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Linux: How to Avoid Linus Tech Tips’ Mistakes

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Linux is receiving greater exposure in response to news about Windows 11 updates and possible concerns. Capitalizing on this, the Linus Tech Tips YouTube channel engaged in a 30-day Linux challenge. As someone with ten years of experience working with Linux across several different laptops, I watched with interest to see how they would perform. After all, Linux is getting more attention thanks to the media as an option for people and organizations looking to reuse older hardware. The results of Linus Tech Tips’ challenge were…well, let’s watch for ourselves:

How it All started

Other tech-oriented YouTubers like Chris Titus and Techhut have chimed in with their takes. It’s easy to poke holes in Linus’ video (and at the end, he admits his mistakes), and there are those who either have outdated tech that cannot be upgraded to Windows 11 or wish to make the change to Linux. This is not a simple process but requires some thought and preparation. But unlike Linus Tech Tips, a simple Google search shouldn’t be your only option. Here’s a preliminary list of the first steps towards making the switch to Linux.

Getting Started With Linux

Before transitioning any machine to Linux, you will need to take an inventory and ask yourself some key questions. This can help guide your decision towards Linux adoption:

What Software Do You Need, and Is There An Open Source Equivalent: Looking at how you use your computer can help you determine what software you need and if there is an open-source solution that can run on Linux. If you need an office suite, LibreOffice is a full-featured alternative to Microsoft Office. For image manipulation, GIMP is a great alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It’s less about “can I run a Windows program in Linux” and more about “can I do the same things with Linux that I can with a regular computer?” (Although there are ways to run Windows software on Linux like WINE software or virtual machines). Whether using it for simple office processes or gaming, knowing why you’re using your computer can guide your Linux selection.

Refurbished Thinkpad T530 for Linux
Photo by Gordon Dymowski

A good example is a laptop I’m writing this post on – it’s a Lenovo Thinkpad T530 running Linux Mint 20.2. I use it primarily for writing both the blog and my fiction, so I rely primarily on LibreOffice and the built-in text editor. Since I am exploring the possibility of self-publishing, I also have several software packages that are alternatives to commercial packages or open-source alternatives like Calibre, Sigil, and Scribus. The only money I spent was on the laptop itself and a solid-state drive to replace the hard drive. (Total cost was approximately $200). Everything works well, the battery has a long life (almost four hours on a single charge), and Linux runs very smoothly.

Inventory Your System – One of the first things anyone should do before upgrading their system to Linux is learning their system requirements. On Windows 10, that information can be acquired in the matter of a few keystrokes, and you’ll need to know these key system processes:

  • Processor – This drives the desktop or laptop computer’s activity;
  • RAM – This is where the computer’s processes run (and can be expandable in some units)
  • Storage – How much data can your device hold and should you replace it with an SSD (solid-state drive)?
  • Video Drivers – Although Linux can work with a variety of peripherals, some that require special drivers like NVIDIA can be especially challenging for Linux.

Two Key Decisions – After being used to Windows and its various quirks, the decision to switch to Linux may be daunting. However, there are two very important preferences that you need to examine before making a final decision:

  • Stability vs. Immediacy – if you prefer your software to remain relatively stable with few quirks, you want something that derived from Debian or Ubuntu (like Linux Mint, MX Linux, Linux Lite, Pop OS, and others). If you want to be “bleeding edge” and are willing to dedicate time to precise configuration and tweaks, an Arch Linux-based distro like Manjaro might be your ideal option.
  • Workflow Style – Many people prefer a Windows-style layout and others prefer a Mac-style layout. Many Linux distros offer a variety of desktop environments. These are ways to interface with the main software, and can be preset with various levels of configurability.

Researching Linux Distributions


One key mistake that Linus Tech Tips made was a simple Google search of “best Linux distros” which are geared primarily to tech enthusiasts and those with advanced knowledge. Knowing where to start once you’ve decided to explore Linux can be challenging, but here are some easy first steps.

Toughbook Running Linux Lite
Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Check Out Their Website – Google can lead to a simple reading of a distribution website to learn its strengths and functions. Every distro has some manner of community forums that can allow you to investigate potential problems. (Also, please be warned if anyone seeking advice is being told “RTFM” – that is a huge red flag)

Distrowatch Is Also Good, But With a CatchDistrowatch is a site that focuses on recent updates to Linux distros. However, it does come with a slight warning: you will see a hierarchy of distros along the right side of the page. It’s only a ranking of unique web visits to that distro and not a ranking of the “best distros ever.” But the site provides links to both downloads and reviews to get a clearer sense of distribution features and functions.

Video Is Your Best Research Tool – Searching YouTube and Odysee for videos about Linux distros can be especially helpful as they sometimes provide screen captures of actual use. Besides Techhut and Chris Titus Tech (who has a great 30-day-switching-to-Linux playlist), other good channels include Linux for Everyone and Explaining Computers (more hardware-focused but with the occasional foray into Linux).

Linux & Windows Side-By-Side Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Test-Driving Linux Distros

This is the other major mistake that Linus Tech Tips made in their video: you never do a full switch on your computer without trying the distro first. (Plus, saying “yes” to something you’re not sure you should do is never a good idea). There are some great methods for “test driving” a Linux distro before deciding to perform a full install. This can save your computer, your time, and your patience.

Get a Feel at DistrotestDistrotest is an “online virtual machine” containing many types of Linux distros. Simply select one, wait for it to load, and working with it online can give you a great sense of how a distro “feels” in use. It’s also a great way to get a practice run as you’re deciding whether or not to switch over.

Create a USB Live Key – Running a distro off of a USB drive can be very helpful in getting a feel for Linux on your particular machine. (In fact, that’s how I test-drove several distros before deciding on Linux Mint). Explaining Computers has a great how-to video on installing and running Linux off of a USB drive. (Some distros for lower-spec machines are developed to run solely from USB drives). The other advantage is that most distros have an “install” icon on the desktop, making it easier to switch when ready.

Find/Purchase a Used/Refurbished Machine – If you have an older, less frequently used laptop lying around, that would be a great test run for any Linux distro. This would allow you to get a handle on Linux while maintaining your current operating system on your main desktop or laptop. If you’re looking for a low-cost alternative (or don’t have a spare laptop), consider checking out a digital recycling center or organization like Free Geek Chicago to purchase a low-cost laptop (and in FGC’s case, some units have Linux pre-installed).

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to poke holes in Linus Tech Tips’ attempt to install Linux, since installing and working with any operating system brings specific challenges. However, Linux has many advantages for individuals and organizations (especially community-focused ones): it is available to download free, provides flexibility in computing, and brings out the best in any particular machine. This is the “latest, but not last” word from this blog on Linux, but we are curious to see where the conversation heads next…

Speaking of conversation, we encourage you to join the conversation via the comments section below. You can email me privately via this contact form, or join the conversation on our Facebook group.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Written by gordondym

November 15, 2021 at 10:25 am

Meet Your Neighbor: Klava Fund

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(Special thanks to Stephen Klava of Klava Fund for his time and insights)

Crowdfunding and fundraising can be challenging for many individuals and organizations. Small businesses are at greater risk for closing due to COVID-driven financial pressures, and other mission-driven organizations find themselves wondering how they can meet their immediate expenses within a short period of time. Thanks to Steven Klava of Klava Labs, the Klava Funds app provides an opportunity to drive small business success and gain critical fundraising and crowdfunding skills.

Available on Android and iOS, the Klava Fund app was built on Flutter SDK in Dart and arose from the growing cultural transition towards digital cashless transactions. Stephen Klava saw a need for nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations to raise funds easily as a substitute for cash donations. Users can create a new campaign centered around a hashtag as a unique identifier, and the Klava App provides immediate social media distribution (allowing people to “get on board” and easily track success) as well as QR Code functionality. Unlike larger platforms such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter, the platform is easy to use and, most critically, takes a grassroots, community-based focus to its outreach.

Just ask the Evanston family who lost everything in a fire before Christmas. Thanks to the support of a good samaritan, the family found shelter and a place to figure out the next steps. The good samaritan developed a sign-up sheet for the greater Evanston community and contacted Stephen Klava through LinkedIn, to create a Klava Fund.

Identifying and addressing needs is a theme throughout Stephen Klava’s life. With a degree in mechanical engineering from Bradley University, Stephen Klava worked in the water treatment and product development fields in the private sector. Although his work was primarily in the suburbs, Klava wanted to shift his priorities and focus on Chicago-specific initatives. After learning Java and other coding platforms, Klava worked for an IT consultancy which specialized in various platforms (including LinkedIn, Salesforce, and earning a Google Partner designation).

Although initially created to help nonprofits and mission-driven organizations, the Klava Fund app is setting its sights on Chicago-based small businesses. For example, bars and other socially-based venues can use the app integrating photos to raise small amounts of funds to cover expenses. Theaters can use photos of performances to drive small campaigns to pay smaller bills. The Klava Fund has also opened a new Ambassador program for those who want to help others (especially people with smaller networks on social media) start and run a successful campaign.

But what does Klava Fund need right now? It needs more grassroots networking efforts. With many small businesses, organizations, families, and individuals struggling to make ends meet, the Klava Fund wants to work directly with the community. Initiatives like Oak Park’s Takeout 25 in other areas can be great opportunities for collaboration and cooperation with Klava Fund. In a time when connection and collaboration is sorely needed, Stephen Klava has provided an opportunity for small businesses, individuals, and other organizations to foster that spirit through the Klava Fund.

Have questions? Please leave them below or join the conversation via our Facebook page.

As always, thanks for reading!

Resuming the Linux Laptop Lifestyle

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Earlier this year, I was looking forward to working with my Linux-powered writing laptop. After discussing how I revived several laptops with Linux distros, I managed to be highly productive with thirteen-year-old hardware. Even taking on paid work wasn’t an issue; my Windows laptop focused on work product (some software I use is proprietary to Windows), while my Linux laptop focused on creative endeavors…at least, until June.

My Linux laptop began overheating (it was an older model) and one of the screen/cover hinges fell apart, making it unusable. So my mission because finding – and converting – a new laptop for both writing and creative efforts. My overall goal was still the same: a writing/self-publishing machine that would allow me to craft articles and fiction as well as regular blog posts. Thanks to COVID-19, my normal backup plan of purchasing a machine through Free Geek Chicago was out of the question. (They were closed at the time; they have reopened since then). So I did what anyone else would do: purchase a refurbished laptop.

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(You may be wondering why I did not just use my Windows laptop for writing and work. Since I am often working with client materials that are not for public consumption, distinguishing between the two helps me stay focused and productive. Plus, my work laptop, a low budget model purchased at Walmart, has a keyboard that doesn’t quite respond to my fast typing speed – I have to wait about forty-five seconds before I see typed text appear on my keyboard).

My laptop of choice, after considering various models, was a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad T530. It helped that I was already looking for a Linux-friendly model, but found a great deal via eBay. With a quad-core processor and 12 gigabytes of RAM, this machine was more powerful than I expected. (My last Linux laptop was a dual-core with 4 gigabytes of RAM). Although it has been upgraded to version 20, I chose to reinstall Linux Mint 19.3 – it hasn’t given me any problems and runs very smoothly. Although there are some deficiencies in my Thinkpad (which lacks a Bluetooth card and requires a dongle for connectivity), it works well…especially the keyboard. Many laptop users claim that typing on a Thinkpad is like driving a race car.

I’m writing this blog post on my Thinkpad, and the hype is true. It’s refreshing to see my words appear as I type…but I digress.

Linux Lenovo Thinkpad T530 With Stickers

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Having used my Linux laptop regularly for writing in the past two months, I’m finding Linux to be an extremely reliable daily driver. Working with Windows can be frustrating even after “debloating” the operating system. (Many of the privacy concerns around Windows 10 do not make it easier.) However, I have to acknowledge that several software packages that I rely on are Windows-only and do not have any open source equivalents. However. using a separate laptop for work may seem like a luxury (especially in current time), but there is comfort in moving from one laptop to another as a way of indicating that “work” is over. Plus, the Lenovo Thinkpad is a business laptop designed to be sturdier and more customizable, making it ideal for writing and self-publishing.

It would be impractical for everyone to switch over to Linux-based operating systems, but it makes a great way to revive older hardware and extend the life of a given machine. My previous Linux laptop had been initially released in 2008, purchased (refurbished) in 2013, converted to Linux in 2016, and fell apart (to be recycled) in 2020. My Linux-powered Thinkpad model was initially released in 2013 and purchased refurbished in 2020. At a time when recycling and repurposing older hardware is becoming more economically feasible, Linux provides a great opportunity to not only save money but also stay productive and learn about hardware functions.

Please leave your comments below or join the conversation via our Facebook page. Email me directly via this contact page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 8, 2020 at 4:13 am

Above the Waves: Improving Student Mental Health Through Technology

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(Special thanks to Ryan Hesslau of Above the Waves for his time and insight)

Even before the current COVID-19 pandemic, high school and college students have many issues connecting with mental health services. Despite current statistics around youth and adolescent mental health issues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), and the World Health Organization (WHO),  accessing services can be a challenge due to both logistical and policy challenges. However, Above the Waves is hoping to address the issue of student mental health through technology, and we had the opportunity to speak with CEO Ryan Hesslau about the app.

Working to meet the needs of junior high, high school, and college students, Above the Waves hopes to innovate and improve on existing Offices of Student Services. The app’s overall goal is to shorten the distance between students and counselors and works to ensure safety and anonymity. Stemming from Ryan’s past work with the youth development initiative ForeverU, the Above the Waves platform has three key outcomes:

  • Equip every student with a mobile help place to find mental health and safety support
  • Boost productive and student engagement for each of our school counselors
  • Improve morale while building insight into your students.

With many schools acknowledging greater mental health and safety needs for their students, Above the Waves provides a well-needed resource. Above the Waves platform works through a mobile app that gives students streamlined access to services, bundling together school counselors, 24/7 crisis hotlines, and local mental health resources. By streamlining access and anonymity through more direct access, Above the Waves allows students to schedule sessions with their school counselor (or other professional) directly.  For many schools, the Above the Waves app can make student engagement of services much easier.

One of the challenges, however, is getting school systems to onboard all of their students around the Above the Waves app. Although schools can get a free license (and we’ll have details at the end of this post), this is a relatively new concept for schools. Although many schools either lacked a response or expressed resistance to the app “right now”, school counselors have been the greatest advocates. (Despite efforts to initiate key decision-makers, Ryan Hesslau decided to shift tactics and engage school counselors directly). With many students currently dealing with greater mental health and safety issues (such as living in an abusive or nonsupportive environment), Above the Waves can be an important tool in establishing healthier behaviors and providing well-needed services.

Many mental health and safety needs are going unnoticed; Above the Waves seeks to ensure that does not happen and improve responsiveness and access to services during the pandemic. Although schools are still deciding whether or not to reopen this fall (at the time of this writing), it is critical that schools be responsive to the growing youth mental health crisis that our world is experiencing. Those interested in learning more about Above the Waves and securing a free license to their technology for the fall semester should schedule a call with their team at www.abovethewaves.co.

Written by gordondym

August 5, 2020 at 5:50 am

[VIDEO] Linux Laptop Screencast

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about tuning up my Linux laptop for writing.

Via YouTube, here’s a very quick (20 minute) screencast.

Enjoy!

Written by gordondym

January 21, 2020 at 1:30 pm

Tuning Up the Linux Laptop for 2020

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Between increased caregiving responsibilities for my mother, looking for freelance work, and the holidays, my Linux-powered HP laptop went by the wayside. (It’s not my only laptop, thankfully, but the keyboard is great for writing). However, the past few months have seen me slowly repair and upgrade the laptop to the point where my Linux laptop is working very efficiently and becoming my go-to writing computer. It’s a good argument for adopting open-source computing, and my Linux-powered HP 8530p Elitebook laptop is a great example of reusing and repurposing technology. (I’m writing this post on the HP laptop)

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Two of the most pressing issues for my laptop were long booting time and overheating resulting in slower response time. The former was easier to handle; after some experimentation within Linux Lite, I switched to Linux Mint 19.3 with the XFCE desktop environment. (My Linux-powered Panasonic Toughbook CF-29 was relegated to “emergency backup” unit and was switched to MX Linux). Both laptops had low RAM (the HP laptop has 4 GB, the Toughbook was upgraded to 1.5 GB) and were over ten years old, so I chose operating systems that worked in lower spec machines but had the processing power to spare).

Overheating was a more complicated issue…after checking out various YouTube how-to videos, I opened my laptop, removed some of the cooling apparatus (including a large wad of dust in my fan) and replaced the thermal paste. (Part of the delay was finding the right paste for the job and waiting for the order to arrive…it was hard finding a local place that sold thermal paste. In retrospect, perhaps I should have checked out Free Geek Chicago).

freegeek01

So other than the pride of repurposing and recycling a machine, why would anyone switch towards adopting open-source computing via Linux? There are three reasons why I have adopted Linux for my creative writing and blogging:

Dependability – Both Linux Mint and MX Linux are distros that work well once installed with a minimum of tweaking. (We’ll talk about that in a later point). With the diverse range of Linux distros available (as well as a site where you can test Linux distros online), there is a Linux distro for anyone that works well out of the box, and that provides excellent performance especially in older hardware.

Adaptability – Not only can a user customize the appearance and functionality of the Linux distro to their specification (the desktop screenshot was a photo from a Beverly-area restaurant), but Linux provides multiple open-source software options for a variety of computing needs. By integrating LibreOffice, GIMP, Calibre, and Scribus, I have easily configured my Linux laptop to become a production machine for blogging, creative writing, editing, and self-publishing. (Many distros integrate a package manager/software center that makes it easy for users to download software). With privacy and data issues around Windows 10, Linux has some edge in that many distros do not share user data.

c-now-linux-02

Productivity – The major advantage of my Linux laptop (especially when writing) is that I spend more time getting things done. The software works smoothly, I am not dealing with major glitches in my operating system, and I’m enjoying the process. My HP Linux laptop does very well for an over-ten-year-old machine, working as well as a regular laptop. (My Toughbook also performs well with MX Linux, but that laptop will only be used in an extreme emergency). Although I’m reliant on Windows 10 for freelance work, I find Linux an easier, more user-friendly operating system to use.

As a strong advocate of open-source software, I believe that Linux adoption can promote greater digital literacy and digital excellence. With Windows 7 ending security updates and greater numbers of older computers going to waste, Linux provides an opportunity to extend computing ability and provide a needed resource for underserved communities. And all this resulted from wanting to turn an older, slower machine into fully-functioning writing and publishing Linux laptop.

What your thoughts and perspectives on Linux and open-source computing? Please join the conversation via Facebook or leave them in the field below. Please use this email contact form to contact me privately.

As always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

January 9, 2020 at 11:50 am

4EVR: A Chicago Startup Driven by Community

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4evr

(Special thanks to Josh S and Indhi of 4EVR for their time and insights)

Many Chicago tech startups begin with a simple goal of addressing a client or customer need. In many cases, those startups see the audience simply as a client making a purchase or paying a subscription. However, a new Chicago startup named 4EVR, aiming for a 2020 Chicagoland launch focuses on the wedding industry that takes client and event professional perspectives relations one step further. By taking an empathic approach to event professionals and their clients,  4EVR intends to attract a strong community of advocates to make an overall positive impact on the greater Chicagoland community.

After all, 4EVR – a platform focused on matching and connecting event professionals with potential clients around weddings – was conceived by a co-founded born in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. CEO Josh S had grown up in the events and hospitality industry: his mother had run a successful event planning business for twenty-three years and now leads events at Wrigley Stadium His father gained prominence in the restaurant/ hospitality industry and now owns Bar 22, one of several restaurants in Chicago’s South Loop. Josh witnessed the challenges of event professionals always finding the next client. Finding new clients is a challenge for any entrepreneur; for event professionals, this becomes even more critical, and Josh S saw an opportunity.

An opportunity that occurs on the most important day for many people: their wedding. Observing that the wedding industry generates $72 billion worldwide, but that only about $2.9 billion of that money is tapped, Josh drew from his experience and insight and realized the unique challenge of matching and connecting professionals to clients on an extremely critical day. Developing an algorithm that was curated with the help of professors, universities, and respected professionals, Josh S realized that this was a unique value proposition. With this algorithm, the 4EVR platform could more accurately match event clients to event professionals for weddings based on similarities in personality, temperament, and event traits. As the startup grew, Josh S brought on Indhi, a former colleague who has an MBA and Master of Science in Information Technology from IIT, as Lead of Engineering, 4EVR faced the challenge of developing its app into a user-friendly, technically advanced product. 

(Also, all 4EVR staff are certified in the industries that 4EVR offers, enabling them to communicate with both event professionals and event clients)  

As a Chicago startup with an empathetic approach towards its users, 4EVR takes a unique approach to maximize the app’s unique value. “Break Parties” gather a diverse array of event professionals and clients to encourage “breaking” the web application and algorithm to locate and flaws in the technology, connection, and processes.. (As Josh S and Indhi explained, they believe that customer service isn’t a department, but a focal point for the company) . Part of 4EVR’s efforts also includes building their community through an internal blog as well as social media (including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest). These efforts derive from a simple belief: empathy demonstrates community. 

In an effort to foster true diversity within their organization, 4EVR embraces the philosophy that making employees feel comfortable in the workplace enhances overall productivity and welcomely invites different perspectives. This Chicago startup also embraces true diversity in its workforce and seeks to recruit more women, people of different backgrounds/ religions/creeds, and members of the LGTBQ+ community for various positions starting with marketing staff and engineers. They are seeking talent over experience, with a specific focus on developing unique strategies for finding solutions and solving problems. 4EVR’s launch in 2020 will focus exclusively on building a community around weddings in the Chicagoland area, allowing them to refine and establish a model for future growth and expansion.

Every step of this Chicago startup’s method has a specific focus on understanding the emotional needs of both clients and professionals around weddings. This focus on empathy and community over commodity gives 4EVR a very unique edge as a Chicago startup.

And they’re only just getting started…

Written by gordondym

October 15, 2019 at 3:27 pm

An Open Letter to Meetup.com

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Dear Meetup.com

We need to have a serious talk.

Many people, professional organizations, nonprofits, and other social endeavors rely on your service for a basic community-building tool that provides event planning, RSVP, member contact, and other services for a small price. (I should know – I use meetup to organize groups around caregiving, coworking, and Doctor Who). You’re recovering from a recent service outage on your site, and although your acquisition by WeWork has led to further growth…you’ve also had some hiccups. (Like, in retrospect, adopting “Resist” groups as part of your philosophy.) But in short…

Meetup.com has way too many faults and issues, making it very hard on organizers to use your service. And worse, you rarely listen to Meetup organizers when they provide feedback, choosing to charge ahead rather than allow Meetup to become a truly effective community-building tool.

For example, customer service – when I received an e-mail from “Katie at Meetup” about a billing problem, I e-mailed her back with some information as well as my follow-up. Suffice it to say, I received an autoresponse that suggested articles that might “help” me solve my problem. After reaching out via Twitter, I was fortunate to get another employee to respond – an actual flesh and blood person. (Although I have to say that although your Twitter outreach is excellent, you might want to rethink how Meetup engages on Facebook. Too few posts and too many complaints about site functionality.

An example of Meetup's customer engagement

An example of Meetup’s customer engagement

And speaking of site functionality and user experience – several years ago, you asked a few Meetup organizers (including myself) to beta test a new format for the site. We did, and we gave you honest feedback: we hated it. But you went ahead and implemented it, and the site is a mix of high-end “kewl” graphics that make it difficult for us to promote our events…and back end graphic interfaces that were out of date in the late 1990s. Even now, Meetup’s web site seems built more for people to find “last minute” events (which make planning difficult) rather than build and engage a community. (Speaking from experience, two-thirds of my two largest Meetup groups have not attended a Meetup in the last two years, and purging them is a long, arduous process).

Although Meetup has some basic social media functionality (such as posting to Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin), the ability to generate a Facebook Event page from a Meetup event would be especially beneficial in driving traffic and membership to our Meetup site. After all, Eventbrite allows that, and they’re free (with limitations). Sure, I could create an Eventbrite page for a Meetup event and then generate a Facebook Event…but if I’m attempting to drive traffic to a Meetup group, wouldn’t it make more sense to streamline the process? And Meetup will sometimes send e-mails about upcoming events to members while organizers send similar e-mails; wouldn’t it be wiser to give organizers a reason to further invest in Meetup? (People can join and use Meetup for free, and with your pricing system based on the number of members…well, we can’t easily purge absent members, and so we’re stuck paying for members who do not engage our community yet are unable or unwilling to leave).

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That’s part of the problem that many organizers (including myself) see with Meetup.com – you ask organizers (who pay to use the service) for feedback, and then ignore our feedback. As paying users of Meetup, that behavior demonstrates poor customer service as well as a short-sighted approach to online and offline community building. Especially given the fact that Meetup “owns” a group’s data – after all, trying to funnel an entire community through one platform should mean a greater willingness to empower organizers and users to engage more effectively.

I can see the counter-argument from some who are reading this open letter: “But Gordon, if Meetup is so ineffective and you’re not reaching all of your members, why not switch?”. Ironically, Meetup’s philosophy of aggressively recruiting new members without any further incentive results in a passive audience who believes themselves to be reliant on the service. (I have asked my Meetup members about options; few are willing to switch over entirely). Besides, the point of investing in Meetup for many organizations is that the site alleviates and streamlines the work of online and offline community building…and with the service focusing more on entrepreneurship and community building as a business rather than a social function, Meetup is slowly becoming a relic. Soon, Meetup will be joining services like Friendster, MySpace, Prodigy and Compuserve as electronic communities that quickly became outdated and obsolete without acknowledging the needs of modern users.

I don’t expect you to do anything, Meetup, and that’s the sad thing…there’s no vision, no discernable leadership, no other mission other than growth. For organizers like myself, the possibility of switching to another service is difficult but possible. But for those individuals who are seeking support, small organizations looking to build advocates, and nonprofit organizations looking to mobilize…your apathy and nonresponsiveness are particularly telling. And once you leave, they will be stuck.

Thanks for listening,
Gordon Dymowski
Chicago Now’s One Cause At a Time

Written by gordondym

June 5, 2019 at 8:46 am

Writing With a Linux Laptop – Screencast

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Between caring for Mom and other issues, I have a backlog of posts to write. However, I also wanted to be mindful that this blog sees some activity.

So there will be several posts over the next week. However, I wanted to highlight previous posts about working with a Linux laptop.

In that spirit, here is a screencast of my current Linux writing laptop via YouTube – enjoy!

Written by gordondym

January 18, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Living the Linux Laptop Lifestyle Revisited

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When I wrote about my Linux-powered laptop awhile ago, things were going well, tech-wise. My refurbished Windows 10 laptop was a powerhouse, allowing me to blog and write, as well as keep up with my freelance work. (Writing includes my recent essay in The Joy of Joe: Memories of America’s Fighting Man from Today’s Grown-Up Kids). With my formerly-Ubuntu-now-Linux Lite-powered Panasonic Toughbook providing a great backup machine, it seemed like I was unstoppable. But then, something happened…

My Windows 10 laptop started overheating. It also become extremely slow, often grinding to a near halt when browsing or using software. After performing the necessary virus and malware checks, I discovered that much of the hardware in my HP laptop (including the motherboard) was nearly ten years old. Of course, I should have known better – I bought it refurbished three years ago, and In addition, my Panasonic Toughbook was  a Pentium-M machine that, even upgraded to 1.5 GB RAM (which is all you can upgrade it), was a bit slow. It was a tough decision, but I made a very critical decision…img_20161016_080249630

I needed a new laptop for freelance work, and my HP laptop was going to be converted into a Linux box.

Thankfully, since I had enough of a freelance income, I did some shopping for a new laptop. Although my ideal laptop (an Acer) was not available, my second choice – an HP that was much slimmer, had a larger hard drive and was more current. (Although I considered sticking exclusively to Linux, much of my software is Windows-based, and past experience with clients favors a Windows environment). My Toughbook would still keep Linux Lite 3.6, but would be officially “retired” and put in storage. Although I considered making the old HP laptop a dual boot, I decided against it.

You have to know what you’re doing to dual boot Windows 10 and Linux, and I was – and am – strictly amateur when it comes to Linux. c-now-linux-01

But then came the critical decision – what Linux distro to load onto the old HP laptop? I really love Linux Lite’s usability, and that many of the software packages were easily downloadable. (When it comes to laptops, I just want to set it and forget it). Linux Mint looked really good, and I was hearing great things about Manjaro Linux. For a few moments, I even considered using LXLE, but realized that I already had my heart set on a distro, and that the others would only be follow-ups.

However, I did what anyone considering adopting Linux would do: watch a ton of YouTube videos (including my now favorite Linux-centric YouTube channel, Switched to Linux) and test-drove various distros except Manjaro. (Manjaro is based on a different flavor of Linux, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with the learning curve. However, I intended to play with it on the soon-to-be-Linux-powered-HP8530P-Elitebook once I had another installed. Think of it has test-driving a Porsche while owning a Mustang).

So moving full steam ahead, I installed Linux Lite 3.8, and it worked near-beautifully. I say “near” because there were a few adjustments to make – the WiFi indicator was blinking, the battery wasn’t charging, and there were some display glitches. But one major glitch was that the software indicated that it hadn’t been updated in two days (right after I did a full install)…yet, when I attempted to update it, Linux Lite informed me that the software was up-to-date.

However, what I hadn’t realized was that I had installed version 3.8 a few days before the latest version – Linux Lite 4.0 – was formally released. So last night, I did what any enterprising person would do in this situation: install and modify the latest version. And it works beautifully….except for the battery. (However, I had problems with the battery leading up to the installation, and I cannot blame Linux. I will probably, at some point, need to purchase a new battery).

c-now-linux-02But I know that right now, you’re probably thinking, “Gordon, why are you so fixated on Linux?” Part of my fascination with Linux – and open source software in general – is the idea that it’s based on community needs, and that it is (in theory) easy to modify towards a particular function. One of the things I love about installing Linux on hardware is that it not only extends the usability of technology, but allows it to perform at a higher level. (As much as I would love to think that the Toughbook could remain my backup, even during its prime with Windows XP it would never be considered “lightning fast”). Rather than recycling or junking an old unit, it now becomes extremely usable and valuable, even if it’s just for “basic” use.

But Linux – and open source software – really emphasize the importance of digital excellence: that software, hardware, and digital tools allow us greater access into the larger world. Despite its recent repeal, it is still important that people understand the implications of net neutrality and contact their legislators. But more importantly, it’s important to remember that technology serves people, and not vice versa. Open source software allows individuals and communities an opportunity to grow, learn, and access resources and information.

But more importantly, it allows communities to gather, helps individuals to develop skills, and provides great resources for those seeking low-cost technology.

If you would like to learn more about Linux or open source technology, please check out Free Geek Chicago. They provide training and sell Linux-driven hardware.

If you have comments, please join the conversation either via the comments below or our Facebook page. If you wish to email me privately, please use this contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

June 13, 2018 at 12:50 pm