Archive for March, 2007

Saturday morning at FOSDEM

First thing on Saturday, Peter Hintjens gave a talk about the state of software patents in Europe. I think every FOSDEM I’ve been to has had such a talk; basically European free software hackers are waging a constant war against the various interests that would benefit from US-style patents. (If you’re interested in this or any of the other main talks, videos are available.)

Next up was Jim Gettys talking about OLPC. He had the biggest audience I’ve ever seen at FOSDEM. I didn’t take too many notes since this was very similar to Negroponte’s talk at the Red Hat Summit last year, they largely used the same slides.

Finally, for the main tracks, came Simon Phipps, who talked about Sun’s relationship to free software and also about OpenJDK. He gave a strong warning about software patents, including pointing out that free software community members who work for corporations are, most likely, patenting their efforts as they go along. Also he said that about 26% of Debian came from Sun — 3x more than IBM and 5x more than Red Hat. (I didn’t note the source of this, sorry.)

Simon announced that Sun had officially become a corporate patron of the FSF. And barring the somewhat medieval feel of those words, this seems like a good thing to me. He asked, “why do you still hate us?”, which got a big laugh, but I guess which in a way answers itself.

Seriously, I encounter a lot of dislike of Red Hat on the web, in email, and occasionally in person. But focusing on this, or even thinking about it too much, is not only depressing but also fundamentally erroneous. People, and apparently especially programmers, generally won’t tell you if you’re doing well. A vital skill is learning to tell when to ignore the random bloviators that populate the net…

Assuming you are still reading, Simon also showed clips of RMS, saying that the Java Trap was a thing of the past, and Eben Moglen, saying something equally nice. He also said that Sun was dumb not to have worked with the free software constituency. This won me over 🙂

Most folks at this conference could learn a lot from Simon’s speaking style. He’s very good at it.

He got a bit more into details about OpenJDK stuff. The rest will be coming in the “spring” (the only word any Sun person would use to describe their schedule :-). Due to encumbrances, a few bits will be missing initially: ICC color management (they are looking at little cmms or something like that), the font rasterizer (they are looking at freetype), and the graphics rasterizer (they are looking at the j2me one). They’re going to move from subversion to Mercurial for version control (more on this in Sunday’s notes).

Anyway, the OpenJDK stuff is all shaping up nicely, and essentially nothing I heard this weekend contradicts this in any way. There are, or will be, a few delays in a couple areas — the ones Simon mentioned, plus some testing things — but generally the Sun folks are aware of the various problems and issues (more than me anyway) and are working on them. Also several people gave out their email addresses (Simon gave out Tom Marble’s 🙂 and said that we should bug them if they mess up.

Simon had Mark Wielaard and Tom Marble come up on the stage and then he asked them questions about OpenJDK, Classpath, the distros, etc. I thought this was a nice bit of outreach.

Tom, for those not in the know, is the OpenJDK ambassador. He talked a bit about governance and, in a graceful move, plugged the Classpath developer room and our various sessions.


I was at FOSDEM again this year, and as usual I took notes, which I’ll write up here. I’ll probably spread them out over a few posts, but maybe I’ll get excited and post them all at once.

FOSDEM is a peculiarly intense conference. It has three main tracks, but also developer rooms and thousands of people. It lasts just two days, so much activity also happens at restaurants and bars after the official activity. I usually tell people new to FOSDEM that they ought to train for it, say by drinking 5 beers a night and not sleeping for a few days. Many people, including me, commented this weekend that there’s nothing comparable to FOSDEM in the US. Hmm, I’ve always wanted to go to a conference or meeting here in Boulder 🙂

This year FOSDEM started even earlier for me — I met Andrew Haley in London and then, on the chunnel train on Friday, it turned out we were sitting across the aisle from Michael Meeks. We spent most of the ride discussing OO.o, his -Bdirect patch (read the link to see the huge OO.o startup performance boost this gets), gcj, and other free software and hacking topics.

Once we got to Brussels, though, he took a different cab and then somehow I didn’t see him again. That was too bad, since he’s very interesting and personable; and also I felt somewhat bad since I was very tired when I saw him and, though I can’t remember exactly what, I’m sure I said several stupid things during the conversation. Luckily Andrew was there to carry the flag :-). Hopefully I’ll meet him again sometime.

He did say I should consider OO.o as my next project (I asked basically everybody I ran into about my future plans). My impression is that he considers it a potential mozilla-like success story: get people on Windows using it, and they are one step closer to Linux. This does seem compelling, though I don’t think interesting for me personally to be hacking on…

Later that night the Classpath and OpenJDK folks all met up at a restaurant, and then later went to the BXL bar (our traditional spot — the official beer event was way too crowded). I finally got to meet various Sun folks, but more on that later. I went to bed early, citing jet lag, and apparently missed various people who only arrived at the bar after midnight.

SELinux Relabel

This morning I started up my main machine only to find that I couldn’t log in. After some experimentation I found that I needed an SELinux relabel. It is running now. I don’t reboot often (I’ve probably rebooted more this morning than in the last six months combined) so I don’t know whether this is a leftover from my FC5 to FC6 upgrade, or whether it is a bug in some update I applied.