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A full pantry

Normally when I go into the kitchen and look into full cabinets, I feel comforted. To me it's simple, it means I can go prepare a good meal for the family with a host of ingredients. Today when I look into my pantry I'm saddened by what I have.

No, I don't have an empty pantry. I don't have a lack of food. In fact, right now there is plenty there, and it's quite full. I find myself though with the knowledge that others might not have such bounty available to them.

On Saturday a group of our friends and their families, as well as my own family, visited a place called Aid for Friends. Aid for Friends is located here in the Philadelphia area and provides balanced meals to 2100 shut-ins in the area, 7 meals a week. Each week a volunteer takes the meals to their clients (often with a one to relationship) and spends some time with these shut-ins, who otherwise may not have anyone visiting them throughout the week.

Our goal was to help out by cooking, packaging, and freezing meals for these volunteers to deliver. I'm humbled by how little we really accomplished. There were 16 of us, and we managed to cook about 250 meals and 12 cups of soup in our 3 hours there. Under normal circumstances this would seem rather amazing to me, but in the face of these folks needing over 14,000 beyond what we prepared, just for the coming week, I'm downright amazed. The 16 of us managed to prepare meals for all of about 30 people, for one week. It's stunning to me how much need exists and how little aware of it I was.

In any event, I'm shocked to find out such a thing existed in this area yet I have never heard of it. A lot of us geeks are more than ready to share our source, but don't always see the deeper needs of those around us. It's good to know there are caring people out there, and I'm glad to know that I helped them out, if only for a day. I hope that I'll never need their services, but there they are all the same.

I also discovered that they needed some computer help, so perhaps in the future I'll be able to pitch in there. Glad to report they are running apache for their website. At the end of the day it was an enlightening experience, and one that to me really reinforces what I'm (and what many of us with an interest in FOSS are, I think) all about. If I can share, I will.

Geeknic(s), CPOSC, and more

A few weeks ago we had a wonderful geeknic in Oaks PA. The sun was shining, the Frisbees were flying, and it was great. I know my kids had a blast running around shooting me with nerf guns, and I did too.

Last weekend I was able to take part in an event at Penn, part of the Openhatch effort. I honestly had a blast, it was a great full day event and a lot of fun to be a part of it. I hope I get such an opportunity again.

Coming up over the next few weeks... On the 10th of October there is a geeknic in Maryland. I hope to be able to make it.
Also in October on Saturday the 16th is CPOSC in Harrisburg. CPOSC is a great event that many of us from Philadelphia managed to make it to last year, and I hope to make it once again, other schedules permitting.

So it should be a pretty good October. Looking forward to making it to some of this stuff, and there has also been talk about a possible late October geeknic in the Philly area (possibly in Bridgeport near the high speed line, to make mass transit a possibility for once) so we may get to do that too!

fosscon... 2011?

Fosscon ended just over 12 hours ago. I think I probably listened to the first or last 15-20 minutes of at least 10 different talks or workshops... and I loved it. It's 6am the following morning and I'm absolutely exhausted, but I'm also excited about what the future holds.

So, the good, the bad... We didn't get the turnout we'd hoped for, but at the end of the day I think everyone enjoyed themselves. The talks (or at least the parts I actually got to hear) were very good, and more importantly a lot of people from all over talked outside them about ways they could help each others... help their community. I think it says something of our speakers that after hearing just a tidbit here and there, I still felt fulfilled in every instance.

To me, that's probably one of the best things that comes out of this. These disparate groups and people from all over have made the connections that will tie them together in the future. They've learned of new resources, and also who might need the resources they can provide, and as a result the community grows stronger.

It's these connections that move us forward. In the foss world, one person can certainly make a difference, but a handful of people who share what they have and use it to do something new and amazing, they can change the whole world.

There was a lot of talk at fosscon about next year. There will be a next year. Too much good happened for there not to be, and these people, all those who attended, those who sponsored (linode, the Peer Directed Project Center, and of course our attendees themselves!), those who volunteered... they are fosscon's community, and it's going to happen again.

See you in 2011

Heading North to fosscon.

Tomorrow afternoon we'll begin our drive (about 5 hours) up to fosscon along with a few others from Philadelphia. Last time we made such a trip was SELF last year (we went to CPOSC too, but we took the train) and it was quite a bit of fun.

I believe we still have room for one on our return trip only, so if you find a way to get there but not home let me know!

The conference is being opened by members of BaseKamp, located in Philadelphia. BaseKamp presents a completely different view of open source culture, going beyond free software and into free arts and culture. Just the other night they did a great session on free art session.

I'm personally looking forward to the POSSE panel, where a group of educators who have just completed a week long POSSE course (http://teachingopensource.org/index.php/POSSE_RIT) on how to use open source in their classrooms will share with everyone what they learned.

I'm also looking forward to meeting Bryan Østergaard (http://kloeri.livejournal.com/), coming all the way from Denmark to talk about how to build a developer community around a project. All in all it should be great.

If you aren't already coming, take a look at http://fosscon.org/ to see whats what, and maybe to come along.

Lower Merion laptop spying

I'm sure most of you have heard about the rather big story of Lower Merion School District allegedly spying on students using laptops in their school issued machines. As more news comes out about this, I'm personally getting more and more disturbed by it.

I think my views are somewhat unpopular, but I have a real problem with the basic premise that high school students (or any students) are untrustworthy and need anything approaching the sort of monitoring that went on. Even if we assume for a moment that they only ever used it as claimed, to recover stolen laptops, it seems to me even this was aimed at keeping students honest by not allowing them to steal these machines and sell them. While I don't question that such a thing may happen, I believe that protecting against it in this manner is not ideal, at best.

The issue isn't just a few laptops, and even if we find this school district was in fact using this software to spy on other occasions, I think it goes much further than just this story. In the grand scheme, this isn't even important. What IS important is the slow erosion of rights of our students. Students today are told they essentially have no rights beyond the right to an education. This incident is just an implementation of this policy, of showing these kids that they really don't have any rights, in or out of school. Month after month, new stories surface of how students are being punished or at least spoken to for things they are doing outside of school, for posts they are posting on line, for pictures they are taking and sending to friends. Why is this tolerated still?

Our rights are not something to just let slip away, and teaching our youth that they are mutable and unimportant is no way to raise the next generation in this nation. This is a deep issue with national, and even worldwide implications, not just a few pictures from a students laptop. Amidst all the chaos around this issue, lets not forget the big picture.

These kids are tomorrows adults. Start treating them like it.

fosscon continues, building a workshop, and more.

We're continuing to finalize details on fosscon, with registration now open and sponsorship opportunities posted. I'm terrifically excited about the prospect of this event and can't wait to see it realized.

We've also just moved, which is adding to the chaos... of course, by just moved, I mean we moved nearly a month ago, and we're still settling in, but the best part of this for me is clearly setting up my new basement workshop. There is TONS more space in this new house, and this means I have plenty of space to setup my equipment and have a little fun... finally. The only bad news is it looks like my o-scope gave up the ghost shortly after the move.

All in all, love the new place, hated the move, and hopefully we can stick here a decade at least.

We're having a fosscon!

This June, in Rochester. Fosscon is a free and open source software conference, assembled by the foss community and for the foss community. You can be a part of fosscon. All of us involved are very excited as this great project moves forward! Take a look at http://fosscon.org, registration will open soon. Besides checking out the website feel free to drop in #fosscon on chat.freenode.net to talk to others involved in fosscon.


Tomorrow I'll be heading to CPOSC, and speaking there too, it seems. It's been quite a while since I've spoken in front of a group larger than perhaps a dozen, so here's to not fainting.

The event looks like lots of fun, and I'll know at least a few people there (lyz and waltman) so well, away we go. Heading to the train.

Mailing List Spammers

Yesterday I received some spam. Just another day on the internet, right? Well, this spam was special.

Southeast Linuxfest: We're back.

Got back from SELF about 2 weeks ago. It was by far the best FOSS event I've been to, not that I've been to that many.
It bugs me that there aren't very many good ones. Ohio linuxfest is well spoken of, but it's pretty far, not that SELF was any better.

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