Implementing Community Tech Centers in Brazil

In two or three years I plan to move my family back to Brazil. It’s the birth country of my wife and children, and it’s where I served as a missionary for a few years. This time around, though, I intend for things to be different than the first. Then, I went as a missionary solely focused on ecclesial concerns. Marriage and family counseling, along with chemical recovery and other such ministries that could be so helpful in Brazil were not of particular interest to me, let along anything dealing with technology. Oh, how things have changed!

It’s fairly clear to me now that I’m not cut out to be a church planter. It’s clearly not my task, although there are some like my brother-in-law Marcelo who are very good at this type of ministry. I’ve always been more of a teacher, and in recent years I’ve been drawn to what I believe to be God’s core concern for the poor. Further, I’m in the process of mastering Linux administration and Ruby on Rails developing. While church planting isn’t my ministry, I believe starting community tech centers very well could be.

There are many “LAN houses” in Brazilian cities. When I first moved to Uberlândia in 2001 I had to take a bus to the other side of town to use the Internet at one. Only two years later they seemed to be open on nearly every street corner. Young people who don’t have computers or Internet access at home often use them, either to surf the net or play games. The project I’m proposing doesn’t mean to compete with these private businesses. These computers are meant to be used for learning, and the community centers that house them may serve as local libraries and even offer test preparation and job placement services.

The idea, still in the very early stages of formation, is this:

First, taking some cues from Free Geek and Linux Against Poverty, I’ll be looking for donations of used (but serviceable) hardware. Any repair work to be done would be accomplished in classes with people, particularly young people, learning how to repair computers and install GNU/Linux software. The resulting computers would be used first to set up the center’s computer lab, but also each participant would receive a complete system to take home at the end of the class series. This way the students will acquire useful skills while also helping the project along. After the lab is set up the computer repair series could be repeated many times, just without the necessity of using the computers in the lab (except as replacements from time to time). This approach also has the obvious benefit of recycling hardware and keeping it out of the landfills. A means will have to be found to screen out any non-working hardware before it’s received, and also to recycle or dispose of non-serviceable hardware responsibly.

Second, a formal Linux system administration program should be implemented, patterned after the model of Project Cauã. The idea here would be to train people in how to set up a wireless network and computers running a thin-client OS of GNU/Linux, offering to lease the hardware and a monthly subscription to the Internet service to neighbors or even businesses. In this sustainable model, the student once trained would seek to obtain a small business loan from the bank and use it to buy hardware. Since the OS is free, no extra cost there. Money would come in through the aforementioned leasing of equipment and sale of subscriptions. Future employees would me more like apprentices, learning the ropes so that they could in turn start their own small business. Competition? Possibly. Hopefully ways can be found to keep it friendly. I suspect few will train those they think will turn around and compete with them locally anyway.

Third,  following the example of Saint Louis ByteWORKS and Ruby Nuby, the fully-functional computer lab would be used to teach everything from basic computing skills to programming and web development. Out of necessity some English classes will likely also be needed, given that the majority of technology and programming information is oriented towards this language.

Fourth, the computer center could conceivably either set up its own collection of books or else work out a partnership with the city library system to offer book lending services. Those needing help preparing resumes or young people seeking assistance with school work could also find what they need with volunteers.

As the title of this post suggests, I’d intend for these to be “tech” centers more than anything else. Not competition against cybercafes or a replacement for the local library, much less a counseling center. However, as needs arise and volunteers are available, there’s no reason why the center couldn’t expand and deepen its work.

There may be resistance, especially to the use of GNU/Linux. I expect to be using the very user-friendly Ubuntu distro of Linux, and the Brazilian government has been very favorable towards open source technology of late, despite efforts on the part of Microsoft to push back. By the time this project is underway the youth of Brazil may already have a notion of Linux from their school experiences. Still, there’s a tendency on the part of many to see anything other than Windows as “second rate,” leading folks to prefer even pirated, insecure copies of Windows over GNU/Linux distros. This may well be part of the battle, persuading young people to reject piracy and instead embrace open source software that is being developed by a global community.

In summary, my dream of community tech centers in Brazil isn’t without foundation or focus. Others are engaged in this type of work already, and from them much can be learned. Their example is encouraging, and the future for any participating in these tech learning programs could be just a bit brighter as a result of the good work being done.

See Also:

Project Cauã (Igneous Quill)
Internet Access Transforming Slums’ Youth (InfoSurHoy)
Microsoft Trying to Take Over Brazilian Schools (TechRights)
Implantando Telecentros Comunitários em Sua Comunidade (Cidadania Evangélica)
As lan houses podem disseminar a cultura do empreendedorismo (IDG Now)

Error Installing SQLite3 in Ubuntu

You are attempting to install SQLite3 in Ubuntu and are getting the following error:

ERROR: Error installing sqlite3: ERROR: Failed to build gem native extension.

No problem.  (This assumes you aren’t using RVM.)

First, sudo apt-get install sqlite

Second, sudo apt-get install libsqlite3-dev

Third, sudo gem install sqlite3

Fourth and finally, bundle install

At this point, SQLite3 should be installed and available on your Ubuntu system.

2020 Vision for the Greater New York Region

The video above was shown at a recent joint worship assembly of the New York City church and the Central Jersey church. My family wasn’t too thrilled about going into the city for church that day, and opted instead to pay a visit to the Freehold Church of Christ.  This presentation is very encouraging and challenging (such goals!), but I had two main concerns when I saw it initially. One was about the term, “Tri-State Region of the International Church of Christ,” and the second was the reference to “regional elders."  I did some fact-checking and it turns out there was some misunderstanding on my part, so I provide the following explanation for anyone else who might be curious.

What I’ve been told is that this fellowship within the Stone-Campbell Movement is opting to be interdependent, rather than formally denominational (or more accurately, "sectarian,” as in the past, with a strict hierarchy above and beyond the local church) or (more-or-less) completely independent, as is the case with thea cappella Churches of Christ and independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.

The “regional elders” refers to the regions of the New York City church, not to the “Tri-State Region” as a whole.  It has further been explained to me that there will only be cooperation in assuring that churches prepare and set apart qualified elders, not that there will be a council of elders external to the congregation.

That said, the plans, aspirations and objectives set forth are really inspiring. I’m proud that my family is a part of the Central Jersey Church of Christ, and for the first time really feel at home not only in the Restoration Movement as a whole, but within a particular segment of it.

Siding With Canonical on Unity for Ubuntu

Perhaps this will mark me as an Ubuntu fanboy in the eyes of some, but in the Unity vs. Gnome debate, I’m with Canonical. That isn’t to say that I believe the Unity shell is superior to the GNOME shell. I have no idea, having not tried out Unity. So why do I support it? I don’t. I support Canonical’s decision to go part ways with the Gnome community.

First, Canonical is attempting to get to be a for-profit organization using open source software. This is a challenge, to say the least. Clearly the company needs to be able to make design and functionality decisions in-house in accordance with predetermined goals and the overall vision of the project. It cannot be expected to attempt to negotiate and compromise with every open source community from which it draws software.

Second, the way open source licensing works, Canonical has every right to make this move. Attempts were reportedly made to work this out with Gnome, but ultimately it became clear that real progress couldn’t be made on this front.

Third, GNOME shell will remain available to Ubuntu users as an option.

Fourth, if Canonical is right that this will make Ubuntu more attractive to more “common users,” more power to them.

The following video features Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon discussing Unity with David Barth, one of the key developers on this shell.

See Also:
Ubuntu’s Unity Desktop: Tragically Ironic Product Name (Datamation)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2011

“When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Invitation to the January 18th Debian-NYC Novice Night

For wide distribution:


Debian-NYC would like to invite you to our next Novice Night.

Novice Nights are Debian-NYC’s meetings for everyone. If you would like to install Debian, come on by. If you would like help with configuring or making Debian do what you need, we can do that too. If you want to hang out with Debianistas to pick up tips and tricks, come on by. We can also provide some help with other derivatives of Debian, such as Ubuntu.

Novice Nights are free-form: bring your questions, and you’ll be able to talk to people to answer them. There isn’t a set structure here or presentation, so you can come and go as you would like. There may be mini-presentations throughout the night. We will be able to help with new installations or fixing/configuring existing ones. We can make installation CDs or USB drives. You should bring your computers you would like help on (and your friends!).

We welcome groups. If you have a group attending, feel free to contact us in advance so that we can prepare something for you. If you have questions, please direct them to Richard Darst .

Where and When: Eyebeam, Tuesday, January 18th, 2011. Come and go as you like, recommended arrival times are 18:30 to 19:00.

Getting there: See Eyebeam directions. Eyebeam is on the west side of Manhattan, in Chelsea. (540 W. 21st Street, (between 10th and 11th Avenues) New York, NY 10011) A/C/E/½/3/L trains are the closest, and Eyebeam is right next the Hudson River Greenway.

Contact: IRC at #debian-nyc on ; ; or Richard Darst (rkd at zgib dot net).


World Convention 2012 – Registration Info

If you are interested in attending the World Convention to be held in Goiania, Brazil in 2012 (July 25-29), the registration fees have been published.

Per person (children under 13 are free with parent/guardian)

  • Paid by Dec. 31, 2010 – $150.00
  • Paid by Dec. 31, 2011 – $160.00
  • Paid in 2012 – $170.00
  • Spouse-when registered with partner – $100.00
  • Youth (13 years – 25 years) – $100.00
  • Seminarian $100.00

Family (2 Adults and children)

  • Paid by Dec. 31, 2010 – $300.00
  • Paid by Dec. 31, 2011 – $330.00
  • Paid in 2012 – $370.00

2/3 World Countries

  • Paid by Dec. 31, 2010 – $55.00
  • Paid by Dec. 31, 2011 – $60.00
  • Paid in 2012 – $60.00


10 or more from same congregation registering together (per person): $100.00