FreeGeek RipOff

Update: Watch for a small, about-inch-square white paper label with a ballpoint-ink hand-written six digit number, on possibly stolen objects. (Picture at the next blog post; click here to see.) That number, which IIRC was in the 3xxxxx range, is the GizmoNumber, used for internal QC and other purposes. There may also be a larger sticker, vertical layout, a form with tickboxes and such, which stolen things may also have.

FreeGeek.Org is the the website for a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in Portland, Oregon, which is dedicated to spreading the Open Source ethos.

Portland's a great place for Open Source; O'Reilly recognized that when they held OSCON (the Open Source CONvention) here this summer and in years past.

Many, many volunteers help make FreeGeek work by recycling corporate cast-off and personally donated computers; receiving, evaluating, reassembling, loading Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xbuntu on the machines (many of which were OK mechanically, but had Windows so badly corrupted the machine would no longer boot). Rehabilitated machines are donated to schools, non-profits, and sold in the FreeGeek store to generate cash to keep the lights on; a desktop is also given to the volunteers after they've built six complete machines.

The FreeGeek meme is even cloning itself, as volunteers in other cities worldwide are copying and creating FreeGeeks of their own.

Sadly, FreeGeek Portland has been robbed of its most valuable assets, the laptops and specialty hardware often most needed by the community organizations it donates those rehabilitated systems to. A thief broke in to the warehouse and stole very valuable equipment, many, many systems.

Here's the news from FreeGeek:

Hello, fine people. I'm writing with sad news. Last night, Free Geek, Portland's groovy technology non-profit, sustained its most major break in to date. The majority of the items stolen were laptops, a few hard drives, and LCD screens. Many doors were smashed in forcibly in the process. While our laptop program is becoming a major source of income for us, it also is a great source of needed hardware for local non-profits. This income is now gone, and local do-gooders will have to go without our free source of laptops for a few months.

So we're making a call out to the community to help us stop these thieves and prevent this from happening again. If you're offered a laptop with Ubuntu Linux installed on it in the next couple of months, give us a call at 503-232-9350. Used LCD screens, while harder to pin down as originating at Free Geek, might raise an eyebrow as well.

Thanks for your help!

(Ed. note: Also hard drives with gizmo numbers (op cit.) on them, and some iMacs, too.)

I've also established email (click on the title of this post to open an e-mail window) to receive questions about it... which will be autoforwarded to FreeGeek.

Update 2: And, BoingBoing picked this up, after I spoke to Cory Doctorow, while he was visiting for Orycon.


Look for an about-one-inch-square cheep white paper label with a six digit number in ballpoint ink. That ‘GeekNumber’ is internal for tracking purposes, and is on every significant piece of gear in FreeGeek.

If the freelance socialists who broke in and stole the gear didn’t remove it, well, there’s their sign.