Wednesday, March 01, 2006

At Silliman's Engineering Expo 2006

Mr. Kim invited me to present Linux at a booth for Silliman's Engineering Expo 2006. That, along with Foundation University's Digital Dumaguete 2006, would keep me occupied for close to four days. But in light of all the good things that Mr. Kim was doing, how could I refuse, really? So this morning, I set up shop in the parade grounds, under the heat of the scorching sun, with only a tarpaulin tent for cover.

Wow, my first booth at an expo. All by myself. Without any organizational support from IBM!

The morning was a little disappointing as the students who dropped by were just interested in getting their visit sheets signed. Oh, well. I gave my spiel as best as I could. Now, young Dumaguetenos have this rude habit of politely standing there, pretending to listen to you. Except that they're not really listening to you, because their eyes are darting everywhere. Gaaah!

Now, how to explain Linux? Given that these poor people had never used any other operating system in their lives, I had no choice but to contrast it with Windows.

1) "You use Windows, right? But it's probably pirated, am I right? Am I right? (sheepish smiles from my hapless victim) Well, that is a Very Bad Thing. You're stealing. Linux is free software, so you're not doing anything wrong using it or giving it away."

2) "You get viruses, spyware, and trojans with Windows. I don't get that with Linux."

3) "All the applications you need to make your computer immediately useful are already part of many Linux distributions. Like the office productivity suite, for example. Not like Windows, where you still have to install MS Office. Which is also pirated, am I right? Am I right?"

I made a mistake of telling one guy that I was giving away the Ubuntu CDs for free. I told him the usual: if you're done with it, give it away to your friends, etc. But when I turned around, some folks had made off with three other CD packs. Without asking permission. Grumble, grumble.

After lunch, I had better luck. The harbinger was a group of grade school kids strolling around the grounds. I was all ready to settle in for a nice round of Wesnoth, when these curious kids dropped by. I had them play a few rounds of Abuse, and then I decided to try out gcompris on them.

They actually managed to use it! At first, I had them work with the jigsaw puzzles. I turned my back on them briefly, and when I got back, they were already putting together the countries of South America.

The afternoon netted a small handful of Linux enthusiasts who were really interested. That was immensely satisfying. I also met up with Chuchi, an instructor at the IT Department, and she said they were starting an open source lab. I think a Linux community in Dumaguete just might have a future.

Plenty of interesting exhibits all around. There's a lot of work being done on RFID, programmable logic controllers, and cellular phone interfacing. Much of this is, I think, due to Mr. Kim's efforts. This will probably form the bulk of my column for this weekend.

And finally, outgoing Silliman president Dr. Pulido shows us the latest in footwear.

In Dumaguete, comfort is de rigueur!