GUADEC 2010

The venueGUADEC is the GNOME Users’ and Developers’ European Conference, and I got to go there this year, following my visit to the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit last year and LiMo’s announcement of GNOME Foundation sponsorship. GUADEC is the place to be if you want to find out what’s going on with GNOME, catch up with key developers of a wide range of GNOME projects, get involved in writing software or otherwise contributing, or generally hang out with a bunch of scary smart individuals.

This year as an added bonus, two days of developer training were available, which seemed like a great opportunity to fill some gaps in my GNOME knowledge, so I went along to that. The training was organised by Dave Neary, who did an excellent job of putting together a packed schedule. It’s really great to see professional-level training at an event like this, as it helps dispel the myth that open source is somehow less serious. The course was well-attended with about 10 people from a very diverse group of companies and backgrounds, including one hobbyist who paid for the fun of it!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the full second day of training, due to a schedule clash with the GNOME Advisory Board. The board meeting more than made up for it by being an excellent opportunity to hear the views of some of the organisations and companies who are investing in GNOME. It was a great opportunity to put names to faces as well, with a superstar list of representatives to the board.

Following the training was the usual packed talk agenda. This is not an easy conference to attend – it kicks off at 09.30 every day, and with more than 60 talk slots over three days, not including BoFs and hacking, it’s pretty intense. The talks are a very high standard, often extremely technical, and give a very good insight into GNOME.

Some of the talks that particularly caught my eye included:

  • Who makes GNOME, by Dave Neary. The statistics weren’t surprising: a huge number of people are involved, and a very wide range of companies, with no single company dominating and a good mix between large and small companies. It was good to see some hard facts to back up the GNOME open development story, and a big thanks must go to Dave for publishing this report.
  • State of the GNOME 3 Shell, by Owen Taylor. It was really interesting to see GNOME Shell taking shape, with a definite feeling of progress since GCDS. I’ve been playing with it on a horribly underspecified laptop, and can’t wait to see it complete.
  • GNOME’s next place in the industry, by Alberto Ruiz; The future is JavaScript, by John Palmieri; My platform is bigger than yours by Xan Lopez and Gustavo Noronha. More on these below…
  • Clutter: State of the Union, and Everything You Ever Wanted to Do With Clutter were sure to be crowd pleasers, given that Clutter is all about exciting user interfaces and effects. It didn’t disappoint, with lions and tigers and monkeys and robot ponies:
    Clutter robot ponies
    On a serious note, it’s great to see continued investment in Clutter as a UI toolkit. I think it’s delivering some exciting innovation in netbook UIs and elsewhere.

During my talk at GUADEC (GNOME, Linux Mobile Stacks and You!) I tried to drive home the fact that mobile needs to become an important part of GNOME developer thinking, more so than now. To demonstrate this, I showed some statistics on the size of the mobile market, compared to other platforms. I also talked about how difficult it is to find key information about GNOME compared to competing projects, and the comparisons that are taking place between GNOME and other technologies even now. The GNOME Foundation does a fantastic job of outreach, including sponsoring people to go to GUADEC, but like any open source project it’s important to ensure a constant flow of new developers and to make it ever-easier to develop for the projects. I hope that message got across.

One of the most interesting themes of this year’s event (and I’ve only been to two, so I can’t draw any inferences on patterns) was the focus on the future. From this year’s event it’s easy to believe the future is the web, simpler scripting languages, results-driven development and making application development simpler. All these tie neatly into the way that iPhone has changed the industry and made people think more carefully about the elusive third party developers and apps stores. Solutions like better scripting integration, cool UI toolkits and frameworks like Quickly are only part of the story, but all part of giving GNOME a boost and making sure it’s around over the coming years.

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