Friday Saturday Sunday 

FOSDEM - a geek trip to Brussels. Going abroad to experience different cultures. Or at least, a chance to eat chips, suffer rain, and watch American TV in a different country.


This year started off like any other - with a Friday morning Eurostar journey out of St Pancras. And, like any other year, you can play 'spot the geek going to FOSDEM'! It was here that I learned about bank card management, inter-bank/inter-country rates, and other bits of knowledge that have been successfully applied in the re-structring of my finances. Again.

As surely night follows day, so do beers follow Eurostar, and we spent a quite few hours in the pub before we met Josette and Barney. Also, in homage to FOSDEMs past, we ate in Leon. No - it hasn't gotten any better over time, but like an ex-colleague from 4 jobs previous, you know why you only meet up every 5 years :) Oh, and Leon now appear to have kids-only toilets. I'm not sure if this is a new, Yewtree-inspired, move, or I just hadn't noticed before. But there you go...

After food it was back to Delerium for more beer and arguments about the pricing of the beer tokens. "Two failures in two years", was the generally concensus. At least there's always room for improvement! There followed the busiest night I can remember, with no room to squeeze into the street, let alone the pub. Such was the size that security was present throughout to block our path. Naturally, there are only two sizes of geek : skinny as Miley Cyrus, or rotund like Paul Mason... security only come in the rotund version, so each one of them precluded 3 of us getting back to our table. Assuming our friends had managed to save the space for us. But not to matter! It's Brussels, and there's always somewhere else to drink :)

It was a sensible and quiet end to the evening (around 2am) and back to bed in preparation for the first day.


Despite the "early" finish, and my arrival at 11am, I was disappointed to find a lack of programmes describing the days events. No matter, thinks I, it's a tech conference so I'll download the app to my iPod... except there's no iOS port... and the web site was dog slow... and my data roaming wasn't working to download the Android app. Let's hope 2014 fixes (at least) one of those problems!

Talks-wise, I managed to see Searduino (thank you guys - that saves me from having to write it!), C2, Wiki data, Rygel, and a telephony system for HTML5. The latter is one of the few cases where FOSDEM has helped me for work! (Disclaimer: I am developer of many things, but one of those areas is computer games. With 2 books, and several million games sold, I've yet to really learn anything new in the games talks. Now I'm doing a few things outside of games, so it's like I'm learning a new subject.)

I also learned about Telerender, "Monkey Sphere Numbers" and dleyna. All things that have no relevance to work life, home life, or my love life... but were worthwhile, nonetheless!

The evening was a complete blur. Sorry! I remember saying 'at least I haven't fallen asleep in a rock club yet'... immediately after waking up in a rock club :) And a friend has photographic proof that I was sleeping long enough to pour salt into my hair! (I use the word 'friend' loosely, you see ;) For the next hour I was wondering why, and how, a bald man could get dandruff!

But back home at 4am. Sleep. Up at 11am. But that's where the trouble started...


I awoke hungover, but ready for the day. Unfortunately, the day wasn't ready for me as the safe refused to open. I called reception and in my best English (doing French while hungover and annoyed is probably not a good advert for my cunning linguistic skills) complained that my safe was broken. The staff tried to explain that I must have typed in the wrong pin number. Er.. no... I checked everything before going out (i.e. while sober) and used the same PIN as my phone, so there's no chance of forgetting it. So I waited a couple of hours while they found someone to send to the room with some magic equipment.. only to find they couldn't open it either. Why? Because it really was broken, as I told them on the phone. So, more phone calls and equipment were endured. Naturally, I missed over half the day and was thoroughly annoyed.

I'm booking a different hotel in 2014...

What I did manage to see ranged from good to frustrating. I know my mood was affected by the events of the day, so I'm probably to blame, but the number of people who wanted to talk during either the presentation, or the questions, just seemed higher than usual.

Simiarily, the number of talks that peddled the same material from 10 years (e.g. 'make it easy for new people to get into your projects') reminded me that I'm old. Grumpy. And of the generation that formulated these rules, so it's probably no surprise they're recycled my old talks to a bunch of young shavers!

Oh, and like most years, there's always someone stealing taxis! We gave ours up, intentionally, to someone wanting to get to the airport whose cab had been stolen by someone else. I hoped karma would pay us back for this..

The rest of our Sunday evening was now routine... get a taxi to detour past our various hotels, pick up bags, wait in a queue at customs, wait in the lounge for a delayed train, and bustle through the crowds cutting into line in order to board the train home.

Turns out karma still owes me a favour since the Eurostar was late enough to mean I missed my connection, so I got back around 2 hrs later than planned and too tired to enjoy an imported Belgian beer and a dirty pizza from the take away around the corner. But I slept well, awoke early and refreshed, almost oblivious to the hateful locked safe and the moronic hotel staff.