Weekend away with 5000 other F/OSS fans
By MandyWaite on Feb 09, 2009
Just spent a long weekend in Brussels attending Fosdem '09. It was my first time there and I really loved the down to earth nature of the whole thing. It came at just the right time as I really needed a break from the rubbish weather we've been having in the UK, although early on Saturday morning on the ULB campus in Brussels it seemed like the weather had decided to follow me over the channel.
I'm not a big fan of keynotes and so was pleased to find that Fosdem kept them at the minimum, somehow our very own Simon Phipps managed to get 10 minutes to talk about fixing a 29 year old bug in Sun's RPC code, seemed that in order to get the issue fixed the code had to be re-licensed and Simon has just managed to make that happen in the last week. It was a strange segue in some ways and led into Mark Surman of the Mozilla Foundation talking about what Free means today and how it will influence the future. It was an interesting talk but one I can't remember much about so I'm looking forward to the slides/video becoming available. There was also the Fosdem Dance which is funny and disturbing at the same time.
I spent most of the rest of the day wandering around the booths and getting to see what everyone was doing. I did catch Mark Rheinhold and Joe Darcy's updates on OpenJDK7, OpenJDK6 and the formative feature set of Java SE 7. Last time I'd seen a Java SE 7 presentation we were still talking about JAMs and JSR 277, seems that the landscape has changed and now it's JSR 294 that's being adopted. I never really got excited by the idea of SuperPackages and JAMs so hopefully this is a good move, although listening to the Project Felix Lightning Talk later in the day is seems that this may be a set back for OSGI in Java, but I'm sure there's loads of other stuff going on in that area. Lenz Grimmer also talked about using Bazaar for source code management and it seems worth checking out (i'll add it to the list of SCM tools that I need to look at). While at the lightning talks I finally got to meet Nick Kew, Nick is a leading contributor to the Apache HTTP server and now works for the Sun WebStack team, he's based in the UK but a long way from where I am in Surrey so it was great to meet him at last.
On Day 2 I spent all of my time in the Ruby, MySQL and Java Dev rooms. Of most interest was getting to listen to Alex Buckley talk about invokedynamic and other features that support dynamic languages that are being integrated into the (J)VM. The J is paranthesized as a nod to the fact that in future the Java VM will support many different languages. One of the main reasons for Java's success over the last decade is the Hotspot Compiler and all of the work done to make the VM performant. As Virtual Machines go it seems to have few peers and taking all that and making it available to other languages can only be a good thing. I say this as someone who's spent a lot of time working with various flavors of Ruby VMs in the last couple of years. It'll be interesting to see where all of this goes.
I really liked Kris Buytaert's talk on monitoring MySQL. My group in Sun have been talking a lot recently about integrating Hyperic HQ and Nagios into OpenSolaris and this talk just showed how much this is needed. It seems we should also be looking at Zabbix which Kris had a lot of good things to say about. I also really enjoyed The Data Charmer's talk on MySQL partitions, if you aren't familiar with him, The Data Charmer is Guiseppe Maxia - The community team lead for MySQL here at Sun. He explained logical vs physical partitions using maps of Brussels and a pair of scissors, something that earned a deserved round of applause (ok he didn't use scissors, it sounds better when describing it though). Peter Vanbroekhaven gave an interesting talk on some of the more interesting idioms of Ruby classes, objects and modules but I missed most of the other Ruby sessions due to timing.
The Fosdem organisers laid on a bus to take people to Brussels central station, I decided to try to get on the 16:20 bus and queued at what I thought was the right place. It wasn't and I wasn't alone in getting this wrong as when the Bus arrived and parked round the corner, everyone waiting where I was ran down the road like an angry football crowd after a game (we weren't angry though). I made it on to the bus but only just, I'm a nervous traveller at the best of times and I think I may have been pretty miserable if I hadn't made it on, particularly having been one of the first to queue up for it.
Whatever happens over the next year, I'll be planning on attending Fosdem in 2010. It's a must attend event for anyone involved in Free and Open Software in Europe. I think next time though I'll travel light and avoid airplanes and taxi's as they seem so out of keeping with the whole ethos of the event.