Fellow Open-source Enthusiasts
Going to conferences is great , getting inspired by attending them is even better but you know what is better? Getting to attend conferences [National/International] for free , getting cool stickers and t-shirts being delivered at your place , being one of the first few to get your hands on a developer device or developer release of an upcoming software/OS and all this for free! I will hopefully be pardoned by true open-source enthusiasts for making this look like an advertisement rather than a motivator but I somehow couldn't resist.
Now , ignoring the above perks because they are 'perks' , the real deal is getting to learn while you work. Being involved with any open-source project brings along a great deal of learning , experience and contribution to real-time projects which people around the globe use in their daily lives. Once you are into development and learning , conferences make a whole lot of more sense as you actually get what is going on. :P The best part is you feel the power of innovation, you realize that there is no limit to application but only to innovation. If you can think of it then it can be done.
Caution: If you are getting into this only because of the perks then you are in for disappointment because perks start surfacing many months after you have actually started contributing and developed some respect/relations in the community by having some code to show. If you are in it for the money
then let me tell you that there is no direct money, it is free work for free software in a free community and hence even the perks are free. You may however become capable enough to get involved in paid stuff like GSOC or some organisation which hires open-source interns like Mozilla.
Getting involved in an open-source project for you can mean two things:
1. Start working on a personal idea with help from a community.
2. Getting involved with a larger community project that operates over the internet
through an IRC channel and a mailing list.
1. Install any linux based distro like Ubuntu. http://www.ubuntu.com/
You can even use windows but it is frowned upon and it will be difficult to find help.
2. Learn to use IRC for chat. http://www.irchelp.org/irchelp/new2irc.html
3. Learn email ethics. http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en/articles/mailing-list-faq/etiquette.html
4. Short list a few or one organisation which has similar interests as you from the list :
5. Write an email or catch them on the irc.
Open Advice is a very good book to help you get things in place. http://open-advice.org/
OpenHatch is already famous for getting people started. http://openhatch.org/
PS: You are not required or assumed to have any prior knowledge but only the
will and motivation to learn and contribute.