For most of us, buying a new computer means two choices: a PC or a Mac, and the operating systems that come standard with each. But to a small yet growing group of dedicated people, that choice is a false dichotomy.
The Linux Users‘ Group of Davis has, at its core, a mission to expand awareness and use of Linux operating systems. The club will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary on Monday at the Davis Brach of the Yolo County Public Library (315 East 14th St.), from 7 to 9 p.m. (The library is closed for Martin Luther King Day but LUGOD has reserved the facility for the meeting).
The meeting will also include free food, gifts and prizes, and is open to the public.
The group, one of many around the country, is a nonprofit organization that works to help people learn about and acquire free and open source software.
“For a Linux user, it’s a place to find other people interested in subjects you’re interested and knowledgeable in … as well as subjects you may not have knowledge of, like using Linux on the desktop. For non-Linux users, our goal is to let people know that alternatives exist,” said Bill Kendrick, the club’s president and chief technology officer of a small start-up that enables people to publish e-books for applications like the Amazon Kindle.
LUGOD regularly holds meetings the third Monday of every month at the Davis branch of the Yolo County Public Library from 7 to 9 p.m. The centerpiece of each meeting is a guest speaker, who speaks to the club about a Linux-related topic.
“We try to involve as many kinds of people as we can.… There’s scope – we’ve had talks that are really technical, not because it’s something really hard about Linux, but because [the speaker] is doing physics with it,” Kendrick said. “Those are really hardcore – we put a little thermometer gauge next to meeting topics [on the website]; that one would be a full thermometer.“
Members can check the club’s website, lugod.org, to find meeting topics that fit their tastes and level of expertise. Meeting topics have included hotwiring your TiVo (which runs on Linux-based software), and networking your computer’s music library to play in your living room’s stereo.
“We’ve had talks about how to do things with GPS units (which run on Linux-based software). One person wrote an application that can help you manage where you’ve been and where you want to go, and download information onto your GPS so you can take it and look around for stuff,” said Alex Mandel, a UC Davis student working on his doctorate in geography.
LUGOD also hosts a monthly “Installfest,“ a workshop for Linux newbies to come and install Linux on their computer or to troubleshoot various technical issues like problems with wireless cards or malfunctioning drivers. Those interested in attending can RSVP on the club’s website and reserve a time slot.
“We want to offer people the opportunity to ask questions about what they can do or how they do it…. Several people [who attended Installfests] have become active members of the group, and a lot of people have joined our mailing list and participate,” Mandel said.
Members also spread the Linux gospel through “Hands on Linux” demonstrations at the Davis Farmers Market, Picnic Day and other major events. LUGOD members hand out information on Linux, as well as gifts and open source software for Linux and other operating systems.
Members also meet virtually through expansive mailing lists (over 400 addresses) to help answer any technical question or problem. E-mails are kept in archives so members can search previous conversations to see solutions individuals have proposed in the past.
LUGOD has a mission, and its members are the missionaries. They want people to hear that there are alternatives that are free and oftentimes better. Linux is free. Open-source software is free, and because various developers can cooperate to perfect these programs without legal hurdles, it is often more secure and stable (you don’t have to worry about Linux viruses).
Richard Burkhart, a Sacramento-based technical editor, IT support provider and a four-year veteran of LUGOD, feels that the club can help educate people about the benefits of open-source software in general.
Burkhart criticized the fact that many believe the Internet is Microsoft Internet Explorer, or that search engines mean Google; instead, he wants people to realize they are not the only (or necessarily best) option.
“[Microsoft] got people to think that Internet is this big blue ‘e,‘” he said, adding that it was like equating a type of car with the road that you drive it on.
“It’s like the story of stone soup … each person in the village brings a little bit of something and the entire village is fed from each person bringing one item,” he said. “That’s how open-source works – everybody pitches in and helps.“
To find out more about LUGOD, and other events, visit LUGOD’s website at lugod.org.
ANDRE LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.