GUADEC 2015, surviving a fire and plane accident, etc.7 min read

So I went to GUADEC, as a community member and one of the directors of the GNOME Foundation.
Thanks to the Foundation for covering my travel and accomodation—it makes all the difference!
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It was a really good GUADEC. The local team put a huge amount of efforts into making it possible. There is a public page for sending feedback, and so far it’s pretty positive.
It’s also one of the most relaxing and enjoyable conferences I’ve had since 2011:

  • This year I did not have talks to prepare, sessions to chair, contracts or work obligations to fulfill, hackfests to hold or students to mentor for Pitivi. Therefore, this meant that I was able to focus solely on attending the talks and discussing with as many contributors as possible—and that is of incredible value. I also had good times with friends I hadn’t seen in a long while.
  • The hostel’s showers had hot water.
  • Credit cards accepted (and encouraged) everywhere—No leftover money in a niche currency!
  • Göteborg is very pedestrian-friendly and everyone on the road is courteous and patient
  • Besides tap water, there’s sparkling water on tap! What more could you wish for?

A Mexican standoff between three GStreamer developers. This is what a real deadlock looks like in GStreamer.
A Mexican standoff between three GStreamer developers. This is what a real deadlock looks like in GStreamer.

I prepared two lightning talks on the spot. The first of them was a big satyre and, apparently, most people did not quite realize I was trolling, except Elad whose laugh I could hear all across the auditorium. The French conspiracy looked at me with a vengeful stare over dinner but luckily, since I did not go to the football match, I did not get my arse kicked by Bastien.
This is the door I came from before giving the first lightning talk

After the core days, I organized a BoF (“Birds of a Feather”) session on “GNOME Shell extensions as 1st-class citizens” to make life easier for contributors, users and enterprise distributors:
Besides the work to finish the port to Wayland, I see extensions as being the “next big step”, the remaining high-profile hurdle to solve in GNOME Shell. This is a fairly big topic though, so I’ll keep this for a separate blog post where I will share the conclusions of the discussion from the BoF.
I took a handful of photos—nothing much compared to my previous trigger-happy years. I also created a wiki page where you can list your albums so we can avoid searching all across the Internet.
There were also some presentations, at the Pelagicore offices, on Tuesday night:
Now, if you would excuse me for a moment, I would like to tell you about my return trip. I find it to be a rather fascinating story. Read on, you won’t regret it.
As I woke on the day of my departure from Göteborg, I received a notification that my second flight (of my three-segment trip) would be delayed by one hour. When I arrived at Göteborg’s Landvetter airport, I therefore asked the check-in desk if they could rebook the third flight, as the one hour connection in Toronto would no longer be sufficient. They said that it could not be done from Göteborg, it had to be done by the Lufthansa crew in Frankfurt. Oh well, no matter! I gleefully embarked on flight to Frankfurt as I would be sitting with good friends from the GNOME community on adjacent seats.
Then I landed in Frankfurt.

How to survive a fire in the airport, a plane accident, and Lufthansa sandwiches

I basically had to speedhack my way through the whole airport. I’ll spare you some details and, to save some space, abbreviate “Service Desk” to “SD” as they kept referring me from one to another:

  1. SD 1 → SD 2 → SD 3 (service center)
  2. Get a number, sit for some time in a waiting area in front of six agents that seem to be playing Starcraft rather than actually processing customers, while noticing some odd barbecue smell and haze in the surrounding area.
  3. Notice a team of firefighters walking past you and walling off an entire section of the airport with a sliding metal door as an alarm goes off:
  4. Pinch your nose and time your respiration as you notice the smoke that continues permeating the hall and food court, observe the travelers apparently not noticing they are breathing carbon monoxyde
  5. As the Service Desk employees finish their Starcraft round, get told that we need to evacuate and that “You must go ask another service desk in that general direction”.
  6. Walk across the airport a bit, with travelers in the hall still not aware of what’s going on:
    fog zombies
  7. SD 4 → SD 6 (as directed), walking past SD 5.
  8. SD 6 tells me I should go to SD 7, “up that escalator and in the hall on the right”… At which point I decide to glitch my way into things and go to SD 5 instead, thinking, “I’ll be damned if the First Class service counter can’t sort this out when asked nicely”.
  9. Get rebooking from SD 5, thanks to my irresistible charm.
  10. Walk across the airport again in a whole new direction. Get in the disordered “line” for border control (Frankfurt is quite bad at that “space management and order” thing).
  11. Go through Frankfurt’s notoriously horrendous security bottleneckcheckpoint
  12. Finally get to the gate and board the one-hour-late plane.

“That went fairly well”, thought I, as I ate my leftover Lufthansa sandwich, “I won’t have to worry about the rest of the trip”.
The plane taxies to the runway. Ready for take off! Main engines turn on, take off every zig!! Full thrott—WHAM. The plane stops dead in its tracks after ten meters, as if we had hit a cow on the runway.
Turns out one of the engines went kaputt during take-off.
Back to the gate for investigation and evacuation… except that the airport gate was broken. I shit you not.
and then we told them we're going back to the gate
So, after sitting for roughly an hour in a broken plane in front of a broken boarding gate, technicians confirmed the engine dead and the plane unsafe to fly. We got the “evacuation by bus and tour across the whole airport” treatment, ending up in a different gate.

The tarmac party bus—can you spot the GNOME in that photo?
The tarmac party bus. Can you spot the gnome in that photo?

The passengers were surprisingly calm while the crew explained that we could not rebook here, that it was only possible at that flight’s destination (Toronto), where the ground team (hereafter known as “welcoming party”) would be waiting for us to deal with any issues. Therefore, my whole Frankfurt multi-desk rebooking hackventure was for naught.
While waiting in that odd terminal gate, we got some (sparkling!) apple juice and light snacks (I actually didn’t get any of those, the horde beat us to it). Eventually we hopped back onto the buses, back onto a plane, and took off into the glorious sun set.
Arriving in Toronto, there was of course no welcoming party, but I’d gotten pretty good at speedrunning airports anyway. The first service desk in Toronto printed my new (rebooked) boarding pass incorrectly and I had to go to another service desk (who rudely told me, “Why did you wait here? You should have done that at the gate you’re supposed to board! You’ll miss your plane!” — nevermind the fact that I had an hour ahead of me and that I’m used to transferring with as little as 20 minutes).
On the upside, if you’re seeing this post, it means I made it out alive 😃 Who said the job of being on the Board was without peril?
Like Freud once said, I can heartily recommend the Luft Hansa to anyone.
true story
When I summarized my story to an off-duty attendant in my final flight, she said, “Wow. Now I’m a little scared that you’ll be jinxing this flight too”, but I did arrive home safely in the end, albeit 7 hours later than expected.

Top 10 reasons to fly Frankfurt → Toronto

During the AGM session, I was amused by Rosanna’s “Top ten reasons to organise GUADEC in your city”. Turns out she was on the same flight as me, so I felt inspired to give you the top ten reasons to fly LH470 from Frankfurt to Toronto:

  1. You get free sparkling apple juice! (although Rosanna nearly choked and spilled hers when I said that)
  2. TWO free bus tours of the tarmac!
  3. Stay in shape by loading and unloading your hand luggage twice!
  4. Improve your over-the-counter charm and negotiation skills
  5. Discover unknown areas of the Frankfurt airport
  6. Mock the Germans and their legendary organization/efficiency
  7. Strengthen relationships with passengers when you carry a power strip
  8. Take pictures of people taking pictures in front of a plane’s turboreactor
  9. Justify higher-than-usual intake of alcohol on the plane
  10. Increased appreciation of your home, friends and family




8 responses to “GUADEC 2015, surviving a fire and plane accident, etc.”

  1. Elad Avatar

    Two broken gates in one day, and you get to be stuck because of both of them? wow.
    I too smelled smoke while walking (it was a long walk. over an hour until I reached my gate) through the airport (I assumed it’s people smoking in the halls or something).
    It’s good that you’re safe.

    1. Two broken gates in one day, and you get to be stuck because of both of them? wow.

      I suppose you counted the “THIS AREA HAS BEEN SEALED OFF — KEEP OUT” singularity as a “broken gate” (otherwise the only truly broken one was when the plane taxied back from the accident on the tarmac)? I guess I could now be called “Gate Smasher”.

      […] I assumed it’s people smoking in the halls or something.

      Interestingly, the Frankfurt airport actually has smoking lounges—the fact that smoking would be allowed at all in an airport never ceases to amaze me.

      1. Elad Avatar

        No, there were two broken gates! The first one is the one which was broken when we landed from Göteborg (and we got a bus – the pilot being all like “The gate went kaputt” and “nobody can tell me when the bus will arrive” was kinda funny), and the second is the one you described in this blog post…
        Unless you reordered things for the sake of the story 🙂
        (I too had a very horrible airport experience in Frankfurt, I livetweeted it all. I assume nobody ever had a good experience in this airport)

        1. Oh, I totally forgot that the Frankfurt arrival gate when coming from Göteborg was kaputt, too! Thanks for reminding me of this.

  2. Wan Fong T. Avatar
    Wan Fong T.

    Gee, it has been quite a while that I have not laughed like this. Jeff you know how I laugh when it’s really funny. Not that what happened was funny for you, especially when you have to deal with all that chaos. But the way you write it can become a script for Just For Laugh. Welcome back !

  3. zana Avatar

    Oh, you lucked out getting a flight out of Toronto that night. We had to wait over an hour before the “buses” started arriving to take us to the hotel. We were lucky to have sped through getting out of baggage claim and was the second one to the counter to get our hotel and meal vouchers as that meant we got to go on the first bus — which could carry all of six passengers. No idea how late they were ferrying passengers that night.

  4. s3phy Avatar

    Stay in shape by loading and unloading your 20kg hand luggage twice!

    …while Lufthansa hand luggage policy states that hand luggage must be 8kg or less ;D

    1. I’m counting the two pieces of carry-on, so 2x~8 (but it might have been 2×5 or something, I’m just guesstimating… Oh well, I’ll set that to 10kg). Notice that the “laptop bag” does not have a weight restriction… 🙂