Already a while ago, but still worth sharing the pictures – FOSDEM 2013, another awesome conference, is over. LibreOffice was again there with a booth and a dev room, and some 17+ people from the project attending, manning the booth and holding talks.
Lots of thanks to the many helping hands, and hat tips to Eike, Cor and Rob for trucking all the stuff around. My dev room talk is available here.
A mere two weeks ago, TDF and the LibreOffice project also attended CeBIT, the world’s largest and most international computer expo. Hosted at the Univention booth, and professionally represented over the week by Thomas and Jacqueline, numerous questions were answered, explanations given, and many new and old relationships cultivated.
Further more, Florian, representing LibreOffice, also received the Linux New Media award for the best Open Source Presentation software. In more than just this aspect, the continued TDF and LibreOffice presence at CeBIT keeps paying off.
Kudos to David and his wonderful wife for hosting me and Florian for the night.
LibreOffice and The Document Foundation continue to grow, with a succession of events especially in Europe that left me lagging substantially in reporting back here.
LibreOffice conference 2012
In no particular order, three weeks ago, the 2nd LibreOffice conference concluded in Berlin. It took place at the conference center of the German ministry of Economics and Technology, clearly one of the best locations I’ve ever been for such an event.
Below you see the reinforced organizer team’s swag production line on Tuesday morning, in a hurry to equip the late-arriving green LibreOffice conference backpacks with giftware. In the end, we were lucky and all was ready & done for the registration at Wednesday morning.
Tuesday afternoon then had a number of meetings, including TDF board and ESC. Below you see Italo with Olivier and Leif in the background, getting ready for the annual in-person board meeting.
For me, the conference was stressful and terrific at the same time – and we were more than grateful that it went so smoothly and successful in the end. A million hat tips to our organizing team, lead by Jacqueline, and to the two federal ministries for co-hosting. Most rewarding again for me, was meeting all the wonderful people from the community in person. Below you can see those of the roughly 180 that were still present on Friday evening.
As we speak, the organizer and video teams are still busy populating the LibOCon 2012 reviews page with the slides and video footage; once that’s concluded there’ll be a separate announcement.
openSUSE conference 2012
After that, the SUSE crowd migrated a few hundred kilometers to the south, into the beautiful city of Prague (one would think, into warmer climate – but nope, while I was out in tshirt in Berlin, Prague had us stay inside hacking, with single-digit temperatures and drizzling rain). There, we attended both the openSUSE and the SUSE labs conference, and had some more focused team allhands sessions.
Great to see the many excellent SUSE hackers again, and to spend facetime especially with the LibreOffice team.
LibreOffice QA weekend
And even earlier, already end of September, the German-speaking community had their annual QA weekend meeting, at the lovely Linux Hotel in Essen, Germany. Was very happy to meet our QA volunteers in person there, sometimes for the first time, as with Florian Reisinger, who very energetically led through most of the QA topics. I can’t enough stress the importance of talking to people face2face every once in a while, we sorted out a number of issues there, that I believe would have festered much longer otherwise. With the ongoing fund raising for 2013, TDF will continue to organize those and similar events, and predominantly help with travel sponsoring for community members.
With LibreOffice again being part of this year’s Google Summer of Code, I was very lucky to have Marco returning to his nice svg export improvements from last time. Three weeks into the project, progress is lovely – here are two demo presentations, showing
(Page up/down navigates between slides, i shows slide index etc.)
Marco has been exemplary in minuting his progress, you can find his daily logs here, for
If you want to play with this, go grab the code, checkout the feature/svg-export branch, build according to the build guide, and check the Tools->Options->General “Enable experimental features” box. Enjoy!
After catching up a bit with the sleep deficit from the past three days, let me share a few impressions from the spring 2012 Hamburg HackFest. An amazing number of 30+ people gathered over the weekend at the Hamburg Attraktor, socializing, chatting, and working on all kinds of stuff, like
iOS UNO bridges, Calc unit tests, CSV import, Writer border enhancements, gbuild system, pdf export watermarking, UI paper cut fixing, keyboard shortcuts, startup performance, icon themes, UI mockups, adding comments for l10n strings, rtf filter fixes, svg import, gtk3 backend, drawing layer, help content, Unhosted connector, QA processes, bibisect, gerrit, Impress wide screen support, Impress toolpanel configuration, win32 cross-compiling, and chart bugfixing.
Let me also take the opportunity to thank our sponsors and supporters, without whom this event would not have been possible. In no particular order, Attraktor e.V. for hosting us, The Document Foundation donors for providing the funds for travel bursaries, Lanedo and nerdshirt for drinks and tshirts, Italo and Christina for cooking wonderful pasta, my co-organizers Eike and Björn for doing lots of legwork & organization, including provisions for couch surfing – and of course all attendants for sharing their weekend and merry mood with us!
In total, we got more than 80 commits originating from Hackfest coding to date, I’ll update this post when more pending stuff arrives. Other posts about the hackfest here (updated):
Since The Document Foundation got formally established as a German charitable foundation earlier this year, we were pondering a number of activities to sponsor, that would be in line with our statutory and regulatory obligations. As our statutes advise TDF to further the use of Free Software, among other things, by introducing children and adolescents to FLOSS and LibreOffice in particular, one rather obvious problem with that is a certain language barrier (there’s considerable use of slang in youth culture, alongside a lack of older vocabulary sometimes used in UI), plus an issue with comprehending longer, more complex sentences (which pop up in e.g. tooltip help, or LibreOffice documentation texts).
The corpus of available research around these issues is still rather incomplete (the field is new, and somewhat controversial), but we see a very practical need here. That’s why I plan, possibly already with LibreOffice 3.6, to support a fourth German sub-locale (besides German, German/Swiss, German/Austria) – German/Kiez. That would include initial UI translation, dictionary, and help. A hopefully illustrating example, on why this is useful (my German-speaking audience will notice how different from standard German this dialect is) here:
I will seek to get EU funding for that, if at all possible, especially since via that project, TDF can hopefully also contribute to this new field of linguistic research – e.g. by supporting case studies on how more easily pupils take up UI that’s presented in “their” language, compared to standardized German. Which, in closing, really is one of the many strong selling points for FLOSS – the Freedom to tweak, and translate, to your local user’s needs, whatever you think they are.
We will work on this, and many other things by the way, at the upcoming Hamburg Hackfest on April 14th/15th.
Announced since a week, and incorporated with the stamp of the Friday before, TDF now has finally gotten the legal entity we wished, and worked for so long. It took us about a year from having a plan, to pouring that concept into legalese and a setup that fits the mould of a German Foundation (“Stiftung”) – a process that seems unduly long from the outset, but I can tell you we didn’t sit there twiddling thumbs.
Because what we achieved is unique in Germany, and even beyond, being the first Free Software project managing to obtain the status of those almost-eternal, state-supervised, truly stable trusts that German Foundations are. Normally employed by this solitary millionaire, wanting to put his wealth to charitable purposes after his demise, in setting up a trust with a charitable mission, we found this to be the perfect vault for all the value our community built from, and around, what Oracle left lingering of the OpenOffice.org project.
But with everything new, people, and especially authorities, need some time to warm up to. TDF was no exception, and our statutes, as well as our patience, was put to repeated, thorough tests. With the result that our statutes got all the loopholes removed, an equivalent of 10 meter fingernails got bitten, and in the end we had our desired entity approved. Including the enduring membership rights we wanted, in the city of our choice – with Berlin being such a wonderful icon of reunion and post-war solidarity.
With the rest of the TDF board, we’re now working on setting up operations in Berlin and transferring assets.
Happy Birthday TDF – and kudos to all who helped making this a reality!
Like last year, again a sizeable portion of the LibreOffice community gathered in Brussels, for the habitual FOSDEM meetup with pretty much everyone who matters in Free and Open Source. This year, the typically badly overcrowded booths in the H building’s corridors got moved out to the newly requisitioned K building, among them the LibreOffice booth – the upside was more breathing space, the downside some required outside walk in slushy snow, and no local Coke supply. Still, I think it was a change for the better.
A very big Thank You! to all those wonderful volunteers who helped to make this happen, and for you that couldn’t attend an impression from the booth:
After the disbanding of the Sun/Oracle OpenOffice team, a sizeable fraction of those developers stayed with the meta-project – some for LibreOffice, employed by SUSE, RedHat and Canonical, some for IBM. Which means, the Hamburg metropolitan area remains one of the gravity centers for Free office suite hacking activities.
Quite accordingly, we’ll be having a local LibreOffice Hamburg Hackfest this spring, generously hosted at the Attraktor e.V. hacker space – the date is not yet, but almost fixed (quickly cast your vote if you want to attend).
Plus, we’ve established a recurring LibreOffice home hacking event, with one of us taking turns having the Hamburg crowd over for a day:
Looking forward to grow this circle over the time.
With Oracle donating OpenOffice.org trademark and code to the Apache Foundation, one point frequently made is the one about licensing differences. LibreOffice is under a weak copyleft license, that is, changes to existing core need to be made public (at the time a product ships). In contrast, to-be-Apache OpenOffice would be available under a non-copyleft license, meaning nobody is required to contribute anything back.
It is said that non-copyleft, or permissive, licenses are more popular with corporations, because they allow for much more flexibility in what, and when, to contribute back. Overall, it is conjectured, the projects will still see enough open contributions from corporate participants, because private forks are not cost-effective.
Let’s now have a look at how all that applies to OpenOffice.org. There are a few things to know beforehand. First, the code represents almost 20 years of development, and is, in many places, a sedimentation of bugfixes over bugfixes. Which overall results in highly coupled and fragile code. Secondly, OOo has a mature component framework, API and extension mechanism, that makes it easy for third parties to innovate on top of the existing core.
Given that, it is rather disadvantageous to keep changes to existing core code private, because of high internal maintenance costs (and a very non-linear relation between the size of the private change, and the risk to have it broken quite badly by merging new code from the upstream community). Conversely, it is highly advantageous to add more extension points to the core code, and reduce the internal coupling, since that enables later, independent functionality (that corporations could use to differentiate themselves).
So then, it seems the differences for the ecosystem between weak copyleft vs. permissive, in the case at hand, are negligible – for the former, responsible behaviour is enforced by the license, for the latter, by technical reality. Beyond existing core code, everyone is free to not publish changes either way. Of course, an Apache-licensed OpenOffice.org would permit taking the project all-proprietary at any given point in time, but such a move is clearly not in the interest of the community, and specifically not in the interest of the Apache Foundation.
Of the remaining differences, the constraints on e.g. the timing of contributing back, are simply too minor to justify the overhead of running two communities in parallel. That’s the main reason I oppose the idea – as a software engineer, I try hard to avoid duplication for no good reason.