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Note that the following informations only apply to our Desktop Build laptop follows are completely different rule set.


Build is a a station at Free Geek where computers are assembled from salvaged parts to satisfy the demands of the Build Program. Machines from the Build Program may be given to volunteers as part of the Adoption program, given to a qualifying organization as part of the Hardware Grants program, or sold in the thrift store.

In the Build Program, machines from the Build Fodder rack are brought by Builders into the Mezzanine. There they are assembled into functioning computer. Once the computer has been Built, another Builder will take the machine through a QC ("Quality Control") procedure to ensure that everything functions and nothing has been overlooked. Finally, a Staff member or Support Volunteer will take the machine through a "Staff QC" process to ensure that it meets quality standards.

Every machine in the Build program should have a "Build Sheet" attached to it securely with tape. This sheet describes the machine's contents as well as its progress through the Build process.

Daily Schedule

When a Build volunteer arrives, they should first check the Build racks (where machines that are not yet complete are kept when they are not being worked on) to make sure that there are no notes in-progress machines there that need attention. Old builds should be finished before new ones are taken on. Red sticky dots are placed on machines that need particular attention, i.e. if a machine failed QC and the builder needs to correct something.

The last 15 minutes of the day should be spent cleaning up the bench. Before the builder leaves the bench, it should be clean and organized.


Build Coordinator

The program is coordinated by the Build Coordinator, his name is Geoff, he is tall.

Build Instructors

Very important! Instructors play an essential role in supporting the day-to-day learning process of builders, as well as providing much-needed relief to the Build Coordinator. Visit the Build Instructors page for more info.

Build Steps

Find out the specifications

Before actually fetching a system to serve as the foundation for a build, one should know what they need to build. A specification for what to build should be given by the build coordinator.

See the section Standard Build Configurations for more information

Fetch a System

Systems that pass Eval and are queued for building are placed on a rack in the warehouse near the Mezzanine-Warehouse stairs. The systems are arranged by (fill in) and will usually be marked on the back motherboard panel with the CPU manufacturer and speed in gigahertz as reported in the POST process of booting the machine. For example "Pentium 4 2" would be written to specify an Intel Pentium 4 machine that reported 2,0 ghz as its speed.

Take a system fitting the build specifications back to an empty spot on the build bench.

Fill Out a Build Sheet

Every machine worked on by a builder must have a green build sheet attached to it (this is to to prevent work from being repeated) Before opening the machine, fill out a build sheet and physically attach it to the machine (ask around for tape or build sheets if needed).

At a minimum, the builder name and the date must be written on a build sheet attached to a machine before it is worked on.


As of May 2009, new machines should also get a sysid. The sysid consists of

  • The first letter of your first name
  • your volunteer ID
  • a dash
  • The count number of the machine on your builder status sheet

For, example, if Jan is volunteer #1850 and this is the 6th machine Jan put on the Builder Status Sheet, the SysID of the machine would be J1850-6.

System IDs go in four places:

  • On the machine's Build Sheet
  • On the 2x4" 'free Geek' sticker
  • on a small 'SysID' sticker on the back of the machine.
  • on the builder's status sheet

This is out dated

Our new Automated bulid system will assign a system id automatically

Builder Status Sheets

Builder status sheets serve a number of purposes.

  • They help track a build candidate through the pre-build process and the early build stags
  • They provide contact information for a volunteer
  • The sheets are also used to track machines that people build
  • They allow feedback for specific systems to go back to the builder

Each builder should have a status sheet, and each machine that they start building should be listed in the 'Assembly and Installation' section of the sheet this also is part of the SysID creation process (see above).. As builders build a number of machines, extra sheets may need to be added

Visual Inspection

Open the machine and survey the innards. (picture needed) Inside the case, there should be:

  • A motherboard with a CPU and heatsink
  • A power supply.
  • Video output, either built into the motherboard or using an expansion card.
  • No blown caps (eval may fail to detect it)
  • Enough RAM of the correct type to meet the build specification. (We are typically building with AT LEAST 512MB, which is two 256MB sticks.)

Note that, if a machines uses SD-RAM (aka PC-133), you should use _untested_ RAM, and do a memtest.

Also, verify that there are no problems with the components. Common problems include:

Adding Components

If a machine is being built for a grant, the build specification may include information about the specific components that should be used. Otherwise, the machine should be built with components that roughly match the speed of the machine. For example, a low-end machine (P3 1GHz) should receive a small-ish hard disk (e.g. at least 20GB but not much more). A higher end machine (a P4 2.4GHz) should receive a 30GB or 40GB hard disk.

If not present, the following components should be added

  • Audio (usually on the motherboard)
  • Network (usually on the motherboard)
  • USB (usually on the motherboard)
  • Hard disk (at least 20GB, depending on the machine's speed)
  • Optical drive (CD-ROM / CD-RW / DVD-ROM)
  • Floppy drive

Add these components one at a time, as necessary, testing to ensure that they seem to be working as needed. They will be tested more thoroughly during the "Operating System Installation" and "Quality Control" steps.

As you install each component, note its make and model information on the Build Sheet in the appropriate box. Make sure, for example, that the "Hard Disk" box contains the size of the drive you have installed, the manufacturer, and its model number

Hard drives

  • The standard size for hard drives is 40GB
  • $20 boxes get 20GB drives (or whatever we have most on hand)
  • High end machines (2.8gz or higher) can get 80 or 100GB drives
  • Hard drives should be on the primary IDE controller , and optical drives on the secondary

Other components

  • RAM:
    • Speed should be matched to the motherboard speed
      • DDR:
        • FSB = 533 - use DDR266/PC2100
        • FSB = 667 - use DDR333/PC2700
        • FSB = 800 - use DDR400/PC3200
      • DDR2:
        • FSB = 533 - use DDR2-533/PC2-4200
        • FSB = 667 - use DDR2-667/PC2-5300
        • FSB = 800 - use DDR2-800/PC2-6400
        • FSB = 1066 - use DDR2-1066/PC2-8500
    • RAM Should be installed in pairs if possible, but this depends on the number of RAM slots available.
    • If we run out of the appropriate clock speed, it is better to use appropriate RAM size at a lower clock speed

Standard Build Configurations

All boxes will have the following:

  • Ethernet
  • Audio
  • USB ports

We only assure the audio to be at a basic level, and may or may not be high-def. If there are no onboard ethernet or on board audio, a network card and / or SoundBlaster Live! card shall be given.

If Celeron or AMD Sempron is used, they are considered one grade lower. For example, Celetron 2.6 Gz is equivalent to Pentium 4 2.4Gz. Sempron 3000+ is consider equivalent to Athlon XP/64 2800+, which in turn is equivalent (for build) to Pentium 4 2.8Gz.

optic Drives

Please make sure that the jumper (pinned) is set to "cable select" first this will reduce isssues of optic drive failure

Ribbon cable

Please make sure that you are using 80 wire (fine ribbon) rather than the 40 wire (coarse wire) This will allow the cable to select which component to be a master and the other component to be the slave especialy if you are using 2 optic drives

===Adoption Boxes===( Mid Range)

("geek boxes") are machines which are given to people who have completed the adoption programs.  The current standard configuration (March 2010) is:
  • Plain beige box (no longer required)
  • 2.4gz ~ 2.6gz P4 or an AMD in the 2400-2600 model range.
    • If Celeron is used: 2.6 ~ 2.8Gz. if Sempron is used: 2600 ~ 2800
  • 512MB of RAM (2x256MB sims) and make sure that the mhz of the ram matches FSB front serial bus of the mother board
  • CD-RW drive + DVD-ROM drive (or a combo drive that does both)if room and drives permit use two seperate drives CD-RW and DVD-ROM

Volunteers will also have the ability to pick up a keyboard mouse and 17" CRT at the same time (but this is not really a build issue).

Grant Boxes

Grant boxes are usually machines identical to the Adoption Boxes, but may be higher up to 3.0Gz, with

  • 512Mb~1Gb of ram (usually the former).
  • CD-RW drive + DVD-ROM drive (or a combo drive that does both)
  • 40GB hard disk

In truth grant boxes will depend on the precise application (e.g. LTSP terminals could be in the P3/500Mz range). On the whole, however, 2.4GZ boxes will be considered grant machines.

$20 boxes

$20 boxes are based on incoming donations. They tend to be built when we have a large influx of identical specs machines.

  • 512MB of RAM
  • CD/RW

The point of these machines is minimal work. A normally substandard CD/ROM (as long as it works) is not replaced. Even the second QC step is optional. The point of these machines is to get a basic working, internet-capable box into the hands of people who could not otherwise afford it.

Discussion with operations/build/store should be conducted before build determine the specs and procedures for that batch.

Store Boxes

Low-end store boxes are roughly the same as adoption boxes, simply in terms of which cases they come with

Mid end boxes are: Adoption

  • 2.4-2.6GZ+ (or equivalent AMD speed rating)
  • 512GB of ram 2x256 and match ram mhz with FSB front serial bus mhz of the motherboard while matching mhz to the motherboard
  • 40GB hard disk
  • Audio
  • Network
  • USB

High End Boxes (multi-core) boxes have the following configuration:

  • 2.7-3.4ghz cpu
  • Any multi-cores
  • 2Gb of RAM 2x512 or 4x256 when there is 4 slots matching ram mhz to the motherboard FSB
  • Minimum 80Gb Hard drive, Recommend 100Gb or above for the dual core
  • DVD/RW drive and CDRW
  • 128MB, or better Video card (256MB if available).

Operating System Installation

The machine is now ready for the Operating System Lucid (Ubuntu 10.04) to be installed. The best way to do this is with yellow-dot hard drives that have had the OS pre-installed. This can also be done per machine over the network (the best way) or from a CD-ROM (not as fast or reliable).

Pre-Installed Hard Drives

Pre-installed hard drives are under the build bench, sorted by drive size. Choose the appropriate sized drive. Each drive should have both a green dot (which indicates that it was successfully wiped and tested), and a yellow dot (which indicates OS pre-installation).

Any drive which does not have a green (wiped) dot should be sent back to the drive bench to be (re) wiped _even if it has had a successful OS installation_ (yellow dot).

Installing over the Network

To install Ubuntu over the network, you will need a Netboot compatible network adapter. Most internal network adapters will do. For PCI network adapters, ensure that a boot ROM is installed (or get an Intel or 3COM adapter from the box of cards labeled "Netboot").

  • Ensure that PXE Netboot is enabled in the BIOS settings and that the network card is first on the list of boot devices.
  • Plug a network cable from the build bench into the network jack on the computer you are building.
  • When booting, if everything is configured correctly, you will see a black menu with FG logo on that contains options like "Install Lucid Lynx 10.04 (Automatic)". DOUBLE-CHECK THIS TEXT
  • Choose this option. The installation will begin. Check the process occasionally to make sure that it is working properly.

Installing from CD-ROM

If at all possible, use pre-installed hard drives or netboot installation, due to the numerous preconfigurations we have put in place. Unless there is a good reason to install Ubuntu using disks, there may be other components that causes the operating systems failed to be installed.

Powering Up

Ensure that the machine is plugged in, in particular:

  • Power attached (with power supply switch "on" if such a switch is present)
  • Video output
  • Keyboard and mouse input

Try to turn on the computer. You should see boot-up information on the screen.

QC The Build

Quality Control :

  1. Write your name, volunteer number & date on a build sheet.
  2. Check for blown capacitors.
  3. Do shake test – Check for :
    1. lose screws (tighten)
    2. damage on case (may need to scrap)
    3. modem (remove)
    4. only one video card (remove extras)
    5. drives (properly screwed in)
  4. Plug in wires (VGA, power cable, keyboard, mouse & speakers). Turn on system.
  5. Go into BIOS/CMOS -document key to get in (usually Del, F2 or F10)
    1. Set up boot order (1:Optical, 2: HD), save and exit. Please make a mental note and remember the bios key combo
    1. while in the bios reset the bios to the default setting, this will reduce the potental problem that sometimes occur when it has been changed due to a previous special need or concern
  1. Allow Ubuntu to start up.
  2. Run FGQC (Free Geek Quality Control):
    1. Select Application ---> Accessories ---> Terminal
    2. Type in this will run a script and printme answer all question as prompted
    3. Type in “fgqc”; password: 'oem' .
    4. Follow prompt, run all steps. Press ' <Finish> ' -- do not exit terminal

## At [email protected]:~$ , type 'sudo lshw' -- fill in make and model of all items on build sheet.

  1. Run memtest by shutting down the machine, then powering up while pressing the left shift key. A menu will appear, select the memtest option and allow the program to run for a complete pass or more.
  2. Clean the case and take off OS sticker (with WD40)
  3. Final check over – Make sure build sheet is completely filled and securely attach to tower.
  4. Place FG sticker on case, write down Sys-ID on sticker.
  5. Complete :) Staff must complete final QC.

You are now finished! The machine will be QC'd before it is ready to go.

Where to Leave Build Machines

  • The steel 'Bakers rack' nearest the doors is for built and QC'd machines.
  • The Rack near the RAM testing station is for in-progress machines. These must have build sheets attached and the name of the builder must be indicated, or they will be scrapped!

Please keep the build bench and floors clear.

Colored dots

To help keep track of machines, we're now using colored dots to help keep track, visually, of the status of machines on the build bench.

  • Red Dots -- The machine has failed QC and is waiting to be fixed by it's original builder. Should be removed once the machine is fixed. And this should be done before continuing with another build. Please check to see that you have been red dotted first.
  • Yellow Dots -- The machine has passed according to the builder
  • Blue dots -- The volunteer QC agree to the builder, and placed on the rack near the phone desk, ready for staff QC
  • Green Dots -- Good to go.

Additional Notes

  • All Build machines in the mezzanine must have a build sheet attached indicating the builder's name.
  • All Build machines must be left on the appropriate shelf on the steel rack. The shelves are labeled.
  • Keep the case sides (and front panels) with the machine. Otherwise these will get lost and you will have to either scrounge for another or scrap the machine.
  • Try to keep the build benches clean.
  • You will be sharing the build bench with others, so please try to keep your work compact.

Here is Build on Portland's wiki

Volunteer QC

After a machine is done by the builder, a less experience builder (usually build program initates) will conduct additional QC, following the same procedures as mentioned in "QC the build section". The main thing to ensure is the following:

  • Are the caps actually good?
  • Are the proper specs in place?
  • Are all the information on the build sheet correct?

If it is minor mistakes, then just correct it. Minor mistakes include, but not limited to, missing model numbers. If it's major, use either the back on the builder's build sheet or a new paper to write down the issues that came up. black optic drive in black boxes white optic drive in white boxes

Staff QC Process

What is a Staff QC?

After a machine has been built and QC'd by the builder and a volunteer, it will have a blue sticker affixed to it by the QC'er indicating that they consider the machine to have been successfully built and QC'd. It is now ready for a Staff QC. In this process, a trained Staff Member or trained Build Instructor gives the machine one final check to ensure that it is ready to go.

Because Freegeek is a teaching environment, it is expected that people will make mistakes or overlook problems. The Staff QC is there to spot these and give feedback to the Builders and QC'ers so that they can learn. The Staff QC should not involve fixing problems -- the machines should be sent back to the Builder and/or QC'er for the actual fix to take place.

Who can perform a Staff QC?

Only Staff Members and Build Instructors who have been specifically trained in Staff QC (i.e. by the Build Coordinator) should perform Staff QC. If in doubt, please ask. Green stickers (which indicate that a Staff QC has been completed) and the "Staff QC" section of the Build Sheet should only be used by those who have been trained in the Staff QC process.

How to perform a Staff QC

The Staff QC should be a quick survey of the most common problem areas and should take approx. 5-15 minutes, depending on the system. If any problem is encountered, the Staff QC should be aborted and the problem should be documented on the Build Sheet in the "Staff QC" area of the form. A red sticker should be affixed to the front of the machine (indicating to the Builder/QC'er that something needs attention) and the machine should be returned to the "In Progress" section of the Build Bench.

To perform a Staff QC:

  • Examine the build sheet to make sure it is complete. Make sure the details reasonably match the build spec for which the machine is intended.
  • Move the machine to a free area of the bench and survey it visually.
    • Is it in reasonable cosmetic condition for its intended purpose?
    • Do the optical drives match the case and each other (to a reasonable standard)? For example, a machine with one black CD-RW drive and one white DVD-ROM drive should be sent back. The drives should match the case, unless there is an extreme shortage of matching drives.
    • Are the plugs on the back of the machine in good order?
      • If there is a built-in video adapter as well as an installed (e.g. AGP) one, the built-in one should be covered with green tape to prevent confusion. Likewise if there is any other duplication of adapters (e.g. audio).
      • Are all the expansion slots covered (e.g. PCI slots), so that there are no gaping holes in the back?
      • Important: If the case needs a motherboard tray hold-down screw, make sure one is in place!
      • Are there any extras that shouldn't be there, e.g. a modem?
      • Shake test: tenderly rock the machine from side to side. Does it rattle e.g. with a loose screw in the case?
      • Are the OS stickers and sticker scum removed, as should be indicated on the build sheet?
  • Open the case and inspect the internals.
    • Check motherboard caps ... again.
    • Check the mounting of each expansion card and drive, both visually (e.g. screws are installed and of the right type) and by giving them a wiggle.
    • Check that all internal cables are of the right type (e.g. IDE cables are 80-pin) and are properly installed (plugged in at both ends) and reasonably far from any fans
    • Check visually to ensure that RAM is fully installed (look at the plastic tabs). RAM should typically be installed as two sticks.
  • Plug the machine in and boot it up.
    • The machine should boot cleanly and without intervention.
    • Using the "fgqc" QC script, verify the memory, CPU, and hard drive capacity written on the build sheet.
    • Push the eject buttons on all optical drives to make sure they eject and retract properly.
    • Install updates on the machine if necessary. (If the builder/QC'er has forgotten to do this, make a note for them. One or two updates may have come in since the QC was done; this is OK.)
    • Make sure that the desktop looks OK and the "Readme" file is present.
  • Carefully put the case back on the machine (check that all case screws are in and tight) and shut it down.
  • If you've made it this far, affix a green sticker and check the "OK" box in the "Staff QC" section of the build sheet. Write your volunteer number in the box. Congratulations!