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Insights from a day at TEQnation in Utrecht

Hello, my name is Marten van de Sanden and I joined Kopano three weeks ago as a senior C++ software developer, having previously worked for Bloomberg in New York

Today I had a great time attending the TEQnation software development conference in Utrecht. The reportedly 1000 attendees and numerous companies hosted in this old revitalized factory building made for an amazing atmosphere. I saw some great talks from ABN AMRO, Spotify, Google, Red Hat, Ordina, KLM and of course Kopano.

Among other things, I learned about the struggles of implementing modern technology, like the infrastructure behind the ABN AMRO TIKKIE app, on top of legacy systems. Apparently, the settlement system backing all the transactions was only designed for about 30 transactions a day.

Spotify told us that migrating from private data centers to the cloud is hard, but feasible if you don’t over think it and take it one step at a time. That the cloud has very different characteristics than data center hosting and isn’t necessarily cheaper when your architecture is not designed for cloud use. Continuing to explain that in a large cloud base infrastructure “there is no cattle, only the herd.”. Meaning that cloud components can fail more often, but recover fast and one should look at the overall health and not try to shift overall hosting to a different region if one instance turns red.

From Google there was a great talk by Seth Vargo explaining about the right way to encrypt secrets, specifically in Kubernetes, using envelope encryption and a Key Management Service.

In the subsequent keynotes we heard from Marcus Biel about the importance of a good work/life balance and that spending 80% of your energy on work turns out to be more productive than pushing yourself to 130%. As well as showing us that Java in the cloud is feasible when you use Quakus.

Tim van Deursen has a mission to make a positive contribution to the world and he wants to do it from an engineering perspective. He showed some very nice examples of how he helps elderly people have a virtual life as well as an impressive documentary he made on using VR to show rival soldiers in Uganda their situation through each other’s eyes.

I saw a very good talk from KLM in which they show the right way to do software engineering by developing an infrastructure for predictive models used to predict, among other things, how many passengers will eventually board any specific KLM flight. Improving from their previously ad-hoc ways.

And last but not least I saw a talk by our very own Felix Bartels about how OpenID Connect works and showing us how easy it is to use Kopano Konnect as an OpenID Connect provider.

 So, in summary, I learned a lot while having a great time and I’m looking forward to attending again next year.

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Evolving WebRTC in a mobile app with a self-hosted environment

With Kopano Meet. we decided to bring WebRTC calls and conferences to mobile devices. This means that in addition to all the desktop platforms, we needed to support Apple and Android devices in a self-hosted environment. The following article is an overview of the basic problems and challenges we encountered when we implemented Kopano meet.

WebRTC Interoperability

Meet supports three different WebRTC implementations – Chromium from GoogleFirefox from Mozilla and Safari from Apple.
Meet provides full interoperability with a single progressive web app implementation on the desktop (Windows, MacOS and Linux) and mobile (Android and iOS). This means that the differences between the environments which can run Meet have to be handled gracefully.

Camera and microphone access

To ensure minimal bandwidth usage and also to allow mobile devices to enter power saving modes, accessing camera and microphone hardware must only be done on demand.
To further reduce bandwidth usage when the camera and/or microphone is disabled, we wanted to release the hardware access for devices not in use. Doing so required to add/remove tracks from the WebRTC connection as the user interacts with the application.
In previous implementations, we just muted and unmuted tracks. Meet removes tracks (when a certain media gets muted) and adds back new tracks (as required) when unmuted. This also allows seamless change of video resolution and even switching cameras (for example front and back camera).
Mute and unmute of the corresponding tracks received from a device might automatically release access to the underlying hardware in some platforms, but will still send empty stream which is undesirable for bandwidth and CPU usage. Thus Kopano Meet truly disables the camera/microphone when muted to achieve the best privacy control possible.

WebRTC 1.0 implementation woes with streams/tracks

WebRTC implementations still have not fully implemented WebRTC 1.0 as defined in its standard. Especially Chromium which was the first to provide reasonably usable WebRTC support is at the time of writing is switching over its SDP format from Chromium-specific “Plan B” to the standards conformant unified format in January 2019. Since Meet can use multiple streams of the same type, Meet keeps using the “Plan B” implementation for a while longer until support for older Chromiums (which only support “Plan B” SDP) can be removed.

Once all supported WebRTC implementations use the unified plan, the track add/remove behavior can be considered to be enabled for all vendors where it is currently only enabled for Chromium.

Network connectivity is not guaranteed

It is certainly not news that network connectivity can be flaky – this is even more so in a mobile environment. Devices switch between mobile and Wi-Fi, go through tunnels with no reception or loose cell tower connectivity while on the move.
To handle this, solid detection and recovery of connection errors is required. Meet use a “no matter what approach” – if an unrecoverable connection error is encountered, the old and potentially broken connection is replaced by a new one.

Many connections – full mesh

Establishing a connection between two peers is easy enough. Since Kopano Meet also supports conferences or multi-user groups, Meet uses a full mesh topology for small groups, where every peer establishes a fully end-to-end encrypted connection to every other peer.
This means a client has to handle n – 1 number of connections, all with their individual latency and potentially individual connection errors between peers.
To detect issues with peer connectivity and to be able to throw away broken connections on both ends quickly, all the signaling runs through a Kopano Web Meetings server which adds additional WebRTC connection identity on the fly, enabling the client to make educated decisions if a connection should be killed or if it still might recover.

The Apple case

Kopano Meet also supports Apple’s WebRTC implementation since the iOS platform does not allow any other WebRTC engine to exist in web browsers. Because Kopano is 100 percent self-hosted, the browser is the environment where self-hosted apps are running. Apple is late with supporting WebRTC at all and the state of their implementation is not very great.

Playing multiple videos on Apple – huh?

It turned out that Safari simply cannot play more than on video element which also has an unmuted audio stream – and that is by design.
This is a problem for any conference/group call. I think this is nuts – especially for streams coming in from a peer connection. Thus workaround time.
Kopano Meet solves this problem by playing all remote video streams without sound while adding the soundtrack to an additional invisible audio element. Did I mention nuts?
All things considered, I guess one can be grateful that WebRTC made it into Apple devices at all, but for the time being Apple users might encounter lip-sync issues because of this.

The Microsoft case

So Microsoft has this browser called Edge (see market share at statcounter. Now that Microsoft is switching their browser Engine to Chromium and Edge as of now has numerous issues with WebRTC 1.0 interoperability, we decided from the start that Edge was not a platform which we needed to support.
On Windows, every user has the choice to use Firefox or one of the numerous Chromium-based browsers like Iridium and over time Edge might be automatically supported via its Chromium-based engine.

Lessons learned

Implementing Meet as a progressive web app with WebRTC support on essentially all relevant browser platforms turned out to work well. WebRTC still evolves as the browser vendors catch up with the specification but we are able to handle this gracefully via adapters and the occasional small workaround.
To install your own self-hosted Kopano Meet follow the installation instructions in the Kopano Meet manual.

What’s next

Now that we have an end-to-end encrypted call and conference application which can be self-hosted by our customers without having to roll an app to any of the mobile vendor’s stores the next steps are to allow guest access, screen sharing and call notifications. This will utilize additional promising new web standards like Screen Share and Web Push and.
Stay tuned to the Kopano blog for news and updates on Kopano Meet.

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Using LibreOffice Online without Version Dependencies

This morning we announced that we released new packages for LibreOffice Online. So why is this great news? Well, not only does it make LibreOffice Online easier accessible to millions of users around the globe, it also enables users to use a version of LibreOffice online that does not depend on a specific (vendor provided) LibreOffice version, but instead use LibreOffice Online with the official TDF provided LibreOffice packages.

 

Developing LibreOffice Online Packages in OBS

The LibreOffice Online packages were created by a development team led by Kopano’s VP of Technology, Michael Kromer, using Open Build Server (OBS) as a development environment. As a result, Kopano can now easily maintain a wide range of packages for various Linux platforms.

 

LibreOffice Online and Kopano Documents

Right now, the best way to try out the new LibreOffice Online packages is via services like Nextcloud or ownCloud. However, this provides you with some limitations because of the fact that these tools are not tightly integrated with Kopano. As a consequence, you’ll be missing functionalities like the option to open an email attachment from WebApp directly in LibreOffice Online.

The LibreOffice Online packages can be downloaded here:

No need to worry though, soon you will be able to use directly LibreOffice Online via Kopano Documents (currently in Proof of Concept phase). Kopano Documents enables real-time collaboration, independent of your location and device, using the tools and storage that are already available. In this way, Kopano Documents provides all the tools needed for modern collaboration while leaving control of data in the hands of your organization.

 

Be The First To Test Kopano Documents

Kopano Documents is currently being developed and soon ready to be tested. Want to be among the first people to try out Kopano Documents? Become a volunteer tester and help shape Kopano Documents into the perfect companion for online editing needs.

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Meet Kopano at the Chemnitz Linux Days 2018

The Chemnitz Linux Days or Chemnitzer Linux Tage (CLT) in German, is Germanys biggest and oldest, still on-going event focusing on Linux and Open Source. This year CLT celebrates its 20th anniversary. We, as Kopano, are a part of CLT since 12 years and of course, we will be there again! On Saturday the 10th of March and Sunday the 11th of March!

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Chocolates and Conversations at FOSDEM 2018

Last year Kopano attended FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Developers Europe Meetup) for the first time. Some of the developers working for Kopano had visited FOSDEM many times before – sometimes even spreading some Kopano love – but FOSDEM’17 was the first time they manned a stand to show off our code, projects, applications and chocolates. Looking back on it, we think it was a great success and we learned a lot (you can never bring enough promotion material for example).

So when we were invited back for FOSDEM’18 we were really excited. Not only because we could meet a huge number of open source developers, but also because we had many new and interesting things to share: new projects, improved features, faster software, cleaner UI’s, our now famous chocolates and much more.

Arriving Friday-night in the city of Brussels, we checked in to the hotel, got a quick bite and joined the pre-conference party – already on its way for quite a while – in the alley of cafe Delirium. The evening turned into a very late night where we met a lot of people from other projects, most of them returning to FOSDEM for the nth time.

 

Day One: Developer Avalanche

Saturday we arrived at FOSDEM early to prepare for the avalanche of developers that would inevitably roll over the university campus. After setting up the stand, getting some coffee (this took a while), and laying out the chocolates we were ready.

It didn’t take long for first people to join us at the stand, and not much later the halls were filled with developers, friends of open source and all other kinds of interested visitors. A few members of the Kopano team took some time to walk around and hand out branded chocolates to friends and neighbours like Debian, CentOS, Fedora, Mozilla, OwnCloud and NextCloud. The rest of us were kept busy showcasing our product suite, explaining why we use certain (coding)-languages and answering a ton of questions. I managed to sneak out for a single talk on Package quality assurance, and even though this was a very interesting talk, I wish I could have seen more. Luckily the weekend was not over yet.

After wrapping up we headed out for the next event planned for this weekend, namely the LibreOffice Social Dinner. The very kind people of LibreOffice had opened up their space and invited everyone who wanted to join their dinner. Due to the high number of Italians organizing and attending, we were served a very lovely assortment of pasta-based dishes. It was nice to see people from different projects having drinks together, talking about the current state of open source, discussing the future of online collaborative document editing, and many other things.

After the dinner we went back to the hotel to rest up for the second day of FOSDEM.

Day Two: Talking to Open Source Friends

Sunday turned out to be a bit quieter than Saturday (just like the year before), but we still had enough to do at the stand. People who heard we had chocolates with their logos on it dropped by to try them, and while they were eating the chocolate, we gave more live demos and talked about our current goals and future projects. The chocolates also brought some friends from different distribution communities to our table, like Markus Feilner from SUSE.

In the afternoon I had some time to explore the campus and I joined in a very interesting Rust-talk on “the dream of automatically fixing compiler errors”. Hopefully, this won’t evolve too fast or everyone at FOSDEM will be out of a job. At the end of the day our own Michael Kromer also gave a great talk on (open-source) communities and business.

 

A Big Thank You to the FOSDEM Team!

I’d like to close this blog by thanking everyone who makes FOSDEM possible. I’ve talked a few of you, have seen some of you running around making sure everything is working smoothly, I’ve also seen some tweets of what is happening behind the screens, and I think it’s a huge statement and compliment to the open source community that this event is organized every year by such an amazing group of people.

We will definitely see you there next year!

 

– Joost Hopmans

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First Impressions of the LibreOffice Conference 2017

As Gijs Hillenius mentioned in his article last week, Rome has begun to increase its use of free and open source software in an effort to reduce vendor lock-in. One of the steps the city is taking is installing LibreOffice on all of its 14,000 PCs.

With this transition in full swing, it‘s not a big surprise that LibreOffice chose this beautiful city as the location for its annual Conference. I am attending the LibreOffice Conference this week and would like to share my first insights with you in this blog.

First impressions

Arriving in a city like Rome with such a rich history is a great experience in itself. The walk through the city, enjoying the atmosphere of the city gave me a spring in my step. So when I arrived at the congress location at the impressive Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo, I got the feeling things couldn’t get better. But they did.

After a warm welcome by city councillor Flavia Marzano it was time to dive into the LibreOffice community with, could it be any different, an open session. During this session the Board of Directors and Member Committee got on stage to answer questions from the audience (although I did get the impression that most people saved their questions for a more informal setting).

Different approaches to Open Document Formats

The afternoon was dedicated to Open Document Formats (ODFs). What was interesting to see is that two European governments pursued different approaches to open formats. Whereas the UK government – represented at LibOCon by Terence Eden of the UK Cabinet Office – allows all document formats, as long as they are also available in ODF, the Dutch government, according to Marc van de Graaf from the Ministry of General Affairs  has chosen to only allow uploads of open formats to their websites.

The value of open standards was immediately shown during the demonstration given by Aarti Nankani from Microsoft who had to show her PowerPoint presentation on Ubuntu with Impress which turned out to work fine!

Community Spirit

I was lucky enough to meet with quite a few members of the LibreOffice Community. What struck me was the diversity of the group and the passion with which they all spoke about the work they‘re doing for LibreOffice. One of the people I talked to was Franklin Weng, a localization specialist from Taiwan who made a great deal of effort in localizing LibreOffice software into the Taiwanese language. It is people like him that make me think about ways I myself can contribute to this vibrant community. Last but not least there was Michael Meeks of Collabora who impressed me with the amount of work his team put into the development of LibreOffice Online.

So far, it’s only good experiences. My compliments to the organizers without whom this event wouldn’t have been possible. And of course a big thanks to the city of Rome who made this stunning venue available. I’m looking forward to the rest of the conference (after which I will of course update this post).

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Augmenting Teamwork with Kopano’s Open Source Collaboration Software Suite

It’s been exactly one week since the Kopano Conference 2017 at the beautiful stadsvilla Sonsbeek in Arnhem took place. And what a conference it was. All members of Kopano’s ecosystem, including the thought leaders of our recent new collaboration partners came together to exchange visions and ideas. The diversity of the group added extra color to Kopano’s recent announcements and collaboration product portfolio.

Simon Phipps, president of the Open Source Initiative and director of The Document Foundation opened the conference with a presentation about Innovation Driven by Open Source.

 

Open Source Enables Innovation and Collaboration

Phipps explained that Open Source is more than just “free stuff”. Rather, the way software freedom enables innovation is by the open source license which allows you to use, modify, change and share code without needing permission. As a result, organizations can use and try applications more easily, and are not held back by high purchase prices and long negotiation processes.

 

Simon closed his presentation with the announcement that The Document Foundation has welcomed Kopano as it newest Advisory Board Member.

According to Phipps, “Kopano is a welcome addition to the LibreOffice community, as they are extending the reach of LibreOffice to the cloud by integrating LibreOffice Online with their collaboration solution. By becoming a member of the project’s Advisory Board, Kopano will provide experiences and insights necessary to improve the presence of LibreOffice in the cloud”

Download Simon’s presentation

 

The long-term ChatOps Champion will not be a Cloud Service

Niall McCarthy, CEO of Emerge Open, spoke about ChatOps, Enterprise Message Silos and the Birth of the Human Centric Internet.

ChatOps help you and your teams increase productivity by delivering real-time chat in team-based communication channels. It provides the ability to share information, files and content from dozens of your commonly used business applications instantly.

Over the last 30 years we have seen enormous growth in ChatOps applications. McCarthy attributes this growth in part to the demand in enterprise openness and joined up technology ecosystems. We are used to working in silos, but there is a strong need for disconnecting these silos. ChatOps facilitate new, silo-less ways of working that focus on collaboration.

Then of course, there is the human aspect. The number of applications we use one a daily basis keeps growing. But how many interfaces can we handle? What we want is human-centric internet, a single messaging interface. Cloud applications like Slack are offering this, however, they do not and cannot guarantee data protection and privacy. That’s why, according to McCarthy, the long-term ChatOps champion will not be a cloud service, but an open source, self-hosted offering.

Download Niall’s presentation

 

Augmenting Teamwork with Kopano

Kopano CEO Brain Joseph started his presentation with the introduction of the new Kopano motto: “Augmenting Teamwork”. He stated that if we, as humans, want to get the most out of our evolution, we need to make a huge step in our digital evolution.

The way Kopano contributes to this evolution is by providing intuitive, digital tools that enhance collaboration and improve communication. To deliver these tools, Kopano has extended its product portfolio including integrations with LibreOffice Online and Mattermost.

Free software like Kopano is getting even more relevant with the forthcoming new data protection laws. The GDPR provides a unique opportunity for self-hosted applications that allow teams to collaborate in an intuitive way.

Download Brian’s presentation

 

Having a Ball

Lunch at the Kopano Conference was all about winning a trip to LibOCon in Rome. 5-player teams competed in 5 short games – bowling, football, archery, horse shoe throwing and Pictionary.

The winning team was announced at the end of the day where the individual team members had to answer one question: “How many lines of code are there in the (latest version of) the Linux kernel”. The competitor who called the number closest to the answer was Boris of Campai who was obviously very happy!

Afternoon Sessions

The afternoon was dedicated to several shorter sessions and workshops, like the 40-minute sessions about data protection by ICT & Recht, CRM forking by SuiteCRM, SMB opportunities with Univention and Clear OS and a session about the Kopano Clients. Workshops that participants could join were the theming workshops and a workshop about Python.

Kopano in the Future

The closing sessions were centered around the future of Kopano. Simon Eisenmann and Helmuth Neuberger discussed Open ID Connect and the magic behind it. Bob Huisman, Mikael Kromer, Simon Eisenmann and Sean van der Spek presented what’s next for Kopano, like certificate handling and support in S/MIME, ChatOps integrated with Kopano & your tools, the integration of Web Meetings in Mattermost and the public availability of LibreOffice Online packages. To learn more about what’s next for Kopano, check out the latest version of our Strategy & Roadmap Document.

Download the presentation ‘What’s next for Kopano’

Thank You!

All and all it was a great conference, made possible by a great group of people, and of course, our sponsors and community. A big thanks to all! We couldn’t have done this without you.

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Transparant Document sharing with Libreoffice online and Kopano

kopanobv fosdem

Today we announced we will integrate LibreOffice online in our collaboration software suite. The integration means Kopano users will be able to work on the same files at the same time, whenever and wherever they like. The Kopano branded version of LibreOffice Online will be included in Kopano Documents.

What are our plans with LibreOffice Online

To help establish LibreOffice Online as a standard technology for open enterprises, Kopano will join The Document Foundation Advisory Board. We want to do our part in reaching this goal and contribute towards the following areas:

Further improve the user interaction
The user interface and specifically the user interaction is one of our strong points. With our Kopano stack, we have always taken care that our applications are easy to understand and use and we are confident we can continue to do so for LibreOffice Online.

Package access
In todays’ high-speed world, an easy way to get started is key. We want to ensure the Kopano-branded LibreOffice Online installable packages will be easily available for a variety of Linux distributions – making it simple to start using LibreOffice Online and making it easy to stay up to date with the latest version.

File format compatibility
We find it important to provide our users a friction-free experience with our products. We are going to invest time into file format compatibility, which will help in getting a seamless experience with LibreOffice Online in Kopano – regardless of the editor they already use on their desktop.

LibreOffice Online in Kopano Documents

Kopano Documents is currently in the first stages of its development. It will be a service that glues the existing storage solutions and the Kopano branded LibreOffice online together. Where possible, we‘ll make use of modern technology like OpenID Connect for authentication.

Kopano Documents will be available for everyone, whether you are a Kopano Groupware user or not.

Download the Kopano Roadmap if you want to learn more about Kopano Documents

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Kopano and SuSE, yes we’re open

OpenSUSE Factory & Roadmap

Big news for the community: Kopano has been included in openSUSE’s factory distribution, which is the “development” title of openSUSE’s next upcoming release and the first required step to take for inclusion into openSUSE downstream. Not only that: We are straight on the path to be included with openSUSE Leap 42.3 already, which has started development just last December. You can find the downstream requests from Factory to Leap 42.3 here: Core and WebApp.

According to distrowatch.com, openSUSE is the 4th most popular Linux distribution in the world, and we are delighted to see openSUSE to be the first distribution to pick our communication solution to be included with them. With all the standardization effort that has been made with Kopano, we are happy to see that openSUSE is including our main Kopano projects including both Kopano Core (MAPI backend components) and Kopano WebApp (our primary web client).

This step allows any openSUSE community member to install and run Kopano with the least possible effort. Additionally, inclusion with downstream proves Kopano’s portability and standardization, since openSUSE packages are not just for standard 64-bit (x86_64) systems, but also include architectures such as armv7l and aarch64 on which Kopano runs.

A big thank you here goes to the great work of the community members of openSUSE which helped us make this happen! Thank you!

What else?

We are currently in the progress of also getting downstream with Debian, and we’ve already sent packages to the so-called FTP masters – which are currently under review For the most recent developments here, you can check out the official Kopano page @ wiki.debian.org here: https://wiki.debian.org/Groupware/Kopano. As of yet it is too early to say anything more specific regarding inclusion with the upcoming release of Debian Stretch, but this is our goal and so far it looks that we’re on the right track. Next to Debian, we are also in contact with the Fedora community and just learn how to make Kopano also happen for Fedora users as well. Another interesting fact is, that we’ve been actively approached by NetBSD’s community and assisting them as well.

We will keep you informed about the progress of downstream inclusions of Kopano over time and look forward to the continuous work with all these communities.

It is great to see how more and more join our community and get directly engaged with Kopano – Thanks a lot on behalf of the whole team!

– mike

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Fosdem as vibrant as it gets

This year we went to FOSDEM with Kopano for the first time, with the goal to especially extend our community efforts and to get in touch with the vibrant Open Source community. We came to FOSDEM, prepared with a setup of our complete communication stack to present our recent product stack to visitors. Additionally my colleague, Jelle van der Waa, developer at Kopano, had an introduction talk about what Kopano is. Being at the heart of the event in hall K – directly next to CiviCRM & Libreoffice and other well-known Open Source projects such as ownCloud, Nextcloud, KDE, Gnome, openSUSE, Fedora, Debian, Gentoo, FSFE and many, many others – we were a magnet to many interesting discussions.

To summarize the event in one word: Overwhelming! We were quite prepared with all kinds of brochures and the usual branded swag, plus some nice little extras such as chocolate (yes, Kopano Chocolate(!)), but the reality is: We ran out of all our material already on Saturday, 14:00h with the event lasting until Sunday, 17:00h. With my colleagues Joost Hopmans and Pom Balledux, I have been standing at the booth, showing demos, ready to answer questions and having really interesting talks, ranging from interested visitors from Cuba and Portugal to far-east Asia – with of course a lot of European visitors in between as well. I also had an interview with the Hacker Public Radio, which you can check out here: http://video.fosdem.org/2017/stands/K1A.4_Kopano.flac

Our checklist already for our next year is:

  • Take our own AP, the WiFi was quite overloaded.
  • More stuff, really a lot more stuff, as in at least four times as much. 😉

All in all we can say: Kopano – the Open Source successor to Zarafa – is becoming way more popular way faster than we could’ve ever thought. Thanks to you, our community!

Lastly, I would like to take this chance to thank all the volunteers at FOSDEM! Without them, this great event would never be possible. Thanks a lot and see you next year!

 

– Mike