November 10, 2007

The day of the Linux desktop

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

I've been hearing the phrase "This is the year of the Linux desktop" for 10 years. For me, it's been a true statement for each of those years, because GNU/Linux has been my primary desktop operating system since 1997. But for most people around the world, this is the year of the the Windows desktop, same as it was last year and the year before. But if we each spent one day telling others about GNU/Linux, could we make a difference in the lives of at least a few people? I think so. That's why I'm promising -- right here and right now -- to spend at least one day in the next three months handing out free GNU/Linux install CDs, and why I invite you to join me in this effort.

Yes, this sounds a lot like Software Freedom Day. It should. That's where I got the idea. A few years back I spent an afternoon, along with several other free and open source advocates, handing out free software CDs and answering questions at the Books-A-Million store in Bradenton, Florida.

This year, Software Freedom Day didn't seem to make much of a mark, at least in this part of Florida. And, as usual around here, if you tell your neighbors you run Linux on your computer, the reaction will be something between a blank stare and an uttered "Huh?"

I don't have the power or the time to organize an international day of anything, and I obviously don't have the power to make this year or any other year special for any particular computer operating system or software licensing scheme. But I do have the ability to burn a few dozen Ubuntu (or other Linux distro) live CDs, set up a folding table someplace that gets a bunch of foot traffic, and hand out those CDs (and perhaps a home-printed fact sheet) and answer questions from curious passers-by.

Perhaps my efforts will result in five or 10 people trying Linux for the first time. It might be only one or two. Or maybe even none -- but at least a few dozen or a few hundred new people will know that Linux exists and what it is.

My wife is an artist who oftens sells her work at art fairs, so I'll probably tag my little Linux advocacy effort onto one of her sales excursions, since she has a shade canopy and a bunch of folding tables. Or perhaps I'll ask Books-A-Milion or one of the other local bookstores if I can set up at their place. They tend to be amenable to such things. There are plenty of appropriate places around here for a GNU/Linux (and other free software) giveaway -- and I suspect that there plenty where you live, too.

Think locally, act individually

I can't tell you yet exactly which day I'll choose for my personal act of Linux advocacy. And you can do your own Day of the Linux Desktop event without my approval or help, either alone or with a friend or two. Or you can turn it into a party and have dozens of people participate.

The idea here is that this is something almost anyone can do, almost anywhere in the world, without any central organization or, indeed, any organization at all. This is not Linux World or Linux Continent or Linux Country or Linux State or even Linux City or Linux Village. And it's not a year, a month, or even a week. It's just one day.

In its simplest form, your Day of the Linux Desktop effort is just you and some CDs you burn at home, then give away on a day that's convenient for you, at a convenient time and (hopefully legal) place. Afterwards, you may choose to send a few notes about your efforts to robin@roblimo.com. Or not, if you choose not to, since this is not in any way an organized event.

Of course, I'm not stopping anyone from doing a highly organized Day of the Linux Desktop event (or series of events) either. If that's what turns you on, and you have the time and other resources needed, go ahead. I'll root for you all the way, even if I end up just doing my own little Day of the Linux Desktop thing, on my own, in my own small way.

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