Flock was held in Krakow this year, so the traveling was a sort of easy for me. Krakow is just 350 km from Brno which is about 3.5 hours by car. The conference was again organized in the hotel where almost everyone stayed. The same setup was already in Rochester last year and people appreciated it. It’s very convenient. You don’t have to travel to the venue, you can sneak out to have a nap, which is super useful if you’re fighting jet lag, and you can use hotel facilities such as a gym or swimming pool.
I had one talk and one hackfest at Flock. The talk was about Fedora SWAG. I’m still quite a lot involved in SWAG production for the EMEA region and it was a pleasure to state that the things have improved since the last year and a lot of ideas we had at Flock in Rochester actually got implemented.
The hackfest I organized was about writing AppStream metadata for application add-ons. I started the initiative in December and since then dozens of add-ons appeared in GNOME Software because they got AppStream metadata. The hackfest was partly a workshop because it took me quite a while to explain everyone what to do to make an add-on appear in the default app catalog in Fedora. I also learned new things. Richard Hughes who is very involved in upstream AppStream and works on GNOME Software participated and I, for example, learned that the way I had added keywords in metadata XML files was wrong. And Richard learned that I was doing it wrong because it was not documented anywhere.
I also attended many other talks. Matthew Miller’s keynote on the state of Fedora Project was very informative. I’m happy to see Fedora grow and I’m especially happy that our team plays a big part in it (Workstation makes ~80% of all ISO downloads). My boss Christian Schaller had a talk on Workstation which was pretty interesting, but because my team is deeply involved in many of the Workstation initiatives there was not much new to me. I also enjoyed talk by Jonathan Dieter who has run Fedora on 100+ computers in a high school in Lebanon and it was very interesting to listen to what it takes to use Fedora in such a deployment. Jonathan also noted that he hasn’t had a single major issue with Fedora in the last 3-4 years. Improved quality of Fedora was a theme that repeated in many other talks.
What was the main topic of the conference was modularity. Langdon presented a progress of this initiative. I must say I knew very little about it and I was quite surprised that the planned solution is built around RPM rather around increasingly popular containers.
I also met Pawel Hajdan of the Google Chrome team. Conversations with him very very informative and interesting for other Red Hat desktop team members, too. We discussed AppStream metadata for Chromium, Chromium for Flatpak, Chrome on RHEL etc.
Just a couple of days after I returned home from Flock I travelled to GUADEC which is the primary conference for GNOME users and developers. I didn’t have any talk or workshop, but a couple of my reports spoke there. This time the traveling was a bit more difficult. We went by train, had to take 6 of them, and traveled 1000 km. But the whole Brno crew made it to Karlsruhe sound and safe.
There were many talks by Endless people. I’m really happy that Endless increases its investment in GNOME. It’s always better to have several major corporate contributors. Endless also proves that it’s possible to build a different shell on the top of GNOME, make your own UX story and still use most of the GNOME components.
I really enjoyed Owen Taylor’s talk on Fedora Atomic Workstation. Read-only OS, all apps in containers, development environment separated from the system… tt will be a radical change, but with a lot of potential benefits. I also like that Owen already has a clear idea about it and an already working prototype.
On Monday, I attended a Flatpak BoF. I expected it’d be mostly about portals, but portals were mentioned just briefly. Most of the discussion was about some centralized Flatpak repository. Someone suggested something called FlatHub which would be a place for Flatpak repositories where developers can build and distribute their apps, something like Copr for Flatpak. This can’t be exposed to average users though. We want to avoid a mess of 10 builds of GIMP without guaranteed quality. So there needs to be something called FlatStore where only approved and trusted developers can distribute their apps. So only GIMP developers themselves would be able to distribute GIMP there. There were many practical obstacles discussed. Should we build everything on store servers or allow developers upload binaries (building some desktop apps could be very resource hungry), who should run such a store (GNOME Foundation, FreeDesktop.org, a company?), how distributions will accept something that is built outside their control etc.
I enjoyed all days of both conferences. Very well organized, but still with the “for contributors by contributors” feeling. GUADEC 2017 will be in Manchester. Where Flock 2017 is going to be held is yet to be announced. The only certainty is that it will be in North America, so much more travelling for me next year, but I hope to visit both again.