{February 20, 2008}   2008 Linux Developer Symposium, Beijing

well, my first conference is over now. it was quite fun. :)

before I got into the conference room the first morning, I was distracted by some of the laptops being shown off outside. I caught sight of that bright green OLPC, and had to go play with it. :)

I’ve been told that they’re small, but I was still surprised; it really does look like a kid’s machine. :) the screen looks quite nice, there are a bunch of buttons I didn’t have time to figure out… but at least it took me under ten seconds to get it back open after closing it. ;) I’m really looking forward to getting mine when I get home. (did I mention that? a guy on vanlug agreed to sell me his. yay!)

there were some other small linux devices out there that I’d never heard of; one looked like an oversized psp, and seemed designed mainly for playing movies and such. somewhere I have the marketing papers for those devices…

inside there were presentations; my notes on them look long and boring now. there was kernel stuff, and interesting mention of new filesystems (naturally I forgot to write down the name of the one that sounded most interesting), and a lot of talk about mobile devices and being able to have the same sort of software on many devices, how linux has all this opportunity beyond the desktop. some people seem to think traditional pc’s are on their way out and other formfactors are gonna take over. :) there was also a tool called bloatwatch mentioned – it helps keep control over the size of the kernel. I wonder if it’d be useful to kde developers.

at one point someone was talking about the future of user interfaces, how things needed to be consistent and modular and how settings should follow the user from device to device… that made me think of plasma a lot, even though most people at the conference had no idea what plasma is. I wish I could figure out how to explain why this seems significant… it seems like they want to go in the same direction that plasma wants to go, and more communication in this area would be really useful, but… I just can’t seem to find the right words.

it was probably a good thing I couldn’t get online, or I never would have paid attention; I was already distracted getting plasma’s layout-patch compiled and starting work on some multiple desktop stuff. :) somehow that first day gave me a ton of motivation to code – but of course I didn’t have much time to do so.

half an hour before lunch I ducked out to get some tea, and never made it back in. freeflying introduced himself, and then introduced me to some other BLUG (Beijing LUG) people, and somehow I ended up showing them plasma, and then suddenly more people were crowding around, so I was chatting with some people while others played with kde4 on my laptop :) BLUG’s a really nice group – they even gave me a t-shirt (it’s got an orange penguin on the back).

after lunch I was sitting against the back wall so that my laptop could be plugged in, and lots of people came by to chat. I hope I remember to email everyone I promised to email. between the laptop, people talking to me and some things being lost in translation, my notes for the afternoon have a lot of holes :)

the translation system was pretty cool, though. we could get little wireless gadgets with headphones that picked up the live translation, on either the chinese or english channel – somewhere two people in a booth were constantly translating everything that was said. the wireless didn’t seem to like my laptop, though – sometimes if I moved the wrong way it would cut off. :/ other time the speakers went a little fast, and the translators had to skip a bit. a few times I got distracted listening to both the chinese and the english, because it was such a weird effect, and forgot to listen to what was actually being *said* :)

lunch was quite good there, both days; there were enough vegetarian options for me to have a nice meal, and delicious desserts too. dinners weren’t so great; the second day I was sitting beside Matt, and discovered he’s vegan. poor guy didn’t get much more than peanuts and celery. :( I could eat the fried rice at least, but I’m glad I had a big lunch that day. of course, there was no shortage of beer at either dinner. :)

after dinner the first day we eventually wandered downstairs to a bar. me, matt (kernel/embedded/mercurial guy), dave (gnome guy) and jonathan (kernel guy) played a game of pool before joining the gossip about linux companies. :)

by the time I got back to my hostel it was midnight, and the router was turned off so I had no interwebs – but I was exhausted anyways :) I dragged myself out of bed at 7 the next morning so that I could check mail n’stuff before heading back to the conference.

the second day there was a roundtable discussion in the morning; there was discussion about how to increase linux marketshare, how device manufacturers often have trouble learning to interact with the linux community, how to get chinese developers more involved, etc…

some people want to just forget the desktop and focus on making linux awesome on other formfactors and growing strong there before MS is powerful enough to pull the kind of dirty tricks that make the pc a “black hole that sucks in effort”. others thought that the desktop is extremely important and we need to keep trying to win it over.

beijing students seem frustrated that while they have LUGs, and plenty of people using linux, they have very few actual developers. they want people to learn from, but there aren’t any around, and it sounds like a chicken-and-egg problem. I guess language barriers make it hard for them to just go online and teach themselves. one guy from shanghai did seem surprised, and suggested that people come on irc and start chatting. someone mentioned that some students couldn’t even afford to download certain things – I’m so used to thinking of downloading as free, it’s weird to think that some people are charged a lot of money for it :(

also, apparently a lot of these people, even after graduating, are missing important skills. someone suggested that the university should offer students the chance to do a project where one of the requirements is getting their code merged upstream, so that they have to learn how to interact with an online community. I’m not sure what I think of that.

I could probably go on for ages about the roundtable, but this post is long enough already. the BOF session in the afternoon was kinda… odd. I started at the desktop table, but the gnome guy was delayed and never actually made it. everyone else at the table was chinese, so everyone was speaking chinese, and one guy started talking about APIs and how he wanted the kernel to do things that wine is currently doing, or something… trying to understand it was hard, and people spoke nonstop, so eventually I got tired and went to see what the other tables were talking about. this is how chinese people must feel when they try to interact with english-speaking groups…

I didn’t write anything down during the BOF, so I don’t really remember what I talked about (yeah, my memory is that bad). I showed off plasma a couple of times, and someone taught me some interesting things about filesystems and charsets and all the headaches involved… I actually need to report a bug against something in kde4 because it’s not mounting things properly any more, which is what got the discussion started.

by the end of the BOF session I was exhausted. so much talking and listening, especially listening to chinese, is really draining. we went out to a bar after dinner on the second night, but when people decided to head off to a second bar I went back to the hostel. it’s been a long, long few days. lots of fun, though. :) I got some new ideas for plasma, and there are a bazillion things I need to do now…

overall, the conference was great :) I’m really looking forward to the plasma sprint and akademy now – being able to talk to developers face-to-face is so much better than irc. :)

nihui says:

it was a quite nice conference !

sebas says:

Thanks for the report, KDE is quite underpopulated in terms of active people. Your post gives some insight as to why. Useful!@

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