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November 4th, 2014

Chillin’ With the Community at OLF

Seems I’m never really able to completely discuss Linux festivals in one article. There are so many little nooks and crannies to explore and report. This year’s Ohio LinuxFest isn’t much different. The visual overload was intense, but I guess the “overload” word already gave you the understanding it was intense. It most certainly was.

From blinking BSD horns to standing room only keynotes and talks, Ohio LinuxFest hit the sweet spot between geek and everyday user. I think the thing that caught my attention early into the event was the representation of the everyday user. There were lots of them.

Alex Bandar at Ohio LinuxFest

Dr. Alex Bandar giving a keynote address at Ohio LinuxFest 2014.

Talking with Ashley Gulling, I found out that she was a fairly new Linux user. Although she had approached the use of Linux with the help of a mentor, she really didn’t need one. “I really don’t see the big deal,” she said.

The big deal was in moving from Windows to Linux.

She uses her computer for regular day to day stuff and she chuckled when I asked what she found difficult. She said she’d email me if she remembered anything that gave her problems. That was on the 25th of October. I haven’t heard back from her yet.

That sentiment was echoed by Joel McLaughlin.

Joel McLaughlin & Randy Noseworthy at OLF

Joel McLaughlin (left) of The Linux Link Tech Show with Randy Noseworthy, the 2014 Reglue Volunteer of the Year.

If that name sounds familiar to you, then it should. Joel is one of the greats who brings you The Linux Link Tech Show. From all the bad press and hyperbole about how “difficult” Linux is on the desktop, Joel said he rarely gets any real complaints from new users. Allan Metzler, also from TLLTS, was quick to agree, stating that nowadays a person would have to be consciously trying to screw something up when using Linux.

In Friday’s article on OLF, I mentioned a young lady named Lauren who talked with me for over 30 minutes. She opted not to be identified by her last name and gave me some real insight into a young adult’s first foray into Linux on the desktop.

She wasn’t introduced to Linux; she willfully sought it out.

Having been admitted to the University of Ohio to pursue a Master of Mathematical Sciences degree, she became extremely weary of Windows 7 getting in her way. Updates were being performed when she specifically ordered the system not to update and she was tired of being warned several times a day about her virus definitions needing updated when she had eight weeks left on her subscription.

Ohio LinuxFest sessionBut the most tiring intrusion was the daily check to see if her system was able to pass the WGA check. No matter how many times she followed instructions to bypass this, somehow the OS was able to re-establish a connection home and perform the test anyway.

Her thoughts on the matter?

“My system was declared okay yesterday; why am I assumed to be a software pirate today?”

She then asked me the king of rhetorical questions: “If I can’t control what my computer does, then who actually owns my computer, me or Microsoft? That’s why I switched to Linux.”

I caught up with Lauren later at the after party and her somewhat introverted persona had been cast off as she chatted at a table with some new friends. She laughed and talked as if they had been friends for years.

That’s my point…it’s always been my point.

We are not referred to as “The Linux Community” out of hand. Yes, we can be a loud community. We are often an argumentative community, coloring outside of the lines into larger reaches of the Internet. But we are a community nonetheless. We’re people like Alan Dacey, who stops what he’s doing to write a script to solve a vexing problem for Reglue. People like Clem Lefebvre, who’s devoted to creating a safe and fantastic Linux environment in which to work.

And we’re also people like Lauren with no last name. A person who came to Columbus to investigate and sit tentatively on the sidelines to see what we are all about…and before the closing keynote found herself part of the greater community.

The Linux Community.

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Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project, which refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @Reglue

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