FSFE supporters Vienna

Reports from the FSFE supporters group in Vienna

FSFE booth on Game City Fair 2013 in Vienna

From Friday 27th to Sunday 29th of September the annual Game City Fair took place in the city hall of Vienna. With about 67,500 visitors, it was an even bigger event than last year. Not only hopeful startups but also the most important companies from the gaming industry showed off their newest games and technologies. In the middle of all this we had, for the second time, a small, but very vibrant booth informing people about free software, open standards and independence in the digital age.

Some activists from the local FSFE fellowship group accepted Horst Jens’ generous offer to present our cause in his expensive display area for free. Horst, from spielend-programmieren.at, teaches people how to program by helping them to develop their first own computer games with free software. Normally he starts with the language python because this is a perfect match for learning since it forces programmers to format their source code in a way that is easy to read for everyone.

Even in the direct presence of the shiny presentation booths of world leading entertainment companies, right from the start on Friday morning countless people where very interested in privacy, free software and free development of software – especially games of course. We where active from 10am to 7pm each day and hardly ever had a spare moment to relax. At times we couldn’t even direct enough attention to all the people eager to talk to us.

We experienced especially high demand for all information on the free your android-campaign. Unfortunately we already ran out of folders on that issue on Friday. At least the additional posters, flyers and tiny mobile stickers helped us through the rest of the event. Next year we should bring a lot more folders (if we manage to get a free display area again). On Friday night we made another 300 copies of our black and white folder on free software in general in order to satisfy the demand for the days ahead.

Since we unfortunately very soon exhausted all distro discs we had made so far, we also need to find a good solution to share free software in the future. We still haven’t got around to investigating the possibilities with USB sticks further.

Compared to last year at this fair we experienced a remarkable growth in interest. We also met many more people familiar with the concepts of free software and who already use Cyanogen Mod on their android devices for example. Nevertheless, a lot of people had their first encounter with the idea of free software and where happy to take a distro disc with them after we explained the basic concepts and advantages of free software. Of course, some free stuff hunters dropped by as well, but we managed to give even some of those a glimpse of the idea of open standards and the political concepts of free software.

The steam box was an important subject on our booth. Many people shared different insights on it with us. Apparently the steam box is a specially adapted ubuntu based GNU/Linux distribution. Big gaming companies have already begun to offer their newest blockbuster games for the steam box. It looks like it will be the new console hype. Some games can be streamed from an other desktop system, but others will naturally run on the steam box. Therefore we can expect that this will be a welcome push for making graphic and sound card drivers available on free software. Even if these games are only rarely developed and distributed as free software, this new development could lead to a serious push of GNU/Linux for two reasons:

  1. In the past many gamers argued that they needed Windows to run the newest games. With wide support for new state of the art games on the steam box this no longer is the case.
  2. Instantly having drivers for the most recent graphic and sound cards could be an argument for many people to seriously consider GNU/Linux as a working alternative to totally proprietary operating systems. Even if those drivers are not free software this could widen the user base of free software considerably. It could be the first step to free software and the appreciation of free software philosophy for a lot of people.

But the great success of our booth is not limited to statistics. This weekend we might have attracted the youngest FSFE fellow so far. He wants to become a programmer and spontaneously supported our booth for two full days as someone directly inviting people to try out free software games on the system Horst set up on the booth. He was not only introducing them into the controls, but informed them about the philosophical background and was showing the 3D animation program Blender. This is how another young guy, who really knew Blender very well, came to join us for many hours and showed live how well Blender works as a professional 3D program. We hope these two stick around and become regular members of our fellowship group.

Overall we invited many people to join our monthly meetings in the Metalab and to become fellows of the FSFE. Since we met a lot of quite experienced free software users we had lots of opportunities to invite them to our support platform freie.it. We hope to have gathered enough experts for the usual support demands to get active with the platform in a few months.

The Game City Fair for sure is a remarkably good place to present free software and the FSFE. We will try to find a way to have an other booth next year again. It isn’t clear yet how this could work since Horst might not be able to host us for an other year. Maybe we can activate some contacts into the city government and get a free display area as a NPO in the public interest.

We are very thankful to Horst and all activists who supported our weekend booth marathon. It definitely was worth the effort.