Build Packet

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Welcome to the Build Program at Free Geek! There's lots to know about how Free Geek and the Build Program runs. This packet tells you some of the most important information to know when you first volunteer. Please read and keep this packet for reference. You may also find it online at

Steps of the Build Program

The build program is set up as a series of tasks. You'll learn about hardware and software as well as help out Free Geek every step of the way.

Note: Card sorting, motherboard sorting, and command line class can be tested out of. If you feel confident of your hardware identification and/or command line knowledge, ask your tour guide to give you the test.

  1. Hardware Identification: Read over the documentation, then learn to identify cards, drives and other computer components.
  2. System Evaluation : Use flow charts to determine if a computer will be recycled or rebuilt. Familiarize yourself with getting into computers and Free Geek processes.
  3. Command Line Class: Learn to navigate a Linux computer in a non-graphical environment.
  4. Build Workshops: Learn to quality control already built computers, then assemble systems yourself. We ask that you build and quality control at least 5 computers. You may bring the 6th computer you build home with you.
Next Steps
Have you built many computers and you'd like to move on to something different? Consider becoming a Build Assistant or Instructor, working in Laptop build, Advanced testing, or taking on Special projects. Please ask your build instructor for more information about Post-Build areas and how to apply.

Making the Commitment

We ask all who join the Build Program to commit to building at least 5 computers for us (and taking home the 6th, if they'd like). Computers can be obtained only once per year. Only the computers built since the most recent computer adopted will count towards any subsequent computer.

Moving on to the Next Prebuild Step

If you feel like you could accurately teach your prebuild (card and motherboard sorting or eval I or II) task to a new volunteer, ask your instructor to test you.

Other Build Program-Specific Information

Free Geek Culture

It can seem confusing here sometimes. We'll teach you what you need to know, but in a different style than you may be used to: we work in more of a workshop style. So, when you have a question, the best thing to do is to go up to someone who seems like they might know the answer to your question and ask them. This might be the volunteer standing next to you. Please, don't be afraid to ask questions! It's an integral part of the build process, and people around here tend to understand your plight (they've been there, too!) and work hard to help.

(Keep reading! Free Geek computer specs on next page...)

Type of Computer and How It's Used Specifications (these change frequently)

This is the type of computer given to those in our
Adoption Program. Builders also receive a FreekBox
if they decide to take their 6th computer home with them.

FreekBox Specs

Intel Core 2 Duo
1 GB
Hard drive
120-160 GB
Ethernet 10/100 PCI
Video card
Onboard, or 128MB PCIe if necessary
Onboard, or PCI if necessary

GrantBoxen are given to local community
organizations through our Hardware Grants Program.

FG-PDX Specs

Processor: 1500 - 1966 2200MHz and above
RAM: 512 MB
Hard drive: 80 GB
CD-RW or DVD player
Floppy: 3 1/2" 1.44 MB floppy
Ethernet: Onboard or PCI 10/100 Bt

We sell these computers in our Thrift Store.

(NOTE: keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor not included.)

Regular Specs

Intel: Pentium 4, Pentium D, Celeron
AMD: Athlon 64, Sempron
Hard drive
Any IDE, or up to 80GB SATA
Ethernet 10/100 PCI
Video card
Onboard, or 128MB AGP if necessary
Onboard, or PCI if necessary

Tools to Make Life Easier


There's lots of information on all of our programs and procedures on our wiki, and Build Program information is no exception. Review the following documents before starting a new task to get a head start, and whenever you need a refresher.


Wondering what all those beeps mean when you startup that problem machine? Can't, for the life of you, figure out the speed of the processor? Google (or the search engine of your choice) is a resource for all computer builders on tough issues. Try Google Groups for a twist, and you might need to include the word "Debian" in your search if you're trying to solve a software mystery.

There are terminals in the build workshop as well as in system evaluation for just this purpose. Feel free to use them!

General Information

Recording Hours and Parking Your Car

At the end of each of your volunteer shifts, you'll need to log your hours (in the build workshop or at the front desk) and sign up for your next shift (at the front desk). Since the schedule for Build is often pretty packed, please keep the following in mind:

  • You may only sign up for 2 shifts in advance of your current shift.
  • Call if you can't make it! At least 24 hours ahead of time if at all possible. Others will surely fill your spot.

As an additional thank-you for your service, after you've volunteered for 4 hours, you'll receive a 50% discount in our Thrift Store!

If you have a car, there is plenty of street parking around Free Geek. However, we ask that you don't park in front of Free Geek, in front of the building across 10th from Free Geek, or in the parking lot. These are not our parking spaces and your car might be towed!

Health and Safety, Rah Rah Rah!

Please stay safe. There are lots of pointy things and tall piles of computer stuff at Free Geek. We ask the following of you while you're here:

  • Be careful, wear shoes, dress appropriately for your task, and alert a staff member if you see an unsafe situation.
  • Volunteering at Free Geek sometimes requires heavy lifting. Ask for help if you need it. Also, be aware that most of the time, if you can't do heavy lifting, this fact doesn't necessarily bar you from the task.
  • If your back or ankle or anything else starts hurting while you're volunteering, let us know and we'll have you do a different task.
  • If you need any special consideration at all, let a staff member know so that we can work with you and help you get the most from your volunteer term.
  • Take breaks when you need them! In general, please feel free to take a minute here or there to relax. If you are going to be volunteering for 8 hours please take 30 minutes to hang out and eat some lunch; we will allow you to log 8 hours of volunteer time for this.
  • Free Geek is a safe, respectful place. We don't allow harassment, violence, theft, arson, or other destructive behaviors here. Help keep our organization fun and inviting for all!

Parting Information

For reference, here's Free Geek's contact info. Thanks for volunteering at Free Geek!

Free Geek Community Technology Center
1731 SE 10th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214

Tel (503) 232-9350
Fax (503)230-8815
If you need to reschedule your shift please call 503 232-9350.