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Nathan Haines: UbuCon Europe 2016

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 22:04
UbuCon Europe 2016

If there is one defining aspect of Ubuntu, it's community. All around the world, community members and LoCo teams get together not just to work on Ubuntu, but also to teach, learn, and celebrate it. UbuCon Summit at SCALE was a great example of an event that was supported by the California LoCo Team, Canonical, and community members worldwide coming together to make an event that could host presentations on the newest developer technologies in Ubuntu, community discussion roundtables, and a keynote by Mark Shuttleworth, who answered audience questions thoughtfully, but also hung around in the hallway and made himself accessible to chat with UbuCon attendees.

Thanks to the Ubuntu Community Reimbursement Fund, the UbuCon Germany and UbuCon Paris coordinators were able to attend UbuCon Summit at SCALE, and we were able to compare notes, so to speak, as they prepared to expand by hosting the first UbuCon Europe in Germany this year. Thanks to the community fund, I also had the immense pleasure of attending UbuCon Europe. After I arrived, Sujeevan Vijayakumaran picked me up from the airport and we took the train to Essen, where we walked around the newly-opened Weihnachtsmarkt along with Philip Ballew and Elizabeth Joseph from Ubuntu California. I acted as official menu translator, so there were no missed opportunities for bratwurst, currywurst, glühwein, or beer. Happily fed, we called it a night and got plenty of sleep so that we would last the entire weekend long.

UbuCon Europe was a marvelous experience. Friday started things off with social events so everyone could mingle and find shared interests. About 25 people attended the Zeche Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex for a guided tour of the last operating coal extraction and processing site in the Ruhr region and was a fascinating look at the defining industry of the Ruhr region for a century. After that, about 60 people joined in a special dinner at Unperfekthaus, a unique location that is part creative studio, part art gallery, part restaurant, and all experience. With a buffet and large soda fountains and hot coffee/chocolate machine, dinner was another chance to mingle as we took over a dining room and pushed all the tables together in a snaking chain. It was there that some Portuguese attendees first recognized me as the default voice for uNav, which was something I had to get used to over the weekend. There's nothing like a good dinner to get people comfortable together, and the Telegram channel that was established for UbuCon Europe attendees was spread around.

The main event began bright and early on Saturday. Attendees were registered on the fifth floor of Unpefekthaus and received their swag bags full of cool stuff from the event sponsors. After some brief opening statements from Sujeevan, Marcus Gripsgård announced an exciting new Kickstarter campaign that will bring an easier convergence experience to not just most Ubuntu phones, but many Android phones as well. Then, Jane Silber, the CEO of Canonical, gave a keynote that went into detail about where Canonical sees Ubuntu in the future, how convergence and snaps will factor into future plans, and why Canonical wants to see one single Ubuntu on the cloud, server, desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, and Internet of Things. Afterward, she spent some time answering questions from the community, and she impressed me with her willingness to answer questions directly. Later on, she was chatting with a handful of people and it was great to see the consideration and thought she gave to those answers as well. Luckily, she also had a little time to just relax and enjoy herself without the third degree before she had to leave later that day. I was happy to have a couple minutes to chat with her.

Microsoft Deutschland GmbH sent Malte Lantin to talk about Bash on Ubuntu on Windows and how the Windows Subsystem for Linux works, and while jokes about Microsoft and Windows were common all weekend, everyone kept their sense of humor and the community showed the usual respect that’s made Ubuntu so wonderful. While being able to run Ubuntu software natively on Windows makes many nervous, it also excites others. One thing is for sure: it’s convenient, and the prospect of having a robust terminal emulator built right in to Windows seemed to be something everyone could appreciate.

After that, I ate lunch and gave my talk, Advocacy for Advocates, where I gave advice on how to effectively recommend Ubuntu and other Free Software to people who aren’t currently using it or aren’t familiar with the concept. It was well-attended and I got good feedback. I also had a chance to speak in German for a minute, as the ambiguity of the term Free Software in English disappears in German, where freies Software is clear and not confused with kostenloses Software. It’s a talk I’ve given before and will definitely give again in the future.

After the talks were over, there was a raffle and then a UbuCon quiz show where the audience could win prizes. I gave away signed copies of my book, Beginning Ubuntu for Windows and Mac Users, in the raffle, and in fact I won a “xenial xeres” USB drive that looks like an origami squirrel as well as a Microsoft t-shirt. Afterwards was a dinner that was not only delicious with apple crumble for desert, but also free beer and wine, which rarely detracts from any meal.

Sunday was also full of great talks. I loved Marcos Costales’s talk on uNav, and as the video shows, I was inspired to jump up as the talk was about to begin and improvise the uNav-like announcement “You have arrived at the presentation.” With the crowd warmed up from the joke, Marcos took us on a fascinating journey of the evolution of uNav and finished with tips and tricks for using it effectively. I also appreciated Olivier Paroz’s talk about Nextcloud and its goals, as I run my own Nextcloud server. I was sure to be at the UbuCon Europe feedback and planning roundtable and was happy to hear that next year UbuCon Europe will be held in Paris. I’ll have to brush up on my restaurant French before then!

That was the end of UbuCon, but I hadn’t been to Germany in over 13 years so it wasn’t the end of my trip! Sujeevan was kind enough to put up with me for another four days, and he accompanied me on a couple shopping trips as well as some more sightseeing. The highlight was a trip to the Neanderthal Museum in the aptly-named Neandertal, Germany, and then afterward we met his friend (and UbuCon registration desk volunteer!) Philipp Schmidt in Düsseldorf at their Weihnachtsmarkt, where we tried the Feuerzangenbowle, where mulled wine is improved by soaking a block of sugar in rum, then putting it over the wine and lighting the sugarloaf on fire to drip into the wine. After that, we went to the Brauerei Schumacher where I enjoyed not only Schumacher Alt beer, but also the Rhein-style sauerbraten that has been on my to-do list for a decade and a half. (Other variations of sauerbraten—not to mention beer—remain on the list!)

I’d like to thank Sujeevan for his hospitality on top of the tremendous job that he, the German LoCo, and the French LoCo exerted to make the first UbuCon Europe a stunning success. I’d also like to thank everyone who contributed to the Ubuntu Community Reimbursement Fund for helping out with my travel expenses, and everyone who attended, because of course we put everything together for you to enjoy.

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