Homeless server space... WTF?
May 7, 2005 2:03 AM   Subscribe

Does anybody know the backstory behind this image of a guy with many computers plugged into a streetlamp?

It keeps showing up in MeTa threads.
posted by thedevildancedlightly to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
tddl, I can't locate it, but there was an article last year about a homeless guy in Greenwich Village who repairs computers for a few bucks. The reporter tried him out and he was apparently pretty skillful. I think there was a dispute with a store-owner where he camped out and the police tossed all his stuff in a dumpster.
posted by dhartung at 2:38 AM on May 7, 2005


I can't for the life of me remember where I first saw that picture, although of course fark seems to be a good candidate. The time stamp on the file dates to 02 Feb 2004 if that's any help. There's a good chance that I renamed the file at the time as well. I did a GIS for the file name and "your office" and it didn't show up in the first couple hundred images. Sorry if that is not much use to you.

I just loved the pic so much because there are so many little details to enjoy, such as how he's actually scamming electricity from a light post, he's managed to get a junk computer up past the bios test, how he's got a chair that's as good as any I've ever had at work, and he's doing it from a street as daily life continues around him. I'd love to know more about this pic as well. It's also apropos because up until this Friday I was without a job for the last three months, and I'd just burned through the last of my money, and I could imagine my own setup mirroring that one in a matter of weeks.
posted by furtive at 6:38 AM on May 7, 2005


The picture isn't attached to the artile that dhartung and I are thinking of, but here is the article: Homeless Repairman Mixes High Tech With Low Overhead. I found it by searching for "times homless computer repair."
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:41 AM on May 7, 2005


He is a common sight amid the pedestrians in Midtown, who might encounter him at 8 a.m. on a weekday sitting in a swivel chair, hunched over a stubborn piece of computer hardware plugged into the base of a public light pole. Working curbside with a fully stocked toolbox, he claims to sell his products to wholesale buyers and bargain hunters for as little as $60 to $80 apiece.

Sounds like the same guy. He (perry vona in this article) claims to have been put into a coma as a result of a crane falling on him, and then waking up with repair skills. He is also retarded and delusional, according to the article, so your Furtive's on-the-job-training could get a little messy.
posted by mecran01 at 7:13 AM on May 7, 2005


Mo Nickels, good call! The picture of the man in the article and the word for word description of the photo seems to match it up perfectly. A rather sad story once you read the whole thing.
posted by furtive at 7:17 AM on May 7, 2005


Here's another one - this one's a a PC desktop on a wheels - the new laptop!

posted by fionab at 7:36 AM on May 7, 2005


I still crack up whenever I see the tower on the basket underneath the cart. He had a two piles of them, about 15 feet away from one another. He kept grabbing one, shuffling down the street, dropping it in the other pile. Then he'd randomly grab another one from that pile, shuffle down the street and drop it there. Sometimes he'd grab the same one he'd just dropped. Once in a while he'd drop it on this cart instead, plug it in, and see if it worked.
posted by fionab at 7:39 AM on May 7, 2005


fionab, you've seen him/this in person?
posted by fatllama at 10:16 AM on May 7, 2005


Nowadays you get to visit Bethlehem for free. Progress.
posted by TimothyMason at 12:37 PM on May 7, 2005


If I ever need a private detective I'm hiring a MeFite. Amazing work.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:49 PM on May 7, 2005


The NY Times mentions a previous article (1995), stating:

The photograph that accompanied the article in The Times eight years ago showed Mr. Vona hard at work, with the products of his business spread around him.
posted by sophist at 3:36 PM on May 7, 2005


Yeah - I saw him near the ICP, which is around 43rd, I think. He was amazing - I took a bunch of pictures because the entire thing was just too great to pass up. He had two or three streetlights hooked up, massive piles of computers, keyboards, wires, the works. This one was having some issues, but he had others up-and-running just fine.
posted by fionab at 3:58 PM on May 7, 2005


How does he get away with hooking up to the streetlights?
posted by tracicle at 10:53 PM on May 7, 2005


Not just get away with, but
How does he hook up to the streetlights?

If this is in North America, aren't they at least 220V?
posted by Rash at 9:17 AM on May 8, 2005


A friend living in Brooklyn told me about a band that one day took the plate off a lightpost, plugged in and started playing. People came out and listened, the cops rolled by and didn't stop anything. I'm really excited about moving to New York.
posted by spaghetti at 9:50 AM on May 8, 2005


If you see a hole on a street light pole ....

Energy theft a worldwide problem

Vandalized light poles common in Philadelphia

Construction site electricity comes from light posts in Las Vegas

Even if it's 220/240V, it's trivial to get a transformer that will do the step-down and plug it into a standard surge suppressor, or get an all-in-one device. Note that such devices are routinely sold to Americans traveling abroad.
posted by dhartung at 7:49 PM on May 8, 2005


Thanks again to everyone for helping me out. Hopefully if anybody I know ends up on the street they can learn from this guy.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:29 PM on May 23, 2005


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