Open Source Days 2017 Impressions

Open Source Days is an annual conference held in Copenhagen, this time held from the 17th March to the 18th March. Since my successful trip with members of Open Source Aalborg we are keeping a close eye on free software happening in and around Denmark. For all of us, this was the first time we went to the Open Source Days conference.

Day 1: Business Days

First day of the conference was arranged as an opportunity for networking and presentations oriented around open source in corporate setting. We were there, as part of PROSA, a local Danish union organization supporting open source. While Open Source Days is a significantly smaller conference than say FOSDEM, I was still impressed by the variance of local Scandinavian firms present which ranged from firms selling courses and education to firms offering cloud-based services and offering support on self-hosted services.

I had the chance to talk to quite a few around there including FAIR Denmark which is recycling computers with GNOME installed on them to provide education to poor countries. Very interesting!

I also had the chance to meet Jesper, Martin and a few others from last years open source camp. Jesper was presenting about his work on enabling high speed network packet support in the Linux Kernel. Lots of it flew over my head but it was very interesting to hear as the presentation was a continuation the work he presented last year at the camp.

Day 2: Community Days

The second day marked the community days. In spirit of the day, Open Source Aalborg had its own humble booth with hand-drawn flyers, signs and everything. Start small, as they say. :-)

Copenhagen’s hackerspace Labitat was also present and had brought lots of small projects with them such as hacked sewing machines, LED matrix bling-bling and other electronics.

The community day had two tracks with talks. Probably the most interesting was the talk about how Danish municipalities are collaborating on infrastructure based on free and open source software principles called OS2. This model doesn’t mean that the municipalties are developing the project in-house. Rather, they are placing contracts with local danish firms to work for specific periods of time to develop projects further – and one municipality’s work benefit all other 98 municipalities.

The conference ended with beers and popcorn at Farfar’s as is tradition or so I have been told. Thanks to PROSA for sponsoring this trip to Open Source Days for Open Source Aalborg. I’m definitely attending again next year. :-)

Insights into the GNOME 3.24 Release Video

What a month! 3.24 is out, the revamped newcomers guide is out and I’m still trying to catch my breath here. This blog post will go a bit behind the scenes of the 3.24 release video.

First, here’s a closer look at the process of making a release video. These videos are a big effort from me but they are made possible thanks to many others. Of course this is just an approximate visualization of the time spent and how the processes are laid out. In reality much of it intertwine a lot more, as the video and its assets are created in several iterations.

The process

Time spent on the release video.

Visualization of the release video creation process

First, highlights from the new changes to applications and developer tools are chosen in the draft release notes. From this a manuscript draft is created and sent to the engagement list. Once the structure is approximately in place we can start recording footage. Much of the footage of the applications was this time provided by developers and application contributors. This meant I could spend extra time working on the animations themselves and I really enjoyed that part! A large majority of the time I was livestreaming my work on my twitch channel. Recording footage might sound like something trivial to do, but this actually normally takes up a large amount of time for me because:

  • The recordings require the latest unstable application version. This can be either super easy or very time consuming if the application doesn’t build, doesn’t run or isn’t up to date in flatpak, rawhide, JHBuild.
  • The application needs to be in a state which exposes what needs to be recorded. There are typically a few cool features which require special hardware (fx touchscreen, drawing tablets), need to be populated with some sample data (content applications).

So to all the developers and maintainers helping me with the special cases, thank you very much! I hope you don’t mind if I ask of your assistance again sometime in the future.

Once the manuscript is in good shape, it’s ready to be sent to Karen and Mike who help with the final revision and voice-over. On the sideline I have been working with Simon (@TheBaronHimself) who has produced the music for the video. This has been going on since the manuscript was still being written and having music produced from scratch for the video really upped the quality! The music is designed to work together with the content in the video, take for example how the music is timed to sound different when we talk about new developer features.

Mid-march Simon sent a draft of the music and I had a draft of the video which we then synchronized. This marks the editing freeze, which freezes the timing of Karen’s voice, this time 7 days before the release of GNOME 3.24. This is a new constraint that I put on the editing process in order to give translators a chance to translate the release video so as many translations of the subtitles are available as possible at release.

We managed to release the video a day after the release of GNOME 3.24. The slight delay was partly because timing the music proved quite difficult due to the editing freeze, but me and Simon now have some experience dealing with this, so we will come up with a better approach for the next video.

Source files

The manuscript is available here. I have also uploaded blender source files to this public git repository.

I’ll end this blog post with showcasing a few animations, some of which gave some new learning opportunities and some which were of the fun things I worked in this video:

a lock object with a constraint copying the rotation and noise from an empty with animated influence.

an array and bend modifier with f-curve offset.

many smaller animations, that I had fun with making to represent our teams in GNOME.

Thanks to translation team, design team, engagement team, all the developers helping me recording footage, karen and mike for the voice-over and Simon for producing the music. These videos could not be possible without help from all these people in the GNOME community. :)

This video was made using Blender, GIMP and Inkscape. It is satisfying to know that I can produce all of this using a free software pipeline.

FOSDEM 2017 Day 3: Talks & Chats

Silent morning at the booths in building K (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Today I got early up, going with Andreas to the venue, arriving at 8.30 AM. He was going there to open the Open Source Design room, I was going there to open the GNOME booth. After the shift I then decided to wandered around to collect stickers and speak to various projects at their booths.

Emiliano at the LibreOffice booth (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

LibreOffice‘s booth who had a stand right next to us and I decided to stop by. In LibreOffice they had just released version 5.3, which among other new features include a renewed user interface. LibreOffice is also making progress on integrating with GTK+3, although I unfortunately missed the talk they had about that the day before. In recent years a new flavor of LibreOffice has also arrived, namely LibreOffice online. This project makes it possible to deploy your own collaborative document editing infrastructure.

Team Coala at FOSDEM (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

At the Coala booth, I met Lasse whom I know also via the GNOME community. Coala is a type of meta code analysis software. Currently they are reworking internals, and ultimately aiming at simplifying how to perform the code analysis.

Jobs corner located in Building H. (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

My experience in all three FOSDEM conferences is that they are a good place to network and meet new faces. One thing I dont recall seeing at previous FOSDEMs was job postings. There was a very long wall and table dedicated so that individuals and organizations could advertise jobs, from everything between part-time system administrators and DevOps to full-time software engineers or project managers. Practical!

Stickers! (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

..and that was the end of my sticker collecting journey. Now I’ve got some, ready to be put on the dorm door at home. :-)


The rest of the day went with watching talks. In many places there were very large lines of people trying to get in, inside many of the rooms.

People standing in line to the “Decentralized Internet” room (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

In the end I went to the open source design room, in which i stayed for the rest of the day. This being an open source conference, many of the talks at FOSDEM are focused around software-engineering. The open source design room is the exception. It’s a small room, but there was good space available and I could sit down and do a little work in the meantime.

The Open Source Design room (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

What I really like about this room is that it is arranged by the open source design community. It feels very unified that the room directly represents a community, not just a topic. Open source design have its own repository with assets, their own forum etc and it represents designers who do their work in many different open source projects. Many of the talks were reflecting on the methodology we use to do design in open source. Many of the talks revolved around how we can approach user research to inform ourselves when designing. A speaker named Miroslav Mazel spoke about the challenges in conducting user research using local volunteers. One particular difficulty he explained is on how to keep the interest among the volunteers up for conducting it. Andreas was also there to speak about his experience conducting user interviews to inform his work on GNOME Maps. Including the user in the design process helped to recognize new use cases when designing transit routing in GNOME Maps.

Andreas answering questions during his speech “Interviews as user research” (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Matthias Clasen and Emel spoke about the design of GNOME Recipes, a new application they are working on for GNOME’s upcoming 20th Anniversary. I think the application looks very promising and am definitely interested in submitting some more recipes!

Emel explaining the design of GNOME Recipes (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Finally Jan, a designer on NextCloud, spoke about getting more designers involved in open source. IT is afterall not only about software engineering, the technology has to be used by people. So design matters and there are many projects which are in dire need of more designers. The open source room concluded with project pitches. Developers of various open source projects would each have three minutes to advertise their projects and make a call for design participation. I really liked this initiative! It’s hard to get started in many open source projects, especially if your role is not a software engineer. I hope for all the developers who stood up and advertised their project, succeeded in reaching out to interested designers. :-)


Monday, we left Belgium. Although I left with an upset stomach and a cold, all in all I did have a really good time. Maybe we will meet again at Open Source Days 2017, foss-north 2017 or GUADEC 2017?

FOSDEM 2017 Day 2: Showtime

In line at FOSDEM. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

All of us woke up at around 8, aiming to get to FOSDEM at half past 9. Booths would be set up between 9 and 10 and the first set of talks would start around 10. Since I have stayed at the accommodation before, I had a pretty good feeling for the route to go to FOSDEM, but we barely got out of the door before I realized that I had forgot all the merchandise I had brought with me, though.. :-)

Packing like a salesman.. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

I had planned to spend most of today helping out in GNOME’s booth. We walked to the venue a little past 9, so I wouldn’t expect that many people to be around the FOSDEM venue yet. But when we arrived at 10, there were a ton of people already. I went straight to building K where the GNOME stand was located. Very crowded morning!

Building K, on the outside and inside. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

FODSEM is happening at the Université libre de Bruxelles which is a university campus area that consists of several buildings. The GNOME booth is located next to LibreOffice and KDE in building K. I always request two tables but FOSDEM is growing each year with even more booths, so this time we had just a single table. When I came to the booth, Kat, David and others were already there, selling t-shirts. There were some problems doing the grey on grey GNOME shirts that I showed on my blog previously so instead Kat has printed the motive in white on dark grey, blue and orange. With a dozen t-shirts and hoodies the single table was already quite stuffed. It’s fortunate that socks doesn’t take up that much space!

Socks on display at the GNOME booth. They might seem really big at first, but they shrink to half the size after a a wash. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The socks turned out to sell well. I had brought 60-70 pairs and by the end of the first day all the socks were sold.
I also brought flyers, and Sebastian Wilmet complimented them with his technical flyers describing the GNOME as a development platform. This was really useful, since the flyers I have are very high level, encouraging contribution to all kinds of teams in GNOME whether engagement, documentation, translation, design etc. Sebastians flyers were aimed more towards the technical software students and developers, which an event like FOSDEM attracts many of.

While standing in booth, there were many people coming by that i had the opportunity to speak with. We had attendants that came by and said thanks for the work and effort and telling their story of ending up using GNOME. I also had positive comments on the release video! I’m really happy that there are people here who watch and look forward to watch these videos. It is a large effort, but it feels all worth it when you are getting positive reactions, in person. In previous years of FOSDEM I also remember we received lot of criticsm at the booth too. With GNOME 3, GNOME completely revamped its desktop and interaction style and this sudden change probably caused a lot of stir. What I’m seeing is probably the result of our desktop interaction style becoming more stable and GNOME’s new vision becoming more clear.

In the cafeteria I met Matthias and Emel who was preparing for a talk in the design room tomorrow about the new app GNOME Recipes. Will definitely attend that! We also discussed how the size of FOSDEM means that it’s hard to find people. Everyone are scattered across attending talks, standing in booths etc. Once I had split up with the rest of Open Source Aalborg, we were all in each our location. Even though this is the third time I am at FOSDEM, I keep getting impressed anew of the amount of traction and amount of people it holds. If you need a break, probably the best choice for taking it is to go outside the university campus.

Geoffrey working on the Android port of VLC. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Over at the cafeteria was a bunch of people wearing funny cone hats. Took me some time to realize that, of course, this is the VLC project sitting around at a table, hacking on the video player. I went over to them and spoke with a guy named Geoffrey. Geoffrey is from France and develops the port of VLC for Android. He was working on integrating VLC more with the Android platform. Also VLC 3.0 is coming up soon, which means that developers are currently focusing on bug fixing and landing the last few features before the feature freeze. Some features they have under the works, among others, are support for 360 degree videos and support for playing videos in virtual reality style.

The GNOME Beer event at La Becasse, promoted at FOSDSEM. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Saturday ended with GNOME’s annual beer night. This is a good opportunity to meet with fellow members of the GNOME community and GNOME users. I had a great time there! Thanks to the Collabora people for sponsoring some beers for everyone.

Beers, at GNOME beer night. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

FOSDEM 2017 Day 1: Arrival

Dear diary. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Extra t-shirt, check! Toothbrush, check! 60 pairs of socks, check! Friday the 3rd february was day 1 of my trip to FOSDEM with Open Source Aalborg. We’ve booked flight tickets so we can go early in the morning just to make the best out of the 4 days we’ll be staying in Brussels. 10 minutes intensive situps + 10 kilometers bike trip to the airport at 5 AM and you feel like you can do anything afterwards. At the local airport in Aalborg I met Daniel and Niklas. Much of the morning we spent just talking while flights, escalators and trains would take us to our destination. In all three years I have attended FOSDEM, it has had 500-600 events happening over the course of just one weekend. Finding and planning which talks to see and handling conflicting talks is enough of a hassle that it appears there is even an apps for it. I’m not that big of a talk goer though. I’m looking much more forward to helping in the GNOME booth, visiting booths and speaking with people I haven’t had a conversation with face-to-face for many months.

Niklas and Daniel, discussing the FOSDEM companion app (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

A trivial train ride got us from the airport to the accommodation in Etterbeek. It’s the same apartment which I also booked last year for a few of us in GNOME. The place is a very nice roof apartment at decent price and with a sweet host. Metro, Supermarket and FOSDEM venue are at convenient walking distance too. So the afternoon went by with shopping and waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive at the apartment.

Here we are, 5 members of Open Source Aalborg, ready for to go to FOSDEM (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

The day rounded off with buckwheat pancakes and beer. FOSDEM starts tomorrow at 10 and I’ll go there early to help setting up the GNOME booth. Anticipation is high!

Pancakes (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Preparing for FOSDEM17

The annual FOSDEM is nearing. This year I will be participating for the third time and I’m looking forward to it! It’s a great opportunity to meet GNOME users and mingle with the other free software projects. FOSDEM was the first free software conference I attended back 3 years ago and I still really enjoy it.

Unlike the other times, I’m not going alone this time. Open Source Aalborg is arranging a trip to go together to Bruxelles so I will be going with 6 others. Most participants have never been to FOSDEM before, so I’m sure it’ll be exciting for everybody. We are renting a nice bed and breakfast from a a family down in Bruxelles for this occasion (Actually, we ended up renting two due to high demand!). It’s located in Etterbeek which is just a nice 3km walk away from FOSDEM. There is even a small kitchen so we can make some common dinners together.

claire's apartment (picture by claire and mike)
The rented apartment “La chambre haute” (picture by Claire and Jean-Michel)

Usually I also book a booth for GNOME during FOSDEM. Standing there and talking to users is usually loads of fun. The picture below is from FOSDEM 2014 where I was in the booth for the first time.

In preparation for the FOSDEM booth, I have printed out the GNOME outreach flyers I designed back a few months ago.

50 GNOME flyers printed at the local printshop.

Furthermore, I’ve worked on a new t-shirt design which Ekaterina is printing.

Mockup of FOSDEM design. Copyright belongs to the respective copyright holders.

Those who have been idling in the #engagement channel, may also have seen a picture of some gnome socks. Unfortunately I don’t think they will make it out of print in time for FOSDEM 2017, but you can have a sneak peak anyway.

Sample of the mysterious GNOME socks. Known to keep the feet warm!

GNOME Beer Night at La Becasse
There are lots of extra events happening around FOSDEM. Last year a GNOME developer experience hackfest was arranged prior to the event for example. This year’s there’s the local hackspace Bytenight and GNOME Beers event on Saturday. Arrangements has been made so that La Becasse (in the city center) has been booked. This is a good opportunity to come and have a drink with fellow GNOMEies.

The Lambic Blanc beer at La Becasse in Bruxelles City Center.

If you’re going to FOSDEM too, let me know. You can most definitely find me in the GNOME booth for a chat.

November Bug Squash Redux

Last month GNOME had a Bug Squash Month. Thanks to everyone who participated!

For this initiative I had prototyped a way to gamify things up a bit. I created a high score table and badges for the local open source groups joining in on the bug squashing. I had my own group Open Source Aalborg participating on November the 30th and we had lots of fun!

Open Source Aalborg in the process of bug squashing (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

What made bug squashing a particularly good activity for my local group was the it sets no requirement to do actual coding. I did a small presentation about bug squashing and afterwards everyone could participate regardless of background. Our award system with the badges even meant each could individually set their goal and how much effort to put into it. Want something easy? Look out for obvious obsolete bugs. Want something harder? Try to code up a patch.

Installing Fedora to build run the latest GNOME Apps and reproduce bugs (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

As participants worked out the bug reports, I was keeping the high score table up to date. A projector would then show off the high score table so everyone would know whenever we achieved a new badge.

Small physical rewards in the form of candy to everyone participating (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

As another experiment, I had made actual physical rewards for the participants consisting of candy and buiscuits. When participants managed to squash their first bug they would get something, and when our group managed to get 5 bugs squashed I would give out snacks to everyone. Fun small addition and I particularly liked the idea of rewards to everybody when we as a group met a goal. It reinforces the team spirit!

Some thoughts about what worked and what didnt work:

  • Badges which the event manager can manage live at the event happens also work the best.
  • It varies a lot how much each local group achieves in quantity. I think making badges based on other measurements works best (fx. Spooky Skeleton Award was fun!).
  • Our social media awards were awesome!
  • Good to have share a step by step guide after presentation so people can get started quickly.

I’m definitely up for getting another high score table up and running again for another bug squash sometime. There has been talk in #engagement about making a web app a bit like the Capture the flag websites for these kind of things. Would definitely be cool!

And thanks a lot Alexandre for taking an initative on this!

Whereabouts at the CoreApps Hackfest

For the past three days I have been to the Core Apps Hackfest in Berlin. It’s been nice and cozy! Kinvolk has some nice facilities that we could borrow and it’s been productive for me even if I missed the first day as anticipated.


The upcoming Newcomer Guide Revamp

At the hackfest I met with Carlos Soriano. We discussed Carlos’ experience doing the Bucarest Hackathon with Rares and Razvan. Talked about the issues that the students had and the questions they asked. The most general problem is that there is too much text in the newcomer guide. All information is useful but we need to prioritize what we present first. The students have only so much energy, and our job as guide writers is to ensure that no energy is wasted.

Since the first revamp where GNOME Love turned into the Newcomer Initiative there has also been many projects participating which newcomers can choose between. I’m super excited that so many projects care about getting newcomers but the list is also getting very long again now. We’ll try to address this in the next revamp by introducing highlights and rotate the rest as necessary. Other issues include working with discoverability of newcomer bugs, making all terminal commands copy/paste-able, make sure newcomers get developer docs installed, and maintain consistency between the website of our newcomer apps.

To address these issues I’m experimenting with using less text, using more visuals and gamifying the experience with progress bars. More to come soon.

work in progress mockup of the newcomer guide.

I made some experiments turning this mockup into reality using Tom’s new custom CSS for the moinmoin wiki. There are still a few things to resolve before we can migrate, but we are getting closer.


Julita asked me to give a talk about contributing to GNOME Design for her LinuxAtUNI event in Peru. So during the hackfest in Berlin I gave this talk by video conference. I’m super excited for the events there!




The hackfest officially ended Sunday but I stayed a day longer with Florian Muellner, working on Polari. Together with Andreas Nilsson I finalized some new iterations of various design ideas I had been playing with and managed to file a bunch of bugs. Here’s some highlights:

Mockup showing the design for room status indication, error handling for rooms and indicating prolonged waiting for rooms. See bug 775257, bug .

We finalized offline indication through using an infobar in the sidebar. bug 760833.

Andreas made a mockup of how we could expose server passwords for custom networks. Bug 775225.

Florian worked on moving our soon-to-land roomlist in the join dialog over to a GtkTreeView as we had performance issues with the GtkListBox. We also discussed things like the nickname renaming behavior, how should error messages behave in connection properties dialog and future plans.

Again, thanks to GNOME Foundation for partially sponsoring me, it’s been a great hackfest and I really enjoyed it!


Plans for Core Apps Hackfest

I have requested and received a partial sponsorship for a trip to Berlin to participate in the Core Apps Hackfest. This is a great opportunity for me to meet up with other from the GNOME community and immerse myself in contributing. I’ll be going on Saturday the 26th and leave again Tuesday the 29th. Some things I anticipate I’ll be doing includes:

Polari Whereabouts

The hackfest will be an opportunity to meet up with Florian and discuss design for Polari 3.24. Danny, a good friend of mine is currently working on Initial Setup based on mockups by Allan Day. For Polari 3.24 Rares Visalom might be looking into implementing blank states and we also hope to land room lists this cycle.


Quality Assurance on listed Newcomer Applcations

The hackfest is a great opportunity to meet a lot of maintainers of different core applications of which are listed as Newcomer applications. I think it could be a useful opportunity to go over the newcomer bugs and identify ways we can improve the in-flow of bugs, the expected level of difficulty and so forth.

Revamp Newcomer Applications to the new TemplateFancy

I have babbled a long time about wanting to get rid of the ugly HTML tables we currently use to make “fancy” layouts in the GNOME wiki. As part of the Newcomer initiative I made the TemplateFancy template which is now required to be used by applications listed in the Newcomer guide. I investigated how to add custom CSS classes with MoinMoin wiki and Tom Tryfonidis has managed to complete convert the template from using HTML tables to custom CSS classes. This has resulted in a webpage which has easier-to-read MoinMoin markup, separation of content and layout and which possibly is more mobile-friendly.

Furthermore, these custom classes are generic and can be applied anywhere on the GNOME wiki, providing much better opportunity to make visually pleasing documentation. This really excites me! We can be much more flexible in terms of how we want to visualize information and I’m hoping this can lead to a more pleasing experience. These custom classes has already landed so I’ll looking at converting newcomer application pages to the new template markup this weekend. :-)

If I have time this weekend I’ll also look into getting these classes and examples of how to use them documented on the wiki. But most of all I’m looking forward to getting my batteries recharged and participate in the many discussions listed in the agenda on how to bring GNOME’s core applications forward. Thanks to GNOME Foundation for sponsoring part of this trip!


November is Bugsquash month – Open Source Aalborg is joining

From the initiative page:
For a month, we focus on bug triaging to get our bug tracker in a better shape. Maintainers then get a clearer picture of the state of their module, users have a better chance to see their issues resolved, and software quality improves as a consequence.


Me and my friend Daniel from Open Source Aalborg will arrange that the local participants from the open source group in Aalborg will join in on the final bug squashing day, November the 30th. OS Aalborg has recently joined a lot of Capture the flag’s and I think we will try to put up some very basic infrastructure (read google forms + spreadsheet) to do something similar for the GNOME Bug Squashing initiative.

Open Source Aalborg busy working on open source projects at the Hal9k hackerspace. Maybe we will livestream?

Apart from the many individuals idling in #bugs on GNOME IRC, there are currently also three open source groups participating in the squashing: San Fransisco on Nov 17th, Strasbourg on Nov 26th and Aalborg on the 30th.

We are talking in #engagement on GNOME IRC about creating “virtual teams” and make a fun competition around the initative. I think it’ll have a motivating effect to have something “capture the flag” -like for the local participants and in the end it’s for a better purpose. :-)

Check out the initiative here and read the triage guide if you want to join in!