January 22, 2004

LinuxWorld's Golden Penguin Bowl shines

Author: Lee Schlesinger

A highlight of every LinuxWorld is the Golden Penguin Bowl, a trivia contest that pits a team of Nerds against a team of Geeks. This time around, the outcome was the revenge of the Nerds.The host, as usual, was Chris DiBona, co-founder of Konstrux Technologies. The Nerds were represented by Linux Terminal Server Project founder Jim McQuillan, Rackspace chief technology evangelist Dirk Elmendorf, and IBM Linux architect Joshua Jensen, while Veritas Software senior Linux technical product manager Douglas Fallstrom, consultant Russell Pavlicek, and Sun Microsystems senior manager Danese Cooper were Geeks. Samba team lead developer Jeremy Allison, journalist Jason Perlow, and RealNetworks Helix community coordinator Rob Lanphier served as judges and operated the computer running the PHP script with the quiz questions.

Most of the questions touched on IT, Linux, and open source topics, but there were a handful of general knowledge items to keep the teams on their toes.

After the Nerds buzzed in on the first four questions and answered them correctly, the Geeks protested they were having trouble with their buzzers. DiBona awarded the Geeks 500 pity points on an ambiguous question.

Neither team answered every question correctly, but the low point may have come when DiBona asked what fuel Voyager I uses to power its thrusters. Cooper tentatively proposed, "Rocket fuel?" Cooper redeemed herself by knowing that the country that signed a million desktop Linux contract with her company in November was China.

One bonus question made the Nerds sing nerd lyrics to the tune of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," making it clear why they work in technology and not entertainment. DiBona chided the audience for laughing at the teams, instructing them to reach under their seats, where they found lyric sheets taped to the bottom so they could sing along.

The Nerds gained points by identifying a photo of Linus in a dunk tank at the recent LinuxConf in Australia and defining Zeno's Paradox.

"What is Theora?" stumped both teams, and neither was able to expand the acronyms PVM and MPI. They declined to buzz in on "What sport do Fide and USCF oversee?"

By the end of Round 3, the Nerds were ahead by 20,500 to 15,500. The final round challenged the teams to name as many programs as they could for 500 points each. DiBona entertained the audience by singing while they worked, until the audience begged him to stop. Though both teams came up at least 25 names, the Nerds' lead was too much to overcome.

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