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Dear Schmuck

May 3, 2013 9 comments

[For the benefit of everyone involved -- the reader, the subject, the blog, and of course yours truly -- I decided to wait a few days to write this blog post in order to allow cooler heads, specifically mine, to prevail. As many of you know, I can be mercilessly unkind when annoyed or provoked, and with the glorious burden of being able to use the English language like a Ginsu knife, I learned long ago not to shoot from the hip, so to speak, in order to keep any incensed writing from including body counts. However, to set the stage here, a person who visited the CrunchBang booth at Linux Fest Northwest over the weekend -- clearly new to attending shows and new to the Free/Open Source Software paradigm -- could stand to use an attitude adjustment. Whether or not the person in question reads this is not as important as getting this out there.]

Dear Schmuck:

First, let me welcome you to Linux Fest Northwest — the second best show on the U.S. West Coast (next to the Southern California Linux Expo) — and also let me welcome you to the wider Free/Open Source Software paradigm. It’s clear that you’re new in these parts and chances are this is your first show.

I also see that you’re inspired by FOSS, and that’s outstanding. I’m truly glad for you. From your enthusiasm and the gleam in your eye, I can tell that you’re on a mission; it’s the same mission in which everyone in the room is involved to varying degrees; otherwise, we would be spending our weekend elsewhere. Clearly I’ve walked a mile in your proverbial moccasins — and I sheepishly admit that when I started on the FOSS path I acted from time to time like the quintessential douchebag at which you excel at this very moment (more on this later) — so let me point out a few things that could help you going forward.

Bear in mind that what I’m suggesting are things that just might make your life in FOSS circles a little more pleasant and, more importantly, just might make you a little more bearable to the people around you, both inside FOSS circles and in the wider realm of life. It may not seem like it, but I’m trying to help you here, so listen.

First, this is how conversations work: You say something, then you stop talking and listen to the other person as he or she offers a response. Let me repeat that: “You stop talking and listen to the other person as he or she offers a response.” You’re truly allowed to stop talking. Honest. Streams of consciousness are nice, but in a conversation — again, when one person says something to another and the first person allows the second to respond — you allow the person you’re talking to (not talking at) to respond to what you have said.

Got that? Good, because there’s more to this: A significant part of the conversational process involves allowing the person with which you’re conversing to, at the very least, complete a sentence. You didn’t notice this, obviously, but in our entire exchange, I was unable to complete a sentence thanks to your constant interruptions. You truly need to work on that.

Second, I understand your desire to promote your FOSS product and I also understand that you are immeasurably proud of it. Good for you, Sparky. However, rather than putting down comparable products with faulty arguments, you might want to listen to people who have used the product you’re blasting to a.) learn more about the products you’re criticizing, and b.) maybe learn something, period. “People who have used the product,” in this case, would be me, and I’ve used the products in question for years. If you were to listen, I could provide you with some insight into the other products; products again with which I have first-hand experience. But rather than do the smart, logical thing, you choose to remain a bloviating advertard parroting marketing jargon. I could have told you how full of shit you were, but I didn’t because I thought it would sail past you like a puck past a helpless goalie after a Sidney Crosby slapshot. Just like everything else I had said between all your interruptions up to that point.

As an aside, I told you I was familiar with your product after going to your website several months ago. I haven’t been since, and what I didn’t tell you was that your website, well, blows goats. You might want to use — what do you call it? — correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Why focus on this triviality? Because if you can’t be thorough and precise with your web presence, how can I trust you to be thorough and precise with the quality of your product?

So here’s a quick recap:

– Shut the hell up and listen to the person/people you’re conversing with, and

– Your product isn’t perfect, other products have features yours doesn’t, and as hard as it might be to admit to yourself, you don’t know everything. In fact, you know less than you think, which makes listening to others that much more important.

Again, I’ve walked a mile — hundreds of miles at this point — in the proverbial shoes you’re now donning for your travels along the FOSS path. I, too, started out “filled with the Holy Spirit,” the divine inspiration that Catholics and other Christian denominations refer to when enraptured by the missionary zeal of spreading “the word;” in our case, the Free/Open Source Software paradigm. And I would have saved myself a lot of profuse apologies, needless backpedaling and multiple hurt feelings had I been told all this by someone else when I had started out back in 2006 when I “knew everything” about FOSS.

So you’re welcome.

Despite our minuscule differences and preferences in software and hardware, in the FOSS realm there is really no “us and them.” There’s just “us” to varying degrees of participation. Understand that and you’re more than halfway there.

Hope you enjoy the fest.

Larry the Free Software Guy

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Linux Fest Northwest reprise

April 30, 2013 1 comment

lfnw-badgeWhew. That drive from Felton-to-Bellingham-and-back gets longer and longer. But it goes without saying, of course that it’s well worth it. The 14th annual Linux Fest Northwest was a success and while they take a break before getting ready for next year’s event — April 26-27, 2014, at Bellingham Technical College — I’m going to make my reservation at the Hampton Inn right now so I don’t forget.

A few parting random thoughts, cheap shots and bon mots:

Close, but no cigar: Bryan Lunduke, of “Linux Sucks/No It Doesn’t” presentation fame (along with other hats he wears in the FOSS realm), wrote an article on Network World about how you should go to Linux shows. He is right: You should go to the nearest show to you, and his article is a definite read. I’ll help Bryan out here by telling you to go to Texas Linux Fest in Austin (looks like I’ll be there) on Memorial Day weekend, Southeast Linux Fest (SELF: Linux in the GNU South) in Charlotte in June, OSCON in Portland in July, and then Ohio Linux Fest usually wrapping up the year in September.

Where Bryan missed the mark in his article was here: “SCALE, itself, is similar in size to Linux Fest NW and is a solid destination, with some great speakers every year.” Great speakers and solid destination? Check. But similar in size? Both shows have enjoyed a steady increase in attendance and participation for the last several years, which is a huge testament to the work put in by the volunteer-based organizations behind both shows. Further, the improvements made to Bellingham Technical College are nothing short of outstanding. However, Linux Fest Northwest doesn’t enjoy the same advantages that SCALE has in being in a major metropolitan area based at a hotel located within range of a Matt Kemp home run from a major international airport. That said — and this is certainly not to take anything away from Linux Fest Northwest, which is a great show — SCALE is a somewhat larger show with around 100 exhibitors and more than 90 speakers. I’m not tweaking LFNW’s nose, so to speak, I just wanted to correct this.

15943044On the expo floor: Regardless of the show’s size, it’s always great to see new people and old friends. CrunchBang had the great luck in geography of being next to the main LFNW table, so I had a chance to catch up with Bill Wright and the other show folks at length. We also had the privilege of having the LFNW totem in the corner behind us as well. The attendance for the event was pretty high, and I would guess that it’s around 1,400 judging by the degree of folks coming to the CrunchBang booth during presentations and between them. The steady stream of folks regardless of the time of day was a promising sign and speaks to the strength of the show.

Bellingham Technical College FTW: BTC has always been a great host for Linux Fest Northwest, and the improvements in the building this year — both in the classrooms and in the auditorium which hosted the expo floor — made the show go from great to outstanding. As a speaker, it was great to use top-notch AV equipment for which I didn’t have to sacrifice a chicken to the projector gods for my presentation to work (NOTE: No chickens, or any other animals or humans, have ever been harmed in my appeals to any diety in allowing my presentations to work). The expo floor itself was spacious — at least on our side — and I didn’t hear any complaints from any of the vendors about the show.

Et cetera: As you may recall from yesterday’s blog item, I had the great misfortune to stay at the Econolodge this year. Next to the hotel is the Slo-Pitch sports bar, which has about 40 screens showing different sports (30 of them, I swear, were tuned Seattle Sounders football, er, soccer) along with food. Note to the cook: A tuna melt is given that name because it has a certain quality about it, like, what’s it called? Oh yeah, cheese . . . . Thanks, OrangeFS, for the great swag — great as in lens cleaners for those of us wearing glasses, that is . . . . Great to see the following: Deb Nicholson, as always; Scott Dowdle and Gary Bummer, both coming in from the Big Sky country’s Montana LUG; everyone at the Fedora booth (Robyn Bergeron, Ian Weller and Adam Williamson — a lot of distro/programming brain power in that group); Ross Brunson of Linux Professional Institute; Red Hat’s Thomas Cameron and his three presentations; OSU Open Source Lab’s Lance Albertson and his three presentations (OK, two-and-a-half); Bill Wright and all the other LFNW crew, who put together this great show; David Whitman of Hacker Public Radio, always keeping everyone informed; Owen DeLong, the pied piper of IPv6 who fills up rooms with those wishing to learn about the new Internet Protocol; David Nalley, albeit briefly; and probably several I’m forgetting (if I didn’t mention you, it was good to see you but my memory is not . . . what was I saying again?).

How not to do things: Completely unrelated to the greatness that was LFNW this year, I encountered a personality who visited the booth who was new to this kind of thing (or so it seemed) and who is desperately in need of some attitude adjusting. That will come in a later post.

All in all, it was a great show. Thanks to everyone involved, and I’m definitely in for 2014.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Once again, Linux Fest Northwest nails it

April 29, 2013 5 comments

[Warning: This will be a long post. For those of you with limited attention spans, for those of you who are too lazy to read, or for those who can't process more than 140 characters at a time, here's the TL:DR version of this blog item: Linux Fest Northwest was enormously outstanding and awesome (attendance is up, too), the CrunchBang booth was a huge success, the CrunchBang talk was well attended, and I stand by the statement I made to Hacker Public Radio last year: This show is so great, I'd walk to Bellingham from California to attend.]

lfnw-badgeBlame the Econolodge in Bellingham, which should be renamed “the Black Hole of the Internet,” for the complete absence of workable wireless connectability which causes me to compress two fantastic days of FOSS festivities into one blog item written after the fact from the Motel 6 in Salem, Oregon (it should be noted that, unlike the Econolodge, the wireless at both Motel 6 venues we stayed at — in Medford, Oregon, on the way up and here in Salem on the way back — has been quite good).

All of which is to say I apologize for the delay in getting this out.

In short, Linux Fest Northwest nailed it this weekend — the LFNW all-volunteer crew had everything up and running flawlessly in a revamped show area courtesy of some remodeling by Bellingham Technical College that included a auditorium that made for an oustanding expo hall and classrooms with world-class electronics (meaning, of course, my presentation worked with a limited amount of pre-talk tweaking at the outset augmented by prayers to the projector gods).

The normal tsunami of attendees came through the expo floor around 9ish on Saturday, bringing with it the usual hubbub of Linux fest questions, comments and observations. At the CrunchBang booth, media and fliers flew off the table, and folks were trying out the distro on both the old ThinkPad T30 and the newer Toshiba Satellite L455 that were featured on the CrunchBang table. The ebb and flow of humanity — I’m guessing around 1,400 attendees, though LFNW is going to release an official figure soon — rose and fell when sessions were on, but on the whole it was an ideal show for the two days. We ran out of media, fliers and everything by the end of the day on Sunday (OK, I gave the remaining five CrunchBang DVDs to the Greater Seattle LUG, but still).

Some vignettes:

Hey, I know you
: I finally got to meet Benjamin Kerensa, with whom I have shared words — mostly kind but occasionally not-so-kind — in the past. Benjamin and his wife staffed the Mozilla table, and it was great to put a face to the name of a true FOSS advocate with whom I can sometimes disagree without either of us being disagreeable (as it should be). Naturally, I’m looking forward to seeing Benjamin and Mozilla at more shows.

Badges? You need steeenkin’ badges: Most folks would find this trivial, but I thought it was fairly cool. The badges for LFNW were small booklets with the speaker schedule printed inside, along with other important information (like directions to the party on Saturday eve). So at the end of your lanyard, you had the entire fest at your fingertips just by looking “inside” your badge (it should be noted, from a logistical standpoint too, that the names were printed on a sticker and put on the badge). Other shows — SCALE, white courtesy phone — need to look at this because it was very helpful.

Lights, camera, action: For some reason, there tended to be a lot of folks there to do media-type work. Hacker Public Radio was there, as usual, doing interviews (of which I was one — thanks!) and Jupiter Broadcasting had the Linux Action Show broadcasting live from their booth on Saturday — it would be interesting to see their take on the show later. Slashdot had an interviewer as well as some independents (e.g., people with video cameras posting independently to YouTube) interviewing folks, and of course I’ve never shied away from a microphone or a camera before. So there are some items of me talking about CrunchBang out there.

15943044This is us: The CrunchBang booth was an unqualified success in large part from the help I got from xor axiom, whom many of you on the CrunchBang forums know (but whose real name is Eric Bortel). About 100 pieces of media were distributed, with the same amount of fliers accompanying them. Last year, we got a lot of “What’s CrunchBang?” This year, there was more “I’ve used CrunchBang before . . . ” so the distro is becoming more well-known. The presentation itself on Sunday morning had about 30 people in attendance and, as the aforementioned new equipment in the classroom helping out, the presentation went off without a hitch.

Sunday’s broadcast: Since Jupiter Broadcasting left the building on Sunday, I decided to crank up one of my favorite Linux podcasts — Linux Outlaws — on the Toshiba to show that, yes, CrunchBang can broadcast with the best of ‘em. So on the relatively solid backbone of the Bellingham Technical College’s network, Dan Lynch and Fabian “Go Penguins!” Scherschel were in the house for Linux Fest Northwest.

Does this joke make me look stupid? OK, maybe it was the delivery or maybe it’s a generational thing. At the end of my presentation I made a point, as I usually do, to say what a great show LFNW is and to thank the volunteers when encountering them for making the show work. The LFNW volunteer staff wears red shirts (you know where I’m going with this). After I asked folks to thank the volunteers, I added ” . . . and urge them not to go down to the planet surface.” Cue crickets chirping. So maybe I won’t be here all week, but still remember to tip your waitress . . .

There is more to follow (including a rant that has more to do with the human condition than with LFNW), but I have to hit the road.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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