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FOSDEM 2024 aftermath

This year's FOSDEM was once again an eventful experience. By now, most presentations have become available. Yet I took the opportunity to re-record a more complete version of my talk that I want to share with you.

With Stefan, Johannes, Ben, and me, a delegation of four Genodians attended FOSDEM this year. We prepared to participate in two developer rooms in particular. Johannes introduced our Goa SDK at the microkernel developer room whereas I presented our recent mobile-phone line of work at the FOSS-on-mobile developer room.

FOSS-on-mobile developer room

Unfortunately, both developer rooms took place simultaneously during Saturday. So I could attend only half of each session. I found the variety of topics presented at the FOSS-on-mobile room simply delightful. For me personally, the presentations of U-Boot for modern Qualcomm phones and The Universal Serial Bug stood out the most. I wish I had seen the excellent lecture From phone hardware to mobile Linux before I started my work with the PinePhone. Regarding my own talk about Genode on the PinePhone on track to real-world usability, I was apparently bit overly ambitious with the breadth of topics I wanted to cover, running out of time. Of the three demos I had prepared, I could show only one.

Earlier this week, I took the opportunity to re-record (a slightly extended version of) the talk that gives more room to the background story and features all demos as intended.

Microkernel developer room

During the second half of the day, I attended the microkernel developer room. Watching Udo Steinberg presenting his work on NOVA is always a feat, and this year's talk Using the NOVA Microhypervisor for Trusted Computing at Scale is no exception. It goes without saying that I was very much looking forward to Johannes' presentation about Streamlining application development for Genode with Goa.

I must admit that I found the slew of unikernel-specific talks in the microkernel developer room a bit irritating. That might be strange as I vividly remember finding much joy in Antti Kantee's talk on Rump Kernels, Just Components, in 2014 or Martin Lucina's talk on the Solo5 unikernel in 2019, both of which spawned curiosity and synergetic effects with the microkernel community. This time, however, I completely failed to draw the connection between the presented unikernel projects and the microkernel world. Whereas microkernel architectures are all about the separation of concerns, unikernels are all about removing means of separation. The common ground seems to come down to a few low-level programming tidbits. I'm aware that the words above may come across as dismissive. That's not my intention as each of the projects is clearly an affair of heart and has technical merits. They just happen to be neither component-based operating systems nor microkernel-related.

Granted, the schedule of each devroom ultimately depends on the submissions. Hence, the best way to reestablish the clear focus of the microkernel devroom would be for open-source microkernel projects to submit strong submissions next time.

Sunday highlights

On Sunday, I enjoyed strolling around, mostly around the K building. In a through and through entertaining way, Daniel Stenberg claimed You too could have made curl! Another highlight was certainly Neal Walfield's talk about Sequoia PGP, which gives me the cosy feeling that the best days of OpenPGP are still ahead of us.

FOSDEM is packed with so many people that deeply care about the shared values of Free Software and Open Source and their respective projects. As one particularly encounter to remember, I had the pleasure of demoing Sculpt OS on the PinePhone and handing over a copy of my Genode Platforms book - which is essentially a book about the PinePhone - to the people behind the PinePhone. The warm and enthusiastic response of Lukasz and Tl caught me totally by surprise.

What other things to remember?

Ben had an excellent hand in restaurant choices, like this one. Remember, when on the road, it's good to have a Ben with you!

I want to be a fan of Deutsche Bahn, and I really mean it. But this year's travel from Dresden to Brussels was the worst train ride I ever experienced. People complimented out of overcrowded ICE trains? Check. Two hours standing just besides the train toilet, inhaling fumes of varying intensity? Check. Medical emergency stop? Check. Hours upon hours of delay? Check. On the bright side, the travel back from Brussels to Dresden was the smoothest ride imaginable. Chances are fifty-fifty.