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Out of date to up to date

Bristol Wireless have successfully installed a new broadband computer suite in a sheltered housing unit, improving the quality of life for its 54 residents.

The computer suite, located in the meeting room, is impressive, with five recycled computers, all ready for use.

Princess Royal Gardens is one of many sheltered housing schemes, providing homes for residents aged between 55 and 100. It’s not just age that plays a factor in the need for support, a range of reasons specific to each individual, which can include learning, emotional or family difficulties.

Ronnie Corbett, the in-house scheme manager since October 2004, has the challenging job description “to give the residents the best possible quality of life”. And that’s exactly what he’s doing, running local lottery, having tea afternoons, film nights, they have raised enough funds to buy the necessary hardware for the this project. The Committee funded £250 to cover hardware that could not be sourced from recycled goods.

“Widening their horizons, making them feel useful again, experiences they have had can be shared”
The suite currently has 6 regular users, accessing the technology for communication, shopping, organisational software and research purposes. From Dave’s interest in lineage research, to Mary’s newly purchased mobile phone, this technology is providing a gateway for residents to a bigger ever-changing world. With a growing number of forums for practically any subject, users have found a new voice to the greater community. And this 10+% user rate is set to grow, with Ronnie enticing younger family member visitors “to show nan round the computer”.

Without serious funding to pay for software licensing fees, charged by companies such as Microsoft, this project would not have been possible without “fee-free” open-source software, which has an interface very similar to more used packages, including a login and desktop for each user. An added bonus to this is its pop-up free. “You can watch this all day and not one pop up will appear, as well as no porn that’d frighten the life out of them,” says Ronnie.

So where can it go from here? Funding is being sought for a training programme for residents, similar to courses already being run by BW in other venues, and Ronnie would like to see headsets and webcams to build on the usage of communication with family abroad.
Plans are in place for an official opening in the near future.

On the 8 April 05 Lloyd installed a server with 3 thin clients in a supported housing project in Redfield Bristol. The residents are already surfing the net and signing up for computer courses.

The solution consists of Linksys WRT54G access point attached to an antenna, We ran POE (Power Over Ethernet) to the pole and routed it to the switch in the communal room. Ronny received some donated PC’s from us, 3×233 dell Optiplex diskless clients booting from an 800mhz twin SCSI server with 512mgs ram. The server is fast enough to run LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) using Redhat Fedora Linux distribution. It’s encouraging to see residents, some of them novices, are taking to the browser and open source.

Amy Dillon
Bristol Wireless volunteer

One Response to Out of date to up to date

  1. sean May 12, 2005 at 9:30 am #

    superb work, not least Amys write up!