The Ritchie family had a classic computer problem to solve. They had a used digital camera which didn't "just work" with either Linux or Windows in their home. The photos from the camera showed up on both, but didn't download properly on either.

They needed help from a geek.

After an afternoon of conversation and pie, the camera was working flawlessly with Linux, and no better on Windows. Here's why.

Showing Up

Linux got the the geek to show up. If you've got a modern Ford Taurus, and a '67 Ford Mustang, which one do you think your local shade tree mechanic will want to give you some free help with?

Older cars were designed to let you get under the hood and tinker. Likewise, Linux was designed with the mechanic in mind. You don't have to be a mechanic to drive a car, but it is helpful when cars are designed to be worked on!

Transparent Research

Some quick research showed that the Linux software developers had already created a newer version of the camera software that would be compatible, but it hadn't been released yet.

Having a fix be known but not accessible could be a cause for frustration. The alternative that commercial vendors provide is often worse for the consumer. Apple Computer will suddenly announce a new iPod model, obsoleting the model purchased two months prior. The commercial software process is more secret, less transparent.

If that model were being followed here, I wouldn't have been able to help. Instead, suddenly the upgrade would appear in a few weeks or months which would fix the issue. That's a solution, but sometimes it's nice to solve problems on your own timeline, not your software vendor's!

Accessible Software Developers

In the culture of open source software supporting Linux, leaders are responsive. So even if the camera model wasn't supported at the moment, I could discuss the possibility of adding support for it.

Good luck having a chat with the Microsoft Windows developers if there is a problem.

Getting Help with Open Source

Whether you use Linux or Windows, problems will come up. You'll need a mechanic of sorts. A geek. With open source software, geeks have a much larger tool chest to use to solve problems.

If you aren't sure where to start, try UbuntuForums.org for general Ubuntu Linux support, or trying starting at the website of the software you have a question about. Often you'll find free support options listed there.

couch by bike

Over the weekend I continued my exploration of Linux thin clients.

Now that I had a proof-on-concept system working, I spent my computer time using the thin client, to see if there was anything to observe from "real life" use.

The performance was perfect. I could not perceive any lag time compared to sitting directly at my server computer.

The memory usage was also impressively low. I ran a second KDE desktop on the server, and the system reported "42% memory free", and I have only 256 Megs of memory!

Sharing the 700 Mhz CPU also seemed to be no problem. I could launch an application on the server, switch to the client and continue to work without a slow down.

With a server with "real" specs, I could see how a single machine could comfortably run a whole lab of computers.

Finally, I decided to compare the boot times of the server and the thin client.

The server took 3 minutes to boot to the graphical login screen, while the thin client took only one minute. Another win for thin client users!

I also appreciated the absolute silence of my thin client. There was no hard drive to whir in the pizza-box sized machine, and no fan to run because of the lower power and processor requirements. A totally quiet computer was easy to adjust to!

Evan Heidtmann, super hero

For the last six or so years, I've been directly participating in the open source software movement. I maintain the popular Data::FormValidator perl module. I regularly participate in several other projects through mailing lists, bug reports and direct feedback.

I have found the open source software community to be a functional democracy. By this I mean that the leaders tend to be fair, responsive and accountable. Many users participate with feedback and make a direct difference in the code, the fundamental rule set of software culture.

As an observer and participant, open source culture is inspiring. It provides a living model for how large and small groups of people can collaborate effectively.

This experience has real implications on the rest of my personal life. I have greater expectation that others leaders in my life should be accountable and responsive, whether they are elected are not. I have a strong sense that I can personally make a difference by communicating with others, or taking direct action.

At a deeper level, it addresses that core feeling of "there's something wrong with the world and I'm not sure what to do about it". This world-wide network of volunteers illustrates for me a functional social group, one full of people who are generally honest, fair, trusting and realize supporting the communities they are a part of is in their best interest.

Beyond the personal: larger effects

The ripple effects of open source models go beyond affecting the lives of participants like myself.

Some of the largest organizations in the world are beginning te deploy it across the enterprise, on desktops as well as servers. Goverments and large corporations are adopting open source. Sometimes the motive is simply that OSS performs adequetely for a lower cost. Other times the security, stability and openness are critical factors.

Along with the software these large organizations will also be spreading the open source culture along with it.

Large organizations often have money or some kind of control as a primary motive. By contrast Open source culture, is a gift culture, with sharing and openness emphasized. Financial concerns are secondary, if present. To illustrate, the Gimp is an excellent open-source graphics program which runs on Windows and Mac as well as Linux. Their website didn't even have a donations like when I wrote this.

Many recall Margaret Meade's quote: "Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." I believe the same principal may apply for change among corporations and other large organizations: "It only takes a few enlightened corporations to transform corporate culture."

Consider this: As these first few enlightened corporations adopt OSS on a large scale, contributions will flow back to the open source community. Corporations have an incentive to adapt and improve the software to meet their needs. The ecomonics of open source dictate that contributing their software changes back to the community will benefit themselves. When they do so, the improvements are available to all.

This isn't abstract theory. This is happening. Consider Apple Computer adopting "KHTML" as the foundation for their Safari web browser. Not only was Apple able to bring a quality product to market faster and cheaper by choosing KHTML as a foundation, many of their improvements have been returned to the community and have now improved the Konqueror web browser popular on Linux desktops.

As part of the German goverment's adoption of Open Source, security and integration features of the KDE personal information suite have been returned to the community.

With a relative few enlightened organizations on board, Open Source will have the resources to create a desktop system that will be sufficient for any other organization with similar needs.

Long Term Implications

Some long terms implications of the wide spread use of Open Source seem clear.

Greater support of local economies

Organizations will hire more programmers from their local economies to solve problems, because the open source model allows them to do so. No longer will they have to depend on Microsoft in the USA to solve critical problems. A local programmer who natively speaks the same language can review the source code and make the needed adjustments.

Longer hardware life-span

More old hardware will stay in use. Microsoft and Apple continue to build their latest operating systems to require hardware that is extremely new, while dropping support for systems that run on older hardware. By contrast, there are already a number of open source distributions which run happily on old hardware in a variety of configurations.

This reduces the toxic effects on human health and the environment by manufacturing fewer new systems. At the same time, it frees up money that would be spent on new hardware.

Cultural Ripples

The long term cultural effects are harder to perceive. What I feel certain about is that there will be some infusion of open source values into the broader culture. I expect this to be positive change.

Experiential Evidence

I'll illustrate some of the values of the open source model through examples from my own experience.

Responsive Leaders

Many times I have contacted the leaders of open source software projects with some question or suggestion. Often I'm suggesting they alter their software to fix a bug, add a feature, or update the documentation. In effect, I'm asking them to work more for free, after receiving the software for free in the first place.

Quite commonly I receive a response within 24 hours. I'm not getting back a form letter or a message from a secretary. The responses most often are directly from the leaders themselves and are direct and personal responses to my inquiry. Quite often my suggestions are accepted and appear in a future release.

One reason this is even possible is because of the cultural structure of projects. Many projects have one primary developer, or only a few people working on the project. This is a bit different than representing all the people in the state of Indiana or the USA.

It is however, a lot like putting a lot more power into the hands of local governments and a lot less power higher up the power structure.

The open source projects that appear to be the largest, such as the Debian GNU/Linux Distribution, are really mostly composed of infrastructure, guidelines and frameworks. The real work of programming is being performed by largely autonomous small groups. Thus, even with large projects, I can often figure out who is responsible for the issue I'm having and contact someone directly who will likely respond.

While open source software leaders tend not to have secretaries to filter their mail, often there are community discussion lists devoted to particular software projects. Here users often are able to help each other without the leadership intervening at all.

Leaders who are unresponsive to their users are soon replaced.

This is in fact how I became the maintainer of the Data::FormValidator module. Months went by without being able to contact the original author, while it was clear further updates to the software would be generally useful. One day, with the blessing of another Perl author, I uploaded my own slightly modified version to CPAN, the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network. There was no formal review committe or approval board, I just did it. It's worked out fine since then.

Sometimes leaders are available and communicating, but their users don't like what their saying, or they don't like the direction the project is moving in. In this case, open source licenses allow for 'forking' a project-- starting with a copy of the source code and taking development in a different direction. Now users are free to follow to whichever project is most effective for them. Often there is little bad blood involved. The new projects will simply fill a different but important ecological niche in the software environment. For example, the FreeBSD was forked to found OpenBSD, which has a greater focus on security, as well as NetBSD, which has a greater focus on portability.

Participation is encouraged

Being an open source contributor is far from having some elite status. Most projects I'm aware of would welcome more contributors. Not just programmers, but documentation writers, translators, graphic artists, website maintainers and beta testers.

While it may be laughable to think about having your name somewhere in the credits of the next version of Windows, appearing as contributor in the next version of Linux may be much easier than you think. For example, I offered a developer for the Kvim editor projet access to my home FreeBSD box. Last I checked, I'm listed in the credits for that software, which is available as part of some Linux distributions. I mention that because I felt my contribution there was small. Yet, many project leaders understand that giving credit to contributors is extremely easy, and encourages repeat contributions.

I was surprised and concerned when it was suggested thatI take over the maintainership of Data::FormValidator-- I was only an interested user who wanted to submit a patch-- I had never maintained software that had been widely used before.

In restrospect, I was somewhat under-qualified for this in the sense that I didn't have a strong sense of how to maintain software quality at the time. On the flip-side, I took the responsibility seriously. The experience has been pivotal in my development as a programmer. I believe this kind of "trial by fire" works. I think people will often step up to the plate when given a responsibility. In open source projects, there are many opportunities for contributors to take on roles of responsibility and leadership.

The functional CPAN anarchy

As a final anecdote, I want to mention CPAN, the central Perl software repository.

Those who maintain web servers that use Perl modules have likely had the experience of using the similiarly named "CPAN" module to upgrade some Perl module to the latest version. This is done automatically over the internet. Often the requested software module will require several others which will be upgraded or installed.

Most likely, everything that was working before kept working, and some new bug fixes or feature additions arrived with the upgraded software. Considering the loose and informal controls behind this simple action, the success of it may seem somewhat incredible.

CPAN is largely a functional sort of anarchy. Other people like to politely describe it is as a "public commons". In practice, it's relatively easy to get an account to upload software to CPAN. Armed with an account, anything you upload will immediately start a process of being integrated into the offical CPAN network. This includes appearing in directories, the CPAN search engine, appearing on various "what's new" lists, and having the software distributed to many download sites around the world. There is no external review of the software as part of this process.

There is a restriction that you can't replace someone elses module with your own. You can however name your module whatever like. To prevent confusion, names tend to stick forever, whether well chosen or not. There's somewhat an attitude of "upload first, ask questions later".

The primary quality check is that some volunteer testers may (but may not) test your software against its own test suite and publicly report the results. However, there's no requirement to include any tests with your distribution, much less to throughly test it. Thus, for the system to report "all tests passed" for a given perl module is not strictly meaningful anyway.

It is traditional to include a "ChangeLog" with each Perl distribution, documenting what bug fixes, feature additions and other additions have been added to the software. However, these are not required, and it can be non-trivial to verify the claims there.

All this might make CPAN sound like a system ripe for abuse, perhaps full of corruption. In fact quite the opposite is true. Often when asked what the "killer app" for Perl is, people will cite CPAN as the most valuable Perl project. It is often regarded as a source for high quality software and is widely used around the world.

How can this work? I'd say it's because people are generally decent. They are also egotistical. :) Programmers are concerned about their reputations and how others perceive them. Thus, the work they display publicly tends to be their best effort. The open source model takes care of a good deal of the rest of quality assurance. The more popular the software, and the and more critical the bug, the faster it gets found, fixed, and released in a new version.

Further Resources

You may be interested in the following resources about Open Source:

This Christmas it was my turn to meet my partner's extended family. To cope with spending a week with many new people in a strange new land, I created a creature comfort to take with me-- A Linux laptop. Geeks read on.

I was able to borrow an abandoned Acer 760ic laptop for this purpose. Here are the basic specs of the machine as I received it:

  • Memory: 8 Megabytes
  • Processor: 75 Megahertz
  • Hard Drive: 400 Megabytes
  • Ports: Video, Serial, Parallel, two PCMCIA slots
Hopi's Flickr Family

I soon discovered the model could accommodate a whole 20 Megs of RAM. I found the RAM upgrade at Kahlon.com for $12 and ordered it. However, I went ahead and setup the machine with the eight Megs I have. (As of this writing, I haven't received and installed the new memory yet.)

I was also fortunate enough to receive a PCMCIA Ethernet card in my loan— The SMC 8040tx. This required no additional configuration to work with my distribution choice.

Why Bother? How well it actually works

I was pleased to discover that once setup, the machine performs all the basic functions I hoped it would. With 8 Megs of RAM, it performs comfortable and competently for console-based text editing, e-mail, web-browsing, and ssh connections.

Besides that the machine works "good enough" for many functions, I had another motive for spending the time to set it up. I'm well aware that the process of creating computers is toxic: hazardous to the health of humans and the environment. Keeping an old computer running not only saves money, it also delays or eliminates the need to purchase a new one. I also got a particular satisfaction out of the challenge and learning experience.

Old laptops seem particularly worthwhile. Besides the space savings, they have energy-saving power-management features. The LCD screens can age well. This 10 year old laptop screen is much brighter and easier to read than much younger CRTs. The PCMCIA standard is still in use today, allowing modern enhancements to be added easily such as modems, network cards, and USB ports. With USB, a whole host of modern devices could be connected including external drives, printers, card readers, etc.

Here's a description how I use it. Then I'll explain how I got it installed.

Offline e-mail

I'm using Mutt 1.4, my favorite e-mail client, to read and send and mail offline. Masqmail appears to be a great sendmail replacement in this case. It's small and is built to support sending mail offline, and to connecting to the SMTP servers of several ISPs. When I return to the networked world, I plan to use a tool like offlineimap to synchronize my laptop and server mail trees. This might mean compiling offlineimap on the laptop— the first piece of software I will have needed to compile so far.

Mutt launches quickly and is very responsive. The folder listing takes a little longer to appear, but that's the only slow down I've noticed.

Text Editing

I'm happily using Vim 5.6, my favorite editor, for text editing. Performance is great here as well. The only downside is that I miss a few features that Vim 6.x provides, and that my .vimrc and plug-in files expect to exist. However, I suspect that I could compile a "light" version of Vim 6.x and have much the same performance.

Text-based web browsing

I'm enjoying using w3m as a text-based web browser. Performance is great with this application as well. It loads almost instantly. When connected via broadband the pages render instantly, with table-based layouts preserved.

w3m has a feel that reminds of vi. It lacks an interface that makes it easy to learn. However, it's very efficient and powerful to use if you invest a little time to do so. It has some neat tricks up it's sleeve, including tabbed-browsing, mouse support, and even support for rendering images when displaying through X11. The package I was found was version "0.2.1". It would be nice to upgrade to a newer version (current 0.4.1) which I imagine would also be "small enough" to run comfortably.

I also highly recommend links as a console web browser. links has more of the feel of a Macintosh experience. It has an interface that is easy to use immediately and supports powerful features. It also renders tables and has a version that runs under X. A "links2" package was available for my system. It won't yet run because it depends on "X". So that will have to wait until the memory upgrade is installed. :)

Using either w3m or links, the old standby lynx console browser seems antiquated by comparison.

Perl

I installed the perl package, which contained version 5.004. This is OK to tinker with, but as a professional Perl programmer, I expect I'll want to upgrade this if I keep using the machine. I was disappointed that "perl Makefile.PL" didn't work when I tried to build a module. It complained a missing "perl.h" file which didn't appear to come as part of the Perl package.

FTP

I installed the DeliLinux package for ncftp-3.0.1. This is my favorite FTP client. It has an excellent balance of being easy to learn and use while supporting powerful features. It supports book-marking sites, recursive downloads, and resuming downloads. It's one of those console programs that's so nice that I prefer to use it over more graphical options. It also performs quit well under the memory constraints. I wish this program appeared as the default FTP program in more Linux and FreeBSD distributions.

Choosing a distribution for my low memory laptop

I did considerable research to see what free Unix options were available for low-memory laptops. Slackware showed up over and over as the distribution that other people had chosen for their low memory machines.

Why Slackware

The reasons for choosing Slackware are not just technical, they are cultural. Slackware has made an effort over the years to provide options and documentation to support low resource systems. This has included low-memory boot disks, floppy-sized installer chunks and special documentation.

Once installed, it's also a benefit that the Slackware-specific system administration tools are all console-based rather than X-based. Other options have that trait as well, including {Free,Open,Net}BSD. (One late night I tried some BSD install floppies from all three variants, but they all failed dramatically at some point.)

Finally, I found a distribution based on Slackware that is targeted at using machine's of this caliber as a modern desktop machine. This is DeliLinux. It's based on Slackware 7.1. By choosing this older base, a number of the core components are smaller. DeliLinux adds extra value to the base distribution by creating select additional packages, and updating key packages to the most reasonable current version.

My install process

My installation process ended up being a little different than every other "HOWTO" I found, so I'll bother to document it here.

Overcoming the 8 Meg limitation

The Slackware installer expects more than 8 megs of RAM to work. I found creating a swap disk wasn't enough of a boost. With a swap disk, the installer would run, but the kernel would eventually kill enough key processes before they finished. To make it work I had to install the installer onto the hard-drive to install the full operating system on the drive. Here's how that worked.

Preparing the Drive

Thankfully I had a 400 Megabyte drive to work with, which is plenty of room for a small Linux system.

The first step was getting the drive partitioned. This is accomplished using a floppy based Linux distribution. I choose and was impressed with tomsrtbt. It worked easily under the memory constraints and provided all the tools I need. Here's what I did:

  1. I used fdisk to create three partitions:
    1. hda1 - 10 Megs / Linux native (ext2) / non-bootable
    2. hda2 - 25 Megs / swap
    3. hda3 - 365 Megs / Linux native (ext) / bootable
    hda1 will be used to house the root file-system for the installer. Later it could be re-claimed for use as a mount-point for the main OS, or more swap disk space. Before going further, you might as well start making use of the swap space that's been created: $ mkswap /dev/hda2; swapon /dev/hda2
  2. Now the root file-system is created for the installer. I put the Slackware 7.1 "color.gz" floppy in the drive and followed the steps, modeled after the instructions I found here
    $ mke2fs /dev/hda1
    $ mke2fs /dev/hda3
    $ mkdir /hd3
    $ mount /dev/hda3 /hd3
    $ dd if=/dev/fd0 of=/hd3/color.gz
    $ cd /hd3
    $ gzip -d color.gz
    $ dd if=color of=/dev/hda1 bs=1k
    $ rm color
    

The actual install process

Now it's time to run the installer from the hard disk. After booting off the 7.1 "bareapm.i" boot disk, I used the initial boot prompt to have the system use the new hard drive as the root for the installer:


 mount root=/dev/hda1


Even with this extra boost, I still activated the swap space as soon as I got the command prompt in the slackware installer.

Since I had an Ethernet card and a desktop Linux machine already on my home network, I choose to use the NFS install option. While I won't detail setting up an NFS server, I'll say that it was fairly easy with Mandrake 9.2. The Slackware installer made it easy enough to use. I just typed pcmcia at the prompt. It then detected my network card and no other "hacks" were needed.

Package Selection

To start with I selected a minimal amount of software to get the system running and network-aware. I could always install more later. This meant setting up the "a" "ap" and "n" software distributions on my NFS server.

Updates from DeliLinux

But first, a brief review of the rough edges with DeliLinux

. As of this writing, DeliLinux is at version 0.5 and describes itself as "beta" I found this to be an accurate description. The base installation package is 20 Megs. Yet, the project doesn't document how to get this onto your machine over NFS, which should be possible as a Slackware-based system.

It also doesn't current document the low-memory installation trick above, which seems essential for some of the systems it targets.

Finally, it's own installation disk just didn't seem to work. I got a kernel version mis-match error between the boot disk and modules on the hard drive image.

The good news is DeliLinux uses the standard Slackware 7.1 package format. So I simply added a few DeliLinux packages I wanted to my standard Slackware 7.1 installation. To do this, this the packages can simply be down-loaded and then installed like this: installpkg pkgname.tgz.

Once DeliLinux gets its kinks worked out, I might consider 'upgrading' the system to be completely based on DeliLinux. It includes an updated 2.2 kernel and other niceties in the base system.

DeliLinux offers upgraded packages, such as mutt and also has some of it's own packages that are nice to have on a low memory desktop system. masqmail is one such utility.

Power management notes

I was pleased to find that the "Standby" and "Sleep" functions on the laptop worked without any configuration. The functions can triggered manually with a key on the keyboard, or by closing the lid. Left alone, the hard drive will spin down, making the machine fully silent. As it boots, the BIOS alerts me that there is no "Suspend" partition. (It did this even when the Other OS was installed). I suspect that with some research, this function could be made work as well.

Console Multi-tasking

I expected I would be using the screen program to run multiple console programs at once. With the virtual terminals and gpm mouse program that come standard with Slackware, there was no need. Alt-F2 switchings the second console, and gpm allows me to highlight, copy and paste using the track-ball with the console applications. Not needing to run screen was another nice memory savings.

Conclusions

A simple modern Unix distro such as a Slackware can clearly run well with 8 Megs of RAM and a 75 Mhz processor. Before I installed Slackware 7.1 to use with DeliLinux, I installed Slackware 8.0 using the same technique and things worked fine with that newer version.

Although DeliLinux has a focus on machines of this vintage, I'm left to wonder: Now that I know the low memory installation trick above, could other current distributions work as well? In particular I'm curious about the BSDs since I'm already familiar with FreeBSD and I know it also uses console-based install and maintenance utilities.

Hip Ollie, Richmond, Indiana Skatepark

On May 11, 2002, the Richmond, Indiana Parks Department planned to have a Grand Opening for the skatepark in Glenn Miller Park.

As the primary liaison between the skaters, contractors and government on the project, I was scheduled to give a speech at the event just before the major spoke.

Well, I've been holding on to this speech for about four years, and there still hasn't been a grand opening. Heck, at the moment we don't even anyone leading the Parks Department.

Re-reading the piece now, I find it still interesting and relevant. You are welcome to use it as the basis of your own document, but please contact Ron Whitehead about re-using his poem that's included here.

Richmond, Indiana Skatepark Grand Opening Speech
by Mark Stosberg
to be delivered on May 11th, 2002

[ juggles lit torches while skating around the park. ]

I thought that might get your attention.

How many of you have been to another skatepark besides the Richmond skatepark?

How many of you have seen skateparks on TV recently, on ESPN's X-Games or another program?

How many of you have driven by this park since it opened and seen it empty when school was out and the weather was nice?

[ probably no hands go up. Laughter. Maybe. ]

Skateboarding saved my life. Organized, competitive sports in high school weren't my thing, but skateboarding fit me just right. I like the flow of skateboarding, the learn-on-your-own nature, and I spent a lot of evenings and weekends skating, not to mention hot, sticky summer days. Below freezing temperatures still didn't stop me. Skateboarding was a positive creative outlet for me. Without it, I'm not sure what else I would have gotten into. Drugs, depression?

I find this a little hard to explain, so I want to read you this poem about a similar transformation called "Music Saved my Life and Jesus Saved My Soul: The Impossible Dream". This is by Kentucky Poet Ron Whitehead.

We were a gospel quartet Brad Steve Stan and me
Singing our hearts out "The Impossible Dream"
Sunday morning service at the Centertown Baptist Church
after the preachin and "Just As I Am"
Page came up and smilin said "boys that sure was good"
and she added laughing real loud "and Ronnie you are animated"
and then Sandra Carl chimed in with "yes that was fine
but Ronnie you were flat" and oh my oh my oh my 
I went home swearin I'd never sign again
and I didn't until I got in the car
turned on the radio and heard Elvis crooning
bout some old Kentucky Backroads
and I caught myself breaking my promise singin
so what I was flat as a pancake
music had saved my life more than once
and I knew then as I knew before and after that 
that I'd never abandon song
I'd never quit listening to the gift of god
sweet music
and even if I couldn't in public
at least in private I"d keep on singing
and well us boys Brad and Steve and Stan and me
well I believe all of our lives were saved
more than once and I mean
every kind of music
we heard it all
church music and funeral dirges as Mama and her sister Jo Carolyn sang
far back as I can remember
I see people climbin on coffins
including Pappy
trying to keep 
Mammy from leavin
him behind
her lying there in the pine 
yes we heard gospel and blues and we heard country mixed with
traditional folk mountain Appalachian goin back
to Ireland and Scotland and Wales
and we listened to Jimmie Rogers
and Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie
and Raymond Render and Mose Rager
and The Montgomery Brothers and Matthew Tichenor's Gospel Quartet
with Mrs Duncan banging on that piano like I'd
never heard in no Baptist Church and I got excited
Oh Lord    can music make you feel this good?
brought tears to my boy eyes and made
goosebumps run all up and down my back and
all over my body made
my flat topped hair
stand up straight and tall
without no butch wax on it
and then came Elvis and my parents said
turn it off but they were glued too and
didn't couldn't move eyes staring in disbelief 
but excited like what in the world is this
and seemed like everybody felt that way
more excited than ashamed wantin to be
part of that energy that we all know somehow
like music itself must be a gift from
some greater source and we all mourned his passing
but I'm jumping ahead cause for our generation Bob Dylan and 
The Beatles did it too and in Stan's yellow Volkswagon 
travelling through one lane Ohio County bridges
at the speed of light with windows down
we kept the stereo loud as it would go
cause we loved music cause whenever
we had to turn from the pain of life the suffering of living
we always turned to music
as if music redirected 
us toward God as if music came from God
and everytime we turned to music life became bearable 
again we thought about Resurrection again we thought
about Jesus again

Luckily for people like me there's been a boom in skateparks being built in recent years. I believe over 400 have been built in the US in the past three years, and over 100 more are known to be currently in progress. Skateparks are no longer considered a risk. They are known to be a positive, effective, valuable and relatively safe youth outlet.

The driving force behind skatepark projects comes from all directions. I just heard from a 12 year old skater in Florida named Mario. He had just called his Mayor to find out how to get a skatepark. He got referred to another department. While he waited for his City to respond, he started collecting hundreds of signatures on a petition. This youth-led project isn't a special case. A lot of skateparks projects are youth-led projects. Recently, In Columbus, Indiana some high school students were recognized by the Indiana Youth Institute for raising over $100,000 for their skatepark project.

But it's not just the skaters themselves that led and drive skatepark projects. In Wayne Nebraska, a small town of 5000 people, George Holm, a father of skateboarder and local businessman, is leading the charge for a skatepark there. He converted half of his dry cleaning business store space into a skate shop for the local skaters. George is tireless.

In Delaware, a Council woman contacted me because she is doing thorough research to assess the feasibility of skatepark in her town.

In Louisville, Kentucky, like Richmond, the city has provided the bulk of the funds for a skatepark. They've spent over $3 million dollars to build a world class park in our region.

In Los Angeles, Dennis Stecchi has announced the the LA School system is expanding their skateparks-at-schools programs to twenty one skateparks in their district. Twenty one. I believe if the program goes well, they could have up to seventy skateparks in their school system.

In Windham, Maine, Matt Cyr of the local Police Department has lead the charge for a skatepark for the youth of his community and is using his role to help neighboring communities.

In Hutchinson, Minnesota Brandon Anderson is leading one of the many faith-based skatepark programs I've heard off, building a skatepark through a church program.

Skate culture cross a lot of boundries. Many new skatepark projects are appearing around the world. Like the projects here, these projects are led passionate, dedicated individuals. There is:

  • Leithan Slade in the United Kingdom
  • Chris Freeman in New Zealand
  • Bruce Rendall in Australia
  • Gonzalo Romer in Venezuela
  • Nathan Houck in South Africa
  • Nicolas Machoud in Switzerland
  • Kalopita Sofia in Greece
  • Pavel Ciubotaru in Moldova
  • Osinsh in Latvia
  • Anar Mahmudov in Azerbaijan

Skateparks are everywhere and it's exciting. With all the things I see falling apart the world today, this gives me hope.

So who cares about skateparks? The skaters. The city officials. The moms and dads. Law enforcement officers. Church leaders. Local business owners. School leaders. They all do.

Skateparks serve their communities by providing a positive space for youth development, and people from all parts of the communities are supporting skateparks in return.

It's people like you that make skateparks successful.

[ Now this is where my speech gets interactive again. The next bit might go something like this. ]

Like you, sir, in the funny hat. And you, little skater dude. And you, ma'am, in the pink dress.

I want to see the Richmond skatepark continue to thrive so it change lives like my life was changed. And I want you know that's people like you, you and you that are building and sustaining skateparks around the country and world.

I invite you become a part of the future of the Richmond Skatepark. You can talk to me or David Meredith at the Parks Department to find out more about how you can get involved. I also have a website with loads of information about skatepark development: skatepark.org.

Thank you.