Day two: Development strategies and content management

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Peter Vandenabeele received a diploma for his hospitality On Sunday morning Loic Dachary handed our host Peter Vandenabeele a diploma on the behalf of the "OSDEM community". Peter had generously arranged for about 20 people a place to sleep by offering to that purpose both his own apartment and the still empty new office premises of, which was also sponsoring the event. Thanks a lot Peter!
Many wanted to take a closer look after the presentation Peter de Schriver demonstrated Linux running on an embedded system test board using an ARM cpu. During his career Peter has been involved in several porting projects. His talk consisted of practical hints how to get started with new systems, mainly compiling the kernel and building the initial userland. Thanks to the framebuffer driver, the cute Linux penguin logo could be seen in the upper right corner of the lcd.

Other topics Sunday morning included (among other things) presentations on Hurd and three big projects that touch a big number of people: Gnome, KDE and Debian. Due to them overlapping with each other I had to make a choice and went to hear David Faure on KDE as a development platform. In his own report David mentions many last minute preparations, but that couldn't be noticed in his talk, it was rather even a bit too clean to penetrate in my mind. David was naturally using Kpresenter for his slideshow while many others seemed to prefer MagicPoint.
Discussing development strategies The discussion session about free software development strategies was something I was really looking forward into. From times to times the debate turned too much into politics and Richard Stallmans remarks about terminology, with mostly Jeremy Allison breaking in with good points about the actual subject. Other panelists were Richard Morrell, Henrik Nordström and Philippe Aigrain, who was a special guest representing the European Commission and not the developer community. He mentioned possibilities to do free software work without a business model referring to governmental funding, but it would have been interesting to hear more about his views and EU proceedings on the subject.

One of Allison's remarks was how the role of the leader of a free software project differs from traditional project manager task. He has to deal with different cultures around the world and accept the fact that he cannot control people: "You are being given gifts and you cannot control how they are being given".

Jeremy had also funny experiences about dealing with companies not familiar with free software, in this case mostly the cost than the freedom aspect. He had many times faced the situation that they insisted on getting an invoice: sending one of null amount had solved the problem. At this moment RMS got a good laugh from the audience by showing a zero dollar banknote from his wallet. To some people software cannot be good if it doesn't cost at least 10 000 dollars. Also in this case the answer is simple - just take the money!
The people in the front got also on video After getting the strategies sorted out it was the moment to sing together The Free Software Song.

After lunch I went to listen a quantum computing talk which divided opinions: some didn't get much out of it, others were impressed. I think I understood some concepts but unfortunately wasn't smart enough to belong to the latter group. :)

The event had a good variety of nationalities present, with at least one man coming all the way from Australia. Rasterman, the well known author and contributor of various graphics related programs, was invited to tell about fast image and text rendering techniques. I heard later that it had been impressive, but spent my time learning about internationalisation issues (Alexander Bokovoy), as they are more closely related to what I am working on right now.
Experts of web content management One of the main themes on Sunday was web content management. Three popular tools - Midgard, OpenACS and Zope - got their own presentations. In the evening, the representants of each of them and PHP creator Rasmus Lerdorf were behind the table to answer questions.
Security problems got their share of attention in this panel too, but the main topic was how to make the systems easy to use and still powerful. Separating layout and content is a good thing and programmability gives flexibility, but especially graphic designers want to edit their pages using their favorite wysiwyg tool. Maybe decent XML support will finally bring some light into this subject, as that seems to be the technology everyone is integrating at their products now.
The hacking room was almost full Sunday afternoon To read e-mail, work on projects and meet other people the event provided two "hacking rooms" with network connections. One of them was fully equipped with about 20 PC:s running GNU/Linux, but the second which was reserved for laptop users was clearly more popular. Note that the term "hacker" is used here in the traditional positive sense, not as an intruder trying to break into other peoples' networks.


The event was originally planned to be much smaller, the organisation grew as more and more people became interested. I was positively surprised how well it finally worked. While the Libre Software Meeting at Bordeaux last summer excelled in gathering together enthustiastic groups of specific subjects (music and medicine for instance), OSDEM was a conference. There were less sessions in parallel but more audience listening to each talk. Naturally there were plenty of possibilities to arrange meetings in smaller groups too, but the overall schedule was tighter than at LSM.

OSDEM was supported by several companies, especially VA Linux, which made it possible to keep the event free of charge for the participants. However, the commercial participation didn't show up in the form of big banners, only a few non-profit associations were allowed to have stands in the lobby.

The target audience of OSDEM were developers and advanced users, but the event attracted quite a few journalists too. Getting the message to mainstream media will help organising similar events in the future. I hope we meet again next year!

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Copyright Arto Teräs <> 2001.
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Last update 17.8.2001.