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Readers Letters PCs for kids demands free MS OSes

This week the Australian charity PCs for Kids charity stepped up its campaign to use Microsoft software for free. The issue of whether charities should have to pay for software licences, and why PCs for Kids doesn't go off and use open-source software like Linux like many other similar organisations, generated the following comments from Sam Reid.

Glad to see your coverage of the PCs for Kids foolishness...disappointed that they're still displaying the same rabbit-in-headlights mentality towards MS.

I know something of the organisation as a friend of mine, Kylie Davies, created a similar charity also based in Melbourne a couple of years ago.

Computerbank (www.computerbank.org.au/ -- yes we're improving the site soon :-P) similarly takes old PCs from higher-end 486s and upwards, refurbishes them and installs Debian Linux.

These machines are then distributed to all manner of needy and disadvantaged individuals and groups. Recipients include community groups, nursing homes, and people with physical disabilities. Recently a large number of Computerbank machines were shipped to East Timor to aid in the reconstruction of essential services after the violent struggle for independence there.

All Computerbank recipients receive training as well. We also have a workshop and training lab where volunteers can learn computer repair, cabling, and system admin.

Linux hard to use? Tell that to the octagenerians surfing the web and sending each other emails with Mozilla in the nursing home.

In the early days of Computerbank when our storage warehouse was a corner of my lounge room, our major challenges, apart from space, were picking up and delivering machines all over Melbourne, and opening channels of communication with larger corporations that wanted to donate their old machines. We talked with other related local charities and joined forces with some of them to mutual advantage.

PCs For Kids, however, proved to be very unhelpful. They (or at least the principal fellow, the name of whom I can't recall at the mo) also became self-righteous, rude and angry when we raised the issue of software licenses and politely suggested that they used free software.

They seemed to be very stuck on the idea that because we were also a charity providing computers, we were in some sort of competition with them... as if there weren't enough old computers or needy people to go around!

It would be nice to see some publicity for a PC charity that isn't brain-dead!

More PCs for Kids letters can be found here.

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