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report from OSCAL'17

Chris Lamb and I recently attended OSCAL'17[1], I'm writing this report
based on my own experience of the event.  OSCAL'17 is organized by Open
Labs[2], a free software community based in Tirana, Albania.

OSCAL'17 was presented to me when I met some of the Albanian team at
FSFE summit and also at FOSDEM.  They are active in many other
organizations too, including FSFE, Mozilla, OpenStreetmap and Fedora.
They expressed an interest in Debian too, but they were not aware of any
Debian Developers based there.  They also run a Linux weekend (which was
promoted on debian-events-eu[3]), various hackathons and other events
throughout the year.  There is also discussion[4] about a cryptoparty in
the near future.

On arriving, two members of the organizing team, Kristi and Jona, met me
at the airport.  They had also arranged a nice welcome gift in my hotel
room[5].  The team went out of their way to welcome all the
international guests.

Friday, 12 May, the day before the conference, several of us met at the
Hackerspace in the afternoon.  It is a new facility and they are keen to
expand it.  Donations of hardware would be particularly welcome and
would be well used.

Friday night many of the visitors met at a bar near the center for drinks.

On 13 May I presented a workshop about the Debian Hams[6] project, ham
radio and SDR in general.  I presented similar workshops at MiniDebConf
Vienna and Cambridge last year.

The venue had great weather and open windows from the workshop room on
the first floor so I was able to mount the loop antenna externally at
this event.  I started setting it up a couple of hours before the
workshop with help from a few members of the Open Labs team.  The
outdoor antenna, combined with the fact I had brought a portable ATU as
well, allowed us to receive a range of commercial shortwave
transmissions and ham broadcasts from much further away.  A full
overview of the hardware setup is on my blog[7], along with a brief
video of the demo.  Using the loop antenna indoors (as demonstrated at
previous events) it is only likely to pick up stronger commercial
shortwave stations and ham stations in the immediate vicinity of the
venue (such as a transmitter in somebody's car parked outside).

I went to a couple of sessions after the workshop, including one by the
director of town planning who explained the arrangement[8] the city of
Tirana has made with Open Labs.

In the evening, speakers were invited to a feast at the restaurant
Pajtimi, there was a wide range of meats and other dishes, it was quite
a feast and we were well looked after.

On 14 May I had a couple of sessions late in the afternoon, so I decided
it would be a good idea to set up the ham radio/SDR demo at the Debian
booth in the morning.  The tables were set up at the edge of a courtyard
and the architect had conveniently included a stairwell onto the roof so
people could climb up and install their own HF antennas.  As in the
workshop the previous day, it was relatively easy to get the loop
antenna installed a few meters above the ground and we immediately
started to receive a range of signals from thousands of kilometers away.
 Several volunteers from the OSCAL team helped get it installed quickly.

The demo was quite popular and a large number of visitors stopped to see
it at the Debian booth.

Shortly after lunch, I downloaded the Debian Hams ISO image[9], placed
it on a USB stick and used it to boot somebody else's laptop into the
SDR software (gqrx) so I could take my own laptop away for other things.
 Being able to do this so easily with a Debian live ISO really
emphasizes the strength of Debian as a complete system.

I'd like to emphasize the popularity of the demo and the fact it shows
off many features of Debian combined with some interesting hardware.
Other developers who want to give this demo at events do not need to
have a ham license to do so, you only need a ham license for
transmitting.  If you don't enjoy giving talks or workshops, simply
running the demo at a Debian booth is also a great idea.  If you want to
recreate this demo elsewhere, please see the recipe on my blog[7] and
feel free to ask for help on the debian-hams list[10].

Later that day I had two more sessions, a talk about Free RTC and a
discussion about the Open Agriculture project[11] and building a food

One particular strength of the Open Labs community that was noticed by
many guests at this event was the successful commitment to diversity, in
particular, computing doesn't appear to be as male dominated as in some
other events.  I met several people who would appear to be good
candidates for future rounds of Outreachy and I posted about this on the
Open Labs forum[12].  Open Labs has several successful women in
leadership positions and they have also recently run a hackathon for
women so there could be good opportunities for mentoring collaboration
or for a future women's MiniDebConf[13] event.



1. https://oscal.openlabs.cc/
2. https://openlabs.cc/en/
3. https://lists.debian.org/debian-events-eu/2017/02/msg00008.html
4. https://forum.openlabs.cc/t/cryptoparty-day-openlabs-sept-2017/357/8
5. https://danielpocock.com/thank-you-oscal17-welcome-gift
6. https://www.debian.org/blends/hamradio/
7. https://danielpocock.com/building-loop-antenna-sdr-shortwave-ham-oscal17
8. https://opendata.tirana.al
9. https://www.debian.org/blends/hamradio/get/live
10. https://lists.debian.org/debian-hams
11. https://danielpocock.com/hacking-the-food-chain-in-switzerland
12. https://forum.openlabs.cc/t/next-outreachy-internships/359
13. https://wiki.debian.org/DebianWomen/Projects/Events

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