Flock 2017: trip report

Better late than never, here’s my report from Flock 2017!

Thanks to my excellent foresight in the areas of ‘being white’ and ‘being Canadian’ I had no particular trouble getting through security / immigration, which was nice. The venue was kinda interesting – the whole town had this very specific flavor that seems to be shared among slightly second-class seaside towns the world over. Blackpool, White Rock or Hyannis, there’s something about them all…but the rooms were fairly clean, the hot water worked, the power worked, and the wifi worked fairly well for a conference, so all the important stuff was OK. Hyannis seriously needs to discover the crosswalk, though – I nearly got killed four times travelling about 100 yards from the hotel to a Subway right across the street and back. Unfortunately the ‘street’ was a large rotary with exactly zero accommodations for pedestrians…

Attendance seemed a bit thinner than usual, and quite heavily Red Hat-y; I’ve heard different reasons for this, from budget issues to Trump-related visa / immigration issues. It was a shame. There were definitely still enough people to make the event worthwhile, but it felt like some groups who would normally be there just weren’t.

From the QA team we had myself, Tim Flink, Sumantro Mukherjee and Lukas Brabec. We got some in-person planning / discussion done, of course, and had a team dinner. It was particularly nice to be in the same place as Sumantro for a while, as usually our time zones are awful, he gets to the office right when I’m going to bed – so we were able to talk over a lot of stuff and agree on quite a list of future projects.

The talks, as usual, were generally very practical, focused and useful – one of the nicest things about Flock is it’s a very low-BS conference. I managed to do some catch-up on modularity plans and status by following the track of modularity talks on Thursday. Aside from that, some of the talks I saw included the Hubs status update, Stef’s dist-git tests talk, the Greenwave session, the Bodhi hackfest, Sumantro’s kernel testing session, and a few others.

I gave a talk on how packagers can work with our automated test systems. As always seems to be the case I got scheduled very early in the conference, and again as always seems to be the case, I wound up writing my talk about an hour before giving it. Which was especially fun because while I still had about ten slides to write, my laptop starting suffering from a rather odd firmware bug which caused it to get stuck at the lowest possible CPU speed. Pro tip: LibreOffice does not like running at 400MHz. So I wasn’t entirely as prepared as I could have been, but I think it went OK. I had the usual thing where, once I reached the end of the talk, I realized how I should have started it, but never mind. If I ever get to give the talk again, I’ll tweak it. As a footnote, Peter Jones – being Peter Jones – naturally had all the tools and the know-how necessary to take my laptop apart and disconnect the battery, which turned out to be the only possible way to clear the CPU-throttling firmware state, so thanks very much to him for that!

As usual, though, the most productive thing about the conference was just being in the same place at the same time as lots of the folks who really make stuff happen in Fedora, and being able to work on things in real time, make plans, and pick brains. So I spent quite a lot of time bouncing around between Kevin Fenzi, Dennis Gilmore, and Peter Jones, trying to fix up Fedora 27 and Rawhide composes; we got an awful lot of bugs solved during the week. I got to talk to Ralph Bean, Pingou, Randy Barlow, Pengfei Jia, Dan Callaghan, Ryan Lerch, Jeremy Cline and various others about Bodhi, Pagure, Greenwave and various other key bits of current and future infrastructure; this was very useful in planning how we’re going to move forward with compose gating and a few other things. In the kernel testing session, Sumantro, Laura Abbott and myself came up with a plan to run regular Test Days around kernel rebases for stable releases, which should help reduce the amount of issues caused by those rebases.

We started working on a ‘rerun test’ button for automated tests in Bodhi during the Bodhi hackfest; this is still a work in progress but it’s going in interesting directions.

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