Fosdem is a massive event. For the Fosdem 2018 edition, there were 689 events performed by 652 speakers. That is much more than any single person can handle and why part of our team visited Fosdem 2018, to get as much as possible out of the conference.

During the Fosdem 2018 weekend, you can choose to focus on really specific technologies or you can cherry-pick talks from a broad set of topics.

You may get paralysed by the wide offer of talks or you may know exactly where you want to go but the room is completely full. Sometimes you may be tired and decide to stop for a while, eat or drink something and hang out with other Open Source enthusiasts. If you are lucky, you may even end up exactly in the talk you wanted to be. 🙂

FOSDEM is a big conference and that may be complicated sometimes, but it is a great chance to learn about new technologies and ideas to keep us up-to-date. This year, a bunch of CAPSiDIANS got the chance to visit Fosdem 2018 and this is what they took away from the conference.

Fosdem 2018 - CAPSiDE

Fosdem 2018: Highlights and Impressions

Technical Writing for Non-Writers

Tanja Roth

I attended several great talks but the one that I liked the most was ‘Technical Writing for Non-Writers’ by Tanja Roth of SUSE’s Documentation Team. In the talk, Tanja spoke about how to write documentation using 5 simples rules like emphasizing the KISS concept and focusing on telling “how to use it” instead of “how it works” or split in chunks.


The State of OpenJDK 

Mark Reinhold

Whilst Java is not our choice at Devel, learning what has been going on and what’s ahead in the Java community was quite interesting. Mark Reinhold, chief architect of Java Platform Group, also explained how the changes are expected to improve how the community collaborates with the project and as a developer I appreciate the efforts to be clear from the company perspective.


Elasticsearch (R)evolution

Philipp Krenn

Philipp Krenn not only explained a lot of new features of the future versions of this search engine but also showed them in a live demo. Particularly, major version upgrade without downtime will be for sure one of the most important of them. It was quite a technical session and those are the ones I enjoy most.

Fosdem 2018 - CAPSiDE

MyRocks production/deployment MySQL database at Facebook

Yoshinori Matsunobu

Yoshinori Matsunobu talked about how Facebook has created its own MySQL storage engine in order to couple with their own needs as they have to manage many petabytes of data. Their engine has still some drawbacks but, on the other hand, they have optimised the amount of space used (50% less) and write latency compared with default InnoDB engine, enabling faster replication and faster data loading.


Open Source Design Collective

Jan-Christoph Borchardt

The “it just works” philosophy has come to dominate the software design, empowered by the success of Apple’s products in recent years. This philosophy treats the user like a child with no hope of learning anything or coming to understand what is going on behind the scenes. When problems arise, the user is clueless about what to do to solve it, because is almost a magical thing when everything “just works”.

We should design software that does not hide complexity from the user, and that even teaches the user what is going on. This does not mean that software should be complex or difficult to configure, just do not hide the complexity from the user. By trying to teach users and not treating them as clueless idiots, we are empowering them. This is beneficial for software and for the community


Fosdem 2018 - CAPSiDE

Golang track

My main track last year was Perl, this year has been Golang. Due to the huge hype of that particular track, I spent about 2 hours to finally get a seat in the classroom. The first talk was an introduction to the state of Go executed by Francesc Campoy, an ex-developer Advocate at Google. Great talk, watched on my phone while standing in line 2 feet away from the conference door.

After the introduction, we had a nice variety of talks showing nice use cases of the Golang features and the rich toolset available. We learned advanced debugging with Delve, testing in the era of containers with Verónica López and a bit more about go interfaces with Sam Whited.


Inside Monero, the world’s first fungible cryptocurrency

Howard Chu

I also liked a talk delivered by Howard Chu, an old-school free software developer and violin player. One of the main developers of OpenLDAP, inventor of parallel execution in GNU Make, introduced Monero, a cryptocurrency in development by his company.

But the most interesting parts of the talk for me were actually the flaws in Bitcoin design (the current reference crypto coin) like, for example, the lack of incentive for keeping the network up when the last coin is mined –because that will happen, or the privacy problems that involves having a public ledger with all money movements from everyone.


ZFS Advanced Integration

Allan Jude

One of the most interesting talks I assisted was the ZFS Advanced Integration by Allan Jude. Not just for being an interesting topic regarding our sysadmin background but also for the great speaker who gave it. However, in my humble opinion, what makes FOSDEM a unique event is the opportunity to meet people from all around Europe who contribute to the open source world. You don’t realise how powerful and widely supported is this scene until you visit it.


Test your API docs!

Honza Javorek

I discovered readme driven Development in the “Test your API docs!” talk from Honza Javorek, through a history of the `requests` library created by Kenneth Reitz. The RDD is a fantastic idea, but the talk was about Dredd, an incredible tool that uses your readme file and the examples inside your documentation to test the APIs. So the idea of this technique is that you write code through the documentation… impressive.


Fosdem 2018 - CAPSiDE

Exploiting modern microarchitectures

Jon Masters

I especially enjoyed Jon Masters keynote on Sunday, in which he explained the inner workings of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities and how can they be mitigated along with an excellent and summarized explanation of computer architecture aspects in which they are based. All this was explained in only an hour, which is really hard to achieve correctly given such few time due to the complexity of the subject.

Joan Masters does a masterful (no pun intended) effort to summarise really deep and complicated topics in a 45 minutes talk. I have to admit I was lost at some points but I was impressed to learn why’s and how’s of the two vulnerabilities by someone who really understands them and is capable to use accessible language to accommodate a broad range of audience. I recommend watching the recording if you didn’t get the chance to attend.

It was, also, the only talk I attended where I enjoyed the audience questions (and their responses!). Over 1500 people attended the closing talk at FOSDEM and I think almost all liked it and learned something from it. One of the best closings I remember.


The Conference

What impressed me more is the huge amount of people there and the organization behind it. Sharp end time on each session to keep the schedule. The sessions that I’ve enjoyed more are those where speakers prepared a really well done live demos, with a backup of video always ready to use if something gets wrong.

It was a pleasure to see that there where a lot of sessions where the speaker is the actual Software Engineer that works on the team that is developing what they are showing or even the CEO, demonstrating that they know really well what’s going on.

In the end, FOSDEM is not that much about what you learn there. There’s so little time and so many things to do.

FOSDEM is about the seeds it plants in your head. You are exposed to new ideas and technologies, you meet experts in different fields and you have an intense weekend. If you are of that kind, you may even find time to hack around a bit. Then, you return home and you can revisit all those seeds. You take some time to read all those tabs you opened with random buzzwords, frameworks, books and GitHub repos. It takes some time until you fully process everything and then you feel all right and you start waiting for next year’s edition.

TAGS: community, conference, Fosdem, Fosdem 2018, open source, OSS

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