FOSDEM 2016 and LibreOffice hackfest


Like last year, Collabora attended FOSDEM and it was unforgettable. FOSDEM is a two-day event to promote the widespread use of free and open source software.

For us (and other LibreOffice people) the event started two days earlier, with the LibreOffice FOSDEM 2016 Hackfest. Together with others we worked two full days on LibreOffice at the beautiful Betacowork Coworking Offices in Brussels. A big thanks to them for making the hackfest possible!

LibreOffice hackfest


After hacking for two days on LibreOffice we had a great dinner, just the evening before the start of FOSDEM. It was with the guys from Kolab, to celebrate the announcement of Collabora and Kolab joining forces! Dinner was amazing, and drinks afterwards were fun!

And then FOSDEM started on a rainy Saturday. Nevertheless, it was packed with around 7000 people! It’s amazing to see how alive the Open Source world is and how much interest the talks generated. Just like last year many Collaborans had a talk at FOSDEM and the rooms were very well attended. We also helped out with promoting LibreOffice at the stand, handing out stickers, selling t-shirts and answering questions from people.


“It was new this year that the LO stand was on the ground floor, not buried far away on the corridor on the first one, that was really nice.

The dev-room was as usual impressive, a steady flow of tech talks from 10:30 till 18:30.

Wrt the hackfest, some entirely new contributors appeared, and we could help them, that’s great — after all a hackfest without new contributors is only a half-hackfest.”
Miklos Vajna

“For me it was the first time I attended FOSDEM and it was amazing. There was a lot of interest in LibreOffice and LibreOffice online and I was able to help people out with questions about CODE.

Next year I hope to be able to check out more talks, but anyway, I’m happy I can catch up on video.

Looking forward to FOSDEM 2017!”
Lenny Horstink

Most of the talks from people from Collabora are still being uploaded (they will appear here), but Michael Meeks keynote is already online. Check out the video on YouTube (thanks to FOSDEM for recording and uploading the video!)

Looking forward to FOSDEM 2017!

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LibreOffice UK Hackfest: after action report

On May 21st LibreOffice Hackers converged upon Collabora’s Cambridge office for three days of discussion, development, and local diversions. Highlights included artisan ales served with rare English sun, a city boat tour, and of course a slew of improvements to LibreOffice.

Fourteen travellers participated in person: Cadbury’s Chocolate and two meter ethernet cables were had by all. Others joined the team via video and telephone conferencing for focused discussions.

Collabora's office whiteboard as the event started
Collabora’s office whiteboard
Setting up the microphone for video conferencing
Setting up the microphone for video conferencing

Improvements to LibreOffice

  • Stephan Bergmann fixed several issues preventing efficient use of automatic code testing tools ‘Address Sanitizer‘ and ‘Undefined Behavior Sanitizer
  • Jan ‘Kendy’ Holesovsky worked on improvements to toolbar rendering in the LibreOffice graphics toolkit, and issues relating to toolbar flickering when windows are resized
  • Tor Lillqvist improved the portability of LibreOffice Online server code, bringing support for other operating systems closer, and did basic client testing on iOS
  • Caolán McNamara fixed an unpopular bug preventing the colour-picker drop-down menu from appearing properly in a Linux window manager
  • Michael Meeks fixed a number of lifecycle related bugs, and helped Benjamin Niri get setup with LibreOffice development
  • Bjoern Michaelsen finished up a larger set of work which improves memory management of cursors in LibreOffice Writer
  • László Németh worked on adding support for quick insertion of Emoji icons and symbols into documents using special shortcode shortcuts (e.g. :smiley:)
  • Andras Timar fixed two DrawingML import / export bugs, and worked on two others which were causing problems for images in Powerpoint presentations (subsequently fixed)
  • Sam Tuke translated some German comments in the LibreOffice source code, after setting up commit access for the first time with help from Bjoern Michaelsen
  • Miklos Vajna fixed three bugs with Rich Text Format (RTF) and blogged about his progress (featured last week in our Team Blog)

Chilling in Cambridge

Beer and skittles

Thanks to careful planning, the hackfest coincided with Britain’s longest running beer festival, which took place on Jesus Green a short walk from the hackfest venue. As promised by its organisers the Campaign for Real Ale, the event offered “a wide range of local and national beers of all styles, as well as cider, perry, mead, wine and bottled & draught beers from around the world.”

Out in Cambridge en route to the beer festival
Out in Cambridge en route to the beer festival
The Collabora company picnic at the beer festival
The Collabora company picnic at the beer festival
The beer tent at the beer festival
The beer tent at the beer festival
Ordering one of hundreds of beers
Ordering one of hundreds of beers

Messing about on the river

The best way to see Cambridge’s beautiful historic colleges (or at least the backs of them) is by a pole propelled boat called a punt. Every participating hacker took a turn as the “punter” — propelling and directing the vessel by pushing the pole down to the river bed and away. With hand-made beers in hand, freshly pulled from the jetty pub adjacent, boats were commandeered, expensive laptops stowed, and we took to the water.

Preparing to launch the boats on the river
Riverside, preparing to launch
Caolán McNamara and Jan Holesovsky punting on the river Cam
Caolán McNamara and Jan Holesovsky punting
Jan Holesovsky and Stephan Bergmann taking charge of the boats
Jan Holesovsky and Stephan Bergmann taking charge
Team LibreOffice punting on the river Cam
Team LibreOffice punting on the river Cam

See you next time

LibreOffice hackfests are a perfect way to learn more about LibreOffice internals, get advice from experts, and discuss new ideas. The events are generously supported by the Document Foundation, and travel bursaries are available by pre-application. Join us in Hamburg for the next hackfest in October, or at the LibreOffice Conference in Aarhus in September!

Hackers outside King's College
Hackers outside King’s College

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Team blog: Improving table borders, gtktiledviewer and more at the Cambridge Hackfest

Miklos Vajna writes:

The first ever UK LibreOffice Hackfest took place in the city of Cambridge on May 21st to 23rd, kindly hosted by Collabora. My starter idea was to fix tdf#90315, i.e. to support both nested tables and multiple columns with the proper spacing in between them in the RTF import. Other than this, here is a list of other topics I hacked on…

Read the rest at Miklos’ blog

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Spread the word: LibreOffice Hackfest Cambridge

Two weeks today on May 21st LibreOffice enthusiasts from around the world will converge on Cambridge for the first ever UK Hackfest. Hosted at Collabora’s headquarter offices, engineers, designers, translators, and first-time contributors will work together on the world’s most popular Open Source office suite over a three day sprint.

The Cambridge Beer Festival
The Cambridge Beer Festival coincides with the LibreOffice Hackfest

Use the printable poster below to tell your colleagues and classmates about the event, and encourage them to participate. Hackfests are the perfect opportunity to get familiar with LibreOffice for the first time — expert engineers will be happy to help you get started and solve problems together. High resolution A5 size PDF and PNG files are available, as well as editable Gimp source files.

Poster advertising the Cambridge Hackfest
Poster advertising the Cambridge Hackfest

Full details of travel, accommodation, programme, and more can be found on the dedicated Document Foundation Wiki page. See you in Cambridge!

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Interview with Jennifer Liebel and Tobias Madl from Munich

Last summer, German students Jenny and Tobias started a work placement organised and funded by the City of Munich. One of the most famous Linux deployments in the world, Munich began switching to Free Software across its desktop and server infrastructure in 2003, and completed the process ten years later. LibreOffice is included on all desktop computers, and the City manages its own development of the application, including training students on placements.

Tobias and Jenny talked with Sam Tuke about how they sped up LibreOffice significantly by reorganising its internal task management, with the help of their Mentor Michael Meeks, and the LibreOffice community. This work is a foundational technology for future improvements to our rendering model, converting it from immediate to deferred (ie. idle) rendering, which is necessary to get smooth double-buffered rendering without flicker. It’s great to see the investment from Munich improving the LibreOffice user experience for all.

Tobias and Jenny - students in Munich
Tobias and Jenny – students in Munich

About Jenny

  • Name: Jennifer Liebel
  • Web nicknames: jeyli
  • Nationality: German
  • Location: Munich Germany
  • Blog: Google+
  • Hobbies: personal fitness

About Tobias

  • Name: Tobias Madl
  • Web nicknames: tobaem
  • Nationality: German
  • Location: Neufahrn bei Freising, Germany
  • Blog: Google+
  • Hobbies: sword fighting, bouldering, fire fighting

When was your first LibreOffice contribution?
In August 2014, while completing a work placement with the City of Munich (Landeshauptstadt München), we started working on some LibreOffice ‘Easy Hacks‘; translating German comments into English, and working on automated quality checks with CppUnit tests. Around 20,000 city-owned computers run Linux, and LibreOffice comes pre-installed with the Limux distribution of Linux that they use. In our work placement we had the choice of what to work on, and we chose LibreOffice.
For the next seven months we worked on LibreOffice consistently.
Had you used LibreOffice before that?
Yes we were using it at University for coursework and presentations. It has all the features we need. Later on, Tobias presented his talk at FOSDEM using LibreOffice Impress.
When we began our Computer Science studies we started using Linux because it made software development easier. We chose Linux Mint, and as LibreOffice came bundled with it, we started using it.
How do you explain LibreOffice to others?
It’s an awesome alternative to Microsoft Office and if people don’t want to waste their money, they should definitely try it.
Do your fellow students use LibreOffice too?
Yes, many. Maybe even most of them. Mainly it’s used for presentations and text documents. Students here don’t get provided with a copy of Microsoft Office like at some universities, and many use LibreOffice instead. A few use Latex. Students here use LibreOffice on all operating systems.
What was your initial experience of contributing to LibreOffice like?
It was exciting and challenging: we were using new tools for the first time, like the Gerrit review platform for managing LibreOffice code contributions. Getting used to these tools was a lot of fun.
How did you choose what part of LibreOffice to work on?
We were members of a group of five students whose placement focused on LibreOffice. We worked on different parts. We were both lucky enough to be invited to the LibreOffice Conference in Bern, where we met Michael Meeks who works for the Document Foundation and Collabora. It was a fantastic event, and he proposed tasks that we could work on, and became our mentor.
One of the hardest options proposed was improving LibreOffice’s "main loop". This loop executes the most important actions that LibreOffice needs to start up and run itself, including loading macros, generating previews, updating menus, and more. It sounded demanding, and we both wanted to learn as much as possible, so we chose that.
Together we went through every single timer used in this loop, and invented a new task scheduling system, which manages the loop more efficiently. The list of tasks in the loop is huge; we wrote them up in documentation of our work on the Document Foundation Wiki. We planned and developed the new scheduler together to prioritise important tasks and drop some which were unnecessary.
Optimizing the main loop has been a huge and interesting task. We’ve learned a great deal, and are still improving the quality of our code.
How did you make decisions and distribute the work?
‘Scrum’ is an agile software development methodology that we used to organise our work. We had regular stand-up meetings, did paired programming (especially for harder tasks), and generally worked in the same space for easier communication.
Michael was in England, while we were in Germany, so we had video calls and communicated via email.
What was it like to be mentored?
Working with Michael was demanding but awesome, great to meet and get to know him. He’s very motivated! We had a few communication issues because of distance, and time available, but he was very helpful. He reviewed our code, gave us tips and direction, he spent a lot of time with us on our project.
Did you communicate with other LibreOffice community members?
Markus Mohrhard and Jan "Kendy" Holesovsky helped us a lot when we were starting out with setting up our working environment, and teaching us how to debug code efficiently with the GDB debugging tool.
Building LibreOffice binaries from source code on our own machines was easy thanks to the great documentation, but building a good development environment with the right Vim editor plugins was harder. We went to a LibreOffice/Debian Hackfest and were shown how to do it in person, which was really useful. Kendy also explained the purpose of other LibreOffice libraries that we didn’t understand which clarified things a lot.
Every day we were in the #LibreOffice IRC Chat channel talking with Kendy, Markus, Thorsten Behrens, Stephan Bergmann, Noel Grandin, and others. We had an opportunity for lots of chatting with nice people online, and then met many of them at the FOSDEM conference.
Caolán McNamara was also reviewing our work at the end of our placement, and we were very happy there was someone looking over our code because it was our first time merging code using Git for version control. We’d also like to thank Miklos Vajna, Michael Stahl, Tor Lillqvist, and Bjoern Michaelsen for helping us and reviewing our work.
Once we started chatting with people we felt accepted as part of the LibreOffice community. We were just some students, but people made time to help us.
Had you contributed to Free Software before your work on LibreOffice?
No, this was our first project, but we are thinking about contributing to other projects, maybe the Kodi home theatre application.
What aspect of LibreOffice do you like the most?
Clearly the friendly and open community, which supported us a lot. We had great fun with them.
What the one thing you’d like to change about LibreOffice?
Improve OpenGL support (hello Michael Jaumann, Stefan Weiberg 😉 ).
Michael Jaumann, a close friend of ours, developed OpenGL support for LibreOffice Impress. It was really awesome to get to know how that worked. We’re developing OpenGL shaders in another part of our Computer Science course, and we love it. It’s got so much potential. There are still some issues with implementing full-scale support in LibreOffice due to its use of some older APIs; it’ll be great when those are fixed.
What will you do after your studies?
Jenny: As part of our course commitment, we have to work for the City of Munich for three years after our degree. The City has a large IT department catering for most of its own technical needs, including software and hardware development, and sub-departments dedicated to Java applications, network infrastructure, and custom development workgroups. Our work placement was with the Linux Desktop branch, which caters to the many thousands of City staff using Linux in Munich and the region.
I’m not sure; I’ll probably stay in Munich. Let’s see after three years!
Tobias: I’m definitely interested in software development, but also in information security and embedded development. I’d like to work in a company in one of those fields, or even better a mixture from all of them, but I’m not sure if something like that exists.
Both: You can read more technical details about our work in the Document Foundation Wiki report.

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