Sunday, September 23, 2007

Software Freedom, PACS Drama, and Linux Community

Saturday, September 15th, 2007, Software Freedom Day. Probably not Hallmark ready yet, but real important to a certain segment of the population. It is important to me. Even though, I am not as philosophically connected as some people in the movement, I value the community relationships that the movement helps to build and promote.

The timing of the day, the third Saturday in September, makes the day and PACS (Phila Area Computer Society) new season start a no-brainer for a recurring event. I hope that this is the first of many. PACS itself is a group that is trying to find itself. Maybe redefine itself, may be a better phrasing. The grand-daddy of users groups in the Philadelphia Area is starting to look and feel like a Kevorkian patient waiting for Dr. Jack. But hope was on the way. A new President, some new board members, and a new direction. Unfortunately, the new president had to step down, and now hope is on hold. I know that at least myself, and a couple of my friends, that are also members, know the value of the organization, and will do everything possible to keep it viable.

But now to the event. The good stuff. The stuff that is why the organization is too vital a resource to let bureaucracy and ego destroy.

Again, 4:00 am, can't sleep. Nervous and anxious. Chris, the network engineer for the organization, has an immediate family illness to deal with. He says he'll stop by for a few hours and help setup. I try to let him know that he has to take care of his family first; I am sure he knows this; but I just wanted to let him know that everyone would understand if he couldn't make it. Chris and his son are there at 7:30am, with 2 new awesome banners. One for the PA Ubuntu LoCo, and one for PACS. Amazing. Thank you Chris and Jason. Hope everything gets back to normal soon. Ronn Homer, the new and former President was there at 7:30am also. Let the games begin.

Start setting up, and Randy and Teddy show up with the TTCS cd's and more OpenCd's too. Wireless is setup, banners are flying, and my stuff is in the cafe. 8:00am and the Security Sig gets started, and there seems to be an issue at the membership table. Let me see if I can help.

Apparently the Commodore Sig that was discontinued wanted to return the PACS funded equipment that they had accumulated throughout the years. I could feel the tension, and rather than have it escalate, I offered to take the stuff and offer it to people; and get rid of it if no one wanted it. Not a good start, but what the heck. Better than a geek brawl. Three handtruck loads later, a complete Commodore 128 system, software, peripherals and a Commodore 64 Color computer were taking up space on two tables in the cafe. Well at least that is done. Commodore Sig guy leaves, all seems well; back to the membership table for some new member schmoozing and map assistance. OK, some people arrive to help with the membership table, now to setup some of my stuff. Not so quick, a quick question, maybe you can help with....(Insert any stupid topic here). Then Scott, my new neighbor, who I told about the event shows up. Nice. Get him a Sig list and a map, unfortunately, no time to chat, have some stuff I would like to setup, and actually wanted to get to Security Sig. No such luck. Oh well, that's the price of fame.

Back to the table to setup, wait, a quick question, maybe you can help with ....(Insert any stupid topic here); not this time, sorry, I really have to get setup; come back a little later, and I'll see if I can help you. Geeze, this is getting ridiculous. Matt shows up. Awesome. Met Matt and his family at the PA Ubuntu LoCo Bar-B-Que. He offered to do a MythTv demo and we took him up on it. Then James and Matt from PLUG arrived to setup their Kiosk Demo. Nice, everything moving along. Crowd seems like a normal PACS crowd, no throngs of new people. That's alright, it's still early. Sort of. Elevenish, hmm, where are the Jersey people, Joe, Christina, Bryan, and main presenter Dave. They have my phone number, and Joe and Christina have been here before; relax. They're here.

Lyz and Mike arrive, with loads of equipment and start to setup Michael's Audacity Demo.
Ronn Homer resigns as President. Dave does the main presentation. 70 people. Nice. While Dave is presenting, I finish the setup for afterwards and try to eat something. Oh yeah, and of course, coffee, cigarettes, and Red Bull.

Randy mans the free cd table after the presentation, and gives out 62 TTCS cd's and 62 OpenCd's. Lyz and Michael handle the Ubuntu cd's. The Mac Fsuite cd's that Cindy, my wife burnt, are over by my PPC setup. Actually, only the iBook was setup, which isn't really a setup, just turned on, I never had the opportunity to setup the Blue & White G3. Doesn't even matter, that's what's great about Macs, they just look so damn good people don't even know or care if they work. For reference its a G3 with Xubuntu installed that did work in May. Alex shows up and starts to help with the crowd. Of course Norm and Rich, the Pacslinux guys were helping and Kevin and family show up. Nice. And Kevin has the Sony 200 cd changer with him. Everybody has been wanting to see that. Joe T, Bryan, Dave and Mike B check the Sony out. I know they like it. A good hour and a half of demos and such. Great job again. Let them eat cake.

Out to the van, and bring in the 'Thank You' cakes for all the volunteers from outside groups who came and did awesome demos for the PACS crowd. Probably the best part of the day. The Linux community, coming together, to show off their systems and what they can do. All different groups freely giving their time and talents. WOW. PLUG, PA Ubuntu LoCo, NJ Ubuntu LoCo, and PacsLinux all supporting this event. A little discussion of the future for all of the different groups and their various agendas, such as the PA & NJ Ubuntu LoCo's Gutsy Release Party Plans, Matts MythTv Installfest Phase One, the aKaDEmy Convention, and the possibility of having it in Philadelphia, and the NJ Ubuntu LoCo's Farmers Market Outing.

All in all a good day. Despite the efforts of Randy and his massive flyering, we did not get throngs of new visitors. But I am sure that his work was not in vain. I am an advocate of advertising and promotion, anytime your name is out there and seen, it is a good thing. Sowing the seeds is the only way that a harvest can happen. Great job planting seeds Randy, I am sure this year's PACS crop will show that your efforts were worthwhile.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The family that FOSS's together....

Well, we did it. Yesterday, my wife Cindy and I went around posting Software Freedom Day flyers at local colleges and universities.

After yesterday morning's discussion about the state of women in Ubuntu, we both thought it very appropriate to place a flyer on that bulletin board at La Salle University.

It was a nice way to spend some time together on a Saturday. We posted flyers at La Salle, then Arcadia. At Arcadia, where our oldest daughter Lisa is going for her Master's Degree in English Lit. Education, we took some time to check out the campus and its magnificent buildings.

After those two, we took a break for dinner at the Inn Flight in Abington and headed down to Penn State Abington campus. From there to Blockbuster to return some DVD's and pick up "Pirates of Silicon Valley". Not that good, but interesting none-the-less. After Blockbuster we headed to Temple Ambler Campus and posted more flyers.

Nice day. 50 flyers posted. We then headed home so Cindy could complete burning the Mac 'Freesmug' Fsuite cd and get started on burning 50 more OpenCds. I worked on my 'email the local colleges' project and watched the dvd.

Finished the emails earlier today. Now dealing with work issues.

Big week ahead. Hope to see everyone at Software Freedom Day at PACS!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

If you can't beat them, JOIN them!

Wow. Advocacy by osmosis. My wife, Cindy, who claims not to be computer literate, has taken interest in my computer activities.

Her spider senses may have thought that this new obsession was not of pure motive.

Haha. No I am not having a cyber sexual affair. I am actually trying to help people, and at the same time help myself. The more I get involved, the more I learn, and the more relaxed and less work obsessed I become.

Well this morning, she decided to join the fold. She needs to do community service as part of an education class that she is taking and has been in a quandary as to how to fulfill this requirement.

After our morning discussion of gender bashing, precipitated by Lyz's anguish the night before, and while I was burning Mac FOSS cd's for Software Freedom Day, she realized that she could help me with promoting SFD and get her required community service requirements fulfilled at the same time. I am not sensitive, but I am really loyal. When one of my teammates is affected, I will try to help them; even if I don't understand. I don't understand the women issues, I am not a woman. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't try. It is understood in our household, that all matters of right and wrong are arbitrated by my wife, Cindy. I can talk openly and freely with her and get her insight. She knows me, and accepts me the way I am, and I value her insight into the things I just don't get. We complement each other well.

She then asked me what all this Software Freedom Day stuff was that I had been doing, and how it applied to people like her, her fellow workers at the daycare center, and her classmates.
She represents our target audience well. She doesn't really know, or want to how the computers work, she just wants it to work. I explained to her that she is using FOSS software, albeit Windows software. But she realized, on her own, what about people that didn't have "Power Point" or a husband like me, knowledgeable about FOSS; how would they be able to complete their class assignments that require "Power Point"?

After a half-hour dissertation about free vs. proprietary, and the proclivity of bootlegging as a result; she now understands the argument and the need for FOSS. She also made me promise to assist her co-workers, who are also classmates, with any technical issues they may have.

So, now, this afternoon, we are going out and promoting SFD at PACS together. And maybe, just maybe, if we can line everything up, she will be joining me at the event next week.

I really hope so.