A trip to Maemo Summit in Amsterdam

Went to Amsterdam, Europe on October 13, 2009


This weekend I went to Amsterdam to Maemo Summit 2009. In fact, the summit consisted of 3 days but because I am quite busy at work now and also because I was going on my own expense I decided to spend only 2 days in Amsterdam. Finally, I was interested not only in the summit but also in exploring the museums of Amsterdam. The names such as Rembrandt and van Gogh make it worth visiting Amsterdam. Last time I was in Amsterdam in 2000 on a bus trip through European countries. We spend only half of a day back then.

My plane was at 6:45 AM from Helsinki airport. As my apartment is located only a 10-minute walking distance from the train station I woke up early in the morning and went to the bus stop near the train station. I was surprised to find out that so many people were hanging out on this chilly Saturday morning. I needed to change a bus at Tikkurila. I missed that stop and actually got off the bus on the next stop. But then I walked to Tikkurila and was at the airport in time.

When I arrived to Amsterdam I needed to take a train to the center of the city. Mistakenly, I got on a train going in the opposite direction! In the train all the announcements were made in Dutch, quite contrary to Finland in which the announcements are made in 3 languages: Finnish, Swedish, and English. Overall, I now realize that Finland is a lot more English-speaking than Netherlands.

After spending 20 minutes in the train going in the opposite direction and not seeing anything resembling Amsterdam I asked people and they told me I was going in wrong direction. Then I went back but in the middle the train was broken and the passengers had to spend another 10 minutes on the platform waiting for the next train. Meanwhile, the conference was beginningтАж

When I arrived back to the airport I spent several minutes waiting on platform that the right train should have arrived to. But nothing arrived. Then I heard a radio message in English saying that the trains to Amsterdam center were cancelled because of track works! The people going to the center had to take bus instead. When I got to the bus stop I saw a huge line of people and no buses. After spending half an hour at the bus stop and seeing only 1 or 2 buses coming I decided to take a taxi. I kept asking people around me whether they wanted to share a taxi. After a few attempts I found 3 other guys and we went on taxi. Since the cost was shared I payed only 12 Euros for the taxi.


After arriving to the conference I got my badge. Despite the demands of the organizers that visitors pick up their badges on Thursday or Friday, there were plenty of badges left on Saturday. So I went to the rooms and listened to a few talks. I was impressed with the quality of conference. I have attended quite a few of those when I was a graduate student.

The rooms in which this conference was held were huge. A limit of 400 attendees was imposed. However, I think it was possible to fit twice as many people. The talks were quite interesting. A typical talk was describing a project on Maemo which has big impact in the community. Once the talk was over the audience asked questions. Typically they were like Why donтАЩt you implement this feature in your project or Why donтАЩt you fix that bug and so on. It was obvious that the community was very interested in each project being presented.

It turns out that you could enjoy cool stuff on the older Maemo devices such as N770 and N810. Canola is a UI framework which the authors claim is as good as iPhone UI. But obviously they did it a lot earlier than Apple. This project is closed-source but I guess it is possible to develop application using public API. Later during this conference there was a Canola hackathon but I have not attended that meeting.

But of course Nokia was advertising its latest N900 device. They were giving out 300 devices to the independent developers for 6 months and after that the developers should give it back.

The fact that there are a few older devices now which go very cheap means that Maemo is becoming more accessible in developing countries. I wonder if it actually more appropriate than a netbook. The size of a Maemo device is almost the same as that of a cellphone, it fits easily into a pocket. On the other hand, a netbook fits only in a backpack, but definitely not in a pocket. This means that Maemo is more applicable in cases such as travel or working on the go. Because it is an open platform the people in developing countries would not need to spend their resources on acquiring additional software. The Maemo summit shows that people around the world can learn Maemo technology and start a distributed project if they wish to do so. In other words, it is possible to make an impact to the open-source community no matter where you come from.

Earlier, most of the UNIX software was written in best US universities such as MIT тАУ GNU project, University of Washington тАУ mailing programs and so on. Nowdays there is a course at Stanford University in which students learn how to develop for an iPhone. Is it necessary to get to Stanford University if you want to develop a cool application? With Maemo technology, the idea is that everybody can do it.


Besides visiting the conference I tried to spend a lot of time exploring the city and its magnificent museums.

Last time I was in Amsterdam in 2000 and that was actually the first time I was abroad. But during these years I had to travel a lot, I spent a number of years in New York as well as in Finland. Before arriving to Amsterdam I was mentally comparing it with Venice because of its canals. But after walking in the city I think it more resembles New York. It is well known that New York was earlier called New Amsterdam. The similarity is in the narrow buildings that can go as high as 5 floors but their width is 3 windows.

Another interesting detail is that in Amsterdam there are lots of bikes, a lot more than in Helsinki. The number of bikes is greater than the number of cars and there are probably more bikes than people.

On Saturday afternoon I went to the hotel and checked in. As soon as you enter the hotelтАЩs door there is a huge staircase going up and up a couple of floors. There is a turn only at the end of the third floor. Fortunately, the window of my room was going to the inner court, not to a busy street in the center. I was surprised that the court looks so quiet and a bit rural.

Then I went to RembrandtтАЩs house. In this museum there are lots of paintings of his predecessors on the first floor. But the most interesting part of that museum is a collection of RembrandtтАЩs etchings. Works of his pupils and followers are also available. Unfortunately, his paintings are not present in this museums as I expected. The gorgeous Night Watch is located in another museum in Amsterdam which I did not have time to visit.

After visiting RembrandtтАЩs house I went to Russian museum called Hermitage. It is a division of Russian main museum in Saint-Petersburg. In fact, it opened only this summer and now it occupies a huge 3-storied building which was earlier a nursing house. In this museum it is possible to see the items of Russian Tzar court including portraits of Tzars and their wives. The museum also explains a connection between Russian Royal family and that of Netherlands. It turns out that their connections are pretty intertwined.

On Sunday I went to van Gogh museum. There was a huge line of people trying to get the tickets. It was either because it was Sunday or because van Gogh is very popular. In other museums I did not see any lines at all. But after I got my ticket and went through the security check I realized that I was in this museum when I visited Amsterdam on previous occasion. I actually did not remember where I was back then. But I definitely enjoyed visiting van Gogh museum once again. His paintings are so interestingтАж

Overall, I spent two absolutely fantastic days in Amsterdam! I visited a great conference and a number of gorgeous museums! Amsterdam has so much to offer. I had to go to the airport earlier on Sunday because of the track repair. In fact, I had to take a bus to the airport. But then the plane arrived on time to Helsinki and at 1AM I was already at home. Nice trip, I have got a few souvenirs and lots of nice memories!