Software Freedom Day 2009


Chuck Frain Warms Up the Crowd

Originally uploaded by cmdln

Yesterday was Software Freedom Day. I was invited to speak at the Maryland Ubuntu Local Community by its leader, Chuck Frain. He suggested I speak on open formats, a topic which makes considerable sense given my podcast. I put together about thirty minutes worth of material and headed up early yesterday morning.

The Miller Branch of the Howard County Public Library is a great place. They have a very picturesque atrium with a sunlit, indoor garden. The computer lab took a little finding, a staff member had to show me where it was. I was delighted to realize all of the lab machines were running Ubuntu. In retrospect, that should not have surprised me.

Chuck explained before we got started that he first heard my podcast because of my interview with Celeste Lyn Paul. I put two and two together–she blogged some time ago about doing usability testing and studies with the Maryland Ubuntu LoCo.

Waiting for my turn to talk, I was more nervous than I expected. The lab was full but it isn’t very large. I have certainly spoken before much larger audiences before. Normally, though, I am a member of or moderator for a panel discussion. I am not used to speaking at length on my own. Well, not used to doing so live. When I record in studio, I can stop whenever I need to do so. I typically stop at least once during a recording session because I have flubbed or lost the thread of my notes. There is no stopping a live talk for either of those cases.

I received some encouragement via Twitter and Identi.ca, reviewed my notes while I had time and took some deep breaths.

Chuck warmed up the group with a short kickoff and walking tour of Ubuntu. He then introduced me and I got started. I wore my tee-shirt which explains, “Danger: May Geek Out with No Warning” and drew attention to it to break the ice. And to be perfectly honest to warn the audience that I may dig into some unfamiliar jargon. I invited them to stop me with questions as needed.

No one did interrupt me. I did see some nods though and the entire audience seemed to be paying good attention. I recorded my talk and as soon as I get it edited, I will use it as an upcoming feature on the podcast. I did get some excellent questions after my talk and a few further comments during the midday break. I think I will polish my notes for the talk and keep them handy against future need. Chuck seemed especially pleased and suggested I could come and speak about my main software project, flashbake, at the Columbia LUG if I wanted. Jim Sansing, who followed my talk with a demonstration of Audacity, chimed in that Chuck meant I was invited to present to the LUG. I may just do, if for no other reason than to get some clearly needed practice as a sole presenter.

Jim’s presentation on Audacity was quite good. He had a little trouble with some speakers he brought but the library staffer who supported the lab, Julian, stepped in to help. Jim did a solid job quickly showing what Audacity is and what is possible to achieve with it.

I stayed for one more talk, one given by Ron Swift on Asterisk. Ron had a short but well prepared slide deck. He clearly was very comfortable with the subject, not in the least because he uses Asterisk in his home and business. He concluded with a nice live demo of some of the features he discussed and of the setup that he uses. He provided excellent pointers for further information in case anyone was interested in trying Asterisk themselves.

At the break, I had to duck out as I had a social engagement to attend. The depth of the presentations and the comfort of the attendees surprised me. On consideration, I think the LoCo’s event served the purpose of Software Freedom Day quite well. Unlike some of the more open or larger events, the LoCo only reached a relatively small number of people. Judging by their questions and participation, though, they all to a one seemed like the sorts of people who would turn around and help advocate for free software from a good level of hands on experience and comfort.