FOSDEM ’18: Meeting new and old friends

Five’s the lucky number: For the fifth time in a row, there was an SDR devroom at FOSDEM. Every year, thousands of free software enthusiasts gather in Brussels, Belgium, on the campus of ULB to talk about free software. Within FOSDEM, 42 different tracks, or devrooms, provide the majority of the content, alongside with great keynotes and eight main tracks. One of those tracks of course was the Software Defined Radio devroom: 14 presentations, plus the introduction and a bring-your-own-radio session (Note: Thanks to the great organization of FOSDEM, all videos were recorded and are already available online either on the FOSDEM website, or on our YouTube playlist).

FOSDEM traditionally starts on Friday night at the Beer event in the infamous Cafe Delirium. This is usually a great time to first meet some of the SDR crowd: Just look out for people in GNU Radio shirts and hoodies. The occasional USRP may have been spotted as well in the past.

FOSDEM itself is a two-day event, starting on Saturday morning and going until Sunday evening. Since the SDR devroom was on Sunday, that gave us some time to acclimatize and see other devrooms on Saturday. As usual, I’m blown away by the quality of talks at FOSDEM. It’s become clear that no major company can afford not to send people to FOSDEM any more if they want to be taken seriously, and FOSDEM is not just a good place for enthusiasts: It is a place where the future direction of major software projects is decided over fries and beer.

For many of us SDR nerds, Sunday was fully occupied by the SDR devroom. As pointed out in the  devroom introduction, the spectrum of speaker’s backgrounds was phenomenal. We had representatives from academia, industry, the infosec community, government institutions, non-profit organizations… and some people represented multiple organizations at once. The topics, too, were very broad, from community activities, radar, SDR implementations, hardware… we had it all.

Even though the FOSDEM SDR Devroom is not a GNU Radio event, GNU Radio plays an important role. Most presentations, even if not about GNU Radio, use GNU Radio to some extent. Andrej Rode and Håkon Vågsether actually did directly talk about GNU Radio: Andrej gave a brief outline of upcoming scheduler changes, and Håkon presented on his work on C++ code generation using GRC.


Whether or not you’re interested in SDR, FOSDEM is a fantastic event, and anyone interested in free software, open source anything, software development in general, embedded devices, community management, software licensing, hardware hacking, or simply good Belgian beer will find something at FOSDEM. For 2019, we’re planning to re-apply for a devroom, and will hopefully see many of you folks there!

Martin Braun