Update on Linux Fest Northwest prep

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum on the CrunchBang forums, I have arranged for a booth at Linux Fest Northwest this year, being held at the end of this month in Bellingham, Washington. For those of you keeping score at home, here’s where we are with the CrunchBang booth at LFNW.

Booth: The booth — table, actually — has been secured and we have a listing on the Sponsor page (though we’re really not sponsors in a monetary sense — like other dot-orgs, we’re designated as “community supporters,” which is pretty obvious :-) ). Also, I’ve already had a few folks from near the northwestern Washington area — CrunchBang users all, along with a spouse — sign up to help out at the booth and attend the show.

Presentation: The presentation “An Intro to CrunchBang,” given by me, has been approved, though it has yet to be scheduled. I am working on the slides for the presentation now and, so there are no surprises (“I swear I don’t know how that slide got in there!”), I’ll be running the presentation by the CrunchBang faithful and, of course, Philip Newborough just to make sure I get his imprimatur on the slides. Once they’re ready, they’ll be used at Linux Fest Northwest and they’ll be available to anyone who wants to use them for any CrunchBang presentation at a LUG or any other gathering, should anyone want to do a presentation.

Birds of a Feather: Linux expos here in the U.S. have gatherings called “Birds of a Feather,” or BOFs, because — say it with me — “birds of a feather flock together.” These usually happen on the Saturday night of the weekend show, and it’s usually a chance for distro or FOSS program users to get together around their chosen software and discuss things. At the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 10X in January, the CrunchBang BoF was fairly successful — about 10 people, most of whom were at my presentation about smaller distros — came and I gave away around 4 or 5 USB sticks with CrunchBang on them (that’s all I had in my pocket and backpack, sadly). We’ll be having a CrunchBang BoF, yet to be scheduled, sometime over the course of the weekend at LFNW.

Media: Ah, media. I am currently burning CDs of the latest Statler image, plus we’ll have one of my laptops that will be specifically set up to make live USB sticks (provided to us, of course, by those who have them and want a copy of CrunchBang). To be honest, this part is going slowly — it’s like cooking a hot dog with a match. However, I would like to think we could have 200 CDs burned by the time LFNW rolls around. Since the show has about 1,000 attendees, this will probably mean that the “loaves and fishes” trick will have to come into play sooner or later, but we’ll see how long the media holds out. When we’re out, we’ll start making USB sticks.

Materials: I’m open to suggestions on this. I have a sticker that I’m making up for the event, a copy of a meme that SaltStack used at SCALE this year (copying with their blessing, of course). I will probably spring for a 50-pack set of stickers from the CrunchBang shop. Fliers — anyone have any ideas here? Otherwise, I’ll make up some of my own. I’m also making up a banner to go with the booth patterned after the rectangular sticker — very basic #! CrunchBang Linux, white lettering on black background — but for future shows, I’d like to use a tablecloth with the CrunchBang name and logo, taking a page from Fedora’s playbook.

Other stuff: ZaReason, a Linux hardware maker in Berkeley, California, has asked if they can share the table with us, providing a couple of their laptops running CrunchBang. I said yes, but if anyone has any objections, I could always shelve that plan. There’s a good chance I’ll be traveling to Bellingham by train — now that Amtrak’s Coast Starlight route has wireless (thank God!), I’ll be on line for the better part of the trip.

In case this is a concern, because it’s bound to come up sooner or later: This is not costing CrunchBang anything — I am doing this on my own (and on my own dime, so to speak) because I believe that CrunchBang is an excellent distro that, despite the fact it’s not for everyone, deserves to reach a wider audience.

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

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Why ‘solutions’ like CrunchBang matter

Living just “over the hill” from the Silicon Valley, there’s a word bandied about in these parts that is about as nebulous as it is grating. This word — “solutions” — describes what works, in a digital way, for individuals on computer hardware.

I confess to being guilty of using the word myself. Redwood Digital Research started out as just a software testing outfit — you bring us your software, we’ll break it and when we can’t break it any further once you’ve fixed it, it’s ready — and now we also bring Free/Open Source Software, ahem, “solutions” to the small business and home office environment.

Again, “solutions,” as obtuse as it is, equals software that works.

If you’ll permit me a slight tangent for a moment, I know CrunchBang’s lead developer and fearless leader — and we’ll let Rebecca tell us if he’s really fearless — Philip Newborough has been known to make the point that, “It is a common mistake to think that every developer wants their project to be widely popular.”

Which brings me to a.) why I brought that quote up in the first place, and b.) why I’m hosting a table for CrunchBang and giving a presentation about it at Linux Fest Northwest in late April.

Philip is right about bringing up the direction that developers want to see their projects take. It’s their project, their vision. As I’ve written before, perhaps the main reason I’m here as a CrunchBang user is that I think Philip has done a remarkable job on this Debian-based distro that is as dependable as it is fast across the board on a wide range of hardware — old and new — and its dependability in most cases makes its name an inside joke that describes the complete opposite of what is bound to happen.

In other words, CrunchBang is a “solution” that I, and many of you reading here, have made a part of our daily digital lives. So the reason I am going to the extent that I am to promote CrunchBang in the United States is not because I want CrunchBang to be “widely popular,” but rather to share this outstanding distro with others, letting those who wish to try it decide for themselves whether it’s right for them.

CrunchBang is not for everyone. There is a learning curve for those brand new to Linux and FOSS, but for those who know their way around, CrunchBang is probably the best distro you can use. There’s little that can beat a quality distro backed by a dedicated cast of forum folks willing to help. That’s pretty much the gist of my talk at LFNW, with an outline of some of CrunchBang’s features, of course.

But meanwhile, back in Bellingham (if I can project forward to late April), CrunchBang already has a table and I’ve submitted both a “Intro to CrunchBang” talk and there will be a CrunchBang “Birds of a Feather” gathering during the course of the show. I also have a few folks who are willing to staff the booth and attend the expo, and once again if you’re within driving distance of any Linux show or expo, I would strongly urge that you attend.

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What’s that?

Among the plethora of things that have kept me busy the last week or so was preparing for and giving the SCALE Linux Beginners’ Class last Saturday at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport, the site for SCALE (and, if you’re prepared to mark your calendars, SCALE 11X will be the last weekend in February).

I had an interesting thing happen while giving the “History of Linux” presentation at the class. Well, two interesting things: The first is that I’ve never given a presentation using this new machine that I’m regularly using (the ZaReason Alto 3880), and when I plugged in and set up, I couldn’t see my screen on the laptop screen, but it projected fine on the projector. Navigating while doing this is sort of disconcerting, and I’ll look into why it did that (I have a feeling it’s something simple).

The second thing was that someone noticed that I was using something different — they were installing Fedora 16 — and after my presentation, which ended right at lunchtime, someone asked me, “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” I asked, and when he pointed at the projector, I realized he was talking about CrunchBang.

So I got to talk a little about CrunchBang and introduce this new user to the distro and the concept of window managers like Openbox and how they work, et cetera. I just did it for as long as his eyes didn’t glaze over, but I think I may have planted a proverbial seed.

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

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