Flock: Behind the Scenes 4

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Another set of news and tips from the organization of Flock 2014:

Offline guide for Guidebook.com – I’ve published an offline guide for Guidebook.com. You can download their apps for Android or iOS and they even have a web mobile version, so you can use it on other platforms, too. The “Flock 2014″ is currently pending approval, but it should be available really soon (UPDATE: it’s been approved and is available!). The guide contains the conference schedule, maps (conference venue, how to get to parties, hotel,…), information about social events, lunches,  Diplomat Hotel, Sinkuleho dormitories, mobile data plans, public transport in Prague, taxi services, useful websites and apps for visiting Prague, numbers and contacts for emergency situations. You can also connect with other attendees through it or receive important messages from us, organizers, during the conference.

Some tips:

Transport in Prague – a lot of people ask about this because every Flock attendee will have to get around in Prague somehow. I strongly recommend you use public transport. The Prague public transport has been rated as 4th best in Europe. It’s safe, cheap and runs 24/7. You can find more info about it on the Transportation page at flocktofedora.org. Taxi drivers in Prague have generally a bad reputation because of overcharging. It’s not really necessary to take a taxi from the airport to Hotel Diplomat or Sinkuleho dormitories because it’s very easy and quick by bus. If you need to take a taxi, it’s better to order it via an app or call rather than flagging it down on a street. Recommended taxi companies:

  • Tick Tack – comfortable Audi A6 and A8 cars, accepts also credit cards or euros, multimedia passenger system where you can track the taxi on a map, watch TVs, wifi on board, power plugs, phone number: 14222.

Mobile Data Plans – many of us with smart phones can’t imagine being without Internet connection and data roaming is still pretty expensive in most countries. For this purpose, you can buy a Czech SIM card and prepay a data plan. There are three mobile network providers (Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2) and a handful of virtual operators (TESCO Mobile, Sazka Mobile, Mobil.cz,…). See emails from me and Jaroslav Řezník for data plans and price comparison. Vodafone has a store right in the arrivals hall of the Prague airport. T-Mobile and O2 have stores on Vítězné náměstí (Victory Square) which is just a few minutes from Diplomat Hotel and Sinkuleho dormitories. Mobile networks in the Czech Republic are based on GSM 900 and 1800, Edge, 3G and Prague should be fully covered by LTE.

Useful websites and apps for visiting Prague:

My Prague – interactive guide to Prague, hundreds of points of interest, web app at mypragueapp.com or in Google Play and App Store.

Prague Minos Guide – a comprehensive guide to Prague, hundreds of points of interest, offline maps,… in Google Play and App Store.

CG Transit – the best app for timetables and searching journeys, timetables are paid for, but have free one-month trials, in Google Play and App Store.

Other timetables and transport connection searching – website IDOS.cz, Pubtran (for Android), Jízdní řády iDNES.cz (for iPhone).

Google Maps use local timetables to find the best journey using public transport in Prague. The easest way to get around!

SMS ticket – an app that makes purchasing sms tickets for public transport faster and more convenient, but you still need to have a Czech sim card, Google Play, App Store.

Sejf – an app that allows you to pay for public transport tickets and other services (parking,…) even if you don’t have a Czech sim card, Google Play, App Store.

Czech Money – yes, the Czech Republic hasn’t adopted euro, but still has Czech crowns (CZK). The Czech National Bank has created an app to show what coins and banknotes look like and what are their security measurements so that you never get fooled by fake money. Google Play, App Store.
Lunchtime – lists daily lunch options in near restaurants, lunchtime.cz or in Google Play or App Store.

Cheapest Taxi Prague – an app that helps you order a taxi, in Google Play and App Store.

Taxi.eu – another app that helps you order a taxi, not only for Prague, in Google Play and App Store, or web app.

If you know other useful websites and apps I’ll be happy if you share them with others in comments.

Flock: Behind the Scenes 3

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I’ve got another set of updates from the Flock organization for you:

Flock apps for BB10 and SailfishOS – Jaroslav Řezník has created a mobile app for those who are using Blackberry 10 system (is there anyone out there?). The Jolla phone and its SailfishOS has been quite popular among open source geeks. If you have one, check out an app that was created by Jozef Mlích. It’s available in the OpenRepos. So together with the Android app, I wrote about in the first article, we already have three apps. I’m also working on an offline guide for Guidebook.com.

Social events – we finally made a decision about social events (what, where, when). There will be one on Wednesday and the main one will be on Thursday. We’re also thinking about organizing an unofficial kind of gathering in some pub on Tuesday where you can come to meet others after you arrive to Prague and get accommodated.

Printouts – Sirko Kemter is working on conference booklets. The last thing he was missing was information about social events which is now solved. Ryan Lerch has prepared badges. They will be from the same vendor as last year, produced in the U.S. and brought to Prague. We’re looking for a volunteer who would help us with navigation signs and mainly schedules we will post on doors of lecture rooms.

And some tips for the promised section “Getting ready for the trip to Flock”:

  • Money – I’ve already been asked by several people what currency they should bring to the Czech Republic. Believe or not even though the Czech Republic is a member of the EU we don’t have euro. Our currency is Czech crown (CZK). Would you like to get more familiar with the Czech coins and bills? Download a mobile app release by The Czech National Bank. It will show you all details and security measurements.  You won’t make a mistake if you bring euros or US dollars because these are the most widely accepted foreign currencies in exchange offices. Euro is even accepted in some stores, restaurants, or gas stations. GBP or CHF are also fine while not as common as € or $. You’ll be able to exchange other currencies, too, but you most likely will get worse exchange rates. Payment cards (Mastercard, VISA) are quite widely accepted and if you need cash you can get it from ATMs which are at every corner. So I recommend you bring just little cash with you from home. And prices? The Czech Republic is a fairly cheap country. You can check a list of price samples by expact.cz or prices for tourists in Prague by PriceOfTravel.com.
  • Language – believe or not the language of the Czech Republic is not English (I met several people in Asia who were surprised that English is not the (only) native language in Europe), it’s… surprise, surprise… Czech. Czech is a West Slavic language which is very similar to Slovak, fairly similar to Polish and Slovenian, and only remotely similar to Russian and other East Slavic languages. I heard that some of Flock attendees’ve started learning Czech to make a nice touch while communicating with locals. Czech is said to be difficult, but read tips by an Irish polyglot who learned Czech in just 2 months and says it’s not difficult at all! The most common foreign language is English. Almost all people under 30 have learned it at primary and secondary school, but only 10% of the population rate their English proficiency as good. The second most common language is German. It used to compete with English for the status of the first foreign language, but has been completely ran over by English in the recent years, but is still the second foreign language at most schools. Other common foreign languages are French, Spanish, and Italian, but they have much fewer speakers here than English and German. Russian was a mandatory language at schools before 1989, but this language won’t help you much in the Czech Republic nowadays unfortunately. Most people who learned it don’t remember it any more because they learned it because they had to, not because they wanted to, and they never really practiced it.

I’m going to GUADEC 2014!

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I’m going to GUADEC 2014 in Strasbourg! Last year, I was one of the organizers and I planned to enjoy this year’s GUADEC just as an ordinary attendee. But I assigned myself at least some job. I’ll be covering the conference for Fedora Magazine.

I’m looking forward to meeting other Fedora guys there!

Flock: Behind the Scenes 2

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Last week I decided to blog about things from the organization of Flock 2014, so that you can see what’s going on “behind the scenes”. Today, I’ve got another set of things that may be interesting or useful for Flock attendees:

Registration – some of you have noticed that the pre-registration on the conference website is closed and you cannot register for Flock any more. I wasn’t directly involved in spinning off the registration and setting the deadline, but I suppose it’s because of planning. The whole pre-registration is mainly for planning purposes. We needed to know how many people would attend, so that we could plan social events, lunches, t-shirt production. Of course, we have to leave ourselves some time and can’t wait till the beginning of the conference. All the mentioned things are currently planned for 250 ppl. The number of attendees registered has pretty much reached that. Of course, you can attend Flock even though you’re not registered, it’s free and open to attend, but we can’t promise that you’ll get a t-shirt, lunches, and tickets to the party.

Problems with visas – some sponsored attendees reported problems with getting a Schengen visa.  That resulted in rebooking flights which put even more pressure on our limited budget for this year’s Flock. Ruth Suehle started a discussion on the flock-planning mailing list about how to avoid such situations in the future. There have been several suggestions. Examples how other projects have solved it. Some people even suggested that we should not sponsor people fully next time. Frankly, the Fedora Project has been quite generous at his covering both travel costs and accommodation even at the cost of additional rebooking. When we organized the Flock Sponsorship Program for EMEA we set the limit to $200 and told ppl that they could apply if they think the amount would help them. Travel itinerary and lodging options are their business.

Cool Guide to Prague – one of my colleagues pointed me to a very interesting guide to Prague (and not only to Prague, it’s a Europe-wide project). It’s called USE-IT and it offers a map of the city with recommended points of interest, Czech phrases, pieces of advice how to act “like a local”. All put in a fun way. We’d like to give away printed versions at the conference, but you can check it out already now and learn something in advance ;)

In one of the future posts, I will share other tips and sources of useful information with you, so that you can get ready for your trip to Flock.

Flock 2014: Behind the Scenes 1


Flock 2014 is just three weeks away and conference organization is getting into its most intense phase. I’d like to periodically blog about organizational stuff and our progress in the last couple of weeks before Flock. To make things that seem to be a bit behind the scenes more open and transparent.

Venue – the venue has been secured for some time. We originally planned to have everything in one shiny building that is shared by the Faculty of Architecture and the Faculty of Information Technologies. We had a deal with FIT, but people of FA, which is charge of the large lecture rooms, started being trouble makers and asked for much more to rent the rooms. FIT managed to rent two large lecture rooms from the Faculty of Civil Engineering. They’re in a different building, but the buildings are connected and the walking distance is not so bad. Moreover, the large rooms will only be used for the first two days, then Flock will only take place in rooms of FIT.

The campus is otherwise a perfect location for us. The building of FA and FIT is right next to a new library building where you can find a cozy café. It’s a 5-minute walk from a metro station from where it’s just 10 minutes to the city center. You can get there from the airport in less than 20 minutes without having to change buses.

Accommodation – this was actually a hard task. Prague is one of the top tourist places in Europe and August is high season. All hotels are booked and rates are pretty high. We checked all possible hotel options in the neighbourhood and the only suitable was Diplomat Hotel. They gave us a flat rate €90, but then a lot of people noticed that their current rates were cheaper. So we asked the hotel to match the price and they gave us €80 (+Internet connection which is not normally included). But some damage had already been done and I guess a lot of people had booked their rooms directly which left us with a lot of unocuppied rooms. So if you’re planning to stay in the hotel (either sponsored or paying for yourself) please book your room ASAP because we have to cancel reservation of unused rooms.

Because quite a few people couldn’t afford the hotel, we came up with a low-cost option which is student dormitories very close to the venue. This option is considerably cheaper (€17 for a double-bed room), but it’s also not so comfy as the hotel (bathroom is shared with other rooms on the same floor and no breakfast). It’s great that both options are within a few-minute walk from the venue and the stop where all buses from the airport go is even right in front of the hotel, so if you’re coming from the airport, you just can’t miss it.

Lunch – this also seemed to be a hard task. There are no large restaurants around to accommodate 200+ people within 2 hours. We explored the idea to give people meal tickets they can spend in restaurants around like last year in Charleston. Unfortunately widely accepted meal tickets are tax deducted and are only intended for employees in the Czech Republic.  Student cafeterias are closed during summer and they didn’t seem to be interested in making some extra money by opening one of them for us. We asked catering companies how much lunches that they would bring to the venue for us would be and the quotes were ridiculous (above $20). We even started planning to use food supplier of our office in Brno and ask them to bring lunches from Brno every day. But that would be a logistic nightmare. Fortunately Miro found an academic restaurant in nearby dormitories which is able to handle such a large group of people and gave us reasonable quotes. So we won’t let you starve at Flock!

Coffee at the venue, another crucial element of every conference, is yet to be solved, though.

Social events – we explored a lot of options because Prague offers quite a few interesting venues for parties. Now, it’s narrowed down to two or three. We’re still working on it. I don’t want to reveal the options to keep it as a surprise. I think most of us want to go for something memorable, not just yet another pub party. On the other hand, the number of sponsors is much lower than last year and it has inevitable impact on our budget.

SWAG – I think Maírín made a really nice artwork for conference t-shirts. They’re already ordered. We ordered them when there were 220 registered people, we ordered a few extra, but if you registered too late we might not have one for you. But there will probably be some late cancellations so I guess everyone will get one. And other SWAG? It’s more or less treated as nice-to-have if we have any money left.

Information for attendees – we understand you will be coming from all parts of the world and to make your trip and stay as smooth as possible we’d like to provide you with as much information as possible. Luděk Šmíd has prepared a Flock app for Android. Check it out and report problems! Jaroslav Řezník is also working on an app for BB10 and Jozef Mlích on a version for SailfishOS.

I’ve also started working on a guide for Guidebook.com. I used the app for the first time when I attended FUDCon APAC in Beijing and I found very useful that I can download all important information to my phone even for offline usage. I’ve added maps, info about accommodation, useful websites and apps for Prague, public transport. Let me know what kind of information you expect there. It’s a pity there is no such solution as Guidebook.com that would be open source. There are so many open source conferences. Why not to create an ultimate solution for all of them? We have actually started thinking about evolving some of our conference schedule apps into something like Guidebook.com.

Invitation letters – we sent out quite a lot of letters of invitation. It was mostly done by Květa Mrštíková. I just created a template and then signed prepared letters. And I had the first call from an embassy. A consular office of the Czech embassy in New Delhi wanted to confirm two applicants who hadn’t had a history in the Schengen area. I hope everything went through.

Looking forward to meeting you in Prague!


EMEA sponsorship program for Flock

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The budget of Flock is rather limited this year and it’s just enough to cover travel and lodging subsidies for speakers which is why the EMEA regional community decided yesterday to organize a small sponsorship program for EMEA contributors who would like to attend Flock 2014 that is going to take place in Prague on Aug 6-9 and haven’t received (and will not receive) any sponsorship as speakers. This program will allow us to bring more people from the community. And because the conference is taking place in Europe this year we can bring more people for relatively smaller money.

The overall amount of money allocated to the program is $2000. The funding limit per contributor is $200. The number of sponsored people is not limited and we will satisfy funding requests until we hit the limit of $2000. Candidates that have been actively contributing to the Project in the last year and have some work agenda for Flock (meeting team mates, organizing a “do” session,…) will be given a priority.
The program is funded from the EMEA budget and is intended for contributors from this region. Other regions are assessing their budget situation and might come up with a similar program for their contributors.

If you’d like to ask for a sponsorship, please file a ticket in the EMEA trac, mention your recent contributions to the Project and reasons why you want to attend Flock, and specify how much money you need (remember, the limit is $200).

The deadline is June 24 (12am UTC). The EMEA community has delegated the decision to FAmSCo, so FAmSCo will then pick the best candidates if there are more requests than the available funding.

FUDCon APAC 2014 in Beijing


I planned to go to a FUDCon APAC or LATAM for some time because a lot of people told me they had a very different atmosphere from the ones in NA and EMEA and now Flock. I decided for FUDCon in Beijing this year and Jaroslav Reznik joined me. Originally, we planned it as holidays. But then the organizers asked us to do a keynote and we were invited to the Beijing office of Red Hat to do a presentation, so it wasn’t completely holidays in the end.

I must say that I was very positively surprised. The conference was very, very well organized. Co-hosting FUDCon with GNOME.Asia was also a very good idea. It attracted more people and more contributors of both projects. And it also made sense from the topic point of view because Fedora and GNOME definitely have some overlap.


Booth area. ©Tommy He



We arrived on May 22 and didn’t have any problem to find the hotel mainly due to great information in the Guidebook app that was prepared by the organizers. The Beijing subway is one of the best I’ve seen and it’s extremely cheap. One unlimited ride is just for $.30! We had surprisingly big problems to communicate. Almost no one in Beijing understands English and if someone does it’s also quite challenging to communicate with him/her because the languages are so different. The Chinese characters were also a big challenge. Unlike with the Latin alphabet where you can get at least a bit of the sense even if you don’t understand the language the Chinese characters were completely untranslatable for us. Fortunately, I found an Android app Hanping Camera that scans Chinese characters and translates them to English. I also downloaded an offline vocabulary for Google Translate so that I can translate what I needed to say to someone who didn’t understand English. As I know from English-Czech translations Google Translate is not perfect, but it worked quite well. Definitely better than nothing and our Chinese language skill were really non-existent.

I met most of the attending Fedora contributors at the FUDPub. It was a nice event, but the pub didn’t have cold beer. They had everything (soft drinks, teas,…) in a fridge, only beer was outside. Quite a paradox. So after a while a bunch of Fedora contributors moved back to the hotel in need for cold beer :)
The next day in the morning, we had our keynote. We talked on Fedora.NEXT changes. Jaroslav talked more about changes in the technologies, I was talking more about the people part of the project. Unfortunately, we probably overestimated the knowledge of attendees and I was told several times after the keynote that it might have been too complicated. Maybe we should have gone for some general topic.

On the stage during our keynote.

On the stage during our keynote. ©Tommy He

I also attended several other Fedora talks such Fedora Websites by Robert Mayr, Fedora Women by Nitesh Narayanlal, Life of Translator by Tommy He, Hackfest: Packaging a ROS Groovy SCL for Fedora by Ankur Sinha. What was quite interesting was the talk “Re-rolling Fedora with Conary” by Martin Bähr. I’d never heard of Conary before, actually I had, but I didn’t know any details. There were some useful features which can be used in Fedora. Collections of packages might be useful in Rawhide where users could update to the lastest tested collection of packages and avoid breakages. On the other hand, it wouldn’t work with the way Fedora repositories are done today when you only have the initial and the latest version of a package in the repositories, nothing between. This also prevents using Conary for rollbacks. I can also see some feature overlap with OSTree although Conary seems to be more package based.
The conference was closed by a dinner for organizers and speakers in a nearby hotel and I must say it was probably the best buffet I’ve ever had at an open source conference.

Us with the local Fedora community.

Us with the local Fedora community. ©Tommy He

On Monday, we went to the Red Hat office to give a talk on cooperation with universities and on Fedora activities. I was quite surprised that not so many redhatters are involved in the local Fedora community. It’s quite different from e.g. the Czech Republic where redhatters are the backbone of the local community. I hope our talk showed a way and at least a bit contributed to improvement.

On Tuesday, we went to the office again to give a presentation about our country. It was interesting to see that the Chinese redhatters were surprised that Škoda is actually a Czech brand, not Chinese, that we also have dumplings, but quite different from the Chinese ones, and that our country is mostly atheistic. After the presentation, we went to Beijing Linux User Group meeting which was special this time because there were still a lot of foreigners that came for FUDCon or GNOME.Asia.

From Wednesday to Sunday, we explored Beijing and its neighourhood. The temperature went up to 41C, but air conditions were apparently one of the best because there was no visible air pollution and there was even a blue sky on some days which is pretty rare according to locals.

I really want to thank local organizers who did a truly great job with FUDCon APAC in Beijing and I also want to thank the Fedora Project for sponsoring our hotel accommodation during the conference. And FUDCon APAC 2015? I think we should start thinking about it as soon as possible so that it’s as successful as this year’s one.

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