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X.Org Developer Conference (XDC2012) - A Nuremberg Experience

SUSE HQ, Germany
X.Org Foundation Board of Directors organizes and sponsors annually this conference which brings together developers working on different parts of X. The X.Org Developer Conference (XDC2012) was held from 19th to 21st September in Nürnberg (Nuremberg), Germany. The event was hosted by SUSE at their company headquarters in Nuremberg. 
A detailed schedule of the conference and all related content/videos can be found over here.
Being an EVOC student, I was lucky enough to have been sponsored the trip and present a talk on my project/ work done over the summer. This post is mainly be about my experience rather than a summary covering everything important that happened during the conference.

skipping the initial travel
The trip started off with my flight landing at the Nuremberg Airport from where I took a taxi to my hotel. The airport resides in the outskirts of the city and is lovely ride through farms and green patches in to the city. I had reserved a room in The Azimut Hotel.
Azimut hotel, Nuremberg

The Azimut was a comfortable and just a short 500m walk away from the conference location . I reached the hotel at around 4pm Local Time, called up people back home (Skype credit ftw!) and relaxed a bit before heading to our pre-conference meetup. 
Barfüßer, entrance.

The first evening/ Dinner meetup was at a place known as Barfüßer (Read as Bar-foo-ser). Even though I was told that it was walking distance from the hotel and was handed a map, I preferred taking a cab ride since I was already late. Also, too tired to walk. Having arrived at the location, I was greeted by a HUGE man wearing a medieval robe standing over the entrance. The painting was anywhere between being intimidating to out-rightly scary. Passing below it, gives way to a MASSIVE hall which stretches as far as your vision. Being completely lost, I started looking for even vaguely familiar faces or a relatively large group of  people. Having never seen or met anyone in person before, I failed miserably. I proceeded to approach the waiters but there was no reservation under any of the names known by me. Suddenly, an Indian waiter came up  and started speaking in Hindi. He obviously assumed that I was from India, looking at my very peculiar attire (read: Turban). For some reason, my senses become non-receptive to Indian languages when I am traveling abroad, I couldn't even make out what his first few lines were. It felt like tuning a radio from the 90s to the correct frequency. Anyhow, I was able to locate my group of conference attendees hiding in a corner, though I still did not recognize any of them but thankfully they (Martin and Matt) did.
Barfüßer, vegetarian dishes

I saw a few beers on the table and every body was getting warmed up for ordering dinner. I have grown up hearing things about how vegetarians never find anything to eat in the west, but since my visit to the USA that perception was slowly changing. It is not like there is nothing to eat for vegetarians but just that the options are very limited. Having lived in India, one gets used to a plethora of choices in vegetarian food and here I could spot like 3 things (with names that I could not even read let alone pronounce). However, I have seen that Indians are omnipresent and if you look hard enough then there is bound to be some place serving Indian food nearby (trust me). Beer seemed to be the obvious companion for food. After spending sometime in Germany, you will realize that it is probably the only country which will never face a potable water crisis. I mean they are essentially surviving on beer and not water. There is a morning beer, a pre-lunch beer, a late afternoon beer, an evening beer, a pre-dinner beer and a late night beer session at the bar. Oh! and there is obviously beer along with the meals and each session comprises of more than one glass of beer. Now when I say glass, it is not your average glass, it is more like a daddy of all glasses you have seen. It is HUGE! I found a pic with beer glasses but they don't look so huge in that so I won't add it. ;)  I think I need to get over the beer and move on but honestly, if you like beer then Germany is the place to be.

On our way back, it started to drizzle and everyone had decided to walk their way back to the hotel. I should have known that following a group of drunk developers was not exactly the best idea.
Drunk developers trying to read a map
Just kidding, the rain made the city look so much more beautiful and everything shined out with an amazing play of light. Nuremberg is a city which has been carefully developed around an old town
Street in old town, Nuremberg
without destroying any of the medieval influence on its architecture. It is also probably the most well connected city that I have been to, complete with buses, taxis, trams, a subway rail running through it and even an airport. The old town of the city is a stretch short enough to walk across from one corner to the opposite and on the last day of my stay, I took to streets and went out exploring it on foot (more on this later).

Sooner or later, we did make it back to the hotel and finally I could crash on my bed, ever so tired from the travel and regaining my energy for the conference. The next morning was the first scheduled day of the conference.

The morning was beautiful, sun was shining and a cool breeze was blowing. Having filled my belly with the delicious breakfast, I walked to the conference venue. There was light traffic, a few people were walking, tall street signs (with unusually long German names) passed over my head, shops were opening to start their  day as I walked across them, there was even a nice display of fruits and everything looked straight out of a movie.
By the time I reached the venue, the conference had already begun. It was a room with a glass wall facing the street, chairs laid out in a grid and an unexpected sofa triplet lying towards the middle on one side. All the proceedings were being recorded and there was free beer sponsored by Michael Larabel from Phoronix. I took a seat, settled down and like any conference attendee set up my laptop and wifi. The next talk was by Martin about the EVOC experience and how it went about for him as a mentor. EVOC is still in a nascent stage and is constantly evolving as a parallel to the widely popular Google Summer of Code.

The next three conference days had a fixed schedule of events.
  • Attend morning talks
  • Go out for lunch
  • Attend after-lunch talks
  • Go out in the evening for dinner and exploring the city
All the talks were recorded and the schedule details are available here. My main contribution was in a talk and an informal discussion about things like the X.Org logo, conference give away. Being the outspoken and overly curious person that I am, I left no chance of questioning and suggesting things. The informal discussion went from redesigning the logo to the availability of conference tshirts. But seriously, XDC did not have its own conference tee even though we got our hands on enough SUSE tshirts and stickers.

My talk was on the last day of the conference and the first one before lunch. I had split my talk in two parts, namely my project on Nouveau Fermi scripting engine and  the EVOC experience with suggestions on how to improve the program. Sooner or later, we all run in to events where we have to sit and listen to someone addressing us in the crowd. Most of the time we drift away and before we know it, we are wishing for an unpardonable death to the speaker but sometimes we are left amazed and longing for more. It was an aim in my life to conquer the art of and science behind giving great talks.   
As much as i have worked towards it, I feel I have achieved a lot more. Creating the right balance between elements that make a talk interesting and elements that are relevant is always the key to a good talk. You will always end up leaving the audience with relatively more information with an optimally balanced talk, than a completely informative talk due to the logic behind an average mind's attention span. The key to becoming a master is not however being able to find that balance, it is to be able to convert elements of information in to elements of interest.
Subtle/Implied jokes and audience interaction are the main elements of my talk as  I try to weave a story. I am currently able to give an informative and interesting talk to the ones present but I however feel that it is not so captivating to viewers on the digital screen. All in all, I have just started and its a long way to the top but I am moving consistently. Check out below my talk from XDC2012.

Shortly, after the end of this conference I was to help organize the annual Software Freedom Day at my college. This is just a wave to the SUSE team who gave away swag, making our event even more delightful. \o/

The lunches with the team were a great experience in knowing how developers from different cultures around the world could sit and talk on trivial topics. Gigantic Pizzas and unknown dishes filled the afternoon meal.
L'osteria, Nuremberg

Herr Lenz, Nuremberg

Pizza Man
I spent most of my evenings walking and exploring the city. Many times getting lost and going in circles but the old town in Nuremberg is a place that teleports you in to a bygone era found only on the silver screen. Everything convinced me to alter my plans for the last day, which were originally a beer hiking trip with the team, to an aimless photo-walk of the town. The conference coincided with Altstadtfest (Nuremberg Old Town Festival), it filled the town with folklore singing, dancing, eateries in hut shaped tents, lots of drinking (obviously), lots of candy and lots of people!

On one specific evening,I was roaming around and after watching a very interesting dress-up competition (I hope PIZZA MAN won) I ran in to a very sweet old couple selling Nutella Pancakes. Well, then who could say no to Nutella pancakes? Around an hour later, after I had seen
every corner of the festival to my heart's content, I went to a restaurant outside the bounds of all the fun. A peaceful place, where I ordered pasta and soon enough realized that my wallet was missing. I prayed that my order could be cancelled (dream sequence of all dish washing scenarios seen ever start playing) and then retraced my steps since my last purchase. It occurred to me that while crossing a small bridge in town, a passerby had run in to me for a split second and rushed away. But obviously, he was not the one who took it. I had been lost in the delicious nutellla pancakes and left my wallet at the old couple's stall. Why else would I mention the chocolate filled, soft, freshly made pancakes that just melted in your mouth as soon as you took a bite?! Thankfully, the sweet couple had retained my wallet for safekeeping and returned it to me with all its contents intact. I could have never thanked them enough.
Pasta place

Saturday, the last full day of my stay. I started off from the hostel on foot with plans to check out every means of transportation and every corner of the town. As I found my way to nearest subway station, I saw a
Thai Restaurant
Thai restaurant. Mexican and Thai are probably the only other widely available cuisines that have tried experimenting with spices except Indian, rest are either bland or sweet. I went in to try a dish and it was very delicious but the cheese was a little harder than what I would have preferred. Anyway, I headed to the station and was shocked to see that it was completely automated. There were no ticket vendors, no staff and not even security guards. I had a map so I knew which station I wanted to go to but how to get a ticket was beyond me. Being used to overly crowded New Delhi metro, this was an experience in itself. So, I went ahead and asked this girl passing by and I could see that her English was broken but she understood "ticket" I guess. There was a ticket vending machine much like an ATM machine sitting in a corner on the floor above. The type of tickets were thankfully simple. A one way ticket allowed me to travel to any station, so I went and boarded my train. As soon as I entered, I saw that the same girl was sitting and smiling at me. I took the seat in front of her and asked her name, it was "Nina". I told her mine but we could barely strike a conversation because I believe her English was as bad as my German, I don't know German. We marked our stations where we were headed on the map that I was carrying and that is probably the longest conversation we had. She sat there smiling at me and I moved on to playing a game on my phone trying not be a creep by staring at her. I reconsidered the thought of sticking along with her and trying to make a conversation as my stop was just about to arrive. Letting the thought fade away, I got off the train. As I waved her a goodbye, her sweet smile and big eyes left an imprint on my memories.
The station opened up in to a lovely park with a stream of water flowing through it. The birds were chirping and the sunlight passed through the trees falling on the water in patches, making it shine. It was a beautiful day and the wind was blowing, I walked to see how the old town looked so developed and modern in the
day. I couldn't help but notice that the old town has two sides of the same  place. As the sun started to set and the street lamps started to glow, the medieval architecture in the building started glowing as the place morphed in to the old town that it is. From big shopping malls and gadget shops, I moved to clicking pics of the streets and untouched buildings from the 1800s, to suit the theme. A lane of clay houses curving along to the horizon was a mesmerizing sight , beautifully lit by the street lamps it takes you to a psychedelic state of trance .  In the middle of the town , were bridges with water flowing underneath . The tranquility in the sound of the flowing water touches your soul, as the shimmering moonlight shines upon the waves . As much as i was captivated by it's beauty, i also realized that it was time to leave,  I waved it goodbye till another day , till another time.
Street in Old Town, Nuremberg

Not enough pictures? Check out the entire album here.


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