Posted by: patdavila | September 18, 2011

Maker Faire NYC 2011 – “open” is the buzzword

Yesterday I spent the day at the 2011 NYC Maker Faire on the grounds of the NY Hall of Science in Queens, New York. I’ve seen videos of the Maker Faire in the San Francisco area for years and have been very envious. It looks like a very cool event where people are encouraged to make projects involving technology, art and anything cool and share them with others. There’s a great DIY spirit with a strong emphasis on teaching children to learn science skills and try to apply them to the real world. So me and my 7 year old son jumped into the car for the 2 hour drive into NYC. The very first area we came upon was the young maker’s pavilion. We spent a good hour checking out the tables and the various projects people had set up for the kids. We then checked out the live sized mouse trap. I got the sense the people behind it were performance artists types (tattoos & body piercing in abundance). It was a fun performance that a pretty large crowd of people enjoyed. As we walked into the main area we saw the the huge fire breathing metal dragon sculpture that we’ve seen in videos of the other Maker Faires:

We then checked a lot of the robotics stuff. My son was very excited to try controlling a human sized robot that a local high school team had built and entered into a national robotics competition. There was a ton of good stuff to see. My favourite were the Tesla Coils moving in sync with loud music. The videos of them on youtube don’t do them justice. You need to see them live:

One big negative related to Maker Faire was the overall lack of Linux. A lot of the vendors were espousing “open” like it was the buzzword bingo word of day. Sadly I did not see anyone running Linux in any capacity. I say it was about 90% windows and about 10% OSX. I did see see a ton of Android phones. It kinda irks me that an event about hacking, programming and sharing with a large “open” mindset is pretty oblivious to what F/OSS is all about. I went to one booth where they were doing CAD designs and building sculptures out of laser cut cardboard sheets. I spoke to the woman manning the booth and she told me they were using a program called Autodesk 123D that was “free”. She was emphatic that the designs were “open” and “sharable”. I asked her if it was a cross platform application and she nodded yes. When I got home in the evening I was very disappointed to find out that it’s windows only. Even worse it’s not even open, it’s just shareware. This trend of loosely using the terms “open” & “free” is a bit disturbing. Overall I think Maker Faire is a great event that should be checked out if you’re into technology & science. I just hope that in future events Linux is more prevalent and a more authentic F/OSS mentality takes root. It’s a bit sad when companies use marketing speak just to get into people’s “tech pants”.

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Responses

  1. Give’m an inch… I think those companies are on the way out, one way or another. The deceit just isn’t a sustainable business model, I just hope they don’t take everyone with them…

    I too see the disconnect, and I want to close that disconnect between Freedom activists and Freedom Software activists, as they mutually benefit. Right now, I am just redirecting to Freedom Box, but http://FreedomPlug.com will be in the hopes of doing such…


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