CE-GNU-LUG keeps, spreads the faith

LITTLE John looms large in the Cebu open source community. In installfests, he towers.

My first encounter with John Clark “Little John” Naldoza and his merry band of local open source advocates was in an installfest, a gathering hosted by a Linux users’ group (LUG) where people can bring their computers for installation of a Linux operating system (OS), in about 2000.

CE-GNU-LUG talks about Meego during a meetup last July 29 in TechBar at the Asiatown It Park.

Back then, open source wasn’t as widely accepted by people or businesses.

I had arranged, via e-mail, to meet Little John and looked around one of the trade halls in SM City Cebu with level eyes, only to be approached by a giant of a man with an expansive knowledge of everything tech. Little John is a man you look up to, literally and figuratively.

In 1999, Naldoza, William Emmanuel Yu and Ryan Go discussed in Plug (Philippine Linux Users’ Group) the setting up of a Cebu Linux Users’ Group. They decided to name the group phonetically after the festival that helped make Cebu known worldwide.

CE-GNU-LUG stands for Cebu GNU Linux Users’ Group. GNU, for those unfamiliar with open source, stands for GNU is Not Unix, a project launched in 1984 to develop a free Unix-like operating system. GNU provided the framework on which Linux, written by Linus Torvalds in 1991, was developed and distributed.

Open source software advocates in Cebu

The mailing list went online via eGroups (now Yahoo! Groups) in December 1999.

I joined the mailing list on July 25, 2001 and have found it very helpful in getting in touch with other Linux and free and open source software (FOSS) advocates in Cebu. Through the years, I was a mailing list witness to how it resolved tech questions ranging from the introductory to esoteric.

If your company runs open source software, chances are your systems administrator is in CE-GNU-LUG.

Naldoza, CE-GNU-LUG president, said the group’s biggest contribution is serving as venue for questions and concerns within the local open source community. “If someone would like some assistance on a software or config issue, someone within the list would be willing to respond,” he said.

Clint Cañada, a FOSS advocate who joined CE-GNU-LUG in 2004, said its biggest contribution is the “increased awareness on open source alternatives among the academe, industry and the general public.”

“Back in 2005/2006 when there were raids in Internet cafes due to pirated Microsoft Windows software, we installed Linux in some of the cafes to help owners. What resulted was at least, Microsoft Office was largely replaced by OpenOffice in some of the cafes.”

The group, with the late tech rock star Manny Amador, then expanded their open source advocacy to schools, helping a couple set up open source software in their labs.

Today, open source is widely accepted, especially in the enterprise. Companies now leverage open source to improve their businesses. The fastest growing mobile phone operating system today is Android, which is built on top of Linux. The Linux desktop is gaining wider acceptance with distributions like Ubuntu. On the Web, open source dominates as companies rely on such systems as WordPress and Drupal and the trinity of Apache, PHP and MySQL to run their sites.

Still important

Is a LUG still an important organization today?

“I think it is still as important today as it was when CE-GNU-LUG was formed. You have got a group of people who are generally extraordinary; they are fairly knowledgeable about a technical field; they are generally courteous and good-humored and willing to help, for free,” Naldoza said.

Cañada said it’s time for CE-GNU-LUG to take on a mentoring role. “I see the group probably hosting different beginner meet-ups with regards to programming languages, mobile development and maybe even team up with industry to help promote FOSS further by figuring out areas where proprietary software can be replaced with open source equivalents.”

Naldoza and Cañada said CE-GNU-LUG needs to be more active. The group met for the first time in a long while last Friday at the Tech Bar in Asiatown, IT Park. Naldoza said he wants to see more members and more activities carried out by newer members on advocacy, education, support and socializing.

Younger individuals

Cañada also sees the need for “an infusion of fresh blood, especially from younger individuals who are willing to carry on the torch of innovating through sharing ideas through open source coding and collaboration.”

“Today’s youth have such great talent that ignoring their drive and eagerness to create and innovate would be such a waste, especially to the open source movement. After all, who would have thought that a small, hobbyist operating system made by a second year Finnish student, named Linus Benedict Torvalds, released to the Net in September 1991, would become a worldwide hit, and power majority of the world’s servers and the most widely-used websites like Facebook and Google?”

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