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:

Desktop Summit 2011 in Berlin

This years GUADEC^W DesktopSummit took place in Berlin. Sure thing that I attended πŸ™‚ Due to loads of stuff happening meanwhile, I didn’t come around to actually write about it. But I still want to mention a few things.

It was, like always, pretty nice to see all the faces again and catch up. The venue was almost excellent and provided good lecture halls and infrastructure, although the wireless was a bit flaky and spots to sit down and get together were sparse. Anyway, I have never seen so many actual users or wannabe users. Being in the heart of Germany’s capital definitely helped to make ourselves visible. Funnily enough, I met some folks who I chatted up during LinuxTag while I was presenting GNOME. I invited them to come to the DesktopSummit and so they did \o/

There were many talks and I didn’t see most of them. In fact, I was volunteering and meeting people so I couldn’t attend many lectures. But there was nothing I regret not having seen. The ones I did see were interesting enough, but not ground breaking. There’s a good summary over here.

We tried to record the talks but for some technical reasons it didn’t work out of the box. The network was too slow and no disks were available. We convinced the guy in charge to make us buy disks which eventually got used but I actually don’t know whether the lectures will be released at all.

A nice surprise was Intel giving away ExoPCs. In return they required you to sit and listen to presentations about their Appstore thingy called “AppUp“. Apparently a technology that tries to resemble OBS (because of distributing software via the web) and .debfiles+Synaptic (because of distributing software with a native GUI) with an additional payment layer in between. But it fails big time to do so. Not only can it not build binaries out of the sources that you give it, but it also can’t track dependencies. Welcome to 2011. Needless to say that it’s heavily targeted for Windows. Double fail that you can’t build Windows software for their store thing without having a Windows platform (and development tools) yourself.

The PC itself is neat. It’s a full tablet with only one soft key. The MeeGo version that came with it was out of date and updating was a major pain in the afternoon. It involved getting a USB keyboard because the OnScreenKeyboard would of course not show up if you open a terminal. And you needed a keyboard, because you can of course not update the software with that MeeGo version. There is no software management application at all. And most certainly, Intel’s new AppUp thing is not included in the latest and greatest release. In fact, it’s not even easily installable as it involves googling for the RPM file to be manually installed. By now I talked to Intel engineers and it seems that an actual vendor is supposed to integrate their version of the AppUp thing in the rest of the OS. So Intel doesn’t see itself in the position to do this. Other weird glitches include the hardware: While the ExoPC has a rotation sensor, it would be way to boring if it worked; so it doesn’t. And the hardware turns itself off after a while. Just like that. It feels like we have at least 3 years of engineering left before we can start dreaming of being able to ship a tablet platform that is ready for a day to day use. I have to note that the content centric UI approach is definitely very handy. Let’s hope it improves by fixing all those tiny things around the actual UI.

The discussion about a joint conference was bubbling up again. Of course. The main argument against a joint conference seems to be that it is considered to slow GNOME’s development down if we meet together, because we have to give time to the other people and cannot do our own program meanwhile. There are probably many variations of that argument, including that we do not collaborate anyway, so let’s rather not invest time in a joint conference.

While I do agree that the current form of the conference is not necessarily optimal, I don’t think that we should stop meeting up together. At the end of day, multiple (desktop) implementations or technologies are just pointless duplications. So let’s rather try to unify and be a unity (haha, pun intended) instead of splitting up further. I am very well aware of the fact that it’s technically unrealistic right now. But that’s the future we endeavour and we should work on making it possible, not work against it. So we don’t necessarily need to have a fully joint conference. After all, our technologies do differ quite substantially, depending on how you look at it. But let’s give each other the opportunity to learn about other technologies and speak to the key people. We might not fully make use of these opportunities yet, but if we design the conferences in a way that the camps have enough time to handle their internal issues and before or afterwards do a joint thing, then no harm is done if opportunities weren’t taken.

Another hot topic were Copyright Assignments. There was a panel made up of interesting people including Mark Shuttleworth. The discussion was alright, but way too short. They barely had 45 minutes which made it less than 15 minutes each. Barely enough to get a point across. And well, I didn’t really understand the arguments *for* giving away any of your rights. It got really weird as Mark tried to make another point: It would be generous if a contributor donated the code to the company and the participants should take into account that generosity would be a strong factor contributors would strive for. I haven’t seen that point being discussed anywhere yet, so let me start by saying that it is quite absurd. What could be more generous than giving your code to the public and ensuring that it stays freely available?! Just to be very clear: The GPL enables you to effectively do exactly that: Release code and ensure that it remains free.

I was delighted to see that the next GUADEC will take place in A Corunha. I’d rather have gone to Prague though. But maybe the Czech team can be motivated to apply again the next time.

CeBIT 2009

I have been at the CeBIT to represent GNOME. Actually, Herzi got sponsered by his generous employer, Lanedo, to make the GNOME booth happen. And he probably got bored that he called me up to do this together πŸ™‚

We were in Hall 6, booth F60, sitting next to Drupal and some LDAP Webthing. Also, the KDE guys were next to us πŸ™‚

They had awesome posters hanging on the walls, nice T-Shirts hanging around and banners showing off. They even came with name cards pinned on their chests and probably even with working hardware. The Drupal guys had a Roll-Up display and a foldable flyer holder with many information materials.

I envy those guys, because we haven’t had any of this stuff, besides a small computer and a monitor πŸ™ There probably is something in GNOME Event Box, but unfortunately Herzi didn’t bring it, probably because it’s way too big and too heavy. Also, a roll-up display wouldn’t fit into that Box. Posters and banners would be nice, too. We even had to install an Ubuntu on the fair (instead of having it prepared beforehand). Then, the webcam didn’t want to work with cheese, so we couldn’t use that as an eye-catcher. Anyway, Sudoku and gnome-about were pretty good πŸ˜‰ I believe, LinuxTag is going to be better, though. Because we have GNOMErs right there and you can transport things fast and easily, so it’s no big deal to replace a camera or a second PC.

Anyway, most of the time, we told the people, what GNOME is and automatically came to what a “desktop” is, what this “Open Source” thing is and what “Unix like systems” are. Some people actually had Linux experience and have a second (linux) partition, a VMWare or a server running linux.

We were also answering questions related to GNOME πŸ˜‰ Users were asking what’s new in GNOME, how they use the accessibility stuff or the like. We used the chance of talking directly to users and asked what they like and dislike about GNOME. It turns out, that most of the time, the people are satisfied with their GNOME desktop, because it “just works” and it’s not in their way to achieve things. Also, they thought that the GNOME desktop is more light-weight than, e.g. the KDE desktop. Some people disliked that it looks a bit old-fashioned and that they can’t “play around” as much with their desktop as they are used to from, say, using windows. I told them, that it’s a design philosophy, to not have a huge (obvious) configuration space but to try to make it as easy as possible to do regular stuff. Of course, there is GConf where the about-to-be hackers can turn the nipples (and see the result instantly). I also tried to convert a few users to hackers: I even gave one guy “homework” to do… We’ll see how it turns out *g*

One guy asked me why he should choose GNOME over KDE. I avoided the whole discussion and gave no reason back. He should use what he likes and what fits his needs. Of course, I explained the philosophies behind GNOME and tried to make GNOMEy points.

Another one asked, whether there’s a “german GNOME community” and I sadly had to say “no”. But I hope, we Krauts can meet at LinuxTag and do that name-to-faces thing in a cosy restaurant. Maybe it’d be a good idea to pick one which has *no* WiFi or GSM/UMTS coverage, just to have no excuse to not talk to each other πŸ˜‰

We pointed many people to our Wiki on, especially the Roadmap or gnome-love. Let’s hope, they want to give some love to GNOME and fix some bugs πŸ™‚

Of course, there were good parties at the end of the day, as well πŸ™‚

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