Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Milanese Akademics

Each year, the KDE community puts on one of the best tech conferences in the world, and people from around the globe congregate in, usually, a university to talk about all the things that happened over the last year (or decade, or indeed sometimes longer, usually referring to a certain David's t-shirts), and to show off the shiny things people have been working on, or take those discussions which fall into the overlap between "too awkward to take over the internet" and "can wait a few months for a resolution".

We even managed to do a short stop at a cafe near Paris Gare de Lyon for lunch, and for a slightly tired Jonathan to do a quick unboxing of a shiny new piece of kit donated to the cause by Tuxedo Computers

Last year, my attendance was cut short due to a stressful situation (entirely of my own making, or rather my builders' making - house renovation work is at least as stressful people tell you it is), but this year i was able to stay for the duration. It started in London, where three of us caught the Eurostar to Paris, and then a TGV from there to Milan. A lovely, relaxed sort of trip, with considerably less hassle than any flight i've taken. Highly recommend it if you have a few more hours available to spend. Oh, and it's way better for the environment than flying, which when the option exists in a reasonable capacity is just a lovely side effect (still no tunnels between the Americas and the Eurasian land mass ;) ).

Delightful food, and impressively made ales and beers, hosted by Je Suis Jambon.

Tradition dictates that the evening before the first day of Akademy is spent at some place somewhere in the host city, where a registration station is available for people to drop by and get their badge, and some refreshments. In this case, it was a delightful place with craft beers on tap, and some absolutely wonderful fingerfoods, in the shape of cheeses, cured meats, and a variety of bread based delights. Also while there, i was reminded that i had quite entirely forgotten to bring my sound recorder, and so the video of Jonathan installing KDE Neon on the new laptop was not particularly useful. Note to self: Bring sound recorder next year.

A Panel of Goals. One old and shiny, and one new and also shiny.

The first day of Akademy was full of all manner of amazing talks, and not just the always-brilliant hallway track. A great keynote by Lars Knoll, talking about shiny things in the pipeline for Qt 6, followed by several talks, all about the goals the community have been focused on furthering the most over the last couple of years, and the announcement of new goals alongside that. As with all such things, that does not mean the old goals have been reached, not by far, and they are continuing to be worked on. It means that there is recognition that there is sufficient progress that we can bring focus onto other parts of our community as well.

Italians take their coffee breaks seriously

Sunday was my own sort of "big day", and so i managed to get precisely zero pictures of the goings-on during that day - though of course i did manage to get in the group photo along with most everybody else. What i did instead of taking photos of people being engaged in eating tasty treats and generally being amazing was to do two presentations.

The social event Sunday night had tasty food, enthusiastic and skilled bar staff, and great company. Also a Kirigami-powered tail (sorry, no pictures, i was busy wearing it ;) )

The first of these was a panel, where we first presented the various ways in which KDE gets its software to users. The second half was the panel round, in which the panel took questions from a an audience so engaged we entirely ran out of time. Some really great questions, too, and i personally look forward to looking through the video of it when those are released, as i feel like there were definitely things that i have forgotten and which need following up on. Thank you to all who attended, and to the panel participants.

The social event venue was in what i can only describe as an eclectic, and delightful location.

The second of these was a much more traditional presentation, in which i went through my work on KNewStuff's Qt Quick components over the last few months. The patch is currently still in review (please do take time to give that a once-over, if you've got the time), but feels very much like it wants to get merged. The whole point of the exercise is to make KNewStuff work in a Qt Quick world, and generally make everything look and feel modern. The old widget based components have done their job well, and continue to do so (in fact, i have spent not inconsiderable time to ensure they still work), but everybody wants things that are more touch friendly, and while that could be done with widgets, it would just be shoehorning something in, and that's just not how we roll. The new ones are new and shiny, and all 'round lovely, if one does say so themselves.

The BoF sessions during the week were sometimes intense, sometimes intimate, and always interesting.

During the week, alongside the KDE e.V. AGM on Monday, it was time for the other, meatier part of the conference: The BoF sessions. Those things i mentioned earlier, which are awkward or difficult to discuss online for various reasons, that's what the BoF sessions are for. I didn't host any myself this year, but I did attend a great many. A small sample includes the Maui and Kirigami sessions on the Monday morning, which put the two teams in the same room, allowing them to take on those seemingly contentious topics of "why?", giving the team the ability turn that into the more immediately useful "how". Much progress was made there, that i very much look forward to seeing continuing.

Plasma is always a big topic, so one room was mostly dedicated to that.

Tuesday evening, the LGBTQ+ Meal event, hosted by the already busy Kenny D at his apartment near the university. As it turned out, the food was delicious, the wine and beer tasty, and sufficient enough that we all made it to the university the day after, and the chat ended up more or less centered around books, mostly science fiction, with a hint of fantasy mixed in, and just how incredibly powerfully the genre has changed recently. Sorry, no pictures from that, we were too busy being excited about C. J. Cherryh, Iain M. Banks, Ada Palmer, and a bunch of other amazing writers doing the good work. At this point i should perhaps mention that i sometimes make words, which other people think are sufficiently skilfully put together that they are ok to be published. If you'd like to see some of those, my Goodreads profile has links to those books.

Narrow passages, tiny cafes with tiny terraces, and church towers behind flowers

Along with more BoFs, Wednesday brought us the day trip, which this year was to Lake Como, a place to which the approach by coach is so steep several people very near to panic. We did all make it down intact, however, and we were greeted by the most delightful village of Varenna, with its steep, cliff side built houses, with their narrow passageways and immaculately presented, well, everything.

Nights are beautiful as well, even when just hanging out in a parking lot waiting for a coach to arrive

Thursday was the end of BoFs, and in the past this day has sometimes been more lightly dusted with sessions. This year, however, the spread was much more thorough, with many of the sessions from the previous days having had to be cut short, resulting in another sessions being desirable. It was exciting to me for two reasons: Firstly that it meant we understand limits and don't just keep going when someone else wants to start their BoF, which definitely is a positive. Secondly, it means we are getting good at picking things up in a more organised fashion, which might otherwise have just ended up either discarded, or being handled in the hallway track. While that of course is an endlessly useful not-really-track, if things are handled there, it makes those group chats much more difficult to achieve, compared to a room with a topic and (most often) an agenda. In short: We're getting good at this conferency thing. Kudos to everybody on that, this in itself has been nifty to witness.

Gelato? Gelato. Also, just someone's house, half way up a steep cliff face, with a lovely, little outlook space next to it.

Friday for me was travel day. Similarly no pictures of this, but it started with a nice, leisurely breakfast at the hotel, followed by a train all the way from Milan to London, via Paris (top tip: don't exit Paris Gare du Nord if you aren't keen on very busy streets), and finally a train from London and most of the way home. Bus finished it off, and i was home in time for perfectly normal bedtime. Oh, and i ported most of Calligra Gemini's welcome pages to Kirigami while we were sat on a comfortable and spacious train. Definitely doing that again :D

Calligra Gemini's alive?! </BrianBlessed>

Thank you to everybody involved in making Akademy such a huge success every year i've attended, it is never not a great event to attend!

The word of the day is: Umbrella. Because apparently the need for that sometimes occurs in Milan ;) (as well as here in the UK)

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