On the 20th and 21st of October, the first ever Gentoo Miniconf was held in the Faculty of Information Technology of the Czech Technical University in Prague (FIT ČVUT). The event was co-hosted by the local LinuxDays, the openSUSE Conference, SUSE Labs, and the Future Media track, under the common moto “Bootstrapping Awesome!”. Over 550 people attended these conferences. In the Gentoo room there were nearly 200 attendees.
The Gentoo Miniconf was also streamed, having approximately 450 online viewers each day. It was the most popular streaming channel, with more than twice the number of viewers than the second most popular channel. There are online recordings available of all the talks from the big rooms. It is worth noting that the Gentoo room was not going to be streamed initially due to multiple factors: not initially being on the ground floor, too few volunteers, lack of recording equipment, etc. Juergen Weigert (video team lead) managed to overcome these problems to get the Gentoo room included in online streaming.
At any given time, at least four talks were being hosted simultaneously in each of the big rooms, plus three to four smaller presentations, workshops and BoFs in smaller rooms. In the Gentoo Miniconf room seventeen talks were hosted by thirteen presenters, as well as a Key Signing Party. Half the talks were split into presentations and workshops, with audience participation. Many interesting discussions occurred during the Q&A session after each talk. Additionally, Gentoo had a nice booth with lots of merchandise including mugs, flyers, stickers and posters, all kindly provided by the Gentoo eV.
The booth was mostly managed by Amy Winston, Jan Pobrislo and Chí-Thanh Christopher Nguyễn, who also did a live installation of Gentoo in two OLPC XO-1.75 devices. The Gentoo room was managed by Pavlos Ratis and Theo Chatzimichos. Dimitris Papapoulios was responsible for the video in that room. The Gentoo Miniconf was organized by Theo Chatzimichos, with much help from the organizers of the other co-hosted conferences, and lots of volunteers. Special thanks to Marissa Fischer for her major contribution to this report.
Videos, slides, pictures and blog posts from attendees can be found in this wiki page.
Gentoo developers at the Gentoo Miniconf.
First row, from left to right: Jorge Manuel B.S. Vicetto (jmbsvicetto), Tomáš Chvátal (scarabeus), Magnus Granberg (zorry), Andrea Arteaga (spiros), Ulrich Müller (ulm), Hans de Graaff (graaff), Theo Chatzimichos (tampakrap), Sébastien Fabbro (bicatali), Amy Winston (Amynka), Jeremy Olexa (darkside), Christian Ruppert (idl0r), Vlastimil Babka (caster), Markos Chandras (hwoarang), Panagiotis Christopoulos (pchrist), Alex Legler (a3li), Michal Hrušecký (miska).
Second row: Pavlos Ratis (dastergon), Robin H. Johnson (robbat2), Chí-Thanh Christopher Nguyễn (chithanh), Petteri Räti (betelgeuse), Alec Warner (antarus), Stanislav Ochotnický (sochotnicky), Jan Pobrislo (ccxCZ).
Attendees began arriving in Prague one to two days before the event, and by Friday afternoon most of them were present. They came from many countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, US and Canada. By 17:00, the preparations for the video recording and streaming were finished and had been successfully fully tested, while some of the Gentoo developers started decorating the Gentoo booth.
By 18:00, after receiving the registration badges, the crowd moved slowly towards the welcome party. Interesting discussions and a lot of fun took place, accompanied by beer. The topics were about issues we face every day, and all the hot topics that have happened in the distro lately. Surprisingly, about 20 developers were gathered at the party. Although most of them were tired from their short or long trips, the party ended after approximately 6 hours, leaving scant time to recover some power and get ready for the first day of the event!
Vincent Untz, president of the openSUSE Board, made an introductory talk. A few others said words of welcome: Vojtěch Pavlík (SUSE representative, as SUSE was a gold sponsor), Aleš Kučera speaking for Zdeněk Zajíček (who couldn’t make it to the event), Executive Secretary of the Goverment Council of Information Society in Prague, and Pavel Tvrdík, Dean of FIT CVUT. (Video)
Agustin Benito Bethencourt was the keynote speaker. Bethencourt is Team Lead of the openSUSE team in SUSE, and a long time member of the KDE eV. The talk was focussed on the increasing interest and involvement of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) with community and open source projects. Bethencourt highlighted the needs of an SME. He discussed how an SME contrasts to a large company, and described the process for a community project to approach an SME and fulfill its need to provide valuable solutions. (Video)
The end of the keynote was the beginning of separate, co-hosted conferences, so the Gentoo room filled up. We had higher than expected numbers; there were often people sitting on the stairs or standing in the back of some talks.
Fabian Groffen, Council member, and Robin H. Johnson, Foundation trustee presented a two-part introductory talk. The topic presented two important, decision-making entities for the Gentoo project, the Council and the Foundation. They elaborated on the history and goals of those two entities, and discussed how they work together, and cooperate with other teams to ensure the Gentoo project works fluently on both the technical and bureaucratic sides. (Video, Slides)
Tomáš Chvátal was at the LinuxDays room presenting the Gentoo project and its distribution to the Czech attendees with his talk “Pokud se to hýbe, zkompiluj to!”. (Video)
Sébastien Fabbro, member of the Gentoo Scientific project, hosted his talk “gentoo@home”. Fabbro presented the problem of having too many combinations when testing packages, creating a lot of work and making it nearly impossible to have good coverage in most cases. He demonstrated a set of tools and solutions that could move the workload of testing into the user’s machine and, in addition with clustering solutions, could send results back. (Video, Slides)
Tomáš Chvátal talked about KDE, covering the user side and including a brief introduction of the KDE project itself, plus some of its technologies and innovations. The talk covered the Gentoo KDE team, of which Tomas has been a member for years, and the leader of the project for the past year. We saw the tools that have been developed to cover the complexity and large number of upstream programs and libraries, and provide a good desktop experience to the distro. (Video, Slides)
Alex Legler gave a detailed presentation about the Gentoo Security project, for which he is the team lead. The talk was divided into three parts: how security works in the open source world; the parties that are involved in handling the security issues; and the communication between each other. He expanded on how the Gentoo security team works; the tools they have developed to track the process; and how they rate security issues. He concluded with a presentation of the tools that are available to the users to assess whether their systems are vulnerable to known security issues. (Video, Slides)
Andrea Arteaga presented his GSoC 2011 project, a benchmarking application called Numbench, that can be found in sci overlay (there is already a complaint about the package not being in main tree ). We saw the motivation behind creating this project, the way it works, its webUI, plus some generated plots from it. (Video, Slides)
Jorge Manuel B.S. Vicetto, Release Engineering team member, after the lunch break, presented on Catalyst. Catalyst is the the tool used by the team to build the ISOs and stage3 tarballs. There was an extensive talk on the internals of how it performs, and what the spec files look like. Vicetto presented specs from the production server, used for building the weekly stages. Some examples were prepared so the audience could participate and get a better understanding of the procedure. Vicetto concluded by listing the pros, cons and future plans of Catalyst. There was a small discussion after the talk, with more feedback from the attendees. (Video 1, Video 2, Slides 1, Slides 2)
Fabian Groffen presented a well-written paper, the Gentoo Prefix, about the Gentoo distribution. Groffen discussed its history and first attempts to make it happen, the direction it later took, and its current status. The Prefix team spent a lot of time patching ebuilds tree-wise, and pushing the council for new EAPI changes. Stats showed that the work is close to perfect, and it’s getting more and more official without the need of an overlay. The pros of Prefix were presented at the end, which included not needing root privileges; availability of all tools found in a normal Gentoo system, and, of course, the results of a Gentoo system inside any other system. (Video, Slides)
Robin H. Johnson, team leader, coordinated a two-part presentation and discussion on Gentoo Infrastructure. It was one of the highlights of the event. This session was unique, with all six of the active core members standing next to Johnson (although many developers expressed fear as well). They are Jeremy Olexa, Alec Warner, Christian Ruppert, Alex Legler and Theo Chatzimichos. Johnson presented the members of the team; their roles; a few of the services that Gentoo maintains; some of the web applications: mirrors coverage, etc. After that there was a large discussion about various topics, the hot one being the Git migration, which is getting close, but needs more validation checking. (Video, Slides)
Alex Legler presented the last talk of the day, this time wearing his PR hat. This was one of the most interesting talks. After a brief introduction of the Gentoo PR team, and the Gentoo eV, we were presented with the results of the public survey about the Gentoo website. According to the graphs, most people want a change in both the design and the backend, moving from GuideXML to another format, like a wiki. A large discussion with lots of ideas followed, indicating there is much interest in the topic. (Video, Slides)
The day had been busy, so it was time to relax. People moved to Club Lavka for the Saturday party. The club is located in the Old City of Prague, next to the Charles bridge. While the location was good, the club itself was highly criticized, due to a lack of communication regarding food distribution. Thus, after a couple of beers, at about 22:00, many people moved to another bar to continue the party. Most of the Gentoo developers ended up in a small, typical, Czech pub nearby, having an awesome time.
The second day of the Gentoo Miniconf started at 11:00. The presentations on this day were not centered on the distribution itself, but cover a wider range of Gentoo-related topics.
Robin H. Johnson hosted the first talk of the day, about how a big company, like IsoHunt, uses Gentoo to manage their complex infrastructure. There was a brief introduction to the structure, along with some of their use-cases and solutions. (Video, Slides)
David Heidelberger, from the local community, prepared a nice set of animated slides which was a perfect match with the topic. Graphics cards and drivers along with some of their unique technologies were examined, with comments on how best to get them working on Gentoo systems. Many other graphics technologies were presented, including Wayland, that is going to play a major role in the future of that field. There were also Gentoo-specific tips and tricks on how to get the best gaming experience. (Video, Slides)
Christian Aistleiner talked about the SHA-1, how it works, how it is used in OpenGPG and GnuPG, and how we can use them correctly in order to create and maintain a secure set of keys. This talk was also the opening for the Key Signing Party that happened after the lunch break. Under the guidance of Robin Johnson, around 50 people took part at the Singing Party from all the co-hosted events. (Slides)
Alec Warner and Theo Chatzimichos held a presentation regarding Puppet. First, Starting with a 15-minute presentation from Chatzimichos of the basics, and the problems it solves when managing a large infrastructure. Then Warner presented 15 examples of small snippets of Puppet’s declarative language, and the attendees had the opportunity to run them in their systems. Warner presented those examples one at a time, along with commenting and covering various use-cases. (Video, Slides)
It is worth mentioning that ČVUT donated a server to Gentoo. There had been an authentication issue that Robin H. Johnson and Tomáš Kadlec (lead sysadmin at the university) managed to work on together.
Jorge Manuel B.S. Vicetto, with the help of Fabian Groffen and Hans de Graaff, coordinated the next round table discussion. They did a short talk on our QA tools like the tinderboxes, and how they are being used in various occasions, like the internal testsuites of the packages themselves, or the weekly ISOs etc. They raised a few ideas on how to improve QA through automating a lot of testing procedures. There was active participation of the attendees on those ideas, mentioning many additional ideas and tools that could be suited in those needs. (Video, Slides)
Markos Chandras and Tomáš Chvátal had the last presentation of the day, after another small break for the Group Photo. Their talk was split into two parts, first being the recruiting process by Chandras. He also showed statistics of new recruits, and alternative ways to contribute, like Arch/Herd testers and proxy maintainers. Then Chvatal presented a more technical followup. He explained in detail how to write an ebuild, and some of the internals, by working on an existing ebuild, net-dns/knot. It’s worth mentioning that there has been even a proper “repoman” commit done live for the audience. (Video, Slides)
That was the last presentation of the event. Theo Chatzimichos called Michal Hrušecký to say a few words about the initial ideas and the preparations of the conference. Then Chatzimichos expressed briefly his thoughts on how this conference was beneficial for the community, and if we should hold another one. Even if the community decides to go for another Miniconf, we still need to evaluate all the pros and cons, gather more feedback, and see what the next one should look like. Clearly, a more hacking-oriented event might be more valuable. (Video)
The day ended with another dinner and beer event at a Pub located at the city center. All of the Gentoo developers were present. They had plenty of time to evaluate those two days and discuss a possible next event. It was obvious that everyone had a great weekend, with plenty of meetings and interesting discussions. The dinner was sponsored by the conference budget and IsoHunt.