Saturday and Sunday 2-3 February I attended the yearly Free and Open source Software Developers’ European Meeting (Fosdem). There are 5000+ people that visit this free congress that is organized in the ULB campus buildings by a team of volunteers and sponsoring from some big companies like Redhat, Google, HP, O’Reilly and others.

The reason I visit Fosdem is to get inspired and to re-fuel my enthusiasm for open source software and technology in general.  There are over 450 speakers and many parallel sessions to choose from. The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed, the level of knowledge of technology is usually very high amongst the visitors and most have active jobs in IT as developers, systems operators and researchers.

This year I spent most of my time in the room for Lightning talks. These are 15 - 20 minutes talks about various projects that do not fit into one of the main Tracks (Perl, Mozilla, PHP, Security etc). I like these talks because their are not too complex and it gives me a lot of topics to think about.  I did visit some of the longer talks in the Big session rooms but will only discuss topics I attended and liked most.

1. Creating flat HTML pages using Nanoc

With Nanoc you can create attractive websites that consist of flat HTML files using a SSG, a static site generator. This is ideal for websites that are not really interactive, don’t need logins and sharing information / data is the main goal. For instance site for documentation of simply sites about a company or person. Nanoc is written in Ruby and uses a smart way of converting template files (html & markdown) into the HTML files that can be uploaded to the webserver. I will definitely be trying Nanoc and migrate this blog to a SSG created site.

2. Why do children want to code

This talk began with the question at what age people in the audience started their first coding project. Below the age of 14 or earlier., most of the audience started before the age of 14!  This Lighning talk discussed ways of introducing coding to children using tools like Scratch and other languages. The key was to have them create and demo something and doing the coding together with parents and at least one professional developer. Scratch seemed like a nice tool and I will be investigating what can be done using it. Could this be a Moodle module to work on and demo your coding project?

3. Buddy cloud

We all know Yammer, Facebook, Google+ and some of you might even know Diaspora. Meet Buddy cloud: a well designed platform using the XMPP protocol and can live on your private protected server. You can post your updates, repond to others and use streams of updates and information you like. It can easily be integrated in other projects and because of the strong underlying protocol it is very stable and secure. Since I quit Facebook & Google+ because of fear of misuse of my personal data I a looking for some kind of alternative. Could Buddycloud be the solution? How hard would it be to use the Jabber functionality in Moodle and add Buddycloud as a Module?

4. Arduino / Searduino

Actually these we 2 talks about what can be done with the Arduino board. A small circuit board with a computer on it. A kind of lego’s for creating your device. You can stack LCD’s, GSM receivers, GPS receivers, WIFI adapters etc to this boards. The can be used to make a led blink (that example was shown in code) or track endangered animals. Could you stack a remote controlled helicopter on top of a Arduino board and create your own drone?

There are many more topics that I could have written about but if you want more information on the Fosdem talks just visit the website. There is a large archive of video’s to browse through. These videos are not a subsitute for visiting the congress, Fosdem is THE best place to meet other devs and have a change to:

  • meet the elders of the internet.
  • meet the developers of your favorite programming language.
  • see real nerd fashion, nerds never go out of fashion!! (the have never been in too),
  • get inspired to collaborate on projects.
  • get the best laptop-sticker you can think of

A big thanks for all those volunteers and the ULB for organizing this unique and cool event!