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[vox-outreach] Report from Davis Community Meals meeting
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[vox-outreach] Report from Davis Community Meals meeting

I took notes during the initial 'introductory' meeting held between
LUGOD (Trevor Lango, who has offered to manage this project, and I)
and Davis Community Meals (Bill Pride, DCM's executive director).

Here 'goes:

  * What they have now:

    * They currently have a set of six ~350MHz Pentium II's with 128MB RAM.
      These don't seem to cut it for their needs, although I feel a switch
      to Linux might rejuvinate them a bit.
     (RAM upgrades wouldn't hurt, though.)

    * They are running Windows98.

    * Four of these machines are at the DCM building on H Street.
      Two more are at Bill Pride's office.  (Didn't get the location.)

    * A Pentium III system is being donated to them soon.
      Another Pentium III system (approx. 800MHz-1GHz) is expected in ~June.

    * They have a broadband DSL connection via Omsoft.  (Had it for ~1yr)
      HOWEVER, it is NOT COMPLETELY SET UP!  So Bill uses dial-up to go
      online from the PC in his office in the H Street building!!!

      I didn't get the full details, and I don't think Bill knows much about
      that pieces are missing -- certainly he doesn't have time to deal with
      it himself.  I'm /imagining/ they need a router, and or for ethernet
      to be pulled in the building.  (This might be a good use for wireless?)

    * They use some Norton products to 'keep the machines working mostly
      right.'  At the same time, there was a bizarre problem with Excel
      not being able to launch when he went to show me an example
      spreadsheet.  (It wanted to install Office 2000, or something, off CD?)

      This was an example of another volunteer potentially messing up a
      system by clicking the wrong button, or trying to incorrectly fix
      something.  *shrug*

  * What they use it for:

    * The main use for the machines is word processing (Microsoft Word).

    * Another major use is managing information in spreadsheets (MS Excel).
      They serve ~1000 people per year, and collect 70-80 points of data
      about them (age, race, sex, etc.).  Demographic information is
      requested by the origanizations that provide the kinds of grants
      that pay for these services.

    * They also receive forms (e.g., for grants) in PDF format, and need
      to fill them out and mail them back.  (Though apparently the version
      of Acrobat they have does not let them save filled-in data, so they
      must print it and either mail, or scan and email.)

    * Bill uses mail-merge to create letters to send to donors, for
      fundraising, and for newsletters.

    * Definitely wants to avoid volunteers playing with games and MP3s when
      they should be working...

  * What they've tried:

    * They have tried upgrading the Win98 systems to Win2K and WinXP,
      but failed.  (I don't know the exact details, but I'm guessing
      PII w/ 128MB RAM isn't quite enough.  Or possibly they lack HD space?)

    * A group (CS students?) from Sacramento State have been working on
      converting DCM's Excel spreadsheets into an MS Access database.
      (Bill is more comfortable with Excel, though; his biggest issue with
      a switch to Access is that he doesn't know or like Access, and is
      afraid that 6 months down the road, he'll not have support when
      something in Access breaks!)

  * What Trevor and I suggested:

    * Get DSL working!!!

    * Hardware upgrades would be recommended, but mostly in the RAM dept.

    * Consider Linux for all of the machines, but perhaps leave one for
      MS necessities (e.g., particular Adobe PDF products, MS Word, MS Excel,
      for when there are issues).

    * ...or, try Crossover Office (or straight WINE) for any Win-only apps.

    * Consider switching to OpenOffice.org, regardless as to whether
      they switch from Windows to Linux.

    * Consider switching from Internet Explorer to Mozilla, to avoid
      "issues" that IE can cause.

    * Once DSL is set up, put together a Linux-based kiosk for
      clients to use to search for jobs and other information.
      (They have one available for word processing.  I assume it's
      also a ~Win98 system on a ~PII box...)

I fired up OpenOffice.org 1.1.0 on my work laptop (WinXP) to let Bill
check out.  He didn't seem put off by it in any way, but he did
mention -- and demonstrate -- one feature of MS Excel that he was hoping
OpenOffice.org had.  (I was unable to find it quickly, and will post to

Anyway, so that's it!  So far as PC hardware, I think Jonathan's K6II
might be useful.  Marc Hall's P2's and Stephen Matthew's 14" monitors MIGHT
be useful, if the decide to expand their collection of computers there.

But really, the biggest thing they need now, in my opinion, is to get DSL
up and working properly.  We might want to sit down with Omsoft to see
what state DCM is in, precisely, since I don't think Bill or any of his
volunteer staff know about the network.

If anyone has a router, hubs/switches, cable, and time to sit down and
get them working, please come forward! :^)

Thanks!  And all your's, Trevor!!!

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