Archive for the 'FOSS4G 2008' Category

FOSS4G Post-mortem

Posted in FOSS4G 2008, Locality and Space on October 10th, 2008 at 05:36:36

One of the most common complaints I’ve heard about FOSS4G this year is the lack of information coming out of the conference. As far as I’m concerned, that’s down to one simple fact: being held in a developing country leaves much to be desired with regard to connecting to the rest of the world in any number of ways.

Whether it be the lack of SMS (too costly to use idly — messages ending up in the US at a service like Twitter end up being $0.25 apiece, even with a local SIM) leading to less Twitter activity, limited internet bandwidth making even getting to a website — much less updating one — far more difficult, lack of decent hotel internet, and paying an arm and a leg when it does exist… the end result is a situation where simply getting online to chat on IRC was far more than many people had an opportunity to do during the conference, and the more regular ‘datastream’ that comes flowing out of most conference attendees during a conference in a more well-connected part of the world was simply nonexistent.

A slightly less technical and more social aspect to this may be the fact that Cape Town bars stay open til 4am, and I know I wasn’t the only FOSS4G attendee they were kicking out at closing time every night.

Combine that with the distance of the trip, and right now, I bet a lot of people are still either here in Africa (as I am: Posting from a Cape Town hotel) or still recovering from their trip, and haven’t had the opportunity to do the detailed breakdowns that people had hoped for.

My take on the conference is that it was great for the people who attended. There was a huge crowd of people who had limited or no experience with Open Source software, or had just recently heard about it and were not really understanding what it meant, or how it worked, or why it mattered. I think that there were a number of people who were interested who were able to learn more — even people who work in communities which are not traditionally open to that kind of solution.

There were a number of presentations on many things that I don’t think we would have seen at a more software developer oriented conference. The uses of GIS — to track water pipeline breakages, to visualize the spread of malaria, to track the best places to plant grapes for growing better wine — are something that we saw much more of at this conference than at previous conferences. I think that this was directly tied to the fact that this conference was clearly a merging of two generally distant groups, and I think the end result was productive for both groups.

The attendance was, from what I heard, 50% ‘locals’, from around South Africa and the rest of Africa. There were many new faces who clearly would not have been able to attend a conference in the US or Europe, and for that alone, there was a benefit to the community as a whole to have the conference in Cape Town.

The organizers did a great job arranging the event: the venue, activities, and sessions were, on the whole, well set up. Also, the food that was provided was some of the best I’ve ever had — at a conference or anywhere else.

Overall, the conference was educational, helped to establish Open Source GIS software in a new location, helped to spread the worldwide knowledge and usage of Open Source software, and introduced the concepts that we in the OSGeo world would like to push onto others wherever appropriate. There was a huge cross breeding of information and cultures that wouldn’t have been possible in another setting, and — despite the distance, cost, and other possible pitfalls that could have befallen the conference — I think that placing the conference in Cape Town was a huge success. There have been a number of doubts voiced as to whether this was really the right decision — certainly, it made attending more difficult for a number of people who would have been at a North American or European event. These doubts and complaints are not to be ignored: It’s true that FOSS4G is meant to be a meeting of the tribes of OSGeo, and that aspect of it was more limited this year than in the past. However, the end result is that hundreds of people who would have had absolutely no chance of making it to an event in the Northern Hemisphere did so, and a number of them have been introduced to and hooked on Open Source software in a way no other event would have been able to.

Placing the conference in Cape Town had a specific goal of spreading Open Source software to someplace that it had not been as successful as possible in the past. With that in mind, this Cape Town conference succeeded in more ways than I can count, and that’s a big win for the conference and for OSGeo as a whole.

Finished FOSS4G Photo Uploads

Posted in Flickr, FOSS4G 2008 on October 10th, 2008 at 05:13:26

I finally finished uploading all the photos I took at/around the FOSS4G conference.

FOSS4G 2008 Set

Includes photos from:

  • Various nights hanging out at the bars/hotels during the conference
  • A trip up Table Mountain with OpenLayers/OpenGeo folks
  • GeoDjango Workshop
  • Sessions, exhibition hall, etc.
  • Pictures from the Gala Dinner at Moyo
  • Closing Session
  • OSGeo AGM
  • OpenLayers Workshop
  • GeoServer Workshop

Photos that are taken at the conference center/of conference proceedings are also tagged with foss4g2008:

foss4g2008 tagged

And most photos of people who I recognized are tagged with first name in the title, and with a username (as used on IRC or other unique identifier) attached as a tag:

Photos of Arnulf
Photos of Steven

Photos of the OSGeo AGM are also tagged as such:

OSGeo AGM Photos

I’ve made my tagging settings as open as possible, but I believe you still need to be a contact on flickr in order to add notes/tags to photos: simply add me as a contact, and I’ll add you back.

Any names I got wrong, please let me know, either via email or by simply commenting on the flickr photo.

Thanks to all for helping to create such a photogenic conference.

OL Sessions at FOSS4G

Posted in FOSS4G 2008 on October 1st, 2008 at 02:15:38

Just watched Bart’s presentation on his employer’s use of OL + ExtJS: to see a map customized so thoroughly that I can no longer recognize it as OL is kinda neat.

Now watching Tim Schaub explain Vector Styling; “So new many developers don’t even know how to use it.” I’ll state that I think this is equal parts ‘new’ and ‘lack of effort into documentation’ 🙂 Showing a *really* cool styling demo tool, which lets you put in code, run it, and executes the JS and creates a map. Totally need to get that into the website.

Showing the addUniqueStyleRules stuff; just keeps reminding me we really need graduated symbolizer convenience methods. Maybe I can convince him to do that at the code sprint this weekend.

We need to get these style rules in SVN somewhere; Tim’s clearly done a lot of work very recently on this, and getting this into the documentation and website sounds like a great thing to me.

FOSS4G Starts

Posted in Django, FOSS4G 2008 on September 29th, 2008 at 07:55:41

After climbing Table Mountain yesterday, I’m somewhat beat, but was able to make it up at 0730 to give a GeoDjango workshop with Josh. After spending the first hour running around attempting to get power for everyone and get DVDs copied, we got started.

Overall, the workshop went well. We had a variety of users — including two people who were relatively successful with running GeoDjango from their own (mac) laptops. I’ve learned a few things about using VMWare — for example, I was reminded that there is no real VMWare option for PPC Macs, and that installing VMWare on Mandriva is not as trivial as it maybe should be.

I was able to get two of my machines working with the VMWare DVD we had and distributed (link later once I talk to Josh and we fix some of the missing things), and gave them out to people. With our 25 people, we had about 15 laptops running, with others sharing.

Learned a few key points: For one, our documentation on the workshop was insufficiently explanatory of how to do things like “edit files”, “open a terminal”, etc. A number of people were facing significant problems towards the start because of that. (Also, not installing vim on the VMWare image was problematic for me, and Erik had the same problem with emacs.) Due to the somewhat staggered start, we got a little bit lost in the weeds pretty quickly, and didn’t get a chance to really explain what GeoDjango was about to start, which I think was a lack in the workshop.

Overall, we got through setting up the VMWare image (though not installation from scratch), starting a project, creating a model, setting up the admin (with this being one of the more difficult parts, specifically because almost no one had internet access within the VM), generating KML, viewing the KML on an OpenLayers map, and using the GDAL tools (LayerMapping) to import polygon data from a shapefile and view/edit that. A couple people got ahead through creating a Ward view as well, which was nice.

There are a number of aspects of the workshop that need more polish, but overall, I think people who were interested got to see GeoDjango in admin, and see why it’s pretty cool. Hopefully we can clean up our workshop docs to make it smoother for the next person to walk through it, and get more people interested in GeoDjango and learning about Django in general through that.

Arrival, FOSS4G2008

Posted in FOSS4G 2008, Locality and Space on September 28th, 2008 at 01:00:55

Have arrived in Cape Town in preparation for FOSS4G. And the most important part of the trip — the drinking of the beers — is already in full force.

Tim, Fountains Hotel

I’m staying in the Fountains Hotel; apparently a good choice, given the number of random FOSS4G passerby we’ve had so far.

18 hours of flying is a long time, but didn’t go poorly, though I am lacking any clothes until Monday afternoon (so I’ll be kind of stinky for my workshop with Josh on GeoDjango on Monday). Made it to the hotel, then headed out to Dinner at Cape To Cuba. Was good environment and tasty, for not a bad price. We then went back to the Fountains Hotel and had a couple drinks at the hotel bar.

I’ve uploaded pictures — they’re tagged by day and foss4g2008, so you should be able to see daily shots as I continue to upload them. (I’ve also got a FOSS4G 2008 set.) Today we’re doing a trip up Table Mountain — taking the cable car — leaving from Fountains Hotel around 10AM (breakfast at 9:15).

PSA: If you’re at all interested in GeoDjango, and have more than a passing knowledge of Python, I highly recommend coming to our GeoDjango workshop (and bringing a laptop). It’s gonna be great.

PSA2: If you’re staying at Fountains, and don’t want to go down to the desk to get an internet voucher, you can still ssh. Just join the wireless network, and ‘ssh $ipaddress’. (If you don’t know your IP address, you can look it up by using ‘dig @’.) If you need to get to the web, you can add “-D 4000” to your ssh command — ‘ssh -D 4000’ — to set up a SOCKS proxy. Then, in Firefox Preferences -> Advanced -> Network -> Connection, do manual Proxy configuration, and enter ‘localhost’, ‘4000’ as a “SOCKS Host”.

FOSS4G 2008

Posted in FOSS4G 2008, Locality and Space on September 26th, 2008 at 06:37:08

About to head out to FOSS4G 2008. Leaving from Boston this morning, New York this afternoon, arriving at Cape Town around 4pm with a refuel-only stop in Dakar.

I’m staying at the Fountains Hotel, and will try to spend most of my time in the lobby. (If you see a guy with a Macbook sitting around there, there’s a fair chance he’s me.)

I’m presenting Collaborative Mapmaking with GeoDjango, which should be great for anyone who has worked with Django but not GeoDjango, and even people who haven’t used Django can probably play along.

OpenLayers users should be interested in Tim’s excellent summary of the OpenLayers-related sessions; as he mentions though, there are *36* sessions that mention OL, so it seems likely that no matter what track you follow, you’ll see *some* OpenLayers mentioned.

After the conference, a couple of OL developers are doing a trip around the Cape; on Monday morning, I fly out to Kruger National Park for a 3 day whirlwind tour. I’ve rented the car, but I’m still keeping an eye out for anyone who wants to room with me: I can take at least one more person (and if we get two more, we can rent a bigger car :)). If you’re interested and fly out Friday or later, let me know!

I’ll be trying to keep Twitter updated with my whereabouts; if you’re interested in tracking me, you can follow me, though I expect I’ll be less prolific than usual, since I won’t have cheap text messaging access.

If you’re at FOSS4G, look me up!