A Word About Using
ON A MARGINALLY RELATED MATTER: FOOD DONATIONS
Does your organization have a continuing need for donations of food? If there is a food canning or bottling facility in your area, contact them and ask about low-fills. Modern automated food processing plants fill thousands of cans or bottles per hour. Due to normal mechanical tolerances, some containers wind up with less than the nominal volume. For instance, a can labelled "12-ounces" might actually contain anywhere from 11-1/2 to 12-1/2 ounces. Low-fills fall below the manufacturer's minimum quantity, i.e., a can might contain 11.4 ounces. The contents are perfectly normal in quality.
To avoid lawsuits, claims of fraud, claims of deceptive advertising, etc., low-fills are automatically shuffled off to the side by the machinery. Profit margins are low, so it is not cost-effective to open containers, put the contents back into the main vat and discard the container. Instead, manufacturers store low-fills. When a charitable organization asks for donations, the manufacturer donates low-fills, without disclosing that the can contains slightly less than the normal volume.
ON ANOTHER RELATED TOPIC: DONATED COMPUTERS
Does your organization need more than one or two computers?
Buy them! Do not ask for donated computers!
Awhile back our church looked into starting an Information Technology Ministry including a Computer Center. "Somebody who knew somebody" managed to get a company to donate twenty computers.
We were all thinking, "Isn't God great!"
Well, this had nothing to do with God!
Larger corporations know that churches, schools, charities, etc., will often ask them to donate computers or money for computers. On the one hand they want to appear to be "a good corporate neighbor". On the other hand, they don't want to incur any expense.
What do they do?
When they take old computers out of service, instead of spending money to have them recycled, they "shove them in the back room somewhere." When non-profit organizations ask for computers, they give them their old junk – without an operating system. The company erases the operating system because it buys non-transferrable licenses. And the non-profit arranges for people to show up with a truck and cart all the computers away – the "generous" corporation doesn't even have to pay employees to load a truck.
Microsoft does not discount its "full-install" Windows operating systems. When we tried to use the computers we found it would cost about two hundred dollars per computer for an operating system. (Churches do not have the right to steal software on the grounds that "We're a non-profit organization." Taking one disk and copying it onto twenty computers would be twenty federal felonies.)
Furthermore, the computers were several years old – their microprocessors weren't fast enough, they didn't have enough memory and their hard disks were not large enough to run current software. Upgrading them would require replacing virtually everything. The company decommissioned them because they were "beyond their useful life."
Of course, since the company had already "generously" donated twenty computers, we couldn't expect them to pay for operating systems.
Well, why not ask for individual donations of computers?
Again, that sounds reasonable, but it doesn't work in practice. What you get is a bunch of outdated equipment from different manufacturers. Each machine has to be independently maintained. Add-on equipment or new software that works on Machine 1 causes Machine 4 and Machine 6 to crash. Substitutes that work on Machines 4 and 6 cause Machine 1 to crash, etc.
Of course, you are trying to have volunteers maintain the system. They quickly get disgusted and stop helping.
Then something even worse happens: some well-intentioned but completely untrained and technically incompetent person says, "Let me see if I can figure this out." Pretty soon, the equipment isn't working at all.
The moral of the story is that – like it or not – if you need more than one or two new computers, buy them.
(Ultimately, we did not set up a Computer Center, because (a) computer equipment would cost too much, (b) there was no available room, (c) even if there had been room, computer center space cannot be shared with other activities and (d) in addition to computer equipment we would have had to buy desks, chairs, etc.)
March 2015 update: Nowadays, pretty much any PC manufactured 2005 or later can run modern software such as Microsoft Office 2010. A number of companies such as www.DellRefurbished.com and www.JoySystems.com sell refurbished computers with a modern copy of Microsoft Windows Pro for around $150 and up. (A full-install copy of Pro sells by itself for around $200.) I work for a law firm that has bought about 10 such computers from Dell Refurbished in the past year and they all work fine. (I went to replace one of the hard disks because it had a "grinding" sound that I thought meant the drive was close to failing. It turned out the unit had a high-performance, high-reliability VelociRaptor drive usually used in servers, not desktops.)
Although to a layperson Windows Home and Windows Pro may look the same, "under the hood" they are massively different. Pro has many capabilities that make maintaining a group of computers much simpler.
An important caution! Dell Refurbished and others do sell "off-lease" computers starting under $100 including a Windows operating system. Refurb computers under around $140 use DDR2 memory, not DDR3. (They are not interchangeable.) The difference is that PC manufacturers stopped using DDR2 memory around 2006. Any computer that uses DDR2 memory is at least 7 years old. That means the hard disk and the power supply are close to failing – even if they work when the computer is purchased.
Last updated March 7, 2015