1 Mar 2006 robilad   » (Master)

Back from FOSDEM

FOSDEM is a great free software developer meeting taking place each year towards the end of February in Bruxelles. It's every year an awesome experience, and has turned for GNU Classpath into the equivalent of a yearly developer conference, where we meet to celebrate the achievements from the past year, and to pick up on the latest, newest things everyone is working on.

This year, we've had a bigger room than last year, so we didn't quite manage to pack it overflowing with people like the last year, but the attendance has been slightly higher from my counts. In particular, this year we had a documentary film crew filming the GNU Classpath future planning talk on Sunday afternoon, and enjoying it all, apparently.

We've had many regulars, this being the third year of GNU Classpath sessions at FOSDEM. We've also had many new developers who joined us for the first time, and interested visitors, who came in to see how far GNU Classpath is, when they can expect to see their code liberated from the proprietary Java trap, and what they can do to help.

Friday had the traditional social evening, this time in "A La Mort Subite". My train had an engine failure on the way to Bruxelles, so joined tromey, mjw and the rest of the hackers a little later than I had hoped. It was a nice evening, with Geuze and all that.

Saturday started off with Richard Stallman's talk on GPLv3, software patents, digital restriction management and treacherous computing. Richard was fun to listen to, as he did little theatrical stunts to illustrate his points, and he seemed to have a good time. His talk, and many others (valgrind! rife! darcs!) should be available online at the Belnet FOSDEM video mirror site.

Then we headed to the GNU Classpath room, to get treated to David Gilbert's story of JFreeChart's liberation, starring GNU Classpath, Cairo and David's CairoGraphics2D implementation, and shining a spotlight on how awesome the Mauve compatiblity testing project has developed in the past years. JFreeChart looks great on GNU Classpath+CairoGraphics2D. The slides are up on the FODEM page on the GNU Classpath wiki.

He was followed by tromey demonstrating how to hack use Eclipse to hack on GNU Classpath, Mauve and all that, and how to bootstrap oneself into that environment. That was a fun show and tell talk, and it's great to see how far things have come, and how easy it has become to tie various components together into a nice working setup.

Saturday's final talk was a demonstration of debugging of gcj'ed binaries using nothing but emacs & gdb. It turns out that gdb is pretty nice for the task, in particular in combination with the _Jv_Debug function, which dumps and unrolls objects. Gdb can deal with about anything thrown in its way, so one can literally walk all the way down the stack from a Java application compiled to native with gcj, to libc code performing the actual work.

I was particularly happy to meet Guilhem Lavaux, who's been doing all the hard work on Kaffe for a long while. He's as great in real life as he's on IRC, and currently hacking on improving the native code in GNU Classpath on a separate branch, among other things.

Saturday rang out with an evening at the BLX cafe, and the restaurant next to it, whose claim to obscure fame is that it has a literal "Vegetarian Dish" on the menue, though I have no idea what that is supposed to be, and nice Stoemp and Belgian beers. I've had some good conversations with Apache Harmony's David Taenzer, Jeroen Frijters from IKVM and Chris Gray of Wonka fame, during dinner.

More on FOSDEM tomorrow.

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