Days of 2010!

I was looking at content faces. They all had made it. Some laughing, some teasing, some pondering and recollecting the past – greeting each other with a hearty welcome “Hi!”. And there some were observing tenderly the atmosphere which was animate instantly, as everyone from far off places finally arrived at FOSS.IN 2010 service apartment.

Rahul had reached the airport earlier than us and we met him there. We – I, Shreyank, Siddhesh, Amit, Rahul, Neependra and Anand – were at the airport three hours ago. It took us around three hours to reach apartment because we had to workout an optimal way, both in terms of time and money, to reach our respective apartments. We figured out the distance and calculated the fare. So we booked an Indica as we all wanted to go together in same vehicle – literally jam packed.

Bangalore is connected to airport via a two way road with three-lanes each side. The road being pretty new is fantastic until the periphery of the city is reached where the roads are quite narrow, usually one-way with huge traffic. Most of the travel time is gone due the city roads. Basically for us two hours of actually flight journey turned out to be a seven hours journey in total. ( Bangalore aiport is pretty far from the city with decent traffic on the roads, and fares of transport are very high comparatively for just 40km ).

Back at the apartment I met Ramchandra – a git and svn hacker. Later next day he introduced me to Emacs’s org-mode, which is surprisingly interesting, as it was exactly what I needed to create my presentation for a talk. Although I had used Emacs quite extensively, I never heard of org-mode earlier. Bottom-line – there are many useful things out there which you can’t explore yourselves how far you may go, but with community how you get to know is automatic.

This was great opportunity for me to meet people, about whom I could only hear or read.

FOSS.IN – 2010 – Day 1

After over three years I met Gora and Kishore. They still look the same as when I was in college. They are among those because of whom I was introduced to Indian community of Free and Open Source enthusiasts.

The day started with lighting of lamp, followed by a talk on The Technology of Wikipedia by Danese Cooper. Wikipedia is the fifth largest website in the world, and it uses only open source software for its operation. Now it is possible for practically anyone with right calibre to contribute not just to the Wikipedia content but also to the code and infrastructure that powers it. This is specially a good news for students. Where else on earth can a student dabble with such a huge data set and at the same time provide value to the whole world?

I was figuring out ways to use Emacs org-mode to convert my plain text notes into a decent presentation. I had already used OpenOffice to create my slides but a lot of content was new, due to which I had to redo all the slides. I didn’t want to use OpenOffice anymore for adjusting existing slides as it involves a lot of copy-paste, font size adjustments, and it doesn’t render correctly on different systems unless converted into a PDF. Emacs org-mode basically allowed me to create slides by using sensible text formatting ( similar to a wiki ). It was far convenient for my need. However, I found an obscure bug, a big hurdle. Again Ramchandra came to a prompt rescue. How can I not thank him?

Next talk I attended was Operating System Caches in a virtualized environment by Balbir Singh. This talk was followed by much awaited talk Beyond init – systemd by Lennart Poettering. Lennart is a such a good speaker. He connects with the audience so well. I can still visualize the colour-paper-sprinkles showering over from the projector screen like a fine rain as Lennart spoke about systemd, which kind of made his talk more fun. His talk reminded me of the idea I had years ago when I was in college. I asked my teacher if I could write all the init scripts in Python which I could then byte-compile. They could then run in parallel, with compressed code taking less space on the file-system. The teacher convinced me that it was a bad idea to do so. That was end of it. However, now since systemd is written in C and is compatible with SysV init, is much superior and the right way to do system initialization. I am totally in favor of systemd.

One of the session I attended that day was UI Design in Meego Minconf. The speaker took Ubuntu 10.4 as an example and mostly talked about the issues with user experience. The issues he referred to were mostly related to GNOME Desktop and a few other GUI tools. He explained his perspective and mostly mocked at the current software. I, having used GNOME for a long time and being in the community, have learnt that one needs to talk to and report the issues at a location where they can be tracked. This talk wasn’t something I appreciated as the speaker never mentioned whether he has some solutions or whether he has any plans to document or either report the issues to correct forums. Just mocking at them doesn’t server any good purpose.

The keynote of the day Failures of Fedora and what we learned from it by Rahul Sundaram was a heavy one. He navigated us back from the initial days of Fedora project to the current situation and told about the various failures and problems in the community and how those were resolved in the past. Its quite true for any organization that at some point some things do go wrong – nobody is perfect – so it is important to understand how and when things went wrong. Unless we have that knowledge, how can there be a good solution to a problem? Rahul emphasized the importance of a fifth F – failure – apart from the four F’s – Freedom, Friends, Features, First. The fifth F, although not implicitly listed, is an integral part of Fedora community. There is no learning without Failure. Obviously if we never failed, it would mean that we already knew what was to be done, so there is no question of learning anything new unless there happens to be a failure, however small or big. I was wondering if someone would understand the title of his talk in another sense – that Fedora has failed – which actually did happened. Three days later at nonane.conf I met a student who said to me: “I attended the talk regarding Failures of Fedora. What happened to Fedora, has it failed?”. I wasn’t surprised as I had this thought at the back of my head already. I immediately explained to him what the word “Failure” represents in the title of the talk which Rahul gave. Isn’t it interesting? Doesn’t it raise curiosity how people perceive things differently? Lets consider a poet who writes a poem. Although his poem would literally mean something but the actual meaning would be entirely different. This is a typical example. However, generally also, perceptions do change. I really enjoyed Rahul’s talk. It was like revelations after revelations, a complete flashback, rewind and replay.

At the end of day, our Fedora team went to dinner at restaurant in Forum mall. The guard at entry of the restaurant was like an army commander just like a one during British raj in India, wearing a hat, a stick held tightly under his arm pit, big moustaches, with beard split at the centre of chin. It reminded me of “angrezon ke zamane ka jailer” from movie Sholay, but much more strong and hefty than Asrani. While we had our dinner, we discussed about various random topics, took some snaps and then left for our respective apartments.

Back at the apartment I was sleepless. I had to understand why Emacs org-mode didn’t work earlier in the day. I tried to figure out the problem with Emacs org-mode. Eventually I ended up removing the offending text, however the actual bug was still unknown to me. I was a bit concerned. How could I fit so much content to be delivered in a 1 hour talk. I was wondering and went asleep, not realizing when.

FOSS.IN – 2010 – Day 2

It was Lennart Poettering again with his talk – Open Surround Sound- Some Assembly Required. I learnt how incompatible the hardware vendors are, and make it too difficult to get surround sound done right. I just found a recent interview of Lennart on his PulseAudio project. Moreover to get a software to support professional audio, it becomes even tougher.

I really wanted to attend the talk Security in Mobile Devices by Tobias Mueller but then we had to set-up Fedora booth ( didn’t do it properly previous day ). After we were done with the set-up, people started to come and ask with questions and problems. Our team was ready to help with anything. “What is Fedora?”, “I have a problem in my laptop while installing Fedora, can you help me?”. Fedora booth was decorated with Fedora 14 DVDs spread all over the table. It was kind of attractive to see it. People came and grabbed Fedora DVDs and Fedora Buttons. The Fedora key-chains were grabbed and finished the day before already.

This was the day of Fedora Miniconf . We had many talks: Fedora Summer Coding ( by Aditya ), Packaging Emacs Plugins ( by Arun ), Fedora Virtualization ( by Amit ), Ftrace ( by Neependra ), Tux-On-A-Box Straight Through a Browser ( by Suchakra ). Then we went to attend keynote of the day – Linux Kernel Security – Adapting 1960s Technology to Meet 21st Century Threats by James Morris.

Fahrenhiet played rock and people waved their hands, shouting and screaming intermittently.

FOSS.IN – 2010 – Day 3

My talk was the first one in Hall C, in the morning. I was a bit nervous, concerned and worried about how it would go eventually. This was my first talk ever at FOSS.IN and at any conference of this size. I got many questions during the talk. I conldn’t stop myself tracking the remaining time. The talk finished in 61 minutes, period, and I was relieved. The audience made me feel really good inside.

Next was the talk about KVM – Adding resources hot by Supriya Kannery. It was an interesting talk.

Other talks I attended were Under the Bonnet of QtWebKit’s Graphics Layer by Simon Hausmann and keynote of the day – A Hacker’s Apology by Aanjhan Ranganathan.

With the Closing Ceremony by Atul Chitnis, it was finally revealed and made truly apparent that FOSS.IN ends its journey. Sadly, there wouldn’t be another FOSS.IN in future. You may also want to read Atul’s perspective on FOSS.IN.

Finally we had Raghu Dixit Project, most awaited musical performance, literally forcing everyone to dance to their tunes and the violinst – Kartik – doing magic spells with the strings. It was really awesome. The Karnatic songs of wisdom, qawalli, and many more can not be forgotten.

FOSS.IN 2010 happened to me with a deep impact. I will miss it ever and ever. At the end I would only say that there is more to FOSS.IN 2010 than I can possibly write to best of my ability.

There is a question still unanswered:

Which would be an Indian FOSS event that will be as good as FOSS.IN?