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Freedom in operating systems

The Linux Users’ Group shares the value of Linux

The Linux Users’ Group has been on campus for a long time. The club helps new users experience their favorite operating system.

Six men cluster around their laptops in a cramped, narrow room in the ITE building. They are the Linux Users’ Group who meet Wednesdays during free hour. The club is small and meetings are informal, but members share a unique enthusiasm for the often forgotten computer operating system.

Linux is an open source operating system, which means users can view, add to or change the source code. It also means the operating system is free. The club, primarily made of programmers and students looking to work with computers for a living, finds the operating system to be an attractive alternative. They can make their user experience whatever they want it to be.

While each works on their own projects, they speak tech jargon back and forth. They seem to be speaking another language, but they eagerly explain their confusing terminology. Dylan Whichard, a senior majoring in computer science, is the club president.

“I think we’re one of the oldest clubs on campus,” Whichard said as he tapped at his keyboard. “We’ve been around since 1997.”

Two other club members gather around Ankush Rattan, a senior majoring in information systems, and his computer. The group is helping him install Linux on his computer. Rattan discovered the club during their outreach program called Installfest. Before Spring Break, club members set up hordes of laptops and computers in The Commons. They offered free Linux installation to anyone who was interested.

Rattan is glad he found the group, as using Linux is helping him gain valuable experience for the future.

“A lot of employers appreciate a wide skillset,” Rattan said, as he watched a loading bar crawl across the screen.

Dr. Jon Squire, the club’s cheery Faculty Advisor, emphasizes the importance for IT professionals to know Linux. He asserts that most networks run on the operating system.

“All the school’s computers run on Linux,” he said. “UMBC is very good with computer technology.”

If a student finds themselves confused or frustrated with the unfamiliar operating system, the club is there for them. They can join the Linux Users’ Group’s mailing list to receive updates and information, email club members for help or come to the weekly meetings. If the extra help still does not make Linux seem like a viable option, the club will help you reinstall Windows. They are hosting a Re-Install fest on May 13 for that very reason.

Changing operating systems may not be for everyone, but the club sees value in using Linux over other systems. They feel it is more reliable, customizable and safe.

“When someone finds a bug, it’s fixed a lot faster,” Whichard said. “Microsoft may not fix it. With Linux, you can fix it yourself.”