Why I Gave Away a 3-D Printer

Ken Fallon posted a request on the Hacker Public Radio mailing list for shows about 3-D printers, and I innocently replied that I couldn’t help since I gave mine away. This of course led to Ken saying he would love to have a show about why a hacker-type person would give away a perfectly good 3-D printer, so I was trapped.

In October of 2017 I went to Ohio LinuxFest, which I have done many times. I spent a few years running publicity for them after all, and it is a good convention for open source folks. Now how did a guy from Michigan get involved in an Ohio event? For those who are not from the Midwest of the United States, Michigan and Ohio are “friendly enemies”. There was a border war in the early 19th century, which Michigan won when Ohio was forced to take Toledo. (That is a joke. Actually we have a family membership at the Toledo Museum of Art.) And the University of Michigan and Ohio State University are football rivals that close out their seasons each year with the rivalry matchup. But the joining of this University of Michigan alumnus with the Ohio LinuxFest came about because of Penguicon, which I had been going to for some time, and where I became the Tech Track programmer for a few years after I stepped down from my position at Ohio Linux Fest.

I had gone to a panel at Penguicon where Jorge Castro of Canonical talked about how to get help with your Linux install. (Jorge recently left Canonical to join VMWare where he is Community Manager.) It was good, but I noticed something missing: he never mentioned Linux User Groups! I was at the time the leader of the Washtenaw Linux User Group, and we helped people all the time at our monthly meetings. And I was certain that there were lots of other groups out there doing the same thing. So I spoke up and asked Jorge to “correct the record”, which of course he graciously did. But then in the hallway I was approached by Beth Lynn Eicher, who said they needed someone at Ohio LinuxFest to be the Liaison with the Linux User Groups. So I agreed to take that on, working under Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier, who was in charge of publicity. The following year Zonker stepped down (He is now Editorial Director at Red Hat), and I became the head of publicity.

Now even after I stepped down a few years later I continued to attend each year, and I think 2019 was the first year I missed since 2008, my first year attending there. I had retired, my wife and I had a trip for our 40th wedding anniversary, and other family matters just filled up my schedule. And this year the event is virtual, for obvious reasons. But one of the ways Ohio LinuxFest raised some cash (and it takes a lot of money to put on an event like this) was by having a raffle. Corporate sponsors would donate items to be raffled off, and attendees would buy raffle tickets. So of course I did what I usually do and bought something like $20 worth of tickets. And when they got to the main prize, a 3-D printer, my name was the one they called out! So that is the story of how I obtained the printer. But how did I give it away?

That takes me back to Penguicon. Penguicon chooses a charity each year to receive both focus and some money that is raised through raffles and such. And in 2016 this was an organization called E-Nable, which uses 3-D printers to create prosthetic limbs for children who are missing limbs through things like birth defects. I thought this was a very good thing to be doing, and I was proud that Penguicon was promoting it. So when my name was called at the OLF raffle, I knew almost immediately what I would do. My choices were either to have a neat toy I could play with, or maybe make lives better for some children, and that was no contest at all.

The reason E-Nable was the charity that year at Penguicon was because one of the organizers was involved with the group and was making limbs. So when the printer was delivered to my home, I messaged him to see if he could use it. It turns out the one I got was a much better one than what he had been using, so he could do even more good work with it. And it is not like I like for toys in my life. I know I did the right thing, and I have never regretted it.