by Dru Lavigne
Related link: http://2005.meetbsd.org/
I was invited to give a talk and a workshop at this year's meetBSD, a conference for the Polish BSD community. This was the second meetBSD. The first proved so popular that the conference was increased from one day to a three day weekend.
While I can't comment on the technical talks (besides mine and Scott Long's, all the presentations were in Polish), I can give you an idea about the Polish BSD community.
After an unanticipated and hellish stay at the Paris airport, I arrived a few hours late at Warsaw wondering if the person who was supposed to pick me up was still there and if I'd be able to find him. And if not, if I'd be able to figure out the Polish telephone system. (One thing I've discovered about travelling to Europe is that every telephone and every toilet seems to operate differently.)
I was very pleased that the first face I saw belonged to none other than Pawel Dawidek. I had met Pawel at BSDCan and had had several good conversations and emails regarding his work on gmirror(8) and GEOM.
Having already missed the train to Krakow, Pawel invited me to spend the afternoon with him and his girlfriend. He made sure we had a chance to freshen up, check email, eat and have a quicky tour of Warsaw. This was my first introduction to Polish hospitality.
That evening on the train to Krakow, we had a chance to meet many of the other attendees and their girlfriends. This was the first BSD conference I've attended that had a higher ratio of female to male attendees that weren't just someone's wife or girlfriend. (5 out of 75 v.s. the usual 1 out of 175). It was also the first country I've visited where everyone had a girlfriend. When I remarked on it, they were amazed that geeks in other countries were often the butt of can't-get-girlfriend jokes. As one person simply stated, "how could you live without one?" Indeed.
The first day of the conference, I was slated as the third speaker. I found myself an outlet and settled down to catch up on email and some work. I was typing along when someone made an announcement in Polish. The last 2 words of the announcement were "Dru Lavigne" whereupon the entire audience turned their heads to look at me. Thus I found out that there had been a scheduling change and it was my turn to speak about BSD Certification.
The PDF of the talk should appear on the meetBSD website shortly. If anyone is interested in hosting the slides, drop me an email. Also, the PDF for the workshop is being hosted at the NYCBUG library and should show up sometime next week.
After the talk, I was interviewed by Aleksander Fafula who runs Poland's largest BSD portal. The URL to the English version of the interview will appear in the June version of the BSD Certification Newsletter.
At lunch I discovered that Poles are very big meat eaters. I also learned the meaning of the word "hearty". If you ever go to Poland, rest assured that you will eat very well for very little zloty (the Polish currency).
As with any conference, the talks are interesting and informative but the real heart of the conference occurs in the after-hours social networking. In this respect, meetBSD was by far the best BSD conference I have attended. I had a chance to talk with nearly every one of the 75 attendees and had a very good opportunity to see the who's who in the Polish BSD community. Not surprisingly, BSD is quite popular with ISPs and servers; I was surprised that it was almost exclusively FreeBSD. The Polish community is well educated (due to the free post-secondary education) and the average age seemed to be about 25. In the attendees, there was a good mix of students, consultants and trainers. Everyone seemed very enthusiastic about BSD certification and I made many good contacts in that regard. Everyone was very happy to talk about how things are in Poland and equally curious about North America.
For those wondering about the beer, Poles are very proud of theirs. I found it a bit too light for my taste as I like very dark bitter beer. However, I highly recommend Zubrowka, a very smooth vodka containing, of all things, bison grass. However, make sure you have a group of friends with you if you're thinking of ordering a "kamakaze". It was in the menu under cocktails so I was expecting a glass with an umbrella. Instead I got a platter containing 18 shot glasses of vodka diluted with a bit of Curacao and lemon juice.
Krakow itself is a beautiful city, rich with history, culture and architecture. It has its own castle, complete with dragon bones and an interesting story. In Poland, everything has an interesting story. I had a chance to visit many of the interesting sites with some of the attendees: the famous Market area, the castle, the former Jewish district. I also had a chance on my last day in Poland to visit Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
I'll let you know if I come across any pictures of the conference; they should be posted on the Net shortly.