Club “Needs to Change”
Sam Lin, a PC-BSD user who is active on the testing and translation lists, was recently interviewed by Chris Gardner, Farming and Technology Editor at the Waikato Times newspaper in New Zealand. His interview appeared on page C7 in the Technology section on February 5. The contents of the interview are posted here with permission:
A Waikato computer club whose members promote the use of the free Linux operating system are being told to broaden their horizons or fold.
The Waikato University-based Waikato Linux Users Group (WLUG) was founded in 1998 for users of the alternative to Microsoft’s Windows operating system, flavours of which are installed on more than 90 per cent of the world’s personal computers, and Apple’s iOS. Membership peaked at about 50, but has fallen in recent years to a 10th of that as it struggles to get enough together to hold a committee meeting.
Dr Shih-Min “Sam” Lin, of Waikato University’s honey research unit, who recently joined the committee, said the group almost folded last year as the half a dozen committee members were reluctant to take leadership roles.
“There should be much more members than this in the user group,” he said. Dr Lin said WLUG had not been close enough to the mainstream user and was unorganised. WLUG’s monthly meetings on topics like macro programming for Open Office were “quite geeky or techy for the mainstream user”, he said. “It is doubtful if the community would last long without making any change.”
Dr Lin, who uses another free operating system called PC-BSD, said it was easy to find books on paid-for software, but there was little available in the free software market although there was plenty of support online. “This is where I think the user group can cut into the general public. If in the monthly meetings some useful user-firendly tutorials can be given, people would be intrigued and be willing to come. More people, more interaction, more discussion, more vitality and more fun.”
Dr Lin said the free software community was open to everyone, not just computer geeks, and modifying software to suit personal needs was sometimes as easy as adding a few words to a text file. “As a biological scientist I analyse my data of the research on honey with a Free License Open Source Software (FLOSS) called R, which is an internationally well-known statistical package of which one of the original developers is a New Zealander. I typeset my thesis and long document with a FLOSS called LaTeX which is very common among computer science/mathematical/statistical fields. I use GIMP to edit my photos, and I use Firefox to hunt on Trade Me.”
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