Penguicon--Would you like some sci-fi in your open source?

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Perhaps you've looked around a Linux conference and noticed more than a few "Han Shot First" t-shirts. Or maybe you enjoy sci-fi cons and are always pleased to see costumes powered by Arduinos. This year, the tenth annual Penguicon celebrated what happens when you cross those streams.

If you want to have a full experience from only one side, this isn't the con for you. Its strength is in putting the two aspects side by side. In fact, I think Penguicon could serve as a great introduction to open source for science fiction fans. (But it's definitely not an in-depth con experience for those already well-acquainted with open source.) Many of the open source sessions were introduction-level, with basic sessions on topics like Git, OpenBSD, OpenDNS, and Wordpress. While there were some more in-depth sessions focused on open source software, because of the diversity of subjects, I'm not sure that many people would fill their con schedules with only these sessions--but of course, that's not the point. Penguicon is all about a blend, and when you break up the technical with the fantastical, that's where the magic happens.

From the flip side, sci-fi fans could easily experience this Detroit-area event without ever encountering the open source side, but it would be a mistake. In addition to the aforementioned software aspects, there was a weekend-long makerspace room available where attendees could learn basic soldering skills, get a BeagleBoard or Arduino up and running, and get acquainted with 3D printing.

In the metaphorical space between the two worlds, there were opportunities to play with Lego bricks, try a Chaos Machine, listen to nerd comedy, and talk zombies. You could learn about Camp Luminous, which arguably teaches open source principles, or learn to build a TARDIS from open plans.

And if you are the person at the open source conference who names machines after starship captains, Penguicon is ready to plan next year and could use your help.

Ruth Suehle is the community leadership manager for Red Hat's Open Source and Standards team. She's co-author of Raspberry Pi Hacks (O'Reilly, December 2013) and a senior editor at GeekMom, a site for those who find their joy in both geekery and parenting.


Commenting just to let you know I saw what you did there in the third sentence.

It's possible I had some intern in mind when I wrote it. :-)

As a long time Senior Staff at 2 local Sci-fi conventions, We have offered introductions to Open Source software such as gimp, inkscape, and other video and audio packages. These panels are seeing more and more interest the last couple of years.

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