Finally I made it to some convention again. Last time I was at a convention was back in 2010. So it became FOSDEM this time and what should I say? It was really great.

Friday evening

I was especially excited to meet some of my fellow Gentoo developer colleagues and friday's "Beer Event" seemed to be the perfect start for this. Although being quite exhausted from my five hours ride by car it was a really nice evening chatting with my latest recruit ntnn as well as Whissi, dilfridge, mrueg, k_f, graaff, bircoph and lu_zero while having (a bit too much) beer. By the way, some of the belgian beer is really tasty.


So thanks to the Beer Event I made my first impression at FOSDEM by being one hour too late for my shift at the Gentoo stand. Admittedly it was not only the beer but also trying to find my way by car from the hotel to FOSDEM. Traffic in Brussels is really horrible.

Arriving at the stand, fortunately k_f and chithanh already took over and helped interested people "compiling" their own Gentoo buttons by giving them instructions on how to operate the button machine. The button machine turned out to be a big attraction for many FOSDEM visitors and combined with the great Gentoo table cloth provided by k_f, the stand had a real great look and might have been a great impression to the visitors.

So I took over my second half of the shift when some woman approached the stand being very kind and even shook hands with us Gentoo people. It turned out she is an employee at Intel doing Linux kernel testing with Gentoo Linux. To be hoest I was a bit stunned when I heard that and although I was tempted to talk with her about the recent Meltdown/Spectre disaster I changed my mind and instead asked her if there will ever be another release of the xf86-video-intel driver that hasn't seen a release for a couple of years already. She told me that she knows the guy at Intel who is the driver's maintainer and that she would talk about it with him. Ultimately this was a real great start to FOSDEM for me and it keept me being quite motivated for the rest of FOSDEM.
Later, some guy appeared at the stand talking about working on a new dependency resolver for Gentoo packages. If I remember correctly the resolver was not for a specific package manager but rather for being as thoroughly as possible providing the user with an end result of packages that can be installed rather than bailing out like portage does sometimes when the dependencies seem to be unsolvable. He is interested in getting portage configuration examples from different Gentoo installations for test-feeding those to his dependency resolver. Since I found his approach quite interesting, I referred him to the gentoo-dev mailing list and once he has sent his request to the list it would be nice if people could provide him with the requested data.

During the day I also met monsieurp, haubi, haubi's daughter, abailler and Soap. I visited some presentations (one together with monsieurp) but they all were not what I expected and at the end of the day I was a bit disappointed about them. I could not even visit the last presentation being on my list because the crew of the Gentoo stand wanted to shut down the stand and I left my notebook there while being on the presentations. Nevertheless my overall impression about Saturnday at FOSDEM was great.

After FOSDEM we had the Gentoo Dinner at a nice restaurant in Brussels (I forgot its name, sorry guys). This was mostly organized by xaviermiller who unfortunately could not make it to FOSDEM because of private matters but still wanted to meet with the Gentoo people. I had a great meal and a couple of really nice chats so this was a perfect finisher for a perfect day.


For sunday I hoped to attend some more interesting presentations and I should not become disappointed.
Starting with the GRUB upstream and distros cooperation presentation I learned that grub upstream is planning to implement a second - much less complicated - configuration language for grub. It's not intended to replace the current more complicated configuration language but rather being an alternative for people who don't need big, fancy setups. Furthermore they want to work more closely with downstreams so that distributions no longer have to apply lots of patches to their grub packages. As Gentoo already has the rule to send patches to upstream if possible, I was kind of happy seeing our current grub-2.02 package only applying one patch. We should expect grub-2.04 in the second half of 2018 and I'm looking forward to this release.

The next presentation that didn't disappoint me was Data integrity protection with cryptsetup tools which I was especially interested in because of my notebook having full disk encryption with dm-crypt + LUKS and I wondered if the new LUKS2 + data integrity is ready for production usage. In my opinion it's not yet ready as the only cipher combination that can be safely used decreases the read/write performance quite much. But new ciphers are around the corner and once their specs have been finished and the ciphers being fully developed this might change to the better.

Later I was at haubi's Unix? Windows? Gentoo! presentation which I visited because it was the only Gentoo related presentation at FOSDEM this year but in the end I learned quite a bit about Gentoo prefix in general and the new stuff that haubi is working on for Gentoo prefix. I must admit that I never took much care about Gentoo prefix because I never had a use case that required Gentoo prefix. But I learned at FOSDEM that Gentoo prefix seems to be quite an attractor for interested people and some visitors I talked to at the Gentoo stand were very interested in that specific part of Gentoo.

Somewhere around noon, Amynka showed up at the Gentoo stand. So I had the pleasure to finally meet one of our most active Gentoo recruiters as well. Unfortunately I missed a very well done prank she played on monsieurp but even getting told about it was quite hilarious.
While being in front of the Gentoo stand talking to some interested visitors, a guy walked by handing out Wireguard stickers. It turned out that he was zx2c4 who is not only a Gentoo developer but also the author behind Wireguard.

During the day I also went to the VideoLAN stand together with lu_zero in hope to win a T-Shirt. Unfortunately all I won was a foto with a guy wearing a traffic cone costume but at least that's better than nothing and the guy was really fun to talk to. I took the opportunity to talk to some VideoLAN guys about the not so good support of DVD menus in current stable VLC. They asked me to give their latest development release a try as they claimed to have done lots of work in improving DVD menu support in it. I will do so once I find the time to finally watch some DVD again.
Next to the VideoLAN stand was the stand of 0ad which I happen to do maintenance of the Gentoo package from time to time. Unfortunately I don't have much time playing that game although it's a really nice looking game. I told them about my issues with their (sorry guys) crappy build system and that I would love to see them doing some overhaul of it.
Finally I approached the mozilla stand talking to a thunderbird developer(?) about why Gentoo uses the thunderbird sources to provide the seamonkey package to our users. At the end I drifted a bit away expressing my concerns with latest firefox releases and why I think they did no big service to their users by removing the old extensions API.

I also met a CAcert guy at FOSDEM and we had a long chat about CAcert's current situation and its future which seems to be a bit uncertain right now. They are in desperate need of motivated people to support them in software development, support and assuring tasks. So if you are - like me - no friend of letsencrypt and still want some CA where you can get free certificates, please consider supporting CAcert. Not especially by donating money but by offering some of your time to help improving CAcert.


I should have done that earlier. Being away from such conventions for nearly eight years was definitely too long. It was a great pleasure meeting all those Gentoo developers (even if it was only for a couple of minutes like with zx2c4).
I'd love doing this more often but having new family liabilities makes it more complicated and also money plays a roll in this as well. Time will tell if I can make it to future conventions. At least I had a great weekend and lots of good new memories.