A Call to Action
I live in Los Angeles, where the memory of the Hollywood 10 and the Blacklist lives on. I knew many of the blacklisted writers from my Sundance days and the experiences they had with HUAC left them bitter and sometimes broken. These were incredibly talented people whose lives were ruined by “The Big Lie”.
While it's easy to poke fun at remarks from Microsoft's Jim Allchin—and yes, there was a lot to laugh at—it also raises a flag. It's easy to dismiss his seemingly ridiculous charge that free software is un-American, but I'm not sure we should just laugh it off. There's always a chance that some uneducated loose cannon will take Allchin's remarks at face value, especially if the loose cannon happens to hold a public office somewhere.
GNU/Linux companies and people who are passionate about Linux need to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill and in local and state legislatures. Linux International (http://www.li.org/) has changed its bylaws recently to include the ability to form special interest groups and lobby. SIIA (http://www.siia.net/), the oldest and largest trade association of the software industry, hosted an Open Source Division meeting at their annual meeting (see full item below) with the idea of forming an agenda to address with legislators.
While flaming easy targets like Allchin is personally gratifying, we also have to be very vigilant—utilizing the existing frameworks of .orgs like Linux International and SIIA warrants a closer look.
The Linux Professional Institute (www.lpi.org) designs and delivers a standardized, multinational program to certify levels of individual expertise in Linux. The programs are put through a rigorous benchmarking process so that they will satisfy the requirements of Linux professionals and the organizations that would employ or contract them. They currently have Level 1 certification available for basic level system administrators and are working on Levels 2 and 3. LPI maintains vendor neutrality, and the testing is deployed globally, in English, through Virtual University Enterprise (http://www.vue.com/).
“The Linux Professional Institute preserves freedom of choice in how people prepare for their certification exams,” Dan York, president of LPI said. On their web site they offer a list of books, training centers and courses that can help someone prepare. LPI developed the exams using peer industry standard practices and psychometrics. In other words, they polled more than 1,400 people for the Level 1 test, asking them to complete a job-task analysis survey. The survey assesses tasks and knowledge sets that a person at each level of proficiency should know how to do. The goal, according to York, is to develop objectives that can be validated on a real-world basis. Legal defensibility of the tests is also an important component.
LPI is currently developing the Level 2 test and has polled more than 200 professionals thus far. The task is time consuming and lengthy, but creating a solid testing metric is worth the time and effort, according to York.
LPI could use the help of Linux professionals in the exam process. They need people who can review, write and translate Level 2 questions, as well as do ongoing maintenance and review of the Level 1 test to help keep it current. They could also use a hand in fund-raising and marketing. Because they have no budget for marketing, participants in the certification process learn about LPI through word-of-mouth. Companies could consider giving employees a few hours a week to work on LPI initiatives. For further information, log on to http://www.lpi.org/ and click on the Getting Involved button.
The Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) held the inaugural meeting of the Open Source Division, a new special interest group at their annual conference in San Diego. The agenda included discussions on the future of the open-source computing model and strategies to increase market acceptance of free software. They also discussed public policy developments affecting open-source companies and created a strategy for future action. Red Hat was the first free software company to join SIIA.
The SIIA is an international trade organization for software companies. During the antitrust case of recent history, SIIA filed a brief in the case siding with the government. This was done despite a Microsoft executive sitting on SIIA's board of directors. Within days of the filing, Microsoft resigned its membership. According to Ken Walsh, president of SIIA, it was more important to do the right thing and go with the majority of the board's opinion, than to bow to one member.
The GNOME Foundation (http://www.gnome.org/) released GNOME version 1.4, a mature, stable release of the desktop environment. The release includes a host of cool bells and whistles, as well as some additional packages, including Nautilus, Eazel's file management system. The release represents a big step forward for GNOME, moving more solidly in the usability and power category.
GNOME 1.4 has extensive documentation available through the Help tab. It is available for download on a number of mirror sites that can be reached through http://www.gnome.org/ and will be available in many distributions. Check the web site to get information on the most current ways to get GNOME 1.4.