Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Software Freedom Day: Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Hi everybody!

This is a well overdue post seeing that the Software Freedom Day was on the 15th of September. First of all I would like to congratulate the organisers; Jani Monoses, Adi Roiban and Cristian Klein for a job very well done! This event was, in fact, the first time I had officially and physically met other Linux users! It was a nice, albeit brief, break from the Windows users who 'just don't get it'.

The meeting was held at the Politechnical University of Cluj which is home to the Faculty of Computer Sciences. It is probably due to this fact that I was expecting to see a larger turn out. That said, I was very impressed with the people who actually did turn up. We were about 20 in attendance, of which only about 5 had been users of Linux for a substantial period of time! The clear majority was formed by new users and those only beginning to get interested in Linux. This, for me, is probably the best scenario possible!

Jani Monoses was the main speaker of the day and he appropriately decided to present the basic ideas and philosophies of the Open Source community and Free Software. He then went on to present Ubuntu and his own spin-off of Ubuntu, Kiwi.

Jani presents Kiwi as an Ubuntu based distribution which caters for the needs of new Linux users here in Romania (and potentially Hungary too). He prefers to stay as close to Ubuntu as possible, only adding support for the Romanian and Hungarian languages, non-free multimedia codecs, the non-free Flash plugin, web plugins and GUI tools for connecting to local ISPs (RDS and Romtelecom). He also mildly edited the boot splash and GDM themes. However, once in GNOME, Kiwi is identical to Ubuntu and is fully Ubuntu-compatible. This sets Kiwi up as a fully functional installation of Ubuntu, addressing the common needs of Romanian users, rather than an Ubuntu competitor. And this is precisely what he said he was aiming for. Again, a job very well done on the part of the Kiwi development team!

Considering the audience, basic topics such as installation of Kiwi, installation of additional applications, short demonstrations of software like, Firefox and Thunderbird, simple configurations like screen resolution and language switching were covered. Kiwi's Live CD capability was also demonstrated and the audience was impressed with Beryl which ran out of the box! I must admit that I was equally impressed as it was the first time I had seen Beryl first hand (my graphics card is too measly to support OpenGL). Moreover, it all worked with Open Source drivers on Jani's ATI card!

After the main presentation, a Q&A session followed with the audience putting forward the problems they faced. The most prominent problem I felt was with wireless networking and connecting to the internet with other ISP services (namely Zapp). Others included dual booting with Windows, setting widescreen screen resolutions and task specific applications. Another thing I found promising is that new users were interested in the community, philosophy and ideology aspects of Linux. From my experience with other new users I find that grasping these facets is usually key in people sticking with Linux as their OS of choice. I am glad that the people present had a clear headstart in this!

All in all I would go ahead and proclaim our Cluj-Napoca SFD meet a major success! I sincerely hope there will be many more meetings of like-minded computer users and who knows... maybe even a very active Cluj LUG!

Here are a few photos I took.


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