An introduction and also a question about how you think a business would fly

Hey guys,

My name is Scott Berry. I joined this oh about three weeks ago. I am totally blind and have been working with comps for about the last 20 years. About a month or more ago I decided to take the plunge and go Linux whole hog and here I am writing you on Ubuntu with the help of a braille display and a screen reader for Gnome called Orca. I am just a young man in my 30's.

My question though concerns the fact that my father and I are from the West and we both want to move back around the Helena area. I did some home work and see that there is an Asterisk guy in Helena, Missoula, and Kalispell. But I want to do more than just Asterisk although I would be working with the dirivitive called Trixbox. I have some more ideas. I would like to put this out for discussion and find out from other users what would make an all around good Linux and MAC store in Montana. So I am enclosing what I sent to the Helena Chamber of Commerce and would love any input on this at all. I'll take good and horrible and even spelling corrections if there needs to be any. This is going to be an attachment. Hope you guys out there have a great and wonderful Christmas and get some great Linux goodies from Santa.

helena Chamber of Commerce Letter.doc111 KB

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Business needs to be focused

Hey Scott, I'm kind of rude so take this with a grain of salt.

You are way too broad in your scope. If you try to do all of that - it all sounds wonderful, you'll fail in 8 months - depending on funding. Asterisk is nice and all, and communications are very important today - especially with a shot economy, cheap comms are going to be essential. My advice would be to focus on one thing - how do you save money for your client? Just using linux is not the key. Use the best tool available - be it windows or linux (or whatever else).

Look at your market - find out if they can survive a telecom blackout? if so, maybe that's not the place to work in. Can they survive data loss? No, look at created an excellent remote backup solution... or are they lacking in training? etc. My bet is that if you use your blindness to your advantage... you'd be surprised how far you get. Go to the businesses, ask for meeting with their IT folks. Because you have a handicap, people will be more likely accommodate you and offer a meeting or what you ask. But just cause the door opens a bit easier, the game isn't over. You need to listen to them Find out what their issues are, what they are wanting from technology in general.... maybe their needs are met fine by Staples or the Geek Squad, but they are having a hell of a time with security and data traveling in/out of their facility. Maybe they really do want some hand-holding (I hate these kind of jobs), perhaps they are soon to be doing the upgrade and are wondering why their multi-user install of QuickBooks is so damn slow... The best way to find out a market that is suitable is to find out from the source - don't just make a product and hope it fits the market.

Just my 2 cents.






Something of interest?

Hello Scott,

I wish you well in your hopes to turn Linux into a business.

I too am using Ubuntu8.10 for now. You may have heard of IBM's ViaVoice voice recognition linux application that they abandoned and would not release the source code so that it could have been improved. I bought one of their original disks several years ago and had it running along with Xvoice an Open Application, but through a series of incidents, system crashes and such, lost it.

I have been working on it again for about the last month and am near to having it operational again.

My original idea was to make it, VV and XV, available to the disabled community.

You are welcome to use my efforts with this approach to market Linux and of course for your own use. I can be contacted at

Re: How you think a business would fly

I'm never one to discourage someone from starting a business so I'll just throw in my own experience. It's about half Scott's probably so I'll say it's worth a penny :-)

I was self-employed in Bozeman as part owner of a board-level computer repair/sales business for 4 years and as a consultant and programmer for another 11 years. Computer sales is a rough road to go in Montana when someone can just fire up a web browser and get a somewhat customized computer three days later with the click of a button and a credit card. The profit margins just are not there for the small volume guys. To make matters worse real estate prices, even in our tanked economy, add a lot to overhead. You're going to have to sell a lot of computers to make up the difference just to open the doors every day. Don't sell in just Montana in other words, think regional or farther.

I too was on call 24x7 and after 15 years got tired of my customers dictating my vacation schedule and went to work for the County and then MSU for the last 11 years. If you're just now learning Linux/UNIX it's not something most people pick up quickly so your learning curve is going to be very steep to start and teaching might be a ways off, troubleshooting expertise even farther. On the other hand I'm probably not as smart as you and you'll pick it up much faster than I did :-) As a consultant I always found Montana too small and most of my big clients were out of state so again, don't depend on Montana to support you unless you get lucky.

That said, and I apologize for the negativity, it might still work. We are a global economy so nothing is there to constrain you to your brick-n-mortar existence - you can do both. Depends on your business plan. I'm still dreaming of the day I can walk into a store that actually sells Linux computers and Linux paraphernalia, has people who speak Linux, and there's little Linux Elves and Penguins scattered around on the shelves :-) Life would be good.

Have a great Christmas.


how a Linux business would fly in Montana


You know I was thinking of the larger scope. I would include Wyoming, Northern Colorado, Idaho, as a start. I too agree that the market in just Montana would be way to small and like you say selling computers can be a challenge. I am actually going to go to school and get Redhat certified as hopefully an engineer. I also though have spent about nine years working with different Linux distros. But see what's so cool now is I can do all productivity now in Linux and I feel the need to get others involved. I will certainly keep people posted and as I make decisions I'll be coming back for more ideas of what people would want to see on the shelves. As I figure you never know some body from here may want to buy something from me at some time. Grin! Again though, if there's any other ideas or items youwould like to be sold please say something as I am going to be trying to get the business plan together here in the next probably four months as i live in Minnesota currently so I have to get everything situated here and go through with my education.

Scott Dowdle's picture

My two cents


I too your .doc and did some editing and saved it as an ODF file. Unfortunately forum replies can't have attachments... or I would have attached it... so I'll email it to you instead... with the email address listed in the document.

Interesting Question...

IMHO I don't think that a business like that would survive in our market. Majority of small businesses here either one, have an inhouse linux administrator or two, have absolutely no interest in doing anything open source because they want to be like the "BIG BOYS" and bleed blue. Just my two cents... Any kind of private support for linux is so hard to come by because very few take the risk without wanting to go through it themselves. I would be very interested to hear how it goes though.

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