foss-north 2021 – Speakers and Call for Papers

TL;DR; Call for Papers closes on Sunday. Join foss-north 2021 and be a part of a great speaker line-up!

When planning foss-north, we always pre-announce some speakers early on. This helps set the tone of the conference, show sponsors that we have contents, and – interestingly – also increase the number of submissions to our call for papers.

This year is a bit special due to COVID-19 and the conference will be our third virtual installment, but we are still hoping to bring together great people and contents.

This year we have four pre-announced speakers who I’m very excited about. We have everything from stories from how the Internet is kept safe, how to use open source methods in your organization, how industry verticals collaborate around open source, all the way to how to write a Linux kernel driver.

So, in no particular order, I give you…

Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder who will talk about signing the Internet root zone.

This will be the story from when Anne-Marie worked as Crypto Officer and attended the cermonies around DNSSEC. How do we protect the secrets that are used to protect the Internet itself.

Isabel Drost-Fromm who will talk about how to use the open source way beyond open source. By applying inner source principles, the magic that makes open source work can be used inside an organization too.

These are aspects such as sense of ownership, independence, and so on. If developers are willing to work for fun on open source, how do we create the same joy at work.

Leslie Hawthorn who will talk about strategic open source engagements for vertical markets. This is about how to work openly within an industry vertical and not a single component or project.

This is interesting from a foss-north perspective, as this is a conference about everything and nothing. I guess that makes it a horizontal event. How can vertical organizations meet to identify shared cross-cutting aspects.

Marta Rybczynska will give a talk appropriately titled Into the Jungle, about writing Linux kernel drivers.

In this talk we will look at writing a Linux network driver from scratch, diving into the deep end and learning how to swim.

The Call for Paper is still open until Sunday, so if you have a topic that you want to discuss, make sure to get your contribution in!

One more week of CfP

Usually foss-north takes place ~April. This year, foss-north 2021 will be virtual. We shifted the date to the end of May to try to make it possible to at least go hybrid and have some sort of conference experience, but in light of the current COVID-19 situation and the pace of the roll-out of the vaccination programmes, we decided for a virtual event.

One of the benefits of going virtual is that it is a lot easier to attend – both as a speaker and as audience. For those of you who want to speak, you have one week left to submit a talk proposal to the Call for Papers.

To register a talk requires you to log in using oauth via either github or google. We are working on adding more login alternatives, but as with many volunteer run efforts, time is the current limiting factor. If you feel that this is a blocker, please reach out to me over email and we can sort it out.

foss-north pod – a look at the stats

The foss-north pod about Licenses and Copyright has been around since May 1st, so I decided to talk a look at the stats. We gather very little statistics, but what I know is that we have 635 followers on YouTube and 108 over at conf.tube (a peertube instance). We also serve the pod directly from foss-north.se/pod, where we keep 14 days of access logs. What can we read out from them?

First of all – we decided to provide the pod as ogg or mp3, and it seems like a majority of you prefer the ogg version.

The downloads per day is a mess. From the episodes page I can see that we released the last two episodes on Nov 20, and Dec 4. I was a bit surprised not to see a spike on the 4th or 5ph, nor any apparent weekend vs workday pattern.

So, what was downloaded? Keep in mind that this is a two weeks window, and episode 26 was available for the last 3 days only. It seems like we have an even spread of listeners across many episodes, with a focus on episode 25, which was the latest during the time window.

Does this mean that we have a steady flow of new listeners? Not sure – the YouTube subscriber count raises steadily, so it might be the case.

Finally, let’s have a look at the user agent strings. I’ve tried to classify this into client OS for browsers, Apps for obvious pod listening apps, Bot for bots and other for the unidentified ones.

To my surprise, quite a few of you are listening from Windows machines. Then we have the Linux devices followed by Android, and Apps. Unless you count the bots, of course.

Another surprise is that OpenBSD is more common than OSX among our listeners.

It is possible to dig out more from the logs, but the evening is approaching. There are some surprises here, but it is good to see that we have had 800+ downloads over the past two weeks. To be honest, I was a bit worried when we shifted from YouTube to a podcasting format in August. Our views dropped quite dramatically on YouTube, but it seems that you found your way to the pod instead.

At the end of the day, the positive feedback given over social media and email is worth more than stats, so we will keep on going. Also, clocking in at almost 200 views on our episode on the definition of copyright and 250+ on the history of free and open source is quite amazing in my book, as this is a quite a narrow meta-topic inside the free and open source movement.

Intense weeks

End of October turns out to be one of the highs when it comes to workload this year. Everything happens at once – there are two public events that I’d like to tell you about.

The first one is running lights. This is an annual running competition organized by AIF Friidrott, the sports club my kids are active in. This year, this means organized by me and postponed due to COVID-19, but the virtual races started this weekend and the arena race will take place on the 24th.

If anyone of you are in the Alingsås area and enjoy I highly recommend you to join. The weather looks nice, and we will light up the arena with live fire, so it will be a great evening.

The second one is the foss-north 2020 take II event. This spring, we decided to try to organize a physical foss-north event this fall, as obviously the pandemic must be over by November. This seems to not be the case. :-)

Instead we are running a single day event on November 1 with six handpicked speakers. The event is virtual and free for all.

I would like to tell you about the speakers one by one, because I’m very excited about each and everyone of them.

Andrew 'bunnie' Huang

In the morning we welcome Bunnie Huang who will talk about the precursor project. Precursor is an open hardware platform for secure, mobile communications and computations. The focus is on security aiming to create a trustable platform.

Simon Ser

Next up is Simon Ser. He will talk about how to get pixels onto the screen in a modern Linux stack. This means a deep dive in the Kernel Mode Setting (KMS) interface. How it exposes hardware blocks and how to use it to get images shown on the screen.

Ramón Soto Mathiesen

The morning session then ends with Ramón Soto Mathiesen taking us into the land of Domain Driven Design (DDD) using Algebraic Data Types (ADT). Ramón has a background in functional programming languages and brings this knowledge into the world of multi-paradigm languages such as C#, Rust, and Swift.

Carol Chen

The afternoon session starts with Carol Chen from Red Hat Ansible. She works as a community manager for Ansible. She will be talking about how they move have moved from collections to contributions to conferences.

Lars Brinkhoff

We then continue with Lars Brinkhoff who will talk about the Incompatible Timesharing System (ITS). Lars works with restoring ITS and recreating the history from these early days of computing. ITS is of particular interest at foss-north at is the platform where tools such as Lisp, Logo, Scheme, Emacs and Zork where developed. This is where the foundations for the free software movement where born – quite literally.

Tor-logo by Stanchenko on DeviantArt

The day then ends with Alexander and Georg who will talk about Tor, the anonymity network. They will discuss why diversity is essential for reaching security and anonymity.

So, the next days will be crazy hectic, but it is all for something good. First a cosy evening of running on an arena lit by live fire, and then a day of talks about various FOSS projects.

I hope to see you there!

foss-north kdenlive workflow

As some of you might already have noticed, we’ve complemented foss-north with a new pod / vod / vlog – I’m not sure what to call it. Basically, it is a video based pod cast (making it available as a audio only pod-cast is high on the todo). Our main focus right now is a series on licenses and copyright, but there is more to come.

As a part of this, I’ve started editing videos in kdenlive on a weekly basis, and I’m very happy with it so far.

In this blog, I want to share my workflow. It is probably far from ideal, but it does the work for me.

I usually start with a set of presentation slides that we’ve used to direct the discussions. These are exported as pdf, which is then converted to 1920×1080 pngs for consumtion in kdenlive.

I do this in two steps using ImageMagick, as the results seems nicer by first rendering too large images and scaling them down.

convert -verbose -density 300 ../open\ projects-1.pdf -quality 100 -sharpen 0x1.0 11.png

mogrify -resize 1920x1080 *.png

The session is recorded using OBS from our Jitsi instance, but we also encourage each participant to record their audio separately, as it makes it easier to fix things afterwards. (foss-north now self-hosts a Jitsi instance – check out https://github.com/e8johan/virtual-conf-resources to learn about how to setup virtual conferences).

You would be surprised over how many times we’ve run into issues with one or more sound recordings. We’ve had:

  • Too low volume (inaudible)
  • Too high gain (noisy)
  • Local echo of the rest of the participants in one recording (no use of headphones)
  • No recording (forgot to press record)

I’m sure the list will grow longer as we record more episodes :-)

Before I start cutting the recording, I use one of my favorite features in kdenlive. First I set the Jitsi recording as the audio reference as shown below.

Then for each audio track, I tell kdenlive to align it to the reference. This will position it correctly in relation to the Jitsi recording, meaning that I can fade in and out of individual recordings without having to worry about any time shifts.

Finally, I select all the audio recordings and group them. This means that all editing I do (cuts, movements, etc) is applied to all channels.

Now it is just a matter of listening for trouble (you can spot awkward silence in the visualization of the audio tracks), press i to mark the beginning of a section, press o to mark the end, and then shift+X to cut it out.

In general, I try to edit as little as possible, but tightening some parts by removing silence, and sometimes remove failed parts when we’ve decided to start over a section.

Finally I add the pngs as a video stream, our pre-recorded intro sequence, and a YouTube friendly end-screen and click render and go to bed :-)

foss-north: Enablement Talks

During foss-north 2020 we had a group of talks related to using free and open source in various settings. I call them enablement talks. Someone with a more salesy mind might have said success stories.

This year we had tree such talks. One from about SVT’s (the Swedish public TV broadcaster) video streaming platform by Gustav Grusell and Olof Lindman, one from arbetsförmedlingen (the Swedish public employment service) by Johan Linåker and Jonas Södergren, and about Screenly OSE by Viktor Petersson, a digital signage solution.

We’ve also decided to experiment with a series of shorter videos, and we started by explaining licenses.

The Internet Talks

I’ve previously written about the licensing and embedded talks of foss-north 2020. This time around, I’d like to share the recordings of the Internet related talks.

Internet is a very broad topic, so it is hard to classify talks as not being Internet related these days, but the following three talks stand out.

The first speaker is an old time speaker at foss-north, Daniel Stenberg. He has spoken at foss-north several times, but never about his main claim to fame: curl. This time he righted this by delivering a talks about how to Curl better.

Maintaining privacy on the Internet is a big topic. This is a field where it is hard to deliver black or white answers. Elisabet Lobo-Vesga presents DPella, a query language for differential privacy. Using this technology, it is possible to make the tradeoff between how private the user is vs how detailed the data returned is.

The Internet talks end with Patrik Fältström. One of the people who has been around the Swedish Internet scene the longest. He talks about Keeping Time. It is a journey into leap seconds, atomic clocks, the speed of light and other hassles when keeping clocks in sync over a large network.

The talks are already available on conf.tube, and the presentation material can be found by following the links to each speaker. For those of you who prefer YouTube, the talks will be made available shortly on the foss-north channel. Subscribe to get notified when they are.

The Embedded Talks

The foss-north conference strives to have an assortment of various talks. The point is that visitors should see something unexpected and that the conference should attract all types of visitors to ensure that we as a community can meet across various industries and problem spaces.

This time I’ve selected three talks about embedded systems from foss-north 2020. The talks touch on building embedded systems around Linux. If your reader does not show you the embedded videos, make sure to follow the actual page or go to our conf.tube channel to see all the contents.

First out was Ron Munitz talk on understanding and building minimal Linux systems. This talk proved to be a real deep dive into the Linux kernel – including setting up a debugger to the kernel itself.

The next embedded speaker on the program was Chris Simmonds. He discussed if going with Yocto or Debian is best for your embedded Linux project. This an interesting topic – how much is customization worth compared to other aspect such as build-time.

The embedded set of talks ended with Drew Fustini talking about running Linux on the RISC-V. This talk dives deep into the hardware part of embedded systems, but also Linux. By being able to run Linux on RISC-V, which is open hardware, we are very close to an completely open eco-system.

The three talks are already available on conf.tube, and the presentation material can be found by following the links to each speaker. For those of you who prefer YouTube, the talks will be made available shortly on the foss-north channel. Subscribe to get notified when they are.

What a License Track!

The foss-north 2020 videos are rolling out. This year we’re doing a small experiment, so everything is available at once over at conf.tube, while we roll the videos out gradually at YouTube in an attempt to feed the algorithm (like and subscribe!).

This year we had a great set of licensing related talks, and I’d like to discuss them all in this post.

Monday morning started with Frank Karlitschek and his talk Why the GPL is great for business. This a great overview of how you can build an free and open source business – pros and cons and pitfalls to avoid.

Next up is Gabriel Ku Wei Bin from FSFE who talked about REUSE. The REUSE project is about helping creators choose and apply free and open source licenses.

This is followed by Pavel Kopylov and his talk Hacking the legal code of an open source license. This talk is about understanding how licenses works and how to use them.

This is followed by Jason Hammond from Whitesource talking about their compliance tooling and why compliance is important.

The final talk in this track is by Adriaan de Groot talking about the KDE Free Qt Foundation. This is an interesting aspect, as it is about protecting the customers by offering a more liberal license at a given point of time.

Historically we’ve always split talks on a specific topic during the conference to ensure that people move about in the hallways and that most visitors get to see something unexpected. Since we record everything, we can now do both – clustering by topic and a linear playlist.

foss-north – or doing many things at once

When placing this year’s foss-north event over a quarter break I knew that I would be busy both at work and at the conference. Little did I know what was beyond the horizon ;-)

As a consequence of the COVID-19 situation, the event has to be converted from a physical meeting to a virtual event. This means many things to an organizer: renegotiating all sponsorship contracts, renegotiating with the physical venue, setting up the infrastructure for a virtual event, rescheduling all speakers, and so on.

We at foss-north are lucky. All sponsors continue to stay with us and the venue was very cooperative when it came to rescheduling the event.

I have started to document our virtual conference setup so that other conferences in the same situation can learn. Pull requests are welcome!

This Sunday we decided to stress test the infrastructure by running the lightning talks. This is a good test case, as it involves a maximum number of speaker transitions, as well as more frequent QA sessions. From an organizer perspective, this is really like running a full day of the conference in 90 minutes.

I’m happy to tell you that the talks went well! You find them below. Following the links you find slides as well as recordings of the sessions.

Develop better software with usability testing by Andreas Nilsson
Running Android on the Raspberry Pi by Chris Simmonds
The Yocto Project 10 minute quick-start guide by Ron Munitz
Getting started with your smart, connected, vehicle project by Dimitris Platis
Seven years in Tibet^W^Wat Home by Kristoffer Grönlund
Linux on RISC-V by Drew Fustini
Singularity container platform by Anders Björklund

We’ve also been able to get most of the conference schedule in place and just have a few rough edges to fix before the big event. I am extremely pleased with how this has turned out. We still have a stellar speaker setup and I hope that you will all join in and watch the streams. The event is free for all and open to all and runs from March 29 – April 1.