Asian Linux user groups aim wide

Several of Asia's Linux user communities are planning various public events to raise awareness of open source technology and rope in more members.

Linux user groups across the region are ramping up efforts and activities this year to raise public awareness of open source and attract more members.

The Beijing Linux Group (BLUG), for one, had a particularly busy year in 2007 and has no plans to slow things down this year.

The six year-old group which started with some 80 members, now has a membership of over 500. Its president, Frederic Muller, said he is expecting this number to double or even triple by the end of 2008, boosted in large by the group members' infectious enthusiasm.

Muller said in an interview with ZDNet Asia that the past years' participation in conferences and events has helped raise the profile of the group. "People know we exist where before, I believe, we were more a 'quiet' group," he said.

Since mid-2007, the BLUG has had to revamp its Web site twice to accommodate the surge in membership. In addition, its members helped the OpenCD project--an effort to introduce open source software to Microsoft Windows users--by localizing it into Chinese and distributing 500 of its CDs to university students.

Leveraging the strength of its member size, the BLUG has been actively bringing open source software to public attention.

One public event the group organized last year was the Beijing Software Freedom Day. The grassroots version of the international event saw some 700 attendees and subsequently won the Best Software Freedom Day award from the international panel, alongside Nepal and Nicaragua.

This year, the group helped with the Linux Developer Symposium in February.

The BLUG also expects to support two large events at the end of the year: Gnome Asia Summit in September and the Conference (OOoCon) 2008 in October. The latter, in particular, will mark the first time OOoCon is held in Asia.

One of the reasons the group has been thriving is its location, Muller said, adding that it is "lucky to be in Beijing".

"We have a lot of open source companies with their main China office located in Beijing, and [their executives] make great members and speakers," he said. "On top of that, I believe there is quite a lot of technical exchange or training [because] they almost automatically send their foreign 'gurus' to our meetings to give presentations."

Singapore groups active, too
Also doing their part are two user groups in Singapore, which are planning a public event centered around open source and Linux.

Darrel Chua, who leads the Singapore Linux Meetup Group (SLMG) told ZDNet Asia that his group and the Linux Users' Group Singapore (LUGS) are jointly planning one such "major public event".

Chua declined to provide more details about the event, except to add that the two groups are still at an "early planning stage". He said more details would be revealed in the near future once they are worked out.

According to a discussion thread on the SLMG message board, the group in July last year set up 10 computers equipped with Edubuntu--a Linux distribution--for a local children's charity organization, Club Rainbow.

SLMG member Anand Vaidya said in a message board post on another forum that the group intends to provide Edubuntu and Linux-related training to the staff and children, and are open to working with other charities to implement similar Linux-equipped computer labs.

The group was formed in 2002 and currently has 416 members.