FOSDEM 2008 - 23 and 24 February (Bruxelles)

Article by mmu_man - 25 February 2008 -

Hi there from our FOSDEM booth in the corridor!


After taking the train to Paris on friday, where I joined Marc Schneider, developer of OpenAguila, a french free software ERP which we shared a booth with, we went by car to Lille, where Rémi Grumeau, the BeOSFrance webmaster, kindly offered us a couch for the week end.

On saturday we tried our best on belgian roads, but lost ourselves several times looking for scarce signs, though we finally managed to arrive half an hour later than expected. The place was already considerably crowded, with quite a lot of bearded geeks carrying laptops. We looked for our booth which was located in the middle part of a long corridor, where Niels welcomed us as he arrived first. We settled down to organize the place with laptops running Haiku to show everyone, Niels went to find a copy shop as we only managed to print a few flyers with Rémi's ink-starving printer. Olivier Coursière, of the BePascal fame, poped up at our booth and helped us advocate the Haiku way. Some people came asking about Haiku, and soon it was time to lunch. A van was selling belgian hamburger and fries (lot of sauce, in a big paper cone), another place was selling sandwitches (not as geeky).


In the afternoon many people passed by asking about Haiku, if it was a Linux distro or not *grin*, how it was different, if there was a demo CD available; some of them remembered using BeOS and noticed the similar look... other people asking about OpenAguila also. We also met the Gnash maintainer who was excited to see Haiku as he knew about the Gnash port; we didn't have a binary to demo him but he promised to download an image to try himself :)

I didn't managed to see any conferences I planned to attend as we had many people, and Niels and I also wanted to do some coding. He managed to get the legacy gcc built and installed to the image from jam. After some debugging and working around a yet-to-be-fixed bug in get_team_info() I finally got the IM Kit running on Haiku, and even exchanged civilities with Rémi by GTalk. I showed Haiku and the IM Kit to a member of the XMPP/Jabber booth next to us on sunday, he was quite interested in the way it worked. I also fixed a bug in my usb_webcam addon, but couldn't test it as ohci isn't working yet... I'll try that at home real soon now.

We all went looking for dinner in the streets around and settled for a Thai restaurant.
Then Niels left and we went back to Rémi's flat in Lille, after trying for 10 minutes to escape the belgian car park, quite exhausted by all the action, but willing to do even more on sunday.

On sunday we managed to still get lost once due to overconfidence, but arrived in time for Marc to attend the conference he wanted to see. Still a lot of people passed by asking, including a Mozilla developper who got a tour of the benefits of OpenBFS extended attributes, including bookmark files and seemed quite interested. Many people took flyers and in the afternoon we didn't have many left, until there was only two. Many also asked again for a demo CD, but promised to download the image and try it.

After lunch I looked around at the other booths I didn't all yet see. I stopped at the OpenSolaris booth, talked about the similarities and differences of ZFS and BFS. The ubuntu booth next to us, and others as well, had several OLPCs on demo, those white and green toy-like machines are quite funny. Then I stopped at the GNUstep table where a flyer said they were using "simple and intuitive makefiles" which I'm sure many of you would think is a non-sense, but indeed they use a makefile template system quite similar with Be's where you just fill in the names of the source files and call the makefile engine to do the job. There was also free whipping from the BSD Girl at their booth, for those into it, but I only took a CD to test it =)
I was able to attend one conference (yay), quite interesting one as it was about the new radeon driver for Linux, which the new design seems to leave room for an easier port with some abstraction layers, giving a good opportunity for a Haiku version one day. I asked how much portable it was, and though the audience found the question funny (they should learn Linux is not the only one in town), the answer was quite positive. I'll try to stay in touch with the project to keep them aware of the needs for an Haiku port as the architecture is not definitive yet.
Still a lot of people stopped by, one who finally found our booth after asking on IRC from a room we were just in front of (there were also many people sitting on the other side of the hallway with their laptops, and many more outside on the grass despite the grey weather).

We packed up as the building was being cleaned up, Niels left in his blue van, and we went back to Lille, where Marc dropped us before going back home. I spent one more night in Rémi's flat (Police Academy 1 and 2 on tv...) until my train left at 6 am. It's now 9:25 as I finish writing, in an hour the train stops home.

All in all it was a very intense experience, lots of different people and projects to see, and we'll surely make it next year, maybe with a conference (any volunteer ?).

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