One particular person’s trash is one other’s ‘trashware’ – the artwork of refurbing previous computer systems Uplifting positivity isn’t why The Reg FOSS desk went to Crimson Hat’s convention – however that is what we discovered.

Andrea Perotti is a Platform Technical Account Supervisor for Crimson Hat in Milan, however in his spare time he is concerned in operating an Italian volunteer group known as PC Officina, repurposing surplus IT tools to assist needy folks.

At Devconf, he offered a chat entitled “Change the world one PC at a time with trashware” and it was the one most inspiring panel we visited whereas we had been on the occasion.

“Trashware” is a brand new time period to us, at the very least as a constructive factor; we aren’t certain if it is an Italian neologism, however the one related definition we discovered was on the Easy English Wikipedia. The idea differs from retro computing, inasmuch as the concept is that end-of-life surplus equipment may be inexpensively refurbished to run fashionable working programs and software program, and have a brand new lease of life bringing laptop data and all-important web entry to individuals who might not be capable of afford to purchase themselves new computer systems. “Our purpose is to use them, to not exhibit that Linux can run on them,” as Perotti put it.

His discuss centered on the practicalities of placing collectively such a company. For instance, he confused the significance of getting a formally constituted group – even when it is a nonprofit. Many corporations have guidelines in place that forestall them from merely freely giving their previous computer systems, however they can donate them to a different group.

PC Officina units what may appear to be some fairly excessive bars for the tools that it refurbishes and points. Its minimal spec is a Core i3 processor or equal, eight gigs of ram, and a 128GB SATA drive – ideally an SSD. Over time, the group has dominated out a number of complete classes of apparatus. In 2015, it banned the Pentium 4 because it was too scorching and too sluggish. In 2018, it banned IDE laborious disks. In 2020, it dominated out 32-bit tools as mainstream software program was dropping assist for it. In 2022, it stopped providing equipment that wanted DDR2 reminiscence; it merely is not inexpensive to improve machines to greater than 4 gigs of such an previous type of RAM. That in flip meant saying goodbye to most Core 2 Duo PCs.

Pragmatically, it recommends the Xfce version of Linux Mint 21 for its comparatively modest {hardware} necessities however lengthy assist life-cycle. (We did not count on to listen to Linux Mint being advocated at a Crimson Hat Occasion, however we admire their pragmatic method.) Salient traits included wanting good, which is vital to attraction to non-technical of us, in addition to the flexibility to do all administration from a point-and-click GUI, the straightforward set up of third-party drivers and apps – even when proprietary – and a protracted replace cycle, so the machines will proceed to obtain safety updates for years to come back. Good documentation and an energetic person neighborhood are additionally vital. An attention-grabbing facet that Perotti known as out is one which we hadn’t heard about beforehand: that Ubuntu’s Snap packages carry out poorly on a system utilizing a spinning laborious disk drive.

The group is not dogmatic, although, and for a few of its shoppers it additionally supplies Microsoft Home windows – topic to the supply of correct licenses. Perotti took care to emphasise the important significance of correctly licensed software program: they are not within the enterprise of encouraging piracy.

There are after all organizations with related targets in a number of international locations, together with charities akin to Laptop Support Worldwide, to which this vulture has organized the donation of numerous equipment previously. What we discovered attention-grabbing about this discuss was the angle of find out how to begin such a such a factor your self, and a number of the much less apparent issues that may slip your thoughts for those who’re serious about it. There’s some helpful information within the slide deck [PDF]. It appears to us just like the form of challenge that plenty of native maker and hacker areas might usefully do. ®


The Devconf occasions are small, free, technically centered conferences that Crimson Hat sponsors within the Czech Republic, the USA, and most not too long ago in India. This yr’s Brno occasion coincided with The Reg FOSS desk’s summer season holidays, so we determined to drop in. Because the begin of the pandemic, the occasions have been hybrid, and you may tune in and watch – and talk about what’s taking place on Matrix – from wherever on this planet.