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Paris and Hacking in Versailles

Last week I went to Paris for a couple of days to visit my mentor Benoit. It was a great chance to take a quick look around the city as I have never been before. Thanks to bmibaby I was able to get over quite economically and stayed in a nice, clean (albeit a little small) room in a hotel near Place d'Italie in the 13th district of Paris (not sure if they are called districts or something else). It was quite close to where Benoit lives, close to a Metro stop and within walking distance of central Paris.

I got to Paris on Tuesday evening and Benoit met me at the airport. Once I had checked in to my hotel we walked to a creperie and got a fairly traditional three course meal consisting of different kinds of crepes. I also tried some of the local pear cider. Apparently the crepes weren't as good as they could have been but I really enjoyed them. We chatted about the history of Paris, I made some feeble attempts at French and we also moved onto discussions of my Google Summer of Code project and the bigger goals of the Kalzium/Avogadro project.

The Eiffel TowerBenoit and I after hacking in the Versailles gardens

Tired from traveling I returned to my hotel to get some sleep with plans to visit the Eiffel Tower the next day. In the morning I went to the Eiffel Tower and had a really good look around. Benoit advised me to get off at the Trocadero stop as the walk down to the Eiffel Tower was much nicer and it was a great tip. I spent most of my morning walking around the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, walking up the stairs to the second floor (it was a far shorter queue) and then I got the lift right to the top. It was very crowded despite getting there early - as I left early in the afternoon it had become far more crowded. There are some great views and it is such an iconic landmark.

I met up with Benoit in the afternoon. He showed me around some of the other sites of the city. We walked around Notre Dame and the Louvre before going to the Japanese district to get some dinner. Before dinner we got some hacking done in one of the gardens near the centre of Paris where we discussed the finer points of transformation matrices, 3d geometry and some of my recent changes to the Painter API in Avogadro. We then went to Paris beach near to my hotel and had a few beers by the Seine. After Benoit went home I had a beer in a small cafe near my hotel overlooking Place d'Italie before retiring for the evening.

My final day on Thursday we decided to head out for Versailles. It is an amazing place and the gardens were a great place to get some more hacking done and have a picnic. We hacked on some eye candy, we discussed a month or more ago, for the navigation and manipulation tools to give better visual feedback on what is happening. We haven't committed it yet as I need to finish it off but I think it is really great work and may be something that can be applied to other tools. It also helped me to see the best way to implement ribbon support as a new view which I think will be awesome. Very productive day and some amazing sights!

Benoit was busy on the last evening so I headed back into Paris solo after dropping off my laptop and camera. I had dinner at a traditional (or at least it claimed to be) French restaurant. I tried some frog's legs and was surprised by how nice they were - I wasn't sure I would like them at all. I was lucky enough to sit next to a lovely Australian couple who were out on a tour of Europe. The lady works for IBM and we ended up discussing open source and my work on Avogadro as well as culture around the world and comparing notes on the sights of Paris.

It was a great couple of days in Paris. It would have been nice if Louise had been able to get some time off work to come out. It is our two year anniversary today so I will have to do what I can to make it up to her today ;-) My thanks go out to Benoit for being such a good host and showing me the sights of Paris and teaching me the finer points of the mathematics of 3d visualisation and OpenGL.

Avogadro Gets Some Sweet POV-Ray Goodness

It has been a while since I last posted about progress with Avogadro. I have been doing a lot of under the hood improvements which has been really frustrating at times and hard to blog about. Hey I just spent all day refactoring the Painter base class and everything still works the same as it did before! At last I have some real output and have just committed the code to the repository.

Ray traced molecule exported by Avogadro and ray traced by POV-Ray

The above image is one of the first I have produced and ray traced in POV-Ray. The abstracted painter stuff seems to be working really well and the engines no longer care whether they are painting onto an OpenGL context or to a file with POV-Ray objects in it. I think this is one of the most exciting aspects of the work I have been doing - the painting code has been somewhat abstracted away from the engines allowing for multiple painter devices.

I haven't just been coding though. I had a lot to think about after aKademy and have been reading a great deal about Qt and API design. I have also been reading the book that Google sent me about producing open source software. One suggestion I really like and I think most projects should be using is of code review, where each commit is reviewed by other members of the project. At times I think I would find it tough to review the code of other project members but I can see how it can really improve the quality of the code and help us see what other people are doing in the project.

I need to run as it is my nephews birthday today and I am expected. Hope you like the image. The POV-Ray export is extremely rough right now and needs a lot of things to be done before I would consider it ready for prime time. The philosophy of maintaining minimal local revisions also appeals to me though and so I am trying to stick to that too. I hope to be making much nicer images soon.

aKademy 2007 Was Great

Originally I thought I would just attend the aKademy conference on the weekend and return home after that. I submitted an abstract for my talk on Gentoo and KDE and had hoped to meet some KDE developers and see if we could work with KDE better. Later I applied for my Google Summer of Code project working on the Kalzium 3D molecular editor and was accepted. This caused me to change my plans and stay for the entire week and I am really glad I did

I have been to quite a few open source conferences over the years but I have to say aKademy is my favourite so far. There was a great atmosphere and lots of very intelligent and dedicated hackers present. There were also lots of laughs and humour along with important discussions and debates. I got to meet so many people who work on KDE and whose blogs I have been reading for years. My only regret is that I couldn't get out for a few more beers in the evenings...

I thought it would be a good idea to camp as aKademy was in June and the odds were good that the weather would be fair. In the days leading up to my departure Sheffield flooded and I think it rained every day of aKademy (some days solidly throughout the day). On Sunday evening we came back to a rather large pond at the side of our tent that had previously been a patch of grass with a dip in it. I chose where to pitch the tent well though and the tent remained out of harms way ;-)

Continue reading "aKademy 2007 Was Great"

Gentoo & KDE Talk at aKademy

I attended my first aKademy conference this year in Glasgow. On Sunday I gave a talk on Gentoo & KDE, you can get the slides here and download a video of my talk (warning - 107.6 MB). You can also see all the other talks and videos/slides on the programme page.

Marcus D. Hanwell talk at aKademy 2007

I think the talk went well and it was certainly useful for me to meet lots of KDE developers. I was there for the whole conference and had the opportunity to learn a lot from some really great talks. There was no internet connection for the first day and a half which prevented me from bloggging and checking my mail but did let me give my full attention to the talks.

I think my talk was well received and got some interesting questions. I also had some very interesting discussions after the talk and look forward to getting some work done on the KDE 4 ebuilds. I am still around for the rest of the week playing both the Kalzium GSoC student and the Gentoo developer.

I hope that my talk was of interest to those who attended it or watch it on the internet. My greatest hope was that my talk would help to improve the way we work with KDE and I feel I have achieved that goal. The next few months will tell just how successful I really was. I will be giving another talk at the Gentoo UK conference on 14 July on KDE and scientific applications.