Introducing my new friend: a Slimbook

Probably most of you will understand me if I tell you I consider my laptop almost like a partner, like my father feels about his car, or kind of. I cannot help but feeling attached to a machine I use many hours a day. So when you have to change it, it is kind of a drama.

It is also a risky decision. I travel quite often and work from home. I have no workstation. This means that I need a powerful and lightweight machine, with high-resolution but also high autonomy, good keyboard and the right combination/amount of outputs… in summary, a good machine.

After a happy journey with Dell, I switched to Lenovo which has been my choice for some years. Not just my former working laptop was a Lenovo but my personal one and my tablet as well.

Why Slimbook

I have been following Slimbook for some time now. As you probably know, they ship a KDE laptop that is very cool, with KDE Neon pre-installed. They have attended to a couple of events I have attended to so I have been able to test their laptops, get feedback from buyers and ask them questions directly. The fact that they are a Spanish company was a beautiful surprise, We do not have that many hardware integrators and vendors in Spain.

But what definitely caught my attention was the fact that they pay a lot of attention to the software. They ship the laptops with Linux pre-installed. Ok, that is not new any more. But they do pre-install several different distros. Now, that’s uncommon. But news do not stop there.

They have created a community of customers that help each other to ensure that you get help beyond their contract responsibilities. They pay attention to this point which makes the pre-sales decision easier, by the way. They also sell peripherals that work on the chosen distro and they welcome tests and reports about them from customers who has installed Linux distributions they do not pre-install.

On the hardware side, Slimbooks are powerful, with a modern look and many cool features.

Based on the above in addition to my KDE colleagues feedback, I decided in October 2017 to go for one. I bought a PRO2 with customised high end components. A machine to work with the coming years.

You need to consider that Slimbook is not a big corporation so they do not have much stock. If you want something special, it will take them some days to ensemble it, test the hardware, install and configure the chosen distro and deliver it.

Evaluation… so far.

Let me start by saying I have no commercial relation with them. I write this post as a way to support the effort Slimbook and some of my colleagues are doing to bring KDE to the hands of Slimbook customers.

The purchase process in my case required some back and forth because I wanted to install openSUSE and it was not by then in the list of officially supported distros. They were kind enough to take the opportunity to install it for me and check that everything worked fine. It did. A different story was the dock station available in their store, which I bought. They reported me they could not make it work at 100% with openSUSE Leap 42.2 before sending it so I ended up not buying it.

So as outcome of this process, Slimbook now supports openSUSE Leap and they do not recommend this dock station to buyers that request the camaleon pre-installed. This was a a huge time saver for me. Also, I was travelling during the arrival date of the laptop. They managed to ship it so it arrived when I was at home, in between trips, the day I requested.

Slimbook demonstrated they understand what customer service really means.

Sadly I completely forgot to mention to them I needed the hard disk encrypted so I had to reinstall the OS again. This time I went directly for openSUSE Leap 42.3. Everything worked out of the box or was trivial to fix:

  • As usual, the high-resolution of the screen provides some headaches when booting the KDE desktop for the very first time (everything is tiny) which is a plus for having the distro pre-installed.
  • I had to go to Yast to finish the configuration of the sound card. Another reason for buying a machine with the distro pre-installed.

On a side note, I will highlight how painful it is to manage resolutions and font dpi when working with a dual screen configuration with a big resolution difference between screens (laptop vs monitor). This is the first time I have a laptop with a very high-resolution screen so it was like going back to the bad old days when Linux users had to manually configure screens, projectors… This has nothing to do with Slimbook though.

As usual, configuring a working machine takes quite a long time. There are so many things to install and configure… I am still discovering small pain points and highlights of my PRO2 in working conditions.

I have written to Slimbook a couple of times with suggestions to consider for their store and future high-end models. Nothing really important except maybe the battery capacity, which I consider short for heavy travellers (not for occasional ones).

This point was  not a surprise for me though. Based on the info provided by Slimbook on their website, I could research about it up front. tlp is something you might consider to install and learn how to manage in order to significantly increase the working time with your laptop while on battery.

I get very pity with the location and number of outputs in every laptop I’ve ever had. I must say they are not too bad on this PRO2. Or maybe it is just that I am usually so annoyed that not being too disappointed this time seems like a good sign.

The laptop has so many highlights that I will not go over them. Take it as a good sign.


Do I recommend you the PRO2 with my configuration?

No. My needs might not be yours. You have to get what you need/want. Slimbook allows you to customise your machine which in my case it is a good thing. I considered other laptops from Lenovo or Dell, by the way. I even considered a MacBook.

Do I recommend you Slimbook?

The purchase of a laptop has to be evaluated after a couple of years to be absolutely fair. I am confident about this purchase though based on the customer support I have already received, which is more than what I can say in other cases with well established vendors.

So if you require a good-looking and powerful laptop, you have many options. If you also want to customise it with different components, then the options get reduced. If on top of that, you are looking for a machine with a Linux distro pre-installed, the number of possibilities are small and, depending on the distro you want, close to none.

If on top of all the above, you want a healthy community of consumers that help each other, well supported by the vendor itself, then Slimbook becomes a good option. An if in addition, you want to work with people that understands how important it is your laptop for a professional, the machine you work with everyday, which necessarily means the vendor must provide a good customer support, then I recommend you to talk to these guys. You will find them, for instance, in most major Open Source events that take place in Spain.

As I have said before, the times for hardware/electronic vendors to “fire & forget” are over, or will be shortly. Updating the software and providing maintenance and support to your consumers, way beyond the law obligations, is not just a differentiation factor any more, but a must.

Based on my experience so far, Slimbook gets it.

CIP related work during the second half of 2017

As you probably know by now, I have been involved in the Civil Infrastructure Project (CIP), a Linux Foundation Initiative formed in 2016, representing Codethink, a founder Member and coordinating the engineering work in two areas within the project:

  • CIP Kernel maintenance
  • Testing strategy and kernel testing tooling.

In the first front, Ben Hutchings, the Debian Kernel maintainer, a colleague at Codehtink, has been labelled as CIP Kernel maintainer until August 2018. Ben has released in December the latest version of the CIP Kernel 4.4.105-cip15 Currently he is working on releasing a new version, including fixes for Meltdown.CIP Initiative logo

During 2017 until a little after ELCE, I have worked on defining the testing strategy for the CIP kernel and coordinating the efforts towards creating a tool to test it, based on Robert Marshall has been leading the technical efforts the last few months. The tools was finally called Board at Desk (B@D). Some days before ELCE 2017 CIP released first version of the tool, which is nothing but an integration in a VM of the infrastructure that allow testers to test kernels locally in a board connected directly to their machines. There is no need for a remote centralised infrastructure to collect, process and visualise the results. You can read more about it in the B@D 1.0 Release announcement.

A lot of the work my colleagues and I did for CIP got its visualization at the Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2017, that took place in Prague during the third week of October. A couple of articles summarise the activity:

Codethink’s involvement the last few weeks of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 is reduced to the CIP kernel maintenance so in parallel, I have also reduced my involvement to focus more in customer’s work. I plan to attend to the Open Source Summit Japan 2018 to support again CIP activities.

If you are interested in following the work the CIP is doing to bring Linux based systems to Industrial Grade products, I recommend you join the cip-dev mailing list. You can read a previous post I wrote about my CIP related activity.

Akademy 2017: it’s great to be part of KDE.

After two years absent of any KDE event I was looking forward to see old friends and meet new KDE contributors and supporters. During July 20th and 21st it took place in Almería, Spain, Akademy-es. The following day, July 22nd, Akademy started. I stayed until Monday 24th there, combining my participation at the event with my job. Almería is only a couple of hours drive from my place so there was no excuse this year. I had to be there.626px-KDE_mascot_Konqi_for_KDE_event_Akademy

I would like to start thanking the organisers for the effort and the success of the event. Well done. I am specially happy to see an old friend, Ismael Olea, back to front. We need more people like you, Ismael, to keep the essence of Free Software intact.

Since I haven’t been contributing lately to KDE, I decided to concentrate my participation this time in letting participants know about the transformation the automotive sector is going through and the opportunities that new, open and collaborative environments like AGL and GENIVI open to the KDE project.

The past few months I have sent a couple of e-mails explaining my point of view on this topic, together with a blog post I wrote a few months back. Hence for most my message was not news. I delivered a talk at Akademy-es and a lightning talk at Akademy about it. You can find the slides on the Conferences section of this site.

A few community members showed interest in the topic so we held a BoF. We agreed of taking some steps forward in order to explore the presence of KDE in automotive forums. Once we have the initial tangible results, I will inform about it.

I am pleased with the Akademy Awards this year. All were well deserved but I am specially happy of the one received by Cornelius Schumacher for his contributions throughout many years to KDE. I am specially proud of having shared with him two years at the KDE e.V. Board of Directors, having him as leader (President). The award received by the KDE representatives in the Free Qt Foundation was well deserved too. Olaf and Martin has done a terrific job over the years to ensure Qt remains open no matter who develops it. KDE needs to promote more the relevance of this foundation and the benefits for the entire KDE and Qt ecosystems. Thanks Olaf and Martin.

I loved to see how KDE Spain has gone through a major change in its board keeping the same energy and enthusiasm. Akademy-es was full of new faces and its impact in the overall KDE community keeps growing. Antonio Larrosa, as the previous leading figures were, is well surrounded and supported. I liked the modest but honest recognition we had with José Millán at the KDE Spain general assembly, for his contribution to the association. Good luck to the new KDE Spain board of directors.

I was glad to see Slimbook supporting Akademy-es and Akademy. Take a look at their laptops. They are beautiful and very powerful. Slimbook put effort on the software side, providing good support on Linux to the hardware they ship. It always a pleasure to see companies I hae had relation in the past supporting Free Software events. Opentia sponsored Akademy-es. Thanks Alberto Barrionuevo. I was also pleased with the KDE e.V AGM results and dynamics. Some changes will be introduced to make it even more fluid next year, opening part of its content to the wider community. A good move, I think. Cheers to the promoters of these changes.

I would like to thank Marta Rybczynska for her contribution to KDE e.V as Treasurer. Marta’s dedication has provided stability and certainty. Good job Marta! Good luck to the new Treasurer and the rest of the KDE eV Board.

Thanks to Codethink Ltd, my employer, for supporting me in attending to Akademy and Akademy-es. It is great to be back.

Why to support community driven FOSS events

FLOSS event offerings have exploded in the last few years. You can find everything from very elite, invitation-only pricey events to small, local meetings that are open to everybody. Almost every company that migrates from being an Open Source consumer to a contributor becomes a conference sponsor, which is positive.


Out there, are the key Open Source communities that constitute the roots of this movement. Even in the cases where they are no longer under the spotlight, some communities still keep the essence of what has made Open Source unique and successful; in some cases for over 20 years, ensuring they have the greatest chances to stand for 20 more.

Events organised by these key communities are all about people, about community, about technology and innovation. Yes, there is space for marketing and business, but that is not where the focus lies or what participants look for. These conferences are not fancy, they do not get much media attention, they do not attract big sponsorship, nor a thousand participants.

But at the same time, they do not have ridiculous keynoakademy-es-2017-group-phototes, booths of companies showing the same things over and over again, insubstantial talks about products with little innovation or preachers about how awesome their CLA based community they are building is. Conferences in which most participants are there simply to work. The kind of conferences you attend with little passion to after a while.

There is a group of companies out there that understand how important community focused conferences are. Companies that realise that these events are not just a key activity for those communities that organise them, but also for the participants as individuals and Open Source as a whole.

In many cases, these companies do not have a direct interest in what a specific community does, but they support them anyway, because they listen to their employees and support their passion, or simply as way of being fair, giving a little in return for the immense value they get out of the Open Source community. It is not charity, it is justice.

But in most cases, for these companies it is also about business, the hard kind of business, the sustainable one.

Professional growth requires you to think out of the box; to challenge your ideas; to listen to others’ opinions; to learn from the mistakes of your masters; to choose who to follow with care, and to put yourself in front of an audience, justify your decision and its consequences for others. In summary, to learn, with honesty and a critical spirit.

By supporting these events and encouraging your employees to attend, no matter if they are contributors or not, you are helping them grow while, at the same time, you are helping those key communities to keep on rolling. As a guadec_2012_group_photoconsequence, you are helping yourself too as an organization.

Three benefits for the price of one, and a cheap price.

I work for one of those companies, Codethink. We are strong in embedded, specially in Automotive. There are plenty of industry events we could invest our money in, getting an immediate value when done right. And we do invest in some. But these community-driven events are still a key part of our strategy. It is good for the business, because it is very good for our people.

In 2017 alone, Codethink has sponsored and/or helped in the organisation of FOSDEM, GUADEC, DebConf, several PyCon events, OpenStack meetups.. . On top of that, Codethink has a policy whereby each employee gets financial support and days off to attend such events. We are not the only company with this kind of strategies. There should be many more though. Obviously for an 80 people company, this is a serious investment. But after 10 years Codethink has demonstrated that this support is not a way of sharing profit, but a core business action.

My colleagues, as well as myself, learn, grow, share, refute, discuss aakademy-2009-group-photond interact with some of the most talented developers (professionals) in the world at these events, taking advantage of an environment that no enterprise event can match. We recharge our batteries, open our eyes, ask ourselves key questions about our work and our careers, about our managers and colleagues, and about our own company. We learn what others do and how they do it, comparing the possibilities their companies provide them to ours. We interact with young developers, reflect on ourselves some years back, getting a different perspective of ourselves and our careers, etc. We grow as individuals and as professionals, so Codethink grows as organization.

It is like a cold shower in the morning. You do not know how good it is until you get dressed.

Obviously Codethink is far from perfect. There is plenty of room for improving these actions and the return we all get out of them, but overall it pays off, no question about it.

So next time you think about your sponsorship strategy and the participation of your colleagues in Open Source conferences, think about community driven events and give them a try. Ask your employees which are the good ones if you do not know them. They will tell you. Even better, attend with them. It will help you to understand the revolution Open Source represents at a completely different level, as well as the profound impact these events have over those who attend.

Like being a parent, you have to live it in order to get it. And Codethink gets it.


This article was published at the Codethink Ltd blog on July 31st, edited by Richard Canner.


Blog posts about Codethink’s participation at CIP, a Linux Foundation initiative


The last few months a couple of articles written by me and edited by colleagues at Codethink has been publishedat the Codethink Blog and the CIP blog.

CIP, which is an acronym for Civil Infrastructure Platform is a Linux Foundation initiative focused in creating and maintaining an industrial Grade system. Codethink is a founder member of such initiative and currently is responsible for the maintenance of the kernel and the testing project.

The first blog post, Why Codethink Is A Founder Member Of Civil Infrastructure Platform, A Linux Foundation Initiative explains the reasons behind collaborating in such initiative while the second one, B@D And Forthcoming Challenges is an update of the activity Codethink is carrying on within the project.