Last week, on February 6th and 7th I've had a chance to visit the FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Software Developers' European Meeting) conference which was held in Brussels, Belgium. I flew in from Belgrade through Vienna, and a friend of mine from the Peragro Tempus project, Jell (sueastside), arrived at the airport to welcome me and show me around the city a bit. It was great to meet him in person after many months of IRC talk. We were later joined by two of his friends (who frequent the PT IRC channel as well), as well as some other people.
This was the first time I've attended a conference like this, and it has really proved to be a very interesting event. I've enjoyed the event as a whole, both from a technical point, as well as the community point. It was very nice to meet some people you have never known before, and discuss with them the technical merits of the Free Software.
The whole event actually started off a day earlier, on Friday evening, when the <a href="http://www.fosdem.org/2010/beerevent">"Beer Event"</a> occurred. It was held in a nice bar called Delirium Caffe. The first thing I was impressed about was the number of beers they have. All kinds and variations. The prices might've been somewhat high for my experience, but the beer was good. Alas, I tried only two beers, still being a bit tired from the trip during morning, which is a real shame (Belgium being famous for its beers).
During the event I've been able to meet several people. I've met some perl coder (I'm so annoyed I didn't catch his name), Oliver from Germany (who's a USB driver developer, and Greg Kroah-Hartman, who's the head Linux driver maintainer (amongst other thing), thanks to Oliver. I've found both of them pleasant to talk, Greg being very friendly (although a bit intimidating due to his height). Probably the most unusual thing for me was when we took the first round of drinks, and as I'm saying cheers I'm hearing Oliver say "ziveli". At first I thought I heard wrong, and asked him to repeat, only to discover to my surprise he knows a bit of Serbian language (he likes learning languages). Very pleasant surprise, I must say.
One of the curious things about the event was the fact that it all went in good order, even with all those beers around. People didn't push each-other to get to the bar (even though it was very crowded), they'd apologize if they step on you etc. Very unusual and different and pleasant atmosphere compared to most bars I know.
During Saturday, thanks to me being a bit indecisive and unorganized, I've managed to miss lots of talks I was interested in, and spent lots of time going around the stands. I've attended the Welcome talk (which included a massive FOSDEM dance performed by many attendees, myself included), some talks on PostgreSQL, and I actually wanted to visit the two talks on Jingle and XMPP, but unfortunately the rooms were full by the time I got there. I've managed to get some interesting information about at some stalls, though, including the EJBCA/SignServer, Zarafa, CentOS, and JBoss.
After the FOSDEM on Saturday, we went to a nice restaurant where I tried some Belgium dish and a very, very good beer called "Noir de Dottignies".
On Sunday I finally caught my grips, and I've managed to sort-out which talks I wanted to attend to. I've listened to some talks about Neo Freerunner distros SHR and hackable:1, Apache Hadoop, MariaDB, CouchDB, and a very fine talk about how to submit patches to the Linux kernel. I got a bit disappointed by the MariaDB talk because it mostly turned into "MySQL vs MariaDB", while I hoped to learn some more on what the MariaDB is about, and some of its technical characteristics and inner workings. The CouchDB talk left me a bit wondering what is it good for, and how the heck do you resolve the issues regarding the synchronisation between the peers (it all felt a bit too "cloudy" to me). I've also attended an interesting presentation about the MySQL multi-master replication, which was interesting, but left a problem of single-point-of-failure when it comes down to the monitoring agent (with some possibilities to overcome it using shared storage, maybe). The talk about submitting the kernel patches was very entertaining to me.
After the FOSDEM finally ended, I've said goodbye to my French friends, and headed to hostel I was staying in. The next day, on Monday, I've spent most of the time sightseeing, taking lots of photos (check it out in my Gallery), especially churches. The architecture of Brussels is a bit weird, since the old and the modern architecture is very much mixed. Churches are mostly of the gothic style, which I really liked a lot. As the time for flight drew near, I headed back to hostel, and went to the train station to get to the airport. At the station I was helped by a very nice woman to find my way and buy a ticket, so I'd take this moment to thank her (although I don't know her name). My friend Jelle was also a very good host, and I would've probably been lost the first day without him. All the best to him and the French guys.
The only thing I'd like to see at FOSDEM is maybe a bit more of talk which would be suited to system administrators (ok, yes, I know it's primarily a developer's conference, but it'd be nice to expand it a bit), as well as using bigger halls for the talks, and maybe a possibility of buying some better food instead of fast food at the spot (but I guess that's hard to do when there's so many people out there). Otherwise, the infrastructure was really great, and I'd like to praise the Internet access the organizers had provided for the attendants. Directions were all clear as well.
I finally landed at Belgrade airport at around midnight, still a bit tired and in a very good spirit. I will for sure attend the FOSDEM conference the next year as well.