Dec 14, 2014

Laptop Rescue Begins in Earnest at CRPCR

Sean and I began triage and rescue this weekend in earnest on the 16 or so laptops that CRPCR received from Florida. We've identified seven that are functional enough that can be refurb'd with only software changes. We clean out old accounts, remove extraneous programs, install license-free essential software and run some stress tests to make sure they are running fine. Sometimes, we have to clean out old cookie crumbs from the keyboards. :)

Sean watching 3 laptops as they are refurbished
Sean waiting for installs to complete
We already have two laptops spoken for and they are nearly ready to go out the door. One will be donated to a young female student from Buenos Aires south of San Isidro and the other to a family with two kids for whom we had provided a desktop last year. That one was damaged, so we're doing a swap for the old machine, which we'll repair and get out to another donee.

While we work, we are creating procedures and organizing our software tools and applications in a manner that makes our work go faster as we continue. We're developing checklists that we'll keep track of the condition of each machine so that we can work on them in parallel without losing track of the work we've already done. Great times!

Nov 25, 2014

Forty Donated Computers, Safe, Dry and Awaiting Rescue in Costa Rica

Yes, that shipment of used PCs from Florida arrived in October, safe and sound. Many thanks to Mike Rappaport of Logistics Management Services, S.A. in Cartago for the tremendous break on shipping fees and help at the FL dock getting things palletized. My Tico neighbor, Luis Valverde, lent his truck and driving skills for the pickup of two pallets loaded with PCs and equipment and delivery to my workshop here in Perez Zeledon.

Actually, they had to sit outside, but under cover wrapped in plastic, for a month while I was tied up most days putting the finishing restoration touches to my truck that was demolished last March. And then, I had to face the daunting and much procrastinated task of re-organizing and cleaning out my neglected workshop. Finally, I was able to make space and build sturdy shelves to hold all the machines and parts.

shelves of donated used PCs and related equipment
Donated PC equipment organized and stacked

Oct 16, 2014

A Place to Send Those Too-Small USB Flash Drives

256 mb usb flash driveWe are in need of smaller USB flash drives to help in our PC restoration efforts. They are a handy way to store diagnostic programs, OS versions, application packages and so on that we use during the PC triage and rebuilding process. 

Often, the CD drives in the older computers do not work or will not be seen by the BIOS as bootable. If we have around 20 USB drives of 256MB up to 1GB, we'll be able to store all the stuff we need and keep it organized.

Sometimes, we get PCs old enough that they cannot be booted from a USB drive, but that's pretty rare now. The smaller ones, under 1 GB, are not so useful anymore, so I'm hoping people have some collecting dust that they can donate to the cause.

The address to send to which to send flash drives is:

image of our costa rica p.o. box address

We haven't had any mail or packages go missing to that address, so no worries on that account. I'd recommend that you use a padded envelope and U.S. First Class International (or equivalent) if you just have one or a few to send. It's reliable, cheaper and takes one or two weeks to arrive. Mark the customs slip with "used flash drive" and it will get through just fine.

Thanks in advance to anyone who can help!! You are awesome!!!

Sep 16, 2014

Due to everyone's generous donations and hard work, many Costa Rican families will be thrilled to receive their first PC!

Today was an exciting day for Costa Rica PC Rescue. A shipment including 17 desktop machines, 17 laptops, several monitors, keyboards and mice were delivered to the dock where they will be packed in a container bound for Costa Rica. I also ordered many spare parts new including hard drives, power supplies, motherboards, test tools and so on.

boxes of pcs entering the warehouse on the way to costa rica
Half the shipment entering the warehouse - photo courtesy of Harry Heist

None of this would be happening without the monetary support so many of you have generously donated, the discount by the shipper, Mike Rappaport of Lomaser, Inc., and the tireless efforts of Harry Heist in Florida who gathered together machines from his offices throughout Florida and solicited donated computers and parts from his many friends and business associates. He's put a lot of miles on his Chevy Tahoe this last month and made the final trip to Ft. Lauderdale to drop off the goods at the shipper's warehouse.

Sep 5, 2014

One Grateful Neighborhood Family Receives a PC

In Costa Rica, you'll find that large, tight-knit families are the norm especially in rural areas such as ours. Whole towns have been established consisting of brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins of varying degrees. They all look out for one another. For instance, if you ask your neighbor where to find such-and-such a service, it will usually turn out that the person they recommend is a relative, perhaps a 3rd cousin twice removed.

So far, in my efforts to bring PCs to local Ticos in need, I have taken advantage of these networks to find families who do not have a PC, need one for their kids' schoolwork and are unlikely to simply turnaround and sell it for much needed cash. This loose qualification process depends on my trust of a key family member and their personal knowledge of the donee's situation. That will likely have to change as we expand and restore a great deal more PCs for donation if we want to ensure the effort is effective but it's a winning approach so far!

Ligia, her two daughers and one grandaughter

In any case, the lady pictured above, Ligia, and her family were the most recent recipients of a refurbished computer, whom I found via a neighbor and personal contact.

Aug 23, 2014

Stateside Donors: Ship Your PC Donations to This Florida Address

Good news for U.S. folks who want to make a donation of a PC or computer parts. Harry Heist, who is donating the 20 or so used PCs to us, has offered to include in the shipment any computers or equipment (e.g., hard drives, memory, power supplies, CD/DVD drives, motherboards, plug-in cards, keyboards, mice, etc.) that you can send to him.

The address to use for your package is:

CRPCR
c/o Harry Heist
17264 San Carlos Blvd #308 
Fort Myers Beach, FL. 33931

Because the scheduled shipment from Florida to Costa Rica is tentatively September 17th, you should ship your donation to Harry no later than September 3rd in order for it to arrive at his office at least a few days before he has to haul everything down to the shipper's warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale.

laptop enjoying a day at the beach
This is the life!
If you have an older PC you've been thinking of replacing or a non-working one collecting dust in a corner, this may be the perfect time to send it off for a pleasant retirement in the tropics. 

If you have any questions, direct them to me, Casey Bahr, at costaricapcrescue@tomochka.com

Thanks very much in advance for any equipment donations you can make to Costa Rica PC Rescue. These will all find good homes with needy Tico families!

Aug 12, 2014

Your Support Means So Much to Us as We Start Reaching Out to the Costa Rica Community

If you are feeling a bit of donor fatique, I can't blame you one iota. And, I can't thank all our contributors enough, especially the ones who donated more than once. Thank you, thank you, we are overwhelmed by your support! I am also grateful to visitors, those who send messages of support and those who want to give to the cause, but can't quite make it work out now. I understand completely.

First Two Fund-Raisers Were a Complete Success!

The first two CR PC Rescue fund-raisers went to 100% in much less time than I had anticipated. The funds from both ensure a running start as CRPCRescue prepares to enrich lives and provide greater educational opportunities to rural Tico families who have been in the slow lane of the computer age so far.

$250 from the first campaign will buy spare parts for many PCs on life support that can be brought to the technology land of the living again.

$301 from the second campaign covers shipping down at least 20 desktop machines that will probably already have homes by the time they arrive.

Post-fundraiser Activities

Now that I can turn off the nagging for dollars for a while (yes!), I'm focusing on  marketing activities and connecting with people in our area that can help find places and people that need PCs:

  • Our new Twitter ID is @CRPCRescue and I've adopted a hashtag you can use in Twitter or Facebook: #costaricapcrescue
  • Our Facebook page is facebook.com/costaricapcrescue
  • The header photo for those sites was made or a pittance using fiverr.com
  • My sister helped out at the local Perez Zeledon International Women's Club today by presenting Costa Rica PC Rescue and handing out fliers. This activity generated several old computer donations and a contact with one lady who used to acquire off-lease company computers in the States.
  • A local gringo community organizer contacted me today to tell me he's presenting the goals of CR PC Rescue to a local educational committee today. They run a free public Internet cafe in San Ramon Norte whose computers are several years old. Perhaps we can do a swap when the batch from FL arrive and I'll refurb the old ones.
  • I actually donated one of the few PCs I have on hand now to a local family with two school-age kids. I am also giving them the only monitor I have ever found, a 15" CRT Dell.
The only bit of not-so-bad news is that the FL donor can't meet the Aug. 20th ship deadline as he is still gathering these computers from around the state. The good news is that the shipment may also include several laptops, which are great since they come with their own peripherals and screen. So, currently, we expect the PCs to ship next month and arrive here in early October.

Again, thanks to everyone for supporting this effort. I feel inspired and ready to make it all happen for you!

Aug 7, 2014

Can You Help Ship 20 PCs to Costa Rica for Needy Families?

We didn't expect to be having another fundraiser so quickly, but opportunity knocked and knocked loudly. One of the contributors to our first campaign to raise funds for spare parts informed me that he has 20 working Dell desktop machines that we could have if we paid for the shipping from Florida to Costa Rica.

I immediately contacted a trusted shipper here that I've used twice before, Mike Rappaport of Lomaser, Inc. to get a quote. We were already off to a great start as Mike offered an in-kind donation of $175 by waiving the usual agency fee and giving us his high-volume rate on this relatively small shipment. The total to get these 20 computers to our area is just $300 or $15 per PC.

Thus, our latest fundraising effort, which you can see in the right sidebar or can access by clicking here: Help Us Ship 20 PCs to Needy Costa Rican Families.

As always, there are no overhead charges, so 100% of your donation goes to work. Do not feel you have to give big, either. The minimum contribution is just $1 and it is all very much appreciated.

These computers will be tested and loaded with a license-free OS and plenty of apps for the families to use for Internet access and the kids' schoolwork. All of them are localized with Spanish too.

If you can help out with a contribution, please act quickly as the ship date is August 20th.

Thanks a million!!

- Casey

Aug 5, 2014

Rescuing Old PCs to Donate to Struggling Costa Rican Families

Welcome to the first post on Costa Rica PC Rescue!

Who Am I?

My name is Casey Bahr. I author three other blogs, of which probably the most well-known is A Dull Roar, which chronicles our move from Oregon to Costa Rica in 2007 and life thereafter in the so-called Land of Eternal Spring.

Prior to relocating to Costa Rica, I was a software engineer for a couple of startup companies and later for Intel in Hillsboro. I also have a few technical hobbies such as ham radio (see my blog Cloud Warmer), electronic kit building and reviving older personal computers.

What Is PC Rescue?

The skills from the latter hobby I use to refurbish discarded computers here in Costa Rica, which I donate to local Costa Rican families that could not otherwise afford to buy one at all. These Tico families are very grateful to have access to the Internet and software programs that are essential tools for their children to acquire computer skills and help them with their schoolwork.

How It Works

Up to this point, my PC rescue and donations have been a one-man show. I've accepted unwanted desktop and laptop machines locally from donors and found a few at recycling centers. Along with a couple of boxes of spare parts I brought down, I was able to put about 75% of these back in shape and all but a couple have already been donated to needy families.

Some parts I must buy either online or try to find locally and I've paid for those out-of-pocket. After limping along in this fashion, however, I would very much like to expand the project and to that end, I've begun asking for monetary donations among family, friends and acquaintances. My first campaign was less than a week ago. It is run off the Kapipal crowdfunding site and we hit our $250 goal for spare parts within 5 days! That campaign remains open, by the way (hint).

That amount of generously donated money will go a long way to getting more PCs into the homes of families that need them more quickly.

What's Next?

To grow this project I'm going to be concentrating on a number of activities, of which Costa Rica PC Rescue readers will be updated as I go along by subsequent posts:
  • Create a larger, more organized, dedicated "clinic" for new PCs coming in the door within my personal workshop
  • Distribute flyers to all recycling centers in San Isidro asking them to set aside discarded PCs or PC parts
  • Make presentations to local community groups to spread the word
  • Set up reward programs for larger donation campaigns
  • Post pictures and stories of the families who use these revived PCs
  • More online marketing for material and monetary donations via this blog, a Facebook page and dedicated Twitter account
  • Locate sources for larger quantities of off-lease PCs from the States or within Costa Rica
  • Hire (eventually) a part-time tech to take care of the day-to-day diagnostics, refurbishment and follow-up maintenance for PCs we distribute. This will be a local Tico who has an aptitude for the work, so he/she will receive training and perhaps a new vocation.

So, stay tuned. 

How You Can Help

Monetary contributions are most welcome, of course. On Kapipal, you can donate as little as $1 via Paypal and any amount is greatly appreciated.

If you are local, I can always use donations of working, sorta-working or non-working PCs. If I cannot revive them, I can surely use the parts within.

Please do not hesitate to send in your suggestions relative to any aspect of this project via the comment section on each post or contact me directly via casey@tomochka.com

Thanks for stopping by!