Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Software Freedom Day 2009 in Fredericksburg.

Software Freedom Day 2009 in Fredericksburg.

What a lovely day we had for our Software Freedom Day 2009 celebration. It was about 68F by the time we set up in the morning, and the weather would stay mostly sunny and 75F all afternoon. We set up our tables in the small courtyard in front of the library around 8:30am, and there were still a lot of joggers at by that point.

We had loads of Fedora CDs and DVDs courtesy of the North American Fedora Ambassadors, some flyers we made up that talk about Linux and free and open source software, copies of the OpenDisc with FOSS for use on Windows, and some Ubuntu CDs.

Ted brought a MythTV box (running Mythdora) and a big LCD monitor so we could show it and the underlying operating system off to passersby. We also had numerous laptops running an assortment of Linux, mainly Fedora but also some openSUSE. We put up balloons around the table but quickly found they got in the way and “removed” them using the nearest sharp objects. Of course, no beautiful day would be complete without music, and we had great tunes from TMBG to Stevie Wonder to Jason Mraz going all day long.

There was an article in the Free Lance-Star, our local paper, on Saturday that helped draw quite a number of people out. Unfortunately some of the facts and figures I gave didn’t make it into the writer’s final cut, and it tended to have more of an “anti-” slant than I prefer, but you know what they say about press. Many of the people who came out to SFD ’09 were vocal enough on their own, with stories not just about bad experience with Vista but also, notably, not wanting anything to do with a Windows 7 upgrade.

As usual, I totally forgot to bring a camera with me — which, given my poor photography skills, is probably for the best. But I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures to show our colorful booth, and all the dozens of happy and smiling people who were milling around all day!

In which we become an InstallFest.

One retired gentleman named Jack said he was looking for a new notebook computer, but wanted to use Linux on it if possible. He said he was going to buy a new laptop that day, and would be back shortly! When he showed back up an hour later with a huge, beautiful new HP Pavilion dv7t, we knew it was time to represent. With most of us being long-time Linux users, we were jaded by our many experiences and biases about new hardware from the past. But it actually turned out to be no challenge at all.

We shrunk the Windows partition, inserted a Fedora 11 64-bit DVD, and everything installed as expected. Although the free radeon driver worked out of the box, it did exhibit two problems — first, it only displayed a 1152×864 resolution on his gorgeous 1920×1200 display; and second, when switching from X back to a tty back to X, all the screen colors went crazy, although the display still worked OK. We bit the bullet and installed the ATI driver, which was a simple step using the RPMfusion repositories.

After a brief tour, Jack was amazed to find how easy Linux had become since he had first heard of it. When we showed him how easy file management was, and how simply he could attach a digital camera and work with pictures, he was sold. And when we showed him The GIMP, he was ecstatic.

In which we entertain questions.

One young fellow, Jordan, actually brought some interesting questions about Fedora’s support for all sorts of creativity applications — in his case, he uses LMMS, an awesome composer program for beatboxing, sequencing, and other assorted noisemaking. He was thrilled to see that Fedora 11 has the latest LMMS, and showed me some of the cool functions and features. It also can support VSTi instruments (through WINE, I think). We also got a chance to talk about Fedora’s freedom stance and I was able to dispel some myths and also explain the superior under-the-hood engineering that Fedora has featured for years, in areas from security to 64-bit support.

And I got a big surprise when a beloved teacher from my high school years showed up at our event to pick up some discs for his amateur radio club. Turns out he’s been playing with Linux for a while and was really happy to find out that I had a connection with Linux. I’m really hoping to see him at one of our FredLUG meetings soon!

We must have given away half of the discs that the Fedora folks sent us, and a number of people were eager to come back to a FredLUG meeting, which conveniently happens next Saturday at the Library as well. We did a great job promoting software freedom, and with the exception of a short lunchtime lull, we were basically busy from 9 to 5. Finally we packed up all our various gear, and a bunch of us headed over to the Capital Ale House, the official after-party location for FredLUG, for some suds and vittles.

They had a fantastic special that we all ended up ordering — spicy swordfish sliders with remoulade sauce and homemade tortillas with sweet salsa. I wish I’d only had half of it, though, because my recent changes in eating habits (less) and exercise (lots more) mean I need to be more conscious of how I eat when I’m out. Nevertheless the food was scrumptious and we had lots of story swapping and laughs. Our server, Emily, even got in on the fun by talking like a pirate, and in return, of course, we tipped her generously! Always reward good service given in good humor, I say. (Hopefully I can bring the gang next month to CAH when they’re here for Fedora Activity Day: Fedora Talk.)

So all in all, it was a tremendous SFD ’09. I returned home really tired from a day of fresh air and fun, and slept like a log. Or a baby. Maybe it was a baby log? Anyway, another beautiful day awaits today, so I’m going to spend some time in it — but I’ll be back later this evening to talk a bit about the next event that has me incredibly excited — the 2009 Utah Open Source Conference!


    1. @tch: Copying free software is a public good! Copying closed-source, proprietary, nonfree-licensed software is not. Do you have a suggestion for how we could better make the point that people should be using and sharing free software, rather than spreading illicit copies of proprietary software?

  1. “We shrunk the Windows partition, inserted a Fedora 11 64-bit DVD, and everything installed as expected. Although the free radeon driver worked out of the box, it did exhibit two problems — first, it only displayed a 1152×864 resolution on his gorgeous 1920×1200 display; and second, when switching from X back to a tty back to X, all the screen colors went crazy, although the display still worked OK.”

    I hope that, before you switched to the proprietary drivers, you took copies of the X logs and kernel logs and filed a bug? If no-one does that, there’s no way we can fix the driver!

    The second problem sounds rather like // , btw.

  2. tch

    “Some people can’t or don’t want to buy proprietary software, and resort to illegal and unethical copying. Free software does away with all those worries – you can have it all, without the guilt.”

    It conveys that copying software is an evil act of theft/piracy and one should feel guilty about it, unless it’s endorsed by the “rights” holder. It also implies that it’s just for “rights” holders to forbid people to share for the sake of the formers’ own profits. That’s contrary to what the ideas of software freedom are all about…

    How about something along the lines of:

    “sharing proprietary software might put you and your friends in prison, as unjust as it might sound. By sharing Free Software, you help to build a better society, in which people are free to help themselves and one another”.

    You may also say that unlicensed proprietary software from people you don’t know and trust is an even greater privacy and security risk than licensed proprietary software.

    BTW. I think it’s a shame that GNU and FSF weren’t even mentioned. and debates Free Software from exactly the angle you mentioned.

  3. Jon

    I went to the library outing this last Saturday. You guys did a great job of promoting Linux and Fedora. I have tried several of the Linux OS but was having some trouble in using the software in day to day situations.
    In particular, I could not get the systems to connect with my other computers on my network.

    After talking with several of the demonstrators and seeing a demonstration of a bootable Fedora USB, I became convinced to give it a try.

    This comment is being produced on an older HP pavilion zt3000 using a bootable Fedora USB that I programed yesterday evening. It is working great in that I can experiment with the software to see if I like it. So far I think that it is great. I still haven’t been able to connect to the other computers on my network but I can log onto the internet wirelessly.

    I hope to see you at your Saturday meeting.

    Thanks much,


    1. @Jon: Thanks! We did spend a lot of time promoting free software in general, so hopefully people saw not only the usefulness of Linux, but also how easy it is to create, collaborate, and share with free software on any platform.

Comments are closed.