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Event aims to bring Lindependence to one California town

By Thomas King on July 15, 2008 (9:00:00 PM)

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An enterprising group has taken on a radical approach in attracting users to Linux: switch a whole town! Dubbed "Lindependence 2008" (a.k.a. LIN08), this event strives to switch citizens in Felton, Calif., for at least a week from Microsoft Windows to Linux. The initiative, loosely led by Ken Starks in Austin, Texas, and Larry Cafiero in Felton, has taken the idea of introducing normal computer users to Linux to screaming heights. By July 28, those in Felton who decide to take the plunge will go Microsoft-free for a week or more.

"Who are we to let someone struggle with the absolute nightmare of Microsoft Windows when all we have to do is spend a bit of time in showing them an easier way of doing things?" Starks says, explaining the motivation for the event. "We have a moral obligation to help those who do not know there is an easier way to make their computers do what they need them to do."

Cafiero says, "The perception that there is only one operating system out there -- only two, maybe, if you consider OS X with the rise in Apple use -- you can see that there's a fundamental disconnect in the way people perceive their digital experience. When you go into Baskin-Robbins, you have more than just vanilla and chocolate to choose from. When you buy a car, you don't have to limit yourself to Ford or Chevy. It's a basic tenet of freedom to have a choice in all facets of life, and those choices shouldn't be limited to two. Microsoft should not have that much control of our digital lives."

Lindependence 2008 is a major step beyond handing out CDs or running Craigslist ads offering to switch people to Linux. Inspiration began with Starks remembering a 1970s movie where an entire town quit smoking. When the idea was presented in the Tux Project forums in 2007, several contributors decided to mold the idea into a real event. At first, the project had no name, but Stephen Rufle suggested Lindependence, a concatenation of "Linux" and "independence," and the name stuck.

As for the motivation behind such a publicity stunt, Starks says, "We need to follow the lead of Christian Einfeldt and market this ... thing. It's time for a bit of glitz, glamour and hype." Cafiero means to differentiate Lindependence 2008 from what people may feel is a mere media stunt: "Well, I could jump out of a plane with a penguin parachute -- that would be a media stunt. However, this is somewhat more permanent. We're bringing Linux to the town and we're hoping that people stick with it after we're done."

Plans for LIN08 so far include four or five town meetings and install fests, the first two of which have been scheduled for July 13 and 15. People wishing to follow the events can read Cafiero's Lindependence 2008 Felton Diary or Starks's blog, or visit the #lindependence IRC channel on Freenode. The organizers also hope to set up live video feeds of various events. Christian Einfeldt, a professional filmmaker and author, will be filming LIN08 for The Digital Tipping Point, a ongoing documentary covering the FOSS culture.

Lessons learned

What do Starks and Cafiero wish they'd known before they started? One of the hardest lessons they learned is that there is no single Linux community to lean on. "There might be communities around different distros and FOSS programs, but unfortunately these multiple communities are not united enough -- not yet, anyway -- to raise up Linux and FOSS as a whole," Cafiero says. Communities are built around projects, distributions, and the kernel; but there is really no all-encompassing community to call upon when advocates wish to further FOSS. Thankfully, some of the distributions and projects with their surrounding communities have committed support and will assist in training the folks of Felton. "Although we want to make this as distro- and vendor-neutral as possible," Starkss says, "those supporting it will get their voice."

Starks does have one regret. "When we first announced our plans to carry out LIN08, I was contacted by an executive of a well-known and successful Linux distro. They were absolutely salivating at the chance to fund LIN08, but in my infinite wisdom I refused, because they wanted exclusive use of their distro during the event. This is supposed to be about the community, not one single distro. If I had it to do again? I'd have accepted the one distro fully funding LIN08."

What is going well? Starks reports there will be some national coverage, including a possible National Public Radio feature and partial coverage from Fox News. Also, there are rumblings of other towns that may wish to try the same kind of event. Both Starks and Cafiero have already been asked by others if they could replicate this event. In fact, Cafiero says, "I would like to consult with those who may be interested in doing a Lindependence project in their communities as soon as possible. It doesn't have to be your whole town, either -- it can be a local school, a local school system, any group that you think might benefit from GNU/Linux and FOSS."

Thomas King is a server technician for a large computer corporation. He has used computers for three decades, and is currently in the seventh year of his FOSS adventures.

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on Event aims to bring Lindependence to one California town

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Event aims to bring Lindependence to one California town

Posted by: Stephen P Rufle on July 15, 2008 10:06 PM
Could we change the embedded link to
http://www.lindependence.net/

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It's an interesting idea

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.192.250.149] on July 16, 2008 12:30 AM
I admire these guys for trying this, and I think the community can learn a lot from seeing how it goes.

I'm not so sure, though, that anyone will be convinced than Linux is easier than Windows. It depends just what the user wants to do. I'm a developer and have worked with Linux for years (and with Unix since the 1970s), and while most of the time things just work, every so often I come across a problem that takes me weeks to solve.

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Re: It's an interesting idea

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.11.72.220] on July 16, 2008 05:33 PM
How is that any different from using windows? I am forced to use a windows machine at work, and our company recently merged with a larger corporation, and have had to switch from Linux servers to windows servers, and there have been more server errors in the past month than in all the previous 18 months that I have been with the company. Just because there are problems from time to time doesn't mean there is something so fundamentally wrong with Linux that it can't possibly be on par or (heaven forbid) better than windows. Last I checked, windows is EXTREMELY far from problem free. Just today my windows computer at work couldn't mount a USB thumb drive because it wanted to assign it a drive letter which was already in use. I have never seen an issue like this in my experience with Linux.

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Re(1): It's an interesting idea

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.3.221.226] on July 21, 2008 06:29 AM
Then you go into disk management and change the drive letter, problem solved in a few seconds, no weeklong search for the answer as required with Linux problems.

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Re: It's an interesting idea

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.174.129.89] on July 17, 2008 08:25 PM
Well, personally I also think it's an interesting idea. However, I think that convincing people that Linux is easier than Windows will take a lot more than just getting people to use Linux for a week. Linux, as much as it's been trying lately, still has a very different mindset or "feel" than Windows does. I think getting people used to the "feel" will be the biggest challenge. Also, in general, Linux is largely an OS for people who know computers. Windows is largely built for people who don't. I read an article a while ago that I think described the challenge better than anything I've seen. ( http://contentconsumer.com/2008/04/27/is-ubuntu-useable-enough-for-my-girlfriend/ ) I especially agree with the conclusion: "Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do. Erin’s intelligent, quick to learn and is reasonably well-acquainted with modern technology. If she had as much trouble as she did, what chance to the elderly or at least the middle-aged stand?"

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Event aims to bring Lindependence to one California town

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 166.214.108.105] on July 16, 2008 11:39 AM
I think the matter of being Microsoft-free is a matter of support. If everyone who were knowledgeable in Linux install and use were to come forward to help newbies, it would surely help reduce the fear of switching. Let's launch a public support campaign.

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Re: Event aims to bring Lindependence to one California town

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 151.188.247.104] on July 16, 2008 07:17 PM
I think the matter of being Microsoft-free is a matter of wanting to actually use your computer without problems. You don't see hordes of folks knowledgeable in Mac OS in most neighborhoods, but plenty of newbies (even lazy, attitude-filled Americans* ) are leaving Windows and going to Mac anyway. It's similar with any modern desktop GNU/Linux distro (e. g. Ubuntu). And in Ubuntu's case, you're up and running in less than half an hour. Try *that* with Vista!

* Yes, I'm American. And yeah, I got attitude. :-)

Speaking of support, if folks are still thinking of a typical Windows user depending on the pimply-faced 13-year-old neighbor down the street to "fix the computer" when it gets nailed by 5-10 pieces of malware or gets cloberred by "DLL Hell" (yes, that still happens!), then they'd better think again. That kid generally isn't nearly as knowledgeable as you think and usually ends up making things worse. I've had to come in behind that kid and clean things up too many times. And unless you're a lot richer than I am, don't even think of calling "Geek Squad", et. al., because those folks will charge you an arm and a leg. My uncle used to have to do that until he went with Linux last year (ZaReason). He's been a much happier camper since.

Because of this, most real-world home users who have problems with Windows just Google for the answer. Oh, wait, you can do that for Linux, too, and get better answers!

--SYG

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Re: Event aims to bring Lindependence to one California town

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.146.243.86] on July 21, 2008 08:58 PM
Not just a public support campaign, but a polite one.

I've found that about half the time when I try to get support for Linux related issues, I get treated rudely with a bunch of "RTFM" style responses. Oddly enough, the supposedly 'most snobby' linux group, the Gentoo users, were the most helpful and polite. Thank you for restoring some faith in the OS gentoo'ers.

I think that's the community side of it.

The other part is more of a focus on reliability. I haven't had as much trouble keeping any other OS I've used up to date and functional, as I have with Linux. That includes Windows and FreeBSD (the main three OSes I use). I've used them a lot, but even with several years of experience in all of them, I could do more with Windows or FreeBSD in a matter of weeks, than I could in Linux.

Every user has a different mindset, and different operating systems are better for different users. No one operating system is perfect. For all my criticisms above, I'm not saying that Linux is a bad choice, I'm saying that it's not for everyone. It's good that people are getting experiences with it. I just hope the people running this project will help the users get back to windows if that's what the users need/want.


That being said, I think this would be a great information gathering step for "Linux on the Desktop", it's current state, and where it needs to go. Simply ask these questions at the end of the week, month, and year after the trial starts with a given user.

Which Linux version/distribution(s) did you use?
What did you like about Linux?
What did you dislike about Linux?
Were the advantages of Linux more or less than the disadvantages?
If there is one thing you would take from Linux to another OS, what would it be?
If there is one thing that you would change about Linux, what would it be?
Have you switched away from Linux, if so to what OS?
Have you switched back to Linux after switching away?

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The rebirth of the install fest?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.144.116.202] on July 16, 2008 08:55 PM
I remember reading an article a year or two ago about how the "install fest" was a trend that had gone out of fashion. After all, why have a gathering to help geeks install Linux when it is so easy to do in the first place? However, I think Lin08 is what will latter be referred to as the rebirth of the install fest. The only difference is that instead of having a focus of helping fellow geeks install Linux, it is geeks helping non-geeks.

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Re: The rebirth of the install fest?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.3.221.226] on July 21, 2008 06:33 AM
Installing and using Linux is not easier than installing or using Windows.

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