October 7, 2004

Austin hosts the inaugural Linucon

Author: Joe Barr

Austin is playing host to a new con this week. It's a Linux con. It's a science fiction con. It's Linucon. The show is a sister show to Penguincon, held in Michigan. It is the result of a grass-roots organizing effort by Rob Landley and Stu Green, two longtime members of Austin's Linux scene.

Headliners from both the Linux world and the fantasy world will be participating: Eric S. Raymond, Peter Salus, Eric Flint, Steve Jackson (of Steve Jackson Games fame), and Wil Wheaton, to name a few.

In spite of the headliners, Linucon has all the makings for a good old-fashioned, community-based event rather than the suit-oriented, biztalking, marketing extravaganza that LinuxWorld Conference and Expo has become. In fact, it seems to be joining a growing number shows, whether they are pure Linux or hybrids like Linucon and Penguincon, which are community inspired and oriented. It's almost as if the Linux community is reaching out for its roots.

Just last week, for example, I saw Paul Ferris's name on a story recounting his keynote at Ohio LinuxFest 2004. In my book, Paul Ferris is Mister Community. Never mind that his one-time boss at a Linux news site scoffed at the very concept of there being any such thing as a "Linux community." It's like "Revenge of the Nerds" all over again.

That's not to say there won't be vendors at Linucon. As a matter of fact, it appears that all the dealer space is sold out. But with rates as low as $50 for half a table and only $180 for a twenty-foot table, it's not hard to see why.

The show kicks off Friday and runs non-stop -- literally -- through Sunday evening. Game rooms will be open 24 hours a day, with free Wi-Fi access to all, panels, speeches, presentations, and so on. It will very much take on the look and feel of a busy bazaar.

And speaking of the Bazaar, ESR will be involved throughout the con, from the opening ceremonies Friday afternoon to his traditional "Geeks with guns" on Saturday -- off site, of course -- to the banquet on Sunday afternoon. His wife Cathy will also be a part of the show. She's doing a number of panels, including one on the Linux desktop and one on intellectual property.

My personal favorite among the glitterati is Peter Salus, the unofficial historian of Unix who has been watching our long and winding path from the days at Bell Labs to
the present. The first time I heard Peter Salus speak was at USENIX in 2001. He was being interviewed by Dr. Dobb's Journal, and he talked about the open source movement that existed in the early days of Unix. For latecomers like me, who didn't really become familiar with the dynamics of an open source environment until finding Linux in the mid-'90s, I liken Salus's personal history of those events as being like the oral tradition some civilizations use to pass their history from one generation to the next.

Pete Collins, the City of Austin CIO who has used the threat of Linux desktops in the city to negotiate better prices with Microsoft, will be part of a panel on Linux in Government. Stu Green and Rob Landley will also be presenting. And underscoring the community theme just once more, a Linux installfest will also be part of the show.

It should be a great time if you're interested in Linux, anime, game playing, or science fiction. Stop by the Red Lion Inn and join in if you happen to be in Austin over the weekend.

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