I would consider myself an unlikely Linux ambassador. Not that I hide any Linux use or fascination but that I am not out there on a mission to encourage or convert people to Linux. Mostly it would be an occasional conversation about me using Linux for something or a conversation where I am explaining that there are more operating systems then just Windows or OS X. Most of the time my Linux conversations are with those that already have some connection to Linux. To be honest I have probably been a much bigger "Ambassador" to LibreOffice than to Linux; and I am not an uber LibreOffice or ODF fan boy but one that believes for most basic users it will work just fine without all the Microsoft expense. All of that has taken a slight detour within the past couple of weeks.
At the end of April I was finally able to do something "geeky" by attending LinuxFest Northwest (check box in the 'ol geek bucket list). It's not that the sessions where so enlightening or life altering that I have been sending up Linux smoke signals from the Bridger mountains or anything like that; although they were informative and enjoyable. Nor was I overpowered and brain washed by the four guys I carpooled with for the 14'ish hour drives. Although we did have some good conversations some regarding Linux and some regarding Open Source issues, and to say none of it has had an influence on any of my views would be untrue. I did come back from LinuxFest Northwest with a more renewed interest in Linux and have been using Fedora now almost exclusively outside of work. I also returned with what I consider some cool SWAG. Now it's the SWAG that's the most important thing of all right? I came back with a nice black Fedora t-shirt that I thought fellow carpooler dowdle was going to mug me for, a beanie with GNU printed on it from the Free Software Foundation that I purchased, and a hippie looking acid dyed t-shirt promoting Linux and LinuxFest Northwest 2015 which I also purchased. I have been intentionally wearing them when I can.
My first "Ambassador" moment came when my oldest boy asked me about the GNU printed on my beanie. This gave me an opportunity, as well as a challenge, to explain to an almost 9 year old what GNU meant within the context of the Free Software Foundation. This included the discussion of locked down proprietary software and the negatives of such as well as the pro's of software that is open and free to improve or be fixed. In addition to my oldest son being in the car with me I also had two of my other boys one of which was listening to the conversation intently as well.
My second "Ambassador" moment came about on a quick trip to Walmart. I was once again wearing my GNU beanie. I was in the produce area and walked near a Latino family whose dad looked in my direction. Shortly thereafter his family passed by me and as he did he looked at me, smiled, and said "GNU huh?" and kept walking. Now it is certainly possible he thought my beanie was promoting the Wildebeest but I like to think he knew it was in reference to Free Software.
The third and most recent "Ambassador" moment once again took place at my local Walmart store a little after eleven at night. This time I was wearing my "Peace, Love and Linux", LinuxFest Northwest t-shirt. I had just finished checking out at one of the self checkout stations and ended up having a conversation with gentleman named Keith (we exchanged names as we parted ways). Keith saw my shirt and asked me if I used Linux which turned into a nice conversation. Now Keith knew of Linux and knew of OpenOffice but that was probably all. It's even possible Keith had an experience long ago or perhaps he has just read about Linux and OpenOffice but beyond that I would say Keith was someone that probably had some degree of interest in Linux. He asked me the usual questions of how easy or hard it was to install these days and where could a person get Linux, did you have to look on eBay? I told him he could just download it from the distribution's website. Told him briefly about the DistroWatch website which a person could find links to the actual distributions websites. I told him most users probably used Ubuntu or some derivative of Ubuntu or they probably used Fedora. I told him either one should install and work just fine on most hardware. He asked about OpenOffice which led to a discussion of OpenOffice and the origins of LibreOffice and which one was probably the best to use and how most distributions most likely included it by default. I even explained how LibreOffice was also available for Windows and OS X too. All in all it was an enjoyable conversation that lasted several minutes and ended in a hand shake and the exchanging of names. Keith also verified a couple of times the names of the two distributions (Ubuntu & Fedora) I had recommended. Now I have no idea if Keith will actually try installing Linux or try using LibreOffice. Nor do I know if he will have a good experience or a bad experience if he does decide to try using Open Source software. What I do know is that because I simply wore an article of clothing promoting Linux, Keith saw an opportunity to express an interest in something to someone that might be able to answer questions and provide some first hand feedback.
I have never really found a way to "get involved" with a project before as I am not a coder, have no deep comprehension of the inner workings of Linux, nor do I feel I would make a good candidate for documentation writing. This wasn't a bad way to get involved and to be honest it was a lot easier and more enjoyable then attempting to submit a bug report.
The Linuxfest Northwest 2008 show is quickly approaching - April 26 & 27 in Bellingham, Washington. It happens to be the closest Linux show to Montana that I'm aware of. Last year Warren, Donnie, Ken and I went. It was a blast. Check out my report from last year if you missed it.
Anyhoo... several of us are going and I've even signed up for a presentation entitled OS Virtualization vs. Hardware Virtualization. I haven't put together the presentation yet but I have done about a half dozen related presentations over the last two years. I think with this one though, I'm going to concentrate less on specific products and more on how OS Virtualization has been making its way into the mainline Linux kernel (called CGroups or control groups).
If anyone is interested in attending the conference, please let me know ASAP. We currently have one vehicle going and one room... but we could easily expand that if need be.
Warren and I have attended three different Linux conferences in the past: Linux World Conference and Expo (once last year), Colorado Linux User Expo (twice back in the 90s - now defunct), and the Linuxfest Northwest (last year). Of the three LFNW, is the only completely free one and as such it has the strongest community feel to it. The schedule has been finalized... so check it out to see just how many things interest you... and don't forget about the exhibits either. There is a LOT there!
Linuxfest Northwest has been an annual event since 1999 held at Bellingham Technical College in Bellingham Washington which is approximately 90 miles North of Seattle. To allow for the largest participation, it is held on a weekend. Linuxfest Northwest 2007 was held on April 28-29th and was attended by approximately 900 people.
Warren Sanders, Donnie Lunder (BillingsLUG), Ken Dyke (HelenaLUG) and I (BozemanLUG) made the trip.
[Update: Added OpenVZ video!]
Each April computer buffs from across the Pacific Northwest trek to Bellingham, WA for Linuxfest Northwest.
Bellingham, WA, April 4, 2007 — The eighth annual Linuxfest Northwest takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., April 28 and 29, 2007 at Bellingham Technical College in Bellingham, WA. Exhibits, presentations, and parking are free. All ages are welcome.