A Summary of LinuxExpo UK 2003

MJ Ray

15th October 2003

A summary of events and discussions from the exhibition at Kensington Olympia, London, on the 8th and 9th October 2003, taken from the author’s notebooks.

1 Software Patents

It seemed that one of the most popular topics of conversation from the floor was the software patent directive making its way through the European Union process at the moment. On the first day, we just had a sign with details of the softwarepatents.co.uk and ffii.org.uk sites. Before travelling to London for the second day, I edited a page from the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure UK site down into a third-A4 leaflet and printed some examples which were gone within about 90 minutes of my arrival.

2 Education

On the show floor, education people seemed quite keen to know more about possible alternatives to upgrading RM Connect and sites that are already heading along that path. We also made contact with someone with experience of supplying software to education who now works with free software and wants to get more involved.

There was a Schoolforge UK meeting at 1230 on Wednesday. Neil Darlow went along and took notes, which I’ve not yet discussed with him but reproduce here. Their main project at the moment is open curriculum materials. Issues they noted included the target of no computers over 5 years old by 2005 or 6; the need for an MS Access replacement; and over-zealous firewalling of schools blocking ports useful to GNU/Linux (eg ssh). Suggested projects were to lobby LEAs and DFES to form a friendlier free software policy; and to produce a GNUWin autorun CD-ROM for distribution at education exhibitions.

After the meeting close on Wednesday, there was a meeting about LPI in the UK. Neil, Nick and myself attended from the stand staff. Notes about this meeting have been published to the LPI-UK discussion on list.lpi.org and I’ll be researching incorporation for them, as I will for AFFS. I think the most significant development is involvement of UKUUG and AFSP at a meeting.

3 Activism

While Neil was at Schoolforge-UK, I met two people from the ox-en list of oekonux.org for lunch. It was an interesting conversation, where I learnt that RMS is speaking in Sheffield later this month. We also mentioned geneva03.org and the conference in Vienna that is the same time as the European Social Forum. Finally, the Anarchist Bookfair is in London on the same day as RMS in Sheffield and has a session that might be of interest.

We also discussed similar themes in the same pub after the show closed on Thursday. As well as trying to make more contacts with Activix, SocialSoftware, seedsforchange and some other groups we mentioned, we decided that we have a few of us what can write proper, like, so we should try to keep in touch and develop some useful localised documentation.

4 AFFS Organisation

We must get the workgroups up to speed and increase newsletter frequency. A couple of people are impatient to move forwards with associate memberships. I made some new contacts in the health sector. It seems a common problem that these people using free software don’t know each other. I think a health workgroup should be a priority.

The new gloss leaflet worked well and very few copies seemed to be junked in the fair or immediately outside. The sparse cover was enough to attract interest, but not too much to deter pick-up. Acronyms must be expanded on first use: ”What is DRM?” was a very frequently asked question on the stand. We distributed about 2000 leaflets to the 10000 visitors, media and so on.

5 Other Organisations

We shared our stand with some GNU merchandise and information about the Association of Free Software Professionals, in exchange for some staffing help. Much GNU material was sold and I think Neil Darlow of AFSP found it useful too. We should definitely invite FFII to help and maybe we can raise money to move out of dot-org into a co-op stand like The Linux Centre had. If we did that, we could have other materials too, like the Network Theory books that I think would complement the GNU Press ones.

Matt Nailon did the rounds of the not-for-profit stands telling us that LinuxFormat plan to run some sort of round-up in 3 to 4 issues time.

We were presented with a cheque by UKFSN. Pictures were taken by Richard and Heike. We need to get hold of some and make it into some press releases next week.

A new contact was Computer Aid International, which recycles computers from this country and distributes them overseas. In the first instance, Adam directed them towards Morphix and Freeduc, but we must follow this up.

6 Practicalities

We should prepare a book of our press releases and newsletters so that we can show people practical examples of what we do. In future, we must talk with other groups on their stand immediately before the show so that stand staff can better handle questions about the material on the stand and topical issues.

We need extra signs. The AFFS ones provided are very good and the additional A3 laminate from Paul Hedderly was ideal for the short side wall of the counter, but we also wanted:-

There seemed to be enough counter space, but there was no other display or conversation space. We couldn’t have used a sign stand, as it would have obscured the notices on the pillar. The desk was very solid and deep enough, although its height caused problems for some visitors. Behind the desk, we had a panel protruding and hindering free movement of staff behind the left end of the counter. To talk easily with visitors meant being in front of the desk, but the coffee bar kept placing supply cages near our stand that limited the number of visitors we could serve and a leaflet stand prevented use of the short side of the desk.

Lighting was very good and acoustics were terrible, possibly because of the low ceiling, cafe and not having stand walls. At the NEC, not having walls didn’t seem a problem, but Olympia seems to echo much more.

We didn’t have a prearranged plan for taking away the extra materials delivered to the stand. The remaining leaflets were too heavy to carry back by train. Fortunately, there was space in Steve McIntyre’s car taking Debian materials back to Cambridge, where we can relay it from.


Copyright 2003 MJ Ray mjr at towers.org.uk http://mjr.towers.org.uk/

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