I have been toying with this for a while, and think I might actually start the paperwork.
The company I work for does a fair amount of charity work. One charity they support is designed to give kids refurbished computers. I thought I might like getting in on that, but there’s a catch. The install Microsoft Windows on every machine.
I really can’t bring myself to help spread Microsoft’s dope. Getting their claws into kids early, and forcing schools to use Windows has literally kept kids from learning other ways of doing thing- even free ones. Accounts of uneducated people telling kids that they have to use Windows for legal reasons or warranty reasons are abound. It’s a bit frightening. (Want a real world example? Google “HeliOS and AISD”.)
At any rate, I’m all for getting computers in the hands of underprivelidged kids, the sooner the better. What I’d really like to do is TEACH the kids HOW to use computers, and not just how to use Windows. Teach the kids what a computer is, and how they work. Take a pile of components, and make a working laptop. Install GNU/Linux, and begin to understand how it works. Those lessons can make a student out of high school much more valuable to the community and to even themselves. A quick indeed.com check shows Windows admins make, on average, about half what a Linux admin makes. The reason is simple numbers: there are a lot more people who have tinkered around in Windows. Unless someone is exposed to how computers work, they are never exposed to Unix- they never are familiar enough with their own computers to dip their toes into formatting and partitioning their disk. Parents and teachers freak out if you do something that might break their computers, so playing around is verboten.
I’d like to put together a charity that gets old and unused laptops and desktops, and have class sessions for kids to learn how they work, and physically put together a working machine out of parts or repair broken screens with cannibalized screens from a laptop with a fried motherboard. Something that will lessen the fears, and teach how something other than windows can actually be used. Maybe it would encourage kids to go into computer sciences more, and give them a head start on how to do it.
At the moment, this is still a dream…but I’m working on it.