• Software Freedom Week @ MNIT-Jaipur

    This is yet another one of those long-time-no-post-buster posts. I've been quite bogged down by work as always, with exams not exactly helping either. The past one week flew by with the Software Freedom Week celebrations we had here in MNIT. While I still wish we'd done something like last year, where we had 5 seminars, 2 labs and a trip to BITS-Pilani to top it off, this year, SFW was held on a slightly duller note but the intention remained the same: get the juniors involved in the world of FOSS!

    Unlike last year, where everyone had to put up with me through 4 out of the 5 talks, I took a backseat this year as I let my juniors showcase their work and areas of interests. On day 1, the 15th of the month, Harsh and Nitin from 3rd year kicked off with a very good presentation on developing Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) using JavaFX. I took over day 2, with a talk I've always wanted to give, titled "Virtualisation: The why, the what and the how". The toughest part as far as the topic was concerned was to strip it down well enough and keep it light enough for a crowd of 2nd and 1st years who didn't have a solid computer science background. So my talk was pretty much confined to the different kinds of Server Virtualisation and a little bit of Storage Virtualisation all of which was depicted in a newbie friendly way using pictures alone. :) Day 3 was launched with an introduction to SunSPOTs by Ankit and Sarguru, who gave the juniors a very good overview about the capabilities of one of the coolest gadgets ever! The demos that followed also took the students by surprise (mainly the sample demos that are freely available). Day 4 was again a talk by Harsh on PHP and other aspects of web development, especially the usage of Content Management Systems. Finally, Day 5, that is today, was the finale with me giving a talk on Parallel Programming concepts. While I had a feeling that this would go over their heads, I was quite surprised to see almost everyone scoring well on the quiz that followed the talk! I talked about the switch to the multi-core era, about the free lunch being over, what threads are, multi-threading, the devil in the form of race conditions and how to go about parallel programming with OpenMP. :)

    Perk bars were handed out freely to students who were active during the presentations and headphones were given away as prizes to the quiz winners. :)

    Being my last SFW session here in MNIT, I just can't help but wonder how it'll be like in my absense, next year on. Maybe the flame's been instilled into my juniors, maybe it's not. Bah... who cares! :P

  • BOSS GNU/Linux seminar @ MNIT

    A seminar was held in our institute today by members from CDAC, Pune (Center for Development of Advanced Computing, Pune) on BOSS GNU/Linux (Bharat Operating System Solutions). For those of who haven't heard of BOSS GNU/Linux, it is basically a Linux distribution made for use in Indian institutions, Government agencies and NGOs. Even the Indian Navy uses BOSS! The equation for the distribution is basically as follows:

    Debian Etch + localisation-projects = BOSS

    I was told that they have support for the 22 official Indian languages as of now. While their prime focus is on the localisation work, they have some other interesting areas as well, one of which is a diagnostics tool which will make it easier for the developers to handle bug reports from the users. I might just decide to work on this in the near future. :)

    So I left at around 9.30 in the morning to pick up the three gentlemen from the hotel at which they were putting up, and by around 10.30, we were good to go! The department serminar hall was packed with 2nd years and a handful of 3rd and 4th years (wonder where the rest of them were). Anyways, the CDAC folks started off with an introduction to FOSS (a few of the 2nd years had got a dose on that from myself a week ago) and then gave the students an overview of BOSS. Unfortunately for our institute's already tarnished reputation, the worst of the lot from 2nd year were present in the hall and they were rather wild (not necessarily intrigued by Linux here). In the tea break that followed, almost half the crowd left, which in my opinion was a good thing because only the cream among the crowd was left. The sessions resumed again, with presentations which explained all the basics of working with fonts like Unicode and ASCII, the font rendering engines and so forth. They also demonstrated the use of the Indian fonts in Open Office Writer and then proceeded to show a completely localised GNOME. This was then followed by an overview of the BOSS GNU/Linux installation (which is basically the Lenny graphical installer with the BOSS splash). We were then handed out a couple of LiveDVDs, which I'll probably put up in our local FOSS repository. Anyways, I'll be giving the juniors a hands-on session with the Linux installation process (it's going to be Ubuntu) next week. Please do turn up. :)

  • Another short vacation

    So I'm back from Bangalore after a five day long trip. While most of it was spent at home playing with my five month old nephew, I did have some quality time hanging around as well. I got to Bangalore after a four and a half hour long flight from Jaipur, via Mumbai on Monday the 13th. Three days at home followed after which I finally decided to see daylight! I caught up with my CA friends Vasudha and Abhishek. We got lunch, did some shopping and took a trip to the office where I got a glimpse of the laptop I was supposed to get the next day. I also managed to meet Swathi, the cluster engineer who helped me with HA-Cron which finally landed me the grand prize. :)

    We then proceeded to catch 'The Hangover' at Fun Cinema with Tirthankar, another cluster engineer. I kind of forgot when the last time was since I literally went LOL and ROTFL, watching a movie! Damn I just love 'R' rated comedies :). Dinner and a trip to CCD followed, after we which we all got back home.

    The next day, Saturday, was the moment I'd been waiting for. Yes, the CFF-2008 presentation ceremony! I'll let the pictures do the talking here. And my new laptop totally kicks ass! I just can't have enough of it. I'll be giving Windows Vista it's coup de grace tomorrow and I'll be bringing in Debian Lenny and OpenSolaris instead. Anyways, final year has begun and I've got a whopping five guest faculties this semester, which pretty much equates to five subjects less for me this semester. Let's see what I can make out of whatever little time I have left here in college. Adios for now!

  • And the winner is: HA-Cron :)

    The Sun Code For Freedom contest results are finally out and my pet project, HA-Cron, has been declared the first prize winner. :)

    My old HP Compaq 6515b laptop had served me well for 2 years and now, it's got zero battery life, no sound (it's always been like that) and a touch-pad that goes crazy after 5 minutes of usage. Now, with the new Dell laptop I'll be getting, I can actually setup a proper cluster! Good thing Open HA Cluster 2009.06 allows you to setup a cluster with just one NIC (cheers to Crossbow). Can't wait to give this a spin!

    Congratulations to all the other winners as well!

  • EDA, multi-cores, Chennai and the rest of my summer

    While my last summer in Jaipur was nothing more than a monotonous drag, this summer has been a lot more fun than I thought! For one thing, I'm working on a really interesting, fun and challenging project which is awesomely titled, 'Multi Core Electronic Design Automation', the aim of which is about trying to close down the so called 'design gap' as far as EDA tools of today are concerned. With the end of the unicore era, our processors are no longer becoming faster (wait, let me explain). Having two or four or one million cores isn't going to make your Quake I game run any faster because Quake I, isn't multi threaded and will utilise only _one_ core of your multi/many core architecture. So as they say, the free lunch is over and we've really got to change our approach to solving real world problems using computers. We need to make sure that our algorithms can be parallelised and they're scalable as far as an increase in the number of processing elements is concerned. EDA is a field that's been badly hit by the transition to the multi core age because Moore's law isn't exactly slowing down and hence, the complexity of the hardware to be designed is growing at a rate that is much faster than the rate of improvement in the tools that exist to design the said kind of circuitry. With the kind of time to market constraints that exist today, hardware designers are having a rather tough time keeping up and this is where the need to parallelise EDA tools becomes of utmost importance because these tools are yet to grow out of the unicore era. How do we make better use of the increased computational power that multi core architectures offer? What kind of changes do we incorporate into the algorithms used for VLSI design? These are the questions that are to be answered in this research and it's really fun to be giving this problem a shot!

    Apart from my project, we've had two LUG-Jaipur meetings here in MNIT in a gap of 2 weeks. You may check out the pictures from the event here. Furthermore, I'd been to IIT-Madras for the OPECG-2009 workshop (Optimising Performance of parallel programs on Emerging multi-Core architectures and GPUs, which is by the way, the worst abbreviation ever). The workshop was rather disappointing owing to the fact that they didn't keep most of their promises and ended up being more or less introductory. Since we'd already been working on parallel programming technologies, we found the whole workshop rather basic. But on a more positive note, I got to see IIT-M and Chennai in general. And the taste of good old south Indian food was quite a relief!

    Guess I'm done for the time being. I anxiously await the Sun Code For Freedom (CFF) results that will be out next week. It'll be interesting to see which awesome project ends up winning. :)