Last weekend saw two days of open sourcery at Europe’s premier open source conference. FOSDEM is for developers by developers. There are around 40 tracks, lightning talks, hack rooms and most of the major open source projects have stands, demos and of course swag. Best of all, it’s free! Yes that’s right, a major conference held at the l’Université libre de Bruxelles over two days; it’s incredibly well organized and not a corporate sponsor in sight.
The highlights for me were catching up with the Buddycloud team and generally taking in any project built on XMPP, such as Jitsi (encrypted video, IM and screen sharing), Jingle (XMPP signalling to manage peer-to-peer comms.) and Webinos (the web as an applications platform). It was great to talk to Matthew Wild, one of the two committers on Prosody, a project I’ll be looking at closely over the next few months. Prosody is one of the leading open source XMPP servers and interestingly, to me at least, released under the MIT/X11 license and written in Lua (unrelated but unusual choices). Both Prosody and Buddycloud are to be released as part of the FreedomBox distro. (with Buddycloud running on Prosody if that wasn’t obvious) giving you your own federatable social network (or share it with friends!) out-of-the-[freedom]-box. It was also interesting to see the number of devices connecting to the Internet via XMPP from HP Printers to Dutch Trains (<- all the other links I could find are in Dutch), reinforcing the idea that we really are moving toward the Internet of Things (which reminds me, it’s World (yes World) IPv6 Day on 6th June – don’t worry it’s an awareness event, everything will still work).
As earlier, with 40ish tracks (here’s a sample: Mozilla, JBoss, Java, Ada, BSD, Debian, Smalltalk, Perl, Game Development, Embedded, X-desktop, LibreOffice, HW Cryto, XMPP) there’s both something for everyone and you can guarantee that they’ll be several talks you want to attend all going on at the same time. In parallel with the XMPP talks were some interesting talks in the Legal Issues Devroom, which I missed. However, you’ll be pleased to know the videos are all online at http://video.fosdem.org/.
I managed to get to a couple of lightning talks. These were again really well organized. In a large lecture theatre speakers were given a projector, a 15-minute timer, good pre-talk publicity and a box of Belgian Chocolates (I presume they were Belgian) as a thank you. I caught-up with the Unhosted project (which I’d seen in it’s very early stages in Berlin a year previously) and the Semantic MediaWiki extension. Unhosted is all about separating applications from data, allowing you to own your data and is therefore similar to the Mine! Project (see Surevine’s very own Alec Muffet introduce Mine! here) and Project Danube. The Semantic MediaWiki extension is a bit of a no-brainer. If you run a MediaWiki instance, you should install it. You’ll get a bunch of nice features out-of-the-box. The link above does a far better job than I ever could explaining it here. Just install it and have a play. We will.
In summary, a great couple of days. If you’re a developer working on an open source project or with open source code, you should go. If you’re a developer that doesn’t fall in either of these two categories, you’re crazy – you should go. And, I don’t know why I find this strange, but alongside your mid-morning coffee and pastry, you can get beer! On the Saturday night I was fortunate enough to attend the XSF dinner (thanks Florian) and then the XMPP summit on the adjacent Monday, but that’s for another blog post.