There’s one Thing that nearly all experienced Linux (and Unix) users have done: stare into the inky black abyss that is a TTY console in the wee hours of the night. (As I write this, I’m in the middle of re-installing Arch because of various reasons.) For most of the computing populace, this is a scary place, from which Balrogs are summoned.

However, if you find this place less scary, or as simply a challenging puzzle—because, let’s face it, you’re probably in that TTY screen because you broke something—you’ll be in good company at a Linux or open-source convention or event.  Events and conventions are great places to learn about what’s happening in the field. I was lucky enough to be able to attend RSA in San Francisco in 2016. While there’s a lot of interesting gear to see, and lots of booths advertising things, you can learn a lot by attending keynotes or sessions. And there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in the same room as someone who makes decisions about a piece of software that will affect users.
I’ve compiled a list of a few of the bigger events that are happening this year around the country. It’s by no means complete, but I thought it would offer up a small sample of what’s out there.

Southern California Linux Expo 15x
March 2-5
Pasadena, CA
The Southern California Linux Expo (ScaLE) is based in LA, and has sessions and events to cater to all your geeky needs. From a PGP key signing party to a ham radio examination, ScaLE has plenty to offer Angelinos and those who can make it to southern California. The price of registration for a full pass was $75 in 2016.

Events and conventions are great places to learn about what’s happening in the open-source field.

March 25-26
Greater Boston Area, MA LibrePlanet is about “free,” as in “freedom” in “free software.” Hosted by the Free Software Foundation, this is the place to go if you want to increase your chances of bumping into Stallman himself. If you’re a student or a member of the FSF, you get in gratis. Regular Joes will have to pony up $90.
LinuxFest Northwest
May 6-7
Bellingham, WA
One of the biggest Linux events in the country, and attendance is free. (You’ll still need to pay for food and lodging.) The conference is friendly to Linux newbies and hackers alike.

SouthEast LinuxFest
June 9-11
Charlotte, NC
This is the South’s answer to ScaLE and LinuxFest Northwest. You can attend for free, but you can also choose to be a “supporting” attendee for $65.

Def Con 25
July 27-30
Las Vegas, NV
While it’s not strictly for FOSS,
Def Con is known as the hacker event to go to. If LinuxFest is a nice camping trip, Def Con is Wasteland Weekend. Like industrial music and all-nighters? This is the place for you. Just make sure all your devices have their wireless capabilities disabled. Cost is $240, plus a room in Vegas for three days, and a hefty caffeine budget.
There are plenty more events that are to be determined this year, so if none of these fit your travel plans, don’t worry. While the big events get a lot of attention, there are plenty of smaller hackathons and events to attend nationwide. And if there are none near you, you could be the prestigious founder of your own local annual FOSS event.

By: Alex Campbell