Last Wednesday I visited the GUADEC (GNOME Users and Developers European Conference), a yearly conference for developers and users of the GNOME desktop environment. The GNOME organisation is very international and usually they communicate over the Internet, but once a year they can meet each other in person at the GUADEC. I had never visited the conference before, because it is held all over the place in Europe, most of the time at places too expensive for me to travel to. This year it was held in the Netherlands, in The Hague. Even though I’m more interested in KDE (the alternative to GNOME) nowadays, I certainly wanted to use the opportunity to visit a free software conference which was close by.
Entrance was free, but I made a small donation. I decided to visit for only one day, because I deemed train tickets (€ 14,20 for a return ticket for one day, with 40% student discount) to be too expensive, and because I had other work to do. In fact I’m still tying a few loose ends together for work on a course I followed during the last block of the academic year, because of procrastination. As is customary for these kind of conferences, you download video recordings of the talks later, so no worries if you miss it. GUADEC 2010 was held from July 26th to July 30th, with the talks scheduled on 28th (Wednesday) until the 30th. Kudos to the team organizing GUADEC 2010, because I have the impression it must have taken a ridiculous amount of effort.
I followed the following talks on Wednesday (program can be found here):
- GNOME, the web, and Freedom
- Evolution – Got the wheels to race, the wings to fly, what next?
- State of the GNOME 3 Shell
- GPLv3: Better Copyleft for Developers and Users
- GNOME: State of the Union
- Building a strong post-3.0 GNOME story
In the second talk Luis Villa made a case for incorporating the web more in GNOME. I agree with his observation that not the Linux desktop but the web has ‘won’ or become mainstream. A few general examples of features already present were given of how this could be achieved, such as uploading photos to online services via photo management applications and allowing languages used for web design to be used for developing applications in GNOME (such as Seed). Louis argued this can be taken further. I don’t know however what more can be done, and neither did Louis, his talk served to inspire brainstorming on this subject.
The next talk on Evolution was far more technical, aimed more at developers, but very interesting nonetheless for me because I could understand most of it. Evolution is an application which I almost use daily for my e-mail, and it was interesting to hear what the plans for the future are.
Then the talk on GNOME Shell. I haven’t tried it yet, and I’m not fully convinced this will improve my productivity. To be honest this might be because the talk couldn’t capture my attention very well, so I still do not understand exactly what GNOME Shell is and why it will be an improvement, it was not as interesting as the other talks. I’m certainly curious to see how it will work though when it’s ready for end users next March.
The following talk on the changes between version two and three of the GPL was the best talk I attended. Bradley M. Kuhn is an excellent presenter, who managed to keep me interested at every moment of his talk. His analogy of licenses and software was good; licenses have bugs just like software, and version three of the GPL was necessary to fix some errors and loopholes in version two. Licenses are something very technical and are possibly difficult to understand, but Kuhn managed to explain it perfectly to those who never studied law.
The GNOME: State of the Union talk is possibly one of the funniest presentations I’ve ever witnessed. Fernando Herrera and Xan Lopez parodied issues concerning codes of conduct in an excellent way. I had the impression that GNOME was lacking progress compared to KDE, and this talk changed my mind. Quite a few things have been achieved already on the road to GNOME 3.0, but I still have a preference for KDE though.
I wasn’t paying attention at the last talk on the future after GNOME 3.0, because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I had to leave home early to catch my train and hadn’t had much sleep the night before, I guess I was too excited for GUADEC. So after this talk I decided to head home. I received an invitation to join the Canonical party in the evening, but decided against this because I don’t know the people in the GNOME and Ubuntu community well, and had to use a train to get home.
I went to the conference alone, because I didn’t know any friends who where interested and going as well. When I arrived, I did recognise some of the names of the Dutch GNOME community and the persons giving the talks, but I only know them superficially through reading about their work via Planet GNOME. I was pleasantly surprised though to see two people from the Dutch KDE community attending as well, whom I had met at a KDE 4.4 release party a few months ago. It was nice talking to them again. One of them, Tom Albers, has also blogged about GUADEC.
I know it’s a conference for geeks, but you can overdo it. I noticed quite a few people who were more interested in staring at their notebooks than they were in listening to the speakers. Do you really need to inform everyone through a microblogging service like Twitter and Identi.ca that talk X is going to start now and other trivialities? And like a good free software citizen, if you must then please use Identi.ca instead of Twitter. Anyway, I enjoyed visiting GUADEC 2010, and hope Akademy will also be held in the Netherlands in the future.