This is what I found at FOSDEM


FOSDEM is considered the best European conference about open source. I knew that before I participated first time this year, but still was impressed. This year’s edition had an astonishing number of 22 tracks. Most of them (though not all) last for one day, and having a look at the schedule might give you a headache.

After a weekend spent on talks, discussions, and waiting in line to squeeze into the more popular devrooms, I prepared a digest of what I found interesting. (or where I managed to squeeze into) Fortunately (and impressively!) FOSDEM talks (a bit over 510) were recorded and should be available at soon.

Chef’s Sean O’Meara gave an overview of configuration management. It was a good refresher for those more advanced and a useful introduction for people with less experience. Sean talked about the difference between convergence and idempotence and stressed to use these two terms correctly, showed the importance of writing configuration in the correct order (to make sure the code is idempotent) and reminded to always pull, never push. Sean’s presentation and recording aren’t online yet, but you can check out code he wrote for FOSDEM to illustrate his points here.

You might enjoy the „The classification problem” talk by Marco Marongiu. Marco shared his experiences of the pitfalls of internal classification, how exceptions are the unavoidable norm and talked about CFEngine.

Michael Ducy from Chef talked about cross-distro automation. He showed how delivering everything together while abstracting away from the implementation is the way to go.

I did not manage to grab a seat at the „Metadata ocean in Puppet and Chef” talk, where Marc Cluet from Rackspace presented best practices of organizing metadata, so I’m looking forward to the video.

Peter Chanik’s lightning talk might interest you in syslog-ng, a tool that customizes log messages (but that’s putting it very simple, you should probably visit their website).

James Turnbull of Docker shared results of his observations of OSS communities during his „Software Archaeology for Beginners” keynote. Being a seasoned member of the OS community, you might not experience the problems he touched on as often as people new to OS, sometimes overwhelmed by existing trolling and not-always-transparent decision processes or poor documentation. He advised to get to know a community before submitting any changes, to ask contextual questions, to over-share (dumps and logs!) and keep comments as positive as possible, as this easily isolates trolls and bike-shedding. He also suggested that the biggest help might not always come from developing a new feature: fixing broken tests or updating outdated or scarce documentation might be even more welcome.

Florian Gilcher talked about unicorns: those mystical creatures that exist, just like good, article-style technical documentation. Florian asks interesting questions and goes through a few solutions.

What I found positively surprising was a whole track committed to building more energy-efficient software. Looking for ways to minimize the energy consumption of a device was always considered to be a domain of the „hardware people”. Jeremy Bennet from Embecosm and Kerstin Eder form the University of Bristol talked about initiatives aiming to raise awareness and conducting research to support innovation in energy-efficient software. The energy-efficient computing devroom hosted some noteworthy talks. You should check out MAGEEC and ENTRA.

The FOSDEM conference wouldn’t be possible without a hundred volunteers, a team of organizers and sponsors. Participating was a last-minute decision for me and I’d regret very much if I decided not to. It was impossible to see everything I found interesting (for example the legal-policy issues track), so video recordings are invaluable. Summing up: watch out for next year’s edition!

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