Sightseeing

I started my Monday morning by paying a visit to the 🏛 Berliner Schloss (Palace of Berlin). When I saw the construction site in 2011 they had only laid out the foundations and I wanted to check how much progress had been made. The walls are still exposed raw concrete in places, but the building is taking shape and built up to the roof. While it’s nothing compared to the 500 years it took to build the Strasbourg Cathedral, it is impressive that something can take such a long time to make.

Another thing I had seen in 2011 and wanted to go back to was the 🏛 Denkmal zur Bücherverbrennung am 10. Mai 1933 (Nazi book burning memorial) on Bebelplatz. I was moved when I stood there the first time, and once again this time. The event it refers to has such a powerful impact to me, and the monument succeeds at capturing it.

I quickly visited Gendarmenmarkt and Pariserplatz (where the famous Brandenburg gate stands), then moved to an area of the city I had not previously had time to explore. I went to see the 🏛 Reichstag, 🏛 Bundestag, 🏛 Bundeskanzleramt and 🏛 House of the cultures of the world. Unfortunately that’s when the rain decided to make a come back, so I didn’t really get to enjoy the view as much as I expected, but the massive buildings were still interesting to see.

… and back again

The main reason the trip on the way in was so adventurous was that there were renovations on some parts of the route and the trains weren’t running as per the usual schedule. That was last week and didn’t apply anymore this week. I was able to book a nightjet, which is a sleeper coach, i.e. a night train with beds. I wouldn’t say it was great, but it was alright. If you ever have to get on such a train, expect a hostel-like experience with bunk beds and tight shared space. It left at 23:10 and took me from Berlin all the way to Offenburg. The remaining part of the trip was a 25 minutes ride on a regional train. I was home at 7:30, fresh and ready to start my day of work.

Bad decisions make great stories.

I do not regret the development of the eastbound trip (and I didn’t have that many alternatives anyway) but I have to say it was nice having a smoother end to this journey.

Posted 2017-10-14 23:16:10 CEST

Last weekend we held a GNOME Foundation hackfest in Berlin, as planned in August. That means not just a hackfest organised by the foundation, but to improve the foundation itself. Many of the topics we had to cover are interconnected and it’s a challenge to untangle it all and sort it out. Being in the same room, with a projector and a whiteboard, helped a lot. Many thanks to Kinvolk who let us use their 🏢 meeting area for three days.

We are great at setting work for ourselves, less so at getting that work done. This doesn’t mean that we are not doing anything, rather that we have a hard time getting things done quickly enough that the list doesn’t keep growing. A goal was thus to remedy that situation.

To achieve that, one of the main areas we focused on was putting policies in place so that some things work themselves out and the board gets more time to work on other tasks. Indeed many questions required board intervention until now when it wasn’t actually necessary. As an example, our Director of Operations would have needed us to vote for her to be able to buy enveloppes to send letters as part of her day to day work. That was kind of silly and the newly approved policies will put an end to that. They will be propagated to the appropriate places (wiki pages, mailing lists…) in the coming weeks.

Our Executive Director was instrumental in making this happen. His feedback and proposals enabled us to have something concrete and clear that we could discuss, adjust, and agree on.

We reviewed the status of our ongoing action items and managed to do quite some clean up, as you’ll be able to tell if you read the minutes of the next meeting we’ll have. Although I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to spend more time on that part, we also managed to actually work on some action items and cross them off.

This event allowed us to make great progress. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a clean slate, but it’s pretty close. I’m looking forward to the next time we meet in person and I’m happy that we plan on doing it more often than the traditional yearly Board meeting at GUADEC.

Posted 2017-10-10 18:21:22 CEST

This article is part one of three about my trip to Berlin, Germany, for the GNOME Foundation hackfest. It tells the story of what happened while going there. Part 2 focuses on the hackfest itself and part 3 is about what happened after.

Adventure time (or there…)

My journey started at 22:58 on Wednesday night at the train station near my home where I hopped on the first 🚆 of three trains. About 25 minutes later I was in Offenburg and the second 🚆 train was only 80 minutes later. I went to a waiting room to try and use that time to get some sleep, as I knew the night was going to be a complicated one. 40 minutes later, the sound of the automatic doors opening got me out of my sleep. I struggled to open my eyes and looked in the direction whence the sound came. Two armoured guys were decisively walking towards me and talking fast in German at me. My brain was still half shut down and even though it’s not exactly true the only words I managed to painfully mumble were „Ich… spreche… nicht… Deutsch” —“I don’t speak German”. They both formulated several proposals at the same time, but the only one I succesfully parsed was “English” to which I replied —again, painfully— “yes”. They introduced themselves as “federal police” and asked for my passport. I noded, grabbed my wallet in my pocket and mumbled “err, ID card?”. They asked where I was from, and since the answer was France they acknowledged an ID card was indeed enough. With said ID in his hand, one of them called on his cell phone, stated in German that he had one person along with my last name and ID card number. A few seconds later he hung up, handed me back my card and thanked me. His colleague told me « Bonne soirée » but my brain was already back in standby mode and I couldn’t articulate a reply. My conclusion to this little story is that context switching is quite difficult, even more so when it takes you by surprise and you’re not in a normal state.

Then I was off to a two hour trip to Frankfurt where I had to wait for three hours until the last leg 🚄. The Frankfurt train station is really not an appropriate place to stay for that long in the middle of the night. They don’t have enough seats and you’re exposed to the winds everywhere you go, so it gets really cold. I sadly didn’t find a proper solution and the only thing I can recommend is to not end up in this situation.

🎸 gear testing

I got out of the Friedrichstrasse train station at 10:00 and headed straight to Just Music on Moritzplatz because I saw them listed as official dealers on the Victory Amps website and I’ve been wanting to try out one of their VX the Kraken for so long now. My only request when it came to the guitar to use for the session was “something with EMG pickups” and I was handed a LTD EC-401FM which is very similar to my F-400FM. I wasn’t a fan of the way the neck pickup sounded though. That felt weird at first because I thought it was the same configuration as what I was used to, but after looking at the specs it turns out it has a 60 there (paired with an 81) while mine has two 81s. What I was a fan of on the other hand was the sounds I got out of the mythical beast! I takes a bit of tweaking to get them, but that didn’t take too long. Bea’s signature amp promises the best of two worlds with two gain channels providing respectively a British and a US type of sound, and it delivers. Turning the gain down gives nice pushed cleans, adding to the versatility of the tiny monster (the form factor is quite small compared to other heads). I was only playing in drop D so it wasn’t as obvious as it would have been with the lower B of my 7 string guitar, but I briefly tried the bass focus switch and the result was interesting. After about an hour of playing, I sadly had to reply “not today” when I was asked if I would like to buy it, but I now have confirmed that this is on my “someday” rig wish list. I didn’t leave empty handed though as I need to restring my LTD for the upcoming demo recording session for my band, so I got a Skinny top heavy bottom set (10-46 from Ernie Ball), as well as a bottle of lemon oil (Dunlop formula 65) to give my fretboard the clean up it deserves. Sadly they didn’t have the 01 clean/prep and 02 conditionner products, and the guy behind the counter didn’t even seem to understand what I was on about when I mentioned them. I’ll have to source them from my favourite local store, which is a good excuse to visit the new location they moved in at the beginning of the month.

End of day

In the afternoon I visited Hackescher Platz and the Hackesche Höfe. That neighbourhood has a few inner courtyards („Hof”), sometimes interconnected, with businesses like stores or restaurants. This lovely architecture pattern gives a sense of community and intimacy.

Next I went back to Alexanderplatz, took the S-Bahn to Ostbahnhof and walked from there to the appartment we are renting. The end of the day reminded me of the chapter introducing the dwarves in Tolkien’s “The hobbit”. I chilled out a bit with Meg, Neil and Nuritzi, then we went for drinks and Zeeshan joined, then for dinner at Lemon leaf where the group expanded to include Lennart, Kai and Cosimo. Finally as we got back to the accommodation we met with Zana, Allan and Carlos who managed to make it despite the windstorm that had started in the late afternoon and got trains and planes delayed.

Posted 2017-10-07 10:31:40 CEST

GNOME 3.26 was released yesterday.

As for the 20th birthday party we had a month ago and a year and a half after the previous release party we had here, we gathered with a few local LUG members to have some drinks and celebrate at Brasserie le Scala. I summed up the newest additions to the environment, advocated for Flatpak, and we discussed many more topics around pints of local craft beer.

Posted 2017-09-21 08:50:30 CEST

I’ve been teaching at the University of Strasbourg since spring 2011, first at the Institute of Technology where I studied, later at the Faculty of Computer science. Today was my first day for the fall 2017 semester. This year I’ll be teaching Algorithms and data structures (C++) to third year math students, Development techniques (a bit meta, about VCS, compilation, debuggers…) to second year CS students and Introduction to Web programming (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) to first year CS students.

People often get confused when I tell them that I teach at the University, but then I tell them it’s not my job. I already have a full time job, teaching is something I do on the side.

Why do you do it then if it’s not your job? Oh, there must be good money in it!

Well, sure, I’m paid to do it. Compared to the amount of work and time it takes it’s really not that much though. In fact, if you’re only thinking of doing it because of the money, I’d recommend you find something else. Why do I do it then? Because I care. Because I think it’s important that people I’ll be working with tomorrow get quality education, and because I think I’m good at it (and from the feedback I had so far it seems I’m right).

Whenever I think about teaching, I always go back to the great Taylor Mali who tells us What teachers make.

If you’re not familiar with his work, I recommend you fix that as soon as possible. Many of his poems are available on Youtube.

Now here’s to a great year for all of you going back to school!

Posted 2017-09-11 12:44:11 CEST

20 years ago, Miguel and Federico created GNOME.

We had an early party during GUADEC at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. I organized a local one in Strasbourg yesterday with the help of Marie-France, a student who was already behind the logistics of the Sympa hackfest. It was part of a string of similar events around the world.

Marie-France baked us an awesome cake. We had a love wall, a longtime tradition at GNOME events that the locals weren’t used to, but they sure appreciated it!

Stickers that I brought back from GUADEC got dispatched and brought smiles to the faces of attendees.

Posted 2017-08-17 19:34:01 CEST

Manchester is a puzzling city. On one hand you have lots of abandonned buildings, with black painted facades and big chains with locks on the doors. Some old brick buildings seem to fall to pieces.

On the other hand you have lots of new development. Many skyscrapers are being built. Sam told me that the city was thriving, especially with the economic situation in London making Manchester an attractive alternative.

Even though we had a greaty party at the Museum of Science and Industry, we didn’t really get to visit it. It’s a bit sad, as Manchester is a significant place in the history of Computer science, with inventions such as the Baby and dwellers such as Alan Turing.

Manchester prides itself with the importance music has for it, and if you dig a bit you’ll find a plethora of bands coming from there. It is a bit unfortunate that I didn’t get to be more exposed to the local musical heritage.

Of course this is England, you’ll be reminded of it by its black cabs and double deckers, but also by a few silly things. As another French dude said a while back:

Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of a silly person! I blow my nose at you, so-called “Arthur King,” you and all your silly English K-nig-hts.

Some places have two taps! Cold and hot water are separated. All power outlets also have individual switches. Foreigners can be deceived into thinking their laptop or phone is charging when it’s not.

Food was good, albeit expensive, even though I didn’t have that many “typical” dishes. The only ones that comes to mind, apart from the awesome full English breakfasts at the venue, are the black pudding with lentils I had on the first day and the fish and chips I had with some friends before I had to leave for the airport.

Posted 2017-08-11 17:29:11 CEST

Unconference

Monday morning started with the engagement BoF. We covered a lot of ground and all have many things to work on for the next few months.

I spent most of the remaining time with the friendly bunch, giving my opinion on various documentation related topics, but not actually doing much documentation work apart from fixing a few wiki pages. Instead, I played around with the new glade UI, pondering how far along one can go with it and close to no code when working on the wireframe for an application.

Unfortunately I had to leave by the end of the second day as I needed to go back home to save the world.

GUADEC organization

The conference seemed to run flawlessly. There is usually quite a bunch of last minute hiccups and you see organizers quite stressed, but I haven’t noticed it this year. Granted I was not following as closely as I was during the three previous editions, so some things may have escaped my attention. Kudos to the organization team, the standing ovation during the closing session was well deserved.

Posted 2017-08-09 21:29:11 CEST

After the first two days of hard work, I was already feeling kind of burnt out by the start of GUADEC. This year I was only vaguely involved with the organization, way less than the 2016 and obviously 2014 instances of the event, so I could afford to stand back a bit and enjoy the conference like a regular attendee. The only help I provided was by volunteering to record some of the videos and that simply means attending talks, which I planned to do anyway.

During the opening we were told about an ongoing game for the duration of the conference. Attendees had been secretly assigned to four different houses and could be rewarded with points for asking questions during talks or on other such occasions. I learnt that I had been designated as Turquoise House lead. My guess was that meant I had been officially stamped as an old fart and sure enough, I was handed my “Old farts club” sticker by Bastien a bit later.

By the way, did you know you can adopt me?

Talks I attended

Michael asked us to “Please use GNOME Web”. I have to confess I am only using it part time and I am very slowly converting from Firefox. I like my overall experience with Web more, but it’s not up to the task for everything yet. My main blockers for now are the lack of WebRTC support (which is coming… eventually), the way large numbers of tabs are handled (I have almost 400 tabs currently open in my Firefox window, neatly separated with Tab groups), and the ease with which I can remove noise from my history via the address bar (when a non relevant suggestion like diff views of a wiki page or old blog articles shows up I can just highlight it and press the Del key). We’re getting there though!

Christian told us about the “State of the Builder”. No big surprise for me here as I follow development quite closely, building and using master regularly and of course hanging out with the development team in the chatroom. It was nice seeing the reactions from the audience though.

In her keynote, Karen explored the way we fight “The battle over our technology”. My main takeaway was that we all have our personal reasons to fight for free software and we should each take some time to think about what those are to find more energy to keep fighting.

In “Progressive Web Apps: an opportunity for GNOME”, Stephen explained how with a few tweaks in Epiphany we could get said PWA integrated and feel more at home in our environment. Michael was in the audience and reacted positively. The two will probably be working together in the near future to make this happen. This echoes with Michael saying hacking on Epiphany was relatively easy, and with the friendliness to newcomers we claim.

The “Atomic workstation” presentation by Kalev gave details on their plan and current status for the post-distro world Owen already hinted at last year. I like how he showed GNOME Software integration and said:

For people who have been using GNOME Software, it doesn’t look anything special… and that’s the whole idea.

The timeline for it to be production ready seems quite long, but it’s good to see progress happening.

Day 2 started with Martin’s “Fantastic layouts and where to find them”. He demonstrated Emeus and constraints based layout for user interfaces. I discovered Apple’s Visual Format Language (one of the two ways to defined constraints with Emeus) and was quite impressed by it. I am looking forward to seeing how having that in GTK+ 4 will spark new designs in upcoming applications, and how this will help achieve responsive design in desktop applications.

Although the GNOME part of Michael’s “LibreOffice and GNOME” was smaller than I expected, it was good to see the current state of LibreOffice Online and I’m looking forward to having it integrated with the GNOME Nextcloud instance.

Despite being under the weather and the hardware throwing a tantrum, Matthew did a good job at introducing the audience to “Decentralised open communication with Matrix.org”. Matrix has replaced Jabber and IRC for me since early June and I’m very happy with it.

As GNOME turns 20, Jonathan recounted “The History of GNOME”. This hour long talk felt too short! Even for someone who’s been around in the community, there were gems one may not have known about. I am very thankful this was put together and I had a great time. The fact that he didn’t talk about it conforted me in knowing that there is no Swedish conspiracy. The most important milestone to me was the release of GNOME 1.4 as that’s when we established one of our core traditions:

From here on out, GNOME only removes features.

Not convinced? Just read our release notes!

That history lesson was followed by Neil’s forecast. Our recently hired Executive director shared his vision for “GNOME to 2020 and beyond”.

We took a quick break and came back for the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting.

We had our usual team reports, I gave the translation one.

Then we went out to shoot the traditional group photo.

And it was time for a Q&A session with the Board.

No talk for me on the morning of day 3 which I spent here and there, talking to various people about various things.

I went to the session where our transition to GitLab was discussed. I feel good about the direction this is taking and the way GitLab treats communities like ours.

The open talk about Pipewire by Wim was quite short. I’m not sure what to think of it yet, I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

“How to get better mileage out of Glade” is a question I’ve been asking myself from time to time, so I was glad that Juan Pablo talked about it. He’s done some good work to make it more modern and the future looks bright. I need to spend some time playing with it.

The lightning talks were good and covered lots of topics. My favorite ones are the ones that could be deemed off-topic, like Kat’s about keeping chickens, or the one where Neil fights Zeeshan’s helicopters with his airplanes. I wish we had more. I would actually enjoy attending a day full of lightning talks!

Posted 2017-08-07 18:29:11 CEST

This article is part one of four, each focusing on a different aspect of my trip to Manchester, United Kingdom, for the 2017 edition of the GUADEC conference. Sponsorship from the GNOME Foundation has made it possible for me to attend, thanks a lot!

This one is about the days before the conference. Part 2 is about the talks. Part 3 is about the unconference days and the overall conference experience. Part 4 is about my touristic experience in the country.

Early arrival

My travel experience was unusual as my journeys generally have a first trip from Strasbourg airport to Amsterdam if there is no direct flight to my destination, but this time I flew with Air France via the Charles de Gaulle airport. The first leg was on a TGV from Strasbourg central train station to CDG. Air France was taking care of the whole trip, which means my train had a flight number! I checked in and left my luggage at the Air France desk located in the train station. It felt weird hopping on the train without my suitcase but it’s nice not to have to carry it around. I was handed my plane boarding pass at the train station as well, thus when I arrived at the airport I could just head straight to security check and then to my gate. I reckon this is the first time taking a plane felt that straightforward, so big kudos to Air France. Oh and I was also handed a voucher to redeem a drink on the train, which was definitely appreciated. The only minor let down was the lack of Wi-Fi on the train, but I was still able to hack so all was good.

Then to contrast with the excellent service of Air France I was confronted with that of the British railway companies, as one has to take the train to get from the airport to the city of Manchester. I was welcomed by a few non working ticket vending machines, and a line to the working ones. Next I had to figure out what train would take me to my destination, Manchester Oxford Road. I couldn’t find that information from the displays as the only info they had about each train was the final destination. Not super useful when one doesn’t know the various routes (and given this train station is at an airport, I’m willing to bet a large proportion of the people there are in that situation). I could get a few seconds of attention from a person who was busy checking tickets from people heading to the platforms and they told me which train to look for. While I was waiting on the corresponding platform, I could hear the announcements for the cancellation of three trains I should have taken. A local told us tourists on the pier that it was “typical and expected of British railway companies” and we should just wait for the announcements as eventually there would be a train for us. After an hour at the train station, I finally caught a train and headed to my hotel where I chilled out for a bit and then crashed.

On Wednesday we had a full day board meeting at MadLab. It was productive, but felt too short as we had many items on our agenda we didn’t have time to cover. The board usually meets in person once a year (at GUADEC) and we think it would be good to do it more often, as we get much more done in such a focused event than we do when we have to accommodate other bits of our respective schedules during a standard week. That’s why we hope we can hold a hackfest sometime soon to work on some of our pending tasks.

Amongst the tasks we did do was the election of officers. Nuritzi and Allan retain their positions as Chair and Vice chair. Cosimo and I switched seats, I am now Secretary and he’s Vice secretary. Carlos is taking on the Treasurer role and our outgoing board member Shaun very kindly accepted the position of Assistant treasurer to share his valuable experience with him.

We met on Tuesday at the same location but with our Advisory board this time. This is an opportunity for us to keep them up to date on what the community has been busy with in the past year, and for them to tell us about their work and expectations, but also to discuss amongst themselves ways they could work together towards common goals. If your organization wants to be part of these exchanges and support GNOME, get in touch with us!

As the day ended, I went to check in at the accommodation and then headed to the early bird party at Kro bar. As usual, it was good to see so many familiar faces, but quite a few new ones too!

I collected my badge, grabbed a local beer, chatted with and hugged people as I met them, and even did a really quick interview for our social media. That night was a lot of fun and a good conclusion to those two pre-conference days!

Posted 2017-08-02 08:09:11 CEST

Sympa hackathon

GUADEC 2016

Pre-GUADEC 2016

Musikmesse Frankfurt

GNOME 3.20 release party in Strasbourg

Casey Neistat

DX hackfest, day 3

DX hackfest, day 2

DX hackfest, day 1

GUADEC organization hackfest in Karlsruhe

GUADEC 2015, part 4: Göteborg, Svenska

GUADEC 2015, part 3: the BoF sessions

GUADEC 2015, part 2: the talks

GUADEC 2015, part 1: the conference

GNOME.Asia 2015, part 3: Indonesia

GNOME.Asia 2015, part 2: the talks

GNOME.Asia 2015, part 1: the conference