Geeks triumph at LinuxWorld Penguin Bowl

From Linux kernels and chemistry to lawsuits, all things nerdy and newsworthy were fair game at the Golden Penguin Bowl, a fixture of the LinuxWorld conference meeting here this week.

The trivia contest, which pits the Geeks against the Nerds, serves as a break from sessions and booth duties and gives open source industry pundits a chance to match wits. The winning team always gets bragging rights along with the coveted Golden Penguin trophies. The Geeks scored a win for the second consecutive year.

Banter and Bonus Points

The topics may not be rocket science, but the event offered the three rousing rounds of questions by host Chris DiBona, founder and vice president of marketing at Damage Studios.

Rolling through with a considerable lead were Geeks Brian Aker, a senior developer with Slashdot; Rob Lanphier, Helix Community Coordinator for RealNetworks Inc.; and Don Becker, Scyld founder and now chief technology officer of Penguin Computing Inc. Comprising the Nerds team were John Goebel, a Stanford University scientist; Moshe Bar, Qlusters chief technology officer and a leader in openMosix; and Rob Jones, president of HotLinux Jobs and Glacier Technology Services.

The practice round saw an easy warm-up question: "What does SCO stand for?" The Nerds correctly identified the acronym for The Santa Cruz Operation. But DiBona said he'd also accept the answer "Satan's Courtroom Operators," a reference to the ongoing animosity over licensing and litigation.

The Nerds pulled ahead by correctly answering a brain-bending question about a rare semi-conducting compound. But they lost 500 points when they erroneously said the first public release of scripting language Python materialized in 1993 (the release was in 1991).

And the Geeks lost points when they couldn't identify Red Hat Inc.'s user interface as Bluecurve--saying, instead, GNOME.

Then DiBona flashed a picture of Darl McBride, The SCO Group Inc. president and chief executive officer, and asked contestants to identify him. After boos from the crowd died down, the Geeks named him. "Isn't he sweet?" chided DiBona.

The Geeks picked up an easy 500 points for correctly identifying the event as being in the Pacific Time Zone. Tension mounted as the Geeks closed the gap with 1500 to the Nerds' 2000 points. But the anxiety soon eased, as that was closest point spread the two teams experienced during the Golden Penguin Bowl.

Food or Poison?

During much of the tournament, the Nerds suffered silently under the Geeks' trouncing. The Nerds lost 500 points for a poor guess of how many people have been subpoenaed by copyright cops at the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (The correct total: 993).

The Nerds' decline continued when they were stumped by a daunting query asking what percentage of corporations have file-sharing software--the figure is 77 percent. "The record industry is dead," DiBona quipped.

The event's highlight--or perhaps its lowlight--happened when the Geek team correctly identified the writer of an old geek song and sang two stanzas for extra points. The audience cringed and most covered their ears as the Geeks belted out off-key lyrics, but scored an additional 500 points--hitting 5550 to the Nerds' 1500.

Then came the traditional "Food or Poison" questions that require contestants to identify chemical compounds as edible or toxic items. The Geeks claimed C6H12O6 (glucose) as both food and poison, but the judges ruled that it's food, despite arguments that too much glucose causes heath problems. For the bonus question, another McBride photo flashed on the display. "Poison or Food?" DiBona asked; the Geeks earned points by claiming the CEO is both.

After a flurry of incorrect answers, the Nerds slipped to 1500 points while the Geeks pulled ahead to 12,500.

The last round produced a very tough final question that only LinuxWorld fans could love: "Name as many different devices that can be found in the /dev/ tree of a 2.4.20 filesystem (100 points per answer). Please note that, for instance, all the ttys are equal to one device for the purposes of the this quiz."

DiBona entertained during the final two minutes as contestants struggled for the answers.

The question proved too difficult and neither team scored any points. Despite the anticlimactic final round, the Geeks carried away the Golden Penguin prizes.

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Alexandra Krasne

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