The following article has been contributed by Carla Schroder, Technical Writer at the SUSE Documentation Team.
In my needlessly-humble opinion, one of the most vital elements in FOSS is building bridges to new contributors. A fine way to do this is to lower the barriers to entry with amazing fun hardware. Number one on today’s hit parade is littleBits.
littleBits takes breadboarding to a new level of ease and fun. littleBits are color-coded magnetic building blocks. There are switches, lights, fans, motors, wheels, music synthesizers, and all kinds of fun bits. Each piece connects with magnets to the other pieces, and they go only one way so you can’t connect them the wrong way. Even if you’re a wizened old electronics guru I daresay these will enchant you.
The Northwest Indian College Space Center brought a collection of rockets and drones built by students. Their space program started out as a joke; NWIC had no engineering programs and no funding, and the students were fooling around with little rockets made from water bottles. Then NASA called and offered them some grant money. It wasn’t a lot, just $5,000 per year, but it was enough to enter and win competitions against teams from larger and better-funded colleges, improvising with salvaged computer parts, paper clips, and mouse traps.
The drone chassis are made of wood parts cut with CNC machines. The photo gives you an idea of how beautiful they are. The control box (not shown) is also housed in CNC-machined wood.
See “Why NASA Called The Northwest Indian College Space Center ” for more background on the program.
The third item in our cool tech roundup is a box of dice. That is right, a box of dice. These were featured at the Fedora Linux booth as a genuine random-number generator for creating strong passphrases. This system was created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Roll the dice and write down the numbers. Repeat four more times, until you have five sets of numbers. Then consult the EFF’s word list to convert the numbers to five words, and there is your passphrase. My LinuxFest passphrase is “thee dividable haiku bonehead reaction”.