It all started with a simple question: `Why don't we install Linux at all our meetings instead of at only some of them?' The North Texas Linux Users Group had been in existence for only about five months, and we wanted to make sure to spread the word in North Texas about Linux. We wanted to educate the computing public in our area about Linux, but we also wanted to let experienced computer users know that Linux could handle anything they threw at it.
After meeting at Texas Christian University for our first few meetings, we signed a contract with the DFWXchange that enabled NTLUG to meet at the Dallas Infomart. The DFWXchange is an umbrella organization that allows Dallas-Fort Worth users groups to meet at the Infomart for free, with all costs being absorbed by the many commercial vendors who also meet at the Infomart during the Super Satuday Sale. So every month between 3,000 and 5,000 computer users from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex converge on the Infomart---the premier meeting facility in the Southwest devoted exclusively to computer and technology events and organziations---to participate in users groups meetings and to take advantage of some really good prices on computer-related hardware. It's a big party.
It didn't take long for the NTLUG leadership to realize that we had stumbled upon a great opportunity: we wanted to let computer users in our area know about Linux, and we were now meeting every month in a facility filled with thousands of potential Linux converts. Our solution was to start the Linux Installation Project, which we call the LIP.
The goal of LIP is simply to install Linux on as many computers as possible. Those of us who participate in this project month-to-month have discovered that the very best way to advocate the use of Linux is to make it easy and painless for the unconverted to do just that: namely, run Linux on their computer of choice. In other words, Linux is its own best advocate. After a few weeks without a crash, most people say goodbye to Windows 95 with zealous enthusiasm. We like to think of LIP as an ongoing Linux Installation Festival that allows us to convert computer users to Linux one at a time.
The first step in establishing LIP as a well-run, consistent endeavor was to find someone to lead the effort. NTLUG is fortunate to have a technologically advanced membership, and it was fairly easy to find someone to lead the LIP; in fact, we found two such people: Mike Dunn and Bill Petersen, both of whom are experienced Unix and Linux Sysadmins. Under their guidance, and due to the generosity of NTLUG members, NTLUG's LIP has solicited and organized enough computer hardware to perform up to many simultaneous installations of Linux by all the usual methods, although we've found that cdrom installations are usually the most trouble free.
The word has now spread in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex---from schools and universities to computer vendors and other users groups---that NTLUG's LIP is the place to go for a painless installation of Linux onto PCs, laptops, servers, and even Alpha platforms. We have expanded our efforts at the LIP booth to include Linux advocacy, advertisement for Linux vendors who supply us with materials, the sale of Linux CDs (thanks to Bradley Glonka at Linux Systems Labs), and even basic Linux system administration and maintenance. We also spend a lot of time explaining to the uninitiated masses what makes Linux free and what makes it so much fun.
While we have been happy with the results so far, the LIP has more work to do. We want to expand our sales efforts to include other kinds of Linux merchandise (the sales of which go to support NTLUG and LIP), and we'd also like to expand our hardware assets to enable more simultaneous installations. Finally, we also want to develop our users group assets to such an extent that we can go to other DFW-area computer events and setup Linux installation and advocacy booths. NTLUG's approach to the Linux Installation Project can be summed up in the phrase: "Linux is free. Life is good."
If you want to learn more about the North Texas Linux Users Group or our Linux Installation Project, or if you're a Linux Users Group and would like to talk about setting up your own local version of LIP, please visit the NTLUG website or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, I would be guilty of ingratitude if I did not thank the following people and organizations that have made the LIP possible. Please forgive me if I've forgotten anyone. It's just about impossible not to meet great people when you work with Linux.