LinuxWorld: Trivia contest prompts quips, confusion

If you’re in a sparsely packed Moscone Center auditorium filled mostly with men wearing black hacker and GNU T-shirts and clutching green bottles of Mountain Dew, it must be time for the next Golden Penguin Bowl: a LinuxWorld Expo tradition in which two teams, the Nerds and Geeks, play for bragging rights and the “coveted” Golden Penguin trophy.

Think of it as Jeopardy for computer fans, where contestants test their knowledge of bit-addressable microprocessors, symmetric multiprocessing systems, BSD, and cheesy science fiction. The event took place at the LinuxWorld Expo last month in San Francisco.

Typically filled with snarky comments and unpredictable questions, this year’s Golden Penguin Bowl didn’t disappoint. The two closely matched teams battled, but ultimately the Nerds triumphed in a very close game and regained the title after losing last year.

The host of the contest, Samba developer Jeremy Allison, trotted and pranced before the audience in a silver-and-white sequined tux, looking less like a tech guy and more like a cross between Richard Dawson and Elton John.

The Nerds team consisted of Andrew Morton, 2.6 Linux kernel maintainer; Tim Witham, director, Open Source Development Labs; and Greg Kroah-Hartman, a kernel maintainer at the IBM Corp. Linux Technology Center. A trio of Apple Computer Inc. employees comprised the Geeks: John Hubbard, engineering manager of the BSD Technologies group; Stuart Cheshire, senior engineer and Rendezvous architect; and Dominic Giampaulo, file system architect.

Code, not cinema

The game got off to a slow start. Allison’s first question asked who played Agent Smith in The Matrix and Elrond in Lord of the Rings. The Geeks’ Hubbard ventured, “His first name is Hugh.” But the judges wouldn’t award points for a partial name, so the team lost points.

In another question, Allison showed a snippet of code and asked whether it was BSD or Linux kernel code. He then quipped that it doesn’t matter, since SCO owns it all — an allusion to the company’s copyright suits against Linux.

Quiet finish

The final challenge was a fittingly Linux-oriented one: Both teams were asked to list non-networked file systems for Linux or BSD, including open source or proprietary systems. They had one minute to scribble as many as they could on their pad.

Out of a total of 30 correct file systems, the Nerds guessed 14 and the Geeks got 13.

The Nerds barely won the game with 19,000 points to the Geeks’ 18,750. The judges presented the trophies to the Nerds, who earned a much-deserved year of bragging rights.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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