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Editor's Note: Educating IT with Live, Naked Penguins

Sep 15, 2006, 22:30 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

It has often been said that community plays a big part in making free and open source software so successful.

A statement like that is pretty obvious--along the lines of "a big part of why living is so successful is breathing." Forgive the cliche, but sometimes I wonder if this message has really sunk in. Sure, it's all fun and camaraderie when LinuxWorld rolls around in your neck of the planet, but beyond that, does the FLOSS community really practice good community methods?

Yes and no. The "no" comes from the almost constant baiting and arguing about various fine points of open source software. I'm not talking just about KDE vs. GNOME, either. I've seen full-blown flamewars start for as something as esoteric as license choice. Or scripting techniques. I've never really understood that, because these arguments are usually among people who agree with each other 99.9% of the time on everything else.

And I am still amazed at how many times some person or company makes a negative comment--or even just less than positive--about Linux or open source and almost immediately everyone assumes it's because they're a paid Microsoft agent. That drive me up the wall, because I know that its usually just the opposite: people mostly criticize Linux because (a) there may be a legitimate need or (b) they may not know any better.

When the "agent" label is slapped on a critique, its frustrating because it demonstrates to the commenter that the Linux community is far too defensive and--more importantly--not willing or not able to help correct the very situation that was being criticized.

It needs to be about, as I have written time and again, education. Which is why there is a "yes" answer to the question of practicing good community. There are people and organizations that make it a point to reach out and correct the misconceptions people in the IT industry have about FLOSS. One such group of people is putting on one of the best examples of community outreach and fellowship later this month: the Ohio LinuxFest.

The event, scheduled for September 30 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, is in its fourth year of operation and it's still going strong. It's primary mission remains unchanged: an event for Linux users to come together as well as a venue where non-Linux users can come and learn more about Linux and the rest of FLOSS.

One of the areas that will be highlighted in this year's event will be virtualization. Normally you wouldn't think of such a high-end topic being showcased at a grassroots event. On the contrary, according to event organizer Greg Boehnlein, virtualization is an area where many small and medium sized IT organizations are seeking a lot of help and guidance.

Fellow organizer Joe Brockmeier agrees: "With XenSource and the free VMWare Player and Server, there are a lot of stable and free as in beer virtualization options out there for people to use."

To that end, Ohio LinuxFest will feature a panel of experts leading a discussion on virtualization technology. Also featured will be addresses from Jon "Maddog" Hall of Linux International, Chris DiBona of Google, Novell's Ted Haeger, and Canonical's Jeff Waugh--just to name a few. The show organizers also told me that the Linux Professional Institute will be conducting LPI certification tests on Friday, September 29.

Brockmeier also mentioned "live, naked penguins" referring, I believe, to a talk from the world famous Columbus Zoo about penguins that will feature the water fowl as guests. At least, I hope that's what he meant. Those people over at NewsForge... you never know. :)

Kidding aside, looking at the lists of speakers and topics, and knowing that the show's exposition floor has grown from last year, I will not hesitate to urge readers in the Midwest to get in their modes of transportation and get to Columbus on the 30th. But that's an easy one. Here's where I task you to do something extra--to be a good community member.

If you know someone, personally or professionally, who is new or curious about FLOSS, this is the perfect event to bring them to. Their questions can be answered, and they can meet real people who are creating and using FLOSS everyday. The price can't be beat, either: free or a $65 All Conference Pass that gets you, among other things, lunch, a t-shirt, and access to the conference suite at the nearby Holiday Inn. Check the site http://www.ohiolinux.org/attend.html for details.

Bringing a colleague or a friend isn't about boosting the attendance numbers. It's about achieving the Ohio LinuxFest's most important goal: to educate as many as possible about the joys of Linux and FLOSS.

And reaching out, my friends, is what being a great community is all about.