Experiences from KDE Sprints – Randa, 2015

Well, it’s been a fortnight since I participated in the KDE sprints in Randa, Switzerland and I’m slowly coming to the terms that it’s over. The time I spent in Randa, was quite easily the best time of my life, not only was it my first trip abroad, but also from a technical point of view, I got the chance to interact with developers, working on KDE software and learn from them. I started working on KDE software around 2 years ago, so I’m relatively new to KDE development. So far, I have worked primarily on just two softwares – Plasma Mediacenter and Kopete(as part of my Google Summer of Code project). So, I knew that there’s still a lot to learn, but when I saw work that was being done and the quality of it, that is when I truly realized the scale of it. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying myself and the serene surroundings of the Swiss Alps.

IMG_20150906_152949353The journey was eventful and it all started when I managed to miss three trains in succession from Zurich to Randa. I was finally able to get in on the fourth time of asking, boarding a train along with Volker Krause, Olivier Goffart and Uri Herrera. When we reached Randa after almost three hours of traveling and switching trains in Visp, it really was the worth the wait. You couldn’t have picked a better place for developers to walk into and start working right away. It really does get you all motivated and makes you really enjoy what you do.

Olivier looks back at the Zermatt city
Olivier looks back at Zermatt city

It was great to meet Olivier Goffart, who if I understand correctly, is one of the authors of Kopete, the application which I’m trying to port to the KDE frameworks 5(any help would be much appreciated) and for the first three days, I worked on fixing bugs in my own port while he was busy integrating OwnCloud with dolphin(KDE’s default file manager). In the next couple of days, Olivier was magnanamous to drop in to see my progress and I told him some of the difficulties I was facing and he helped me in getting them fixed. There’s no question, it’d have been impossible for me alone to do the same. Meeting Olivier and learning from him was one of the many takeaways I’ll have from the Randa sprints. I wish more members from the Kopete group would’ve showed up for the sprint. We really could have done a lot more, and of course, Olivier was there as well. My work during the sprint was focused mainly on kopete and that’s about it really. Apart from what I’ve mentioned already, I had the chance to be a part of the meetings that the developersΒ  would do with KDE’s Visual Design Group(VDG) and it was a fun. Much more than I could’ve ever thought of. Adding to that, there was a lot of interaction with members from other projects, for instance I got to spend some time in the PIM development room and the developers told me stories(interesting ones of course) about my Summer of Code mentor Laurent Montel, who happens to be the current maintainer of KDE PIM(Personal Information Management) software. After hearing all this and having known him the way I do, I would really love the opportunity to meet him in person at least once in my lifetime(which is apparently, not that easy even for an EU citizen) .

The Matterhorn in all it's glory
The Matterhorn in all it’s glory
Valentin would walk daily morning before starting his work.
Valentin would walk every morning before starting his work.

So, is that all ? Of course not, how can I not mention about the awesome food that we were served during the sprint and of course, with such beautiful scenery at your disposal, you just had to go on a trek and/or a morning walk. I managed to do both, thanks to Valentin Rusu and then Jean Pierre, who accompanied me for the morning walks and the entire group trekked back on our way from Zermatt to Randa, which was roughly 3-4 hours on foot. It was beautiful, there’s no denying that, but after an hour of walking/trekking, I realized that I may have under-estimated the distance and from there onwards, it was bit of a struggle. Thankfully, the sceneries kept getting better and better as we neared Randa and for an Indian, the Swiss climate suits perfectly for a trek.

The cross at the peak, 18,000 ft above sea level.
The cross at the peak, 5,348 ft above sea level.

Fast forwarding to my final day in Randa, a group decided to do some Barbeque. The only catch was that, the location of the Barbeque was on top of, what I understand, an 5,348 ft mountain. Yes, Randa Dorf(village ?)Β  is itself roughly 4,613 ft above sea level, but that turned out to be little consolation. I was totally unaware of all this and I followed the group. I saw them going up the mountain and I was genuinely excited, but after almost half an hour of trekking, I was done. I couldn’t go any further. I was panting heavily and my leg muscles started acting weirdly. I had to wait, quite literally sit some 4 or 5 times before I finally reached the top and boy was it worth it ! We then quickly started with the Barbeque and everything just fell into place. It was fantastic way for us to draw our stay in Randa to an end. Everything seemed so good, that by the time we were done, it was pitch dark, freezing cold. It was 9PM local time and we had to trek down through the forest, which was probably home to Wolves and Bears. But nothing untoward happened on our way down and after an hour of trekking downhill, we reached the basecamp. I then found time to exchange hugs with everyone present there. Sadly, my time in Randa, was drawing to a close.

We’d already met Mario Fux on our way down to the base camp. He’s and his family along with a few helpers have been organizing the sprints for a few years and none of this would’ve been possible without him ofcourse and we’re all really grateful to him and I personally enjoyed watching little Bastian(Mario’s elder son) playing around while we’d have breakfast. He even dropped in to distribute chocolates to us at times and I’ll cherish those memories for a long time. It’s a pity that I couldn’t interact much due to the language barrier. Two more persons I’d like to thank would be Simon and Christian. Simon of course, helped me with the visa formalities before I arrived and Christian was of great help during the sprints and it was pleasure to get to know and interact with them as well. Lest I forget, I must also thank my mentor Vipin Pavithran and my university as well for lending me the support in order to make this possible.

What can you do ? If you like the idea of sprints, I hope you do and you’ll love it much more if you participate in one of them, please consider contributing to the fundraiser for the Randa sprints, 2015, which is still open. Hurry up !

Btw, if you’re interested, check out my collection of memories from the sprint over at my dropbox and for some even better ones, check out the Gilles’ collection over at his flickr(contains the group photo as well !)

Thanks for reading. Till later.


15 thoughts on “Experiences from KDE Sprints – Randa, 2015

    1. I’m not really aware of the NVIDIA problem to be honest. I don’t use NVIDIA drivers on my PC as well. And this year’s theme for the sprint was to “Bring Touch to KDE” and I’m pretty sure no one worked on the problem you just mentioned.
      But I’m sure someone will look into it if it’s been reported. Do you know if it’s reported ?

  1. You have strange ft, are you sure of your numbers? Randa is at 1406 m (14’060 cm), that would be 4,613 ft, and the cross in your other picture is roughly at 1630 (16’300 cm) ( I presume it is the hill behind the house, right?), which would be 5348 ft.
    14’000 ft is the height of some of the highest peaks in Switzerland, and to get to 18’000 ft you would definitely have to fly, there is no such height in Europe πŸ™‚ AFAIK the metric system was introduced in India in 1956, so I am a bit surprised you use such antiquated measures from the colonial era…

    1. Nope, I’m not sure of the numbers. These are the numbers that I heard from random sources while exploring places. Obviously, after reading your comment, I realize that I’ve been well off the mark, and what I quoted is a bit hilarious. You’re the first one to point out and I know I can trust you on this. Thanks for that.
      And yeah, it was a pleasure meeting you as well πŸ™‚

    2. Oh and regarding the use of the metric system, I don’t really know. But whenever I travel, the distances above sea level are mentioned in ft. An example of the same would be when I travel in domestic flights. Maybe I just got used to it πŸ™‚

      1. Well, using ft when talking about flight levels is OK, as that is the customary unit in flight technology, but it doesn’t apply on the ground. You can see that easily if you check topographic maps for use on the ground, those are pretty much always in meters in the countries who adopted the metric system.
        So use ft in all things flight related (that is a remaining unit of the times where flying was done mostly in countries using the imperial system, so more for historic and practical reasons, as changing all altimeters in planes to meters would be a hell of a task…), but on the ground one should use meters. It makes no sense to measure height and distances in imperial when all other things are measured in metric, it only adds to confusion. Even more so if distances are in meters and kilometers and then height in ft? Why use a different unit depending on whether it is horizontal or vertical?
        Mind you, even in the metric system we still have glitches, ask different European countries what “above sea level” means and you get funny results in cross-border bridge building (item 7 in the link): http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27509559 Not to mention the other items… πŸ™‚

        And yes, it was nice to meet you in Randa!

    1. Yes, I get this a lot πŸ™‚
      Honestly, I don’t know if Telepathy will replace Kopete, but for the moment, both exist. Telepathy is shipped default in Kubuntu for instance, but not Kopete. But, from my POV, Kopete is still a KDE project and there should be no harm in porting it to KF5, regardless.
      But yes, it’s not an easy task πŸ™‚

  2. Glad you enjoyed your stay in Randa, it was nice meeting you πŸ™‚
    I hope your feet recovered in the meantime.

    I hope your work on kopete will go on well, as I just recently was forced to remove it due to the KDEPIM update to KF5, so kopete (the KDE 4 variant) will no longer compile.

    Thus: good luck on your future work, and hopefully we’ll see each other again in Randa next year.

    Kind regards from Switzerland,


    1. Thanks a lot for the warm hospitality. The blisters on my feet are gone and am doing fine. It was great meeting you as well. Hopefully, the port will be done soon. Thanks again for the wishes πŸ™‚

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