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Arabeyes takes part in Casablanca GNU/Linux Days 2004, Brings home the goods

Salam all,

Most of you know this, and some of you don't, but between the 17th and
21st of December, I was in Casablanca, Morocco, representing Arabeyes
in the third edition of the annual Casablanca GNU/Linux Days event,
the most important FOSS event in all of Morocco and one of the most
important in all of North Africa, and here is my report:

The two-day event is meant to establish a foothold for free software
in Morocco and the area and to expand its deployment by inviting noted
personalities and organizations to come and give presentations to the
masses on their visions, principles, methods and goals, all in an
educational and informative setting (and all expenses to the
participants fully paid). This year, Arabeyes was one of the
organizations invited to attend and present, alongside attendees from
several other entities such as Mandrakesoft, Fedora, and quite a few
others, not to mention Richard M. Stallman, founder of the Free
Software Foundation. Upon recieving the invitation naturally we did
not hesitate to seize this oppertunity. For a few small reasons, I was
the one who was to go and represent our fine organization.

The event was all organized very professionally. The monumental
auditorium at Technopark could house a good-sized crowd, and
equipment-wise everything was made available to us. Lecturer after
lecturer would go up on stage, give his presentation to the crowd,
followed by a short Q&A session. This being Morocco, all presentations
were given in French, except for mine, which was in Arabic. Here is
the event's programme:


As luck would have it, I was presenting on the first day of the event
(Friday). My presentation outlined (or tried to outline), sometimes
briefly and sometimes in depth, the whole idea of Arabeyes. Who are
we? What are our goals and visions? What have we achieved so far? What
are we working on at present? What kind of talents are we seeking?
etc... While the presentation may not have had all thunder and
eloquence of the Gettysburg Address, it did deliver the message pretty
well, and was met with a good reaction from the crowd (the very fact
that it was in Arabic sent a very nice message) followed by several
quite interested questions. Following my own presentation was one by
Mr. Mohammed Kebdani, a long-time member of Arabeyes, native to
Morocco. His presentation was entitled 'Arabisation', and was also
recieved well by the crowd. I wish I could tell you more about it, but
it was in French. Mr. Kebdani's presentation was followed by that of
Richard Stallman (who turned out to be fluent in French to my surprise
:-), which ended day 1 of the Casablanca GNU/Linux Days 2004.

I was quite pleased with the enthusiasm I saw from the crowd regarding
our project. After day 1 of the event was over outside the auditorium
I was accosted by many who wanted to know more about our projects and
achievements, as well as a few names who were genuinely interested in
taking part and helping out themselves. It was a good end to a good day.

On day 2, there was nothing for me to do. I had requested a copy of
Arabbix 0.8 from the organizers which they happily and promptly
supplied. As presentations were being given in the auditorium, I sat
in the cafetria directly outside, with my laptop, running Arabbix with
as many Arabeyes applications I could run simultanously, sipping
coffee and taking every chance to invite people over, talk to them,
answer their questions, and show them our distro, the container for
all our work. To be honest I did not have to invite that many people
over. Mostly they were curious enough already. I got a much more
positive reaction than I had anticipated, with Arabic-interface OOo
and the Arabic fonts scoring HUGE points.

At the end of the day I was kindly invited to come sit in the
auditorium for the awards ceremony, and the unexpected. As I was
sitting in the last row, listening to French, as the fourth and last
award was being announced, I just read the words: "Millieur Projet
Libre: Arabeyes" on the screen. I got up and bowed for the applauding
crowd. I was pushed on to the stage, where I recieved the trophy
presented to me by RMS himself. I thanked the organizers and the crowd
in the name of Arabeyes and smiled for the cameras. After the ceremony
and after having my picture taken many many times, I went back to the
hotel, put the trophy in a very safe place, and that was the end of my
trip to Morocco, as far as Arabeyes is concerned :-)

All in all I would say Arabeyes' participation in this event was a
success, and the thanks goes not to me but to those who worked
overtime to put together our presentation and to give me last minute
tips and advice, and of course I cannot forget to mention the
overwhelming cooperation and hospitality of the Moroccan organizers of
this event, without whose efforts we could not have done this on such
short notice. We could have had much more impact had we been given
more time to prepare for this event (we were only informed of this
event on Tuesday the 14th, three days before the event took place),
however, we still managed to make our mark in spite of this. Hopefully
next year
if we participate we will have a more lasting effect.

On a final note, I should mention that we REALLY ought to concentrate
as much as we can on further developping Arabbix, our veteran of a
distro, as it turned out to be the real crowd-puller (which is not
something we had anticipated at all. In fact I myself thought it was
the least dependable weapon in our arsenal!). I hope that in 2005 no
effort will be spared in making this distro as mature and as robust as
possible. I call on all those not directly involved in its development
to see in what ways they can give support to Mr. Sameer and his team,
and to act on that.

Questions/Comments? You can all find various pictures from the event
in the usual place:


Until next time,