Interview with Nathan Willis, GUADEC Keynote Speaker

GUADEC 2014 is almost upon us, and we are talking to the three keynote speakers who are lined up for this year’s conference. Nathan Wills – LWN editor, typeface designer and author – is one of these keynote speakers. His talk, titled Should We Teach The Robot To Kill, addresses issues relating to Free Software and the automative industry. We caught up with him to find out a bit more about this fascinating subject, as well as his views on Free Software conferences.

The automotive industry has been a latecomer to open source software. Why do you think that is?

I guess I think there are two reasons. The first is that automotive is highly, tightly “vertical” — carmakers have long-standing relationships with their manufacturers, suppliers, and vendors that involve multi-year contracts, and each car model takes years to go from design to implementation. I mean, it’s the prototypical assembly-line industry, after all. Thus, it takes quite some time to orchestrate a major change.

The other reason, though, it that it has only been recently that consumer electronics has become an important factor for carmakers. Now that smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, not just accessories for people with disposable income, customers are asking for different things in their cars than they used to. A few years ago, your biggest concerns were DVD players in the rear seats, CDs in the front, and maybe some kind of remote-unlock/service-you-can-call. Now people want installable apps and they expect a full-blown 3G Internet connection; that means a very different software stack is expected than there used to be.

What is the most exciting improvement the automotive industry could bring to everyday life, in your opinion?

Okay; so this may sound nebulous, but I think one of the best things the automotive software market could do is demonstrate to people that software is just another component in all of the machines & things that we already use everyday. Because people have a different relationship to their cars than they do to, say, their phones and their netbooks. We change our own oil, we replace parts that wear out; we keep our cars for decades at a time and we learn every little thing about how they work (admittedly, it’s not always by choice…).

So automotive software will have to encompass part of that experience already. And, since so much of that software will be based on Linux and FOSS, I hope it will expose lots of new people to programming — as something that they can do if they decide they want to.

You attended the coolest worldwide conferences about open source. Which one has been the most exciting? (GUADEC apart, of course!)

Yikes…. It’s so hard to choose, because they’re all so different. I really love the “community” conferences like Texas Linux Fest, SCALE, and Ohio Linux Fest, because the attendees are so fired up. But I also really love developer conferences, because you get to see the connections being made and major things happening that just don’t occur in mailing-list discussions. On that side of things I would put conferences like GUADEC and the GStreamer Conference. But then I also have to single out Libre Graphics Meeting, which is a favorite of mine because it’s right in between: developers and users meeting with each other.

What do you expect from this GUADEC?

Mayhem of the highest order. But mixed in with talks showcasing interesting new work that I might unintentionally miss if I was just reading release announcements, a glimpse of where GNOME and GTK+ applications will be six months or a year from now, and, naturally, a lot of people enjoying geeking out (so to speak) about making and using software. Also hopefully some font talk….

What can we expect from your keynote at GUADEC?

Well, I hope people will come away with a clearer picture of where things stand today in the automotive Linux software realm — especially what the various projects’ goals are and what parts of the overall picture those goals cover. Then I also hope I can get people interested in participating in automotive software space, starting with where they can get involved today as a user and as a contributor.

And, finally, my ultimate goal would be to persuade some people that the free-software community can — and should — take up the challenge and view the car as a first-rate environment where free software belongs. Because there will naturally be lots of little gaps where the different corporate projects don’t quite have every angle covered. But we don’t have to wait for other giant companies to come along and finish the job. We can get involved now, and if we do, then the next generation of automotive software will be stronger for it, both in terms of features and in terms of free-software ideals.

Thanks Nathan! We can’t wait to hear your keynote.

GUADEC 2014 starts on Saturday in Strasbourg, France. To welcome attendees, and to kick start the fun, there will be a pre-registration welcome event on Friday 25th July at 18:00, at Foyer de l’Étudiant Catholique, 17 Place Saint Étienne (which is also the accommodation for sponsored attendees).

The event will be a chance for attendees to collect their conference badges ahead of time, all while having a drink, eating and chatting in a friendly mood.

GUADEC couldn’t happen without the help of volunteers. These are attendees that dedicate part of their conference experience to help the organizing team. They are there to make sure things run smoothly, and are always available to help.

Shivani Poddar was a volunteer during last year’s GUADEC in Brno, her first GUADEC both as an attendee and a volunteer. The experience was so remarkable Shivani is now back to volunteering. She’s coordinating the volunteer activities for this year’s GUADEC — and she guarantees it’s not too late to sign up to help!

We chatted with Shivani about volunteering at GUADEC, and how you can also help:

shivani_poddarWhat can volunteers help with during GUADEC?

Volunteers can help with a number of different things. They can assist at the information desk, where they answer questions about the conference events, and help with registration and swag handling. They can also become a Session Chair, which means moderating the talks, making sure they start and end on time, and that attendees can ask questions. Another way volunteers can help is by, literally, running around and helping as needed — we call these the “runners”.

All of this happens during the conference, but there’s a lot to be done before it as well. Volunteers are welcome to help us with the pre-conference setup, which includes putting things in place, folding badges, and solving last-minute troubles.

You were a volunteer during last year’s GUADEC. How was the experience?

I personally loved the experience. Firstly, as interns [Shivani was a Google Summer of Code intern last summer], we don’t have to worry a lot about organizational tasks. So volunteering was a great way to contribute my bit to the conference. I not only learned about how things work (including running, being Session Chair, etc) but also got to meet a lot of new people because of it. I saw the effort people put in, and felt like contributing a lot more in the following year (read this year!).

How can attendees volunteer? Can anyone help?

Yes! And thanks to all volunteers, it means a lot!

If you want to help, all you need to do is the follow these steps:

  • Add yourself to the Volunteers list, and read about the different volunteer roles carefully.
  • Add yourself to the timetable. Make sure to only sign up for slot you will be available to cover.
  • Make sure you are subscribed to guadec-list — all important announcements are communicated there.
  • Make sure to attend the volunteer meetings.

If you want to volunteer (or are already one) and have any queries, ping me at #guadec on IRC. I will be happy to help you.

Thanks for the interview and for coordinating the volunteer work at GUADEC, Shivani!

GUADEC 2014 is just around the corner, and three exciting keynote speakers will be presenting during the conference. We took the opportunity to speak to Matthew Garrett, who will be giving one of those keynotes, about his keynote and about this year’s GUADEC.

Picture of Matthew GarrettHi Matthew, many know you for your work on UEFI and secure boot. Have you learnt anything through that experience?

I learned about the importance of implementing security in a way that respects a machine owner’s freedom. The risk was that UEFI secure boot would end up as what the FSF call Restricted Boot – a mechanism that restricts what the user can run on their system in the name of security. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and instead we ended up with systems that allow the user to choose their keys.

The great part of this has been seeing other companies express interest in ensuring that the devices they manufacture respect user freedom in the same way. I’ve spoken to people who are working hard on rolling out similar functionality on other devices, allowing users to run the software they want to without having to give up security in the process.

What can we expect from your keynote at GUADEC?

I’ll be talking about why a free software desktop is still vital, and why GNOME should be that desktop. Commercial desktops are inevitably going to compromise user freedom for the benefit of proprietary software vendors or governments, but many users are still going to be willing to accept the lost of those freedoms if it improves their productivity. We need to produce something that’s not merely more free, but actively better.

You have been contributing to Free Software for some time. What is your perspective on the new open source generations, who are starting out with the web and GitHub?

The sheer prevalence of free software means new developers may be less aware of the struggles previous generations went through in order to build the current ecosystem. The risk is that we’ll slide back towards a more proprietary world, and we need to keep paying attention to attacks on our freedoms.

You have attended to several GUADEC: how is to be a keynoter this time with a FSF Free Software Award in your pocket?

It’s an honor. GNOME was the first free software project I became heavily involved with, and I still have many good friends in the community. I’m proud to be able to speak in front of an audience so committed to providing high quality free software for the benefit of all users, not just those with a technical background.

What do you expect from this GUADEC?

I expect to spend time with a wonderful community of smart, driven people. I expect to hear about inspiring projects, exciting features and meet a variety of new people. And, being France, I expect to find some excellent food and wine.

We’d like to thank Matthew for taking the time to answer our questions, and look forward to his keynote at GUADEC.

GUADEC is only a few days away, but some GNOME contributors are already gathering in Strasbourg to improve the GNOME document reader, Evince.

Their goals include: making further improvements to accessibility support, implementing tiling support to allow infinite zoom, improving the support for PDF annotations, revamping the comics back-end and reviewing and integrating pending patches.

The hackfest brings together members of the GNOME Accessibility team, and Evince developers. It also involves a number of  Google Summer of Code students.

The event could not have taken place without the support of the GNOME Foundation.

You can learn more about the Evince Hackfest on the event wiki page.

 

Evince logo

Each GUADEC, a small number of special speakers are invited to deliver keynotes. This allows different perspectives, specialisms, and partners to provide their own unique view, and to provide the GNOME community with unique insights. We are excited to announce that the keynote speakers for GUADEC 2014 will be Matthew Garrett, Nathan Willis, and Jim Hall.

Matthew Garrett is a security developer at Nebula, a member of the Fedora Board and sits on the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board. He is known for his strong opinions and for his important work on UEFI and secure boot for Linux.

Nathan Willis works as an editor at the Linux and open-source news site LWN.net. He is also an open typeface designer, contributor to the Open Font Library, and co-author of the book Design With FontForge. His keynote will discuss the ethics of software, particularly in relation to the automotive industry.

Finally, Jim Hall is a Free Software advocate, and is best known for his work on the FreeDOS Project. He has recently conducted user testing on GNOME as a part of his studies at the University of Minnesota, and will be presenting his results as a part of his keynote presentation.

We would like to thank these three speakers for keynoting at this year’s GUADEC, and are looking forward to their presentations in Strasbourg.

The GUADEC organization team is happy to announce the availability of the registration form for the upcoming GUADEC to be held in Strasbourg, France at Epitech, a software engineer school in the heart of the cityt! This year  a list of the participants are available online at https://www.guadec.org/participant-list.

Once registered to the event do not forget we also provide a set of badges you can use to share on your website! Let everyone know you are coming to such a great event held in one of the most beautiful cities of Europe!

About GUADEC

The GNOME Users And Developers European Conference (GUADEC), is an annual conference taking place in Europe, whose prime topic is the development of the GNOME desktop environment which sees many participants from all over the world.

The GNOME foundation is happy to welcome its new GNOME Board of Directors who were recently elected
for the 2014-2015 term.

The new board consists of the following new members: Karen Sandler, Jeff Fortin, Andrea Veri while Ekaterina Gerasimova, Sriram Ramkrishna, Tobias Mueller and Marina Zhurakhinskaya continues to serve. All Board members are key contributors and together represents the diversity of the GNOME community .

“The very first feelings I had when I was elected on the Board of Directors have not only been a great joy and pleasure but also a strong motivation and spirit of responsibility for what concerns the decisions and dedication every Board member should be enlightened with during his yearly commitment” -Andrea Veri

Serving on the board is very a challenging task that involve many difficult decisions, we wish the new board the best of luck in the the upcoming year.

The Foundation wants to express a special thanks to the outgoing board members: Andreas Nilsson who served as President, Joanmarie Diggs who served as Vice President and Emmanuele Bassi who served as Secretary. We also want to thank the candidates who were not elected this time, as this was a particularly heated election, with a lot of great discussion about the future of GNOME.

The new board will officially take their positions at the upcoming GUADEC conference that takes place 25 July – 01 August in Strasbourg, France.

The GNOME Board of Directors is elected annually by the foundation members, every foundation member are eligible to run for the board. More info about the board are available on the foundation website.

GUADEC, the GNOME Users and Developers European Conference, is the largest GNOME event of the year, drawing contributors from all over the world. This year’s conference is approaching, and will be held in Strasbourg, from July 26 to August 1.

GUADEC is an invaluable opportunity for contributors to share what they have been working on over the past year, and to have face-to-face working sessions and meetings. As usual, it will consist of four days of presentations, followed by three days of BoFs (“Birds of a Feather” sessions).

Strasbourg looks set to be an excellent location for this year’s event. The local area has a strong Free Software community and, as the home of the European Parliament and European Court of Human Rights, is a highly symbolic city. Strasbourg is also known for its beauty, culture and food. As one of this year’s conference organisers said, “it is a lovely city, and we hope that attendees will fall under its charm”.

The schedule for this year’s GUADEC has now been published, and gives an idea of what we can expect from the event. GTK+ and the GNOME application development platform are a major theme, with talks on GTK+, GStreamer, geoclue and Wayland. Application development will also be a focus for this year’s event, with talks about core apps, such as Documents, Photos, Web and Boxes, as well as other applications, including Pitivi, Corebird and SDAPS, a paper surveying tool.

A number of talks cover exciting new developments in the GNOME project. Ones to watch include Christian Hergert’s presentations on GOM and Builder, Alberto Ruiz on Fleet Commander and Emmunuelle Bassi’s talk on the GTK+ Scene Graph.

As usual, the GUADEC schedule also includes important non-technical talks, on subjects such as usability testing, documentation, outreach, intellectual property and funding models for open source projects.

More details about this year’s GUADEC, including key note speakers and social events, will be made in the coming days and weeks. Watch this space.

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GNOME contributors and developers are currently gathered in Berlin, Germany, for a three day Developer Experience Hackfest. The event is focused on the GNOME application developer platform. Participants working to ensure that developers can easily create high quality applications for GNOME.

Topics being covered at the event include:

  • GTK+ planning, and the roadmap for new widgets and capabilities.
  • Developer tools, including editors, DevHelp, and debugging tools.
  • Application development documentation, including tutorials, API reference documentation, and the GNOME developer website.

Detailed updates can be found on Planet GNOME.

The hackfest is being generously hosted by Endocode, and has been sponsored by the GNOME Foundation.

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