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Computers for charity

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September 22, 2009 8:09:16 PM

Hey guys, I'm starting up a program at my school that gives custom built computers to children in need. We're working out a budget with the school board, but with fundraising etc it looks to be about $10,000 a year.

The idea behind it is to offer a full setup that is going to provide more than enough performance than just for the average user. Something that they will be proud to own.

Problematically, systems like that come with a price tag and I've been able to configure one at around $300 (on newegg, will definitely be searching for cheaper prices, perhaps at a wholesale level). With a decent overclock I think we can really make some dreams come true. Here's what I have so far.

Case with power supply: Broadway Com Corp 937PK-BLACK Steel Computer Case Okia ATX 420W Power Supply - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$29.99*

Harddrive: Western Digital Caviar Blue WD800JD 80GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$35.99*

Monitor with speakers: Hanns·G boston Simulated Woodgrain 19" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor w/ swivel adjustment 350 cd/m2 700:1 Built in Speakers - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$99.99*

Keyboard: LITE-ON SK-1688U/B Black 104 Normal Keys USB Wired Standard Keyboard - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$6.99*

Mouse: SPEC Research HW3003/49UR 2-Tone 3 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical 800 dpi Mini Mouse - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$5.99*

Memory: Kingston ValueRAM 512MB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 400 (PC2 3200) System Memory Model KVR400D2N3/512 - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$9.99*

Combo AMD CPU and Gigabyte motherboard with built in graphics card:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... *$96.98*

Total: $285.92

If you can do it better for cheaper, I'd really love to hear it. Since this is a relatively new project anyone with experience building cheap quality computers could really help with their feedback. We are going to need a prototype before we start shopping around for the actual parts


More about : computers charity

September 22, 2009 8:18:48 PM

Well, there's got to be cheaper monitors out there, something like a 17" 1280x1024 and I think 512mb will be impossible to work with, 1GB will work well with Windows XP and should only cost $16 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ), I know it is for charity but having only 512mb of memory is going to slow down even basic tasks such as browsing the web.
There are cheaper motherboards to go around but then again those don't have built in HD 4200 graphics.

So except for the two things I pointed out I think you're good to go.
September 22, 2009 8:28:48 PM

Yea i just threw in that monitor for consistency since it was the cheapest one on newegg. Buying RAM in bulk is probably going to be a lot cheaper, especially if we get it straight from the manufacturer. And you are probably right about the efficiency. Buying 1 gig sticks may even be more economical, who knows.
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September 22, 2009 8:44:32 PM

dynamicchuck said:
Yea i just threw in that monitor for consistency since it was the cheapest one on newegg. Buying RAM in bulk is probably going to be a lot cheaper, especially if we get it straight from the manufacturer. And you are probably right about the efficiency. Buying 1 gig sticks may even be more economical, who knows.


You could try buying kits of 2 or 3 1GB sticks of memory, that may shave off some money as well, I also noticed DDR2 667 isn't more expensive than DDR2 533 or even DDR2 400.

Low budget building is always much more of a challenge and more exciting than building a plain old $1000-1500 machine.
September 22, 2009 8:46:35 PM

depending on demand and budget we might be buying everything wholesale. minimally i'll be contacting individual manufacturers and retail stores to see if they are interested in offering a discounted fee for a good cause
September 22, 2009 8:48:52 PM

dynamicchuck said:
depending on demand and budget we might be buying everything wholesale. minimally i'll be contacting individual manufacturers and retail stores to see if they are interested in offering a discounted fee for a good cause


Even if they're not, you'll always pay less shipping costs when buying a lot of stuff at the same time.
September 22, 2009 8:51:39 PM

dynamicchuck said:
depending on demand and budget we might be buying everything wholesale. minimally i'll be contacting individual manufacturers and retail stores to see if they are interested in offering a discounted fee for a good cause


Don't know how it works in the US, but here in the Netherlands anyone registered with the chamber of commerce (any legal business owner) can buy wholesale.
a b B Homebuilt system
September 22, 2009 8:54:35 PM

Just for reference, what level of school are you at? In any event, you should be able to request a 501(c)(3) form - which is a tax-exemption form. So that if you have to purchase, you can provide this number to the seller, and not have to pay any taxes on your purchases. That should be something you should look into, as it can save a decent amount of money.

Have you considered operating systems? Will you have a bulk license or will you be installing something like uBuntu? I work at a non-profit that restores discarded computers, and then donates them to local kids. (Houston, TX). We install Ed-ubuntu, which has educational software packaged in (I think primarily open office).
September 22, 2009 9:03:35 PM

I'm a senior in high school. I'll definately look into that tax-exemption form.

As for the operating system, we were considering just using the schools software, at least initially. Although the technical aspects to this would have to be discussed with the principal, I'm hoping that this is permissible.
September 22, 2009 9:07:41 PM

dynamicchuck said:
I'm a senior in high school. I'll definately look into that tax-exemption form.

As for the operating system, we were considering just using the schools software, at least initially. Although the technical aspects to this would have to be discussed with the principal, I'm hoping that this is permissible.


Go for a bulk license of XP, Ubuntu may be too limited and difficult for poor kids who've never had a computer before (unless you have a guy who can install all necessary drivers, open office, a video player, wine, etc...), but if you can't get XP, Ubuntu would be the next best thing, just don't throw Vista or Win7 on those machines, they'd choke the hardware.
September 23, 2009 2:06:42 PM

Bump yo, any cheaper/better builds?
September 23, 2009 4:55:13 PM

dynamicchuck said:
Bump yo, any cheaper/better builds?


Just get a cheaper 17" 1280x1024 monitor and 1GB of memory.
a b B Homebuilt system
September 23, 2009 7:41:51 PM

I agree with the status of the build, you are pretty much there, but getting the cheaper monitor and the 1gb is the way to go.

After a little research, it is unlikely you would qualify for Bulk Licensing from Microsoft, unless you actually found (form/incorporate) a Not-for-Profit organization in your state, which is probably more work than you would want to put into it.

About the OS from the school, it is highly likely that the school is limited by its licensing contract with a vendor not to give it out, and therefore you will most likely not be able to use that license. However, even if the Principal said yes, it would likely be a breach of the license, and most likely illegal as well. The purpose of what you are doing is to provide personal home computers to those in need. The license that the school has is most likely an enterprise or corporate license, not for home use. Therefore, installing these things for other-than-school use, would most likely violate the license agreement as well.

I would seriously look into getting Edubuntu (http://edubuntu.org/), which requires a ubuntu OS underneath (http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download). Basically, download Ubuntu 9.04 - burn it to a CD. Download the Edubuntu software - burn it to a CD.

As a serious question, are you looking to establish this as a long term project? Or more like just one go, while you are a senior? What kind of support do you have for this project? (parents? teachers? administration?)

What stage are you currently in for the group? (just still forming up ideas and requesting funds?)

Are you located in the US?
September 23, 2009 8:07:22 PM

jared51182 said:
I agree with the status of the build, you are pretty much there, but getting the cheaper monitor and the 1gb is the way to go.

After a little research, it is unlikely you would qualify for Bulk Licensing from Microsoft, unless you actually found (form/incorporate) a Not-for-Profit organization in your state, which is probably more work than you would want to put into it.

About the OS from the school, it is highly likely that the school is limited by its licensing contract with a vendor not to give it out, and therefore you will most likely not be able to use that license. However, even if the Principal said yes, it would likely be a breach of the license, and most likely illegal as well. The purpose of what you are doing is to provide personal home computers to those in need. The license that the school has is most likely an enterprise or corporate license, not for home use. Therefore, installing these things for other-than-school use, would most likely violate the license agreement as well.

I would seriously look into getting Edubuntu (http://edubuntu.org/), which requires a ubuntu OS underneath (http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download). Basically, download Ubuntu 9.04 - burn it to a CD. Download the Edubuntu software - burn it to a CD.

As a serious question, are you looking to establish this as a long term project? Or more like just one go, while you are a senior? What kind of support do you have for this project? (parents? teachers? administration?)

What stage are you currently in for the group? (just still forming up ideas and requesting funds?)

Are you located in the US?



My high school is located in PA. The problem with edubuntu, at least on face, is whether or not the applications would be cross-compatible with the ones in windows xp. Having kids spend hours type up reports on open office then not being able to access the files at school seems a bit counter intuitive. If this isn't the case it certainly looks like a great free OS.

I'm very interested in establishing this as a continuing program, even after i graduate from high school, obviously the needs of students are going to continue to grow, especially in this economic climate, and programs like this will certainly be needed.

I'm doing this with the support of several teachers, my volunteer group at school, and hopefully the administration of the school district. I'm building a proposal to present at the next school board meeting so we're still in the fledgling stages trying to come up with a solid blueprint for the future.
September 23, 2009 8:17:42 PM

dynamicchuck said:
My high school is located in PA. The problem with edubuntu, at least on face, is whether or not the applications would be cross-compatible with the ones in windows xp. Having kids spend hours type up reports on open office then not being able to access the files at school seems a bit counter intuitive. If this isn't the case it certainly looks like a great free OS.

I'm very interested in establishing this as a continuing program, even after i graduate from high school, obviously the needs of students are going to continue to grow, especially in this economic climate, and programs like this will certainly be needed.

I'm doing this with the support of several teachers, my volunteer group at school, and hopefully the administration of the school district. I'm building a proposal to present at the next school board meeting so we're still in the fledgling stages trying to come up with a solid blueprint for the future.


Open Office can create, open, modify and save Word and powerpoint files, Ubuntu also uses the familiar Mozilla Firefox as a browser, but a lot of other things are a bit different or just complicated and you can only open .exe files with Wine, and not always successfully.
September 23, 2009 8:23:00 PM

hmm interesting. I might download ubuntu for myself and see how complicated it is. We're planning to distribute to those around middle school age, seeing as elementary school kids have little use for them and high school kids don't have that much time left to use them, ideally grade 5-10. Thus, how easy it is to use is a big consideration, and i've heard a lot about how linux is for the computer literate only :( .
September 23, 2009 8:28:20 PM

dynamicchuck said:
hmm interesting. I might download ubuntu for myself and see how complicated it is. We're planning to distribute to those around middle school age, seeing as elementary school kids have little use for them and high school kids don't have that much time left to use them, ideally grade 5-10. Thus, how easy it is to use is a big consideration, and i've heard a lot about how linux is for the computer literate only :( .


Once installed and fine tuned by someone who knows what he's doing, Ubuntu is easy to work, but issues may arise when you update Ubuntu to the next version.

Btw, Ubuntu and ATI don't like each other very much, if video is choppy or has tears than read this: http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/page-269998_15_0.ht...
a b B Homebuilt system
September 23, 2009 8:35:32 PM

Well, as I mentioned before, I work with a non-profit that does what you want to do (only we refurb computers, instead of building new ones). I guess it really boils down to you what you want the computers to be able to do. As I understand it, you are providing computers to children that don't have computers already, and are in school. This would most likely indicate that the new users (the kids) would primarily use the computers for word processing for school, and if they have internet access, for web surfing.

What you are building would demolish what we give out, and providing LCDs is amazing, as we use donated CRT's that weigh about 1,000,000 lbs each. We joke, the kids can only have the computers if they can carry the monitor to the car from the instructional session.

Anyway, so yeah, that brings me to my next point. One of the things we do is hold sessions when we give out the computers, and basically provide the bare essentials of how to use the computer, as we only give to households that don't have a computer already. So we teach them how to use firefox and open office (primarily the word processor). Teach them how to save files and open them. And teach them how to boot up and shut down.

Ubuntu looks like a Mac desktop, with a primary function bar at the top of the screen. Icons are on the desktop, like harddrive, and any other folders you want. It isn't like a DOS prompt or anything, so it functions more like modern OS's. But as mentioned, you need certain programs to open other programs (such as Wine for .exe) but again, you have to consider what these computers will be used for. If you are trying to donate gaming computers, well, looking into bulk licensing with Windows is the way to go, but that is money and time, and probably not what you are really looking for. I think a standard word processing computer with internet access is what you are really looking to provide, and Ubuntu will do that.

Note: I don't use Ubuntu, and don't work for them, its just that through my experience with the not-for-profit, i have learned a little about it. I mostly work with the hardware, not the software, so I am no ubuntu expert by any means.
September 23, 2009 8:52:33 PM

jared51182 said:
Well, as I mentioned before, I work with a non-profit that does what you want to do (only we refurb computers, instead of building new ones). I guess it really boils down to you what you want the computers to be able to do. As I understand it, you are providing computers to children that don't have computers already, and are in school. This would most likely indicate that the new users (the kids) would primarily use the computers for word processing for school, and if they have internet access, for web surfing.

What you are building would demolish what we give out, and providing LCDs is amazing, as we use donated CRT's that weigh about 1,000,000 lbs each. We joke, the kids can only have the computers if they can carry the monitor to the car from the instructional session.

Anyway, so yeah, that brings me to my next point. One of the things we do is hold sessions when we give out the computers, and basically provide the bare essentials of how to use the computer, as we only give to households that don't have a computer already. So we teach them how to use firefox and open office (primarily the word processor). Teach them how to save files and open them. And teach them how to boot up and shut down.

Ubuntu looks like a Mac desktop, with a primary function bar at the top of the screen. Icons are on the desktop, like harddrive, and any other folders you want. It isn't like a DOS prompt or anything, so it functions more like modern OS's. But as mentioned, you need certain programs to open other programs (such as Wine for .exe) but again, you have to consider what these computers will be used for. If you are trying to donate gaming computers, well, looking into bulk licensing with Windows is the way to go, but that is money and time, and probably not what you are really looking for. I think a standard word processing computer with internet access is what you are really looking to provide, and Ubuntu will do that.

Note: I don't use Ubuntu, and don't work for them, its just that through my experience with the not-for-profit, i have learned a little about it. I mostly work with the hardware, not the software, so I am no ubuntu expert by any means.


I'm interested in the name of your organization and location ^^.

It seems that there are ways to get microsoft software at discounted prices for charity organizations. This was the first link i found on google.

http://www.itforcharities.co.uk/microsof.htm

While we're certainly not intending on handing out gaming monsters so kids can do their homework and research, well, at home; we are interested in giving them a little something more than just a fancy typewriter. It's likely that most of these children are coming from relatively impoverished families and owning something nice like one of these systems could add a little joy in their lives. In terms of monitors, the prices seem way to high to just be giving away lcd displays. Instead it looks like we are going to have to rely on donations of older monitors, for instance i have a 15 inch lcd, 17 inch lcd, and 2 gigantic crt's i plan on donating as soon as we get this set up properly.

I'll definately be looking into ubuntu, especially if we can't find decent prices for XP.
September 23, 2009 8:54:54 PM

dynamicchuck said:
Hey guys, I'm starting up a program at my school that gives custom built computers to children in need. We're working out a budget with the school board, but with fundraising etc it looks to be about $10,000 a year.

The idea behind it is to offer a full setup that is going to provide more than enough performance than just for the average user. Something that they will be proud to own.

Problematically, systems like that come with a price tag and I've been able to configure one at around $300 (on newegg, will definitely be searching for cheaper prices, perhaps at a wholesale level). With a decent overclock I think we can really make some dreams come true. Here's what I have so far.

Case with power supply: Broadway Com Corp 937PK-BLACK Steel Computer Case Okia ATX 420W Power Supply - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$29.99*

Harddrive: Western Digital Caviar Blue WD800JD 80GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$35.99*

Monitor with speakers: Hanns·G boston Simulated Woodgrain 19" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor w/ swivel adjustment 350 cd/m2 700:1 Built in Speakers - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$99.99*

Keyboard: LITE-ON SK-1688U/B Black 104 Normal Keys USB Wired Standard Keyboard - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$6.99*

Mouse: SPEC Research HW3003/49UR 2-Tone 3 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical 800 dpi Mini Mouse - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$5.99*

Memory: Kingston ValueRAM 512MB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 400 (PC2 3200) System Memory Model KVR400D2N3/512 - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... *$9.99*

Combo AMD CPU and Gigabyte motherboard with built in graphics card:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... *$96.98*

Total: $285.92

If you can do it better for cheaper, I'd really love to hear it. Since this is a relatively new project anyone with experience building cheap quality computers could really help with their feedback. We are going to need a prototype before we start shopping around for the actual parts


For a lot of those parts, you can find people or companies giving them away for free. Craigslist is sketchy, but can work. Mouse and Keyboard, especially. Memory, too. Monitors, definitely (as opposed to people paying $20 to throw them away).
September 23, 2009 9:00:04 PM

El_Capitan said:
For a lot of those parts, you can find people or companies giving them away for free. Craigslist is sketchy, but can work. Mouse and Keyboard, especially. Memory, too. Monitors, definitely (as opposed to people paying $20 to throw them away).



That, of course, would be beyond ideal. If you are aware of any specific websites or corporate entities that do this i'd love to hear about them!
September 23, 2009 9:10:50 PM

I'm not sure of any nation-wide sites out there that do it, I just get involved in local communities and ask around. Even going door-to-door to businesses and asking the receptionist, you'll find some left-over goodies. If it's a legitimate donation, they can get a small tax refund for it.
September 23, 2009 9:14:41 PM

El_Capitan said:
I'm not sure of any nation-wide sites out there that do it, I just get involved in local communities and ask around. Even going door-to-door to businesses and asking the receptionist, you'll find some left-over goodies. If it's a legitimate donation, they can get a small tax refund for it.


depending on the level of involvement i can draw from my peers that's a definate possibility.

In other news, microsoft office seems to be freeeee.

http://www.cristina.org/article/6193-Microsoft+in+free+...
a b B Homebuilt system
September 23, 2009 10:39:16 PM

That free MS Office would be a boon, but i'm pretty sure that Office won't run in Ubuntu (but someone would know better than me), so the OS might still be an issue. Also, this may be a way for Microsoft to get Non-Profits to purchase bulk licenses. Also, about the link with bulk - it was a UK site, non-US. Also, I haven't looked into it, but more likely than not, you will need to prove up you are an organization, but let me know how that goes. (that was a lot of "alsos")

I work for Comp-U-Dopt, in Houston, TX (http://compudopt.org/). (I don't work for - I donate my time as a volunteer)

We get our computers from computer recycling businesses. They give us the ones they don't want to clean up and refurb, so we do the work, but get to keep them. There are at least two computer recycling businesses in Houston that are involved with Comp-u-dopt. They donate the bulk of our materials - mostly the computers and monitors. But we also take donations from individuals, and from businesses that are upgrading their systems.

Also, about the "small tax refund" that El_Capitan mentioned, that is only available to a tax payer if they donate to a not-for-profit, and a receipt is provided from the not-for-profit. However, there are certain things you must do to set up a non-profit, and it requires administration and money, and lots of work. What I think you have set up is a little more basic, and is a great program, and if successful, would likely develop into a functioning non-profit.
September 23, 2009 11:12:09 PM

jared51182 said:
That free MS Office would be a boon, but i'm pretty sure that Office won't run in Ubuntu (but someone would know better than me), so the OS might still be an issue. Also, this may be a way for Microsoft to get Non-Profits to purchase bulk licenses. Also, about the link with bulk - it was a UK site, non-US. Also, I haven't looked into it, but more likely than not, you will need to prove up you are an organization, but let me know how that goes. (that was a lot of "alsos")

I work for Comp-U-Dopt, in Houston, TX (http://compudopt.org/). (I don't work for - I donate my time as a volunteer)

We get our computers from computer recycling businesses. They give us the ones they don't want to clean up and refurb, so we do the work, but get to keep them. There are at least two computer recycling businesses in Houston that are involved with Comp-u-dopt. They donate the bulk of our materials - mostly the computers and monitors. But we also take donations from individuals, and from businesses that are upgrading their systems.

Also, about the "small tax refund" that El_Capitan mentioned, that is only available to a tax payer if they donate to a not-for-profit, and a receipt is provided from the not-for-profit. However, there are certain things you must do to set up a non-profit, and it requires administration and money, and lots of work. What I think you have set up is a little more basic, and is a great program, and if successful, would likely develop into a functioning non-profit.


As a quick side note, what do you use to clean out the donated parts. Canned air is sooooo expensive it's absurd.

I think the best direction to take this, is to quickly assess what sort of funds we can expect within the first year, and then move from that direction. If it seems like we can receive a decent chunk of funding from the school district itself as well as donated computer parts it could definitely be in our interests to begin forming a non-profit corporation as soon as possible. I've spent the last few hours researching the process, and while it seems like an enormous flurry of paperwork, it also seems plausible.

I'll see if there are computer recycling businesses in my area and whether they are willing to do a similar arrangement to what you have down in houston, of course, my town is much smaller than yours :( 
a b B Homebuilt system
September 24, 2009 3:22:25 AM

We do actually use compressed air, and yes it is expensive, it is one of the few things we use our funds to actually purchase, that and clean wipes, and crazy stuff called "goof off" - so yeah, its the only real way to clean out sensitive computer part = compressed air, so that is what we use, but we use it sparingly, and can't get everything 100% clean, but we try our best with the resources we have.
September 24, 2009 3:25:24 AM

jared51182 said:
We do actually use compressed air, and yes it is expensive, it is one of the few things we use our funds to actually purchase, that and clean wipes, and crazy stuff called "goof off" - so yeah, its the only real way to clean out sensitive computer part = compressed air, so that is what we use, but we use it sparingly, and can't get everything 100% clean, but we try our best with the resources we have.



There's gotta be someway to reduce those costs in the long term, maybe a leaf blower O.o
a b B Homebuilt system
September 24, 2009 12:47:03 PM

Well, we do work off donations (to buy the air), and don't buy our parts, as they are all donated. So we actually have very low costs. There is also only 1 paid employee, the rest of us work for free.

Hypothetically a leaf blower or hair dryer would work, but you would have to be operating in a very sterile room (unless I am totally not thinking of something). We work in a warehouse, not clean.

Anyway, we use the air sparingly, such as just an initial blow of air for the parts and the keyboard, but then hand clean everything else - the case, the monitor, the keyboard, and the mouse. We use wet clean wipes, windex (for the crts), q-tips, tough green pads, Old English (its an all-purpose cleaner powder, used with water), and the goof-off, and lots of elbow-grease. Obviously if you are buying parts (any parts) it will help with the cleaning.

If you want to see what our set-up looks like, there is a link to the facebook page on the compudopt home page, and there are pictures posted there.
!