The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

Search the Blog of helios and all comments


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Texas Linux Fest - It's on Bay-bee....

Sorry 'bout the title...March Madness and all that.

I had the privilege of attending the first-ever Texas Linux Fest last year and I was surprised at the people that attended.  In particular, I had the chance to rub elbows with the likes of Joe Brockmeier and John Hall.   For a first-time event, it went pretty well.  The venue was perfect because if we had more than the 400+ daily attendees, they would have had to grease us down coming in the door.

This year, TXLF will be held at the spacious and opulent Downtown Hilton hotel.  I've been in aircraft hangers that were not as big as the speaking halls and let's face's the Hilton.  I believe current numbers are already surpassing last year's attendance.

If you want to attend, you can register here.  There are two levels upon which you can an enthusiast which is $15.00 or as a supporter which is $40.00.  See the preceding linked site for the differences.  But yes, I will be there this year.

I'll probably even wear big boy pants.

That might be a good idea after some thought...

I've been asked to give the 2011 Texas Linux Fest keynote.

I had submitted a paper that discussed our experience with the kids that receive  our HeliOS Project computers.  We've distributed over 1200 of them in 6 years and some of the empirical data we've collected is not only interesting, it takes turns giving us encouragement and completely destroying some of the myths that exist concerning Desktop Linux.  I thought that would be a good topic for one of the halls during the day.

Nope...HeliOS is the opening act.

Now listen...this is a humbling experience and after doing a quick review in my head of those that may be in attendance, I'm not quite sure I am the right person for a keynote.  But now that I've accepted, I'm going to tell you exactly how and where I think we are on the Linux Desktop.

And I will be honest...maybe too honest for some, but I think The HeliOS Project has been in the trenches long enough to pass muster.  We've logged hundreds of hours. sitting with kids and parents, teaching, observing and learning a bit ourselves.  The learning part is what I want to share with you in particular.  We can do a better job, and it's the simple things we can correct that will make it better.  Since some of the people that can affect change may be in the audience, it's these simple things that we'll talk about.

One of them, and my personal pet peeve, is how we name our applications in the Linux Community.  If you would care to offer them, I would like to hear your ideas on how you would have named current apps and programs in Linux. We're not going to spend a lot of time on it but enough to accentuate the point.  

We are going to talk about this in the keynote so I will offer your ideas then.  The argument is that for a new user, seeing these strange names only enforces or perpetuates the idea that Linux is a distro for geeks, written by geeks.

There should be some cognitive pathway between the name of the app and what it does.  I've offered some examples, but feel free to add your own in the comments.  If given the chance, what would you have named:





I'm going to share much of that information with you starting at 9:15 AM on the 2nd of April and I hope to see you there.  While I will be covering some of the social and educational aspects of the Linux Desktop, there is plenty to satisfy your geek tooth as well.  Click the preceding link to see the complete lineup of speakers for the 2011 Texas Linux Fest.

I hope to see you there.

All-Righty Then


PV said...

Wow, congratulations on scoring an awesome opening speech, and good luck!
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

eMBee said...

will this be recorded? i'd love to see/hear/read a transcript of your talk!

greetings, eMBee.

Jeremiah said...

As I'm an international reader of your blog (awesome stuff btw) I will not be able to attend. I would still be interested in what you have to say. Will there be any video/audio/transcript of your presentation?

If not, would you consider posting a summery on your blog?

J. Shepherd

Unknown said...

I don't know if they have the budget for recording the sessions this year but at the very least, I will publish the transcript. Let me talk to Tom and see what he says.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! This is much deserved recognition!

+1 request from an international reader for a transcript/youtube clip/whatever. :-D

JRaz said...

Congrats to you and the Helios Project. This is indeed welcome news. I am sure you will do just fine and you are the right person for the job.

I too would love to hear it but if not possible transcripts are just fine.

Knock their socks off Ken. :)

Anonymous said...

"I'm not quite sure I am the right person for a keynote. "

That is the open source way. If you ask
"There must be a better person to do this job?"

The answer is always,

"Come back when you found her"

Until then, it is you.


Anonymous said...

March Madness? Bay-bee? Must be an American thing. This Brit is confused.

Unknown said...

Hi Ken,

Congrats! I will see you there. Had a blast last year. This event is an absolute bargain at $40.


FelixTheCat said...


"March Madness":

FelixTheCat said...

IRT recording the presentation, our A/V budget precludes video recording but we're planning to record and post audio. Last year's presentations were posted to the Internet Archive; this year's audio may be the same as well.

Anonymous said...

This Brit is confused.

Bay-Bee is an accentuated form of the word baby when used in slang here in the US. The accentuation is best known as phrase Dick Vitale uses during his ESPN basketball broadcasts. He is also a former coach and one of the more colorful people associated with the sport. March Madness is the term used to describe the college (NCAA) basketball playoffs every year in March.

Michelle Minkin said...

Ken, I had a last minute work-related issue come up so my trip to Texas has to be canceled. I wanted to touch bases with you about accommodations for TXLF however.

The TXLF website says that they have secured block rates for attendees but when I called to get prices and availability I was told that the cost for a double for one night was $183.00

I'm not sure I would have stayed at the Hilton at those prices regardless of the event. That's an absolutely ridiculous price to ask anyone to pay for a night's stay, especially if you can walk a mile and find decent lodgings for two thirds of that.

I just wanted to make you aware. We'll probably see you guys in September when I have to come down and audit the San Marcos facility.


Unknown said...

I'm looking forward to hearing your talk!

I definitely agree with you when it comes to project/app names. It raises eyebrows (at least) and creates confusion & uncertainty (at worst) among the non-geeks. I don't mind explaining that many of these programmers like to be silly, but being silly doesn't really help me project a professional image when trying to pitch an alternative solution to a small business user. And pitching The GIMP? Ugh.

Having to tell back-stories explaining the naming conventions is needless noise to a new user. I'd rather be talking about what the software can do.

You are brave to raise the topic. Just suggesting that names are bad on most linux boards brings on needless flaming.

But I ramble. See you in April!

Anonymous said...

What's in a name? What people choose to call something doesn't change the reality of what it is, or how well it works for any individual's purpose.

Unknown said...

or how well it works for any individual's purpose.

And that's the problem with the elitist mindset of much of the Linux Community.

So you are comfortable within the environment and your computer. New Linux users find themselves in a foreign environment and a whole new way of doing things. Naming your apps with unpronounceable or nonsensical names isn't going to do anything but perpetuate the "Linux Boy's Club" reputation. And if you think that reputation isn't accurate, attend a local LUG meeting and tell me how comfortable your Uncle or next door neighbor would feel after 30 minutes of Raid array discussions.

Besides, new Linux Users talk to each other. How would you verbalize your preference for Guayadeque?

If Linux is going to gain any serious share in the OS market, the people that write the apps and programs need to take their public perception a bit more seriously.

Wes Crucius said...

Regarding your suggestion that Linux Apps have more meaningful names, it could go both ways. Branding is important too, and the unique names (if they can be pronounced easily) go a long way, but maybe it could be more like "DesktopEffects, a.k.a. Compiz". I think what Ubuntu tries to do in it's Applications menu makes a lot of sense (Graphics->"GIMP Image Editor", Internet->"Firefox Web Browser", etc.). The problems start to occur after the base install functionality has been "exhausted" by the hungry user, they are the ones who don't know where to go next to find what they are looking for. Even "Synaptic Package Manager" is a bit ambiguous, and if you do figure out that's what you want, once launched it should emphasize the "sections" view (not the search results view), and have some tool-tip-text elaborating on the criteria that gets an app classified in a particular section!

Good luck on your keynote!

Anonymous said...

Reference the renaming of Compiz...just a couple of suggestions and I don't say they are good suggestions. Just stirring the creative pot here.

Dazzler (Dazzle is a Windows DVD app)



And of course, I will remain anonymous. You didn't seriously think I was going to own up to these ideas did you?

Gavin said...

Anonymous #4 - "What people choose to call something doesn't change the reality of what it is, or how well it works for any individual's purpose."

Yes it does. Which means this statement is deliciously ironic. Let me explain:

To some people, the name of something affects their perception of it in every way, including the reality of what it is to them (a terrific trick of the mind!). This is true. And if this is true, then it is reality by definition. And if the existence of this reality proves your statement wrong, then the content of your statement that the name of something does not change the reality of what it is creates a self-fulfilling fallacy.

It is amusing to me that your statement goes out of its way to prove itself wrong, as well as purports a reality that does not exist. Or, by definition, "the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning".

The intent of your statement, of course, is to state a fact; but this fails because it is merely an opinion. What you have failed to realize here is that what is logical is not always exhibited in the reality of peoples' lives. Logic dictates that your statement should be true, but only if you remove the irrational human element. Since the point of your statement is to lay a particular and logical reality over the whole of the human condition, it is more than certain to fail.

For a more enjoyable, and possibly more palatable, proof of my analysis, I urge you to experience a certain work of Oscar Wilde's called The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People (which also manages to be ironically titled). ;)

Anonymous said...

Ken, the map is not the territory. I'm not interested in image, only substance. You've got a lot of great ideas and I fully support your efforts, but I will always disagree on this point. Being intimidated by something because it's called a whatchamajiggit instead of hammer is just silly.

Michelle Minkin said...

Being intimidated by something

It's not about intimidation, it's about communication and perception. I work in the industry and we've had a lot of exposure to new users in both business and home desktop users.

The names DO matter. Trying to explain why our main 2d image manipulation program is called "The Gimp" is a challenge within itself.

Maybe on some individual level, it isn't an issue, but as someone who's professionally introduced Linux to users for 5 years, I am here to tell you that confusion or even nonsensical naming practices have an impact.


Gavin said...

Anonymous #6 - "Being intimidated by something because it's called a whatchamajiggit instead of hammer is just silly."

Yes it is silly. It is also silly to argue about the names of programs instead of working together to make these programs better. Do you notice a pattern here? People are silly. We are. It is part of what makes us human. If you have ever laughed in your entire life, you are guilty of being silly, too.

So instead of moaning and berating people for simply being human, why not just accept the facts and move on? Being stubborn on the point of software naming conventions is irrational, no matter which side you take. Accept the fact that you are being just as irrational as everyone else - accept your own humanity - and maybe we can come up with a plan. After all, if this whole thing really is silly, if it really does not matter what a program is named, then why are so many people insistent on sticking with the current names? If it truly did not matter, the names could be changed in a heartbeat. Explain that one.

Unknown said...

The Gimp keeps popping up in the name discussion because it is a prime example of the issue.

Yes, it's nice piece of software. Yes, the Gnu Image Manipulation Program is a clever name and I've seen Pulp Fiction.

Now, imagine you are trying to help out a non-profit organization that provides FOSS-based workstations to handicapped individuals. Not as funny anymore, huh?

Branding is important. Perception is reality.

Anonymous said...

A day and a half to go.

Break a leg, Ken!