GNOME@FOSDEM 2014 – Stand and Panel

It is this time of the year again *yay*. The biggest and greatest Free Software conference took place in Brussels, Belgium. It’s good to see all those interested and passionate people care about Free Software. I hope that the (intellectual) gravity of the people gets more people interested and strengthens our communities. In fact, I feel it was one of the better FOSDEMs so far. Maybe even the best. We, GNOME, had a hand full (not kidding) of new members of our communities staffing the booth or just being available. I was very please to see new faces and to identify them as people who were very committed to Free Software and GNOME.

As indicated, we, GNOME, had a booth and a fun time entertaining people stopping by. With the help of many volunteers, we presented our most recent GNOME release, sold some t-shirts, and discussed our future ideas. It’s not necessarily a venue to convince people to use Free Software, or even to use GNOME. But I have the feeling we manage to get both messages across. Bar one case in which an unlucky fellah was angry about everything and especially that this Linux 20 we had installed wouldn’t ship Emacs by default. Other than that we showed people how cool the GNOME Shell extensions are, how to quickly launch applications, or how to access the notification area quickly. Or, yes of course, how to suspend. Or to shutdown…

I also had the pleasure of being interviewed by an Irish dude who produced episodes for Hacker Public Radio. I didn’t know about that but it seems to be a cool project. I don’t know when it will go live or whether it actually has been published already.

We also had panel with the governing bodies of GNOME and KDE. The intention was to debunk some myths and to make the work more visible. I was on the Panel (on behalf of GNOME) with Kat (from GNOME…) and Lydia from KDE. She was joined by Cornelius who serves on the KDE board for more than 9 years. We were lamenting about various aspects of our work such as where does money come from, where does it go to, what are the processes of getting rid of the money. But also why we were doing that, why we think it is important and what achievements we are proud of. Our host, Paul, was a nice and fun guy and did his job very well. I think it was a successful event. It could probably have been better in the sense that we could have focussed more on the audience and making them want to step up and take over responsibilities. But the way it went and the participation of the audience makes me happy nonetheless.

Update: The interviews have been posted:


Phew, I’m excited about FOSDEM and also exhausted. We had a nice GNOME presence with a lovely booth, many helpers and nice shirts. Thanks to everyone involved who made it such a success.

Our current T-shirt was designed last minute by Andreas, printed last second by an awesome printing shop, and I like it very much. Especially the girly shirts have a nice colour. The shirt accompanies our current Friends of GNOME campaign about Privacy and Security.

In case you haven’t heard: GNOME is raising money to make GNOME more privacy aware, i.e. to allow to you to use your computer anonymously or leave as few traces behind as possible. Also security is a vital part, so maybe the money will be spent on enabling the chat to transfer files encryptedly or better OpenPGP integration into GNOME. If you want to support these goals, consider becoming a Friend of GNOME. Also, if you only want one of those shirts, become a Friend of GNOME, because at a certain level, you will be eligible to get hold of one of those t-shirts πŸ™‚

Unfortunately, our donation process depends heavily on Paypal and is quite US centric. That’s not very nice, the majority of donations does not come from the US. In fact, many donations come from Europe.

Anyway, I couldn’t attend a single talk at FOSDEM, because I was so busy with the booth and with maintaining relationships with friends from other Free Software projects, i.e. OpenSuSE. They had, again, a very nice presence and “The Old Toad”, a nice German beer, which is really needed since the Belgian beer is barely drinkable πŸ˜‰

As for the GNOME night out, the GNOME Beer Event, it was seriously crowded. While we occupied the upper floor of a bar the last year, we had two floors this year. We did advertise it. Well enough it seems. We went through the building we had our booth in and taped loads of paper onto the walls and pillars. Not only beer event ads but also posters about GNOME Outreach program for Women or the fact that we had T-Shirts on sale.

Our stand was probably the second most beautiful after the OpenSuSE one. Our T-Shirts were aligned up nicely and we sold quite a few of them. Preliminary statistics suggest that we managed to convince people to buy something between 100 and 150 t-shirts. Next time we better try to provide more girly shirts in larger sizes as they ran out quickly. The KDE folks did have many girly shirts but overall their booth didn’t seem to be as well run as the other years.

While the booth generally went well, our interaction story with the people isn’t great. So far, we have a demo machine in the middle of the table which makes it really hard to do stuff together or to show off things, because you can’t really look at what the person is doing neither can you easily show stuff. So maybe putting the machine on either edge of the table would help.

I’m looking very forward to next year’s FOSDEM, hoping that we will have, again, a great set of people willing to spend their time standing there for GNOME.

LinuxTag 2012

At this time of the year, there is a special thing happening in Berlin. It’s the annual LinuxTag, a mix of conference and expo. And again, we (GNOME) had a booth.

We shared the space with our friends from Qt and KDE, as we already did for last FOSDEM, and we got along quite well. It’s good to see friends again and again.

The critics from last events, i.e. FOSDEM and LinuxTag, were incorporated. So I did get enough tape, glue, T-Shirts and even a rollup-display *yay* Thanks to the GNOME Foundation for providing resources.

However, compared to last year we had less material, because only one EventsBox was available and we had less furniture for the booth, because LinuxTag lacks sponsors. So we had to deal with non ideal situations, but well, that’s how it always goes, no? And as we are engineers, we managed quite well, I’d say.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have any GNOME talk, so this is something that is definitely to improve for next year. You can already think about cool things to present in lovely Berlin. Interestingly enough, the computer, we used to demo GNOME, was very stable. Obviously, I wanted to show the freshest GNOME release, which was 3.4, but so far no distribution had a stable release which included the newest GNOME. So I used a Fedora 17 Beta and well, some things crashed (reliably) but it was still very smooth. The webcam was the most annoying piece of hardware. But well, it was stolen quite early so we didn’t have to bother too much about it πŸ˜‰ So yeah, if you happen to have a spare webcam that works with a recent Linux and Cheese, we’d happily incorporate that into our EventsBox.

Generally though, people were interested in the newest developments and we had nice chats about the past and the future of GNOME. Unlike last year, we probably did not convince anybody to go to GUADEC (as it’s now in Spain and not in Berlin) πŸ˜‰ We also couldn’t convice too many people to buy T-Shirts. The dark green one from second last FOSDEM were quite popular but as they are old, we only had 4 to sell.

A big thank you to all the people helping out at the booth and of course to LinuxTag for providing us with the opportunity to present ourselves.

The talks I’ve seen, which were not many, as I’ve spent much time at the booth, were not really exciting. I’ve seen Ulrich Drepper talking about Lock Free Data Structures on modern CPUs which was, well, a bit slow for me. He seems to be very knowledgeable but I think he presumed the audience not to be. Anyway, apparently modern Intel CPUs can do transactional memory and you can even now write code that uses that feature in the future while staying compatible with today’s CPUs. You need a new enough toolchain though.

Some other guy talked about forking. I was curious but he delivered his story about forking Nagios only. He didn’t mention any problematic fact at all and was mainly concerned about establishing an own brand.

Christoph Wickert does the Beefy Miracle

I followed “Distro Battle” for a short period of time. Basically, five contestants were about to solve some problems a user could face with her distribution. So Mageia, Fedora, Debian, Kubuntu and OpenSuSE with their respective representative should solve problems like “install this printer” or “use this 3G USB dongle”. They had the chance to introduce themselves first. Mageia was running LXDE, Fedora had a GNOME 3.2, Debian a GNOME 2 and Kubuntu and OpenSuSE were running some recent KDE version. The Kubuntu representative introduced her distro by showing how easy it was to install the whole non-free packages and by stating this would be the very first thing you wanted to do on your fresh install. Funnily enough, Kubuntu self-destructed with a reboot into memcheck. Apparently, she aborted the install at a very unpleasant moment while there was no kernel ready. So the GRUB menu didn’t have any other option than memcheck. The non-GNOME desktops failed getting the 3G dongle to work while NetworkManager sorted that out on the GNOME desktops. The printing failed completely in OpenSuSE because they used their Zast-Tool; and Debian had a minor issue with ZeroConf not working.

So it’s quite a funny concept this “Distro Battle” although nowadays the GNU/Linux base is rather streamlined, isn’t it? So it doesn’t matter much which distro you use in order to get a printer or 3G dongle running unless you try to implement your own stuff.


Is this time around again and the FOSDEM happened in Brussels, Belgium. Probably the biggest gathering of Free Software people was a lot colder than last year. It was covered in snow. So badly, that we had big troubles coming into Brussels. It took us almost twice as long to arrive than usual. The streets were packed with cars suffering from the severe conditions.

But all that didn’t stop us (GNOME that is) from having a nice presence. If you know FOSDEM you’d expect the booth to be in a packed and smelly area because all the people try to move along in the tiny hallway. But this year was different because we got a spacious place in a new building. That was cool, because it gave us much more area to move than usual but unfortunately it made the conference much more disconnected as there was yet another building involved. I didn’t even try to visit each and everything.

Anyway, from what I’ve seen, we had quite a good stand. Our friends from OpenSuSE received the most attention though. Rightfully so. Not only because they had almost free beer and nearly free other goodies, but because they had nice hardware, nice demos and nice people to present. Fortunately, we were located just next to our friends from KDE which enabled us to chit chat with well known people and to plan conspiracies for upcoming conferences in 2013. So stay tuned for that.

With the help of local GNOME people, we had our EventsBox which is well equipped. But well, since we had only one Box, we weren’t as well equipped as last time at LinuxTag. We had loads of T-Shirts from the Desktop Summit though which we tried to sell. I especially like the name tags we had. Somebody just got them printed so we looked much more inviting, I guess. Also cool were the posters that we got provided so we could pimp the glass wall behind us. It’s cool that we have people that provide such things just like that. We didn’t have the appropriate tools to handle the posters well. We used regular adhesive tape (which we ran out of in the middle of the day) which kinda destroys the posters. From our KDE friends we got some “blue-tac” or “patafix” which was really really great. Apparently it’s well known in the western end of Europe. I didn’t know it at all, but I now know that we definitely want to have this for the next time.

We also didn’t have blank sheets of paper to write stuff on which was a bit annoying. But well, we didn’t have markers either so we needed to get both first before being able to inform the people about the t-shirt prices.

Needless to say that our demo machine got upgraded to the latest Fedora and that that broke at least the web-cam. I mean it was supported in the last Fedora version so it’d be boring it was supported now, too. But the Fedora people had a nice gimmick to give away: A cheat cube which is just a well cut piece of paper that you can fold up to build a cube. You’re supposed to put that on your desk and use it to retrieve information quickly. I was wondering whether we could make something like that for GNOME Shell. Oh and while we’re at it: Many folks had roll-up displays which look very nice. They are around 1m wide and 2m high and you can have your big design on it. It doesn’t cost all too much but we’d need a proper motif first. So if you have any idea, feel free to discuss that in the wiki. And another thing that was annoying were our flyers. While it’s good that we had some, they were quite outdated. So we badly need some flyer material. Again, in the wiki is the place to show up.

So a big big thanks to the folks that helped out at the booth to make it rock. I hope we can make it work next year again.

There was also, again, a massive keysigning going on and I have to drop a quick rant about all that mess. caff on Fedora is kinda weird. It seems like the defaults in the man page don’t match the code, i.e. keyserver defaults to a different server than the man page states. And very annoying: It’s also different from GPG settings! So while trying to use caff it failed downloading the keys. I guess the server just hit a timeout or blocked my request altogether because it’s so many keys (/.-)
After having that sorted out, gpg asked to hit “y” all the time whether I was sure to sign the keys. Goddamnit. It’s about 100 keys and I sign with 4 private keys or so. Now I have to press 800 keys to get the fork()ing keys signed and mailed. Jesus Christ. It’s fricking 2012 and not 1972 anymore. I just want to conveniently sign the whole damn thing and not buy a new keyboard after each FOSDEM. Not only because I have to type so many keys but also because I feel the urge to smash it into someone face. But not only did I need some shell-fu to get the keys imported, I also needed to fiddle the fingerprints of the official key list because caff wouldn’t accept the fingerprints. The format though, is the format gpg uses to display fingerprints… So I had to do something like

cat /tmp/ksp.txt | tr -d ' ' | tr '\n' ' '

to get the proper format… And yeah, I’ll patch everything.. tomorrow…

Although I haven’t seen much of Brussels this time, I liked it being covered in snow and ice. I hope to be able to get more out of Brussels next time, especially improve my French πŸ˜‰ So yeah, I’m looking forward to next year.

GNOME at LinuxTag 2011

Last week, I had the pleasure to attend LinuxTag and manage the GNOME booth. All in all, the GNOME booth went quite well. We had loads of visitors wanting to see the new GNOME Shell and discuss its design. But it was such a busy time that I didn’t even had the opportunity to leave the booth and look at all the other projects. It was, however, pretty nice. It took me a day to recover though. Being at the booth for all the four conference days in a row from (ideally) 09:00 until 18:00, always smiling and entertaining was quite exhausting.

To help the GNOME presence: I printed flyers and posters all day before LinuxTag. It was a pain to do, because we are lacking good material. We do have some Brochures to print out, but they are either outdated or in a miserable quality. It definitely needs some quality brochures for GNOME. We have more Posters and some of them are really nice. But I couldn’t render some of them because of bugs somewhere in the stack. Anyway, I managed to print posters on A4 paper which meant that they had to be glued together… To ease poster printing in the future, I uploaded the PDFs I generated to the wiki.

What worked well was our booth setup: We had Posters, Sticker, Flyers and (thanks to openSuSE) GNOME 3 Live DVDs to give away. Also our booth looked nice with GNOME banners hanging from the walls. Also, the ordered furniture looked nice to the outside, i.e. a presenter desk, a long cupboard and a bar table together with bar chairs made it look inviting. However, we lacked a small table and some chairs to cater for the many friends that were in the booth and not in front. Thanks to all the helping people. It was really awesome how quickly our booth looked nicely.

And fortunately, there is room for improvement. It would have been nice if we brought, i.e. T-Shirts to sell or Posters and Flyers for the GUADEC. But everything was still really okay. I hope we manage to do so well next year, too.

So thanks to Canonical for the EventsBox and openSuSE for the DVDs! If you happen to be in the need of some of the DVDs, give me a shout and we’ll arrange the shipping.

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This work by Muelli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.