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Installin' Away

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Open source interests find fertile ground

Some strolled in the heat of the day observing art, crafts and listening to music. Others lay on the beach, or fired up the engines and headed out onto the lake. But a small percentage of people woke up Saturday with a hankering for computing, and they steadily streamed into the basement of Gunnings Alley in downtown Sandpoint for the first Installfest, the brainstorm of a group of businesses located in the First Avenue office building which introduced visitors to the joys of the totally free Linux operating system for consumers, along with related software.

Two women came over from Priest River, stayed to load SuSE and Red Hat respectively, and went home better informed of their PC options. Phil drove up from Coeur d'Alene, eager to meet fellow enthusiasts, since his local group, the North Idaho Linux Users Group (NILUG), was in hiatus for the summer. Dick Sevenich, Ph.D., professor of computer science at Eastern Washington University, is no stranger to Sandpoint, and he made it a point to come back for the Installfest.

Some came with their PC systems and left with a new Linux operating system. Others carried away systems that could “dual boot,” operating in either Windows or Linux. Most left with a free copy of SuSE or Redhat, with copies which included the documentation having a $40 dollar value.

What surprised attendees most was how many people came, many remarking “and I thought I was the only one.” Individuals shared a kinship in their earnestness to identify better software, their willingness to evaluate a different product, or their experience in successfully using it on older, slower computers.

Questions asked included: “Will my Windows applications still run?;” “How do I get my DVD player to work under Linux?;” “Why are there no viruses and no virus software under Linux?” 

More experienced users moved throughout the room, answering questions and familiarizing people with unfamiliar screens and icons. The room was always brimming with people, heated by vibrant conversation that the central air conditioning could not offset. The diversity of participants encompassed men, women, seniors, X-generation youth, baby boomers, the well read, the unwittingly curious and the discontented, technical geeks, and competent PC generalists.

Some find Linux challenging to grasp philosophically because its growing marketing success is based on a type of reverse capitalism. Linux capitalists are employing two basic tenets that are beginning to expand the number of choices for consumers for the first time in two decades. The first is to give away their software. The second is to focus on bankrolling technical support as the source for long term revenue, not product sales. 

But the kicker is that in order to continually produce a more comprehensive, robust and secure product, you must have exceptional resources. So the Linux community dumped the concept of licensing. No permit, no fee, no restrictions. Hello Internet collaboration. This translates to a whole planet of potential. Today your capability is not limited by the size of your payroll or the cumulative I.Q. of your staff. 

This force behind this new revolution is twofold – Microsoft's new products, widely popular in today's computer-based world, aren't substantially changing their previously documented problems, and Linux-based products are rapidly producing more user options and control, end user requirements that are seldom overlooked after the initial discovery. Linux appears to be building a better mousetrap - and a free one, to boot.

The need to buy the latest, fastest machine  simply to run your software is shifting, led by cost-conscious businesses who appreciate the ability of Linux to run on an older machine. The possibility for redirecting resources toward more mission-critical programs holds great potential for perpetually cash-strapped organizations, such as school districts, non-profits, and home-based businesses. Unwanted PC's could be easily redirected from the dump to the open minded, who won't have to settle for anything less than cutting edge technology as they develop new skill sets using the computer.

Expect more information and educational seminars on Linux to be forthcoming. Contact Larry Coles at 208-610-1023 if you are interested in attending the Panhandle Linux Users Group Meetings (PLUG). As the Red Hat T-shirts aptly stated, “It's free – now go and help the others.”

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Author info

Carol Curtis

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technology, Installfest, open source, Linux, Red Hat, Larry Coles, Panhandle Linux Users Group

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