Wednesday, November 28, 2012

EuroBSDCon Trip Report: Gabor Kövesdán

The next trip report is from Gabor  Kövesdán:
It was my very first time at a FreeBSD Developer Summit and a EuroBSDCon and I was very excited about it. Recently, I have been actively working on two important projects, which I wanted to discuss and report about. One of them is the XML migration and clean up of the documentation and the second one is the regular expression code.

I arrived on October 17 in Warsaw and I was about to go to the dinner but it was really late when I arrived at the accommodation and got prepared for the dinner. But I met some of the other developers after dinner and we had some interesting conversations, but no one stayed too long at the hacking lounge because next day’s developer summit was scheduled to start at 8 am.

On the next day I arrived on time at the developer summit. There was a bit of delay since the majority of the people had problems finding the place on time. After the short opening talk, I participated in the Toolchain working group. I am not directly involved in the toolchain and compiler work in the source tree but I have been working on important command-line utilities like grep and sort, which are usually used in build processes and I work on some massive changes on the documentation infrastructure, which also has a build system, so I thought it was an interesting session for me. I learned about the ongoing work and bmake’s more advanced features. Someone raised performance questions and utilities so we also talked a bit about grep and similar things. I didn’t stay at the afternoon’s session because I still wanted to polish some stuff I was going to present the next day.

The second day of the developer summit was very productive. We started with the documentation session and we covered lots of important topics. The two most important I want to highlight was the XML and toolchain migration and the printed edition of the Handbook.  I summarized the rationale of the changes and I presented rendered output made with the old and the suggested new tools and I also showed some other pdf documentations from open source projects. I highlighted in what sense I think we are behind and what we should do to have a modern and pleasant look. In fact, our HTML documentation is visually quite nice but if we compare it to the printable output, the latter is far behind. We could render fancy and modern output with much more advanced features with Apache FOP but it depends on Java, which raised some concerns. I emphasized that Java would only be required for printable formats, which are not built by default, not even on FreeBSD.org, so the impact of this dependency is not that serious. The second most viable solution would require LaTeX, which is also a heavy dependency and we do not even have good LaTeX support in FreeBSD since the TeXLive ports are not yet ready for production use. As for the Handbook work, we talked about different options to reorganize current content and other items that need to be done before publishing, like updating indexterms, glossary, and adding more conceptual figures to help understanding the textual explanations. We also mentioned some possibilities of an ebook format. We also talked a bit about tooling and the possibility of using UTF-8 as a unique global encoding. For this, we invited Ed Schouten, who gave us a bit of a status report and overview of what is ready and what needs to be done to fully support UTF-8 at the console. After the documentation session, I participated in the vendor summit where we heard useful industry experiences from third-party vendors. I then talked a bit to Ulrich Spörlein about some ideas concerning mdocml.

The first day of the conference, I participated in the developer summit track and presented my two projects. After the presentation I got some encouraging words from some participants and now I have a potential tester for this work. I spent the rest of the day at the developer summit track, listening to fellow developers and all of the talks were quite interesting.

The final day I listened to the BHyVe and the ZFS talks and then I was hanging around in the sponsors room thinking about and discussing the Handbook reorganization. I talked about it to other developers and I also interchanged some experiences with a NetBSD doc fellow. I am really glad that I participated at the conference since it was a really good experience both from a technical and  a social viewpoint. I am very thankful to the FreeBSD Foundation that made this trip possible!

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