• Gyan! A FOSS Workshop @ MNIT

    dscn0486 by uditsharma03.

    Neuron '09, a technical fest, was held between 23rd and 24th of October, 2009 in my institute and I must say, those guys managed to pull it off pretty well! A once in a blue moon situation, most of the events violated the 'Indian Standard Time' rule by actually beginning and ending on time! When's the last time you saw that happen here? Anyways, as always, we from the MNIT Open Source User Mesh (MOSUM) decided to conduct a little FOSS workshop during the three day programme. The 24th of October was the auspicious date as per the alignment of the planets (yeah right). So just like we did with all our other workshops that happened during our tech fests, we decided to bring in speakers from outside. Steven Fernandez (who works for Druvaa, and is also a former Red Hat employee) talked about the FOSS ecosystem, how it works and how one can be a part of it. Jai Pandya (JECRC, Jaipur) followed with a beginner oriented talk on Wordpress and how to use it setup a website in under 5 minutes. Finally, I took over with a not-so-beginner-oriented talk on parallel programming using OpenMP (#pragma anyone?). Furthermore, the turnout of 120 was far more than any of us expected! Wonder if the city of Jaipur is really awakening. Let's just hope that we see new faces turning up for our LUG-Jaipur meets from here on. :)

  • In a daze

    The past one week has been quite interesting. Things that never crossed my mind, seem to have happened, and no amount of pinching myself seems to change things, which certainly proves that all this is real. In one part of the world, Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize. While this seems to have generated quite a furore, the media looks like they're enjoying every bit of it. Check out these cartoons to get an idea of why people think he shouldn't have won the award. Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times for the same award without winning it, yet, people like Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Yasser Arafa found a way through. Sigh. Anyways, to all those of you who think he didn't deserve this, at least be happy that it wasn't given off to his predecessor. That thought kind of works for me. :)

    Diametrically across the planet, in a hostel room numbered 4/24, of a university named MNIT-Jaipur, something strange has happened as well. In what seems like a bizarre case of insanity, I am actually _slogging_ for a change. No, this is not another one of those mid term exams (which should be aptly renamed to something like take-a-break-from-whatever-you're-doing exams; makes more sense that way), nor does it have anything to do with assignment submissions either. Neither of those take up much of my time anyway (final year stereotype I'd say). What seems to have got me bogged down, is an exam, which I'm bound to write if I wish to fulfill a destiny I've chosen for myself. I'm talking about the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). By the way, this is supposed to be gee-ar-ee and not gree (which rhymes with glee). There's a reason why I've mentioned this here, because there are people in this institute who're known to say stuff like, "I'm going to write gree, toofil and iltus" (referring to GRE, TOEFL and IELTS), and they are _not_ trying to be funny. So if one of you guys stumble upon this, please do get it right from here on. Anyways, so here I am going through word list after word list, passage after passage and silly math problems that make you so over confident, you end up getting them wrong. Man I wouldn't wish this upon my worst enemy, or wait, maybe I would.

    The best part about the whole idea behind the GRE is that it isn't the sole factor that determines your admission to a foreign university. Your academic profiles and recommendations matter the most so yes, if you're one of those guys who people look at and say OMG-I-WISH-I-HAD-A-PROFILE-LIKE-HIS, then relax, an average GRE score will do as well. :)

    I've gotten into a good deal with my conscience, and we've both decided to give the where'll-I-be-after-I-graduate thoughts a one way ticket to /dev/null. To all you non techies, you can say those thoughts were sent to hell. :)  The amount of attributes that affect the answer to that question is overwhelming, all the way from the N masters programmes you could apply to, to the companies you could work for and finally to the roadside shops you could open. It's options galore!  For me, the question still remains unanswered but yes, there seem to be little sprouts of options coming up, although, they're far from bearing fruit. The day it _does_, I'm treating myself to a drink, maybe more. :)

    I'll be glad after this phase is over, until then, I'm getting back to my word lists... duress, dutiful, dwindle, dynamic, dyspeptic...

    Wow, I'm excited already.

  • 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!