FOSDEM: a platform to showcase and share FOSS ideas

It was my first experience attending FOSDEM, one of the largest gathering of FOSS developers and users, and I am glad that it was part of my first ever international travel. I used to follow FOSDEM talks over the last few years which made me more excited to be in person inside various developer rooms during two days of the conference at ULB campus in Brussels, Belgium.

Beer event @ Delirium Cafe
This was the night before FOSDEM. Oh..How can I forget that evening? I have never been to such a packed cafe in my life before. It was packed such that no one could reach the entrance without making a way by ourselves asking others to leave some space. Entry door to cafe then awaits you with 1 or 2 FOSS related questions to be answered. I was asked to mention some Debian release code names which I managed to answer without much difficulty. As a matter of fact I used to be a Fedora guy but who can forget Debian if you are in to Free Software world. Inside its all about chattering everywhere, from waiting in queue for beer to finding a place to sit(which is quite unlikely) and what not. Luckily I got to catch up with some colleagues inside and discussed some AI stuff in free software projects.

Day 01 @ FOSDEM ’19
It was also my first experience walking under snowfall which continued through half of the day. By the time I reached the campus, keynote by Bradley and Karen from SFC(Software Freedom Conservancy) was already ongoing to which I somehow managed to find some place along the wall standing for rest of the talk. Takeaway from the talk were suggestions to stay focussed in development activities making sure that we are living in full software freedom. Another important aspect of FOSDEM that I had in mind are the booths from various free and open source software projects setup in two different locations in the campus. This is a great chance for anyone to get into discussions with leading developers from specific project. Even if you are not a developer its good to have a chat with those people who will help us in understanding the technology used in a particular project. While walking along the booth corridor I happened to see Matrix(protocol for real-time communication) team and discussed their development effort in defining an open standard for real-time communication. There were booths from FSFE, FreeBSD, VLC, Mozilla, Fedora, CentOS, Gnome, KDE, GlusterFS, Ceph, Google and so on. One nice thing about these booths is that you could get stickers and small swags for free. You will also find a job corridor where various opportunities to work on free software projects are listed with requirements from different organizations. Towards the end of the day I also had dinner with some leading developers from Samba project discussing various ongoing development efforts to support the SMB protocol stack.

Day 02 @ FOSDEM ’19
Ah.. I cannot forget the running I had between rooms/buildings for attending talks scheduled in adjacent time slots. For me second day started off with a talk on status update of NFS-Ganesha project from my colleague at Red Hat. At the same time there was also a session on Ceph’s involvment in hybrid cloud from another colleague which I attended for the final 15 minutes. Back in the main auditorium it was time for a keynote by Roger Dingledine from Tor project. It was basically a crash course on Tor explained in simple terminologies which also detailed on the improvements and status update on Tor browsers and the overall project. I really enjoyed it. Then I got back into Software Defined Storage(SDS) developer room for a session on Witness protocol implementation in Samba by David and Samuel from SUSE. It was a short and sweet talk with demoing the fail-over scenarios with I/O in progress. After lunch I went for a session by OTR(Off The Record) protocol team from Centro De Autonomia Digital following which I got back to SDS room for talk on SMB2 POSIX extension support in Samba by Jeremy Allison from Google. That was kind of an in-depth update on the how far the effort has gone in order to utilize POSIX extensions within Samba to improvise the interoperability between Windows and UNIX. The next session by Nick Desaulniers in LLVM developer room was interesting where he was explaining the challenges involved in getting to compile Linux kernel with LLVM and related tools. I could then realize how deep Linux kernel source is connected to GCC and binutils. Before leaving the campus I also bought a T-shirt from FSFE with a front side quote – “There is no Cloud, just other people’s computers”.

You really should have a plan for attending FOSDEM. Even if you plan it is quite possible that you would be missing some session as they overlap with some other talk. But better come planned so that you don’t regret while looking for talks to attend at the event. It was also nice to see the punctuality and organizational ability of volunteers for the entire two days. This is one kind of conference that you don’t want to miss for sure. You will definitely get to know about FOSS technologies in general and how are they supposed to solve problems in real world. I can only recommend you to at least attend one of the upcoming editions of FOSDEM in person which will help you stay with Free Software in future.

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