Linux promoters are planning an answer to Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) this year: the first-ever FreedomHEC conference will immediately follow WinHEC in Microsoft's home town of Seattle.

The Linux conference will start the day after the Windows one. WinHEC delegates will get free admission, to sessions covering issues such as how to make a variety of hardware devices run Linux effectively.

FreedomHEC organisers sent an email to a Linux mailing list, and to the media, urging Linux users to "take control of your own destiny and make your hardware valuable to the growing Linux market." The message was also sent to the media.

"Developers and managers who are planning to attend WinHEC in Seattle this May will be able to stay a little longer for an 'unconference' that covers how to make devices work efficiently with Linux too," the e-mail said.

FreedomHEC will take place on 26-27 May, at the headquarters of sponsor Pogo Linux at 701 Fifth Ave, Seattle, while WinHEC is on 23-35 May at the Washington State convention centre, nearby at Seventh and Pike streets.

FreedomHEC is the brainchild of former Linux Journal editor-in-chief and well-known Linux community leader Don Marti. Marti, who currently does technical marketing for an IT company (not a FreedomHEC sponsor), said the conference is aimed at, among other things, dispelling the notion that it is difficult or expensive to build device drivers for Linux.

"The goal of the conference is to make it as easy as possible for hardware vendors to get new devices supported under Linux," he said. "We want to show how easy the process is."

Besides Pogo Linux, computing book publisher No Starch Press and, a Linux developer community Web site, are sponsoring the show.

According to Marti, FreedomHEC will feature tutorials, question-and-answer sessions and other opportunities for hardware engineers to "plug in both technically and community wise" to creating Linux device drivers. The conference also will provide information and how-to sessions about the necessary device-driver APIs (application programming interfaces) for Linux, he said.

Featured speakers and educators at FreedomHEC include Greg Kroah-Hartman, a Novell/SuSE Linux engineer who maintains numerous Linux kernel driver subsystems, and Leann Ogasawara, a member of the Test and Performance group at Open Source Development Labs, according to the conference Web site.

A spokesman for Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft's public relations firm, said Monday that he did not think the company was aware of FreedomHEC. No one at Microsoft was available for immediate comment.