[Linux-aus] Report on Linux Australia stand at CeBIT 2007, May 1-3

Sridhar Dhanapalan sridhar at dhanapalan.com
Thu May 24 11:48:19 UTC 2007

Hello everyone!

Linux Australia once again improved its presence at CeBIT this year. Demand 
for more FOSS representation at CeBIT manifested itself this year in an 
associated mini-expo and conference: Open CeBIT[1]. Of course, Community (of 
individuals, companies and other organisations) is the nucleus of FOSS, and 
Linux Australia was right in the centre of the action. To their credit, 
Hanover Fairs were cognisant of this, and they were good enough to grant us a 
double-size (6x3m) stand, which we were able to use to good effect.

Visitor demand was exceptional, and our fearless band of volunteers valiantly 
braved the tide. We had a range of things on display, including PCs loaded 
with Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Fedora. Visitors were wowed by our demonstrations of 
Beryl on a 32 inch widescreen LCD display, and our OLPC XO laptop proved to 
be immensely popular. Given the CD shortages that we experienced last year, 
and our even smaller supply this year, we aimed for quality rather than 
quantity when distributing discs. Using some simple techniques, we were able 
to get visitors engaged and actually interested in carrying away a Linux CD, 
rather than just randomly grabbing one from a stack and walking away. We had 
copies of Ubuntu and Fedora for the ordinary users, and OpenSolaris for the 
more adventurous.

The free software message is clearly becoming more attractive, and our 
visitors were noticeably more informed than in previous events. Firefox has 
proven to be the crowbar that we needed to prise people away from the notion 
that only proprietary software is viable in the marketplace. No longer were 
we barraged with the tired-old question of how companies expect to make money 
with FOSS. We saw fewer people criticise Linux for its lack of games, 
possibly a consequence of the decline of the PC relative to games consoles. 
Many were fed up with Windows, particularly Vista, and were actively looking 
for an alternative. Quite a few were already users of Linux, but were not 
active in the community.

I would like to issue a big word of thanks to those who helped with the stand:

	* Mike Carrington
	* Andreas Fischer
	* Michael Grant
	* Lindsay Holmwood
	* David Kempe
	* Richard Neal
	* Justin Randell
	* Jon Teh
	* Martin Visser
	* Steve Walsh
	* Jeff Waugh
	* Pia Waugh
	* [if I've forgotten anyone, let me know :) ]

Complementing the LA stand was the LA panel discussion on what the FOSS 
community means to business. Despite one brush with death (on my part) and 
the subsequent last-minute change of moderator (to Jeff Waugh), the 
panellists (Simon Phipps, Jon Oxer and John Ferlito) proved to be both 
informative and entertaining. John has linked to the podcast[2], which was 
recorded by Simon.

Previous presentations by LA at events and expos have been generally 
successful, but unfortunately not much is done to follow it up. We grab 
people's interest, but we often haven't been able to keep them involved in 
the community. As someone who was initially introduced to the Australian FOSS 
community through CeBIT, I believe that we can do better on this front. To 
this end, we have commenced with a two-pronged approach. Firstly, an 
introduction to FOSS and Linux is being built at the LA Web site[3], and the 
URL was clearly marked on all of our leaflets. It aims to be a first point of 
contact for people to learn about FOSS and Linux, explaining concepts in 
simple terms and linking to more detailed resources where helpful. While 
still a work in progress, it is already a viable reference to point newcomers 
towards. Secondly, a Bootcamp[4] event, hosted by the Sydney Linux Users 
Group (SLUG), was promoted at CeBIT. Specifically timed for two weeks after 
CeBIT, the goal was to attract those interested in learning FOSS to a full 
day of demonstrations, tutorials and workshops. Elaboration shall be made in 
a separate message, but the event itself appears to have been a resounding 

In conclusion, Linux Australia and FOSS have won increased exposure as a 
result of CeBIT and associated projects. The Penguin may have pushed the 
snowball, but inertia is carrying it forwards at ever-increasing speed :)

[1] http://www.opencebit.com.au/
[3] http://www.linux.org.au/linux
[4] http://www.slug.org.au/2007/bootcamp

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