Fosdem 2010

Fosdem 2010

So its the evening after Fosdem 2010 and I’m knacked. I overall enjoyed myself but don’t know if I’d go back again or not. The conference was well put together and included a lot of talks I wanted to go to but couldn’t due sometimes because they would clash. It seems the conference was formatted around the individual tribes of the open source world. So for example if you were totally into KDE, you could sit in a room all day and listen to nothing but KDE stuff and when you felt like taking a breath, you could hang out at the KDE stand. I’m not picking just on just KDE, this was true of Gnome, Debian, FreeBSD, Mozilla, MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc, etc.

I guess even XMPP was true of this but I felt the programming was a little more diverse as to attract more people. And thats my main point, I felt a lot of the rooms were full of people who were not very friendly or even cooperative. For example the rooms would get filled very quickly and so people were asked to moved to the centre of isles so later comers could sit in the spaces and use all the chairs available. But still people wouldn’t move even when you ask them.

Talking of rude, I can’t understand when was it ever ok to start a conversation in the middle of a session? I heard that a few times in a few sessions and it certainly wasn’t about the subject matter in question. Worst still when the Q&A would start most people would use that as there chance to have a good old natter. It was so bad during Richard Clayton’s talk that you couldn’t hear the amplified questions and answers.

I don’t want this to sound all negative but there was certainly a lack of friendliness in the air. Even during the Friday drinking event people were not very good about talking to new people. I certainly wouldn’t recommend Fosdem by yourself unless you know people going along very well. I can’t work out if its the amount of people (5000 they estimate) or the language barrier?

The venue I didn’t like that much but it grew on me the 2nd day. It was a university campus but some of the rooms were quite a distance away and almost not worth the bother to see if they would be open or full. The campus reminded me very much of the BarCampBrighton’s I’ve been to in the student Uni buildings (actually if you were to do a Fosdem type event in the south east, the university of sussex would be the perfect place).

The whole conference runs pretty much off donations and sponsorship which is amazing because its that big. You have to pay for everything including food and drink but its perfectly fine as the conference is very well put together. For example the network usage was flawless every time I used it, no problem with the wifi either. They were using some very well placed wifi base stations which supported multiple airels. Each box had 6 airels stick out the top and in a large room they had them in 6 different locations across a massive rooms. No interference, no problems both days no matter where you sat. The setup across the board for networking was better than I’ve seen almost anywhere else. I even saw a sign saying use more bandwidth, challenging us all to try and break there network. Amazing…

So what did I see which was worth talking about? Lots of bits and pieces but one which stood out was the session Mirabeau, creating personal media networks. They ran through how they could extend Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) over any network via XMPP to share anything you have attached to your UPnP pool. And because XMPP is mainly being used for Jabber right now, that means you can extend UPnP to your friends very easily. And because its UPnP to UPnP, it would connect to something like a PS3, Xbox360, something with a screen. So in practice I could share any media on my network with anyone who is on my buddy list. I’ve already got experience of doing this with Hamachi VPN at work but this is great because its very simple to do multiple adhoc connections with friends and family plus it goes straight to there screen. Where this gets very interesting is the fact that I could have streaming stuff play with UPnP and the streaming point would be the host connection, which basiclly renders GeoIP unless. So all in all, Mirabeau have just created a software only version of a Slingbox.

I had a discussion with the guys afterwards about the whole thing and decided that there is a lot more to this a Slingbox. Theres actually some very interesting editorial propositions which I’d rather not give away at this moment, although they should be pretty easy to imagine, if you think a little deeper. Here’s one idea, imagine this with a UPnP resolver for Playdar.

Elsewhere, I saw some interesting things like some semantic desktop stuff like GNOME Activity Journal which I’m going to install at some point soon. Vodafone Betavine’s One social web looks of interest too. The scaling sessions by Facebook and were also of interest but I don’t really have that problem right now. I was actually thinking why isn’t someone from the BBC doing a session about scaling? I missed Apache Hadoop, HTML5, SIP Communicator sessions along with all the Haiku sessions but I did manage a few of the Mozilla sessions including Firefox mobile and Thunderbird. I’ve decided I’ll give Thunderbird another try in the near future.

So all in all, it was good but with the cost of the travel and hotel, I’d certainly like to see what other conferences are on the table before going back. No reflection on the conference or the amazing job the organisers do, just maybe the way the FLOSS community is right now.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser. Can be found at, and