OpenExpo 2008 in Bern

So I finally found some time to blog about the OpenExpo which I visited last Thursday. To make it short, it was great fun. Highlights were the talk of Alan Cox about practices and processes within the Linux community, while there wasn’t really anything new for myself it was nonetheless fun to be there.


Another interesting presentation was given by Michael Lauer about the current state of OpenMoko. He promised that the Freerunner will be available real soon now(tm) which probably means in 2-3 months. I spent quite a bit of time with the OpenMoko people playing around with the prototypes (this was the first time I have had the opportunity to get my hands on the devices). Tried the gtk+ based GUI, Qtopia and an EFL based demo application they were showing. Since Raster is now working for OpenMoko I expect a lot of cool developments in this direction. Asked them why they were using glibc instead of uclibc and the reason is that they don’t really care about the space gains because throwing more flash onto the device is cheaper than dealing with glibc incompatibilities. This is understandable from a business point of view but it is nonetheless a bit sad from a technical point of view which I am obviously more interested in. Another topic I asked about was opkg the package manager which is currently ipkg (which is unmaintained) + a few patches which remove a lot of crap and add a few features. I once looked at the ipkg code and I can only warn you it still hurts. Hence, I am not sure whether ipkg is a suitable starting point for a sane and lightweight package management system. But again from a business point of view it might be cheaper to improve on what is already there instead of doing it the right way(tm) from scratch. This would actually be a fun project but unfortunately I am a bit busy with other things right now. Another thing I asked was whether they were considering rendering directly to the framebuffer instead of going through X. But they prefer flexibility over raw performance. For example the ability to display application from your phone on your desktop, things like VNC, the fact that you can use applications from different toolkits and reuse existing development knowledge led to this decision. Another thing is that the directfb backend of gtk+ isn’t really maintained (at least that’s what they told me).

Anyway it is a great project and will buy a Freerunner as soon as it’s available.

dvtm packaging

As there were also various people from different Linux distributions there, I asked about getting dvtm into their package repositories. dvtm is already in Debian, this left Fedora and Gentoo which both had a booth. The Gentoo devs were looking at the package and it’s now in the Gentoo Sunrise User Overlay. I have given my mail address to the Fedora guys and hope they will get in touch with me.

Having a few drinks with Alan Cox

When the exposition closed, a few people were going to have a drink so I followed them and ended up with Alan Cox, 3 members of the Ubuntu Swiss Team, 2 Amarok and a Gentoo developer in a nice cafeteria. Topics that came up where I hadn’t really something useful to contribute were: differences and similarities between various languages (with Alan as an English and Welsh expert) and computer based creation of modern pop music. It got a bit more interesting for myself when the discussion shifted to different programming languages and their suitability as a teaching tool. People complaining about Sheme, Eiffel, Lisp, Pascal, C++ (yeah Amarok is written in C++, hopefully a suitable subset of it) and so on. Alan doesn’t seem to like perl, I should probably have mentioned that the latest 2.6.25-rc kernel requires perl in order to build it, which sucks big time! You now your out with geeks when suddenly someone starts to write code on a the carton saucer to show the beauty of Ruby. Alan showed off a C snippet with a combination of single line // and multiline /* */ comments which shows different results depending on the compiler (C vs. C++). I mentioned Fabrice Bellards tinycc compiler and noted that he won the IOCCC two times in a row. Alan agreed that he is a very bright guy but said that Fabrice could win another time with parts of Qemu.

Anyway this is getting way too long, it was great fun and I will almost certainly be there next time. Unfortunately, I forgot my digital camera at home and therefore have no pictures to share.