Back from GUADEC

After spending a few days in Manchester with other fellow GNOME hackers and colleagues from Endless, I’m finally back at my place in the sunny land of Surrey (England) and I thought it would be nice to write some sort of recap, so here it is:

The Conference

Getting ready for GUADECI arrived in Manchester on Thursday the 27th just on time to go to the pre-registration event where I met the rest of the gang and had some dinner, and that was already a great start. Let’s forget about the fact that I lost my badge even before leaving the place, which has to be some type of record (losing the badge before the conference starts, really?), but all in all it was great to meet old friends, as well as some new faces, that evening already.

Then the 3 core days of GUADEC started. My first impression was that everything (including the accommodation at the university, which was awesome) was very well organized in general, and the venue make it for a perfect place to organize this type of event, so I was already impressed even before things started.

I attended many talks and all of them were great, but if I had to pick my 5 favourite ones I think those would be the following ones, in no particular order:

  • The GNOME Way, by Allan: A very insightful and inspiring talk, made me think of why we do the things we do, and why it matters. It also kicked an interesting pub conversation with Allan later on and I learned a new word in English (“principled“), so believe me it was great.
  • Keynote: The Battle Over Our Technology, by Karen: I have no words to express how much I enjoyed this talk. Karen was very powerful on stage and the way she shared her experiences and connected them to why Free Software is important did leave a mark.
  • Mutter/gnome-shell state of the union, by Florian and Carlos: As a person who is getting increasingly involved with Endless’s fork of GNOME Shell, I found this one particularly interesting. Also, I found it rather funny at points, specially during “the NVIDIA slide”.
  • Continuous: Past, Present, and Future, by Emmanuele: Sometimes I talk to friends and it strikes me how quickly they dismiss things as CI/CD as “boring” or “not interesting”, which I couldn’t disagree more with. This is very important work and Emmanuele is kicking ass as the build sheriff, so his talk was very interesting to me too. Also, he’s got a nice cat.
  • The History of GNOME, by Jonathan: Truth to be told, Jonathan already did a rather similar talk internally in Endless a while ago, so it was not entirely new to me, but I enjoyed it a lot too because it brought so many memories to my head: starting with when I started with Linux (RedHat 5.2 + GNOME pre-release!), when I used GNOME 1.x at the University and then moved to GNOME 2.x later on… not to mention the funny anecdotes he mentioned (never imagined the phone ringing while sleeping could be a good thing). Perfectly timed for the 20th anniversary of GNOME indeed!

As I said, I attended other talks too and all were great too, so I’d encourage you to check the schedule and watch the recordings once they are available online, you won’t regret it.

Closing ceremony

And the next GUADEC will be in… Almería!

One thing that surprised me this time was that I didn’t do as much hacking during the conference as in other occasions. Rather than seeing it as a bad thing, I believe that’s a clear indicator of how interesting and engaging the talks were this year, which made it for a perfect return after missing 3 edition (yes, my last GUADEC was in 2013).

All in all it was a wonderful experience, and I can thank and congratulate the local team and the volunteers who run the conference this year well enough, so here’s is a picture I took where you can see all the people standing up and clapping during the closing ceremony.

Many thanks and congratulations for all the work done. Seriously.

The Unconference

After 3 days of conference, the second part started: “2 days and a bit” (I was leaving on Wednesday morning) of meeting people and hacking in a different venue, where we gathered to work on different topics, plus the occasional high-bandwith meeting in person.

GUADEC unconferenceAs you might expect, my main interest this time was around GNOME Shell, which is my main duty in Endless right now. This means that, besides trying to be present in the relevant BoFs, I’ve spent quite some time participating of discussions that gathered both upstream contributors and people from different companies (e.g. Endless, Red Hat, Canonical).

This was extremely helpful and useful for me since, now we have rebased our fork of GNOME Shell 3.22, we’re in a much better position to converge and contribute back to upstream in a more reasonable fashion, as well as to collaborate implementing new features that we already have in Endless but that didn’t make it to upstream yet.

And talking about those features, I’d like to highlight two things:

First, the discussion we held with both developers and designers to talk about the new improvements that are being considered for both the window picker and the apps view, where one of the ideas is to improve the apps view by (maybe) adding a new grid of favourite applications that the users could customize, change the order… and so forth.

According to the designers this proposal was partially inspired by what we have in Endless, so you can imagine I would be quite happy to see such a plan move forward, as we could help with the coding side of things upstream while reducing our diff for future rebases. Thing is, this is a proposal for now so nothing is set in stone yet, but I will definitely be interested in following and participating of the relevant discussions regarding to this.

Second, as my colleague Georges already vaguely mentioned in his blog post, we had an improvised meeting on Wednesday with one of the designers from Red Hat (Jakub Steiner), where we discussed about a very particular feature upstream has wanted to have for a while and which Endless implemented downstream: management of folders using DnD, right from the apps view.

This is something that Endless has had in its desktop since the beginning of times, but the implementation relied in a downstream-specific version of folders that Endless OS implemented even before folders were available in the upstream GNOME Shell, so contributing that back would have been… “interesting”. But fortunately, we have now dropped that custom implementation of folders and embraced the upstream solution during the last rebase to 3.22, and we’re in a much better position now to contribute our solution upstream. Once this lands, you should be able to create, modify, remove and use folders without having to open GNOME Software at all, just by dragging and dropping apps on top of other apps and folders, pretty much in a similat fashion compared to how you would do it in a mobile OS these days.

We’re still in an early stage for this, though. Our current solution in Endless is based on some assumptions and tools that will simply not be the case upstream, so we will have to work with both the designers and the upstream maintainers to make this happen over the next months. Thus, don’t expect anything to land for the next stable release yet, but simply know we’ll be working on it  and that should hopefully make it not too far in the future.

The Rest

This GUADEC has been a blast for me, and probably the best and my most favourite edition ever among all those I’ve attended since 2008. Reasons for such a strong statement are diverse, but I think I can mention a few that are clear to me:

From a personal point of view, I never felt so engaged and part of the community as this time. I don’t know if that has something to do with my recent duties in Endless (e.g. flatpak, GNOME Shell) or with something less “tangible” but that’s the truth. Can’t state it well enough.

From the perspective of Endless, the fact that 17 of us were there is something to be very excited and happy about, specially considering that I work remotely and only see 4 of my colleagues from the London area on a regular basis (i.e. one day a week). Being able to meet people I don’t regularly see as well as some new faces in person is always great, but having them all together “under the same ceilings” for 6 days was simply outstanding.

GNOME 20th anniversary dinner

GNOME 20th anniversary dinner

Also, as it happened, this year was the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the GNOME project and so the whole thing was quite emotional too. Not to mention that Federico’s birthday happened during GUADEC, which was a more than nice… coincidence? 🙂 Ah! And we also had an incredible dinner on Saturday to celebrate that, couldn’t certainly be a better opportunity for me to attend this conference!

Last, a nearly impossible thing happened: despite of the demanding schedule that an event like this imposes (and I’m including our daily visit to the pubs here too), I managed to go running every single day between 5km and 10km, which I believe is the first time it happened in my life. I definitely took my running gear with me to other conferences but this time was the only one I took it that seriously, and also the first time that I joined other fellow GNOME runners in the process, which was quite fun as well.

Final words

I couldn’t finish this extremely long post without a brief note to acknowledge and thank all the many people who made this possible this year: the GNOME Foundation and the amazing group of volunteers who helped organize it, the local team who did an outstanding job at all levels (venue, accomodation, events…), my employer Endless for sponsoring my attendance and, of course, all the people who attended the event and made it such an special GUADEC this year.

Thank you all, and see you next year in Almería!

Credit to Georges Stavracas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.