– Amaury, you kindly granted us an interview during the summer of 2020, in which you told us you had started a big campaign of reconditioning and donation of computers. Do you want to tell us where you stand today?
I continue what I started in 2020. I recover mainly, if not exclusively, hardware from companies. The last batch I recovered was from the Belgian Red Cross. It is a nice batch of laptops. Thanks to them. I recondition to make donations. I target collectives, associations, schools and families in need. Up to now, the machines go to local administrations who redistribute them via their CPAS (Public Center for Social Welfare) and to families in need. I wanted to join the Emmabuntüs collective especially for the reconditioning and donation part. Well, this is precisely what I am trying to do.
Donation of laptops by the Belgian Red Cross
– You’re very active in this famous refurbishing USB key project and you’ve made an impressive number of videos to support it. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about it?
Just kidding, of course I will 😉
The USB flash drive project is really a project that is close to my heart, and I really like to communicate about it. There is no secret, when the right ingredients are gathered at the right time, everything can only go well. Good people, good ideas, good communication, it’s motivating and therefore we invest ourselves.
But what also makes me invest so much in it, is that in addition to functioning well, this project is really useful ! And I can even say that it is functioning extremely well, without being arrogant or pretentious!
I used this refurbishing key on many makes and models of computers. Old, not so old, recent and very recent. Now we all know that nothing is perfect. There will always be a machine reminding you that fact. But it’s very rare. I still use it, and I think as long as I’m in the hardware refurbishing business, I’ll continue to use this key.
To talk about videos, don’t forget that at the beginning, I was “noticed” thanks to my editorial bias: to talk about free systems and software, and to popularize all the explanations so that people think… OK, with the explanations of Blabla Linux, I can also do it myself 😉
I see myself as a small gateway to the great world of free software. I kind of put people’s foot in the stirrup. Then, people can look at more technical content, and continue to evolve on their own, even if sometimes I can publish technical content too.
– You also prepared a lot of official and unofficial clones. Did you have a big demand for this when you were taking orders for the re-use keys?
Yes. But let’s take a look behind the curtain 😉
The terms “official” and “unofficial” come from me (because I was using this terms in my videos!) Official for Emmabuntüs and Debian-Facile clones, and unofficial for the others 😉
All official Belgians clones are created by myself, while the rest of the official clones are created by Patrick. The special official clones like the one for Jerry Valentine’s day and the beautiful special Ukraine clone were created by myself, but with Patrick’s help.
The name of our campaign is “Emmabuntüs Debian-Facile Reuse Campaign”. These are the two major players, so for our refurbishing USB stick we provide Emmabuntüs and Debian-Facile clones. We also sell USB sticks at cost with Emmabuntüs and Debian-Facile clones.
When you put something forward, people like to see it!
In my videos I said that the USB stick technique was originally developed by Emmabuntüs, and for Emmabuntüs only. That we had released the technique to the public, and that it could be used not only with Emmabuntüs and Debian-Facile clones, but also with other systems, as long as you had the clones at hand of course 😉
Being known to use exclusively distributions based on Debian, Ubuntu and Mint, the latter being the system I use on a daily basis, I started creating clones of Linux Mint, Linux Mint Debian Edition, Ubuntu and all its official variants.
Emmabuntüs is happy to see repackaging, no matter what free system is used. But I didn’t want the technique to be used only with the new clones I had created.
That’s why at Emmabuntüs, we don’t talk about nor do we store these “unofficial” clones, but they exist indeed, and you can find them on the Blabla Linux storage areas.
Also, if you place an order for a USB flash drive, in addition to the “official” clones, you can ask for “unofficial” clones to the person who handles your order. And that’s good, that person is me 😉 In any case, for each order, I propose it. And I explain to the people that I will make the key the way they want it.
I have never been asked for a refurbishing USB flash drive without Emmabuntüs or Debian-Facile clones. On the other hand, I am often asked if I can add Linux Mint Debian Edition (Debian based) or Linux Mint (Ubuntu based) clones. I have not yet sold any key with Ubuntu clones and its official variants. However, I know that they are used by people who have created the USB flash drive by themselves. They contacted me to get the hosting links of these clones, but also to give me feedback on how the key works. What I don’t have, however, is feedback on the use of the keys sold. I could ask, but I think it should be done automatically by the people!
– You have just started a new project of solidarity laptops for Ukrainian refugees in the Belgian city of Ciney. Under what circumstances was it initiated?
Yes, very nice project! How could it not be 😉 To help and please – at our own scale – people who have just left their country at war! This project went immediately in the right direction.. It’s important to start on the right tracks, by putting all the chances on your side.
The commune of Ciney, where I live in Belgium, welcomes Ukrainian refugees. One hundred and twenty persons so far.
Amaury laptops donation to Coline for the Ukrainian refugees in the city of Ciney
I went on site and made contact with Mrs. Coline Dubois, who is the Communication Officer for the City of Ciney. The donation project was very well received. During the discussion, Coline explained to me that the Administration uses translators. They are person of Ukrainian origin, who have been living in Belgium for many years now. I had the honor of being put in touch with Marina, a woman who has been living in Belgium for almost 15 years, and who is married to a Belgian citizen and they have two children.
It was a three-way project. No, sorry, a four people project! Coline from the Administration who managed the requests and the handing over of the machines. Marina the translator who acted as an intermediary with the refugees, myself for the creation of the special Emmabuntüs clone from Ukraine and the installation on the machines, and Natacha, my life partner, who worked on the design of the self-adhesive keyboard stickers and the cleaning of the machines.
Specifically, we gave Marina a pilot laptop to play with for a week or so. At the end of her discovery, Marina told us: “this is great, I don’t know what else we could do”. We knew we were on the right track, as they say 😉 Despite this, we waited before producing the other machines. And we did well. Thanks to Marina, we were able to make changes to the system. Then we produced ten other machines, complete maintenance, cleaning, installation of the system by automatic cloning thanks again to the refurbishing USB key, and finally the cuttings and the poses of the adhesive stickers on the keyboard.
I then handed the machines to Coline, who in turn handed them over to each of the beneficiaries. A WhatsApp group exists for exchanges between the Ukrainian refugees, the local administration and the translator. I was able to get a screenshot with the first feedback. The people were delighted.
– Your partner Natacha has already participated in your projects such as the Jerry Roulette and the laptops given to children last year. This year she has been much more involved in the laptop donation project. Could you please let her speak now?
Hello Natacha. Can you tell us what motivated you to participate in this beautiful project and what you were able to achieve?
So, for my part, I am a fan of decoration and recovery. I don’t like when people throw things away! I recover and give a second life to objects or furniture. I’ve been making stickers with my Silhouette Cameo machine for a few years now, so it’s only natural that I made little stickers for the Jerry at Amaury’s request, which I loved doing. For the donations of laptops for the children, I suggested to Amaury to make them covering stickers according to what they liked. The kids were all happy. When Amaury told me about the donations of laptops for the refugees, I thought it was very nice. These people came to us broken by what they had experienced at home and being able to make them happy was also a pleasure for us. I started looking for images of Cyrillic keyboards, the common language of Russian and Ukrainian for the vectorization process. And thanks to Marina, the Ukrainian translator, we noticed that 4 letters specific to the Ukrainian alphabet were missing. I added these 4 letters and was able to vectorize, cut and paste all these letters on the keyboards of the laptops. I’m happy with the results of my work and I’m glad that end user like it too.
Natacha is cutting and gluing the Cyrillic stickers on the Ukrainian pilot laptop keyboard
– Natacha we know that you don’t like to put yourself forward too much, and what do you think about the role of women in software, which has been historically very important since it was a woman who made the first real computer program*?
Something I didn’t know about! This lady knew how to make a place for herself over a hundred years ago. She was listened to, helped, and appreciated. Unfortunately, she passed away too soon and with her probably many ideas that she could have still made us discover. It took a long time for her work to be recognized and publicly exposed. In today’s world, many women are deserving respect within their profession or without, as for example housewife, which for me is a more than a full time profession. But, there are always this discrimination that nowadays should not even exist.
– Back to you Amaury. Do you have in mind other projects of reuse or other ideas of involvement in free software?
In the immediate future, I would like to continue providing the Communal Administration of Ciney with laptops adapted to Ukrainian refugees. I have just been contacted by Mrs. Coline Dubois to see if I could still do the same work to provide again five laptops.
Then I will make donations to people other than refugees. If there are still machines left 😉
This makes me think that I need to re-launch a hardware request publication. Because if I can help and please with such actions in the name of the Emmabuntüs collective, it is thanks to generous donors like the Red Cross of Belgium or like the company Vinci Construction of Roubaix in France.
Of course, the most interesting thing for me is to get donations from companies, and especially to try to keep the donors loyal. But all donations are accepted. I am thinking in particular of donations from individuals.
I simply set a limit on the age of the machines that I collect and therefore that I give back. It’s a bit case by case depending on the equipment, but to make it simple, I collect machines since 2010 until now, and exceptionally I can collect some from 2008.
Anyway, I want to continue to make donations. I would like to see Emmabuntüs take a place in people’s minds, here in my community in Belgium, and even further afield, why not?
Later on, I would like to set up a partnership with the Public Centers of Social Welfare (CPAS) of different municipalities. Because if there is one thing that concerns me a lot, it is to make donations to people who really need them. And what better way than through organizations that are in direct contact with families in need?
I would like to organize free software and systems discovery days with a part dedicated to the Emmabuntüs system, with of course its famous refurbishing USB key. But I know very well the amount of energy and time that it will be necessary to deploy this idea. And all the contacts that will have to be made. I’ve had this in mind for a while, we’ll see.
In any case, you’ll continue to see me donating computer under the Emmabuntüs umbrella, and you’ll continue to hear me talking as well as presenting cool stuff (I hope) through Blabla Linux.
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Note: Ada Lovelace, the first coder in the history of mankind, created the very first computer program fin 1843 in order to calculate the Bernoulli numbers. She is quite well known in English-speaking countries and in Germany, especially in feminist circles; she is less known in France, but many developers know the Ada language, named so in her honor. A day is dedicated to her to