Last night I went to the Portland State Aerospace Society meeting. Their intended goal is to launch a small satellite into orbit. I found it really amusing to find Keith Packard say “this is not rocket science” at a meeting about what is essentially rocket science. Though it turns out he was talking about improvements to the X.org build system which has nothing to do with rocketry. As long as I can remember “rocket science” has been a reference to incredibly difficult technology. From what I have managed to learn so far about the project that is a fair assessment. Most of the technologies involved are not completely unapproachable to someone with a fair amount of technical skills, it is just that there are so many of them. Chemistry, physics, advanced mathematics, structural engineering, robotic manufacturing processes, computer science, GPS, radio… I felt accomplished that I understood so much of what people were talking about, yet I didn’t understand enough to contribute much back. I expect that will change soon enough.
The fact that one of the leaders of the FOSS community was there reminded me of how rich the local area is in free software development. Keith Packard is probably the most significant leader in development of free software for the desktop. GNU/Linux, BSD, and Solaris all rely on decisions he makes. Linux founder Linus Torvalds also lives locally. I realized at the meeting when they were talking about open technologies that they might need to contribute back to, or get help with, that the primary developers for many of them lived locally. So essentially Portland is the place to live if you are an ubergeek.
Yesterday a customer told me that he wished he could work here at PLANET ARGON. I can’t say that I blame him. I get to work on some pretty interesting stuff here. There actually is some overlap in the tech used by PSAS, and PLANET ARGON. We just don’t use it to launch rockets, but perhaps someday we will.