At the beginning of February I and almost forty of my colleagues visited FOSDEM at the ULB in Brussels, one of the largest conferences for free and open source software in the world. After getting stoked for a few weeks in our WhatsApp group, four of us working from the Capelle office carpooled to Brussels together.
To kick off the weekend, the organisers booked the famous Delirium Cafe in the city centre. After proving our nerdiness by answering the bouncer’s question about how to close the vim editor, we entered the cafe. There we went through a bonding experience by waiting in line for (no kidding) 45 minutes. Later, we found we can set up a beer train with 5 consultants to transport beers to our table like a firemen’s bucket brigade more efficiently.
On Saturday and Sunday we visited numerous of the hundreds of presentations organised on the university campus. One of the most interesting things I learned was related to MicroPython, a Python implementation small and lightweight enough to run with microcontrollers. I did not realise this product was as mature as it is. It would be interesting to start looking into this as a currently developing technology.
For the first time this year, FOSDEM organised a track for quantum computing. The interest in this track was beyond all expectations. We showed up half an hour before the first presentation only to find the room was already full. Luckily, armed with a small Bluetooth speaker and live streaming organised by the conference, we were able to still watch the presentations we wanted to in the relative peace and quiet of a deserted hallway in one of the university’s buildings.
Other presentations I particularly enjoyed were from Mitchell Baker (Executive Chairwoman of Mozilla), who because of technical difficulties managed to give a 20-minute presentation without slides on the future of open source software. Lennart Poettering, the spiritual father of highly influential Linux frameworks systemd and PulseAudio presented on how systemd is going into the container services territory.
Besides attending presentations there has been some networking at the various stands throughout the conference as well. I had a long chat with the CEO of a small company developing business analytics solutions in Python for large companies. We had a fun discussion related to up-and-coming Python libraries, sharing our Python teaching experiences and discussed how our companies are working on exposure by going to FOSDEM.
ALTEN made visiting FOSDEM especially interesting by helping out financially with the hotel stays and dinner. While this was the highest turnout of ALTEN at FOSDEM to date, I’m hoping there will be even more colleagues joining next year.