstacles the web master threw in front of you took just long enough for the statistics to show that you actually read the ad. Is that back-handed? Well sure it is, but keeping any  website open costs money, and when the cost of maintaining the website becomes more than any incoming revenue, well…the website disappears into digital history. Now you see it, now you don't.

Now let's look at another picture. My friend and associate, Christine Hall is the publisher and maintainer of the excellent website In the interest of disclosure, I contribute to FOSS Force on a weekly basis. Christine has spent years building her website from the ground up and she works 16 hour days to cover the news and do the interviews that are important in our world of FOSS. She is tireless in her pursuit of getting it right and getting it to you first. The only income Christine receives is via ad-based income. So, if the advertising on a website sits to the side or between the paragraphs of the text, it really does not stop me from reading the content that interests me.

Does it cause you not to be able to read the content? No, it does not. And sure, some will argue that having to jump over an ad in the middle of the page might be distracting, but for Pete's sake, it's not blocking your view. Fact is, an ad recently led me to purchase a particular stick of RAM that I had been looking for. So at times, it might be useful. Most times…? Probably not, but every now and then it can provide a service to you. Every now and then.

It's been an interesting few months, getting used to this whole advertising-among-the-stories thing. But in the end, I have come to realize that everything being free might be good, but there are times when all of that free stuff can bring an end to things we've come to count on. It was mentioned to me just a day ago, that if a news website like FOSS Force goes under, then there are a lot more to fill that space. I asked him what sites he was speaking of and he pointed out two of the biggest, those being LXer and I then asked him just where he thought those two website got their news. He's probably standing just where I left him. The same deer-in-the-headlights look. Like I had explained quantum mechanics to him.

 I might want to stop by there later today to make sure he at least has water when he comes around. All that confusion can be dehydrating.

All-Righty Then

Monday, November 09, 2015

Boy Howdy, This Got Stupid In A Hurry...

Yep, this just went from zero-to-holy-frickin'-cow-stupid in a hurry. Why?


Perks offered in our fund raiser to get a decent delivery vehicle for Reglue and our Reglue kids. Y'ever see one of those bench-clearing brawls where both teams come out of the dugout and there's a melee that encompasses the whole infield?


Then how about that cartoon where it involves a number of fist fighters inside a dust cloud, with just a fist or a leg or other appendage showing every few seconds? Y'ever see that one?

Yeah, thought so. That's what my email inbox resembled in the past few days. It's slowing down now, but for a while, I thought I'd need to strap on my kevlar and drop my face shield just to answer my emails.

Here's how it started.

We are offering some sweetheart deals for donating to our vehicle fund raiser. We are using an online fund raising site that makes it fairly simple to raise money. We use because we are not offering a tangible product. Kickstarter is for production of solid, material items to be manufactured and sold. We aren't making or creating any product, so we don't qualify for a Kickstarter fund raiser. And to emphasize, we've used Indiegogo to raise decent amounts of money for Reglue in the past. So we opened our fund raiser there in order to gain enough money to buy a decent vehicle for Reglue.

It's not going as well as I hoped it would but we've got just under three weeks to go. We want to raise a minimum of $5,000.00. At the time of this posting, we have just broken the 3K mark. My thanks to all of you, regardless of donated amount. Thank you for helping us when we really need it. It looks like it's gonna take a hail Mary pass to pull this off.

But to the point...

I began getting the emails after the first week of our campaign. Messages asking if Windows was on the computers we offer as perks. If you have not seen the offerings, you might want to take a look. These laptops are nice and some are touch screens. The 15.4" Samsung is especially nice. I don't have the need for that much horsepower but many of you do. That computer is in refurbished condition and is a luxury laptop in my eyes. Of course, I'm used to my old IBM/Lenovo X60s and T-500 ThinkPads, so imagine my surprise when I opened that monster Samsung for the first time. Luxury laptop indeed.

And the price? We just dropped it to $500.00. That's embarrassingly low for a laptop of this quality.

I was emailed in the second and third weeks and asked if I was going to put Windows on these laptops. I answered promptly that no, we would be using Linux on these offerings. About the forth email I received that first week, asking about Windows installs, I rang up our Chief Hardware Engineer, Pete Salas, and asked him if we could put Windows 10 on some of these Samsung machines. He answered yes and two days later, four of those extremely nice Samsungs were sporting brand new Windows 10 operating systems. If people want Linux on them, we will include a bootable flash drive with the distro of their choice at no cost to them and they can do with it as they wish. The motivation behind such a seemingly drastic move is success. A few people walked away from these perks, when they believed there would be no Windows option for their donations. That would have been $1,100.00 in donations.

Mentioning that we had taken this route on my G+ page drew criticism from some and sharp criticism via my email. A couple of those emails were from people I have associated with for a number of years and one of those decided that it was the time to label me as a "sellout".

A Sellout. Really?

Seems the harder I try, the more I alienate some people. See, here's how it goes boys and girls...

I am the Executive Director and Founder of a  non profit. I started this effort with abouit 300 dollars in the bank and an idea of what I wanted to accomplish. We exist for one reason. One single mind set. We exist to help every disadvantaged kid we can. We want to make sure they have a computer and an internet connection so they can compete with their peers. It is my job to insure that we have the means to do all the things mentioned above. I have to raise funds to do all of that. I despise fund raising but it's what I have to do. We are perilously close to scaling back by 75%, our operation because we do not have a vehicle in which to do our job.

I'm not going to let that happen. I will sell my blood for Pete's sake, in order to keep our doors open. If the market is asking for a certain configuration and system, then we meet those market demands when necessary. So if you want to criticize me for putting Windows on some of the computers we are offering, You go right ahead, but's not you that has to answer to your community when you cut back on production. It's not you that has to look that kid in the eye and explain that (s)he may not be getting that computer that was promised.

It's not you that has to stand by and watch a decade of work dwindle to nothing. I've divorced since taking the helm of Reglue. I've seen every one of my siblings die. My doctors have fought off stage 4 cancer and all the while, nursing my life partner back to health after two strokes. Through it all, the doorway to my organization remains open and we remain an active and vibrant part of this community and the Global Linux Community at Large. So, if putting the Windows operating system on a few computers in order to raise money we need prompts you to cut ties and leave...well, you just go right ahead. I suppose we'll see you sometime down the TimeLine, But take heed...That door closes abruptly so mind your backside as you exit.

And for those of you who have helped us toward making our goal, I cannot thank you enough. And yeah, I've had a couple of rows that were tough to hoe, but no worse than many of you have experienced. The Global Linux Community. We all struggle at times to do the things we love to do. Things we have to do.

You people rock and I make sure every recipient of a Reglue computer knows that. Every one of them. It is I who is humbled to be in your midst and to do your bidding.

All-Righty Then...

Monday, November 02, 2015

We're past The Halfway Point - We Could Use Your Help

Well, darn.

Sometimes we plan to do things based upon forecasts such as the weather. Being a stats guy, I banged all the numbers together and came out with a favorable time to begin our vehicle fund raiser.

Reglue was counting on  being farther along than we currently are... the halfway point of our effort. I crunched the numbers from our last three fund raisers and being a stats guy, I thought the timing and amount we need to raise was do-able given the variables. I must have forgotten something...left something out.

 We need a vehicle.
 The Ford Explorer we've been using since 2010 to deliver computers to disadvantaged kids is now a rolling public enemy number one hazard. It has over 300K miles on it. With the transmission next to scrap metal and an interior raining down powdered, and possibly toxic dust upon our passengers, we can no longer use it for Reglue service. This workhorse has too many miles to dump $3,000.00+ into expensive repairs. My luck dictates that upon paying for the transmission and headliner work, the engine would throw a rod through the engine block.

A month ago, I announced our Indiegogo fund raiser, in hope of raising at least $5,000.00 going toward a serviceable vehicle for Reglue. At the moment of writing, we are just under $2,000.00 from Indiegogo. With Paypal donations included, that number grows to just under $2,600.00.

The first 19 days of a 45 day fund raiser produces the most productive block of donation time. I'm beginning to get a bit nervous. So I want to clarify some things and maybe make this happen, one way or another.

There are thousands of people that read Blog of helios. I'm not sure if we've worn out our welcome or I just haven't tried hard enough, but clearly, I need to figure this out quickly. Maybe I am talking to the wrong people. A 16 dollar donation from 1/4 of our readers would put us well over our stated goal and we can get back to business. The business of supplying financially disadvantaged kids with the computer they need for school.

Some of you may know or have contact with someone who is capable of donating a vehicle. I would most certainly fly to any reasonable destination, complete the transaction, pick the vehicle up and drive back. And of course, we are a verified non profit so any donation, be it a vehicle or cash, is tax deductible. Our EIN and letter of IRS 501(c)(3) award is available upon legitimate request.

We are already beginning to get trickles of "computer for Christmas" requests. In past holiday seasons, we have averaged 6 installs a week.  I don't even have a reliable way of going to see these people and qualify them. So yeah...As of now, Reglue is pretty much at a standstill.

And just so you know...out of the past 7 years, there has only been 1 year that I did not deliver and set up a computer on Christmas Day.

And about buying a vehicle with credit. No, we can't. Our bylaws strictly state that we cannot incur any debt not fully paid within 60 days of the loan. Since we primarily rely upon your donations to operate, we are at the mercy of the calendar and strong vs. weak donation periods.

But speaking of holidays. With the holiday season approaching, we have some excellently priced "perks" offered in return for your donation dollars.  Some of these are $200.00 to $500.00 under market average for the release year of these laptops. Most of these would make a fantastic present for the holiday season.  You can see what we offer here. If you are a Mac or Samsung fan, you have most certainly come to the right place.

As far as the vehicle goes, we're not looking for anything luxurious. What we need is something along the build and size of a small Ford Transit van. Even a good-sized minivan would suit our needs. Something that is decent on gas mileage and will last us at least the next 3 years. I always felt bad while driving that Explorer all over Texas doing our work. The best mileage we ever got was around 17MPG. That bothered me. But hey...we work with what we have and deal with it.

And no...if we don't get enough money for a vehicle, it will not trigger the Big Rip sequence, shredding the universe
from the sub-atomic level. The Universe will continue to accelerate at unimaginable speeds. Stocks will be traded, we will go to work, come home, we'll watch the world burn from our living room easy chairs on the 6 O'clock news, and create even more ways to stay sane, working from day to day. We will raise our kids, mow our lawns and watch the calendar days go by.

Reglue will do its best to do the job we promised you we would do. For a decade we put your money to work for those who had been passed by. Via your dollars, we put computers into these kid's homes. With your backing, Reglue built this computer and technology learning center In the memory of Bruno Knaapen. Reglue has established 11 of these computer centers in Central Texas. Several of them right here in Taylor. These Reglue Kids to your right are the generation that will set foot upon other worlds. They will drill through miles of ice on other planets and moons, searching for life under those frozen crusts. Life that may dwell deep in the seas of those worlds. They will find a cure for diabetes and make cancer an inconvenience instead of a death sentence. Maybe, just maybe, on their way to terraforming Mars; they will find a way to make RealPlayer not suck.

So...Here we are. We have 20-some days to get an additional 3K raised. Hopefully more. The more we raise, the better vehicle we can purchase. But that's in your hands now. And for those who have already helped us or will help us...thank you. Some of you have been jaw-droppingly generous and we appreciate you recognizing the importance of our efforts. And as always...

Thanks for helping us do what we do.

All-Righty Then..

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Who Are You?

Have you ever wondered about the organization you donate to? Do they even know who you are? What you do? At Reglue, we not only know who you are, unless you post your donation as anonymous, we tell our Reglue Kids about the great people that help us do our work. We tell them about you. Here's how that happens.

The internet has changed the world in ways we don't realize. Not yet anyway. The obvious things are, well; uh...obvious. But what isn't so obvious is the immediate impact it has on any number of demographics. For low income school kids anywhere from the 3rd grade and upward, Reglue has worked for a decade, trying to bridge the gap between those that have and those who have not.

A computer that is.

I'm extremely wary these days, about using clichés. It's getting harder by the day to find a phrase or a way to replace the cliché "The Digital Divide".

But cliché or not, that is our only mission in life. We give computers to kids that normally, could not afford a computer in their home. But you know that already don't you? Many of you anyway. You are the people that make what we do possible. Whether it's just operating costs or emergencies like we are facing now, Reglue knows who you are...

But what you don't know is just how important you become when we walk into a child's home. I think it's time that you did know.  When you support what we do, you are no longer a nameless, faceless donor. Unless you ask to remain anonymous.

You are the person holding the key to that child's future in your fingers. And that child now knows who you are. Not by name if you so wish, but in deed and in occupation, in accomplishments and within the open source world...this child knows someone specifically took control and made this computer possible for them.


This is what we tell the parents and the kids, while we are getting their computer set up. We tell them who you are. What you do, and most importantly; why you do it. You are the one that make sure this kid has every opportunity to learn and strive for the highest achievements possible.  We give them a computer that You provide. We give them the tools they need to succeed and tell them who is responsible for making that possible.

Who Are You?

You are a successful, award-winning author and You are a server/system technician. You go to work every day and when you get home, you gather your family around you and share the evening's meal. Then you spend 4 hours, writing the next of several you've already written, but the drive to write the next book isn't something you can ignore. It won't let you sleep. It won't let you concentrate on anything but fulfilling that discipline to write. Once you put your kids to bed, that's when you do your writing. 18 hour days are nothing new to you. They are the norm.

You are a truck driver, you are a server administrator, and you are someone deeply concerned about this next generation coming in behind you. 

You are a dad, a grand father and a husband. You do whatever it takes to care for your family. You've found work in your field and it makes you happy to be back among the smells and the quiet hum and the vibrations you feel at your very core. But the whole job can get complicated.

If your contract doesn't get renewed, you may well see billows of exhaust swirling in the air. Next year you may find yourself pulled over, a state trooper watching over your shoulder. And you audibly cursing the horribly bitter cold on I-84, backing onto your snow chains in order to run the Cabbage in January. But what ever it takes, you do it.

You are a consultant. You are someone who has already done the hard stuff, the technologically dangerous stuff and you did it well. You've written books about it. People want to pay you so they don't have to go through what you have endured in your profession. You are a partner, two of you feeding the horses and livestock before it gets too dark. You keep an eye to the watch for rain that may flood your pens. Those furry and feathered things are safe. You are the one person that makes them so. 

You are a retired professor, retired by years, not by decision. You are the geek
of your family, a family that's spread all over the country but are the guy they call or come to when your knowledge is needed. Sometimes at 2AM. But mostly not. You are the husband who puts his wife's maladies first, and God knows you have plenty of your own. You are a important fixture in many lives. Some you may not even know. But you are. You are more important to those than you will probably ever know.

You are so many more than this, but even if I don't take the time to talk about all of you here, I make sure I take the time to talk about you out there. The place where I am plugging in all the things that connect to make a computer. While showing them how to use the word processor, I tell these kids about the men and women who helped make this computer possible for them. Whether you are a Server Technician or a Pharmacist's Assistant, I tell them your name and what you do. I tell them how their contribution to Reglue makes all of this possible. Some of these kids will set foot on other worlds. The computer that came to be in their lives could may well have been the spark that set their course for Mars, Europa and beyond. You will never know how much your contribution channelled that intelligence and drive in the Right Direction. 

In 80% of the cases, I never report back to you personally truck driver, professor, geek, healer, I am doing so now. I want you to know this. The child who receives a computer from Reglue knows at least one of your names...most often, they know several. Some of your faces are on the screen when they first boot their computer. Every time, in every case. A Reglue Kid knows your names. And they thank you.

Because it's important. These kids need to know what it means to pass it along, to pay it forward, to stop and help someone opening a door. However it happens, we teach our Reglue Kids the importance of community. Without a certain community, this kid would not be getting this computer. So from hundreds of these kids over the years, regardless of your name or what you do, I am supposed to say:

Thank you. For giving us the means to navigate the stars. To begin our life's journey.

All-Righty Then...


Friday, October 02, 2015

It All Comes Down To This

Edit - Carpal Tunnel has rendered my right arm and hand useless. It will be a while before I can again type so bear with me while I heal. Going in tomorrow for further tests and treatment options. As an organization, here's where we are at the moment. Check in with my cronies and cohorts on G+ for updates.

It started out innocently enough...taking the Reglue Explorer in to get the oil changed. I told them to check the transmission too. The old Ford had been hesitating a bit when accelerating on an incline or when put into reverse. Not a big deal. I check the fluids regularly. Besides, the transmission had been serviced less than 5000 miles ago.

Turns out it is a big deal. It is a big, big deal. The transmission is failing. With
copious amounts of metal chunks and junk laying in the bottom of the pan, it turns out that some of the transmission bands have failed. This is going to take more than a transmission service. It's going to take a transmission rebuild or replacement.

At a starting price of $3,000.00, that's out of the question. And yeah, we have that much money, but spending that much for a vehicle repair for a truck over 300K isn't simply ill advised, it's irresponsible.  I can't ask you to tolerate Reglue spending over three thousand of your donated dollars to repair a vehicle that may blow a piston rod right through the engine block the next day. We're talking metal stress and fatigue here. Ugly business that.

A vehicle this old and with the original motor is destined for a long list of possible engine failures to come. My mechanic, a Ford certified technician; said he was impressed that engine failure hasn't yet occurred. It still has the original timing chain. That is most certainly the Sword of Damocles. One of many it turns out.

It's simple. We are dead in the water until we can get another vehicle. I rented a car to deliver and set up the computers to be installed last week but sustaining that plan is untenable. We cannot afford to rent a car or van to do our work. This Ford served us way past her duty to do so, but we need to buy another car.  We have no other options.

Our funding goal is simple and it's not an amount of money that should be too hard to raise. When a poor lady bus monitor gets hassled and mocked on a school bus and a fund raiser nets her almost three quarters of a million dollars...well, that's pretty amazing. Bless her heart. When we, as a vetted, proven and transparent non profit cannot raise mid 4 figures to buy a vehicle...well, maybe we will have to consider other options. We need to raise a minimum of five thousand dollars in the next 58 days. Of course, that's not going to buy us a lot of vehicle but I can and will personally finance the rest if need be. Diane has offered to donate 75.00 a month toward that payment as well if that is necessary. Why?

The Reglue bylaws state without any room for ambiguity, that the Reglue non profit will not, under any circumstance; incur debt of any type that is not repayable in full within 60 days.

That's plain language and there are only two outcomes. We are able to purchase a vehicle to continue the work we've been doing for a decade, or we file with the IRS for an intent to dismantle the non profit Reglue and/or choose another non profit with like missions to acquire our physical and financial assets. Then we walk away.

There are no other options and we need your support. We have an indiegogo campaign and you can find it at:

And the truth of it? I fought off stage 4 cancer to continue my work, so far anyway. I would feel like a complete idiot if the lack of a relatively small amount of money was all that hindered Reglue's efforts.

There are some extremely nice perks available and even more are added every Friday at 12PM, that is as soon as I can double check that the hardware is in good shape. This is not folks are not gonna believe the good stuff we have to place this Friday, and every other Friday until the campaign ends. We'll announce those additions here as well as my Google Plus page. 

Or if you prefer to donate via paypal, you can click the yellow donate button on the top left side of this page. Should you have any questions or comments, you can place them here or email me ken att reglue dott org.

All-Righty Then...

Monday, August 31, 2015

"It will not always be summer; build barns". - Hesiod

Summer is a quiet time for Reglue. Usually. Kids are out of school and they have other things to think about. Things other than what they might be needing for the next year's school year.

Like computers.

But this summer was different, much different. Last year during the month of May, local activities included little league baseball, camping and hiking. A lot of Taylor kids sign up for the annual home improvement campaign, funded by private business, along with Taylor and Williamson county. This event allows Taylor youth to team up and improve the homes of our elderly or disabled. These are good kids, these Taylor Ducks. They take pride in their community and driving around for just a short time on a summer's day will bear that out.

But not this summer.

Instead of seeing kids running through sprinklers in their front yards, you saw those same kids, along with their parents and family, digging through tons of snake, spider and disease-infested debris...trying to salvage anything from their destroyed lives. Highly venomous and aggressive water moccasins were a constant threat during flood clean up and recovery all over Central Texas.

My buddy Ray, volunteered a lot this summer, helping people regain some sense of order and familiarity in their lives. He carried a 41 magnum pistol on his hip while doing it. But instead of the standard hollow point round he preferred, he bought rat shot for his 41 mag. Pistol-shooting a disturbed and pissed off snake when your adrenalin is flowing at light speed can be tricky business. Using your pistol as a mini shotgun equalizes that.

The Central Texas Flood of the Century brutally ripped and  tore entire homes from their foundations, cars from the roads and, in more than one horrible nightmare; infant children were torn from their mother's arms. Two of those children have not yet been found.

Like so many other Texas towns, Taylor was just trying to survive the aftermath
of this flood. But like so many American communities, they wiped their tears, salvaged what they could, and set their jaw to helping their neighbors rebuild their lives. But unlike other natural disasters, FEMA was rarely seen during this disaster, at least by me and I was often on site, helping and talking to people displaced by the flood. Many of the people I spoke with said that they gave out a stack of $1300.00 checks to those who "qualified" and then left town without another word. Families that thought they would receive help with food and temporary shelter found themselves clutching $1,300,00 check and nothing else. That may have been untrue elsewhere but it is what people from Taylor reported to me. That relief money was mostly used for microwave meals eaten during a couple of weeks in a motel and an unsure future. To their credit, the local Walmart and HEB supermarket went out of their way to put together food, clothing and other merchandise to help their community.

Reglue did what we could this summer, to seek out and find people stuck in this limbo. We didn't have to look far. The city of Taylor and Williamson County sprung into action as well and found the money to begin rebuilding these people's lives.

Reglue gathered clothes, appliances and what ever else we could collect to help some of these folks in need. We used our facility as a gathering point for those donations of food, clothing and appliances. Some of our volunteers manned the office for 12 hour days, in order to insure folks had every opportunity to benefit from our resource. However, to put it into perspective, Reglue's efforts didn't amount to even 2% of the overall resources available for these displaced people.
Once the waters receded, so to speak; we were able to find school kids who had lost everything, to include their computers.

I spent an entire Saturday, standing outside of our local supermarket (HEB) and handed out business cards, explaining what we do. The results of that Saturday yielded way more inquiries than I had expected. Fortunately, we were able to find an extraordinary deal on some Dell Latitude E5500 laptops and readied them for deployment. We paid $200.00 for all 9 of them. They already had 3-4 gigs of RAM so all we had to do was install our version of Mint KDE and they were ready to go.

We did much of this in a borrowed vehicle because our old Ford Explorer has a slipping transmission. I'll get the old girl into the shop next week and see what we can do.

Special thanks to Ed Tittel for the donation of a fantastic Acer quad core with 8GB or RAM. That laptop went to a young lady who entered her graduate studies at Texas State University this school year. It was exactly the system and specs she needed for her coursework. We had been holding back that machine and three others with similar specifications just for accelerated study needs such as Stephanie's.

Eric and Deanne Anderson with their son Eric Reed, were one of the families devastated by this flooding. Once they had solid ground under their feet, they began putting their financial lives back together. Eric Sr. is a self employed auto mechanic and while he was able to save tens of thousands of dollars of tools and diagnostic equipment, his laptop dedicated to his business was completely ruined, as was the family computer. Reglue was more than happy to not only give Eric Jr. one of these great laptops, we were also able to help Dad set up his Dell so he could get back to work. Once they find permanent housing, we will set them up with a nicely rebuilt dual core Acer desktop. While Eric's automotive software did not work in Linux, we were able to obtain a Windows 7 license and install his mechanics software via VirtualBox. It worked great.

This is, without a doubt; one of the most satisfying installations we've done in a while. It was an honor to help these folks. But that was only the beginning of a two week run that resulted in 7 more computers being placed.

Diane and I live in an extremely nice 55 and older community. Before we moved here, I used to brag that I could get to the shop in three minutes. One of the downsides of moving here is the loss of that bragging right. Now it takes me an entire 7 minutes. Oh, the sacrifices we make.....

One of the reasons I like it here is because Diane isn't so isolated from other women of her age and interests. One of Diane's favorite visitors is Betty Hargrove. Diane and Betty are continuously swapping recipes, war stories and comfortable hours together.

After one such visit, Diane made it a point to mention that one of Betty's
grandsons would be entering his freshman year of college at Stephen F. Austin on a track and field scholarship this fall. While Isaiah's scholarship was just at 80%, he still needed things. One of those things was a laptop. Betty didn't know what I did within Reglue, up until then anyway. Diane insured her friend that she could scratch a new laptop from her worry list.

I pulled down one of those Dell Latitude E5500 laptops, opened it up, cleaned it, replaced the worthless Broadcom wireless radio with something more open source friendly, replaced the backlight inverter and screen, re-seated the processor with new paste and bumped it to 8 gigs of RAM. I got an email from him yesterday, thanking us for the great new laptop he now had.

I can't verbalize the feeling I get when we are able to help kids like Eric and Isaiah. Simply saying "It's what we do" sounds trite and to some, that may ring as false humility, but I can't think of a better way to express or phrase it. A lot of you thank us for doing this work but really..? It's you folks that keep us going financially and personally. Without you, well...without you none of this would have happened, nor would it happen in the future.

Thank you for helping us do what we do.

Alllll-righty then.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

And so it goes...

Well, hey there. I was emailed the other day, and asked if I still wrote the Blog of helios. Well, obviously I do. Just not as often these days. See...the actions and accomplishments of my non profit "Reglue", are mostly reported here. But you know...? There is just so many times that I can report a success story before it becomes a template of sorts. Reglue gives disadvantaged kid a computer, parent(s) happy, kid ecstatic, we move on to the next one. Yeah...that's pretty much the reaction we get when we install a computer, but you have heard that over and over again. However I have accumulated a bit of news outside of that subject matter, so I want to share it with you.

I have been a critic of the horrible state of text to speech software in the Linuxsphere, and not just recently. That dissatisfaction has existed for a number of years...not just since the loss of my voice to cancer. My articles concerning that said state have been met with a good deal of positive feedback. One of the top FOSS authors, and a guy I greatly admire; provided some of that feedback. Marcel Gagne stated that he had written about this exact same topic ten years ago, and he was dismayed that a decade had passed without any real improvement.

Hopefully, we are going to fix that. In fact, a number of people answered my appeal for help in building a much-needed front end for a good TTS application. There are a lot of decent TTS apps out there for Linux, but what they are missing is an intuitive, simple front end. As well, the installation of some real life-like sounding voices into these TTS applications is nothing less than an frickin' ordeal. The fact that these programs are so hard to use just extends and substantiates the opinion that Linux is a hobbyist operating system. The front end we are building is for MaryTTS. Why MaryTTS? First, it's open source. Second. I am told that the programming used to develop MaryTTS borders on elegance. Thirdly...wait, is "thirdly" a word? It is now. Thirdly, it's open source. Oh, wait...I mentioned that.

And so it goes.

We currently have a team of three people working on this project. One of those people is Isaac Carter. We interviewed Isaac over at FOSS Force a few days ago and it gives you an idea of the mindset of many FOSS software developers across the globe. All some people want to do is find a place where they can help, where their work will matter. And while the other two developers choose to remain anonymous, we are happy to announce an alpha release of Voice4MaryTTS.

This development has been surprisingly fast, given that all of the developers have real jobs, families and lives. What started out as pretty much a "hello world" sketch, has evolved in a usable tool, even at the alpha stage of development. Some of the features baked into the app are impressive. Download the jar file, then run this command in the directory in which you saved the file: java -jar

It is currently developed against Oracle Java 8, but once we have a steady and sturdy application, we'll get to work on the open versions of the same application and present that for consumption. Let us know what you think and how it may be improved. And remember before you comment...this project is evolving from the heart and soul of FOSS developers from around the globe. They will greatly appreciate your feedback. There are a number of features that will be added, some amended and possibly some cut away. We simply wanted to give you a status report on this project. But don't criticise out of hand. You may not think this project is necessary, but I have a decade of research that proves you wrong. Many of you who read Blog of helios are Java developers yourselves. Let us know what you think. And please, your help is needed to pick a permanent name for this project.

And upon further review...

It is time that I do this. I am announcing my plan to retire. Upon my 65th birthday or a bit before, I will be handing over the reins of Reglue to a couple of guys out of Dallas Texas, or possibly a long-time supporter in Round Rock. That means the program will remain alive but possibly not operating in the greater Austin area.  And to be sure, this is a complex transition. The IRS has seen to that. This is all contingent upon my health maintaining the status quo. Hopefully, there will be no need for this to happen sooner. As we go forward with these preparations, we will reveal the folks who will take over Reglue operations. Things change...situations change...but for now, we will go with the above-mentioned plans and those people within.

That being said, the Directors of Reglue have decided that we need to change the way we fund Reglue. Our fund raiser last autumn fell a good deal short of our goal but through sales of non-pertinent hardware donations, we were able to completely fund our year. Those non-pertinent items were a small refrigerator, and number of non-computer appliances and tools. But we cannot count on similar donations to offer for sale. So this is our plan.

Instead of having an annual fund raiser, we've put into place a monthly donation goal. This way, those of you who donate annually do not have to offer that donation all at one time. And for those that haven't been able to donate a larger amount, we can break that down to a much smaller donation for each month. Not everyone can afford to donate a one-time $600.00, but most everyone can afford to donate 10.00 a month over the course of the year.

And that is what we are asking. Our monthly goal is $500.00 to $600.00 per month. That amounts to 60 people who read the Blog of helios to donate $10.00 each month. I mean, I see the traffic stats for this blog...60 readers is an almost minuscule percentage of our readership. So that's why our graphic artist of choice, Mike Daymon; has created our donation gauge for our monthly campaign. There is always a $50.00 buffer and that's because I donate the first $50.00 out of my own pocket. Some of you have donated Recently but did not see the graphic move up. That's because we put the graphic in place a bit too early. I meant to make this announcement a while back. The campaign goes live as soon as I hit the button to publish this. You can watch the total climb for each day at 10PM CST.

$10.00 a month is a paltry sum for most of us. For most people, it boils down to just taking the time to do it. I would be greatly appreciative of you making that donation, or as recent donors have done, just make a 10 dollar repeating donation. It is simple to do. Great things are planned for Reglue in the coming school year. I would be thrilled for you to be a part of that. You can donate by clicking the donate graphic at the top left of this page, or simply paypal your donation to

And as always...thanks for helping us do what we do.

All-Righty Then...

Monday, June 08, 2015

When a Community Bands Together

Aramondo Salas is a busy high school student. He will enter his junior year at Taylor High School in Taylor Texas this coming school year. Armondo is much like his peers. He enjoys contemporary music and movies. He thoroughly enjoys helping his dad when he is working on computers and he has a passion for metal paint and design. He's also a big fan of Linux.

The economy hasn't always been kind to Taylor. Taylor Texas was built upon the railroad and at one time was prosperous in the transportation of cattle and cotton. In 1890 those were the area's number one and number two crop. The township of Taylor and the various railroad lines and companies always found a way to play off of one another so as to stay in business. When things would begin to look bleak for one or the other, this odd collusion found a way to get both back on their feet.

That loose cooperation failed sometime in the mid 1970s. With railroad lines and physical properties changing ownership too quickly to keep up with, the once resilient duo of township and railroad began to sink past the other's ability to pull them back up. Taylor sits 16 miles due east of Round Rock, which is the world headquarters of Dell. It's too far away to be considered a convenient bedroom community and too far away from everyone else to draw any considerable trade or commerce. Hence, Taylor has survived by drawing small business and even the movie industry to our little town.

So you didn't come here for a local Texas history lesson. I wanted you to understand that the unemployment rate here is almost 3 percent higher than the national average. Reglue has more work to do than we can sometimes handle. Taylor is also still recovering from the horrendous Memorial Day flooding that slammed into Texas. Armondo's home is in the middle of flood damage repair along with a new roof. They are staying at a local hotel until the home is habitable again. We finally worked it out to do the next few presentations at our facility. The damage to Taylor homes was extensive.

I made mention of Armondo's talent for metal work and painting. He has not only the talent to keep a steady hand on the gun. His patterns and portfolio are impressive, especially for someone not yet out of high school. "Mondo" doesn't have the means or the money to create his paint mixture formulas from expensive proprietary software. He was eager to show me how he can use Open Source Software GIMP to do what he needs to do. It was an absolute pleasure to sit next to him and watch his enthusiasm as he pointed out the methods he uses to get the mixes for his paint just right.

And he has no shortage of friends in Taylor to bring him work. Everything from tricked out bikes, to motorcycle fuel tanks to entire cars, Mondo is perfecting his talents to take him into the job market. It was our pleasure to outfit him with a computer more than suitable for his needs.

But about those computers.....

Most of our readers know that our organization, Reglue; was globally recognized at MIT by the Free Software Foundation this year for the work we do. I was honored to attend the ceremony during LibrePlanet 2015. You also know of the challenges we face daily in getting enough good hardware to build our Reglue kids their computers. A while back, we were notified that one of our most reliable sources for excellent computer hardware would no longer be supplying those much-needed parts and machines. The underlying reasons for this change chapped my southern nether-regions enough to talk about it over at

It was from that article that Jason Spisak heard of our situation.

Jason has a career in movies, television and the gaming industry, supplying voice talent for those mediums. Although Jason has a successful career in Hollywood, his true passion is using perfectly good computer components and combining those parts with his environmentally-friendly plastic cases and the Ubuntu operating system in order to produce an amazingly functional computer. They are half the weight of anything close to having the same components and they perform fantastically.

The Symple PC.

Jason contacted me via friend and cohort Christine Hall, and told me that he wanted to help. After reading the completely bull ridiculous reason for one of our donors to cease business with us, he offered to donate 12 of his SymplePCs to Reglue. His offer was as generous as it was timely. Jason doesn't screw around. In less than a week, those computers were being offloaded at the Reglue facility and brought in for unpacking and prep.

Well, "prep" isn't much with these computers. We add our educational application and game bundle and out the door they go. Or stay in, depending on whether the student rather pick up the machine or have us deliver and set it up in their home.

Christine at FOSS Force carried a number of articles about Jason and Symple in a fairly short amount of time, so she needed to wait a bit for the next one. It's then that I will interview Jason about the inside story of how Symple came to be and what it entailed in making it happen. It's my understanding that Jason supports this entire operation from his pocket. That in itself is amazing.

So yeah. When a community bands together, we can accomplish amazing things. Like a global effort to create free and open source software. Like working together from over a thousand miles apart, insuring 12 more kids will have the computer they need to compete for grades and SAT placements. In short, we are helping jump start a child's future. All of us. From Phoenix, where Jason and his family live to Taylor Texas...our humble facility. We are a community. In short, a community that gets stuff done.

One thing of importance I have learned over the years, I'll share with you. When you find someone like Jason with that much conviction, motive and momentum; it's extremely unwise to step in front of them. That's not difficult to understand. Fact is...

it's Symple.

All-righty then,

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Austin Business Retailmenot Steps Up To The Plate

We've been donated some fairly nice equipment over the years. Many of the computers we get are anywhere from 4 to 8 years old. With enough RAM upgrades, we can place these computers into our student's homes and calculate they can get at least two years out of them. Laptops, well; we have some problems getting newer ones donated. Once the Reglue Kid is a Junior in high school or over, these kids need portable power. 

A good snapshot of what we are now receiving is the Lenovo T-61 and T-61p. That's the grade of laptop we are seeing now. And there's nothing wrong with that. We bump them up anywhere from 4 to 8 gigs of RAM and they are ready to go to work. Donna Rawlings is in her second year of graduate studies and her Lenovo T61p has served her wonderfully.

But every now and then, we require laptops with a bit more horsepower. Many of our Reglue students have entered or are getting ready to enter college. And as mentioned, some of them into graduate studies. Those quality machines we have a tougher time getting our hands on. Until recently...that's when the good people at RetailMeNot stepped in to help.

We rarely know the specs on all the donations we pick up until we arrive on site or they are delivered to us. It can be a surprise at times, and most of those surprises are pleasant. But the IT Team at RetailMeNot donated some fantastic, gently used laptops, between 2 to 4 years old. 

From MacBook Pro 15.4's to Dell Precision M4600s and Latitude E6520/6420's, we have what we need and more to see that our undergrads and graduate students have the horsepower needed to do their work. The computers, monitors and other components you see here are simply representative of each piece donated. Retailmenot donated us over a dozen quad core laptops along with several desktops, 24 inch monitors, video cards, motherboards and other important components we need on a day-by-day basis

Thank you RetailMeNot!  For one of the few times in my life, I don't have adequate words to express how grateful we are for these donations. Coupled with the other great donations received recently, our laptop need is about two thirds covered up to this coming fall. Without their generosity, we would not even come close to meeting the demand for these financially disadvantaged kids. Kids like Holly's children.

Holly Syfret is a hard-working single mom. Two years ago, Holly and her kids lost their husband and father and that set the family reeling. Holly was a stay-at-home mom and after the emotional shock started to wear down, the reality of caring for 7 children set in. Holly had no real and current training to accompany her to the job interviews that laid ahead. Being the fighter she is, Holly now is working two jobs while her oldest daughters tend to the younger kids. And speaking of kids, they are:
Autumn-rose age 18
Sierra age 15
Danielle age 14
Judah age 12
Promise age 9
Noah age 6
Blessing age 6

We not only provided them a fantastic quad core laptop from, the desktop computer we built for them was built from 2 year old parts including a quad core intel chip, motherboard and graphics card. Autumn Rose will be entering college for her undergraduate studies this fall and wants to study mathematics. She will go to college with an additional one of these fantastic laptops provided by Retailmenot. It is a Dell Precision M4600 with 16 gigs of RAM and a 256 GB SSD.

 Right down the street from us is the Calzada family. Jose is another great dad that works two jobs to support his family. His kids have most definitely put a Retailmenot computer to work. We've found that even the youngest of kids appreciate and benefit from a computer in the home, These kids will be able to compete with their peers and that above all else is why we want to help people like Mr. Calzada and his family. These folks are the reason we exist.

 As well as with individual kids or families, Reglue has been an active
community member. We have set up a number of computer rooms for organizations that serve the community. From three facilities here in Taylor to a new room in Elgin Texas, we've tried to help those who need a computer with Internet access. Yolanda Johnson with our Reglue volunteer James Lantzch stands by one of the two computers we installed for the Portfolio Resident Services in Elgin Texas. Portfolio is an organization that gives kids a safe environment while waiting for working parents to pick them up. Yolanda is the director for the facility in Elgin. Many of the components within those computers came from Retailmenot and we expect them to last another three years at least.

We simply could not operate at the level we enjoy without our corporate sponsors. And as I said earlier, saying "Thank You" to Retailmenot almost seems trite. I sincerely hope that they know just how much they have impacted the lives of those they've helped.

All righty then...