The Installfest (Installation Party) HOWTO
Things to think about, decide and arrange before throwing an
This HOWTO aims to describe the details of organizing an
installation event for the Linux operating system. Such events used
to be about letting people have access to a new version of Linux,
by means of a fast network connection to a server. Those events used
to aim at professionals.
Nowadays, an installation event, an installfest or
an installation party,
whichever name you call it, is about professionals volunteering to
help people who are not familiar with Linux to install Linux,
or to configure their systems. In addition to the technical aspect,
a promotional flavour is added. The term "Linux Day" is usually attached
to an event which includes an installation event as well as basic tutorials,
and may be a part of a series of such tutorials.
This HOWTO is based on experience from a number of such events,
most of them organized by Haifux, Haifa Linux Club. While this HOWTO is geared for events in
Israel, most of the information is not country-specific,
so it should be helpful to a worldwide audience.
Ask the soon-to-be installees to register in advance (using e-mail, a
web form, etc.), in order to be able to estimate the number of
installees, as well as the expected hardware. A good policy for
encouraging installees to register is to declare that registered
installees will have a priority over walk-in installees.
Pre-registration also enables allocating shifts to installees, to decrease the evening rush-hour.
Make sure to explain that it is possible to install Linux along with other operating systems, using several pertitions.
- A large enough hall.
- The hall should contain a place for installations,
possibly several circles of tables, such that each circle has a router and electricity outlets in its middle, possibly a network server as well. Around the tables there should be room enough to pass, without bothering the people sitting
there. Since there are more and more laptops, there should be some laptop stations (without screens), which can be denser (at least 4 laptop stands per 15 screens). The hall should include a place to give lectures (quietly), place for waiting installees to sit and put their computers, and place to keep equipment for installers.
- Car access. At least in order to bring the machines.
If there is a really close parking place, it is even better.
- The registration in advance can help getting access permits into
restricted car-access areas such as academic institutions.
- Ventilation , windows or air conditioning.
- They came to install an
not to suffocate.
- Toilet. People are going to spend several hours there, at least
- Internet access.
- Nowadays, that installing Linux is becoming
a larger percentage of the installees may come to the fest
(instead of doing it at home) because they have a rare problem,
which may require Internet access.
Equipment may come with the location (for example a university's
computer lab). On other cases, consider asking sponsors (such as
computer vendors) to lend it. On top of that, you may declare a
policy of priority to installees who come with their own
equipment, in case of shortage.
- Keyboards and several kinds of mice, though it is preferable that each brings his or her own mouse.
- Screens. Lots. They are the heaviest part to carry. There is no need for the number of screens to be more than twice the total number of installers.
- Chairs. More than twice the number of the screens, not including
chairs for the lectures.
One for installer, one for installee, and one for installee's
escort (often installees come in pairs for various reasons).
chair can be a 'spare chair' - no need for one 3rd chair per screen.
- Power outlets and multiple outlet strips.
Have them plugged in to begin with- you do not want to try and do it
the middle of the party, when there will be no place to plug them
to. The number of outlets should cover: twice the number of screens,
plus the routers and the network servers.
- Network essentials: a hub and wires or means for wireless networking. There should be more wires than screens, to allow for laptops.
- Network cards to lend to those who come without one, to enable network installation.
- Food and drink, near by or on the place.
- Not on top of the computers!
Warm Cola is not essential to your laptop's normal behavior.
This way or another, most of the equipment needs to go back where it came from.
For that to happen safely,
- Have the lenders specify explicitly, preferably in writing, where they want their equipment in the end of the day (goes mainly for firms and computer labs).
- Tag each piece of equipment with a sticker, containing name, email and cellular phone number.
- Make sure both sides see eye to eye on the time
in which the equipment is taken and returned. Speak in terms of dates, not week days!
A network card vendor can be encouraged to sell and install network cards in the party. Linux CDs, Linux shirts (including women shirts) and penguins can be sold. Sponsors may also offer their mechanize.
Lending Equipment to installees
Network cards can be lent on the spot to installees against a deposit such as
an ID card. This deposit must not be given to an installer, but to a person who mans a stand (the CD selling stand, the supervisor, etc.). That is to make sure
that when the installee wishes to leave, (s)he can get her/his ID card back.
In a world of publish or perish,
not informing all the potential installees (and installers)
might reduce the effectiveness of the installfest.
As usual in this case - the more the merrier.
Build and maintain a website for the installation party
with as much as possible information (location+map, times, dates, registration forms, etc.).
- Linux-il and gnubies-il
- After the date and place was set,
and about two weeks before the event.
- Local LUG mailing lists (for example, haifux's mailing list).
- Academic courses in nearby institutions,
which might be interested (mostly operating systems or
- Approach the person in charge of the course.
- Local Newspapers
- Also students newspapers
- National Newspapers
- Internet-based Newspapers or News sites
- Relevant Internet Forums
such as ynet's, walla's,penguin.org.il", whatsup.org.il, tapuz's and others.
- iglu's website
- Placing adds (yes, hard-copies) on bill-boards of:
relevant institutions, tech-oriented companies, high-schools
(depends on permission) and computer shops.
Women in Linux
Before the installfest, the following questions require answers:
- Do not drive women away: use genderless language when inviting people
to the party.
- Invite women who arrive to the party to get interested,
the same as you invite men- do not assume they are the escorts.
- When encouraging the new users to change the root password and create at least another user who is not root, find out who uses the computer in the house. Creating a separate user-name for each potential user increases the chance that newbies, who are afraid "to ruin everything", will touch the computer, knowing that Linux will protect them from messing up other people's info.
Answering these questions pre-hand will save arguments on the
The following arguments should be considered:
- What is the purpose of the installation? Is it aimed at "Linux for
the masses" (installing a lot of computers, getting Linux to
work though not all configuration problems were solved- for
example for an OS course students)? or is it a joint effort to
help installees who have already started installing, but
failed to solve some problems?
- What distributions will be installed?
- Who is in charge of this community mess? The person in charge
must be calm and confident.
Things tend to go wild sometimes, and an authoritative calming figure is
essential in solving problems.
- Which is the default distribution? When will you choose not
to use the default installation?
- What will be installed in a standard installation (unless the
installee requests otherwise)? As much as possible, or a
small and fast installation?
- What is the default boot loader?
- How will problems be dealt with? (Yes, there will be problems). We
suggest making a list of gurus and their specialties, for
example: NTFS resize, rescue lost partitions,laptops, special
packages (Hebrew), etc. Then once a problem or error occurs, you
know who to look for.
- Prepare for people who come to ask questions, either technical or
conceptual. People might bring a half installed machine with a
problem, or just come without it to find out in person how
things are done. On the other hand, some gurus are not willing
to stand and install over and over, but will be happy to
attend to difficult questions. Sounds like a great match...
- What is the root password? (in case of an installers switch in the
middle, so that
someone else can continue without hacking the new system)
- Should the installees de-frag their other-OS partition prior to coming?
- What software will be used for partitioning and resizing?
Will you use free software tools only
or proprietary tools
as well, and when will you use them?
- Will you prepare a disk of updates on top of the chosen
What will be included in this disk?
If a new distribution is chosen, its best to make a 'demo'
installation to the installers before the party, so they'll get to know
the (possibly new and changed) installation interface
and its caveats (e.g. "In the
3rd screen, if you don't click that hardly-seen check-box, you won't be
able to make the system dual-boot").
- A newer distribution means better support for newer hardware.
- An extremely new distribution means less familiarity by the installers,
and possible childhood bugs in the distribution
- The distribution should be one familiar to the installers.
Note that although RedHat is now keen on preventing re-distribution of its trademarks,
educational Institutions, Not-For-Profits, Linux User Groups and Affiliated
Individuals have explicit permission to re-distribute it.
How will you get the required Linux?
- Ask a sponsor to sell CDs
- This option may rule out your ability
choose a distribution. On the other hand, the disks will be tested,
and of good quality. Also, there will not be any problem (time pressure) in selling disks and letting people install at home.
- Burn CDs on the spot.
- This option is slow, and the quality of
disks is lower. Also, you need to finance the media:
either have a budget for burning those CDs,
charge the installees for them, or ask them to bring the media themselves.
- Re-sell pre-ordered official distribution CDs.
- This option is
- Have a network installation from a local good server.
- Have the CDs go around among the installers or the installees.
- This option is a cause for a grand headache, a lot of mess and shouting,
missing disks while installing and missing disks in the end of the day.
Welcome to Linux
The new Linux users require tutoring. Have at least one introduction
lecture during the party or at a close date.
Preferably, do not have the lecture at the same hall as the
since the noise will be a torture to the listeners, and the demand for
lack of noise will be impossible for neither the installees nor the installers.
- Have signs around the place, directing to the installfest.
- Prepare name tags for the installers, possibly indicating their
expertise. Have a "roaming tag" for the person in charge, such that at all times it is clear who that is.
- Prepare numbered entrance forms for installees, have them fill the
forms when they arrive, and tape the forms to the machines. Do not let
them lie about, hoping they will be mysteriously be attached to the
machine. where they indicate the hardware they have, where they want
Linux installed, their name and a means of communication with them (In
case they forget to take the machine home. Hack, parents are known to
have forgotten children!)
- Make ground rules clear.
State that you are not responsible for the information on the disk.
Do not install unless the installee is installing or authorizing any possibly harmful operation you are about to perform, after you have explained the consequences. (This section mainly relates to re-partitioning)
Schedule in advance the people to be present:
- The person in charge
- Installers. Ususally, more installers are required in the morning and in the afternoon. Since the day may last 16 hours, do not expect people who said they will be available all day to actually be there all day: they may get tired after 12 hours. Make sure some installers will come to assist in the end of the day.
- Non technical people. In the morning and evening there is a lot of non-technincal work to do: carrying screens, wiring etc. All along the day there are stands to maintain, CDs to sell. This type of work can be done by anybody, so everyone who wishes to help can find something to do.
- Public Relations People. Many visitors will come to see what the fuss is about. People are required to explain and advocate Linux among the inquirers. These need to know their way around Linux (and people), but not necesarily be updated with the actual destribution being installed.
I am an installee who just walked in. What happens now?
- I have already de-fraged a partition at home,
and maybe even resized it, to make room for
- I arrive at the installfest with a machine, and possibly several
- I approach the reception desk
- I fill out a form, and get into the queue.
- If needed, I get, bring or purchase on the spot the appropriate Linux CDs.
My form gets a priority according to whether I
have registered in advance, and whether there is shortage of
equipment which I accidentally brought along.
- I obtain Linux CDs.
- My turn comes. With the help of an installer, I may re-partition,
and install Linux on the new partition.
- The installer shares his/her experience with me while installing.
- Between changing CDs, while waiting in line or after I have
finished installing, I listen to an introductory lecture in the
- While waiting idle, I enjoy the various booths on the location.
- After I have finished the installation, I verify with the help of
an installer, that the hardware in my machine has been
configures properly: I verify that I can listen to music, that
the mouse functions, etc. The installer verifies that I have
created at least one account in addition to "root", (because
the installer says that working as "root" makes him/her think
of a root-canal).
I am an installer who just walked in. What happens now?
Preferably, you don't just walk in. We advise in favor of
a preliminary meeting of all
installers before the installfest, where
policies can be brought up and discussed.
Many of these issues should be set a-priori to the installfest itself, as
gurus might have contradicting opinions about these topics.
Listen to them, they might know something you don't.
However, once a policy was decided, it should be mandatory. All installers
should install according to the same
policy. Have a 15-minutes gathering of installers
before the installfest begins, in order to update installers who
missed the gathering (yes, some people really prefer to avoid
regarding the policy, and ask all installers to comply.
In addition, have a paper ready which summarizes
everything to the installer. A hard-copy of the resizing tools HOWTO is
also a good idea.
I am in charge, what happens now?
The people in charge may take turns. A turn should not be longer than several hours. There are two functions for the person in charge, and they
can be divided between two different people at the same time (but not more than that)
The first thing to do is get a debriefing from the former manager, regarding topics which should be passed on. If there are more than two different managers to the day, the debriefing should be done in writing, to avoid lossy information passing (a "broken phone").
- A final technical decision maker:
- decides in the (hopefully) rare case of a policy dispute. Has the authority to approve an exception to the policy. Has high technological knowledge, and is well acquainted with the specific
installation procedure taken in the party.
In the rest of his or her time, acts like a guru.
- A manager:
Answers general questions, directs people to the correct gurus, is in charge of allocating resources.
- Sponsors which are Linux-related
(such as Actcom or
Beyond Security (Automated Scanning)) may be interested in having a booth.
- Sell or give away Linux and Tux merchandise, for example
Red Hat's freebies.
- Arrange for installer shirts, installees shirts.
- Mind-games vendors may be interested in having a booth.
- An installers dinner afterward might be nice.
- Booth(s) for local or national Open Source (and/or) Free Software
movements and organizations.
- When considering background music, remember that this is a party where
people need to talk and listen - not blink mindlessly.
The HOWTO is based on experience gathered from several installfests,
insta-parties and Linux Days,
as well as on installfest tips formerly located at
http://installfest.sourceforge.net/faq/9.html. There is a GNU/Linux Installation Party mini-HOWTO in German, but I have never read it for technical reasons.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.
Orna Agmon : ladypine at vipe.technion.ac.il
Orr Dunkelman : orrd at vipe.technion.ac.il
guy keren: choo at actcom.co.il