FOSDEM and Fedora

I have been going to FOSDEM on and off for the last nine years or so, and I have somewhat notoriously described it as 10 pounds of conference in a 5 pound sack. It is the sort of conference where European FOSS contributors and users can be assumed to be present (and lots of other international ones as well). I like FOSDEM, I like that it is community run, I like the wide range of topics it covers, and I even like Brussels (I mean, beer, cheese, and chocolate, how can you go wrong). I do wish they would find a larger venue (my 6'4" body does not fit into most of the seats that the devrooms use), or a longer duration (there are too many devrooms going at once, and too many people who wish to be in those devrooms), but I don't expect these things to change.

This year, I spoke at the CentOS Dojo before FOSDEM, the first time I have done so. I spoke on the topic of using the Developer Toolset to build modern code on CentOS/RHEL, specifically in my case, Chromium. There wasn't a lot to say on it, to be honest, since it can be summarized as "Chromium uses C++14 features not in the CentOS gcc, using Developer Toolset makes it build", but I tried to make it interesting with pictures and details.

I helped out at the Fedora booth during the first day of FOSDEM, though, we had so many Fedora ambassadors, there was not a lot for me to do. We had our usual table right by the doors (which meant it was cold). While I thought we did fine, there were a few things that we could have done better:

1. An OLPC XO-1 showed up. It runs Fedora 18 and was last released in 2007. While there is still a "wow" factor for some people, it is now extremely dated and slow (and the hardware kept locking up). We need to retire the OLPC from our booth kit.

2. We didn't really have a current Fedora workstation demo to show. At some point, an ambassador's personal laptop was setup, but it was running a presentation on C#/.NET. Contrast this with ... every other distro, who had a live demo of their current version.

3. The Fedorator was on the table. This is a cool little device which is built off a raspberry pi and a touch screen, to enable people to insert a USB stick and get Fedora on it. It runs Raspbian right now, due to Fedora 27 not having support for the official touchscreen (this is supposed to be fixed in Fedora 28). The biggest issue here is how slow it is, not entirely the Raspberry Pi's fault, lots of USB flash drives are total crap. I brought some Fedora branded USB flash drives that were not crap to give away, but that was just a drop in the FOSDEM bucket. I don't know entirely how to solve that issue.

On Sunday, I spent most of the day in the Legal and Policy Devroom. Most of the talks here were interesting and well presented (with one notable exception). This track is unique to FOSDEM, and it draws in the lawyers and legal hackers in our community, so it is always a pleasure to see them and hear what they're up to.

But the biggest part of FOSDEM is easily the hallway track. There are so many people who I ran into and had interesting conversations, my head was spinning at the end of each day. At least for me, these interactions make FOSDEM special, and I wished I could have had more time to talk to people. I would also have loved some sort of structured way to meet new people, the official Delirium beer event used to serve this purpose, but it is WAAAY too big now.

Thanks to Fedora for covering my flights.


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