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Salon.com: Building the Underground Computer Railroad

Sep 24, 2002, 19:45 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Farhad Manjoo)


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"Wearing combat boots and a T-shirt emblazoned with a large skull and crossbones, Nix looks more like a biker than your stereotypical computer geek. He pulls out a 'box'--essentially a computer with all of the parts removed--from a pile of old machines and sets it on a nearby worktable. 'They have all sorts of people coming in here,' Nix says of the warehouse, the Alameda County Computer Resource Center (ACCRC). 'Some people are from drug rehab programs, from wherever--and they can have you making computers in a day.' He pops open the box and gathers all the necessary parts--memory chips, a hard drive, a video card, a keyboard and a mouse. In less than a minute, Nix fits all the pieces into the machine and hits the start button.

"It's a sunny Saturday afternoon in September, and Nix is here on behalf of the Independent Media Center, a loose affiliation of grass-roots journalists who specialize in staging anti-globalization protests at international conferences devoted to 'free trade.' In the run-up to the next meeting of delegates to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which will be held in Ecuador in late October, Nix and a handful of others have spent weeks turning unwanted computer parts donated to the ACCRC into working machines that they plan to use in their protest. Other volunteers are doing the same thing at Free Geek, a recycling center in Portland, Ore., and a group in Los Angeles is helping out as well. Together, the geek activists aim to build about 300 Linux machines, which they'll stuff into a shipping container and send down to Ecuador before the protest..."

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