Camping Out with KDE

Friday, February 5, 2010

This year, the second annual Camp KDE was held from January 15-22nd. It was graciously hosted by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California in San Diego. Camp KDE is the young North American counterpart to Akademy, the main annual KDE developer and user conference.

The conference consisted of two days of general presentations; half a day of more in-depth technical presentations; half a day of training on CMake, CTest and CDash; a day trip; a day of general Qt training; and a day of Qt embedded training. The full schedule, with abstracts, is available now. Slides will soon be available here, and videos will be following shortly on and YouTube.

Professor Philip Bourne gives the first keynote on open data

Things started off on Saturday with a keynote by Professor Philip Bourne of UCSD. Professor Bourne gave an absorbing and thought-provoking discussion of the the importance of open access to data in the academic world, drawing parallels between open data and open source. He discussed the business of academic publishing and the difficulty of sustaining such a closed, pay-for-play model in light of the millions of research papers published each year, as well as the increased difficulty of sorting through this enormity of information when the data is closed. These issues prompted him to create SciVee, a Web 2.0 site that allows users to view, annotate and tag research documents, slides, presentations, lectures and posters, as well as annotate add their own content. All content is freely available, and ratings and comments allow visitors to help the community find the best and most useful information.

Of particular note during Saturday afternoon's talks was Alexandra Leisse and Till Adam's presentation on career opportunities in Free and Open Source software (FOSS). These two have been well-known in the KDE community for many years, but what most of us didn't know is that Alexandra had been a professional and well-regarded opera singer and Till a rock star before both of them found careers using and supporting FOSS. The idea that you can take your interest in FOSS and turn it into a career is a wonderful and important thing to remember.

Till Adam was a German rock god before finding a career in FOSS

On Sunday the excellent presentations continued, kicked off with a keynote from Frank Karlitschek. Frank discussed the now-ubiquitous concept of the cloud and KDE's role in it. KDE's wide array of technologies such as cross-platform frameworks, network transparency through kioslaves, Akonadi, Nepomuk and the upcoming Silk, combined with our online-hungry community, positions it nicely to act as the user interface both for local computing and online services. Frank called for the KDE community to adopt a forward-thinking perspective, keeping this kind of online interaction in mind while ensuring that our high level of local functionality remains for those that do not have access to constant or high-speed Internet links.

The boys from Brazil mean business.

Monday's talks were a little more technical and finished in the early afternoon. With the talks over, conference attendees were left impressed by the high quality of the presentations we had seen over the past two and a half days. We went straight into CMake/CTest/CDash training, given by Marcus Hanwell and provided by Kitware. As Marcus talked we saw our last sun of the conference (entirely coincidentally!). The rest of the conference sunny Southern California failed us and left us with rain, rain and more rain.

Tuesday was the day trip. We went to Stone Brewery, producer of some of the country's most well-respected ales. Due to the downpour we canceled our plans to follow up the brewery tour with a trip to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and instead had a nice group lunch at the brewery's bistro. In the afternoon we took shelter back at the event space (where electricity, chairs, tables and wireless were in plentiful supply) and hacked and talked. Some of us took a trip to famous Fry's Electronics, where nobody left empty-handed and some with loaded arms.

Wednesday was a full day of Qt training given by Till Adam and provided by KDAB. The large amount of time allowed multiple topics to be covered, which allowed some of the more difficult concepts to be explained and studied.

Thursday, Katrina Niolet of KDAB gave her fellow KDABians an instructional day of Qt Embedded training, and invited the rest of us to join if we wished (we did!). For most of us this was the first time we had ever laid a finger on a framebuffer. There was a lot of information to remember, but with many of us interested in programming for mobile devices, it was a great experience overall.

When we weren't training and hacking those last few days, we did slip in some fun times despite the rain. Restaurants were aplenty and lots of great food was consumed. Movies were watched, beers were drunk, karaoke was sung and general camaraderie was enjoyed. A few times our mascot Konqui and his female friend Katie even dropped by to surprise us!

Konqui prepares a sneak attack on the unwary Katie!

On our final night, those that remained went out for a group dinner at El Torito, where the special on margaritas made our choice of libations easy. It was a great end to a great conference, and a huge thanks to Google for helping to make it happen!

by Jeff Mitchell, Camp KDE organizer