2006/07/22

Linux Users Groups

Linux Users Groups (LUGs) are generally loosely-organized assemblages of people enthusiastic about using Linux and, to a certain extent, passionate about the open source concept. See the definitions at the end of this posting if you don't know what some terms in the preceding sentence mean or are referring to.

The LUGs within reasonable driving distance of Appleton, Wisconsin, are primarily the Fond du Lac Linux Users Group, the Milwaukee Linux Users Group and the Madison Linux Users Group. People have tried to get a LUG going in the Appleton/Green Bay area in the past five years, but as far as I know, there isn't currently an actively meeting LUG near Appleton/Green Bay. I've been to FDLLUG meetings and a couple MLUG meetings, but have not yet made it to a MadLUG meeting. With luck, I'll get to one of the MadLUG meetings in the next year or so. Because the FDLLUG meeting location is the closest to me, their meetings are the ones I most frequently attend.

The purpose and activities of a LUG depend on the leadership of the LUG and interests of LUG members. If the participants are mainly casual Linux enthusiasts, there will be a lot of interest in and presentations about Linux or open source application programs, such as OpenOffice, The GIMP, etc. If the group is a little more hardcore geek with a high percentage of programmers, there is likely to be significant time spent talking about various Linux distros, or distributions, such as Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat (Fedora), Suse, and others, and about how to solve specific programming problems or how to get a particular Linux program or distro to work with a specific computer or peripheral device. Nearly every Linux meeting I've been at also includes a significant amount of troubleshooting of the hardware and software involved with the presentation. An activity often sponsored by LUGs is a Linuxfest, which consists of a long meeting (four to eight hours) revolving around Linux topics, with a particular focus on helping people new to Linux load a Linux distro on their computer and learn how it works. Because Linux and application programs to use on a Linux system are (or can be) free, participating in a Linuxfest can be an excellent way to learn some new computer skills. (The Linux Users of Northern Illinois, LUNI, are organizing an Uberfest sometime in the next few months, so if you want to participate in a Chicago area Linuxfest, that is one to consider.)

The people at LUG meetings are generally open, inclusive and welcoming, to the extent that a bunch of geeks can be. If you go to a LUG meeting, just introduce yourself to everyone else at the meeting, listen to some of the conversations, and start asking questions of the people who seem the most interested in discussing Linux with someone new to the field. If you're not new to Linux but you are new to a LUG, bring along a computer (especially a laptop, because of portability) and start asking any questions you have about your Linux system or about other people's Linux boxes.

If you are a Linux enthusiast or interested in learning more about Linux, find the LUGs near you (or start one), participate in their meetings, make some connections with other LUG users, help make the LUG meetings worthwhile for everyone, recruit new LUG members and/or new Linux users and enjoy an aspect of computing made possible by thousands (probably millions) of mostly unpaid hours of hard but fun work from Linux enthusiasts around the world.

Definitions:

Linux - An open source kernel for a computer operating system written in the early 1990s by Linus Torvalds when he was in college in Helsinki, Finland. He originally named the kernel Freax, and it was later renamed Linux (a combination of Linus and Unix) by someone else on the internet after Linus made it available to others via the 'net.

Kernel - the central part in most computer operating systems because of its task [function], which is the management of the system's resources and the communication between hardware and software components. (from Wikipedia)

Open Source - Open source means many different things to people, but to me open source means both a social approach to life and people's creative products, and a way of looking at and dealing with computer software or programs. The definitions herein are my own. More precise or accepted definitions can be found in Wikipedia, Open Source Initiative, The Free Software Foundation, and in many other places. Open source software, referred to by some as free and open source software (FOSS), means software you can freely read and modify and can be free of cost. The phrases 'free, as in speech' and 'free, as in beer' are often used in referring to open source. The traditional commerical software, such as that made by Microsoft, was/is proprietary, and the source code cannot be openly viewed and modified by anyone who wants to take the time to figure out how to do it. MS programs are usually neither free as in beer or as in speech. Open source, on the other hand, is designed to be improved, modified and shared by anyone interested in doing so (assuming they are a sufficiently-skilled programmer). Many people think of open source software as being 'free, as in beer', so they can legally acquire for zero cost all the programs and software needed to operate their computer. To a certain extent that is true, but even more important is the fact that improvements to open source software are limitless because the programs are 'free, as in speech.'

Operating System - a software program that manages the hardware and software resources of a computer. (Wikipedia)

Unix - a computer operating system originally developed in the 1960s and 1970s by a group of AT&T Bell Labs employees including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and Douglas McIlroy.... Unix was designed to be portable, multi-tasking and multi-user in a time-sharing configuration. (Wikipedia)

Weekly issues list, so far, for the 25 July 2006 NEW NET meeting:

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