In the past few weeks, we have gotten two long benches in place in the garage for doing teardown work. Even with that, we’re getting so many terrific volunteers that we’re pretty much elbow to elbow. It’s a great problem to have!

If you look at the previous blog entry, from January, the pictures show the one small bench we had for doing teardown, with four people working on it. We have now more than doubled the bench space and the number of volunteers using it. On the teardown benches, we dismantle computers, printers, and other peripherals that are broken or too old to be used for our build program. We break them down to four components: plastic, metal, circuit boards, and mixed. We separate the components and then deliver them to our recycling partners. Some components make us money in recycling, others cost us. So far, we’ve been able to make a bit more money in recycling than we’ve had to spend. The money then goes toward things like paying the rent.

Eventually, the space over on the right will become dedicated to testing and evaluating donated computers and components. We even managed to do a tiny bit of that yesterday.

Meanwhile, in the build room, the tight space story is the same as in the garage. A few months back, four tables were enough working space for doing builds. Then we had to “adopt” a couple of other tables in the room, as our number of volunteers grew. Yesteday we had so many people showing up to learn that we had to pull in folding tables stored in the garage to provide enough space for everyone to work on. We share this space with PPNA and other groups which use it for meetings and gatherings, so whatever we put up, we have to take down. That’s actually a good thing, as it makes us be better roommates, and enables the community to get more use out of the space. We just may have to look at getting more folding tables to accommodate all our friends and neighbors who want to get geeky. Another good problem to have!


Saturday we held our first class, “Introduction to Ubuntu” and it was delightful success. Volunteer Robert, who has a background in teaching, was the instructor. Six people had signed up–we kept the list short since this was our first time–and four people actually made it despite the snowfall (again). The skillset of the students ran the gamut, even in such a small group. We’re very excited about this, as educating people about how computers work and how to use computers is one of our core missions. We plan to make classes like this a regular service of FGTC. We’ll keep you posted as to when the next one will be.

In other big news–that’s big as in cubic feet: Look Ma, no boxes! Waste Management came and picked up our six huge gaylord boxes of monitors and plastic. We have space again!

It’s been cramped living with these monster boxes taking up about 25% of our floor space. But it was worth it as we finally disposed of the remains of the Monitor Mountain that had built up last summer. We wasted no time in putting the space to new use: We moved a bench into place and promptly set volunteers to work on recycling keyboards.

And the new year brought a whole bunch of new interest in Free Geek. Saturday’s tour group was one of the largest ever. It was like a parade weaving through all the activities going on at Free Geek.

Articulate Andy leads a tour group through Free Geek

We have a tour every Saturday at 2pm. Come take the tour and find out more about Free Geek. New volunteers and old computers are always welcome.


Our garage sale was a great success! We sold dozens of computers and more than ten flat screen monitors, plus a whole bunch of computer components and accessories. We even managed to sell a few printers.

The weather was cold, icy, and quite uncooperative. Nevertheless, hundreds of people turned out. Many were just looking for computer bargains–someone even bought all the telephones we had for sale. But there were plenty of others who were also interested in learning about Free Geek and what we do for the neighborhood and the world. Indeed, meeting and talking with people from the community was the real hallmark of the garage sale’s success.

Gary talks to a couple about a computer, while Al makes sure everything has a price tag, as other potential customers check out our inventory.

A lot of people put in a lot of work in preparation for the garage sale. Computers were built, monitors were tested (and in some cases rejected), components and accessories were sorted, everything had to be priced, posters were made, the word was spread, tables were setup, and everything was put out for sale. We want to thank all of our volunteers for their contributions to making the garage sale happen. A special thanks goes out to Jeff for prepping all the Macintosh equipment, which was quite popular. And an extra special thanks goes to Gary who really took the lead on making sure everything was ready, and for really working with all the people who were interested in our computers. Without the herculean efforts of these two, the garage sale never would have happened.

With the sale done for the year, we’ll be turning our attention to making better use of our space in the garage and to our education programs. We can always use more hands, so come be a volunteer,donate a computer, learn about computers, and be a part of the community.


The Free Geek Twin Cities Garage Sale is coming!

  • Friday, Nov. 19, 4pm-8pm
  • Saturday, Nov. 20, noon-5pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 21, 1pm-5pm

We will have complete computer systems starting at $40, which includes a monitor (CRT). These refurbished computers are built by our own volunteers. Flat screen monitors will also be available as an upgrade for a modest fee. There will also be Macintoshes for sale, along with printers, mice, scanners, and various other computer components and accessories. All PCs come with Ubuntu Linux already installed and ready to go. And if you are unfamiliar with Ubuntu, we will be offering an introductory class on it in just a few weeks, free with any computer purchase. All proceeds go to supporting Free Geek Twin Cities and our mission of bridging the digital divide and responsible recycling.

We spent this past weekend mostly testing the flat screen LCD monitors we plan to sell to make sure everything is in working order. We also finished selecting the Geek Boxes that we will sell in the garage sale.

So, come to the garage sale and see what we’ve got. Better still, bring a computer to donate and stay and become a volunteer. We always have room for more of both. See you there!


We are slowly but most surely getting things organized in the garage. At the end of the summer we decided to vacate our old space at 3405 Chicago Ave. That meant bringing over all the computers, printers, monitors, and so on that had accumulated at 3405, to our new home in the old firestation, and it really buried us. There was hardly any place to walk. But litle by little we’ve been sorting through everything, re-using what can be re-used and recycling what can’t.

Sam and Brian sorted video cards, and later Sam & Jeremy sorted through our stock of hard drives which had become rather chaotic.

Michael tested keyboards, while on his right disks are wiped clean, at the new dedicated keyboard testing and DBAN-ing stations. We’ve had the equipment for a while, but never had a permanent place for it. Now we do.

Likewise, we began chipping away at our overflowing basement storage which is packed full of computer parts also from the move.

Nathan, Jeremy, and Jeff surveyed some of the computer parts brought up from the basement to be sorted. Buster the Robot supervised.

We are planning to have a garage sale in a few weeks, in which we’ll be selling excess computers, parts, and peripherals. We don’t have the date set yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as we can.

Jeff has been clearing Macs out of the hallway and getting them ready to be sold in the garage sale.
Being a former firestation, our building has an old hose drying room which is a tall narrow space that runs the full height of the building. We currently use it to store completed and in-progress Geek boxes. But our host, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA), is planning to turn that space into an elevator at the beginning of next year, so we need to move our stuff out. Once the Macs are cleared from the hallway, we’ll move the computers & monitors in the hose drying room to the hallway. In preparation for that, Alex & Art sorted through everything in the hose room. Alex found that we have many more flat screen LCD monitors than we thought, and we will probably sell some at the garage sale.

We had some new volunteers this week, in addition to our regulars, which always delights us all. Free Geek Twin Cities is an all-volunteer organization, and we’re getting to have quite a roster.

New volunteer Jessica dismantles a donated PC.

Volunteers Al and Steve debug a problem with build computer.

Volunteer Art helps a couple of other volunteers with their build system.

So, lots of little things happened this week, but they all add up to major progress. In fact, we are getting to the point now where we can start taking in many more donated computers. Bring us your old no-longer-used PCs, tell your friends and family to donate their unwanted computers to us, spread the word about FGTC, and “help the needy get nerdy”.


We’ve managed to clear out a lot of space in the past week. Last Saturday everyone pitched in and we sorted all the monitors in Monitor Mountain into four piles: Dells, Sonys, large monitors, and everything else. Today, we took the Dells to Staples which has a recycling program in conjunction with Dell; and we took the Sonys to Waste Management which has a recycling program with Sony. The large monitors we’ll keep to be distributed with computers via our volunteer and grant programs. All the rest are currently stacked on pallets waiting to be recycled. We will probably just have to pay to have those recycled which means it may take us some months depending on our cash flow.

All told, we got rid of more than 40 monitors totaling more than 1700 pounds today. In place of all those monitors we’ve now got testing workstations setup. We still have a lot of stuff to sort through but we’re slowly getting there.

See the “Before” and “After” pictures below. The board that Buster the Robot is standing on used to be covered with Sony monitors.