Volunteer Spotlight: The Goodnight Scholars

Take a peek into Kramden’s warehouse on any given day and you will find it bustling with volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. Kramden relies on volunteers daily to join in our mission to bridge the digital divide. Offering their experience, skills, and enthusiasm for working with technology, volunteers are one of Kramden’s most valuable assets.

Last fall, a group of NCSU students reached out with a special request. As part of the Goodnight Scholars Program’s mantra to “pay it forward,” the Goodnight Scholars Class of 2019 wanted to support a charitable organization as part of their senior class gift by both volunteering their time and raising funds for Kramden.

Founded in 2008 with a gift from Dr. Jim and Ann Goodnight, the Goodnight Scholars program was established with the goal of helping North Carolina students from low- and middle-income families become leaders in the STEM and educational fields.

The Goodnight Scholars have joined Kramden several times this school year to put their technical skills to work, troubleshooting newly refurbished computers and preparing them to be distributed to students. Visit https://goodnight.ncsu.edu/ to learn more about the program.

“Serving at Kramden was a blast! We loved taking apart the machines together and learned a lot about fixing computers in the process. Volunteers do not always see the end results of their labor, so I was excited to watch the finished computers leave the assembly ready to be distributed. My favorite part about volunteering here, however, was the direct impact of our assembled machines in making learning more enjoyable for North Carolina students, the future of STEM.”

Timothy Chen, Mechanical Engineering Student and Goodnight Scholar

Kramden is always looking for volunteers with a passion for our mission and willingness to help. We currently have a particular need for daytime volunteers on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, and Thursday and Friday mornings. Register for an upcoming volunteer event here.

Program Impact

Kramden’s Community Education & Access program provides participants with eight hours of basic computer training and a computer upon completion. In the first 6 months of 2018, 230 participants completed the program. Recently, Kramden surveyed these participants to see how their newfound computer knowledge and device has impacted their lives. Results are shown below.


Laptops and Tablets Awarded in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua

This February, Kramden Institute, in partnership with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club, GCF Global, and the Center for Development in Central America awarded 42 laptops and 70 tablets to the students of Ciudad Sandino in Nicaragua.


Volunteer Stephanie Schenck, a PHD student in Literacy Language and Culture at Clemson, and Rotary Peace Fellow, Moh Eid, aided in the distribution and training of the educators on how to use the technology in the classroom.

Devices went to two primary schools and one secondary school in the area. Included with the devices were power conditioners and backup batteries to combat the poor electrical grid. 6 laptops were also provided for the dental clinic at Jubilee House to be used for analyzing x-rays and charting.

This was Kramden’s third year partnering with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club to bring computers to Central America.

Take Control of Your Passwords

Our passwords are the keys to our lives in the 21st century. We use them to access our email accounts, online banking, fantasy football, and much more. With passwords piling up for so many sites and each site having slightly different requirements, it gets tough to remember them all.

So what do most of us do? We use the same password for multiple websites, maybe adding a number or changing a letter here or there. And that basic password often is pretty simple, like the name of a pet or favorite sports team.

This creates two problems. First, short or simple passwords are very easy for hackers to guess. Hackers use automated programs that quickly guess millions of common English words, phrases, and generic passwords like ‘abcd1234’.  Second, if you use the same password on multiple sites, a hacker you also make it easy for them to break into multiple sites once they break into one.

So how do you make your passwords better?  Start by creating a unique password for every site. Then make sure those passwords are all complex (*_23nMK03t5#) and/or very long (mydeskchairisbigandred). This nerdy comic from the website xkcd.com does a great job of explaining why long passwords are a good idea.

So stronger, unique passwords increase your security significantly. But now there’s a new wrinkle – how do you remember them all? There are three simple ways to get around this conundrum.

  • Write all of your passwords down on paper and keep them in a safe place. This is a good option if you don’t use many websites and usually log in from home. It’s not as convenient if you browse on mobile devices – or, if you’re like me, you have terrible handwriting and can’t tell if that last character is a zero or a capital O.
  • Store all of your passwords in a password-protected document on your computer or phone. This works only if you the file with you. If your hard drive dies without a backup, or if your device is stolen, you lose all of your passwords.
  • Use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane. This is the best way to go if you have a lot of passwords and connect from many devices.

What is a password manager?

A password manager is an app that stores your passwords in a secure file and retrieves them automatically. It will even type them for you. All you need to do is enter your username and master password. That’s right – all you have to do is remember one password. They also have tools that help generate strong passwords for you whenever you set up a new account. If you have a weak or duplicate password, they will let you know.

Another nice thing about password managers is that you can securely store all sorts of sensitive information beyond passwords. Everything from answers to security questions to banking information and more.

What are the drawbacks of a password manager?

Like anything involving computers and the Internet, there are some tradeoffs, though they are pretty small in this case. If someone finds out your master password, they can access all of your other passwords. For this reason, most password managers employ multi-factor authentication such as texting a code or scanning your fingerprint. The other risk is that a hacker will breach the password manager’s central system. The most popular services are very good about encrypting all user data.

You’ve convinced me. Now what?

Great! It’s now time to choose a password manager. There are a ton of different services out there, each with its own pros and cons. For me, it ultimately comes down to a balance of features and cost. Several offer great free versions. CNET has put together this great list of their favorite password managers to help you compare them. I encourage you to read it before making a decision. LastPass (free with a $24 paid version) and Dashlane ($39.99) are two that are frequently recommended and work on all sorts of devices.

Want even more information? This article from Consumer Reports has tons of information about password managers, their security, the risks, how to choose a service, and how to set them up.

Tech Support Scam

A common “tech support” internet scam is on the rise, and educating yourself may be the best defense against it.

Say you’re browsing the internet. Suddenly, you get an unexpected pop-up, call, or other urgent message about a problem or virus on your computer. The urgent message or suspicious website also locks up your browser so you can’t leave the webpage.

Pause for a moment. Remember you’re still in control. No one has stolen your information yet. These attackers sometimes claim to be “tech support” from well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple, but they are trying to steal your information, infect your computer, or take your money.

Most frequently, these scams begin when you visit a malicious website whose code locks up your web browser. A popup then appears that says you have a virus, please call Microsoft at this number: ###-###-####. If you were to call the number, the people on the other end may ask to connect to your computer. They may call it screen sharing, remote access, or remote control. Or they may ask you to follow their instructions to send them information or make changes to your software. Eventually, they’ll diagnose a non-existent problem, find a “fix,” and ask you to pay for unnecessary, even harmful, software services.

So how do you beat these scammers? Don’t click any links, call unknown numbers, or give people from the website or popup remote control of your computer.

The important thing to know is that you can close these popups and exit the webpage without ever calling the number listed on your screen. First, click the Back button (arrow pointing left) several times quickly. If that doesn’t work, try to close the browser with the X button in the corner.

Stick stuck? Windows Task Manager allows you to override these popups and webpages with minimal risk.

To access Task Manager press the keys Ctrl+Alt+Delete simultaneously. (Mac users, press Command+Option+Esc keys simultaneously to access the Force Quit Applications dialog.)

This opens a new screen where you can choose to open Task Manager or shutdown and restart your computer. Opening Task Manager will allow you to select the program(s) you wish to force closed. From the list of currently running programs, select those you suspect are connected to the popup attack and click end task. This should cripple the attackers’ efforts.

If you frequently encounter these “tech support alert” popups, asking you to call a support number to fix your device, it may be a sign that you have a potentially unwanted program installed on your computer. Close all open programs and run a virus and/or malware scan on your computer.

If you are concerned that your computer or personal information may have been compromised, contact a tech support or virus defense agency that you trust.

For further reading, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s webpage on Tech Support Scams.

AFTRR Member 2016 Report



Kramden is proud to be a member of the The Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse (AFTRR). AFTRR is made up of nonprofit technology refurbishers across the United States working together to raise awareness of the digital divide and the work of nonprofit computer refurbishers to address it.

AFTRR is also a venue through which organizations can share information on best practices for computer refurbishing and serving students and adults that have been left on the wrong side of the digital divide. As part of this process, AFTRR collects data on the number of computers its member organizations work on each year. Here is a snapshot of the data for 2016 (78% of AFTRR members reporting):



Embrace Your Geekness Day 2017


Next Thursday (7/13) is Embrace Geekness Day and to celebrate we are holding a social media contest. Show and tell us how you embrace geekness and you will be entered to win a Geek Prize Pack.

To enter, post a photo and description showing how you embrace geekness to Kramden’s Facebook page or post a photo on Instagram or twitter and tag @kramden. Don’t forget to include #embracegeekness in your post.

Remember, being a geek isn’t necessarily about loving computers. Geek icon Wil Wheaton put it best when he said “It’s not about what you love. It’s about how you love it.”  Show us how you pursue your passion, whether it’s video games, playing trumpet, or even knitting socks.

For Wil Wheaton’s full speech, watch the video.

Here are some creative “Embrace Geekness” Ideas:

  • Take a picture with a geeky shirt/coffee mug/item of any kind
  • Show off your collection of the items that allow you to pursue your passion (instruments, outdoor gear, video game consoles, etc.)
  • Take a photo of a geeky creation you’re proud of making.

Official Rules:

  • Promotion Description: “Embrace Your Geekness” Competition (“Giveaway”) will run from July 5, 2017 until July 13, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. By participating in the Giveaway, each participant unconditionally agrees to comply with these Official Rules and the stipulations provided by Kramden Institute (“Kramden”). Kramden is responsible for collecting and reviewing all eligible entries. Participants may reach out to Kramden with any comments or concerns about the Giveaway.
  • Eligibility: In order for a participant’s entry to be deemed eligible, the participant must be a resident of the U.S. or Canada, and must be at least 13 years old. Posts must be posted to Kramden’s Facebook wall with #EmbraceGeekness, or tag @Kramden and be tagged with #EmbraceGeekness on Instagram or Twitter. All entries must showcase a way in which the poster is embracing geekness. If there are any entries that have disputable eligibility, Kramden will make the final decision about whether the participant is eligible and the decision is non-negotiable. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
  • Ineligible Entries: Any entries from ineligible participants (those who are not 13 or older/those who are not residents of the U.S. or Canada) will immediately be discounted for prize selection by Kramden. Any entries from spam accounts or duplicate entries on the same or different platforms will not be counted. One entry per person.
  • Winner Selection: Kramden will randomly choose a winner from all eligible participants. Participants may not dispute the selection by Kramden. The winner will be announced via a Facebook announcement and/or a Kramden blog post on 7/14/17. By submitting an entry, all participants provide Kramden permission to use their name in the announcement/post. The winner has 48 hours to respond to Kramden’s status announcement, blog post, or private Facebook message, to claim their prize. If the winner does not claim it within this timeframe, Kramden will select another winner. The winner will need to either pick up their prize from the Kramden office in Durham, NC, or privately provide a shipping address to Kramden for the prize to be mailed. Please allow 30 days for shipping.
  • Prize: The prize for this Giveaway is a Geek Prize Pack. The prize cannot be substituted or redeemed for cash by the winner. Kramden provides no warranty on this prize, and is in no way liable for any damages after it is initially shipped/picked up from Kramden. If the winner does not comply with the Official Rules, they forfeit their prize.
  • Privacy: All participants agree to allow Kramden to use their name and entry image, if they are selected as the winner, on a Facebook announcement post and/or a Kramden blog post. By posting from personal profiles to Kramden’s profiles (or using the designated hashtag on Instagram or Twitter), participants do not provide their personal contact information to Kramden.
  • Limitation of Liability: Kramden is not responsible for any incorrect information. Kramden assumes no responsibility for any mechanical, technological or human error that prevented a participant to submit an entry to the Giveaway. Kramden is not responsible for any entries that are reported to/deleted by Facebook because of the entry’s inappropriate nature. If the Giveaway is unable to run due to any virus, mechanical/technological/human error from Kramden, then Kramden reserves the right to cancel or terminate the Giveaway at any time. If this is the case, Kramden will draw a name from the eligible entries collected to the point of termination. The winner will be selected in the method outlined in section 4 of the Official Rules.
  • Sponsor: The official sponsor of this Giveaway is the Kramden Institute.
  • Facebook Disclaimer: This promotion is managed by the Kramden Institute. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Any information or content you provide, you are providing to the Kramden Institute and not to Facebook. By participating in this promotion you agree to a complete release of Facebook from any claims. Participation in this promotion is subject to the Official Rules.
  • Instagram Disclaimer: This promotion is managed by the Kramden Institute. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram. Any information or content you provide, you are providing to the Kramden Institute and not to Instagram. By participating in this promotion you agree to a complete release of Instagram from any claims. Participation in this promotion is subject to the Official Rules.



Geek of the Week – Sam Smith



Sam Smith is Geek of the Week! Sam is a regular at our Mini Geek-A-Thon (MGAT) events and an expert ‘runner’, helping set up computers for the demonstration part of the award and helping families get everything loaded into their cars. He is a truly dependable volunteer, always ready to help out with whatever task is needed and is a key part of making our weekend events run smoothly and is a great example of a Kramden Super Geek. Thank you, Sam for all of the help you give Kramden!


Favorite Geek Books: The City of Ember (childhood memories)

Favorite Geek Movie: Star Wars series

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden? I like to feel that I’m making an impact on others. I have the privilege of using a computer every day, for school and recreational purposes. It’s truly one thing that can majorly impact one’s life.

Best Kramden Moment? During an MGAT, I was a runner for a very gracious family. They were very friendly, kind people. It seemed to me they felt a bit of assurance for their son’s future with the addition of a computer in their household. It made me feel all “warm-inside” to know they were grateful for everything Kramden did for them.

When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do? Besides school and the occasional video game, I experiment with new hardware and software for the server room in my house. I’ve set up full-on database servers to simple media servers. I enjoy taking something apart, understanding how it works or what was wrong with it, and reconstructing it for reuse.

Geek of the Week – Keith Ertel



Keith Ertel is Geek of the Week! One of our newest Super Geeks, Keith is a regular at our Open Monday volunteer sessions and has become an expert at breaking down old computers. He is a huge help to our warehouse team and always willing to lend a hand on special projects.

Favorite Geek Books: Sherlock Holmes mysteries; currently working my way through the Agatha Christie series

Favorite Geek Website: Depends on what I am into at the time: Pinside, Modern Vespa, CRAN

Favorite Geek Movie: Hard to pick one but I like Star Trek IV

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden? I have learned some things and it gives me a feeling that I am giving something back.  I have also met some very nice people.

Best Kramden Moment? Finally having an opening so I was able to sign up for a volunteering event – the first one was a mini Geek-a-Thon.

When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do? I started a consulting business that keeps me fairly busy and gives me a chance to keep my hand in science.  I taught myself R programming and next want to learn to work with Image J.   I also try to get out and take advantage of the Capital Area Greenway as much as possible.


Susan Sperbeck is Geek of the Week




Susan Sperbeck is Geek of the Week! Susan has been a dedicated Kramden volunteer since February and was most recently awarded Super Geek status. Not only does Susan regularly help new volunteers through the refurbishing process, she also acts as an assistant instructor for job readiness classes in Chapel Hill. A huge THANK YOU to Susan for giving her time and talents to Kramden!

Favorite Geek Books: The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy (she has read them several times)

Favorite Geek Movie: Lost in Austen (If you are a Jane Austen fan, you have got to check out this movie!)

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden? Kramden offers an amazing opportunity for techies to use their skills for such a valuable and needed program. I enjoy all the people who work there and the other volunteers – I notice when new people learn new things and they feel good about what they are able to accomplish at Kramden. I see that people feel a sense of accomplishment when an order is completed.

Best Kramden Moment? Working as an assistant for the Job Readiness classes. It was so rewarding to see the folks in the classes improve their computer skills.

When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do? Raising two teenage daughters! I am also job hunting and taking classes.