The Advantages of Volunteering

Posted: October 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Free Geek, Insight, LDAP, Vancouver, VPN | No Comments »

As I touched on very briefly in one of my previous posts, I volunteer. I volunteer for a non-profit organization by the name of Free Geek. It’s the local chapter here in Vancouver and they have a very simple purpose. Their website states: Free Geek is a nonprofit community organisation that reduces the environmental impact of waste electronics by reusing and recycling donated technology. Through community engagement we provide education, job skills training, Internet access and free or low cost computers to the public.

Free GeekWhen I first arrived at Free Geek I was amazed at how much computer hardware there actually was, but even MORE amazed the second time I went to see that it all had changed. I mean, all of it. The amount of hardware that that flows through their doors is mind boggling. Immediately I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. I met one of the founders and explained my talents and I what I could do for them, Ifny LaChance, she hugged me! She explained that Free Geek was desperately in need of a good Systems Administrator as their current person could not adequately handle the failing systems. The Free Geek infrastructure suffered from network outages, power outages, overheating, and poor performance, and they were all considered part and parcel of the environment. Most of the users had learned to live with it, or work around the issues.

They use a system called LTSP for all of their public and private workstations. These workstations were at a crawl. The first thing I took care of was all the physical wiring between computers, switches, and servers. While pulling cable out I would find the oddest things, like a six foot ethernet cable running from a switch to hub, then from that hub another cable extending about four feet to a switch. This switch was not only then connected to three different computers but also plugged back into the same switch that this connection originated from! After the wiring had been taken care of, an 802.1d trunk was introduced between two main switches and then VLAN’s were placed on the network to segregate subnets up a little better and to give some added security.

Since then I’ve gone on to introduce an OpenLDAP directory system, integrate user authentication for all workstations and switches. Created an OpenVPN install and added services such as SNMP monitoring by way of Zenoss. I am on a never-ending mission to improve the stability and the scalability of their infrastructure while only being able to work with recycled hardware and open-sourced software. It has been a great challenge, but of all the years I have worked with technology I must say that nothing compares with the satisfaction I feel from knowing my hours of labour are enabling an amazing organization to help keep this planet green and give back to the community.

Please visit their website to see how you can help. freegeekvancouver.org



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