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.

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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…

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 kernelci.org. 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 kernelci.org 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.

akademy-2017-group-photo

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.