Search This Blog

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ten Years After Part III - A Storied Conclusion

Alton Cassius Freedman was a shy, unassuming high school sophomore when Reglue presented him with his first ever computer. Alton's family struggled financially, with only a mother working two jobs and Alton working after school at a local pizza delivery business. Two younger siblings helped their mom keep the house and yard while Alton and her worked.

Alton was a genealogy buff and once he had a computer, he explored his family history, and quite a history it was. His Great XXX grandfather and grandmother were enslaved within the infamous Whitney plantation in Louisiana. Along with four other plantation slaves, they were led through the slave underground railroad. Two of those were captured in Maryland and returned to the Whitney Plantation where they were flogged then drawn and quartered and fed to pigs. The surviving 4 made their way to New York.

Alton's ancestors were named Cassius and Martha. Last names were not commonly given to slaves in
many places and the ones that were, usually took on the names of the plantation owners. It was the plan of Cassius from the beginning to join a colored Union regiment once he gained his freedom. Martha, four months pregnant; would travel on to Canada where Cassius would rejoin her and the baby after the war. When Cassius enlisted, he was given a list of last names to choose from. He chose Freedman.

Unfortunately, that reunion would never take place as Cassius would develop terminal typhus after his part in the battle of New Market Heights during October of 1864 in Virginia. There's no doubt that Alton wears his grandfather's name with pride.

Alton became one with his Linux system. He didn't see differences between the Windows systems at school and his Linux system. He saw opportunity to learn and grow. I think between Alton's family and my organization, we were all surprised by just how much.

Alton mastered the desktop, then went on to study Python, Ruby and C+ and he did so on his own online. When he was admitted to Huston-Tillotson University in Austin Texas, he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems. He interned for a year at the security software firm "clear" in Austin then went on to work for Orbital Insight specializing in writing software for geospatial analysis. Specifically he has chosen to write the software that allows the satellites to identify optimum drilling sites for water wells on the African and Asian continents. He then shares that information with organizations such as Well Aware, which travels to those places and drills the actual wells.

I believe Reglue got our money's worth from that old Lenovo T61 laptop. It launched a fantastic career for a fantastic kid.

While Alton's case isn't the norm, it's good to know that he picked up on the Linux desktop without a
lot of drama or angst. However, that too isn't the norm. As promised in the first part of this "Ten Years After" series, I've went over all of the questionnaires and emails and there are only three real "issues" these kids could find to mention, and I mean mentioned in force. Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of different types of complaints, but they were, to be honest, nit-picky at best. I don't think anyone will find any surprises here. So here they are.

*Software installation - Yeah, betcha didn't see that one coming, did'ja?

Old habits are indeed hard to break, and especially if you don't really understand the reason why those habits have to change. The idea of a software repository just didn't make sense to most of our Reglue kids at first. I cannot count the times when I went to troubleshoot a problem on a Reglue computer to find the desktop riddled with .exe files of failed installations.

What isn't really surprising is that the kids did eventually pick up the whole installation process on their Linux machines, and mostly came to prefer it. But the parents? Not so much. I wish I had recorded some of the calls I got from irate parents or guardians because they couldn't install XYZ software on the computer. It didn't take me long to make sure to make sure that Mom or Dad were present when I explained that part during the orientation.  At times, I had to remind those adults that the computer and software was engineered for the benefit of the student, not as a household computer.  I mean, get TurboTax on your own machine. It helped some, but still....Adults, right?

*New hardware failure - We've all been there.

These kids are not Luddites, for the most part anyway. Many of them embrace new or new-to-them technology. They get excited about the challenges posed to them in learning said tech and they run with it. However, when your expectations are not met; it can lead to frustration. The simple act of adding a keyboard should be....well, simple. But you remember as well as I do in the Bad Old Days, there were devices as simple as a keyboard and a mouse that needed specific drivers installed in order for them to work. That's when a driver disk became truly a drink coaster. The drivers were meant for Windows machines.

Now, that didn't happen that often, but it happened often enough to have me stock up on headache powder and a fine single malt. It wasn't uncommon for the wireless radios in some of the Reglue laptops to take a dive. Many of our kids knew enough to find a wireless USB receiver and continue to march. Yeah, but about that. Let's all say it together.

Can you say Broadcom chip?  &_*%($%^)%&R&!

I mean, it was a most profound day in my life. Somewhere in the 2.7 kernel development, wireless

went from "wireless sucks in Linux", to "Holy Frickin' Cow, wireless works in Linux". And then there was Broadcom. But still, even then those drivers became a matter of a visit to synaptic or your software manager of choice. I did an article a number of years ago where I wandered from all the Best Buys and Techno-Toylands, to Fry's Electronics and (May it rest in peace) Radio Shack in order to document how many computer peripherals did not have the "works with Linux" printed on the box. I won't insult your intelligence by asking you how many of those devices listed Linux as a supported system.

These days though, it's a lot better than it was. It's no longer uncommon to see Linux included in the supported systems list. And that's the way it should be. Just sayin'.....

*Software that only works on Windows - yeah, this is the big one.

By far the most vocal complaints concerned "needed" software not being available on Linux. We might as well just call out The Terrible Two. Photoshop and Microsoft Office. Now remember, the bulk of my work was done between 2005 and 2009. I never offered any excuses for Photoshop. The Gimp isn't Photoshop, no matter how you twist or turn it and trying to tell someone who uses Photoshop scholastically or professionally that The Gimp can replace Photoshop is a fools errand. Sure it can do a lot of what Photoshop can do but it's those pesky little items that The Gimp lacks that everyone got all bunched up over.

Then the whole "drop in replacement" for Microsoft office, that being OpenOffice/LibreOffice. I can
remember exchanging documents between Windows users and getting a phone call, people screaming that the document I marked up now looked like a bomb went off within it. Students were complaining that their teachers or professors couldn't read the document they turned in on their thumb drive.

So many people using so many iterations of Microsoft Windows, the formatting conflict was inevitable. I should know...I was caught in the middle of my share of those. Fortunately, mostly in my case anyway; a good number of schools began using Google Docs for their homework and term papers and uploading them to the teacher's/Professor's server. I felt like I was literally saved by the bell. That donnybrook went on forever.

So all told, where are we now? Easy Street man...Easy Street. You folks have done all the hard work for me and my crew. You've pimped the Linux Desktop to the point where our Reglue kids turn up their noses when they have to interact with Windows machines at school. But in all that's a good thing. Both Linux and Windows are here to stay, I'm simply glad that there are those who are bilingual, so to speak; when it comes to computer operating systems. Kids like Alton Cassius Freedman.

You've come a long way Tux. I've enjoyed every mile of the ride. Bumps and all.

All-Righty Then


  1. Man, It's so good to read you again :)

  2. "Somewhere in the 2.7 kernel development" - precious!
    Getting rid of Microsoft Office, ok, but Google Docs? Aren't they just another form of lock-in?

    1. That can be a valid argument, and if be silly to disagree. However...

      In that light, it would prove to be years until any measure of interoperability would take place. Personally, I found Google docs the least offensive of the choices at the time.

  3. Always great to hear from you and it's so great to hear stories of impact. Great job to you and those that you've helped.


Be nice. No politics, potty mouth or name calling. Just because we can't see each other doesn't mean that words have no impact. Most of all, have fun.