Many people have little understanding of how the technology that has become such a presence in our lives is created and managed. We sometimes hear the names of tech industry titans and assume that they brought these ideas and works into being. The reality is nothing like this and is far more exciting. Collaboration between countless professionals and enthusiasts is what drives the cutting edge of computer and network-based technologies. LinuxFest Northwest is one of the rare times when these people get come together to share their ideas and excitement face to face.
Open source, or "free" software development has been the model for creating many of the key technologies from the World Wide Web to your cell phone. The Linux operating system is a free and open source computer operating system supported by developers world wide. It runs everything from cellphones, business and home computers, tablets and the Internet to the Mars Curiosity Rover and "atom smashing" super computers. Rather than a single individual or entity, folks from all over the world and from many different companies and organizations work together and freely to create something that they all needed or wanted. What they create is distributed freely with the proviso that any changes must, in turn be shared. This way, the development continues and all parties benefit from their work. Many of the largest technology companies employ developers to work on these open source projects knowing that they'll also get the benefit of the work of developers at hundreds of other companies.
LinuxFest Northwest is just such an open source collaboration. The Bellingham Linux Users Group and Bellingham Technical College work, along with participants locally, around the country and abroad, to create something needed by many. The advantages are many as well. The event is free of charge for attendees. The over 70 technology presentations on topics from the latest in super computing, digital privacy and rights, "how to" sessions, computer gaming, mobile app development and more, are all provided by expert volunteer presenters. Bellingham Technical College students help run the event and in doing so gain expertise in leading teams, managing projects and deploying critical technology services. They also get to meet potential employers and professional contacts and collaborators and attend sessions on topics that apply to their incipient careers.
This collaborative is also what makes the event such a success. Bellingham/Whatcom County is hosting one of the largest events of this kind. This is something we do well around here. Local organizations and companies are creating and supporting a growing technology industry here by fostering collaboration and creating incubators for great ideas that turn into new technology products and services. These same companies also collaborate with Bellingham Technical College to provide guidance to our programs and, often, internship and employment opportunities to our students - key to helping them launch their careers. In turn, this provides infusions of new energy and ideas, and new professionals needed by the industry.
LinuxFest is not your usual conference. It's the event for and by technologists and enthusiasts. We try to create the event we need. It's the event that's focused on the exciting technologies we work and play with. It's the event that gives us a chance to get face to face with the people who are creating the technologies we use. It's the event that's about raucous learning and fun. It's the event where local high school students are demonstrating their newest robotic creations right next to presentations on computer security and cell phone application development. We hope you'll come, participate and collaborate with us.
LinuxFest Northwest is 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27 at Bellingham Technical College, 3028 Lindbergh Ave. For information about the event online, go to linuxfestnorthwest.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Gregory Rehm is an instructor with the Computer Network Technology Program at Bellingham Technical College and a member of the organizing team for LinuxFest Northwest.