US Report: The great Linux beer hike

Forget windowless convention halls full of hucksters and sterile displays. These Linux boosters want you to grab a computer and head for the hills.

In August, a group of Linux users are planning a Linuxbierwanderung, or Linux beer hike, through the hills of Bavaria, where loyalists can learn about Linux, inhale the fresh mountain air, and, yes, swill fine German beer when they've had their fill of bits and bytes.

Event organiser Don B. Marti, Jr. said the idea came about in October while he and some Linux developers were sitting around at Internet World in New York, drinking some beers. "We thought, 'Wouldn't it be nice to get away and learn Linux in a place that wasn't a stuffy old convention centre or a hotel?' "

"People are telling us, 'Wow, that's too fun to be true,' " said Marti, founder of the Linux marketing firm Electric Lichen. Already a Web site devoted to the event is filling up with planning tips from Linux lovers, including suggestions that the group catch the solar eclipse on August 11 and check out a few castles along the way. But the event won't be all boozing and schmoozing. Marti and his partner Jim Gleason are in the process of wooing hotshot Linux developers to join the adventure, which will be part camping trip, part developers conference.

Marti said a typical day would consist of a morning hike through the German countryside to a new campsite, followed by outdoor Linux tutorials, and then a sampling of the local pubs. The Linux classes -- which will target the beginning through expert user -- will be free, but attendees will be responsible for lodging and travel. Organisers are in the process of procuring Internet access and hiring vans to haul heavy gear, The weeklong trip is tentatively scheduled to depart on August 8 or 9, 1999.

Already, the trip has inspired similar events. Marti said he came across a mailing list where some French Linux developers were planning a cheese hike. "If you schedule it right, you might be able to do the cheese hike through the Pyrenees and then take a train across for the beer hike," he said.

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