First off, let me just say that it was such an honor and pleasure to have had the opportunity to present a keynote at the LibreOffice mini-Conference in Osaka. It was a bit surreal to be given such an opportunity almost one year after my involvement with LibreOffice as a paid full-time engineer ended, but I’m grateful that I can still give some tales that some people find interesting. I must admit that I haven’t been that active since I left Collabora in terms of the number of git commits to the LibreOffice core repository, but that doesn’t mean that my passion for that project has faded. In reality it is far from it.
There were a lot of topics I could potentially have covered for my keynote, but I chose to talk about the 5-year history of the project, simply because I felt that we all deserved to give ourselves a lot of praises for numerous great things we’ve achieved in this five years time, which not many of us do simply because we are all very humble beings and always too eager to keep moving forward. I felt that, sometimes, we do need to stop for a moment, look back and reflect on what we’ve done, and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Though I had visited Kyoto once before, this was actually my first time in Osaka. Access from the Kansai International Airport (KIX) into the city was pretty straightforward. The venue was located on the 23th floor of Grand Front Osaka North Building Tower B (right outside the north entrance of JR Osaka Station), on the premises of GMO DigiRock who kindly sponsored the space for the event.
The conference took place on Saturday January 9th of 2016. The conference program consisted of my keynote, followed by four regular-length talks (30 minutes each), five lightning talks (5 minutes each), and round-table discussions at the end. Topics of the talks included: potential use of LibreOffice in high school IT textbooks, real-world experiences of large-scale migration from MS Office to LibreOffice, LibreOffice API how-tos, and to LibreOffice with NVDA the open source screen reader.
After the round-table discussions, we had some social event with beer and pizza before we concluded the event. Overall, 48 participants showed up for the conference.
We also organized a hackfest on the following day at JUSO Coworking. A total of 20 plus people showed up for the hackfest, to work on things like translating the UI strings to Japanese, authoring event-related articles, and of course hacking on LibreOffice. I myself worked on implementing simple event callbacks in the mdds library, which, by the way, was just completed and merged to the master branch today.
It was great to see so many faces, new and old, many of whom traveled long distance to attend the conference. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel all the way from North Carolina across the Pacific, and it was well worth the hassle of a jet lag.
Normally I don’t travel to Japan just to visit OSC mainly because of the distance; being located in the East Coast of the United States, it’s a big hassle to fly to Japan, not to mention the cost. Despite this, I wanted to visit this particular OSC primarily for two reasons.
The LibreOffice Japanese team had organized a separate track just for LibreOffice related talks, and I wanted to come and see face-to-face the people who are involved in our project in Japan in various capacities, and learn the latest on what’s going in the Japanese community.
There was one difficulty, however. Because I only had one week to arrange the travel (I got the email only a week before the scheduled ceremony date) I could not guarantee my arrival until the very last minute. Luckily everything went smoothly and I was able to book my flight and reserve my hotel despite the short notice.
This is actually my second time coming to this event. My first visit was in 2010. I was planning my trip to Tokyo to attend a different, work-related meeting. Then I learned about OSC Tokyo 2010 which was scheduled only one day after the meeting was scheduled to end, so I decided to extend my stay in Tokyo for just one more day to visit OSC. OSC 2010 was also held at Meisei University, so at least I didn’t have to research on how to get the conference venue this time.
Once on campus, there were signs all around the place that would take you to the building where the conference was held. Outside the venue, the campus was pretty quiet, and I didn’t see very many students.
No conferences are complete without booths. Various projects set up booths to greet the visitors, to distribute fliers and CD/DVD’s, and to inform them of what’s new in the projects. Volunteers from the LibreOffice Japanese team manned our booth throughout the conference. We distributed version 4.0 feature fliers, installer CD’s, T-shirts, stickers and flags.
Also present was the openSUSE project booth. Fuminobu Takeyama was single-handedly manning the booth when I dropped by on Friday. He is a volunteer in the openSUSE project who also manages several packages for Japanese locales. We briefly talked about some issues with Japanese input method in LibreOffice, and how some folks work around it by forcing the GTK VCL backend even if LibreOffice is launched in the KDE environment (because the input method code in the GTK VCL backend is more reliable than that in the KDE VCL). He said he is very much hoping to someday find time to look into LibreOffice code, to solve various Japanese-related issues that are still outstanding in the latest release.
OSS Contributor’s Award
The ceremony for the OSS Contributor’s Awards was held on Friday evening. The OSS Contributor’s Awards are given to
“those who have created or managed an influential development project and to developers who have played an important role in a global project or those who have contributed to the promotion of related activities.” (quoted from this slide)
The candidates are nominated publicly, and the winners are selected by the Awards Committee. They select four winners and nine incentive award winners each year, and I was fortunate enough to have been selected as one of the four award winners this year.
The ceremony was held in a separate, moderately-sized lecture room right next to the booth areas, and was very well attended. Out of four winners, two of us were present to receive the awards: Tetsuo Handa and myself. We each gave a brief 10-minutes talk afterward, outlining our current activities and our future plans.
Handa-san is a well known Linux kernel hacker and he is leading the development of a kernel security module known as TOMOYO Linux. We briefly chatted after the ceremony, and he hinted that he may get a chance to hack on LibreOffice in the distant future (and I encouraged him!) So, let’s keep his name in the back of our mind, and hope we can see him in our project someday. ;-)
You can find two press articles on this here and here. The official announcement from the OSS Forum is here.
I spent the second day of the conference mostly in the LibreOffice mini-Conference track. According to Naruhiko-san, this is our first ever track dedicated to LibreOffice (and hopefully won’t be the last) held in Japan. We were able to rent a pretty large lecture room for the whole day to host this mini-Conference. Despite the large size, the room was moderately attended.
The first talk was by Miyoshi Ohmori, and his talk was about the company-wide migration from OpenOffice.org to LibreOffice at NTT Comware. In his talk, he shared the challenges he faced during the migration and ways to solve them.
Next up was a talk by Shinji Enoki covering new features in LibreOffice 4.0. He covered all aspects of new features in 4.0, from Firefox Personas support, to Calc’s import filter performance improvement, and everything in-between. His talk was followed by Naruhiko Ogasawara who shared his experience with his trip to the 2nd LibreOffice Conference in Berlin, how he decided to join the LibreOffice community, and how he decided to submit paper for the conference and eventually travel there. During his talk, Ogasawara-san played the video message from Italo that was created specifically for the Japanese audience.
If you thought Enoki-san and Ogasawara-san looked familiar, it was because they came to the Berlin conference to co-present a talk on the topic of the non-English locale communities. The slide for their talk during the Berlin conference is found here. Enoki-san later traveled to Prague with me and the rest of SUSE’ers, to meet with Petr Mladek to learn more about the current QA activities. (Petr couldn’t make it to Berlin due to illness). Anyway, back to the mini-Conf…
The last talk before the lunch break was by Masaki Tamakoshi. In his talk, he presented a good extension to use to add AutoCAD-like functionality to Draw to make Draw easier and more familiar to use for former (or current) AutoCAD users. He also talked about how to convert AutoCAD’s proprietary dwg files to make them loadable into Draw, and how to create playable animation files from Impress slides, using external tools.
After the lunch break, Jun Meguro kickstarted the afternoon session with his talk on how to make effective use of Draw to create professional posters. His organization – City of Aizuwakamatsu – is in fact one of the first organizations in Japan that made a large scale adoption of OpenOffice.org when such a move was still not very common, and instantly became the poster child of OpenOffice.org adoption. They had later moved on to LibreOffice, and Meguro-san continues to contribute to the LibreOffice project as a member of the Japanese language team.
In his talk, he emphasized the usefulness of Draw – the application that may not have received the attention and praise it deserves, and how Draw can be used to create professional posters and fliers without purchasing expensive and proprietary alternatives. He also hinted during his talk that, these days, they can send ODF documents to other local government offices without first converting them to MS Office or PDF formats. This was first revealed when he accidentally sent off a native Draw document (odg) without converting it to PDF, and later received a phone call from the recipient of the document to discuss about the details of the drawing! Although this is an isolated incident, an anecdote like this may suggest that the actual rate of ODF adoption may well be higher than we may have expected.
In the next talk, Masahisa Kamataki talked about how to make use of FLOSS office suites such as LibreOffice, combined with non-FLOSS but free as in beer cloud services such as SkyDrive and Google Drive to reduce operation costs. He mentioned that all of this was made possible thanks to the international standard ODF which many major cloud services also support these days. He also demonstrated the level of ODF compatibilities between these cloud services.
Next up was Ikuya Awashiro. He talked about the specifics of LibreOffice Japanese localization effort. As someone who coordinates the Japanese translation of LibreOffice UI strings, he knows the in’s and out’s of LibreOffice translation which he covered extensively in his talk. He also talked about the detailed history of the translation in this code base, dating back to the old OpenOffice.org days, and how he learned what not to do in order to successfully coordinate the current community-based translation effort in our project.
I should also mention that, of all the presenters we had during this track (including myself), he was the only presenter who used the Impress Remote feature!
Makoto Takizawa concluded the afternoon session with his ODF PlugFest talk which also happened to be the very last talk in the whole LibreOffice track.
He started off his talk with the basics of ODF, including its standardization history, and went on to talk about various ODF-supporting applications and how each of these apps fares on interoperability test. During his talk he noted that, although in theory the use of ODF ensures seamless interoperability between different supporting applications, in reality there are still some nasty corner cases where different ODF producers interpret ODF differently.
Toward the end of his talk, he performed a live ODF spreadsheet scenario test using Calligra, Gnumeric, SkyDrive and LibreOffice, to test in real life the level of ODF conformance in these spreadsheet applications. In this particular scenario, Calligra, Gnumeric and SkyDrive actually scored higher than LibreOffice. He concluded his talk by pointing out the importance of the ODF user community assessing the conformance level of each ODF-supporting application, and actively giving feedback to the developer community to improve ODF interoperability between the supporting applications.
Lastly, while I was not officially on the list of speakers in this track, I managed to squeeze my talk during the lunch break, to briefly talk about various random development topics. Please refer to my earlier post to get a hold of the slide for my talk. Unfortunately I had to cut it short to give people enough time to eat lunch, but it sort of worked out since I didn’t have much time to prepare my talk to begin with! ;-)
All in all, I believe this was a quite successful LibreOffice track. We were able to see each other face-to-face which is not very easy to do given how widespread we are geographically. That is true even for those inside Japan, and more so for me. It was unfortunate that Takeshi Abe couldn’t make it for this event. Perhaps we should plan another conference during OSC Okinawa so that we get to see him again.
This was actually my very first time to participate in OSC Japan as a speaker, and mingle with so many people from various sectors of the Japanese market. I spoke to quite a lot of people in various capacities during the conference, and I was pleasantly surprised with the level of interest that they have toward LibreOffice. Various local governments are aggressively considering a switch to LibreOffice, with Aizuwakamatsu City and JA Fukuoka leading the way. Though the uptake of LibreOffice among Japanese corporations are still slow, Sumitomo Electric has recently announced their adoption of LibreOffice, so others who are still hesitating to switch may eventually follow suit. I also chatted with someone from a local school district working very hard to realize a district-wide adoption of LibreOffice, which suggests that people in the education sector also see value in adopting LibreOffice.
On the other side of the fence, however, we have yet to attract a healthy dose of developers toward LibreOffice from the Japanese developer community. It is my impression that Japan has a sizable Linux kernel developer community, and in fact, many of the participants at OSC Tokyo were kernel hackers. So, whatever reason they may have for not participating in the LibreOffice development, it’s not because of lack of talents and expertize; they are there, contributing to other projects. At the same time, I also saw lots of interest in hacking on LibreOffice from various people. So, the interest is there; what they just need is a means and justification to work on LibreOffice.
While chatting with Ogawa-san from Ashisuto, who provides paid support for LibreOffice, it is apparent that we are not very far from seeing companies emerging who are very eager to find developers to work on LibreOffice. It is therefore my hope that, by increasing the level of LibreOffice adoption amongst users, the level of interest in participating the development of LibreOffice among support vendors will increase proportionally as a result. And my own impression from participating in OSC Tokyo fills me with optimism in this regard.
This is saved as a hybrid PDF; you can view it in your regular PDF viewer (such as Evince and Adobe PDF viewer), or you can open it in Impress to edit it as a normal Impress document. Use this one in case you need it as a pure Impress document.
And the second one is for the talk I did during the LibreOffice mini-Conference on Saturday.
Like the 1st one, this one is also a hybrid PDF. The regular odp version is available here.
I will write more about OSC Tokyo and especially about the LibreOffice mini-Conference in a separate blog. Stay tuned.
I took one week off early this month to fly back to Japan for my vacation. This was my first time in 4 years that I visited my family in Japan, and I spent most of my time in my hometown Niigata. It is so weird that, while certain things were just the way I remembered, other things looked so different from what I had in my mind in all these years of being away from the country.
The thing I really enjoyed there was the food! There are many kinds of food I had missed for all these years, but what I missed most was the Mos Burger, a national fast food chain known for its finest quality burgers. While you can find fine quality burgers in other parts of the world (and certainly in the US), Mos Burger has such a distinct and sophisticated taste that in my mind it ranks one of the highest among all the burger stores I’ve tried. So, if you have a chance to travel to Japan, I would certainly recommend you give Mos a try. My personal favorite is the Mos Cheese Burger. Of course, there are other kinds of good foods in Japan such as Ramen noodles and Sushi.
My only regret is that, because I only had one week to spare, I didn’t have time to stop by Tokyo to see folks there. One week was way too short for this. For my next trip back to Japan, I’d like to take at least two weeks off so that I can spend some days in Tokyo.
Anyway, I took a bunch of pictures while I was there, and these are just some of them. I hope you enjoy.
Keisei Rapid Liner from Narita Airport to Tokyo station. While the fastest way to get to Tokyo from Narita is via Narita Express, Keisei Liner is probably a good economical alternative and reasonably convenient. It takes roughly 1.5 hours to get to Tokyo station from the airport without transfer.
Kendo tournament was taking place in my home town while I was there.
A magnificent view of the sunset at Sea of Japan. The place I stayed at is only 10 minutes walk from the beach.
This is one of many infamous vending machines that you see all over Japan. You can think of this as something equivalent of water fountains in the US in terms of its distribution density, though there are certainly more vending machines in Japan per unit area than water fountains in the US.
On the platform for Shinkansen (the Bullet Train) at Niigata station.
A view from Shinkansen overlooking the outlines of local mountains.
A somewhat busy street in Yokohama. Luckily you don’t need to drive as much in the metropolitan areas thanks to the large train network available throughout the areas.
One thing I’ve noticed is the large number of light-weight vehicles (aka Kei cars) with the engine size less than 660 cc. Since owning a car in Japan is pretty expensive, lots of drivers opt to own a Kei car for its lower cost of ownership.
A platform at a local station in Yokohama, waiting for my train.
A view of airplane from Terminal 1 at the Narita Airport. I was stranded there for 6 hours since my return flight to Newark was delayed. Continental airline provided a meal coupon to compensate for the delay, though it was a JAL employee who was manning the check-in counter for Continental and gave me the coupon.