Workshop on 7/6/2022: End of COVID-19 hiatus activities

At last!

Thankfully the LUG did not diminish into obscurity during the COVID-19 years, which is hopefully a phrase which will stay exclusively past tense! Due to the general consensus and restrictions regarding meetings over that period, we instead did 9 online meetings (either workshops or socials) instead. Coupled with some brilliant regular contact using the mailing list, IRC an Discord… ultimately it means we’re still here!

The reason this workshop uses ‘End of COVID-19 hiatus activities’ as its title is because we decided this would be a great time to meet up and properly re-plan a post-pandemic re-launch. We’ve done a fair bit of planning in the usual ‘End of year activities’ that happened in 2020 and 2021. However nothing quite feels the same as actually now being able to sit in the room again, and plan it all out on a whiteboard in person!

Initially we were hoping to do this in person for the ‘End of year activities 2021’ but lock down was back, and then it has taken a few more months than expected (in to 2022) for the general consensus on COVID-19 to change, government restrictions to be lifted, policy changes at the company and building we host our workshops in, etc…

But it was well worth the wait as nothing quite beats a proper physical meet up, and everyone that could make it to this one seemed really happy to have a chance to catch up with one another.

Our benefactors at Internet Central were still happy for us to use the same room we’d used before the first lock down in 2020. Although even after the COVID-19 concerns had passed we did have to wait a little longer as the shutters were being removed for fire safety reasons. So at least there is more light and we can easily crack a window open now (or throw ourselves out of one in the unlikely event of a fire!).

Those pandemic years haven’t gone to waste however as those of us who were still allowed to access it (employees of IC) have been not just maintaining the room but also making subtle improvements, some of which can be seen in the photos above.

This includes (but not limited too, it’s been 2 years and there is a lot to remember)…

  • Increasing the RAM of the machines
  • An initial lot of headsets for use with the machines and phones via an adapter
  • A Linux ecosystem inspired sticker collage
  • FSFE and other posters placed around the room
  • Various leaflets from similar organisations in leaflet stands
  • Removal of several cupboards and instead a table and some chairs for possible gaming activity or other purposes
  • Improvements to the main desks so we’ve got 2 general purpose dual screen PCs now (dual booting of course!)
  • Webcams to show the room and whiteboard, screen capture capability of both machine 1 (on the first bank) and the big TV… so we can start to stream events.
  • Mouse mats and coasters for every desk
  • A large portrait telepresence display in the middle of the room for bringing in video conferencing users.
  • A reference library (books and magazines) in a little bookcase
  • A vending machine!
  • and much more…

You should hear more about these improvements in the coming weeks/months as some of us will be putting together a website to show off the room as ‘Keele Community Computer Lab’ which will be open (upon request and approval) for most non-commercial use by other local groups. This is a new sister project of the LUG and will be in close partnership with Internet Central.

Iain was also kind enough to also donate a whole raft of Linux machines! So much for our tidy bookcase, it’ll need a bit of a sort out now! But if anyone fancies digging through Linux history we’ve certainly got the means from various publications (and even some of the original cover DVD/CDs too).

A lot of the actual meeting however was spent brainstorm what we’d like to see in future workshops, including resurrecting any plans we had for workshops before the COVID-19 outbreak and also plans we had half-made during the pandemic.

Given there was about 2/3rd of the year left we’ve decided that we’ll be aiming to do 2 socials (normally aiming for about 3 every year at least). Additionally we had representatives from the newly formed Open Rights Group Stoke-on-Trent and Free Software Foundation Potteries present too, so we’ve made sure we didn’t monopolise the room too much during the year and left them with 2 Tuesdays each during the year for events they’d like to run in the same room (hoping that if people are free on Tuesdays for the LUG, they’d entertain coming along to those groups too).

Suffice to say the whiteboard got very messy, very quickly – with many people criticising the handwriting of the chairperson! So I won’t be showing that here, but you can certainly go look at the calendar section on the website if you’d like to see what events we’ve green lit for the rest of the year so far.

Lastly we also spoke about what we can do to raise awareness of the LUG. We got a lot of really good ideas and they’ve all been typed up for the committee to pour over and get through one at a time.