PLEASE NOTE: This article was written on Feb 7th 2011.
Bonjour from Charleroi airport in Brussels. I’m just on my way back from FOSDEM and I’m making use of the Meego netbook Intel kindly sent me to write this to you. I have to confess I’m writing this post offline because I can’t decide whether it’s worth paying the usually extortionate price of wifi in airports or not. I’m only here an hour and I think my willpower can survive that. It’s been quite a week to report on, as my current location suggests. So let me fill you in on just what’s been happening.
I’ll begin with the events of last weekend, Sunday Jan 30th to be precise. In the early afternoon we recorded a special episode of Linux Outlaws in which we discussed the situation in Egypt as it was then. Some people asked why we would discuss this topic on the show as it’s not exactly related to technology, but I actually think it is. We saw the attempted disconnection of a whole country from the Internet by state powers, this was very concerning for those of us who care about freedom of speech in the wider world. We discussed the topic and tried to inform some of our listeners why this is important. We’ve actually had some thankful emails from people who tell us they’ve become fed up of mainstream news. After the recording I had a couple of free hours before I was due at the rehearsal room with the band. Perhaps because of the extended discussion we’d just finished, I couldn’t get the subject of the Egypt off my mind. I picked up the guitar and began playing around until a song started to form. I grabbed a pad (yes I still use one of those) and wrote down some lyrics. In the space of about an hour I had 80% of a protest song written. Although I love many artists you would consider protest singers it’s not something I’ve ever really done much of myself. You probably have to be moved by a subject to really do it right, and for whatever reason I decided Egypt was one such subject. I recorded a rough demo of the song and then dashed out to see the band. We’re in preparation for our gig on Friday 11th Feb, more on that later.
On Monday I edited the episode of Linux Outlaws we recorded about Meego and sent it back to Fab for release. I also finished the words for my Egypt song and recorded a better demo. It’s still just a single guitar and voice recorded in one take but I’m quite proud of it. You can download the song free from my main site if you go to http://danlynch.org/egypt and people have sent nice feedback.
Tuesday was taken up with a small amount of website work and thankfully a rare amount of time to relax before my trip. I also did some research on the Pylons Project for FLOSS Weekly the following day. Let’s skip on to that actually. I was in the main host seat again and Aaron Newcomb joined me. We seem to work well together and he’s been a great help to me in doing the show without Randal. I have to thank him for that. We interviewed Chris McDonough and Mark Ramm about Pylons and also Turbogears, of which Mark is project lead. Both are Python web frameworks, a subject close to my heart. I loved the chance to geek out over Python and I hope Randal doesn’t mind too much, being a Perl guy. I would never dream of comparing myself to him as a developer in any way, the idea is ludicrous. I do love Python though and the chance to learn about a framework other than Django was a pleasure.
On Thursday I prepared for my trip, getting some Euros, finding travel insurance and other such exciting activities. In the evening I headed to the Art & Design Academy at LJMU for a run though of the technical stuff for Ignite, and the other events that encompass Social Media In Liverpool Week. Not the easiest title to say but previous posts will explain why we arrived at this name. After one run through it was time for another with the band. Our set is really taking shape and I’m so proud of the original material. There’s 7 original songs and our version of Redemption Song by Bob Marley, which doesn’t really resemble the original anyway. The gig will be on Friday February 11th at the LEAF Café in Bold St, Liverpool. It’s only recently opened up in this new location and I think we should get a good crowd on a Friday night.
I stayed at the flat on Thursday night, even though I don’t have much furniture to speak of yet. I’m still arranging a van to move the couch, fridge, bed etc over from the Wirral. I can’t wait to get set up full time there and it should all be done by the end of this week. It’s very handy for Lime St Station and on Friday morning I was able to get a train to Manchester Airport and then continue my journey to Brussels. The train was delayed by 45mins because the one in front of us on the line broke down, luckily I’d given myself an extra hour to get to Manchester anyway. The flight was smooth and soon I was in the centre of Brussels. The train service here is typically European, in so much as trains are clean and run on time. Given my experience just getting to Manchester on British trains the contrast couldn’t be clearer. I did have one minor problem though. Being an idiot I’d lost the address of the hotel and all I knew was that I was in central Brussels and so was the hotel, somewhere. I couldn’t get any kind of data connection on my phone to look at the email. I sent a text to Fab who told me the name of the hotel so I then walked around Brussels aimlessly for about an hour, before jumping into a taxi. I spoke some of my awful French to the driver which went better than I’d expected, he was African and spoke perfect English, much to my relief. He had no idea where the hotel was, neither did his GPS, the other taxi drivers, or even his personal friends after he’s phoned them. I gotta give him credit, he really tried. Luckily, just as we were about to give up I got another text off Fab with the address. The sat nav still didn’t seem to find it very easily but the driver got me there and for that I thanked him with a tip. It turned out that the Central Station in Brussels I’d emerged from an hour earlier was right by the hotel! I’d just walked in completely the wrong direction which wasn’t a smart move but what the hell, it’s an adventure. I checked into the hotel without any trouble after that.
I then met up with Fab, his girlfriend Katy and other friends Ilka and Ade (formerly of LugRadio) for beer and food. We saw some familiar faces from the FOSS world and then went on to the party at Delirium. Many glasses of Belgian beer later we retired to the hotel and got some rest before the start of FOSDEM. It’s a fairly short bus ride out of the city to get to the university where they hold the event each year, we arrived just in time to see the opening keynote by Eben Moglen. Eben is always a great speaker and this time he talked of the need to build a decentralised network that can’t be disconnected by authorities, especially in light of the recent events in Egypt. Many would say he was advocating a “dark net”, and I suppose he was. He’s just launched the FreedomBox Foundation, through which he hopes to produce affordable hardware people can use to join a mesh network from their homes. It’s an interesting idea and one that the members of Liverpool LUG have been discussing a lot in recent months. Whether anything concrete will come of it I don’t know, but lets hope so. I talked to a lot of people as I wandered around and saw friends from Linux Tag and other events. Jan Wildeboer was there as always sporting his red hat and Max Spevak was also representing Fedora as usual. They introduced us to Jared Smith, the new Fedora Project leader and we interviewed him for the show. Jared was really helpful and I hope listeners will enjoy that. Speaking of listeners, how could I get so far into this without mentioning all the great people I met in Brussels. I won’t attempt all the names because I’ll only miss someone and upset people, but it was amazing to put faces to some familiar names from the IRC, forums and Identi.ca. I also saw people I’d never met walking around in OggCamp10 t-shirts and that blew my mind. Next we tried to arrange to speak to @zack the Debian Project Leader but he wasn’t at the stand. They were really busy preparing for a new release but the other Debian folks were so friendly and helpful. I have to say you couldn’t wish to meet nicer people, the community spirit of Debian has always appealed to me, the fact that it’s a kick ass distribution also helps. As luck would have it the buses were overloaded with geeks that evening and we found ourselves literally pressed up against Zack in the bus. We talked and had a good discussion on many topics. He’s a very open guy and we were able to arrange an interview for the following day, you’ll hear that soon on LO.
On Saturday evening there was a party organised by Jan in a local bar and we spent a good deal of time there. I chatted to some guys from the BBC World Service, met Tom Marble (formerly of SUN) and caught up with my fellow FLOSS Weekly host Simon Phipps. I also met a fellow Liverpudlian in the form of Patrick Finch from Mozilla, and of course we talked about football and Kenny Dalglish. Fab and the others went back to the hotel at around midnight and I stayed out till 4am (ish) with Tom, Simon, Patrick and others. I met a lot of the other Mozilla crew and it was a lot of fun. I suppose in cold business terms you could call it networking, but I prefer to think of it socialising and having fun. The next day I felt surprisingly alive after my late night and enjoyed the second day of FOSDEM. I spent a fair amount of time in the Free Java Dev room with Tom and other new friends. It had a strange dynamic as some Oracle people were present and they haven’t endeared themselves to the Java community, they also requested none of their talks be recorded which is odd for FOSDEM. Later we interviewed ginger coons about the Libre Graphics Magazine and the others had to set off for Bonn not long after that. I stayed on, talking to other people and generally soaking up the atmosphere.
Bdale Garbee talked about his rocketary project in the Java room later and Tom kindly introduced me. I’ve met Bdale before and we share some mutual friends but it’s fair to say he wouldn’t have had a clue who I was. We ended up all going for dinner on Sunday night and it was good to catch up. The Java folks are also most welcoming I must say, they’re competing with the Debian crowd for nicest people in FOSS I think. After an interesting dinner and discussion I meandered back to my hotel room and hopped on the wifi as a pre-recorded Rathole Radio was broadcast by my good friend Herbie Green. It was weird listening to my own show like that but also quite an experience. Everyone seemed to enjoy the interview with MC Frontalot and I was pleased the show had gone so well. You can download the podcast here. After a good night’s sleep I made my way across Brussels, successfully navigated the train station and ended up here, at the airport. So that brings us up to date.
Since this was written a long time ago most of the upcoming events I would have mentioned have now happened. I’ll write about them in the next update ASAP. You can read more about FLOSS Weekly, the 20lb Sounds gig, moving house and all the Social Media stuff very soon.
Until then, take care of yourselves,