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Life on the conference circuit – Part 3

2012 November 25

From a rather cold Malmö, I was hoping for a warm Lisbon when I left home on November 14th. Wrong! It was a cold and windy Portugal that welcomed me for my sixth Codebits. Late morning, I decided to go to the venue to organize the O’Reilly table of books and sort out the pre-orders.

It is always fun to get into the Tejo Hall at Lisbon’s Parque das Nações as the main entrance is locked before the opening of the show. I therefore needed to find a side entrance but which one?  Most of them were locked. At long last I found an open door and soon met with Jose Alves de Castro, the main organizer. After the greetings he showed me the layout of the place. Once again big changes – or improvements – were made in the main room: more colours, and three new bubble-shaped igloos. But what were those bubbles? It seems that last year, there were 3 tracks of talks given in the main area – unfortunately the noise level was too high and some of the talks were badly interrupted. This year the talks were still given in this area but they are held in the bubbles. As you can see in this video and the photos, the room looks awesome and of course, Sapo’s logo, the little frog, is still the star of the event.

Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the Hackspace since it was in a different part of the building – some of the big names that gave presentations and workshops included:

  • Mitch Altman – a San Francisco-based hacker and inventor, best known for inventing TV-B-Gone remote controls, a keychain that turns off TVs in public places.
  • Rob Bishop – a RaspberryPi Foundation Member who has been involved with development of the RaspberryPi since the first Broadcom SoC based prototypes (when the RaspberryPi looked like this) and was responsible for the first Quake port.
  • Erik de Bruijn – is currently involved in a research project with Eric von Hippel (MIT) and Jeroen de Jong (E.I.M.) to assess knowledge transfers between actors in the additive manufacturing industry. In 2011 he co-founded Ultimaking LTD, a company that develops and sells a fast, large build volume, open-source 3D printer: the Ultimaker.

Unfortunately, I could not follow the talks in the main area but most talks were well attended.

Can you imagine three days and two nights of talks and programming contests? Very tough so there was a need for some light entertainment:

  • Presentation karokee – when the presenter does not have a clue about the content of the presented slides.
  • Quiz – random questions
  • Flashmob Gangnam Style
  • Nuclear tacos eating contest
  • Badges collections

and much more.

Codebits ended on Saturday evening with the presentation of the outcomes of the programming contests, and the prize giving ceremony as well as a few speeches from the VIPs of SAPO – unfortunately these speeches were given in Portuguese and I cannot therefore tell you what was said.

Codebits is well-established with more and more attendees from 400 in 2007 to approx 1 000 this year. I do not know if it can get bigger but in 2013 Codebits Lisbon will run parallel with Codebits Brazil.

After this rather demanding event, I took a few days off in Portugal with my daughter. There is so much to do there that three and half days were definitely not enough.

Day 1 was dedicated to the Lisbon aquarium – I was told one of the biggest and most populated aquariums in the world. There you can meet the usual fish as well as sunfish, sea otters, sharks and penguins. The day finished with a Fado dinner.







Day 2 was a nice visit to Sintra, the summer retreat of the Portuguese kings. There are several castles in Sintra. For me, the most beautiful was the Costello dos Mouros or Castle of the Moors from the eighth century. Beautiful old stones among huge boulders – you feel like a mountain goat climbing up the very narrow paths. Other castles included the Palacio da Pena and the Palacio Nacional. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the Park of Pena – I suppose one has to keep something for the future.


Day 3 – Woke up with a reminder of the muscles I did not know I had. Mountain climbing is not for the unfit. With the aid of some painkillers we climbed yet another hill to visit the Castello S. Jorge in the centre of Lisbon – lots of stairs! This castle is yet another ruin dating from the Moorish era and then conquered by the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, in 1147. More climbing on the ramparts – I must admit that the coffee shop with its peacocks and cats was very welcome. The afternoon was filled with a visit to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum with its treasures collected from all over the world. I loved the “Portrait of an Old Man” by Rembrandt but was not impressed by the French furniture or silver.

On the last day, we did a little shopping and walked around the centre of town and along the Tejo.

One thing I was not prepared for was an invasion of green and white t-shirts – Celtic played Benfica on Tuesday. No squirmishes, the ambience was great but why did the Celtic fans have to come back in the same plane as us! There was not one inch to spare.

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