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Found the culprit for a long standing problem with Linux install disk booting on my Dell Studio XPS 1645 today at http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=126993#p692786 – it was my wireless card. Was facing this problem at least since last October when I tried to install latest editions of Fedora and ArchLinux but couldn’t. On Linux Mint 14 Cinnamon now.
It’s been over a month and a half since the last edition of FOSSMeet at NIT Calicut. As an active member of organizing team for FOSSMeets ’10 and ’11 and a keen but silent observer for the 2013 edition, I want to share some history, some ideas & few observations with this post. The intent is to generate discussion among people who have been part of earlier FOSSMeets and to leave some things to ponder about (and act on) for juniors.
FOSSMeet 2010 and the preparations that led to it were a great experience for me as a fresher in the college. We have a Google Group for FOSSMeet discussions connecting alumni and others connected to FOSSMeet in some or other way together. The thing I liked most was the open discussions we had on the mailing list about the problems faced in our campus when it comes to organizing a technology focused event like FOSSMeet, the event structure of FOSSMeet itself, lots of suggestions and ideas being shared from alumni, seniors, and even freshers like me and Pranav. It was exactly like the way I imagined an open community works – involving everyone without bias on age, seniority, gender, etc. Much thought was given even to suggestions we gave as freshers (fresh perspectives), and questions/doubts/uncertainties that we raised were patiently addressed. We also had few IRC meetings, and even got trolled in one of them . I got to learn the history of FOSS culture at NITC and got connected to many interesting seniors and alumni. What more could a budding FOSS enthusiast ask for?
I contributed to FOSSMeet that year by designing the website along with Pranav Ashok. It was my first complete website based on Drupal, and I can’t describe in words the amount of learning and fun I had working on it (working till midnight at SSL (that too in first year!); getting ourselves locked in the IT Lab Complex in the midnight of Dec. 31, it was Pranav’s birthday; etc). We made sure all kinds of information that participants/speakers would look for was easily available on the site, and even went on to properly archive the websites of previous editions of FOSSMeet so that visitors get a complete picture about our history. There was a small forum to answer queries raised by visitors (especially freshers of our campus), and registration of both delegates and speakers was handled through the website itself – thanks to the awesome contrib modules available for Drupal (guess the registration team was pretty much relieved that they could just export an Excel sheet of all registrations). The amount of support and freedom given to us by seniors (especially Amarnath) was heartening. Overall, this one website got me started with Drupal and can be credited as the reason for many other sites I did later (including my best website work yet – the CSED site). To happy memories of an upcoming web enthusiast…
Another way I was able to contribute that year was as a volunteer in the Speaker Hospitality team. I recall asking Amarnath what would he choose, and I had my answer. It was a great experience getting to meet almost all the speakers in person (even Atul Chitnis!), sharing ideas and views with them, getting inspired in the process, and yeah running to and fro to the cool (literally) NITC Guest House to arrange accommodation for speakers and making sure they were comfortable. Seniors including Anil and Febin were very helpful in the process.
Praveen’s birthday was celebrated on the stage in one of the halls, another example I saw of how people were close to each other while working on things of common interest. Some of my most happy memories include working with GeoHackers on their website in their FOSSHut and going out for dinner at Broast (my first visit there) with the gang of geeks – 12 of us, each carrying heavy laptop bags, and only one, I, an NITC student. I don’t remember if I participated in any of the workshops, but talks by Dr V Sasi Kumar and Atul Chitnis were quite interesting. Overall, this FOSSMeet was a huge success with good participation, effective talks and workshops (most popular was one on Blender IIRC), and a lot of happy memories.
- FOSSMeet 2011 - Not so aptly titled, but gives a perspective on few other earlier FOSSMeets
- FOSSMeet@NITC/2010 - Sujith’s blogpost
- FOSSMeet 2010 – A Flickr Set
- FOSS Meet @ NITC 2010 – Another Flickr Set
Something was different this time, less enthusiasm among the team, lack of proper leadership and hence lack of a clear vision about the aim & purpose of the event, perhaps it was the fatigue of conducting another related conference just a few months earlier – FOSS in Education (which saw RMS visiting Calicut and we students getting to interact with him in person). There was comparatively lesser amount of discussion on the mailing list (intrusion of Facebook into our lives can be attributed to this), or if we look at it the quality of discussion was different this time.
I took the responsibility of Speakers Manager along with helping out with the website (logical promotion from my previous year’s responsibilities) this time. I had visited two professional FOSS related conferences that year – PyCon 2010 and FOSS.IN 2010 – and met a lot of geeks and hackers. Anjhan’s keynote at FOSS.IN had a great impact on me, and also made me realize how grand FOSSMeet used to be when he mentioned it there on that stage. I realized expectations were high and I had a relatively important role to perform.
A lot of hard work followed in hundreds of email exchanges with potential speakers (some of them I had befriended the previous year or in other conferences), arranging for their travel plans, accommodation arrangements in the Guest House and hostels, making sure all their needs were met, etc. Anil Vishnu, my senior, again was a great help. One thing different this time was the visit of Chamba team to our campus a week before FOSSMeet started, this was a great initiative to try and get talented students from NITC involved in their team. But I found myself burdened with work and responsibility and aghast with conflict of interests among FOSSMeet activities and some event by a group which was part of organizing bodies of FOSSMeet; perhaps it was just lack of communication among our whole team – a serious problem which scales with the size of teams.
On the website front, we tried to make the session proposal process more open this time, and received a few proposals. I believe a smooth web experience matters a lot in making things open using technology and we faced few problems in that respect, but web team couldn’t be blamed completely for this because that year we faced problems with our hosting provider with one server upgrade and a last minute server crash. I learnt how difficult it becomes sometimes to convey ideas to others in the team. There were some heated exchanges and ego clashes which had long term impact much later. Alas, important lessons learnt the hard way.
Another disheartening aspect of this year was low attendance in some of the best workshop sessions arranged that year – Git workshop by Noufal, Intro to GCC Compiler Collection by Praseed Pai, and many of the talks. I had even personally identified the best technical sessions and tried to promote them in our class but the response wasn’t as expected. Python workshop was overcrowded, the most popular session that year. It, indeed, showed the need of a better mechanism to allow entry to a workshop based on prerequisites and interest of participants. Otherwise, it becomes a problem for both the organizers and the speakers in effectively conducting the sessions. Some speakers mentioned missing prerequisite among the audience, and some were of course disappointed with low participation in their sessions.
Some of the best moments from that year were my interactions with Niyam Bhushan and Praveen. Praveen inspired an urge in me to ask questions, and Niyam left a message to never give up on my passion. At the end of the event, the team faced a complete burn out, and not much effort was done to properly document the event – something I think is very important. One other thing I personally felt was a need to question ourselves – Was it all worth the effort? Were we able to realize a dream of having NITC community involved in open source development? Heck, were we gaining anything out of this, technically and otherwise (an inner satisfaction)? We were so tired that no other FOSS related activity was done that semester except for one preplanned LaTeX session.
I remember meeting Jerrin, Shamil and a few others and questioning ourselves about last FOSSMeet and think about the next one. I had personally moved away from most of the FOSS activities in the campus (were they any left by then?) and wanted to play a minimal role in FOSSMeet that were to happen. We tried including all technical groups of campus this time, ISTE was a fresher. But there were internal troubles within our team, somehow we had failed to inspire our juniors to lead the effort. And again, there was minimal discussion over the mailing list or the Facebook group that had been formed. I also felt there was lack of interest in our team to discuss on questions like the aim of FOSSMeet, why should we even do it or how it could help change the face of technical activities in the campus, when I once raised them in a physical meeting. Sadly, after some efforts, some preparations and some rescheduling of dates, the event was called off.
Before starting on this one. I want to acknowledge the efforts of the team behind bringing FOSSMeet back! The efforts by Shamil, Jerrin, Arunanand (Taa), Nimish, Vipin and Jaseem are commendable. Especially, with the help of Taa’s professionalism & experience and a burning desire in Shamil to bring it back, the seniors were able to inspire the juniors to make FOSSMeet happen this year. The team composed of many dedicated second years – Govind, Karun, Shiv, Vinith, Adithya, Hemant, Pallab, Vimal and many more – who put their best efforts. Third years including Yazar, Prajith, Sudev, Ashwin, Bandna and many more helped with their experience and wherever they could. The speaker line up was good, both for talks and workshops. I heartily congratulate everyone in the team to make this happen, bringing something of legacy back to life isn’t an easy task, something I can tell from experience.
But all wasn’t so well during the actual conduct this year. I observed few things myself and there were comments from speakers and participants as well (see links below). I couldn’t be an active part this year because of other commitments, but it was great and humbling experience being a silent observer for once.
One general observation was the same as earlier – audience not fitting in the right sessions, which leads to some of them being overcrowded and some being almost empty. Also, the expectations of a speaker aren’t met in terms of prerequisites and interest of the audience in their session. This is IMO a not-so-difficult problem to solve – IIT Madras has been doing this in their HackFest (during Shastra) at least for last 4 years since I know about it. A screening process for delegates, that could be easily implemented on the website, which helps them choose which sessions to attend based on their interests and earlier experience in those fields could be very effective. This is more important for the type of audience that FOSSMeet caters to – students, some of them completely uninitiated about how free communities and open source works. This could also help in scheduling the sessions depending on the numbers and difficulty levels of sessions.
There were some complaints about arbitrary reschedulings, delays in initiation of sessions, etc. Also, something I observed myself, there were no volunteers in some sessions to introduce the speaker, to track the time taken in a talk or to present the memento at the end of the session. I understand the problems organizers face (being one myself earlier) but I felt this could have been dealt with more professionally and carefully. An intro session on where to find information, how to identify volunteers, etc. during the inauguration of the event could certainly help.
This time the team opted to use HasGeek’s Funnel for proposal acceptance. Funnel is a pretty awesome tool for the task, but switching to it should have been done well in advance. I observed there were some proposals on the website in the beginning which never appeared later on Funnel. Also, there was some gap in communication among the proposers and organizers (especially pointed out by students from Amritha – I was really happy to see so many proposals coming from students there), again this is something organizers should be very careful about in conducting a professional event.
Another complaint was about the student audience being complete novice for some sessions. Personally, I was shocked to see the number of students who appeared for Django Hacknight who were completely clueless about even the syntax of Python (sadly, the hacknight that was supposed to be done among 4-5 people turned into just another beginner session on how to start with Django with about 25 participants). This is not an easy problem to solve, only thing that can help is regular meetups/sessions during the year by seniors interested in technology and open culture. Student organizations like CSEA, FOSSCell, IEEE have been trying to help but regularly tend to get lost in clearly defining their purpose of existence and things they need to focus on.
Blogposts about FOSSMeet 2013
- Journey to FOSSMeet
- Functional Programming with Scala – workshop at NIT Calicut as part of FOSSMEET 2013
- FOSS Meet@NITC
- MiniDebConf at NIT-C (Nandaja)
- MiniDebConf at NIT-C (Shirish)
It’s been an interesting journey over last 4 years, with many ups and downs. I have tried to cover things which can be improved on, mixed with history and memories at this time of nostalgia while I am about to leave college. I might be biased in my views on things or might have failed to see the complete picture, for which I invite viewpoints from others. On a happier note, this long (and) overdue blog post is finally complete.
It’s been 10 days since I started this challenge. Up to now, I seem to be failing in living up to the daily requirement in the Fibonacci order (0, 1, 1, 2 – the day gaps); of course, I don’t want the sequence to continue.
In retrospect, I can see what stopped me in the days I missed – once it was just a tiring day, someday it was work/extended meeting, some day just plain lack of creativity. And then, there is the fear of mediocrity - uncertainty over the quality of content that I can generate on a daily basis (Do read up on Oatmeal’s view on this).
I have come to believe that perhaps the writing challenge I have undertaken is not so important as the quality of content I post. Sharing a quote, or a few photographs do not seem enough to just live up to the daily task. A fairly decent write-up takes anywhere between an hour to three hours to produce (and sometimes days if you count the breaks in between), an amount of time I can’t devote on a daily basis right now. Does it sound like giving up on the challenge? Yes and no. Yes, because in literal terms it won’t go to completion; no, because perhaps I failed to consider the practicality of such a challenge but will continue to post more often this month than ever before.
I will now focus on writing about things that I had in mind since long, some of which are lying incomplete in my drafts folder. Stay tuned.
Even after giving enough time to that someone you are pissed off with, you can’t always expect to be impressed. Perhaps Randy was wrong.
I held this view for a very long time; but time has taken such a turn in last few months that I am only left wondering what Randy exactly meant by enough time.
Inspired long back by Oliver Emberton’s herculian 30 Day Challenger, I have decided to try it out for myself this month. Feb being the smallest month should serve as the easiest possible start.
The motivation for doing this are similar – stretching myself to give up on a bad habit, get the most out of my day, or being more productive in general.
Given that I have a lot to say, things that keep on forming virtual blog posts in my mind – some of which are technical, some about my dream college, some advice for juniors, some worldly pondering, some internal struggles – I have decided on my first challenge:
Publish Something Useful Everyday for Next 28 Days
The definition of useful might sound a bit flaky, but this definitely includes writing every day. And that something could be source code, photographs, or just a bunch of thoughts (this post is #1) among other possible things.
I will be keeping track of my challenge here on this blog (and that will make this Feb my most blogged-in month! ). I am yet to decide on a punishment if I fail to meet a day’s goal; I think I should do that after observing this experiment for about a week, given meeting expectations at work and in my BTech Project are my first two priorities.
Alright, all the best to me.
The following are few important lessons I learnt over the gone year – 2011 (see Part 1 here):
To be very frank (and you can call me weird), I didn’t know the meaning of a close friend until about early 2011. As far as I remember, until first semester, definition of a friend for me was somebody who shared similar interests, mutual respect, and trust. I remember objecting to Rama to call him names (in return of his such various favors) by saying “dude, I respect you!”. But I have learnt friendship was much more than that – sharing your deepest secrets, laughs and cries together, making fun of each other, having frequent fights but getting along soon after and more. Looking back at school life, I had one such friend; hundreds of acquaintances otherwise. You want the count, see your Facebook (and next sub-section). Somehow, there was loneliness in college, nobody to call a friend with its new definition, getting along was not so easy, something was obviously wrong.
I did an experiment once using WhatIsWrongWith.Me, but failed to get too many sample points to form a decent conclusion, only one of the 5 responses seemed honest which called me ‘a guy who is afraid to make friends actually close friends’ and having ‘very very bad dressing sense’ among other things. I failed to recognize who could it be from, until he told me himself months later. This and some other self-discovery related events initiated a feeling of self-remorse and burning need to correct these things.
To loosen up, I went out, apparently had lot of fun, made blunders – did things I would never imagine myself doing (not anywhere near ZNMD in scale though), made some better acquaintances (one such, who claims he has no friends only acquaintances – pretty close to my idea of friends now), and more. And as I discovered later, this led to more harm than gain – including loss of interest in things I was passionate about, growing carelessness, and even integrity of self. Anyhow, going over all these experiences, I did gain realistic perspective of relationships – all’s well that ends well.
Friends != Facebook Contacts
This new year’s eve, I sat down to review the list of friends (Damn FB, it has made it so tough to organize friends list with the introduction of timeline, why can’t they just show the list in alphabetical order? Or provide an option to sort friends list with various parameters?), and removed about 140 after checking whether we ever had a message exchange, or any other interactions by using “See Friendship” option. Now I have made it a point to accept requests only if I know the person or if they respond reasonably to my simple question – do we know each other?
Part 3 will be out soon. Criticism welcome on this and other posts.
It’s been long since I wrote something. To be frank, it was last July in which I actually spoke out my mind. Of course, I wished to write a lot more (who doesn’t). This one is going to be long, so I decided to partition it.
The following are few important lessons I learnt over the gone year – 2011:
Computer Science != Computer Engineering
Vineeth Sir always calls it Computing Science, we even had a discussion over it, perhaps over a year back( and once again recently); the doubt got cleared up only after I looked up ACM’s Computing Curricula Recommendations which defines five sub-disciplines of computing: Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Information Systems, Information Technology, and Software Engineering (they have pretty decent comparisons among these disciplines using pictures and charts). The story didn’t end there though, I was yet to realize what repercussions this seemingly subtle difference had in store for me. Some people like Nandu (had an hour-long discussion with him months back) would call it the Department’s shortcoming that it is too focused on the Science part of the field, which leads to lesser interest in technology among students and hence, lack of quality of academic (or otherwise) projects. Anyhow, for me this was the year of actually realizing this difference – with low scores and finding lesser interest in some of the core theory subjects including Data Structures and Algorithms (not all though – I loved Discrete Computational Structures and managed to secure an ‘S’). Perhaps I always wanted to be a Computer Engineer! I was always the tech-geek with basic know-how of (almost) everything, mostly counting on my experience, trying to help others and having the fondness for cryptic syntax, etc; but over time it dawned on me that that’s not all – theory subjects tend to be more intellectually inclined (or research-focused if you may), and as Murali Sir frequently points out – it should be a matter of choice and not inability to prefer systems over theory in CS. Perhaps the most important thing that I missed to do was reading owing to over-confidence and a fuzzy image of self.
Lot more to say. Part 2 coming out soon.
It was this Monday when I visited Rath mam with my friend Arvis. Rath mam had just returned from US after visiting both her children who are well settled in US working in IT companies. Somehow that day our discussion went on to what me and Arvis plan to do in the future after college. Mam was telling us why we should think about moving outside India for higher studies. She stated three important reasons why India is not yet the best place to lead life for those with some moral support system:
- Population explosion
- Typical Indian mentality
The third reason was not much comprehensible to me, and the second is pretty obvious. What caught my attention was the first one – corruption. She was mentioning how one can try to keep up with their values, but the system just won’t let that happen and someday one just has to break. She also warned us not to regret ever in life over the decisions we take now, and advised to be aware enough of the opportunities that lie ahead in the remaining 2 years of our undergraduate life and to take the full advantages of them.
I have been inspired a lot by one of my seniors who has been offered fully funded PhD from 2 US universities and is leaving for the US soon leaving a major job offer from Amazon India. I have never given a serious thought to moving out of India but that discussion with Rath mam gave me a new insight to think over things. Also, perhaps it was just co-incidence just a day before meeting mam I tweeted:
Agreed Neither does punctuality, honesty or integrity RT @rahulp_nair Being sincere in life doesn’t do good in this “ill” society of ours’!!
And it was yesterday, in the morning, I was thinking about what happened of application for passport which I submitted last March in college (even this application got submitted only because there was this passport camp in college during the time, otherwise I might not have applied myself). I had heard about the difficulties in obtaining the passport from relatives and friends and how one has to bribe the policemen and officers involved to get it done. Anyhow, it was another co-incidence, that the same day my friend Mukul informed me that he got a call for my passport verification and I was informed through a call that I need to submit a few documents at Women’s Police Station, near Lohiya Nagar.
In the evening, I visited my friend Agam who lives in Lohiya Nagar and asked him to accompany me to the Police Station. We met the person (a man in his 50′s, sitting outside the passport verification room in open air) whom I had talked with in the morning, and submitted the documents with a little informal chat. He had a copy of my application along with that of another NITC friend of mine who also lives in Ghaziabad. There was a little silence while he was keeping the documents and I was feeling a little nervous before asking to leave. Just then he asked for a bribe. I had only 140 bucks with me, and tried to give 40 to him (I had heard that 20-30 bucks was what policemen in our hostel were taking during the verification), he immediately snapped, “ye kya de rahe ho, isme to bas prasad aayega” (what are you trying to give, one can buy only prasad with this much money). I was taken aback and tried to give him the only other note I had, that of 100 bucks, on which he laughed a little said, “isme kya hoga, chalo jao yahaan se” (what will I do with this much, just get lost). I said, “isse zyada to hain nahi mere paas” (I don’t have more than this) and was a little relieved believing that he was OK with not taking bribe from me as I didn’t have enough. We started to leave, and the person, who had occupied his chair by now, called out to us from behind, “bataye de raha hoon, kaam nahi hoga tumhara, kam se kam 500 rupaye lagenge” (I am telling you guys, your work will not be done, at least 500 rupees are required). I was shocked to hear this – how openly could he demand for bribe like this?
Anyway we left the area for the time, and discussed a little in the parking area. I borrowed 200 bucks from Agam, he kept another note of 500 hidden and we set out again thinking about trying to settle the matter with 300 bucks. On the way Agam kept telling me how it was impossible to get the verification done without bribing this guy, he may just send a false report canceling the whole application in the process, and how even if I apply again (costing me above 1000 bucks), my application may end up with this same person, who will still not to do it until bribed. He also had to bribe this same person for his passport verification a few months earlier. To my relief, the person agreed with 300 bucks after blabbering a little. On asking how much time it will take, he said many more steps are there and somebody will visit my house too later (and ask for bribe again – read below).
On reading the above two incidents, I ask you – what choice do we (common, law-abiding citizens of our great country) have in situations like these? What Anna Hazare and team are trying to set up – Jan Lokpal – will that work to change the state of affairs even at this grass-root level? Staying here, either you forget about your morals/values or whatever conscience you have and become a part of the system, or end up nowhere fighting the system. Is the only way out is to leave this country because it will never change (not anytime soon anyway) hoping for a better future in foreign lands?
Got info from my father that some policeman visited my house for verification and again took a 1000 bucks (500 for himself another 500 for somebody he has to pass on the application to) this time promising that he will get the job done without hassles like the need to visit some police station. Listening to him, I had to wonder why it is not such a bad idea to legalize bribery (as I mention in response to Amarnath’s comment below), if the bribe takers can really get the job done fast.
Ponderings of the Year Past: Part 1 « Kartik Scribbles…, Kartik, Noor Manseel Mohammed, and 6 others are discussing. Toggle Comments
This will be short.
A small announcement:
I will be out of touch for about a week on the Internet. Disconnected on all social networks (including twitter) and off-line on chats (including GMail chat) and unavailable on SMS. I have already disabled all email and SMS notifications from the social networks. This is just for the sake of experimenting to see if I can still live without social media, so don’t get weird ideas about this.
I have decided to introspect, give myself a break, finish that huge list of tasks in my to-do list and see how it goes without all those distractions. I have been disconnected earlier (those power cuts, and infrastructure failures) but those times I was desperate to connect, this time it’s different – it’s intentional. May be I will write about my experience later.
For the case of crisis, I will still be available on phone and email (which I pledge to check no more than once in a day) for those who can already connect with me through these media.