First Canadian National Linux InstallFest

Canada has a “Linux Day”--a novel method for getting the word out.

Saturday, September 26, 1998 was a big day for the Linux community in Canada—the First Canadian National Linux InstallFest was held.

The InstallFest was organized on a national level by CLUE (Canadian Linux Users' Exchange) to provide experienced help to those interested in installing Linux on their computers. CLUE is an organization that supports the development of local Linux User Groups and also co-ordinates events, corporate sponsorships and publicity at a national level. CLUE hopes that by enhancing association and communication amongst Linux developers, users, suppliers and the general public, it can increase the use and appreciation of Linux within Canada.


A dozen different events were held by Linux User Groups across Canada, from Halifax to Victoria, all taking place on the same day.

The Montréal event, at its peak, had as many as 100 people in the room at once and by all accounts had 200 to 250 people stop by. They did 40 installs, only 20 of which were from preregistrations. They even got the crew of the local TV show Branch to stop by for an interview, due to air in November. Also worthy of mention is that they had guru Jacques Gelinas, author of the LinuxConf software, answering questions.

Two InstallFests were held in the Toronto area: one at Seneca College and the other at the University of Toronto Bookstore. The Seneca College event had a late start due to a power outage, but more than made up for it later as the unofficial count of installs was about 100. They even rolled out their Beowulf class Linux cluster for the masses to look at and see how a few “small” Linux boxes can be turned into a “supercomputer”.

The Manitoba UNIX Users Group (MUUG) held their InstallFest at the University of Manitoba as a two-day event beginning on Friday. As this was their first InstallFest, they deliberately kept it small and aimed it mostly at the faculty and students of the U of M. About 140 people attended, with more than half purchasing a Linux CD, and MUUG did 19 successful installs. Attendance was greater than expected, probably due to the national news coverage the event received. At least one person came in who said he heard about the InstallFest from a segment on CTV News-1, a national news network.

The MUUG web site made mention of one more interesting story from the event. One attendee brought in a system which became known as “Franken-puter”! It appeared to be two separate cases tossed together with all sorts of spare parts the owner scrounged up, connected with a piece of coax Ethernet cable. He spent as much time swapping parts and reconfiguring on the fly as he did installing Linux. He apparently showed up at the start of the event on Friday and didn't finish until midafternoon on Saturday. Even after all that, he still hung around afterwards to help others with their installs.

The Ottawa InstallFest was hosted by the Ottawa Carleton Linux Users Group (OCLUG). While almost all the other events were held in a more academic setting of local colleges and universities, OCLUG had their event sponsored by NovoClub, a local retail store. NovoClub is located in a shopping mall and managed to get an empty storefront for OCLUG to use. They also arranged for display kiosks by several companies to be set up in the mall. There were training companies, a local ISP and most notably Corel Computer displaying their NetWinder. Of course, NovoClub offered specials on their very large selection of Linux products. The whole event was more like a mini-tradeshow than a typical InstallFest.

The unofficial count at the installation storefront was 250 people. This count included those who came to have Linux installed on their machines, members of the press and “just curious” folk who stopped to ask questions while wandering around in the mall.

OCLUG chose not to have people preregister; they decided to just let anyone come and register the day of the event. It was supposed to start at 10 AM and go until 5 PM. However, a line had formed by 9 AM when the mall opened and OCLUG soon ended up with a backlog of machines waiting for Linux installation. At 3 PM, they were two hours behind and had to start turning people away. By the time it was over, they had installed Linux on 50 to 60 machines and still had ten they could not finish.

Not all events were as popular as the ones listed above. The New Brunswick Linux Users Group had only ten people attend, with four successful installs. They were a bit disappointed with the low turnout. However, it was also homecoming week at Mount Alison University in town and a football game was in full swing at the same time as the InstallFest. They are in the process of designing a tutorial for their new users and anyone else who is interested. The Fredericton InstallFest was a little larger, with thirty attendees and ten installations.