Linux is not good for you…

A friend of mine was telling me how she went to buy a new computer, asked to have Linux on it, and was told “Linux is not good for you at home” and that she shouldn’t worry, they’ll just install her Windows XP and all the things she really needs, “for free”. Yes this happened in China, but it probably already happened elsewhere.

Don’t worry she’ll install Linux all by herself I am sure, the real problem is no longer that consumers are not aware nor ready for Linux, sales persons are not! It’s probably harder for them to get familiar with Linux and make an effort to learn something that’s good for their customers rather than launching Norton Ghost, partitioning the disk into Nx20GiB partitions (that’s how they prepare PCs here…) and copying all the virus, spyware and malware infected bootleg versions of Windows they’ve been distributing for ages.

This friend of mine is no tech person, just uses a computer and I guess, has been hearing about Open Source, Linux and Software Freedom. So it’s nice to see that our efforts are paying off. Now how can we reach those stores in China (and elsewhere) and get them to become familiar with Linux installs, and… why not… even do Linux promotion?

A weekend with Matt MacKall

Once in a while you meet these rare individuals who remind you where you’re coming from. Following the Linux Developer Symposium a few speakers stayed a couple of more days to visit the Great Wall, the Forbidden city and other Beijing Landmarks. I helped organized a visit into a training center for embedded Linux on Friday together with Matt and this is how it all started.

I’d say Matt is a very reserved individual at first, very serious and focused (that’s just my impression). The Friday morning visit gave me a chance to listen more closely to his presentation to a class of 50-60 Chinese students and exchange ideas about attracting more people to Linux. I would honestly say that the whole trip was very successful, the class had Jonathan Corbet book on every single desk (Jonathan was also a speaker at the conference) and Matt motivated every one of us. Afternoon was free and we met again for dinner.

The next day, Matt being into art (something I discovered), we visited 798 factory and discussed about art, Burning Man ,how Matt has been attending the event for the last 8 years, what kind of technology he uses for his art and all sorts of things. Then a bit of food shopping, famous Chinese Hot Pot, more talks between during and after, and off to bed.

Matt happens to be a vegan as well as a Linux user and contributor (and an artist, and probably many other things). Why? Because he cares. In fact the whole 2 days discussion was about caring, and how you can transform your principles into actions, how you live up to your believes and how even small contributions can make a difference.

As I mentioned in my introduction I was really glad to have these talks, re-energize myself with someone who could explain himself with passion about what he believed in and would take the time to share his views without forcing them on me.

We all believe in something, but what do we do about it? And is it enough to make that difference we were talking about? I often ask myself this question…

The past 3 days

If you were looking for me on the BLUG website, through email or IM you probably had a hard time to see me anywhere. Well this is because the Beijing LUG helped to organize the Linux Developer Symposium held in Beijing on February 19th and 20th.

Thanks to the Linux Foundation and COPU normal people like you and me (well almost normal…) had access to guys like this for over 2 days. Attendance was exceptional, there were cool Linux devices all over the hall (including some belonging to BLUG) as well as Linux books, and Linux people. Everybody was discovering, listening to the words of wisdom from International AND local Linux Masters (some also from the BLUG 😉 ) chatting, even hacking the whole first day. The second day was more relaxed and oriented towards opening a dialog between developers and experts. Knowing a little bit of China, I was a bit afraid that the BOF session wouldn’t be so successful, I was so wrong! We talked about all kinds of topics (Linux related), developers could directly address their issues and get instant reply. I spent a lot of time at Andrew Morton’s table and topics ranged from stable kernel choice strategy for embedded devices, patches submission processes, Google Summer of Code in China and how to get the word out (and I am sure Andrew will notify Google about developers suggestions), I could event ask for a ‘Google Summer of Code for seniors’ (there was not such thing in my young age) but I don’t think we’ll see this one anytime soon (you can’t blame me for trying) .

Last but not least, Linux Foundation and COPU agreed to “give us” all the speakers for a dinner on the last night, just for our Beijing LUG members (some of us couldn’t make it to the conference because of work) and I really want to thank Jim and Angela from the Linux Foundation for being so nice to give us this opportunity and sponsoring it.

At the end of those 3 days (it actually started on Monday for us) I can see how this has helped to create bridges between communities – western and Chinese or within China – to help gurus and apprentice developers to better cooperate. On top of that the whole conference was very well organized thanks to COPU and the volunteers from AKA-Embedded Linux and Beijing LUG. I really want to thank in no specific order our members as well as Sun China who has been very supportive. Without Alex Lau, Anthony Fok, Anthony Wong, Wang Lei (Ray), Gabriel, Hou Zhengpeng (Freeflying), Sun Liantao, Annie Li, Emily Chen, Alfred Peng, Alex Peng, Coly Li, Pockey Lam, Ollo Schwan (ling yao yao ling), Poly Wang and whoever has contributed without telling me, this event would not have been what we achieved.

Also a very special thinks to Song Kewei from COPU for his devotion to open source, his sense of humor and his kindness, to Angela from the Linux Foundation for her professionalism and patience with my bad jokes, to Jim for his good jokes and the idea of maybe starting a beer fund, David Neary from the Gnome foundation for his duty-free bottle of Single Malt that we killed while waiting for Jeff Waugh Monday night (get well soon Jeff), and also his great sense of humor, Amiram Hayardeny from Sun for his fast positive response to support us if we had budget problems on the dinner we organized, and some of the staff of the Park Plaza hotel for getting us all the Yanjing beers from the other tables.

I also want to thank Professor Lu for his work behind the scene throughout the government to get Open Source where it is today in China, and his stamina at every conferences he attends. We sometimes tend to forget that Professor Lu achieves things for Open Source that none of us could ever dream of. Thanks to Professor Lu and Song Kewei’s help I have understood lots of things about China and how to get things done here and it’s been a fantastic ride!

One more time thanks to all of you!