April 22, 2005

One year as president of a LUG

Author: Jim Westbrook

Suddenly, the end of my year as President of the Austin LUG has arrived. I presided over forty-nine meetings of the LUG, because with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, we met every Thursday. I wonder, what did I, or the other members, really gain from those meetings?

There were only a handful of presentations. One was on a development project, peless, started one of our members, Paul Elliot. The discussion of the project itself was interesting, but so were the details of making it a full-fledged open source project with a homepage, version control, and input from other programmers.

There was one meeting when a question about php4 kicked off over an hour's worth of details from our past President. Much of that time was devoted to the differences of php4 from php3 in the context of website
use. This young man is so knowledgeable on so many facets of Linux that I often feel overwhelmed by the recognition of how little I know after six years of full-time use.

Another of our members, now our President, made two presentations during the past year. One on the mathematics involved in cryptography. Most of the members were somewhat familiar with the use of encryption tools, but his
explanation helped all of us to understand more clearly how and why increasing the bit depth dramatically increases the protection it affords. His second presentation was on his mkbkup utility, written in Perl. It is able to create full disk, bootable backups; even to drives of dissimilar geometry.

One of our newest members did a presentation on installing and running Ubuntu on a PowerPC. Despite experiencing major hardware problems, he was able to give a hands-on report that was both interesting and
informative.

Even I did a presentation last year. I had been developing an intranet webserver at work, and as a result had found a couple of rather useful programs -- SuperNotePad and Pixie. SuperNotePad is a basic html editor that is easy to use. Pixie is a utility for organizing groups of image files and creating hot-link thumbnails.

I learned from my stint in office that attendance at meetings is directly influenced by advance notice of upcoming presentations. When there was a week or more of "advertising" a presentation, attendance by members
and non-members alike was significantly greater. Unfortunately, we didn't always know until a day or two prior to a meeting whether there would be a presentation or not.

The same observation can be applied to installfest activities. When there was advance notice, with reinforcements over a two week period, the number of people present to obtain help with the installation of Linux was much greater than if there was only a few days advance notice. The number of members present to assist was also increased by longer lead times and multiple notices. Three of our four installfests had sufficient lead time and advertising.

Sadly, one of them did not. It was attended mostly by members seeking assistance with very specific, and often specialized, difficulties. Although this was beneficial and educational for those present, it was not the primary reason for holding the installfest.

I readily admit that I enjoyed my term as President of the LUG. I also have to admit that I am looking forward to being "just a member" for a while. What I really learned is that the more you are involved in LUG
activities, the more you learn about and enjoy using Linux.

So, join or start a Linux User Group and get involved in its activities.

You and the Linux community will both be the better for it.


Jim Westbrook has been a BBS sysop for seventeen years, a network admin since 1983, and a Linux user and advocate since 1999. He is a past president of the Austin Linux Group, in Austin, Texas.

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