J On The Beach: a great event

I have been at many software events and have helped or have been part of the organization in a few of them. Based on that experience and the fact that I have participated in the last two editions, let me tell you that J On The Beach is a great event.

The main factors that leads me to such a conclusion are:

  • It is all about contents. I have seen many events that, over time, loose the focus on the quality of the contents. It is a hard focus to keep, specially as you grow. @JOTB19 had great content: well delivered talks and workshops, performed by bright people with something to say which was relevant to the audience.
    • I think the event has not reached its limit yet, specially when it comes to workshops.img5
    • Designing the content structure to target the right audience is as important as bringing speakers with great things to say. As any event matures, tough decisions will need to be taken in order to find its own space and identity among outstanding competitors.
      • When it comes to themes, will J On The Beach keep targeting several topics, or will it narrow them to one or two? Will they always be the same or will they rotate?
      • When it comes to size, will it grow or will it remain in the current numbers? Will the price increase or will be kept in the current range?
      • When it comes to contents, will the event focus more energy and time allocation on the “hands on” learning sessions or will workshops be kept as relevant compared to the talks, as they are today?  Will the talks length be reduced? Will we see lightning talks?
  • J On The Beach was well organised. A good organization is not the one that does not run into any trouble but the one that handles them smoothly so there is little or no perceived impact. This event has a diligent team behind it, based on the little/no impact I perceived.
  • Support from local companies. As Málaga matures as software hub, more and more companies arrive to this area expecting to grow in size, so the need to attract local talent grows in parallel.
    • Some of these foreign companies understand how important it is to show up in local events to be known by as many local developers as possible. J On The Beach has captured the attention of several of these companies.
    • The organizers have understood this reality and support them to use the event to openly  recruit people. This symbiotic relation is a very productive one from what I have witnessed.
    • It is a hard relation to sustain though, specially if the event does not grow is size, so probably in the future the current relation will need to add additional common interests to remain productive for both sides.
  • Global by default. Most events in Spain have traditionally been designed for Spaniards first, turning into more global events as they grow. J On The Beach is global by default, by design, since day 1. It is harder to succeed that way, but beyond the activation point it turns out to be easier to become sustainable. The organizers took the risk and have reached that point already, which provides the event a bright future in my opinion.
    • The fact that the event is able to attract developers from many countries, specially from eastern European ones, makes J On The Beach very attractive to foreign companies already located in Málaga, from the recruitment perspective. Málaga is a great place not just to work in English but also to live in English. There are well established communities from many different countries in the metropolitan area, due to how strong the touristic industry is here. These factors, together with others like logistics, affordable living costs, good public health care system, sunny weather, availability of international and multilingual schools, etc., reduce the adaptation effort when relocating,  specially for developer’s families. J On The Beach brings tasty fishes to the pond.

Let me name a couple of points that can make the event even better:

  • img10It is very hard to find a venue that fits any event during its consolidation phase and evolves with it. This edition’s venue represents a significant improvement compared to last year edition. There is room for improvement though.
    • It would be ideal to find a place in Málaga itself, closer to where the companies are located and places to hang out after the event, which at the same time, keep the good things the current venue/location provides, which are plenty.
    • Finding the right venue is tough. There are decision-making factors that participants do not usually see but are essential like costs, how supportive the venue staff and owners are, accommodation availability in the surrounding area, availability on the selected dates, etc. It is one of the most difficult points to get right, in my experience.                       img1
  • Great events deserve great keynote speakers. They are hard to get but often reflects the difference between great and must-attend events.
    • Great keynote speakers does not necessarily mean popular ones. I see already celebrities in bigger and more expensive events. I would love to see in Málaga old time computer science cowboys.  I mean those first class engineers who did something relevant some time ago and have witnessed the evolution of our industry and their own inventions. They are able to bring a perspective that very few can provide, extremely valuable in these fast pace changing times. Those gems are harder to see at big/popular events and might be a good target for a smaller, high quality event. I think that it would be a great sign of success if such a kind of professionals come to talk at J On The Beach.

I am very glad there is such a great event close to where I live. J On The Beach is not just worth for local developers but also for those abroad. I attend to several events in other countries every year with more name but less value than J On The Beach. It will definitely be on my 2020 agenda. Thanks to every person involved in making it possible.

Pictures taken from the J On The Beach website.

New meetup group in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain

One of the reasons I joined Codethink was that I could work from my home island, La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. Sadly, a few month after joining, I came to the conclusion that me travel agenda was not compatible with living in one of the smallest islands. There were no good enough internet either back then. I had to choose between moving to one of the most populated islands (Tenerife or Gran Canaria) or move to another place. I ended up choosing Málaga, in the mainland of Spain, where I lived some years back already.

I still visit the island in summer and Christmas though, when my job activity is lower and work remotely from there. Last year the optic fiber finally arrived to my place since coversage is slowly increasing. There is no coworking spaces yet but the digital nomad movement is so hot in other islands that it is just a matter of time that it develops here too. This island has so much to offer…

But there is some homework to be done. The first one to create a community of people pasionate about technology, formed by those who lives here and those who visit the island regularly or ocassionally. From there, it might be possible to attract new visitors.

So after some thoughts and conversations with friends, I decided to try out a Mettup group in La Palma. There are no active ones. This new group is called:

San Miguel de La Palma tech lovers

La Palma is a popular name and many mistake it with Las Palmas, the biggest city and capital of Gran Canaria, so I used the full official name of my home islnad island, San Miguel de La Palma, to (hopefully) avoid misunderstandings.

I do not have previous experience organising Meetup groups but I am not new to organising tech events so I hope I can do well enough to kick-off a group, where others can feel welcome and take the lead in organising activities and even managing the group.

This island have a numerous German and nothern europpean community that live here during part of the year so it is my intention to organise the group as a multilanguage one, which makes things harder at the beginning. When it comes to topics, the scope of the group needs to be wide at the beginning since the potential target is small in number and disperse in interests. Time will tell if we can focus on two or three topics like remote work, Open Source, programming, etc.

I would like to complement talks and workshops with other activities like hiking or mountain biking which are extremely popular in the island.

So this is just the initial step in a journey I will enjoy. Feel free to join the meetup group. Hopefully we will announce the first activity in the coming weeks.

Back from Akademy 2018. What an event!

A few days back I wrote about Akademy 2018 and my expectations and duties at the event. This is a report based on that previous post.

Akademy 2018 in Vienna, Austria, has been the best one in I’ve attended to in recent years. We event got a record number of sponsors, Codethink among them, and some of them for the very first time, which is always a good sign. The organization went smooth, the location was comfortable and several talks were very good. As a point to improve, I would mention the location of the Sunday party (sorry, social event), which was small for so many people.

Codethink as sponsor

This Akademy there were more first timers than in previous editions. Most of them knew nothing about Codethink. So being a sponsor allowed me to talk for 3-4 minutes to the audience, right before the closure, about what Codethink does, specially about the FOSS projects freedesktop-sdk and BuildStream. I will write more about them in the near future.

Representing Codethink also allowed me to attend to the sponsors dinner. I have attended to several of them before, either as a KDE eV Board Member, as the local organiser or as a sponsor representative (SUSE and now Codethink). This one worked very well. I was sit by the openSUSE Leap release manager Ludwig Nussel, former colleague of mine, Chris Lamb, Debian Lead and Alan Pope from Canonical, which allowed us to have interesting conversations about topics like reproducible builds, telemetry in distros, automotive systems, upstream events, etc. I also had the opportunity to introduce BuildStream to them.

Flatpak – Snap BoF

As part of my duties at the event I participated in the Flatpak – Snap workshop to introduce briefly the work Codethink is sponsoring on freedesktop-sdk and BuildStream:

  • freedesktop SDK 1.8 was just released before Akademy. flatpak-gnome and kde runtimes are based on it.
  • freedesktop SDK uses BuildStream as build tool. The integration team at GNOME too. So it was about time to talk about the project among KDE people. When it comes to build tools, the key selling point for BuildStream within KDE community is the advantage of creating a single set of definitions (recipes) and get different outputs like flatpaks, rpm-deb packages and hopefully in the future, snaps. Outputs depend on plugins that can be developed and maintained by contributors to BuildStream if they are not already available.
  • I am happy with the response BuildStream got and hopefully after the coming v1.2 release the project will support some KDE contributors in trying out the tool. It will be interesting also to support the KDE community in building the flatpak-kde runtime.

BuildStream

I introduced BuildStream to several developers. In general, very few knew anything about it which is not surprising since, except among the GNOME community, we have barely made any noise about the project. The coming release will help us to start mitigating this issue. The KDE community produces flatpaks, snaps, .deb and .rpm packages, has Yocto recipes… . A tool set that provides you all these outputs by maintaining a single sets of definitions, being simple to install, update and maintain, becomes attractive at first sight. The challenge is major, but a nice one to face.

Third edition of the Freedesktop Summit?

Several years ago, driven by Alison Lortie and sponsored by openSUSE, I organised the first freedesktop event ever. The following year I participated in the organization of the second one, that also took place in Nürnberg, Germany. During Akademy I talked to some people that might be interested in participating in a new edition. I did have some conversations around this topic at GUADEC too so, although it is still nothing but an idea, I will invest a few cycle to mature it. Who knows, maybe we can organise a third edition of the event next year.

KDE for automotive

As you know, I have been advocating at KDE for putting effort to showcase our software in automotive R&D and pre-production environments, knowing that Qt is the default graphic toolkit in the industry. Last year I provided a lightning talk about it which, together with the improvements in Plasma Mobile, triggered the interest of some developers at KDE, which are professionally involved in Qt companies working in embedded/automotive already. We had a BoF back then and we created a roadmap to shorten the gap between what we had and what would be interesting to show in such environments.

Andreas Cord-Landwehr and Volker Krause has managed to create two Yocto recipes together with the infrastructure to update them regularly. Both had a talk at Akademy. Andreas introduced the audience to Yocto and talked about the created recipes while Volker showed during a lightning talk the plasma mobile shell working on a RPi3 with the Raspberry 7″ touchscreen.

At the BoF we evaluated the technical, coordination and promo actions taken as well as the coming ones. The ultimate goal for the coming year is to showcase at different events KDE apps on top of Plasma mobile on automotive dev as well as to increase the attention of more KDE developers on embedded as a potential target market for KDE software.

I am excited about this progress. I believe putting some effort to move towards embedded can bring more attention and new energy to KDE.

KDE E.V. AGM

I participated at the annual KDE eV AGM (general assembly) on Monday August 13th. As you know the KDE eV AGM is a close doors one, so private. It was a good move to provide room during the event for the working groups to summarise the work they have done. These reports used to be done during the assembly. As consequence, the AGM was shorter.

There used to be a time in which the KDE eV AGM was long and tedious. Over the years we have put effort in making it shorter and more dynamic. Mission accomplished.

openSUSE

It was great to meet all timers but also new openSUSE contributors. I could take some time to talk about points that require some attention in the distro, learn about the improvements on the delivery process that has been implemented on Leap 15, some of the actions in progress and future plans. Finally I did not update the Leap version in my working laptop (a Slimbook) because I had more work than expected during the event. I will update it during the coming weeks. Overall I am happy with Leap 15 in my personal laptop (a Lenovo) so far.

Slimbook

I was happy to see Slimbook booth at the event. As you know I am a Slimbook happy customer. I had the chance to talk to other customers at the event and I would highlight how happy we are with the post-sale service they provide.

Did I mention I would like to have a 11″ SlimNoteBook. I definitely did to them.

Free Qt Foundation

I cannot get tired of telling everybody within KDE and specially outside the community how important is the Free Qt Foundation, not just for KDE and the Qt ecosystem, but also for the entire Free Software movement. I never loose the chance when I am among automotive professionals to highlight the enormous impact that this entity has on their businesses. There is still a lot to do to provide The Free Qt Foundation the attention it deserves. By the way, it is always a pleasure for me to talk to KDE e.V. representatives there, Martin Konold and Olaf Schmidt-Wischhöfer.

What a great contribution they do.

Other topics

Did I mention how cool it is to have Mycroft integrated with KDE? All the demos I have seen are so promising… openSUSE Tumbleweed has packages to enjoy Mycroft on Plasma. The same applies to having KDE software on phones. It seems that we will have Qt6 in 2020 and that the transition from Qt5 is planned to be smooth. Breaking things when updating is never a good strategy in my opinion.

I love KDE Connect and I had the chance to learn about some coming new features, which is always a plus for coming to Akademy.

Sebas and Valorie got awards this year. Well deserved, as the rest of the winners. I like the fact that we as community, put some effort in recognising those who make significant contributions to the project.

I could have chats with people that I respect, new developers, key contributors… . As I said, a great event.

Thanks to the organisers

I will finish this Akademy 2018 report thanking the organization team who worked hard to make Akademy 2018 one of those hard to forget.

Thank you.

Codethink is sponsoring Akademy 2018 and I am attending.

Back in July 2017 I wrote a blog post, published by Codethink, explaining why is a good business to support community driven FOSS events. This post is related to that one.

akademyLogo4Dot

I will be attending to Akademy 2018. It will take place in Vienna, Austria, from August 11th to 17th. I will be there representing Codethink, which is a proud sponsor of this 2018 edition.

I attend regularly to Akademy since, as most of you know, I have been an active contributor, a user of the software, a supporter of some of their activities and/or a KDE e.V. member for some time now. I learn a lot during this event, and not just about KDE related topics.

This edition has several specific points of interest to me:

  • I am involved in a project called BuildStream, a FOSS integration tool for declarative systems and applications. Currently its main user are the GNOME integration team and the Freedesktop SDK project. We would like to expand our user base among communities like KDE.
  • Freedesktop SDK are a platform and a SDK runtimes for flatpak apps and runtimes based on freedesktop modules. Several colleagues of mine are behind this project that is about to release a new version.
  • A year ago, during an Akademy BoF, some KDE contributors decided we wanted to put some effort towards enabling KDE software on automotive. This year the first modest results will be presented to the wider KDE community. I have been preaching about this move for some time now so it is exciting for me to see others involved and making progress.
  • I will attend to the KDE e.V. Annual General Assembly. KDE e.V. is the orga34f05-logo_kdenization that supports the KDE community which is an important activity.
  • I will update my working laptop from openSUSE Leap 42.3 to Leap 15, taking advantage of the presence at the event of a couple of former colleagues from the extinct openSUSE Team at SUSE, and Slimbook, the guys I bought my laptop from. Make sense, right?
  • Codethink is always looking for talent willing to move to Manchester, UK, or exceptionally, work remotely. Come talk to me if you might be interested.

It will be, as usual, a great event. See you all there.

A weekend at Akademy-es in Valencia

This past weekend I travelled to Valencia, the third biggest city in Spain, located by the Mediterranean sea, to attend to Akademy-es, the annual meeting of the KDE community in Spain. At this event we also hold the KDE Spain annual assembly.

KDE España is the legal entity behind the KDE community in Spain and legally represents KDE in my country. We are about 30 members and it was founded in 2009 although Akademy-es started a few years earlier.

akademy_group_photo_2018-05-13_10-10-34

Event highlights

These are the points that called my attention the most at this edition:

  • Many new faces: although I do not have the official numbers yet, my guess is that we had around 75-80 participants among the three days, mostly locals which means a median of 35-40 people in most talks. Most were new faces. KDE Spain designs this event not so much targeting contributors but newcomers and potential future community members. So having many new faces is a very good sign.
  • Slimbook: this company from Valencia, sponsored the event and participated in its organization. At their booth, they showed some of their new products. I really liked the new Katana II and the new KDE Slimbook II. They are already selling outside Spain (EU) and they have a small response window when customers has issues with their laptops or owners require an upgrade, even faster than most multinational brands.
    • My Slimbook had a little issue with the fan. It was a little noisy and it did not work perfectly. I agreed with the support service to bring my laptop to Akademy-es so the fan could be replaced there as part of the guarantee. Isn’t that cool or what? I got my laptop back in 30 minutes and meanwhile they explained to me the components used, some design and technical decisions they took for my Pro2 laptop and the evolution suffered by the new version of the model, which they were showing at the booth.
  • KDE Vaults: what a nice surprise! This is a fairly recent KDE future that will be shipped in openSUSE Leap 15, I believe that I will use it on daily basis. It basically allow you to encrypt a folder with standard encryption technology and it is integrated with Plasma.
  • Mycroft integration in KDE: I was glad to see that a power user like I am will be able to easily install and configure Mycroft in openSUSE Leap 15 and interact with it using the KDE Plasma applet.
  • Catch up with friends: every member of any community would claim that this is a highlight of a every community event. It is absolutely true. It always amaze my how diverse this group is in some aspects but how our passion for changing the world with KDE holds us together.
  • Valencia: this is a city I haven’t been often enough, with enough time to enjoy it. I should come in Fallas, the local (and crazy) party week. Paella, party and mascletás, what more can a guy like me ask for?
    • Slimbook Paella. What a nice paella we had at the event.dav
  • Support from my KDE colleagues: as I mentioned, I am a power user. My technical skills are limited. I have a few minor issues with my openSUSE Leap 43.2 that I am unable to fix them myself. Akademy-es is always an opportunity for me to get support from the experts and fix some of them, or at least get an explanation about why I have that issue, if it is fixed already in new versions or if I have to use a workaround.

Call for action

These are some points where I would like to call for action on them:

  • High resolution screens represent an issue when installing or booting most Linux distros, including openSUSE Leap. It is also a pain to configure multiscreen set-ups when the difference in resolutions between screens is high. The new openSUSE Leap version, Leap 15 represents a step forward to solve some of them but, from what I’ve heard there is still a way to go. There are several laptop models under $1000 out there already with these type of screens so I assume the priority to solve these issues for distro and desktop hackers will significantly increase. I have hope.
  • OEM installer: years ago I came to the conclusion that the reason why Linux desktops are not mainstream is because upstream mostly target those users who do not and will never install any operative system in their machines while Linux distros mostly target those who can install their own OS. Both would greatly benefit from targeting mainly the prescriptors, that is, those who install the operative systems of the users either in corporate or domestic environment. Let me put an example. Most Linux distros still do not have a OEM installer. I heard this demand again at Akademy-es, this time done by Alejandro López, Slimbook CEO, as a limiting factor to ship their laptops with some Linux distros pre-installed. I would like to see a OEM installer soon for openSUSE Leap.
  • Distro upgrade application: openSUSE Leap is a distro for users. Leap 15 is coming and it seems I will have to use YAST to change the repos in order to point to the new ones to upgrade my distro. Asking around, the situation is not better in most distros (they do not have YAST 🙂 ). Upgrading the distro through internet (network) is an awesome feature. Let’s make it affordable to everybody. I would like to see an application in openSUSE to manage this complex feature, making it suitable for any user not just power users. It could be a great opportunity too to inform those users about the benefits of the new version, including those apps that are available for the very first time, together with a simple path to install them.
  • Applications for Plasma Mobile: Plasma developers are achieving the long-awaited goal to get Plasma ready for mobiles. Now we need applications. Aleix Pol did a call for action on this regard and I fully support his cause. Without applications, it will way harder to make this effort shine.
  • Not enough women (diversity): although expected, we cannot stay conformist with the result at this event. Women need references to feel KDE as an even more inclusive and attractive place to learn and develop their skills. Maribel García, Directora de la Oficina de Software Libre de la Universidad de Granada (Director of the Free Software Office at the University of Granada), spoke about this, describing the activities this entity is doing to increase the interest among women about Free Software, pointing at an evidence, that KDE can and should do more to help. She also agreed, based on the ratio of women vs men studying Software Engineering at her University, that the root cause is at home and at the High School. She has published a study about this, she mentioned.
    • It is not the first time I hear this diagnosis. I know first hand that the KDE España board has made efforts to mitigate the lack of women speakers at this edition. The Board needs more help from the Membership and the wider KDE community. It is in everybody’s interest.

Overall, Akademy-es has been a good one. See you all at Akademy in summer or next year again at Akademy-es. Where? Who knows…