by Max Spevack
The Fedora Project holds a “Fedora Users and Developers Conference” (FUDCon) several times each year, in various locations around the world. The latest installment was September 5-7, in Brno, Czech Republic.
Thursday, Sept. 4
Greg and I traveled from Amsterdam to Brno on Thursday, flying to Prague and then taking the bus down to Brno. The trip was uneventful, though we got ourselves a bit mixed up with the bus schedule. We purchased tickets leaving from Prague’s central bus station at noon, but we thought that the tickets’ origin was the bus station at Prague’s airport. As such, by the time we got to the central bus station, we had long-missed our bus and had to purchase new tickets for a bus leaving at 2:30. No big deal.
We bumped into Cliff Perry, one of our old Red Hat Network compatriots, in the Prague airport. He’s spending the week in Brno for other Red Hat business, but he’ll be hanging around at FUDCon a bit as well. Also at the Prague airport, we bumped into a flight attendant who works for Delta. She struck up a conversation with Greg when she saw his Carolina Hurricanes t-shirt, since she lives in Chapel Hill. We mentioned that Jim Whitehurst (formerly Delta’s COO) is now Red Hat’s CEO, and she spoke in glowing terms of him and his tenure at Delta.
Prague seemed like an awesome city–the next time I travel to Brno, I must spend an extra few days in Prague and re-enact my favorite scenes from Mission: Impossible.
The bus ride from Brno to Prague was pretty long, but the laptop battery made it most of the way, and I had a bunch of emails queued up to send upon arrival. Radek Vokal met us at the train station, brought us to the hotel, and then dropped us off at the Red Hat office, where we found a room of FUDConners (Dimitris Glezos, Diego Burigo Zacarao, David Cantrell, and Hans de Goede) already hacking.
We split up into a few groups for dinner on Thursday night, and I briefly want to add my remarks about the meal. Dimitris, our Fedora Localization Leader, tried valiently to communicate with the waitress to translate the menu from Czech into English. Eventually, a customer from another table was brought over to assist in the translation. We managed to figure out that an entire page of the menu was “meat, cooked in various ways, with nothing particularly odd in any of the recipes.”Therefore, we ordered a lot of that along with beer and left a large tip.
The food was great, as was the dinner entertainment: Jeroen (Dutch) trying to tell Dimitris (Greek) that he (Dimitris) is incorrect about Greek history, and Thomas (German) telling us about how he messed up his Porsche by running over a lorry wheel at some insanely high speed that I won’t reprint.
Upon returning from dinner, I met Jonathan Roberts, who had successfully made the trip from the UK. After working so much with JonRob in Fedora Marketing and Fedora Websites, it was great to meet him in person.
Friday, Sept. 5
Still sleepy, I wandered down to the lobby where I had the chance to meet Nicu Buculei in person for the first time. This was a great joy for me, since I’m a huge fan of all his artwork and contributions to Fedora, and I was very pleased that he was able to make the trip from Romania.
As always, the Fedora crew was nothing if not predictable. Eight a.m., and everyone was down in the lobby (since that’s the only place where we had wireless) tapping away on their laptops. I love it. Folks ended up waiting for me to leave, since I couldn’t walk out of the lobby before my fetchmail process finished running.
We had to take the tram from the hotel to the university, and the more scrupulous of our contributors insisted on purchasing tram tickets. One unlucky lady in a little newsstand near the tram station was selling the tickets, and for a moment, it appeared that 40 non-Czech speakers were all going to try to purchase a ticket costing about 1 Euro individually. Greg couldn’t deal with the chaos and wandered off to figure out where exactly the university was while I and several others suggested that one person purchase all of the tram tickets. We could sort it out later. We made it to the university–some of us legally, and others freeloading on the tram.
Everything was fantastic at FUDCon. Radek and the crew from Brno went above and beyond the call of duty, taking care of every detail. Food, signs, wireless, rooms all set up, microphones–nothing was lacking.
Friday’s hackfest leaders and subjects were:
- Hans de Goede–Becoming a Fedora Packager
- Miroslav Suchy–Spacewalk
- Marek Mahut–Fedora Astronomy
- Tomeu Vizoso–Sugar performance and integration on rawhide
- Dimitris Glezos–Transifex: Packaging, statistics support
- Harald Hoyer, Thomas Woerner, Nils Philippsen–DBus/PolicyKit privilege separation (config tools)
We had a Flickr group set up with photos, and somewhere around 80 folks at our first hackfest day, with a nice mixture of Red Hat employees, Fedora contributors, Brno locals, and folks from all over Europe. David Cantrell won this FUDCon’s prize for longest trip to the event. He came from Honolulu, Hawaii–a whopping 7,561 miles (12,167 kilometers).
We were gathered online in #fudcon on freenode, where we were able to keep people all over the world informed about what was happening at the event, so that they could join in using various internet collaboration tools, like gobby.
I sat in briefly on Hans de Goede’s talk about how to become a Fedora packager. Hans put his years as a professor to good work, giving a clear lecture on how someone can join our packaging group. There were about 20 guys in the audience, and after the talk was finished, it turned into a workshop with Hans patiently answering questions.
A few other highlights from the day:
- I helped one potential contributor get his Fedora Account out of a limbo status, and tomorrow he is hopefully going to find me again and we will finish getting him set up and introduced to the Fedora Infrastructure team as a potential new contributor.
I passed out the t-shirts, which allows me to shake hands with every single FUDCon attendee.
Nils and Harald gave a talk about DBus and PolicyKit in Fedora, with a very attentive audience of about 10 or 15. This sort of thing is great–I love seeing the Red Hat engineers and the Fedora contributors working together on highly technical work items.
For dinner, I joined up with the Italian delegation. We walked to one restaurant with outside tables that seemed very nice, but it was full. We didn’t want to wait, so we continued walking. Everyone was hungry, so I brought the folks back to the same restaurant from the previous night, where we had another excellent dinner.
Then I returned to the hotel, where I spent some time writing down a few thoughts for a mini-keynote on Saturday morning.
Saturday, Sept. 6
The main session and presentation day of FUDCon was very successful. Approximately 110 people attended, which is about the same level of attendance that FUDCon Boston 2008 and 2007 saw. FUDCon Raleigh 2008 remains the attendance record, at 175. However, leading up to FUDCon Brno, in the back of my mind I was hoping for about 60 people at the hackfest days and 100 at the session day. We beat those estimates, so I was very pleased.
The day began at 10 a.m. (I am not as early a riser in the mornings as Mr. Frields, so my FUDCons start later), and I gave a short speech, thanking the organizers, pointing out the importance of global FUDCons, and highlighting some of the contributions that various audience members have made to Fedora. Greg (as always) led the session-pitching portion of the day. It went very well–most of the audience had never done a BarCamp before, but we filled up the grid with talks, and FUDCon was fully underway.
The first talk that I attended was Jeroen van Meeuwen’s session on custom spins. It was a workshop-style session, in which people who were trying different customization projects talked about the problems that they were running into. About 20 people attended the session. I took a few notes, and the primary takeaway is that there is still a huge amount of confusion about the Spins Bureaucracy in general–technical approval, trademark approval, what is needed when, etc. I think the work that Paul Frields is currently doing on revamping our trademark guidelines will help to clarify these questions, but the sooner that is rolled out, the better.
There were also a few questions about how to get spins hosted, mirrored, etc. We discussed the purpose and use of the generic-logos package, which several people were curious about.
Following this session, I wandered back to the main room and listened in on the Sugar/OLPC presentation, which had about 50 people in the audience. The session focused on the vision of OLPC and how Fedora community members can contribute to Sugar. One of the easiest ways is by becoming a packager for various Sugar activities, which (I am told) ought to be one of the easiest sorts of packages to maintain, as it is all pretty much just Python.
After lunch, I kept a slightly lower profile in the afternoon, trying to get a handle on some of the email that I’d missed over the past few days, some blogging, and some budget calculations for FUDCon. However, I did sit on the Spacewalk talk. As someone who spent 18 months in the Red Hat Network group, it was great to listen to the discussion about the open source Satellite. I learned that Spacewalk consists of about 185 packages, which are getting into Fedora at the rate of about 1-2 per week, and an implementation using PostgreSQL is on the way, which will finally rid the codebase of its dependencies on Oracle.
I attended Francesco Ugolini‘s talk on Fedora Ambassadors, and I was very impressed with the passionate, thoughtful speech that he gave. I led a brief session about FUDCon Europe 2009 planning, but it didn’t draw as much conversation as I had hoped it would. I guess people just don’t care that much about an event that is a year in the making!
The final session of the day was a hilarious “learn enough Czech to survive the evening” session, in which David Cantrell stated various phrases in English (“I would like another beer please”), and we learned how to repeat them in Czech. Once the audience questions transitioned from useful to bawdy, we put an end to the session and closed down FUDCon.
FUDPub was a great success. Radek Vokal rented out an entire restaurant for us, and we had 96 people there. Everyone got an excellent dinner (pork or chicken, salad, and french fries) and a free beverage of choice. After that, they were on their own for anything else that they wanted. I had a nice chat with David Cantrell, and another with Radek Vokal.
Sunday, Sept. 7
Sunday was the final hackfest day of FUDCon, and we had about 60 people turn up for it. Some folks were traveling on Sunday, so attendance was slightly lower than Friday and Saturday. I spent a large chunk of time at the Red Hat office with Radek, going through receipts and filing expense reports, and just winding FUDCon down from an organizational and logistical perspective. But people were still getting work done, with func and Sugar hackfests in full swing. Jeroen was maintaining a list of packages needing review on the chalkboard in the front of one room. People were making good use of the resources available to them and the fact that large numbers of contributors were face to face in the same room. I was told that this FUDCon was the first time in two years that a number of the Red Hat engineers in Brno and Stuttgart were in the same physical location, so that provided a lot of value back to Red Hat itself, both from the RHEL and the “Fedora as an upstream for all of Red Hat’s Linux products” points of view.
On Sunday night, we again took over a restaurant in downtown Brno, though this time it was every-contributor-for-himself in terms of dinner and drink. Greg and I walked around the city a bit and saw some cool sights. I forgot my camera, of course, but Greg has pictures.
This was the best-organized FUDCon we have ever had, and the credit for that goes to Radek Vokal and his team of volunteers in Red Hat’s Brno office, who handled all of the details locally.
It also helped that our budget went a long way in the Czech Republic. Consider the following:
Hotel rooms were fully paid for out-of-town attendees. We had several mini-suites, in which four people shared two double rooms with a small common room and bathroom. Greg and I roomed with Jonathan Roberts and Fabian Affolter.
Free wireless in the hotel’s lobby, which had more than enough room for everyone to spread out. Free breakfast included with the rooms.
Tram from the hotel to the university, making transportation very simple. Space at the university was free, due to Red Hat’s pre-existing relationship with the school in Brno, which was incredibly helpful. The number one factor in determining a FUDCon’s location is the ability to get space for free. The university’s facilities were very nice, though I’m pretty sure that we pressed the limit of its wireless network. New motto: Fedora, crashing wireless networks worldwide since 2003.
Coffee, tea, juice, water, and soda all day, every day, in the lobby area of FUDCon. Furthermore, we had plates of deli meat, cheeses, fruits, veggies, and bread each day that served pretty much everyone in attendance.
About 100 people at FUDPub, with a dinner and drink paid for by the Fedora Project.
A free t-shirt for everyone in attendance.
All of this, plus a few travel sponsorships for community members, and it looks like we are going to come in comfortably under our budget for the event.
All in all, a fantastic three days and four nights in Brno. My thanks again to everyone who attended, and everyone who helped to organize.