Going home from a recent volunteers meeting, I started thinking about the the impact that volunteering at last year’s Mozilla Festical has had on me.
When I volunteered at MozFest 2015, it was because I enjoy volunteering at big events, and because I am a Mozillian. I had no real exposure to the MoFo side of Mozilla and wanted to learn a little more. I knew it did good things, I knew that it helped connect people with the open web, but beyond that, it was not something that I had much need to get involved with.
Luckily, the MozFest team held a series of meetings/socials where people could learn more. At first I struggled a little trying to imagine such an event with such a fluid form - my event volunteer history is full of events with fairly fixed parameters. I was also advised that at MozFest, I would learn about something or speak to someone that would change my view of the world. Very deep…!
It was at one of these meetings that I got chatting to a fellow volunteer. She explained how she had taken an old Apple laptop, taken out its innards, and replaced them with an Raspberry Pi running Debian, to create an “Apple Pi”. Wow. I had heard of Linux, but thought it to be the OS of people with far too much time, not a practical everyday solution. It was difficult to install and very challenging to support. But if someone can do what she has done, maybe I should take another look at it.
My laptop at the time needed replacing. Too large, too heavy, hard drive making weird noises. Windows 10 was okay and clearly showed positive signs of community involvement, but I was bored of it. I had been using Windows since version 4, and I already knew what version 14 would be like - more of the same. I wanted to try and learn something new.
So I got a custom built laptop. Smaller screen, no Windows license, saved me £250 (of which the Windows license was £80) on the equivalent “off the shelf” Windows machine. I had a Linux distribution on DVD and set about installing it. This involved:
- Putting disc in the drive.
- Setting the bios to boot from the DVD.
- Turning the laptop on.
- Installing Linux
None of that dual booting stuff for me. I wanted to make a clean break, I wanted that sense of wonder I had when I was at college using a Windows PC for the first time on my own. With Linux, I have not been disappointed. Aside from swapping out a distro build for a Mozilla build of Firefox, everything I want or need is there. No random error messages, no bloat, it simply just works.
But aside from this personal open source epiphany, I have gained a new perspective on operating systems more generally. Yes I still find Windows boring and yes, Apple are too closed and far too expensive, but the instead of one platform trying to take over the world and falling short, I think that there is equal space for all three. Imagine how much more open the world would be if each had 33% market share with software being able to be installed and files exchanged easily regardless of platform.
I would not have had these views if it was not for a chance conversation, one of many that took place between the people involved in or attending the Mozilla Festival. But there is no reason for these conversations to stop when the weekend is over, or for them to depend on MozFest at all.
I would urge everyone reading this to take some time and chat to people in your open source community, whether it be virtual or real, functional or geographic. Speak to people from different backgrounds and disciplines. Share ideas, thoughts, concepts, successes and failures.
You never know…it might help change your view of the world.