FOSDEM is Europe's biggest meeting of Free Software developers and KDE turned out in force at it last weekend. As well as talks in the main track on KDE and KDevelop, the KDE Developers' room hosted a series of other talks. We also ran a stall and still found time for some hacking.
FOSDEM is a spectacular event. In the capital of Europe over two thousand geeks come together for a weekend of talks, hacking and socialising. One contingent of KDE developers came on a road trip from the Netherlands and spent much of Friday evening spiraling Brussels until we came to the pre-FOSDEM party in Grand Place where we were greeted by the welcome sight of as many litre glasses of Hoegaarden as we could drink. The great and the good of Free Software were there including Alan Cox, possible future Debian Project Leader Matthew Garrett and our own founder Matthias Ettrich.
On the Saturday we set up our stall selling a fine range of KDE t-shirts and badges sporting the new official KDE logo. The first KDE talk was on KDevelop by Harald Fernengel who ran us through the many features of KDE's IDE. We then retreated to our own KDE Developers room for a talk on KOffice discussing the up-coming 1.4 release and how to make plugins for KOffice using KParts.
That evening we went to a centre which trains women to use computers. In return for talking about Free Software and KDE we got internet access and a space to hack for the evening. It was great to see that many of the women were already running GNU/Linux. They mentioned that they would really like Ubuntu if only it came with KDE, which made Jonathan and Andreas smile.
Sunday opened with Matthias's talk on KDE showing how much the Unix desktop has changed since 1996. We are, he says, at a very exciting time in desktop development with challenges and opportunities including Qt4, desktop search, D-BUS and more.
Later in the day our developer's room was busy for the KDE Development Using Python Talk. Programming in Python will slow down your applications by only a second or two but speed up your development time by a factor of 2 or more because the language is so much easier to use than C++. Issues about KDevelop's less than optimal Python support were raised, then swiftly brought crashing down when at the end of the talk Alexander Dymo announced that during the talk he had added Python support for KDevelop's Qt Designer. This earned him a round of spontaneous applause - obviously Python development is moving fast.
Our final talk was an update from Scott Wheeler about his ideas for a searchable web of context on the desktop. He has found existing search tools such as Google desktop and Beagle lacking because, unlike Google on the web, the desktop has no links, if we can add links to desktop entities then search will become a lot more powerful.
Other talks we went to included Alan Cox explaining how he manages to make a stable branch of Linux releases based on all the fixes Linus doesn't use; Hanna Wallach promoted the Debian Woman project ("not here to provide girlfriends to lonely geeks") which has managed to double the number of women involved with Debian, also RMS presented the Free Software Foundation's award to OpenBSD's Theo de Raadt.
If you ever get the opportunity to go to FOSDEM do not turn it down.