Adventures at FOSDEM

I visited FOSDEM in Brussels this year, and here's some of the things I got up to

2024-02-05


Inspired by some friends around Christmastime of last year, I decided to come along to FOSDEM this year. It's been a delightful albeit chaotic and tiring experience, so here's a little run-down of some of the things I got up to!

Collage of our outbound plane, another photo of the outbound plane, the Brussels metro, the Monument du Cinquantenaire, the Wolf food hall, my cheapo hotel breakfast, the queues for lunch at ULB, the closing ceremony and the empty return plane

Left-to-right, top-to-bottom: our outbound plane, another photo of the outbound plane, the Brussels metro, the Monument du Cinquantenaire, the Wolf food hall (where we ate most of our evening meals), my cheapo hotel breakfast, the queues for lunch at ULB, the closing ceremony and the empty return plane.

Getting there

Because of the relatively late booking that I did for the trip, the most cost effective way of travelling ended up being by plane - specifically Brussels Airlines, leaving from Heathrow. As much as I would have liked to have taken the Eurostar, the difference in ticket price was somewhere in the region of £50 once you factored in the additional rail travel required.

Getting around

90% of the travel I did while in Brussels was either on the railways, metro or trams. A little researching was required, but the long and short of it is that you can use a contactless card across the STIB-MIVB1 network much like you can on the London Underground - just look for the grey touchpoints.

The demand placed on the system was quite amusing - trams to/from the ULB campus (where FOSDEM takes place) were always absolutely rammed and invariably went from completely full to almost entirely empty on arriving at the right place.

At FOSDEM

FOSDEM itself is spread across multiple buildings on the ULB campus - with everything from seminar rooms to ginormous lecture theatres being used, the vast majority were so-called devrooms, hosting talks centred around a specific topic and run by a dedicated team of people.

There were devrooms for all sorts of topics, like big, mainstream languages such as Go, Python and Rust to more niche areas like FOSS mobile devices, LLVM and railways and open transport.

There were also lots of stands around that hosted various open source projects and organisations, like Mozilla2, Joplin and Let's Encrypt.

But of course, the main attraction wwre the talks. I went to a few - they were:

Travelling Back

This is only really noteworthy because of the flight back - we were flying to London Heathrow from Brussels, and our flight had almost nobody on it. In the whole A320, there was about 20 people total; so few that I thought that the cabin crew were joking when they called "boarding complete" over the PA!

Empty plane

But for now...

This was my first FOSDEM, and it was a hugely positive experience! It goes without saying that the conference was great, and the hotel I stayed at was nice and well connected, and the transport was easy and not overly expensive. All-in-all, I'd definitely do it again - and I'm looking forwards to doing it again next year!


  1. That's all the buses, trams and metro trains within the Brussels area.

  2. Here, in order to get a Firefox sticker, I had to prove my allegiance and show that I had Firefox installed on my phone - which I did with glee!

  3. The experience was quite bad, safe to say. Now, Leon reported that he was able to get about 20fps on a Pi 5, which is very nice to hear.

  4. Although it can, by proxy, then create new, unforseen issues!