FOSDEM 2016

For the third time I traveled to Brussels, Belgium for another edition of FOSDEM. I got my Libreboot X200 and my copy of Free Software, Free Society signed by the author himself - Richard Stallman.

Although I don’t use my Libreboot X200 on a daily basis, it is nonetheless interesting to use a system consisting of only free software (even the BIOS is free).

This was my first edition of FOSDEM where I volunteered during the buildup and cleanup. The event seem to be getting more popular each year. This time gathering an estimated 5 000 hackers from around the world.

The developer room I find the most interesting is the one called Legal and Policy Issues devroom, with 22 talks hosted this year. This is where discussions about copyleft, software licenses, software patents and other similar issues take place. The kind of discussions that are very much needed, now more than ever, in order for us to retain our right to publish free and open source software.

I won’t list all the talks that I attended but I will list the ones that I found the most interesting. Unfortunately the video streams for the talks have not been uploaded yet, but once they are available they will be listed at FOSDEM video recordings.

Free as in freedom. The importance of FOSS in the surveillance era

Presented by Giovanni B. Gallus, a lawyer and free software-advocate from Italy, this talk brought up the importance of having free software such as encryption and anonymization tools. In the wake of the Paris attacks and other recent events, it is now clear that governments are increasing their efforts of global surveillance and defamation of encryption. Even though the Paris attackers did not use any encryption whatsoever.


Copyleft For the Next Decade: A Comprehensive Plan for the GPL

This talk, given by the President of Software Freedom Conservancy Bradley M. Kuhn, focused on the importance of the GNU General Public License (GPL) and making sure that free software remains free by enforcing the license violations committed by many companies today.

After the Linux Foundation pulled its donations to the Software Freedom Conservancy for enforcing the GPL violation against VMWare (one of the members of Linux Foundation) this talk presented essential ideas on how Copyleft will take on the future.


Privacy and Tracking protection in Firefox

Security and Privacy Engineer of Mozilla and W3C member François Marier discussed how Firefox fights tracking and why it is important to have transparency on the internet.

The online ad revenue of 2013 was as high as 117 billion US dollars, where Google make up 1/3. They track users on the internet using various techniques, such as 3rd party cookies and referer headers and by fingerprinting your browser. This talk explains the basic defenses and Mozilla plans for the future ahead, in terms of protection against being tracker.

The slides for this talk can be found here.


Explaining the Postgres Query Optimizer

In contrast to many of the the other talks I attended, this talk was highly technical in nature and explained how the query optimizer of PostgreSQL works. The query optimizer takes a query and tries to figure out on how to get the result in the fastest possible manner. All of the SQL queries can be read and copied from the slides and you can test it yourself.

Bruce Momjian is very experienced talker and his talk was interesting from start to finish. Explaining the concepts of sequential scans, bitmap index scans and index scans and why statistics are important, this is definitely a talk I will remember.


Needless to say I look forward to my next visit in Brussels.