Disclaimer: I attended FOSDEM in Brussels last January. I should have written this weeks ago but better late than ever, right?
You can read about the rest of my FOSDEM here:
As a retrospective, I attended a lot of talks and almost all of them were very interesting, but looking back now I realize that I should've spent more time in the stands and aisles. I expected to do networking when forced by room capacity issues, but luckily we never suffered this problem despite attending some overcrowded talks (with a lot of people having to stay outside). Perhaps it wasn't so bad, because even so I spent a lot of money on textile products :-D
Let me summarize:
- Building a geo-aware Operating System, by Zeeshan Ali (@zeenix, Gnome developer, Red Hat). I was very thrilled with this talk, but it didn't meet my expectations. Zeeshan (and others) have developed great tools for the Gnome desktop: geoclue, geocode-glib and the integration with GNOME Maps seemed great, but I expected some less obvious features (from the functional point of view, of course) than locating yourself on a map. Having said that, geo-awareness in mobile devices was a total revolution, and I'm sure sooner or later it'll also be strongly reflected in our desktops
- Results of Google Summer of Code 2015 at OSGeo, by Anne Ghisla and Margherita Di Leo (Google Summer of Code tutors). Being a member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation and an addicted mapper, I felt the need to attend this talk. It ended up being an enumeration of projects, without the necessary detail to make the explanation amusing or interesting. At least I recognize that they talked about GSoC with great enthusiasm, made me want to participate at some point
- Open source foundations: threat or menace?, by Richard Fontana (@richardfontana, IP, Open Source and Patent lawyer at Red Hat). Mr Fontana gave us a very interesting and thought provoking talk. After a brief explanation about legal differences between 501(c)(3) vs. 501(c)(6) foundation types in the US (and why some Open Source foundations have chosen one or the other), he detailed his concerns about the work carried out by some foundations:
- Sometimes foundations drive to an illusion of property
- We have seen examples of foundations "artificially" prolonging the life of a project, which is not always positive
- Some Open Source projects receive legal support by foundations and liability protection, but he explained that it should only apply if the foundation is in charge of what the project (or volunteer) does. Sometimes foundations (like Apache Software Foundation or Eclipse Foundation) presume of the independence of their projects, and this is a contradiction
- Foundations serving only as right holders in trademark issues
- In some foundations there is not a clear barrier between business management and technical management, as it should be
- Sometimes, the amount of power inside a foundation is derived by the amount of money donated (in cash or man hours), this gives the message that the project from those foundations are for sale
- JEP 243: Java-Level JVM Compiler Interface and what it can be used for, by Christian Thalinger (@christhalinger, Member of the HotSpot compiler team, Oracle). This was a very technical talk about how this JEP have changed the Compiler Interface, included into de JDK 9 repositories. Christian explained some of their goals: mainly examine and intercept JIT activity and record events related to the compilation
- Status of safety-critical FOSS, by Jeremiah C. Foster (@miahfost). Back in the Legal DevRoom, Jeremiah gave us a very interesting talk starting with a lot of information about safety-critical software and why it is important that software freedom becomes more present in this context. He also discussed it may be even possible to certify GNU/Linux at a safety-critical level, and how copyleft should be mandatory given that it provides more transparency not only in the code itself but also in the entire development process. In GPLv3 licensed projects he explained some concerns about how the install info may require disclosure of the encryption keys used to sign a boot image. Another concern in the industry is that end users should not be able to modify embedded software in safety-critical systems.
- Comparing codes of conduct to copyleft licenses, by Sumana Harihareswara (@brainwane, founder of Changeset Consulting). Sumana gave a very well argued speech without media support, leaving clues of a probable theatrical past (or present). The basic comparison was that, just like the GPL restricts some developer's freedom (about redistributing under an incompatible license) to protect all users' freedom to use, inspect or modify the code, in the same way Codes of Conduct restrict some people's behaviour to increase everyone's freedom. I share Sumana's point of view, also when she said that (I quote): we will make better software and have a greater impact if more people, and more different kinds of people, find our communities more appealing to work with
- Who's afraid of the DCO and why you should help adopt the DCO for your project, by James Bottomley (@jejb_, Linux kernel SCSI subsystem Maintainer, Odin CTO). Another brilliant talk, with the added bonus that James used Impress.js :-D James presented DCO as an alternative to the popular CLAs. He explained why your project needs a contributor agreement in the first place, why Linux adopted the DCO ten years ago, and a lot of info about best practices and possible problems
- Pick a peck of license pickers, An in-depth look at efforts to make choosing a license easy, by John Sullivan (@johns_fsf, Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation). John did an interesting analysis of the current options to choose a software license, beginning with the claim that something has to be done because there are still a lot of projects without license but in a clever way to reduce the license proliferation. There are some guides (like the one the FSF itself has) which represent a significant barrier for most users. A lot of text with sometimes hard to understand differences between options. Apart from this approach, there are some popular tools like choosealicense.com from Github or the Creative Commons' license chooser, but they also present several problems. The options order is important, the descriptions may be misleading, summaries are not fair... The QA turn was also brilliant, given that Brandon Keepers (Open Source Lead in Github) was there to argue their position.
- Putting 8 Million People on the Map: Revolutionizing crisis response through open mapping tools, by Blake Girardot (@BlakeGirardot, Vice President of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team). The Janson auditorium (with a capacity of 1415 people) was packed full for this closing keynote. Mr Girardot explained perfectly how open source tools have allowed a lot of contributors (including me!) to improve in a radical way our disaster preparedness as a global society. One of the recent examples: After the Nepal Earthquake in 2015, about 700 contributors using open source tools such as the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team's Tasking Manager made more than 13 million edits to OpenStreetMap in the first two weeks after the earthquake. Impressive, isn't it? He also described other tools and projects like the OpenStreetMap Export Tool or the OpenAerialMap project, but as an active member of the OpenStreetMap group, I'll expand the information about this in future posts
See you in Brussels for FOSDEM 2017!!