Kansai Open Source Forum: Day 2 Report

Blog post by koki on Tue, 2007-11-20 07:13

Later on I had a nice breakfast, then read the Japan Times (like I used to during my good old times in Japan) and watched a bit of the news on TV. A bit before 9:00AM I went down to the lobby where I met Momoziro, and after a short subway ride to the convention center, we were both at the Haiku booth on the exhibit floor, setting up our table-top Haiku gear. As there was sometime left before the start bell, I went to see if I could test my laptop with the projector used in the conference room where I was to give my Haiku presentation that afternoon; I was asked to come back during the lunch break, and that's what I did (more on this below).

It was easy to tell from the amount of people walking around the ATC complex that this was going to be a much busier day, and we were excited that it turned out to be as expected. As soon as the exhibits were open, people started flowing into the floor, and we were again showing off Haiku to the crowds. There is nothing more comforting for somebody who has crossed the ocean to present something (Haiku in this case), to see that the effort was worth it, and the visibly increased traffic gave me that warm feeling. According to the organizers of the conference, attendance was higher than last year, and way over 1,000 people (unofficial count).

Not long after the conference started, we were pleased with the presence of Hiron-san, the developer of CoveredCalc, a very cool multi-platform skinnable calculator also available in a BeOS version. I had communicated with Hiron-san for quite some time over email (since my times at yellowTAB and JPBE.net), but this was the first time we met in person. And as it's usually the case, meeting someone in person is so much better and rewarding than exchanging emails. Hiron-san has recently been very intrigued by Haiku, and is following the project closely (he recently reported a BMenuItem-related bug that was promptly fixed by Axel). CoveredCalc for BeOS does run in Haiku, but it still has some unresolved issues (not sure what they are). Nevertheless, Hiron-san intends to eventually release a Haiku version of CoveredCalc, and hopefully other apps at some point in time. I want to thank him for showing his support by coming all the way by ferry from Tokushima, Shikoku, just for the day (I believe it is a 3 – 4 hours trip). Hope we can meet again Hiron-san!

As the day went by, Momoziro and I kept busy showing Haiku to the visitors, explaining different aspects of the OS and/or the project. We also handed out a lot of flyers; in fact, we had printed about 50 of them, and they were all gone by around 2:0PM; in a way, that's a good sign (that there is interest to know/learn about Haiku), but it also meant that we printed too few; gotta do better next time. :)

Momoziro's laptop running HaikuMomoziro's laptop running HaikuAround noon, I went to check my laptop with the conference room projector. My laptop has an analog monitor output, and at home I was able to have Haiku drive an external LCD display through this output; so I was somewhat confident that I could run Haiku natively and display using the projector hooked to the external monitor output. After some trial and error, I was able to use that setup, but I had to switch the video of the laptop to the external output only "before" booting into Haiku. I could certainly live with that; all I had to do is change the angle of the podium, so that I could see the screen while I was talking. This worked well in the end.

I then went back to the Haiku booth, where I spent most of the time running Haiku demos. So, what did I demo, you may ask? Actually, it depended on who the audience was. For those new to Haiku and BeOS in general, I would give a quick overview of what Haiku is, focusing mainly on some of its unique points; then I would actually do a hands on demo on my laptop running Haiku natively. This usually included a quick overview of Tracker/Deskbar, a bit of OpenBFS magic (live queries, attribute display and editing in Tracker, custom attributed using FileType preference app, etc.), and then running various applications, to show both how far Haiku has come, and to showcase the snappiness of the OS in general. To those who knew or were familiar with BeOS (or Zeta for that matter), I went straight to the point, telling then “Hey, look, we have come this far!” and running various apps like WonderBrush (thanks for the artwork Stippi!), BeShare, Vision, BePodder, and Opera among others. I would then put the icing on the cake by showing off some old but memorable apps such as 3DMov to appeal to their (dormant?) BeOS hearts. :)

Unfortunately, I could not run my favorite Haiku demo with 7 – 8 videos playing at the same time (see video here), as since about a month or two ago Haiku will start dropping both sound and video frames after the second instance of the media player. I am sure the devs will take care of this at some point (which reminds me that I need to file a bug report about this). By the way, this is really not a complaint, as we all know that Haiku is still not even alpha, and as such, it runs very well at times.

My Haiku presentation was from 4:00PM; since there were ten minutes between presentations for preparation purposes, I went to the conference where I was presenting about fifteen minutes in advance. The previous presentation (about Nadeshiko, a programming language in Japanese) ended early, so I had plenty of time to prepare. By the time I was ready, at around 15:50, I had an empty room before myself. The room had a capacity of about 50 – 60 people, and it felt quite lonely. Fortunately, people started to show up, and I am happy to say that by the time I started, there were approximately 30 people in the room. This was a little above average, according to what I heard, so not bad. :)

My presentation was simply titled "What's Haiku" and was meant to provide general information about the project in general, including key highlights of the OS, a brief history of both Haiku in itself and in the context of a BeOS timeline, the Haiku code base (ie., a fork of the NewOS kernel, OpenTracker, OpenBFS, AGG-based graphics system, Freetype as a font engine, etc.), current status of the project, and recent developments (SATA support, OSS port, Webkit port, GSoC projects, etc.). I had 16 slides total, that took me about 25 minutes to go through. I then went into a hands-on demo, and wrapped it up with a Q&A session, for the full 50 minutes that I was allowed.

I have a confession to make. I prepared the slides in OpenOffice and created a PDF with the intent of doing the presentation running BePDF in Haiku natively. I had tested this setup (actually inspired by François Revol), and it did work. I installed the same Japanese fonts on both Windows (where I was creating the slides) and Haiku, and the results were good. BePDF displayed the PDF nicely, albeit slowly, with Japanese characters and all. But Haiku had not been behaving very nicely on my laptop lately, and in the end I did not have the guts, and went with plan B, which consisted of running the presentation in Windows, and then rebooting to Haiku to do the hands-on demo. Ironically, during the hands-on demo, which lasted about 20 minutes, Haiku behaved quite well and did not crash (I did have to restart Tracker a couple of times). Shame on me...

Overall, my presentation focused more on general facts about Haiku the OS and the project, as there is very little information about Haiku in Japanese. I did not even try to dive into technical details that I would most likely not be capable of understanding or explaining anyway. In spite of the lack of depth from a technical point of view -- and my dishonorable decision to present Haiku using Windows -- I think the presentation went well, was well received and gave the audience both a good insight into the project and some food for thought at the very least. Unfortunately, there was no video feed, and I don't even have photos of the presentation, as Momoziro had to stay at the Haiku booth; but at least I hope you can get a feel of how it went from this brief overview. The slides I used for the presentation are available for download (527KB PDF). Needless to say, they are in Japanese; maybe I can find some time to translate them into English, so that they can be used at least as reference material for others.

After the presentation, I went back to our booth, to find Momoziro surrounded by quite a crowd. Several of those who had attended my presentation went down to the Haiku booth to ask more technical questions (I had advised them to do so). During this last stretch of the exhibits, I spent some time with Daiki Ikeda, editor of Software Design magazine, who showed interest in Haiku and is considering some coverage in the future (perhaps when the first alpha is released), and maybe even interviewing one or more of the Haiku developers. I also had a nice conversation with Suguru Hamazaki, a former BeOS fan who could not help but be impressed by what Haiku had achieved. Suguru-san, who works for IBM, attended my Haiku presentation and was the individual who posed the most interesting and challenging question of all during the Q&A session (he also blogged about Haiku in his personal KOF report). I am sharing his question at the end of this blog entry, as I found it to be very thought-provoking and something that, as as community, we may want to ask ourselves as a way to become more aware of the future possibilities of Haiku. More on that at the end of this post.

Back to the booth, the remaining exhibit time went by very fast. The people that came to our booth after the presentation for additional information kept us quite busy, and before we could realize it, it was closing time. My overall impression of the conference is positive. Mind you, there is always room for improvement (more local support would have been nice). But the audience was the right one, I think, so from both the perspective of spreading the word, I personally feel attending KOF was worth it. I also had a lot of fun, not only showing off Haiku, but also meeting people from both the local community as well as other projects. I would probably do it again next year if I had the chance. I do hope that we can see more proactive participation from the local community by then.

We then packed our things, said sayonara profusely to everyone around us, including the organizers and some of the booth neighbours we made friends with during the conference, and left the convention center. We went back to the hotel to leave all our stuff in my room (Momoziro had already checked out), and went for a Korean BBQ dinner. It was an all you can eat restaurant, so needless to say, I ended up like the snake that had swallowed an elephant in The Little Prince. ;) At around 9:00PM, Momoziro headed to the train station for his return home to Hiroshima, and I went back to my hotel room for a much needed rest.

That sums up what happened on the second day of KOF. As I mentioned, I wanted to finish this blog entry with a question that Hamazaki-san made during my Haiku presentation Q&A session. So, what did he ask that was so thought provoking and worth sharing? It was a simple question: he asked what our target market was. Ehem... Well, I started giving the "we are focused on the desktop" canned answer, but I could see in his face (and that of others) the next question coming: where does that leave Haiku in the world of today's computing? I felt I had to answer before they had a chance to ask, and so I did. :)

My longer answer was this: while Haiku was still a long term proposition (as in, it will not become usable by the average Joe in the next six months), in addition to the desktop, it also had future potential to address niches similar to those where BeOS excelled, and to illustrate I mentioned some of the commercial applications where BeOS was/is being used, such as ROLAND Edirol's dedicated video editing system, the TuneTracker radio automation system, in-store kiosks, etc.. Following hints from people in the business that I have met in the last few years, I also mentioned the potential suitability of Haiku for certain embedded applications, such as set top boxes and dedicated media centers. I also expressed my personal view that, at some point, Haiku could make a great personal OS for the small form factor desktops, laptops and other smaller modern computing devices that are becoming more and more prevalent in today's digital world (François, port Haiku to the Nokia N800!). I wrapped up by giving my view that the future of Haiku is wide open, and that while the project is focused on the desktop, this is open source, so nobody can discount the potential use of Haiku in personal computing in a wider sense of the word.

Why do I bring this up here? Because I have been actually asking the same "what need does Haiku address?" question myself. I am not suggesting anything like a focus shift; I am pretty happy with the direction Haiku has taken, and the progress that the dedicated Haiku developers have been making lately. But I still wonder what everybody else thinks in this respect, more as a way to explore what sort of possibilities Haiku may have in the future. So I will leave you with this question, if nothing as food for thought and/or discussion.

I hope you all enjoyed the report. :)