Free and open-source software con returns to International House | The Triangle

Free and open-source software con returns to International House

Photograph courtesy of Google Maps.
Photograph courtesy of Google Maps

FOSSCon, a free and open-source software conference, will be held Aug. 25 at the International House Philadelphia. Lectures and workshops will teach participants about free software and new ways to use it.

Unlike most software, which is only available under restrictive licensing, free and open-source software is available under licenses that let people distribute, run and modify the software for their own purposes. It includes well-known projects like the Firefox browser or the Linux kernel. Those who talk about “free software” emphasize the way copyright law restricts users’ freedom, while those who talk about “open source” emphasize the economic and technical benefits of shared development.

However, most of the scheduled events are far from philosophical, focusing on technical subjects like the use of domain name systems or the filesystem ZFS. The speakers range from professional programmers to enthusiasts. Most famous on the list is Eric S. Raymond, one of the thinkers behind “open source,” who will speak about the history of the C programming language and what might replace it. Of particular local interest is a talk by Eric O’Callaghan, a systems administrator at Thomas Jefferson University, on how to use public data from Indego Bike Share.

Less technical discussions include Brian MacDonald’s recommendations for “Writing the Next Great Tech Book” and Joe Lopez’s critique of the way free software projects market themselves. Nor is the conference just for computer geeks: Daniel Pikora will talk about how the LEGO community uses and contributes to free software, and amateur radio license exams will be administered by the Phil-Mont Mobile Radio Club.

FOSSCon has been hosted annually in Philadelphia since 2010. It was founded by husband-and-wife Jonathan Simpson and Christina Simmons, is run with volunteer labor and is entirely funded through sponsorship.

The conference is still accepting proposals for five-minute “lightning talks.” These should be submitted more than one week before the conference starts, or else most slots will be filled.

The International House is located at 3701 Chestnut St., and the program runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The list of speakers, proposal submissions and free registration are available at