Monday, February 15, 2016


I recently travelled to FOSDEM. Elsewhere I've talked about getting to Brussels and Back; here are some of my notes on the event itself.

I stayed in a hotel that was out of the centre, about a third of the way to the campus. This meant I could walk there and back, which made up for missing my regular morning swim. Shame it was so damp and drizzly.

On Friday evening, a bunch of illumos aficionados met up and went to Manhattns for dinner, before heading off to the beer event. The Delirium Cafe wasn't quite as packed as I expected, although the queues at the bars were pretty long. There was a qualifying question to gain entry as a FOSDEM attendee - what's your favourite distribution? What, you've never heard of Tribblix?

I went to quite a few talks. One thing that was managed extremely well was that the talks ran to time. There are a lot of rooms and tracks, but they do a very good job of sticking to the timetable. What this means is that if you leg it across the campus for a talk you want to see, you can be pretty confident that it'll be on when it says it will.

I went to Mark Reinhold's talk on The State of OpenJDK. Interesting to see what the current focus is and where they're heading. Of particular interest to me was project Panama, aiming to supplant the user-hostile JNI as a bridge to native code.

Then Dalibor and Rory on Preparing for JDK9. Apart from all the changes coming up, the one thing that I noted was the version string changes. I also learnt about the jdeps tool, which could be very useful

Changing tack webwards, I learnt about telemetry in Firefox, and Following that, more on HTTP/2 - 30% adoption is pretty good after less than a year, but I guess that's a reflection of how web traffic is dominated by a relatively small number of sites. There's a huge long tail of small sites that are going to take much longer to migrate, if ever. And one thing I didn't know is that client certificates aren't yet supported in HTTP/2, which is a bit of a pain.

In between, I spent time going round the various project stands. We had an illumos booth, it would have been nice to spend more time at that.

I spent a lot of Sunday in the main Janson lecture theatre.

First up, Re-thinking Linux Distributions. Or, as I interpreted it, moving on from package management as the defining characteristic of a distribution. This is a subject I'm deeply interested in, as it forms part of my thoughts about severing the link between applications and the OS, and thinking about software stacks as a useful unit.

Then, Reproducible Builds. Although it's not really about reproducible builds as reproducible package archives. The two aren't necessarily the same. For example, IPS doesn't even have package archives, and is only interested in changes to the binary content rather than to irrelevant metadata. And we have tooling like wsdiff to identify changes in illumos builds. Still, knowing that your build is completely reproducible is a goal we ought to wor towards, although we may end up with a slightly different slant on the subject.

Next, Dan talked about illumos at 5, even mentioning yours truly. And it was great to talk to Thomas from opencsw after the talk.

The State of Go was looking forward to the forthcoming release of Go 1.6. I was motivated to test the release candidate on illumos, and was pleased to see that rc2 builds and runs just fine.

One of the most interesting talks was on LibreOffice Online. How it works (tiling like online map viewers) and some of the waste they have managed to eliminate. Something else I picked up on was the potential for LibreOfficeKit to expose a simple API for other tools to talk to.

It was a busy weekend, and quite focussed. There wasn't as much casual chat as I might have liked. To take advantage of FOSDEM, you have to be organised - plan your schedule out in advance. If I go next year I'll try and give a Tribblix lightning talk, just to get a bit of exposure.

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