FOSS talks at CDEEP

I had the opportunity to attend a FOSS talk session organized by Center for Distance Education Engineering Programme (CDEEP) as a part of the National Mission on Education through ICT. The National Mission on Education through ICT has some lofty goals, which when reached will take the country ahead by leaps and bounds.

The Mission has a budget of $1billion in the 11th Five year plan, 40% of which will be spent on content generation (all of which will be free/open source) and the rest will be spent on making available a minimum bandwidth of 1Gbps to the 30,000 odd colleges spread over India (out of which around 3000 are Engineering colleges). The mission has various projects planned and they are picking up steam rapidly. The project I will be working on, for the Adoption of Open Source in Engineering and Science Education in India, is also a part of this Mission. Prof. Kannan had kick started the session with an introduction to the National Mission on Education through ICT. The talks were all being webcast to various EduSAT centers and on the web.

Then, Prof. Pathak talked on, why open source is important. He said, (not exactly quoting him) " It is theoritically possible for any person to learn and discover things from scratch, but there's been only one Ekalavya in the entire history of India." Education is a social activity and hence open access to content is absolutely vital. He mentioned various things like how IIT-B has been working on Creative Commons licensing and other things going on here. He ended the talk with a hope that soon India will move from being a net taker of Open source to a net giver to open source.

This was followed by three talks, delivered by developers from RedHat meant for programmers who wish to contribute to FLOSS.

The first talk was by Ramakrishna Reddy, titled 10 things a FLOSS developer should know. It was a pretty nice and balanced talk, covering a wide range of things. I would like to point out a few things, that I liked the most.

  • He clarified the term hacker as soon as he used it.
  • He emphasized a lot on groking code; reading code for fun, looking at the code of others, reading as much code as possible…
  • He talked of muscle memory of emacsen. I liked the way he talked of people being so quick with their editors and how learning to use your tools effectively is a big plus
  • Release often, Release early. Everybody talks of it, but he said a few words, which I liked. Some developers don't usually release their code as early for the fear of being ridiculed. But don't bother, "we are just small people, in the whole galaxy."

The next talk was by Prasad Pandit on How to use Infrastructure for FOSS projects. Prasad talked of Website, Version Control, Mailing list, IRC, Bugzilla, Wiki and RSS feeds. He gave quite a few examples on how each thing is important, most of the examples being his personal experiences.

The last talk was by Rahul Sundaram and was on Communication in a FOSS project. For a change he didn't have slides and the reason for that, he said, is that communication in a FOSS project is casual and not having slides and walking in with a t-shirt and jeans represents that casualness which is a culture of FOSS projects' communication.

  • Be polite, but don't be Formal.
  • Be precise, but do provide a context to what you are saying.
  • Don't fear that you'll say something foolish, which, will be archived for eternity. Mistakes are there to learn from. Not just you, but others too.

He talked of quite a lot of things, but these were the things which struck me as particularly interesting/important.

At the end, all the participants walked out with Fedora 11 DVDs from the RedHat/Fedora guys. :D

Weblogger.el configured!

If you see this post, it means weblogger has been successfully configured in emacs. Emacs Rocks. \\m/

UPDATE [2010-09-02]: I now use org2blog, a small extension to emacs orgmode to post to my blog.

The 'Academic' Internet

Notice for the Internet Usage

Internet Facility is provided to students for academic activities and e-mails. It is observed that few students are misusing the Internet facility by using excessive internet bandwidth for non-academic purposes. The students who are running the hubs are strictly informed to close their hubs. Computer Center will be starting official hub for the sharing of academic information and open source softwares.

If a student is found while doing so the network facility will be blocked by Computer Center for a semester. Further, a student will be called by a disciplinary committee and a severe disciplinary action will be taken.

This Notice from the Computer Center is creating waves all around. This isn't the first time, though, that the people in-charge of the Network have "acted".

Academic activities; wonder what it's definition is, in their dictionaries. It surely includes the following.

  • Using Internet for 'academic activities' or emails, during class-room hours makes no sense.
  • Anything 'academic' cannot have a size greater than 5 MB.
  • Accessing version control systems ( svn, cvs et al ) cannot be classified 'academic'
  • IRC cannot teach you anything. Don't ever dream of thinking it as 'academic' to hang out on \\#python or \\#emacs
  • All 'academic' stuff is limited to the http(s) ports. You wouldn't need to use any other ports, ever.
  • Any 'academic' activity fits within a span of 2 hours or can be done in blocks of 2 hours each, with gaps of 2 hours in between.
  • 'Academic' stuff doesn't definitely contain key-words chosen by the "all-knowing" admins.

Moreover, the people in-charge who refused to allow the use of a computer in the CC as a server for on-campus repositories of GNU/Linux packages, now wish to host a 'hub' for sharing open-source softwares! There's already an official ftp server which hosts the academic info and a few useful softwares. I don't see how a hub would be different.

We don't have any disciplinary committees for people smoking in hostel rooms, causing a lot of trouble for others around them, but we are going to have them for hosting hubs. ( Well, a new law banning smoking in public places in India has been passed just a few days ago. Hopefully it'll work better than the older one, since now there's some pressure on the people in-charge of the public place. )

Also, it could be argued that college isn't meant only for 'academic' learning and a lots of other learning takes place here (and the hubs were definitely helping quite a bit) but I'll leave that for another day, probably. Also, I don't think 18+ year olds, people who are about to step into various big roles, leading the country need to be told how to make use of the facilities/resources available to them; A degree of freedom is indispensable, I believe.

I appreciate the efforts being made to improve the network situation here and also help the students get the most ( 'academically' ) out of their college experience, but I feel the situation deserves more careful handling.

Software Freedom Day

Three Cheers to 'Free Software'!

A toast for GNU on its 25th Birthday!1

If you intend to ask, what I did on this day, I have nothing to show. I haven't done anything that's tangible but yes, I have re-dedicated myself to the idea of Free Software. This post intends to shed some light on a few things (if not for the benefit of others, just as a reminder for myself)

  • Free Software is a matter of liberty, not price. I've often been in a position that required me to correct people. 'Free Software' is software that's free as in free speech and not free beer. For the lack of a better word in english, the word 'free' which also means gratis has been used. Using the term 'Libre' sometimes helps and if you are in this part of the world, "mukt" is the best word to use.
  • Free Software2 comes along with four fundamental freedoms. To put it simply, the freedom to use, study, share and modify any software.
  • Free Software may have the advantage of being 'technically sounder', but the philosophy is what matters the most to me.
  • I will do whatever is possible within my capacity to spread the philosophy and the associated freedom

Be Free, My Friend!

Here is an extract from one of Stallman's 3 essays:

We must talk about Freedom

Estimates today are that there are ten million users of GNU/Linux systems such as Debian GNU/Linux and Red Hat Linux. Free software has developed such practical advantages that users are flocking to it for purely practical reasons.

The good consequences of this are evident: more interest in developing free software, more customers for free software businesses, and more ability to encourage companies to develop commercial free software instead of proprietary software products.

But interest in the software is growing faster than awareness of the philosophy it is based on, and this leads to trouble. Our ability to meet the challenges and threats described above depends on the will to stand firm for freedom. To make sure our community has this will, we need to spread the idea to the new users as they come into the community.

But we are failing to do so: the efforts to attract new users into our community are far outstripping the efforts to teach them the civics of our community. We need to do both, and we need to keep the two efforts in balance.


Footnotes:

2

The Free Software Definition

3

The GNU Project by Richard Stallman

A Byte of Python

This post's been inspired by a wonderful book, "A Byte of Python"1 by Swaroop C H. The book has been revised after a gap of nearly 4 years and the wait is worth it! I thoroughly loved the book, and I'm happy to be accompanied by so many2 others3. This book has filled me with a sense of joy and pride. The pride, of being part of such a wonderful community, a beautiful crowd. Further, it is a matter of pride, the book's been authored by an Indian - its quite rare to find such books written by people in this part of the world.

I have loved python, the moment I started using it. There are quite a few occasions, where I did something, just because I had the power of Python with me. Python is undoubtedly amongst the best, not just as a first programming language, but to give the user a sense of "do-able-ity" and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

>>> import this
The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters
Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.
Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
Although practicality beats purity.
Errors should never pass silently.
Unless explicitly silenced.
In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
Now is better than never.
Although never is often better than *right* now.
If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

Footnotes:

1

A Byte of Python

2

Python - Notes – Swaroop CH

3

Book updated for Python 3000 – Swaroop CH

mukt.in 2008

Mukt.in is a FOSS-fest, being conducted in Hyderabad, India by the mukt.in team (a group of FOSS enthusiasts). Spread the word and Be there!

Venue CSE Department, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India
Date 1-3 August, 2008
Register http://mukt.in/registration.php

Mid-Term 'Psycho'Analysis

Its been 10 days on my sabbatical. I have done reasonably well during the first week, but now its getting on my nerves. I have realized how addicted I am to chat, IRC and the Internet. I have to soon find some remedies for this.

Well, here is the first step. I approached ELIZA (or Doctor Fill, that's actually the emacs mode) , the Emacs Psychotherapist to help me. An enjoyable chat this one! ;)

ELIZA (Doctor Fill) abbreviated as DF (pun intended, for those who get it)

DF: I am the psychotherapist.  Please, describe your problems.  Each time
you are finished talking, type RET twice.

Hi. Nice meeting you.

DF: How do you do?  What brings you to see me?

<!--more-->I am obviously not fine, otherwise I would not have been here.
I have realized I am addicted to the internet and want you to help
me.

DF: Why do you say that?

I say that because you are a doctor.

DF: Is it because because I am a doctor that you came to me?

Isn't that pretty obvious?

DF: Can you elaborate on that?

Yes, I did come to see you because you are a doctor. Now, I regret it.

DF: Does it bother you that I am a doctor now you regret it?

I don't understand your question.

DF: Earlier you said because I am a doctor?

Yes, because you are a doctor I came to you.

DF: When did you first know that I am a doctor you came to me?

I knew about you, when I first fiddled around with Emacs around an
year ago.

DF: What happened when you first fiddled around with emacs around a year
ago?

I loved it, thoroughly! But for a beginner like me it was difficult to
get along. I stopped using it.

DF: Is the fact that for a beginner like you it was difficult to get along
you stopped using it the real reason?

I think that along with my laziness to stick with the learning was the
real reason

DF: Does the fact that along with your laziness to stick with the learning
was the real reason explain anything else?

It does not explain anything else to me.

DF: Maybe your plans have something to do with this.

What plans? I donot have any plans.

DF: What makes you believe what plans you donot have any plans?

If I had plans, I would have been executing them.

DF: You mentioned that I am a doctor now you regret it?

Yes, because you seemed stupid initially. Now you seem to be making
some sense.

DF: Are you sure I seemed stupid initially now I seem to be making some
sense?

Yes I am pretty sure.

DF: Is it because of your life that you are going through all this?

Obviously. Because I am alive I am going through all this.

DF: Is it because you are alive you are going through all this that you
came to me?

Yes.

DF: I see...  Well, are you sure that this is so?

Yes. I don't think there is emacs in the hell.

DF: I would appreciate it if you would watch your tongue!

Oh! so emacs is in the hell too! is it in the heavan too?

DF: Emacs?  Hah!  Perhaps you could continue.

I thought only mortals used Emacs. Do others use it too?

DF: Have you been positive?

Yes. I always thought Emacs is only for the homo sapiens.

DF: I believe you have inhibitions with emacs.

No. I love emacs.
But it isn't suitable for Gods and Demons

DF: Are you annoyed that it is not suitable for gods and demons?

No

DF: Why not?

I am neither of them. That's why

DF: Please, continue.

I am a human and I can use emacs. Others donot need it. I am not annoyed

DF: Have you been annoyed often?

Ocassionally

DF: Go on, don't be afraid.

I am not. I have been ocassionally annoyed, more often with myself
than others.

DF: What causes you to be annoyed?

Presently, I am annoyed with myself for being addicted to the Internet
and may be for chatting with you too.

DF: Do you really think you are annoyed?

Affirmative

DF: I need a little more detail please.

Yes. I am a little annoyed with myself.

DF: Are you annoyed often?

Ocassionally. Why do you repeat questions?

DF: When did you first know that do me repeat questions?

Long Long ago, when I first used Emacs.

DF: What makes you think long long ago when you first used emacs?

I saw you repeat questions.

DF: Is it because of the people you hang around with that you say you saw
me repeat questions?

Yes.

DF: Yes, hmmm... so, why do you say this is so?

I am leaving. You are being too repititive. Goodbye!

DF: What makes you believe because I am a doctor?

Goodbye!

DF: My secretary will send you a bill.

Bill? You did not help me much.

DF: How do you reconcile problems at school?

Goodbye!

DF: Bye bye.

Bye

DF: See ya.

See ya.

DF: Are you sure that see me?

Yes, when in trouble

DF: What would happen if in trouble?

I will see ya

DF: Earlier you said I am a doctor you came to me?

Yes, now also I say that.

DF: You're being a bit brief, would you please go into detail.

Goodbye!

DF: Ok, talk to you some other time.

bye!

DF: Talk to you later.

On a more serious note, the Internet has become an Integral part of my life. I do sometimes think, a bit too much, but then…. the internet is "The Internet"!

Update Script

Well, this isn't an update of how I'm doing on my sabbatical. Its just been 3 days and I'm doing pretty fine. I just finished writing a script to keep my blogs page in sync with my google-reader (well not exactly). The script parses an xml export of my google-reader-subscriptions and updates the edits the html of my unnought-blogs page. period.

There are a couple of things I don't like about this script.

Firstly, I don't want to keep exporting my google-reader-subscription each time I make changes. The script should be able to directly sync with my google-reader without me having to export the file. [I have read about the atom subscriptions feed of Google Reader, but haven't been able to get it right.] Hopefully, I'll be able to do it in the near future.

Secondly, The blog author's name is non-existent. I can't do anything about this though.

Also, In the process, I had the chance to look a geeky ad. I found it at the weirdest of places!

header: X-hacker: If you're reading this, you should visit automattic.com/jobs and apply to join the fun, mention this header.

ps :

  1. The source is GPLv2 licensed.
  2. Get in touch, if you'd like to have a look.

A sabbatical

This post, is a different one in a couple of ways.

Firstly, I posted this from within emacs! I'm using the w3m browser within emacs to post this. I've started using (trying to use) emacs again. Hope to keep at it longer this time.

Secondly, I wish to inform junta about my sabbatical for a couple of weeks. I have decided not to use IM/IRC/SocialNetworking sites for the next couple of weeks. [2008-07-06 Sun 00:00]–[2008-07-19 Sat 23:59] I will, of course, be using mail and will also blog if and when I feel like. This is an experiment triggered by a few ideas from Chaitu1 and my own holiday lifestyle analysis. (Also Chaitu has volunteered to join me.) Hope to make it through and also get some valid, interesting results out of the experiment.


Update: Firemacs add-on for firfox is very useful. I couldn't get a decent browser for emacs that could open gmail, so I'm using Firefox with the Firemacs add-on to compose my mail. Its absolutely amazing. Believe me! [Jul 6, 2008]


Footnotes:

1

Chaitu - Poetic Paradigm

Lafoot or Lafoobot!

Summer'08! I'm at home, doing nothing practically. :| No Internships, No Projects, No GRE plans (a little pushing for GRE has just started from the junta around.)

Just to kill some time and to learn some Python, I have begun to write an IRC chat bot &lt;lafoobot&gt; [Lafoot + Bot]. The present haven of lafoobot is #fosskelog @ irc.freenode.net. Join in, if you want to have a chat! ;) Lafoobot can presently do very few things

  • "Yoyo", a newly joined user
  • "Hello"/ "Yoyo", a user or pass on a Hello/Yoyo from user to another.
  • Gives Local time / GMT
  • Gives a random word and its meaning [put in for the junta preparing for GRE ;)]
  • Gives out an MOTD or a fortune when it first joins \\#fosskelog
  • Googles a search term and returns the top 5 results (This is my favourite feature and this is the reason partially for this post. "!google lafoobot" doesn't return anything. Hopefully not anymore.)

If you have ideas for any other features or if you want to have a look at the source, comment here or join #fosskelog. lafoobot's code is licensed under GPLv2!

Other than this, the summer has been relatively uneventful but for the two FOSS events I attended. Yes, two events, Sat and Sun, both by Twincling (There are two different Twinclings! Don't ask me why) Hoping to have some more action this summer!

PS: There's a Big discussion presently on whether lafoobot is a he or a she. ;) What do you think?