What They're Using: Christian Einfeldt, Producer, the Digital Tipping Point

I have six basic different uses for free, open-source software: 1) my law office practice; 2) managing and editing video for the Digital Tipping Point Project; 3) running a 25-seat Edubuntu lab at a public middle school as a volunteer in San Francisco; 4) placing ACCRC.org Linux computers in classrooms; 5) giving out ACCRC.org Ubuntu computers to friends, neighbors and the children who attend that school; and 6) supporting San Francisco's Tech Connect program by demonstrating Linux boxes at events for nonprofits and low-income individuals.

The boxes to my left are the thin clients. If you look just over my right ear, you will see a silvery small computer between two black monitors. That's the computer on which I captured this photograph (Gutsy Ubuntu running on the ZaReason media box).

For my law practice, I use whatever cast-off computer I happen to have available at the moment from the other computers that I give out to students, friends or family. I generally can find a P4 computer with about 512MB of RAM, and I just copy my data from one machine to an external hard drive and then back onto the new machine. It really varies depending on the needs of the students, friends and neighbors I am helping. It's all part of a constant flow of equipment through my office. For a while, I was using OpenSUSE, but I switched to plain-old, brown GNOME Ubuntu, simply because most of the sysadmins who help me prefer plain-old brown.

For the Digital Tipping Point video project, I am using three machines. They all have the same "last name", so to speak, as they are all members of the "Beast" family. The least muscular is the Server Beast (sb), with two single-core AMD processors at about 1GHz each, running on a Tyan 2460 motherboard and 750GB of storage on two internal hard drives (built by San Francisco Linux consultant Holden Aust). This machine has an added card with both USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 ports. It's called the Server Beast because it was formerly a server owned by a law firm. I use it either for capturing video from my Sony tape deck, compressing the video, uploading the video to the Internet Archive's Digital Tipping Point Video Collection or for doing rough video editing with Kino, such as the 4:57 minute proof-of-concept video for the Digital Tipping Point Project.

Next up in the Beast family is the Render Beast (rb, also built by Holden Aust). It has a Gibabyte-brand GA-MA69GM-S2H motherboard with an Athlon AMD 64 4200+ chip and 4GB of RAM. This machine so far has been used mostly for the same basic thing as the Server Beast, but it's much faster. It also has 1.5TB of internal HD storage.

Finally, the newest addition to the family is the TeraByte Beast (tbb, built by San Francisco Bay Area Linux consultant Daniel Gimpelevich and Holden Aust), with a Gibabyte-brand GA-MA790FX-DS5 motherboard with an Athalon AMD 64 4200+ chip and 4GB of RAM. This machine's claim to fame (at least at Beast family gatherings) is that it has 16 one-terabyte drives, for a total of 16TB. It's primarily used for storing video, although it occasionally is pressed into service to do the same things as its Beast brothers.

The public middle school's Edubuntu lab has three machines running various flavors of Ubuntu (built by ZaReason, Inc., a Berkeley-based computer retailer that sells only Linux-powered computers). There are two video-ready machines, each with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 and 2GB of RAM. Each machine also has a 500GB SATA drive. These are used by the students for watching video and listening to music, as well as practicing photo editing in The GIMP. The teachers have not yet put together a video-editing course, as they still are learning how to use video editing under Cinelerra and Kino. Let's keep our fingers crossed for next year.

ZaReason also built the Edubuntu thin-client server, which is a Pentium D 940 with 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. That machine supports 23 thin clients and is used by the students every day except Friday for on-line research and composing essays and sending them to their teachers via e-mail. The students also are taught to do presentations, which they deliver in front of their science and social studies classes. For their essays and presentations, they use Google Docs, which now has a presentation element (OpenOffice.org was choking the server). As a nice little bonus, Microsoft paid for all of the ZaReason boxes—a result of California's antitrust settlement.

With the help of Andrew Fife and Tom Belote of Untangle.com (a networking security company) and Linux expert Drew Hess, we will be turning the Edubuntu thin-client lab into an Edubuntu hybrid client network running the programs locally but serving up the files from the Zareason.com server. The thin clients were choking the server when audio or video was attempted, so we are shifting some of the work to the clients next year.

James Burgett, who runs the Alameda County Computer Resource Center has been a really generous donor of equipment for the public middle school I am supporting with free, open-source software. James gave the school an initial donation of 30 HP P4 Ubuntu machines with 256MB of RAM. Some of those boxes were given to students, and some were used in the Edubuntu lab. Other boxes were placed in classrooms, where the students use the machines for the same purposes as in the lab.

James Burgett (also of Untangle.com) and Andrew Fife organized a massive installfest at the school and four other locations in the San Francisco Bay Area on March 1, 2008. That installfest allowed me to give neighbors and friends some of the machines I had scrounged for the school, by replacing those machines with newer machines from the ACCRC.org - Untangle installfest. Also, many of the new machines were given out to students, many of whom have no computers at home. ACCRC.org and Untangle.com are planning another massive installfest (http://untangle.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=351&Itemid=139) for LinuxWorld Expo in August 2008 in San Francisco.

Finally, the St. Anthony Foundation of San Francisco has loaned me seven Dell GX 150 machines with 256MB of RAM, which I use to support Kari Gray in her work with the City and County of San Francisco's Tech Connect Project to introduce low-income people to technology. A video of an event at St. Anthony's Foundation in San Francisco's skid row is available at http://news.cnet.com/Tenderloin-Tech-Day/1606-2_3-6223419.html?part=rss&tag=2547-1_3-0-20&subj=news.

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