Friday, February 24, 2006

Building a Linux Community

Rational Technology for February 26, 2006

As you might have already guessed, I have a long-running love affair with Linux. It was the topic of the first installment of this column some years back, and it's a subject that I return to with great frequency. While some might say that I'm fighting a losing battle against Windows, which seems to be the only operating system for a lot of people in Dumaguete, it's a spirited fight that I'm not ready to give up too quickly.

First of all, I like the Linux operating system. It has a geekiness factor that brings the excitement of computers back all over again. With Linux, I often feel the same way I did when I got my first computer some 20 years ago. There are so many things to discover about it, and over time, it's actually gotten much easier to use.

Second, I like the ideals behind Linux. Linux is a free operating system, the term meaning that you're free to use it, to study it, to change it, and to give it to other people. Some versions of Linux you do have to pay for, but there are some very nice versions that you can actually get for free.

Third, I like the worldwide community that's congregated around Linux. There's a whole culture of sharing around Linux where people exchange ideas and produce better software. Not only can you get Linux for free, you can also get a lot of the software for everyday use (and some a bit more specialized) for free as well.

Just about the only thing that keeps people away from Linux is the perceived lack of support. It's not that there are no people skilled in Linux in Dumaguete, it's just that they're not very visible and they stay in their own little silos. This can get a little discouraging for people who are just beginning to learn Linux but can't seem to find people to help them. (And no, I don't know everything about Linux so you can't expect me to fix your Linux problems.)

This week, we're taking another stab at changing that situatuon. Linux will be a prominent feature in Silliman University's Engineering Week and in Foundation University's Digital Dumaguete 2006. Digital Dumaguete will feature several Linux seminars, all given for free. Apart from the lectures, this also gives people the chance to meet other like-minded enthusiasts and experts.

I'm also advocating the formation of a Linux users' group in Dumaguete, one that will meet on a regular basis and have free lectures on various technical topics. The organizing meeting will be held at Foundation University on March 3 at 5:00PM. Please be there if you're interested in participating. Linux knowledge not required.