The last week has been pretty crazy. Kevin & I flew out of Columbus on Thursday ~1:30pm and arrived in Brussels ~8am Friday morning. We were to fly out of Brussels at 10am, but missed the check-in time by about 10 minutes due to cancelled trains, which led to us having to rebook for another flight which was supposed to leave at 12:10… but due to mechanical issues didn’t actually take off until nearly 2pm. So, we’re now supposed to arrive back in Columbus ~7pm, assuming we don’t miss our connecting flight in Washington DC. Of course, once we get back to Columbus we still have a 2.5-3hr car ride home, and then school and work all day Wednesday. Here’s hoping we make it in time, and survive the next couple days of insanity.

Anyhow, our trip to Brussels & FOSDEM 2012 has been amazing and certainly something that neither of us will soon forget. Its been a crazy whirlwind tour, and I know we’d both have liked it to last a bit longer, but its still been fun. FOSDEM 2012 was my first conference & Kevin’s first time in Europe, and I think we made the best of it. We got to met tons of great people both at FOSDEM & all around Brussels, wander around the city, see some, though certainly not all of the cool stuff in Brussels, and have just had a great time.

At FOSDEM I met dozens of amazing and inspiring people including Karen Sandler, Allan Day, Dave Neary, Seif Lofty & many, many more. After arriving in Brussels on Friday we spent the next 4 hours incredibly lost before finally finding our hotel & taking a much-needed nap. The afternoon was spent seeing Brussels, getting lost again, and finally finding the Delirium Cafe where the FOSDEM Beer Party was held, which was fantastic. We ended up spending most of the night with a group from Barcelona Spain, with whom we went out to eat & then to another bar across from the Manneken Pís before finding our way back to our hotel rather late.

On Saturday, Kevin & I walked to FOSDEM, where I spent most of Saturday manning the GNOME booth in the K-Building, though I did get to attend a couple of sessions, including part of the Legal Issues room fill in and Grey Areas of Software Licensing by Dave Neary , as well as the Cross Desktop group picture & Allan Day’s GNOME 3: Every Detail Matter’s, which hopefully reminded people that the little things really do matter!

That night we went to the GNOME Beer Party at La Becassé which was a blast. Kevin & I spent most of the night chatting with Mario Sánchez Prada of Igalia about pretty much everything – computers, kids, video games, languages, and just life in general. I/we apparently stayed up a bit late though which led to me missing a couple of the talks in the morning which I was hoping to catch, most notably GNOME 3.4 accessible: Status, news, future by Alejandro Piñeiro Iglesias and The Anatomy of a role playing game by Arthur Huillet.

I did manage to make it back to FOSDEM & the GNOME booth in time for the mini-marketing meeting, during which we touched on a wide range of issues. Topics included the redesign of the website, the Annual Report & the overall direction of GNOME in the coming months/years. One of our most important tasks in the coming weeks will be the publication of the annual report, which covers both 2010 and 2011. Another major topic was the re-design of being done by Christy Eller & Allan Day, including the future of the news site, GNOME Journal, Quarterly reports, the GNOME Foundation site and how to better streamline all of them. One over all theme seemed to be a need for new content, on everything from news articles, how to articles on specific applications, interviews of developers, hackfest reports and pretty much anything else. If you’re interested in writing please let us know!!

After the mini-marketing meeting I spent the rest of the day attending sessions. I started with Seif Lofty & Allan Day’s How to trick a developer into becoming a designer, which was informative while also being humorous and engaging. I next attended a Lightning talk on & GNU FM by Michael Sheldon, and caught part of the lighting talk on Netmagis by Jean Benoit, before returning to the Cross-Desktop room.

My last couple hours at FOSDEM were spent in in the Cross-Desktop room attending the last 3 sessions there – WebKitGTK+ status and roadmap to WebKit2 by Mario Sánchez Prada & Philippe Normand, Getting into GNOME by Ekaterina Gerasimova & David King and finally Web applications in GNOME by Xan López.

Getting into GNOME was the most interesting for myself, mostly since I felt that they were speaking to me & many others in my position. There are literally millions of users of free and open source software, but only a thousand actively contribute. Bridging this gap will be the key to the long-term survival and success of free free/open source software.

I know I’ve used Linux & GNOME pretty consistently for the last 10+ years but only found out how to get involved in the last few months. Not because I didn’t want to, but simply because I didn’t know that I could. Up until this past fall I was under the impression, as I suspect many are that there wasn’t a lot to be done outside of coding, which I, and undoubtedly many other users simply don’t know how to do. However as I’ve discovered over the past few months, this simply isn’t true. GNOME (and, I suspect most if not all other free/open source projects) need people to do lots of things which don’t require coding – writing news articles, documentation, making art work, manning booths at conferences (of which there are dozens! There’s probably even one close to you!!), and much more.

So, if you use/love free/open source software, please get involved! Its not hard and every contribution really is appreciated no matter how small. Even hanging out on & answering questions in #gnome or #gnome-love when your available, is appreciated. Even if you think ‘oh, I don’t know enough to answer questions…’ you probably do. I know I never thought I’d be able to help people, but I have! Its not hard, and it’s incredibly fulfilling when you do. Alternatively, pick a specific project and see what they need help with. Theres sure to be something that you can do to help!

Overall, I’ve had a great, if slightly crazy week, and I hope to make it to many more conferences in the future. If you haven’t made it to one yet, I highly recommend it!!

Countdown to FOSDEM!!

The countdown has begun! Today, I am doing laundry, and cleaning out the fridge & the house just in general, in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Brussels & FOSDEM 2012! Kevin & I will be flying out of Columbus on thursday afternoon and thus arriving in Brussels, friday morning ~8am. Most of friday will be spent wandering around Brussels before attending the FOSDEM Beer Party that evening, FOSDEM on Saturday & Sunday, and then another day of exploring Belgium before flying back on Tuesday morning. It’ll be a quick, but hopefully fun & productive trip.

I keep going over the schedule at FOSDEM, going back and forth on what I want to attend, as there are so many fascinating sounding events! I’m pretty sure I want to attend  Transifex: Localizing your application (mostly since I’m currently taking a class on multilingual translation systems) , but otherwise, I really have no definitive plans. I’m sure I’ll figure it all out once I’m there though, and suspect that I’m better off having few definitive plans so that I can be flexible for when I hear about something especially cool. Anyhow, I am super excited – to be attending FOSDEM, to be traveling, and to be kid-free for the first time in nearly 5 yrs! (Kevin’s mom has agreed to watch our boys while we’re gone – to which I can only say Thank You Amy!! :))

So, any suggestions? What events are you planning to attend? What do you recommend? What should we make sure to see/do in Belgium? We’re up for pretty much anything! 🙂

Karen Sandler’s Keynote address to Linux Australia conference


This is the keynote address that Karen Sandler (executive director of the GNOME Foundation) recently gave to the Linux Australia conference. It goes to the heart of why software is important, and why we should all have access to the sourcecode of the products which we all use everyday.

Karen has a rare heart condition and needed a defibrulator/pacemaker. One of her first questions when talking to a cardiologist about it was ‘what does it run’ – to which he had no answer, and didn’t understand why she cared. Yet, she cared for the same reason that *everyone* should care. ‘New’ defibrulators today are openly broadcasting over wifi patient details – so that when a patient walks into his/her doctors office, they no longer have to take their pulse – its on the computer already. Seems like a nifty feature, right? But the problem is, its not just broadcasting that info in the doctors office. It’s broadcasting it 24/7. In the mall. At school. In the airport. Everywhere. And the devices have been *proven* to be hackable – that is to say, it *IS* possible to hack into them and make them give the patient a shock. Or stop working entirely. Or any number of other things.

And yet, no-one can legally look at the software. And its not even reviewed (or tested!!) by any 3rd party – not by the FDA, not by anyone at all outside of the company that makes it. They say its ‘bug free’ – but anyone who knows about computers knows that there is *no such thing* as bug-free code. No. Such. Thing.

It goes to the heart of why open source is so important today – because we use computers constantly, everyday, without even thinking about it. We no longer drive cars; we ride in computers that drive. We no longer fly in airplanes; we ride in computers that fly. We no longer vote in elections; we tell a computer how to vote *for* us. Etc. And virtually all of these computers run on proprietary software which no-one outside the company that makes it has access to, to double check its safety, its security or anything else. And most of us don’t think twice about it.

Anyhow, its a long talk (nearly an hour), but is completely worth it. Its the reason that I use, love, and support Open Source Software. Its the reason why we all should.

GNOME & Computer Science at KSU

Today was the start of my 3rd week back at school for the first time in, well, 5.5 yrs. Its been a while, and is proving to be slightly more stressful than I remember… Anyhow, I’m currently majoring in Spanish Translation at Kent State University, and have been trying to decide what I want to minor in (most likely computer science). I’ve always wanted to learn to program, and have simply never been very successful in teaching myself (basically, I know just enough to break stuff:). When I was in college previously, I was simply never willing to take the required math classes to be able to get into the computer classes that I actually wanted to take. Oh, and I refused to use windows. Which, for some reason was required by both of the colleges at which I’ve previously inquired. All of which added up to me simply not taking computer classes in the past.

Today though, I finally went and hunted down a computer science adviser, and as I was talking to him about classes, system requirements, etc, realized that he was actually running GNOME! GNOME 2.x granted, but still, GNOME! I was (am!) elated!  As you may suspect, I was assured that no, I will not have to use windows in any of their computer science classes, which is of course exactly what I was hoping for.

All of this adds up to me looking forward to taking a computer science class or two in the coming semesters. Assuming I can pass Algebra for Calculus. Which, at this point, is quite the assumption, since its been a solid, oh, I don’t know, 10 years since I’ve done *ANY* math besides basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and they very occasional division?? Yeah. Its not looking so hot right now.

FOSDEM 2011?!

So, it looks like I may have succeeded in convincing my husband that I need to go to FOSDEM! Which of course means, we’re going on vacation for… well, the first time!! A few hours spent talking it over and then looking up airfare, train tickets, hotels, hostels, etc has led us to conclude that going to Brussels first for the conference, then taking a train down to Paris and hanging out there for a couple days before coming home sounds like a plan. So, tomorrow we inform family of our plans and (hopefully!) arrange child care. Keep your fingers crossed. With luck I’ll be booking a hotel in Brussels within the week!