Sharing Linux

Microsoft really wants people to get excited about Windows 7 -- they're showing people how to put on Windows 7 parties with a video that’s already become famous for being incredibly lame. It's so out-of-touch that it's funny (also see Mac fan Cabel Sasser's take).

In all fairness, Linux users aren't known for being party animals, but they do enjoy sharing information at social gatherings, and they don't need Microsoft to tell them tell how to throw a party. Instead, they get together around the world at LUG (Linux User Group) meetings.

Once upon a time, user groups -- people who got together because of their shared passion for computers -- were everywhere. Most of these groups died out as PCs became as common as refrigerators. In Linux’s case, though, they live on.

Indeed, to my surprise, some of them have started creating regional trade-shows. As the traditional big vendor technology trade shows fade from memory, like Comdex and PC Expo, Linux users have started creating their own home-brew shows.

I'm not talking about the corporate Linux and open-source trade shows, such as OpenSourceWorld, LinuxCon and OSCon, that have a lot in common with historical tech trade shows. These small, regional shows -- with or without any corporate support -- are being run by Linux users, for Linux users.

The first of the major "do-it-yourself' Linux shows appears to have been the Southern California Linux Expo in 2002. Put together primarily by users with a connection to USC (University of Southern California), the show was a success. It inspired others to follow it.

Next up came that interesting cross of Linux enthusiasts and science fiction fans, Penguicon. Space ships and open-source software, two great things that go great together.

Since then, a host of other shows have sprung up. What you can expect at each of them varies, but most of them have a exhibitor area, speakers, and BoF (Birds of a feather) sessions. In the exhibitor area you'll typically find representatives ranging from the major commercial Linux distributors-Canonical, Novell, and Red Hat often show up-to small, local groups and companies. The speakers usually talk about topics of broad, general interest to Linux and open-source users. I, for example, will be talking about the Linux desktop in Orlando Fla. on October 24th at the Florida Linux Show. As for the BoF sessions, they're just what they sound like: smaller get-togethers for people with a particular interest in say Ubuntu or building a Linux home entertainment center with MythTV.

Most shows, no matter how large or small, include an install-fest. At an install-fest, local experts will help you install Linux on your PC.

Lately, with the economy in the doldrums, several of these shows are trying to bring together open-source savvy developers, technicians, and administrators with companies with job-fairs. I don't know how well these has been doing. But, I do know that, bad times and all, open-source companies are doing quite well, which means that there must be businesses out there that need Linux-smart staffers.

Some of the other regional Linux shows, in no particular order, are: Notacon in Cleveland, Ohio; LinuxFest Northwest, Bellingham, Wash.; COSSFEST, Calgary, Alberta; LCA in New Zealand; LinuxDays Luxembourg ; Ontario Linux Fest; SouthEastLinuxFest; Atlanta Linux Fest; and Ohio LinuxFest, which was just held over the last weekend. Most shows meet annually.

With Linux meetings around the world, chances are there is one near you. Take a look around. You may just find that there are other Linux fans ready to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with you just a car drive away.

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