It's not every automobile driver that strives to be a Car Salesman.
It's not every Accountant that wants to re-invent the calculator.
It's not every Linux User that is called to become an Advocate.
It took me far too long to weave that into my daily action-set. But learn it I did, and along the way, I've learned other things as well. I've learned about the difference between sitting behind a keyboard and talking about doing things and going out and doing them. I've learned that there are many people who will harshly criticize your actions and projects without offering any ideas for improvement.
I've also learned that many of those who exhibit this behavior are absolute dead weight to what we try to do and should be discounted along with the headlines of the latest Tabloid. It leaves me to wonder if that particular behavior isn't exhibited in the rest of their lives.
It also reminds me to examine the behaviors in mine.
Such are the things I've learned. Hard lessons some.
But along with those things on the negative side of the ledger, there have been some extremely positive learning opportunities. I've learned that a relative few true friends and supporters are worth thousands of times more than a huge number of casual readers. I've learned that there are many that have passions for GNU Linux that burn as brightly as mine.
Some burn brighter, hotter and have burned longer. I've made a conscious decision that it is those people that I will seek out. It is those people that my efforts will seek and either join or support.
It's the only way I am going to survive in doing what we do.
The problem lies not only in finding them but in tying us together...those that strive to make a difference in the proliferation of the Linux Desktop.
Pompous? Self-absorbed? Self-Important?
Only to those who have yet to discover the gift of Service or Calling. Or maybe those who haven't looked past the words to the person presenting them.
I've talked about Christian Einfeldt here before. But that was me talking about Christian Einfeldt. I've recently entered into some deep and illuminating conversations with Christian...either by email or phone and I believe that Christian has much to offer us. He has much to teach us too...those who are not fettered by ego and selfishness. I am going to give Christian space here to talk to us about something he has been involved with for over 4 years now and he will go into detail that many have not been aware. If you have any interest in spreading Linux and Open Source Software, I urge you to take a few minutes and give Christian some of your time. He may just have a way for those who really care to get involved.
I mean in a meaningful way...in a way that gets things done.
Helios has asked me to write about the intersection of the Digital Tipping Point library and documentary and how the DTP connects with the public middle school that our local Linux Users Group (SF-LUG) is supporting with Free Open Source Software (FOSS).
Both projects stem from the kindness of one man, Holden Aust, who built my first GNU-Linux computer for me back in late 2000. To understand why Holden's help meant so much to me, it's important to get some context.
I was (and still am) a one-man shop, and so I had (and still have) a small budget. It was my experience that the Windows guy from whom I had purchased my Windows 98 computer was nice, but would charge me for every single small thing that went wrong with my Microsoft machine. I was really astonished at the expense of running that machine. It was a black hole for money. Every little thing required at least a one hour fee of $75.00, and that was an inexpensive rate compared to what I could find in downtown San Francisco.
And yet I was (and still am) utterly dependent on my computer(s) for serving my clients. I had no choice but to pay what was needed to keep my business running. I dreaded computer downtime, because it meant that I could not meet my clients' deadlines, and so I was really dependent on my Windows' repair guy.
In the summer of 2000, I was reading lots of news about waves of viruses that would be coming up. Holden and I knew each other from discussing politics in the elevator during the 2000 election cycle, so I knew that he was a computer sys admin for a law firm in that building, and asked him what was the best anti-virus software.
He said "Linux".
After many conversations with Holden about the ups and downs of using Linux for my office, I decided that my fear of viruses was greater than my anxiety about an unknown operating system called Linux, and so I ordered a bunch of computer parts on the Internet which Holden proceeded to build into the first of several machines that he would build for me.
Linux fixed it. I have never had to worry about viruses again. I can't tell you how much it meant to me to have a computer that would not be crippled by viruses.
I learned that Holden is such a generous guy that it would be much more important to him that I repay his generosity by paying it forward, rather than paying him back with some favor. And so I decided that I needed to do what I could to help others feel the sense of calm and control that I have come to associate with using GNU-Linux.
It seemed to me that the primary problem facing the GNU-Linux community was the lack of media attention given to this minor miracle that is the world of Linux. So I started giving out Linux CDs and talking to people on planes, trains, and buses about Linux.
Pardon the interjection but the next few lines are immensely important for all of us to understand and get comfortable with. The emphasis on these lines is mine. - h
But I quickly came to see that I was making no headway. For most people, a computer is just an appliance, like a toaster. They just want to turn it on, and have it work, with a minimum of inconvenience to them. Most people won't learn to do much more than turn the computer on and use a few applications. They want to get on with their life, and that does not include sitting in front of a computer. And they have the misapprehension that Microsoft Windows is the easiest way to get stuff done. Many of their friends and colleagues use it, so they will follow the path of least resistance.
I thought that I needed to stop talking with strangers on planes, trains, and buses. It just wasn't working. People don't trust strangers. In the US, people trust TV. If it is on TV, it is real. Or at least is socially real. It's accepted. It's mainstream. So I decided that I needed to stop saying the same thing over and over again to people on planes, trains, and buses, and I needed to get backing from famous people.
Famous people. Like in movies. I thought I needed to make a movie.
Actually, the idea to make a movie is attributable to my girlfriend, DTP co-producer Dorothee Weiler. In July 2003, we were visited by a mutual friend. The three of us went for a walk along the beach that leads to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I was ranting about Free Open Source Software, as I always do, and my friend told us about his recent movie-making experience. Dorothee said the two of us should make a movie about Free Open Source Software. And so we decided, right then and there, to do just that.
The Digital Tipping Point is what resulted.
Christian says this as if he is describing putting together a leggo toy. DTP has the potential to do amazing things for the growth of GNU Linux- h
My friend, Paul Donahue, has subsequently moved to Germany to be with his new wife, whom he met while we were traveling from Basel to Stuttgart to film Eddie Bleasedale, who was a technical adviser to now UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. (You can see Eddie's part of Eddie's DTP interview here.)
It rapidly became clear to me that a movie needed to be about something concrete. It needed to tell a story about people who go on a journey, who go through change, and it had to be people that matter.
From doing research for the movie, I came to believe that the people most likely to adopt Free Open Source Software (FOSS) are people whom Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen calls "overshot customers" -- meaning people who would rather buy just a small bag of popcorn when they go to the moves, not the full bucket. Schools in California are notoriously underfunded, and so I knew that school administrators would be likely to be willing to give FOSS a shot.
How lucky I was.
It turns out that a new public charter school had just started in my neighborhood, just one block from my house. I called the principal and offered to meet with her to tell her about how I could give her free computers. She was interested. We met, and she decided to give it a shot. But she asked me one question toward the end of the interview that she later told me was key.
She asked, "Do you hate Microsoft?"
I told her, truthfully, no. I told her that Microsoft is like the wind. It is everywhere. Its stock is in everyone's retirement portfolio. She later told me that she came to trust me because of that answer. She thought that I was guided by practicality, not unreasonable passion.
We discussed what she thought the kids needed. She wanted a full classroom just for computer use. I told her that we could get her a solution inexpensively, but it would take a wee bit of money to do something on that scale. Her school had been given a donation of cast-off Dell GX-110 machines from a rich private school in San Francisco. She didn't know what to do with them, because they were too slow for Microsoft Windows. I told her that we could use those machines for a thin-client lab.
But we would need help making the lab work. We looked around together, and I found a guy by the name of Steve Hargadon who put in a commercial bid to build a Linux lab very reasonably. I mean VERY reasonably. In fact, the price was so low that it surprised the principal.
That Linux lab ran for two years without a reboot.
And we place an additional 12 GNU-Linux machines in other teachers' classrooms.
The school was a huge success in terms of testing, and so its student body grew. After the third year, the lab had to be moved to another room so that a social studies teacher could use the Linux lab for his classroom. What happened to the Linux lab will be the subject of another blog entry here so hang tight...there is more to the story and it will post soon.
Thanks Christian. As you can see, Christian Einfeldt and I share many of the same beliefs and philosophies about the things we do and the ways they need to be done. This is an exciting time for Linux...it has been exciting for a while, and as far as "The Year of Linux"? It's come and gone...that "year" was the year that Microsoft decided it needed to go in and make deals with some other Linux-based companies. The "Year" of Linux is here.
If we've been waiting for validation, Microsoft has already given it to us. Now we just need to go out and make this thing happen. We'll talk with Christian more in the next week about how we go about doing that...each and every one of us who cares to do so.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
It's not every automobile driver that strives to be a Car Salesman.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 7:57 PM