Bring a Luddite To Sanity Day(TM): Ohio Linux Fest, September 25-27th, 2009, Columbus Ohio


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Aug 19, 2009 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

This is the first year in a long time that I will be missing the Ohio Linux Fest (September 25th to 27th in Columbus, Ohio). I had a previous commitment, and I try to honor my commitments. But for the rest of you, it is time to register and (equally important) get a Microsoft Windows user to register and attend.

I have been involved with OLF for several years. I became involved through a frantic call by one of the organizers a few weeks before that year's event telling me that they had everything they needed except for a place to hold it. It seems one of the organizers "thought" they had a university as a sponsor, and that was not exactly true....

To make a long story short, through my somewhat empty credit card, some creative financing and a lesson in how to get donations to repay the loan saved the day, and the OLF has been getting bigger and better as time rolls on.

This year is, of course, the 40th anniversary of Unix. Many events are having some recognition of this, but OLF has managed to corral two of the really great speakers about Unix and the culture behind it.

Dr. Peter Salus, generally known as the "Historian of Unix" and author of three leading books on Unix, Linux and their histories will be there talking about "The Importance of 1969".

I was a college student in 1969, studying Electrical Engineering at Drexel Institute of Technology (later to change its name to Drexel University in an attempt to confuse me). During that summer I started working as a co-op student for the Western Electric Company, the manufacturing arm of the Bell System. I took a correspondence course through Western Electric in "How to program the IBM 1130 computer in FORTRAN", and eventually decided to follow a career in software. Of course almost being electrocuted by 13600 Volts and 800 Amps also helped solidify that decision.....

Also speaking is Dr. Douglas McIlroy. Doug was the person running the department at Bell Laboratories that hired Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, the two people that started the Unix operating system (also in 1969) and (later) the "C" language. Doug is credited with the concept of pipes and filters, convincing people that streams of ASCII characters were the way to go for an interface, and the concept of MACROS.

Today we more or less take these things for granted, but if you have never heard of them before, conceptualizing them is not easy. Doug had to write some of the first Unix commands to help illustrate what he was talking about and the utility of the concepts.

Doug is "retired" now, and in his retirement he is more active than most people in their teens. Teaching at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire ("Live Free or DIE"), he has graciously agreed to come to the OLF to talk with people, not just about the past, but about the future of computer science.

And of course OLF *is* about the future. While we honor the long past, the recent past and the people who worked hard and long to bring us what FOSS has brought us today, we need to look toward the future.

Therefore OLF also brings you new technologies that the organizers feel will help you in today's and tomorrow's world.

For example, GNOME 3.0, which is scheduled to be released in March of 2010. And computer languages that are good for your eight year old, for OLF is a family event too, and unlike other events that rhyme with "Linuxworld" where people are not allowed into the event unless they are over 21 years of age, OLF regularly admits "young programmers" still in carriages.

Finally, in the spirit of "Free as in Free Beer", the OLF continues to have a "gratis" registration for those who are "interested" in Linux, or who, for one reason or another can not afford to contribute to the costs of putting on the event. There is also a "Supporter Package" of $65. for those who are employed by Free Software and are looking for a tax deduction, and a "Professional Package" which gets you a day of tutorial training. In addition, there is also the "Kitty Jar" that gets circulated to help cover costs, but no pressure to donate past what you feel you can.

Because of this flexible registration fee schedule, OLF is the perfect venue to bring that boss/teacher/spouse who just refuses to migrate/teach/use our favorite software. I suggest that you use OLF to be your "Bring a Luddite to sanity.(TM)" event, and each attendee bring one person who thinks that Free Software is too hard to use, or too unsophisticated for their use.

Carpe Diem!


  • OLF

    I too will be sadly missing Ohio Linux Fest due to a prior commitment. Bringing a Windows user friend or colleague is a good idea, but I suspect they'll be more likely to come if you call them something other than a "Luddite"! happy

  • OLF

    This will be my first time to Ohio LinuxFest and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll be speaking at the Diversity in Open Source day, too. Sorry to hear you can't make it this time!
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