The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Enterprise clueless, employees not so much.

In preparation for our "The New Faces of Linux" article, we thought it would be good to prime the pump with a story submitted by Stu Wieneke of Phoenix.

You know...the place that mothered the phrase "but it's a dry heat."

Right, people are bursting into flame on the street.

At least it's a dry flame.

Knowing Phoenix well, I was more than happy to hear about this incident and thought I'd share it with you. Also, we encourage you to submit stories like this so we can put them forth here. Eventually, phrases like "but it's a dry heat" and "GNU/Linux isn't ready for the Enterprise" will go the way of, well...

"but it's all command line, I need clicky things..."

"My apps won't run on Linux...."
"It's only secure because no one uses it..."
"It's so hard to learn..."

Thanks Stu for this report.

I work in the Facilities Maintenance Dept. of a trade school here in Phoenix, AZ. Whenever the water leaks, a breaker trips, or someone hurls in the bathroom sink, I'm the guy
they call.

In short, I am not a computer professional at all beyond my
interest in it as a hobby, which makes me the department "Tech" guy. I
started playing with Linux late in 2001, and by early 2003 I was running
nothing else on any of my home computers.

About 6 months ago, my boss decided he wanted a map. A big one that
showed the entire campus with all 7 buildings, detailing the locations
of all the fire exits, water mains, breaker boxes, utility cutoffs,
along with any other information the emergency services in the area
might be interested in finding out real quick. He asked me if I could
make such a map, and I said "Sure!". Not only did I tell him I could
make such a map, but I could make it in such a way that different layers
could contain just about any information we wanted, and within a few
minutes we would be able to use it to create a "custom" map for just
about any purpose we desired!

I went to the IT department, and told them I needed a decent SVG
graphics application, like Adobe or (ugh!) Visio. The last time I heard
them laugh that hard was when I asked them for a Dvorak keymap on my
work computer, but I digress. They told me to use "MS Paint". Yes, the
same version of Paint that came bundled with Windows 3.1, and allows you
to rotate a circle or a square in 90 Degree increments only.

I knew I was going to need a lot more than that, but loading even FOSS software
on the company computers is strictly forbidden! I took one of my old
laptops (a Micron Trek2, PII 300 with 192Mb ram, 20G hard drive), loaded
with Debian Etch, and kept it in my desk drawer for whenever I had some
time to work on the map. I used Inkscape, because It's easy to use, yet
powerful enough to do everything I needed it to do.

As my work on the map progressed, I converted the .svg drawings to .png, (Windows doesn't
natively support .svg, not on our network, anyway) and printed them out
for everyone else to edit and add information to, which I then used in
the next version. It took about 6 months, but I finally finished it,
then converted the final version to a .pdf which I took to Kinko's for

I just picked it up last Monday, and I told the girl at Kinko's that my
boss was going to be tickled pink when he saw it. She said she thought
it looked really good for something produced "in house", and seemed
quite surprised when I told her I made it on a Linux computer running
nothing but Open Source software.

"Just imagine,", I asked her, "How much would Kinko's be worth today if
they didn't have to pay Microsoft for Windows software?"

"A LOT!", she admitted, but then said, "Unfortunately, Linux isn't
compatible with anything we use here..."

Her voice trailed off as I simply smiled and pointed at the map she was
boxing up for me.

"Well, I guess it *is* getting better...", she admitted.

"...And tomorrow it will be even better than it is today!", I replied.
In the meantime, my boss was so pleased with the results that he sent
pictures of the map to all the other campus directors, and I expect that
I will soon be explaining to all of them how I made it. I will start by
telling them I used something called "Linux"...

Stu Wieneke

All-Righty Then...


Randy Meyers said...

Stu that is beautiful and impressive work. You do know that there will be the inevitable comments like, "if you used photoshop, you could have done X and Y."

They miss the point, as most clueless do. They embarrass themselves by doing so, thus the anonymous sigline. Thanks for showing a bit of flexed bicep.

Randy Meyers

kozmcrae said...

Thanks so much Stu. You have shown us, just one, opportunity that is lost with proprietary software like Microsoft's. The question administrators need to ask themselves is: "How many other opportunities are we missing with proprietary software?" Too bad it's a case of out of sight, out of mind. They have no idea what can be done unless someone, like you, gives them a finished product. That's taking the slow road to success.

Anonymous said...

ROFLMAO @ At least it's a dry flame.

Srufle said...

Hey stu are u on
user list. I am also in AZ and we have meetings on the third tues of the month at Boulders on Broadway in Tempe

THF said...

On related note. There was a customer coming to our shop the other week. He asked: "Awright mate, do yae sell software 'ere as well?"

After few lines of this sort, cutting trough half-thick Scottish accent, I learned that wee man is looking for Adobe Photoshop to make a poster.

I said I'll find out the price for him, but he might be better off with alternatives, which are free and for free, such as OpenOffice Draw (which is like Publisher), GIMP (which is for raster graphics like Photoshop), and Inkscape (which is for vector graphics, which is useful when doing posters indeed, for scaling).

And I also said, that Photoshop costs £560.

I think that's quite convincing.

Jeff said...

Dude. You know this is going to scare the hell out of your IT department. Especially when the directors/supervisors start asking them pointy questions about why you had to go "off the reservation" to do what was asked of you.

Anonymous said...

"I will start by telling them I used something called 'Linux'..."
Make that "something called 'Linux' on a Micron Trek2, PII 300 with 192Mb ram, 20G hard drive" Damn that's impressive.

co said...

It is so nice to see others are using Inkscape for mapping purposes. I work at USU for their Facilities Electronics shop. I have been using Inkscape for about 2 years to update fire alarm maps on campus.

I also use Inkscape for many graphics projects and illustrations. It is an awesome tool. Everywhere I go I show others how to use Inkscape.

The autocad group we have can't believe that there is a program than can do many of its features (quicker, I might add)and save into an awesome and open format svg, (scalable vector graphics).

The learning curve for Inkscape is not nearly as steep as autocad and it's free and open source.

Unknown said...

Wow, impressive.

I have done electrical one-line drawings for projects I have been involved in for my employer, would it be possible to see a close-up of this?

Inkscape is awesome!!!..I have used it on both Linux and Windows.

Anytime I see crappy graphics work, I mention Inkscape and people just look at me weird.

Chelle Minkin said...

Thank you for this article helios. And thank you Stu for knowing enough to share this important story. The fact that Stu completed this project on a computer that anyone else would have thrown away is the real story in my estimation. Helios, you showed me a group of pictures of a bunch of really, really old laptops that you rebuilt and gave away to kids the last time I visited you. Do you still have those photos? I think a short article on how you rescued this "junk" and benchmarked them as closely as you did to current technology is a spectacular story. You might consider posting that as a blog in itself.


Rich Dennison - Georgetown TX said...

My name is Richard Dennison and I work for a company that has a long-term contract with AISD. I know through my co-worker that the CIO for AISD is Gray Salada. From what I understand, he is almost dead set against using Linux on the Desktop in Austin schools. While he recently touted AISD's use of Free Software within the district, he tipped his hand by saying some less than positive things about Linux on the Desktop for their schools. I personally find this disturbing. This is mentioned in one of the hundreds of comments posted on the Karen blog and Omar Gallaga's coverage of the event.

Most disturbing is that Mr. Salada is or was the Vice Chair Director of Technology for the Austin Independent School District. While using FOSS in his operation is to be commended, I will remind Mr. Salada that the lion's share of money spent for any large operation is per-seat licensing of desktop operating systems. I am told he seems dead set on the Windows 7 upgrades. I am hoping that this is incorrect. What I don't understand is how he can justify this tax burden when Linux is readily available and free. Mr. Salada does not seem to be disturbed by the DRM and vendor lock-in concerning MS Windows systems.

In addition, he fairly well traps the AISD student into purchasing or using the same costly and proprietary system in the home. If he continues this behavior, The HeliOS Project will have to give away many more computers than they currently are giving away in order to offset Mr. Salada's insistence upon using MS systems. The old arguments of cost for training has been proven to be a strawman time and time again, however I am sure that is exactly what he is going to offer in his defense.

DigitalPioneer said...

Awesome job, man. Looks very professional. This just goes to show, those people who go around saying Linux is a good toy, but not good for real work, are the idiots who don't know what REAL WORK actually means. Real work doesn't mean screwing around with your pirated copy of Photoshop

Anonymous said...

Stu, this is exceptional work by anyone's standard or methods. You are being too humble by understating your talents.

I see what helios has done now. It appears that you gave him the photo in a fairly small resolution and he scaled it to 800x600, just to the point of distortion. Will you provide a larger resolution picture for us. I believe this story needs to go forward with a better representation of your work. Please let helios have a better one so it can be included in any reprint or repost across the net. People need to see this work.

Unknown said...

Hey Steve

at Boulders on Broadway in Tempe.....

So what'id you let them tear the Garcia's down for at Southern and McClintock? I lived two blocks from there and they had the best enchilada's ever consumed. Combine that lethal plate of prime beef, cheese and sauce with a margarita you could soak your feet in and you have the perfect meeting place for Linux.

Hell, I'd-a met there for knitting lessons for that food.

And they tore the friggin place down. Sheesh...had to go all the way out to Levine at the base of South mountain to get decent Mexican after that.


Rachael Martin said...

Helios probably does not remember me but at a trade show in Austin about 3 months ago, I ran into him while I was manning our booth. He had gathered a small crowd around him and he was demonstrating Linux on a laptop. Since he was using the corner of our space to do this, I came around so I could see what was going on. It wasn't the cool way he had designed or laid out his cube and background, nor was it his obvious mastery of the desktop. He was running his demo on a pentium 3 laptop that most people would have thrown in a closet somewhere.

I read above about the old computers that are being brought back to life and think back to that day I saw Linux flying on a computer my Vista system wouldn't even fit on. It's been a slow process for me switching since. I think the only time I boot into Windows is to use the login page the station requires for some uplinks.

Helios, we're going to be doing the show in July at the convention center, I believe it's the week of the 20th. I'll call you when we get in. Maybe we can go to the Iron Works again. Naomie and Jonathan will be coming as well.


Unknown said...

Hey Kitten, looking forward to it. Call to let me know the exact dates and I will clear my calendar.


Anonymous said...

@Rich Dennison: The answer to this is: Follow the Money. More than one school district IT top kick is on Microsoft's payroll. The kickbacks, I hear, are pretty big. Since "nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft", the recipient is probably not trying to hide the transaction, so it flows into his regular bank accounts, or maybe the ones his wife does not know about anyway.

That said, this comment should not be construed to mean that he is doing anything wrong. However, the school district's inspector general and/or local district attorney should look into it. Certainly the superintendent of schools should be aware of the potential cost savings that could be realized by going to open source.

Chelle Minkin said...

Helios probably does not remember me....

He called you "Kitten". I am guessing he remembers you very well.

Anonymous said...

@ Chelle

Raaaawwwrrrrrrrr hiss, hiss

Anonymous said...

I am impressed with the map. I use Linux on a regular basis (sadly M$ pays my bills for the moment). I have an interest in inkscape, anyone have some good learning resources?

@ Rich Dennison

Lets take the Strawman out into the dry heat and see how long he lasts ;P


Unknown said...

@Rich Dennison

It's good to hear someone else in Georgetown is using Linux.

Tom Corbin

Andrew Magnus said...

@ anonymous ***(sadly M$ pays my bills for the moment)

Have you talked to helios? He started HeliOS Solutions to fund his charity but quickly found out that it could support a family if they worked it. He just doesn't want to spend the money on the advertising right now. He goes as far as "open sourcing" his business plan and it is a beautiful, complete document. Others who have adapted it to their specifics have received sba loans on it alone. He is so confident that there is enough business for everyone that he gives it out freely. A guy in New York (name supplied when I find out it's cool) is making hundreds a week just doing Linux installs.

you might want to talk to him. I am a volunteer with HP and work closely with Ken. I'm sure if you asked...


Anonymous said...

lmao at "they told me to use MS Paint."

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all for the kind comments! I am pleased to say that our IT department has since changed from the "use Paint" people, and the new guys are fairly knowledgeable about Open Source. I foresee a day when the migration to Linux might actually become conceivable!
Yes, I am a member of PLUG, and occasionally stick my foot in my mouth on the discussion forum, however since I work nights, It's rare that I get to attend a meeting.
Stu W

NoobixCube said...

We really need something like your Helios foundation/project/whatever in Australia. Microsoft is so heavily entrenched here that even King Arthur would have given up and tried to smash the rock. When I tell people that I use Linux they usually reply with "Oh is that the new code name for the next Windows beta?" if they're geeks, or "I've never heard of that version of Windows. Must be an old one" if they think they're geeks.

Ceri said...

Nice bit of work Stu. You proved several of my arguments for using Linux. I use it partially to keep antiquities still running (my primary Linux server is a K6-II/500 as an example). I'll challenge the Windows support for SVG however, there is at least partial SVG support in Firefox, Chrome, and a number of other browsers, at present Opera has the most complete support of the browsers, IE unfortunately I believe even in IE 8 requires a plugin for any SVG support.

NoobixCube... I live in Australia and I've never experienced anything that bad to date though I will agree there are many clueless individuals around. The local TAFE teachers and I have had raging battles due to their obsolete information.

One of them thinks that Apple still produces PowerPC systems... And then tried to claim the Intel hardware was proprietary for the OS X machines running Intel chipsets. If I didn't need the certificate I wouldn't put up with him, the OSS knowledge is next to nonexistant as well, I got dumb looks when I listed exclusively OSS solutions for an assessment task, but then I like GnuCash better than the commercial accounting packages I've tried anyway.