Experiences in the community

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Debconf 16 and My Experience with Debian

It has been often said that you should continually try new things in life so that

a. Unlike the fish you do not mistake the pond to be the sea.

b. You see other people, other types and ways of living and being which you normally won’t in your day-to-day existence.

With both of those as mantras I decided to take a leap into the unknown. I was unsure both about the visa process as well as the travel bit as I was traveling to an unknown place and although I had done some research about the place I was unsure about the authenticity of whatever is/was shared on the web.

During the whole journey both to and fro, I couldn’t sleep a wink. The Doha airport is huge. There are 5 Concourses, A, B , C, D, E and around 30+ gates in each Concourse. The ambition of the small state is something to be reckoned with. Almost 95% of the blue workers in the entire airport were of Asian sub-continent. While the Qatari Rial is 19 times stronger to us, the workers I suspect are worse-off than people doing similar things back home. Add to that the sharia law, even for all the money in the world, I wouldn’t want to settle therein.

Anyways, during the journey, a small surprise awaited me, Ritesh Raj Saraff, a DD was also traveling to Debconf. We bumped into each other while going to see the Doha City, courtesy Al-Hamad International Airport. I would probably share a bit more about Doha and my experiences with the city in upcoming posts.

Cut to Cape Town, South Africa, we landed in the city half an hour after our scheduled time and then we sped along to University of Cape Town (UCT) which was to become our home for the next 13 odd days.

The first few days were a whirlwind as there were new people to meet, old people whom I knew only as an e-mail id or an IRC nickname turned out to be real people and you have to try to articulate yourself in English, which is not a native language of mine. During Debcamp I was fortunate to be able visit some of the places and the wiki page had a lot of places which I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete unless I had 15 days unlimited time and money to go around so didn’t even try.

I had gone with few goals in mind :-

a. Do some documentation of the event – In this I failed completely as just the walk from the venue to where the talks were energy-draining for me. Apart from that, you get swept in meeting new people and talking about one of million topics in Debian which interest you or the other person and while they are fulfilling, it is and was both physically and emotionally draining for me (in a good way). Bernelle (one of the organizers) had warned us of this phenomenon but you disregard it as you know you have a limited time-frame in which to meet and greet people and it is all a over-whelming experience.

b. Another goal was to meet my Indian brethren who had left the country around 60~100 years mostly as slaves of East India company – In this I was partially successful. I met a couple of beautiful ladies who had either a father or a mother who was Indian while the other was of African heritage. It seemed in them a yearning to know the culture but from what little they had, only Bollywood and Indian cuisine was what they could make of Indian culture. One of the girls, ummm… women to be more truer, shared a somewhat grim tale. She had both an African boyfriend as well as Indian boyfriend in her life and in both cases, she was rejected by the boy’s parents because she wasn’t pure enough. This was deja vu all over again as the same thing can be seen here happening in casteism so there wasn’t any advice I could give but just nod in empathy. What was sort of relevation was when their parents or grandparents came, the name and surnames were thrown off and the surname was just the place from where they belong. From the discussions it emerged that there were also lot of cases of forced conversions to Christianity during that era as well as temptations of a better life.

As shared, this goal succeeded partially, as I was actually interested in their parents or grand-parents to know the events that shaped the Indian diaspora over there. While the children know only of today, yester-years could only be known by those people who made the unwilling perilous journey to Africa. I had also wanted to know more about Gandhiji’s role in that era but alas, that part of history would have to wait for another day as I guess, both those goals would only have met had I visited Durban but that was not to be.

I had applied for one talk ‘My Experience with Debian’ and one workshop for Installation of Debian on systems. The ‘My Experience with Debian’ was aimed at newbies and I had thought of using show-and-tell to share the differences between proprietary Operating Systems and a FOSS distribution such as Debian. I was going to take simple things such as changelogs, apt-listbugs, real-time knowledge of updates and upgrades as well as /etc/apt/sources.list to share both the versatility of the Debian desktop and real improvements than what proprietary Operating Systems had to offer. But I found myself engaging with Debian Developers (DD’s) rather than the newbies so had to change the orientation and fundamentals of the talk on the fly. I knew or suspected rather that the old idea would not work as it would just be repeating to the choir. With that in the back of mind, and the idea that perhaps they would not be so aware of the politics and events which happened in India over the last couple of decades, I tried to share what little I was able to recollect what little I was able to remember about those times. Apart from that, I was also highly conscious that I had been given just the before lunch slot aka ‘You are in the way of my lunch’ slot. So I knew I had to speak my piece as quickly as possible being as clear as can be. Later, I did get feedback that I was fast and seeing it through couple of times, do agree that I could have done a better job. What’s done is done and the only thing I could do to salvage it a bit is to make a presentation which I am sharing as below.


Would be nice if somebody could come up with a lighter template for presentations. For reference the template I have taken it from is shared at https://wiki.debian.org/Presentations . Some pictures from the presentation.




You can find the video at http://meetings-archive.debian.net/pub/debian-meetings/2016/debconf16/My_Experience_with_Debian.webm

This is by no means the end of the Debconf16 experience, but actually the starting. I hope to share more of my thoughts, ideas and get as much feedback from all the wonderful people I met during Debconf.

Medical awareness, terrorism, racism and Debconf

Hi to all the souls on planet.debian.org:) . I hope to meet many of you in Debconf16 which is being held at UCT (University of Cape Town), Rhondenbosch, South Africa and am excited to be part of it. I pushed a blog post about my journey to debconf till date.

I express my sympathy and condolences to all the people who died in the cowardly shooting spree done by a madman in Orlando😦 . I have been upset about this development but as what’s done is done, it’s best to just keep moving.

Closer to my own reality, I was shocked to discover during my whole visa experience that nowhere there is any knowledge about vaccinations that people should have when they are traveling internationally. I was kinda rudely awakened by this mail which prompted me to take Hep A shot and also start a thread on the mailing list. The more comprehensive info. I got was at the CDC site . It seems to be a go-to site to find about what is recommended. While I will not be taking any shots now as it’s nearing to the date of travel, if I had known before, it would have been a valuable resource in itself. Definitely something to be bookmarked if you are going overseas and are worried or have health concerns.

On another note, About few days back, there was a discussion as recently, travel advisories have been issued about possible terror action in South Africa by various embassies due to the holy month of Ramadan.

And the recent attack just proves that it takes just one twisted personality with a perverse sense of justice or whatever s/he/ thinks as just to do what s/he did and guns and more security and not the answer.

My take on it some would describe as simplistic, there are things which you can control, there are things beyond your control. No security agency, no country can guarantee it. By being either home or away, you can’t wish you will not get bitten. Got images of Final Destination invoked when I was sharing that, for as an Indian, do believe a bit on fate and karma. Also, me being single also plays a part, perhaps I would have been more cautious or have different motivations if I had a family so I do understand some of the concerns which have been raised by people in that thread. At the end of it, it really is a non-choice in my book.

If you don’t take part due to fear,uncertainty of a possible attack, you have already given in to fear and uncertainty and I believe this goes against the very philosophy of what Debian stands for, being bold, taking chances and having trust in your fellow men. If we haven’t allowed proprietary, commercial software to win over us, how can we allow less than 0.1% radically motivated people to scare us ? And the recent attack just proves that it takes just one twisted personality with a perverse sense of justice or whatever s/he/ thinks as just to do what s/he did. More guns and more security are certainly not the answer here.

A more troubling part is not terrorism but caste-ism and racism which have been also making news (not in a good way) in India. Now while I cannot claim to have any knowledge about Africans apart from 2-3 conversations which didn’t go anywhere, two-three preconceived notions about them can easily be countered. As far as drugs are concerned, IF some Africans are doing drugs smuggling, it would be wrong to pin all of it onto them. India has been fighting drugs smuggling from the 70’s itself. From what we know and have learnt over the years from consuming media, India shares porous borders with almost all our neighbors. Of those, Pakistan is supposed to be the largest grower and supplier and then Nepal where young boys are used as Traffickers. The recent film ‘Rocky Handsome‘ and the recent upcoming controversial movie ‘Udta Punjab‘ are trying to explore these issues. As far as drinking in open is concerned, I have seen and been part of Punjabi parties where both men and women drink without abandon in farm parties. Russians, Germans and Israelis can also out-drink a person on their day/mood. As far as sexuality is concerned, we are the second most populous country in the world, so the less said the better:) .

I believe though that underneath this racism is money, greed, phobia, language barriers and just maybe some lifestyle choices as well. I have seen North-Eastern, Chinese, Buddhist people being colored with the same brush. The more interesting case is with the Buddhist as can be seen in Himachal Pradesh, where locals feel they are deprived as Europeans come and indulge Buddhists for their monasteries and their way of life while locals don’t get much money from them. This is partly true, but also due to our own short-comings in dealing with westerners. I have never seen my own countrymen going out of their way to make westerners or any tourists for that matter feel welcome in a genuine way. More often, the behavior is between hostility, jealousy and a perverted sense of hero-worship due to the color of skin. As far as being racist and bigoted are concerned, it seems we are not alone, just day before came across this news from Malaysia which is interesting in the sense that how people from different communities frame their own history and people around them, forget that is false and misleading to what we in India know to be the truth, it probably is/would be interesting for somebody who does comparative history, myth and folklore analysis. I was actually planning to talk about some of the talks I am looking forward to hearing and seeing on Debconf but guess that will have to wait for few more days. Hope to publish one more before actually flying to Debconf. Till later.

The road to debconf 2016, tourism and arts.

A longish blog post, please bear, a second part of the blog post would be published in few days from now. My fixed visa finally arrived, yeah:) But this story doesn’t start here, it starts about a year back. While I have been contributing to Debian in my free time over the years, and sometimes paid time as well, I had never thought of going overseas as the experiences I knew from friends and relatives, it isn’t easy to get all the permissions and paperwork done to say the least (bureaucracy @ work). But last year, when Debconf 15 was being launched, there are/were 2-3 friends of mine who are studying, doing their Ph.D. in some computer/web stuff, living in Germany currently that they goaded me to apply. The first few times I gave some standard excuses, but when they kept on for a while, just to shut them up I applied to the debconf team applying for food, accommodation and travel sponsorship.

I didn’t have high hopes as there obviously are many more talented peers around me who understand FOSS and Debian at a much more fundamental, philosophical as well as technical level than me. Much to my surprise though, about a month (and around two or three weeks just before the event was about to take place) I got the bursary/sponsorships for food, accommodation as well as travel. I was unsure that the remaining time was enough to get a visa hence declined that time around.

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Observations of a Nouveau Traveller.

Am currently in the visa no man’s land (application given and awaiting result) for debconf 2016 which means it is the perfect opportunity to share whatever I have been learning about South Africa and drawing parallels with India.
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GTK 3.20 breakage in Debian, GDM3, Wayland and Technical Debt.

For about a month and a half now, GTK 3.20 has come in Debian testing. While this is good as GNOME 3.20 was released about couple of months back it broke the themes that are in Debian. A bug has been filed for that .

There has been little in way of documentation about how to fix the themes which reminds me of how Pulseaudio was off-putting when it first came to most people due to incomplete documentation, the breakage and not knowing where to look to fix things or even look up unit-tests, functional tests to understand where the breakage was happening.

It does seem that the GNOME team dropped the ball on this release. A more interesting read of the issue can be seen in this bug thread . I especially like the answer that Michael gave which does tell how much undocumented it really is.

Although if you read Mathias MClasen’s blog post it seems more or less in-line with how regular CSS web-development takes place, so pretty much in-line with GNOME’s stated goals of making GNOME very much a web-development platform so more web-developers could write and support GNOME rather than having to learn C or some other language to write for it. This has been their one of the stated goals from long back, I think circa 2012 or even before.

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using GPS without license – jail for 7 years -2

About couple of weeks back I posted a blog post about how the new regulations would affect us. Few days back a friend of mine sent me this YouTube link . Please see this video while I share a small anecdote with you about 20-25 years back.

During that time, I was a college student from a middle-class family. My college was half an hour walk from my home and I use to walk up and down to the college daily. I used to take various routes to reach the college as you become bored with one route daily. One of those routes used to pass through marriage halls. As a First year college student, I didn’t need money much so used to carry around Rs. 10/20 – for having chai and some street food for friends. That amount used to go quite some distance in those days. Me and My friends saw many a movie @ Rs. 10/- Saturday morning movies by bunking college and we used to enjoy that like anything.

One day, I *think* it was a holiday and I was supposed to meet a friend who was living in college hostel or around that, while going, I took the route which went nearby the marriage halls. I should state that time I wasn’t fat as I am today but was around 50-55 kg. as I used to walk quite a bit and used to be with friends so energy was dissipated all the time, the relevance of this statement will be known as I unravel the true story as it happened. While I was walking, I saw a young girl (maybe 3-4 years old) bawling her heart out. She looked from a well-to-do home from her clothes. I asked in my broken Marathi what happened and she said she lost her parents. I used the top of my lungs and asked if her parents are around. I asked her name and shouted 2-3 times using her name but of no avail. Then I asked as to where she lived. She said, just round the corner. So I gave her my pinky finger and went to the lane. The road on which these marriage halls are, there are many lanes which are in Z shape with most of them ending in a dead-end. So I took her and when we reached the dead-end she stopped and said this isn’t it. I naively thought it might be one of the other lanes and one-by-one I went through all the lanes which had a dead-end. I had explicitly asked her and she said that the lane ended at her house. After just couple of lanes, she was tired and I had to offer to carry her. Somehow I carried her for couple of hours and when all the dead-end lanes were done, I realized that the girl was truly lost. A part of me wanted to leave her but I couldn’t leave her like that. Using 90 percent of the money I had on me, we had a cold-drink each at one of the shops as she was thirsty as was I. I asked people around me that such a situation has arisen and what should I do ? I was told that my best bet would be to call the police station. I called up 100 number and probably the exchange transferred me to the nearest Police Station. I told the cop the situation and told them where I am. The cop answered, bring the girl and yourself to the Police Station and we will sort it out. I couldn’t understand why the cop could not come and pick us up when I’m giving the address of the place. I had no idea of prank calls as well as the plight of the cops themselves as shared much later in Satyamev Jayate. It took me couple of hours as I had to constantly shift her, take breaks in-between and then start again. Finally after reaching the Station, they took my statement. Shortly afterwards the child’s family also came. They were asked if they wanted to file any sort of criminal charges against me (which was a shock to me), as they didn’t know me they let me go.

Now apart from my naive behavior, if the police had location-aware technology they would have known where I am speaking from (it was a land-line as cellular phones were unheard of that point in time.) From what little I have observed, the private and community maps (where there is a true community around mapping) are far-far better than the maps than the Government does. While we really should have and ask a 911 kinda service which connects to all sorts of law and order issues (domestic abuse, violence, bullying etc.) medical emergencies (heart attack or any life-threatening issues), Disaster relief (Floods,landslides etc.) . Such services can only rely when you have both public, community and private initiatives work together.

If mapping would only be something that only the Government and big moneyed people can do, it will lead to laziness, as sooner or later there would be monopolies or at the most duopoly in many of the places in India which would be bad for us.

Look forward to our countrymen to advise the country to give community mapping also some breathing space in whatever new regulation comes without resorting to heavy-handedness of licensing.

A simple rice-veggie recipe and procedure for getting RWH Rebate

First and foremost the Rice and veggies recipe (This is for 2 persons) :-

Ingredients :-

1. 150 gms. Rice (Best is Basmati whole or whatever rice you have)
2. Onion cut into small pieces (1/4th of onion is enough.)
2. Cut into small pieces all Veggies (Anything goes, at the simplest ladyfinger,Capsicum)
3. Salt
4. Turmeric
5. 1 tbsp Cumin seeds
6. Ghee or Oil whatever you have
7. Water (300 ml).
8. chilli powder

Procedure –

01. Wash rice in water
02. Put 400 gms of water in Rice in some container and let it soak for around 30 mins.
03. Put onion pieces and stir fry for couple of mins.
04. Put whatever veggies you have in water for chemicals to be released as well to let the veggies become a bit soft and also retain bit of water (30 mins is good.)
05. Take a pressure cooker, put a bit of oil or ghee on it, only little so that it moistens the whole of the surface area of the cooker and a bit more. Put the gas on full flame.
06. Take 1 tbsp of Cumin seeds and put it when you see the steam coming from the ghee or OIl
07. Fry the cumin seeds till they are a bit more brownish. Make sure the flame is now on medium flame. At the most 1 or 2 minutes, not more.
08. Put all the veggies you have at your disposal. Ladyfinger,Capsicum,Brinjal,Tomatoes and all and any green leafy vegetables are all good.
09. Fry for couple of minutes, you should be able to smell the veggies good as they are being cooked.
10. Put rice in (taking out the water in a glass or something else). Make sure that the water is 300ml or the same as you had put it before. Some varieties of rice take more water, while others do not.
11. Put 1 tbps of salt, bit of turmeric powder and bit of chilli powder to taste.
12. Fry for a minute or two. You should be getting good smells now.
13. Put the 300 ml of water and close the lid of the pressure cooker and top, put it on high flame.
14. After couple of whistles, close the gas.
15. Let the rice and veggies be cooked inside.
16. After 15-20 minutes the veggie-rice is ready to be served.

It can be served with variety of chutneys, curd, pickle and papad.

Now today I got the following in one of the mailing lists I follow :-

Since I am working on this for my society and this is where Swaraj Abhiyan intends assisting people, I am sending this as in incentive for people to do this in their societies before the monsoons, do have a look and bring this up to your society

The 5% rebate is for life and not a one time thing, which is a pretty good incentive

Please find with this email attached documents required to apply for PMC tax rebate:

1. Cover letter with application
2. List of Property Tax Account Numbers of all Residents of the Society.
3. A few photographs of the installation.
4. Certificate from RWH Agency that installed the setup.

Please make 2 sets of each of the above documents. The application has to be submitted at PMC Building Department, Mr. Ingale. An inwarding stamp is to be taken.

After application is submitted, PMC official has to visit the property and counter check. He then gives his report and passes on the documents to the Tax department where the account numbers are then filled into the PMC system. The application has to be given every year in Dec so that by next financial year the rebate can be provided.

The above is a provisional process which has not succeeded many times. To change this we need to get the responsible department to sign off on the process in black and white so that there is no scope for discretion.

They also have to give a mechanism to confirm that the tax rebate has been provided. There is no such feedback loop.

Contacts for getting RWH installed in your building / society

1. Era Hydro Biotech – Mr.Sandeep Bhosale – 8928698997.
2. Shreeji Aqua Treatment – 9823053532 sunil mehta santosh sharma

3. Deccan Water Treatment Pvt Ltd – Abhishek Joshi – 9860180144. Give them ( Vikram Sanghras) reference.

4. Ibrahim 9921927967- he will be the most reasonable, i think in terms of cost, and he is part of Swaraj Abhiyan

5.Udhyam Gokhale – 9822556670- Does big projects so good for bigger societies
6. Rahul Bakre- 7774034634/7774036236- give him Mihir Dudhats reference from SULINS

After reading the above, I am still wondering why are not more societies going for it. 5% tax rebate is not a small amount and that too every year. The investment should be recoverable in reasonable time. The only thing I expect restricts is getting all the house-owners to get together to pay for it, as well as doing the application work, although that should be done by the building secretary.

In Pune, less than 5% of building owners, societies go for Rainwater Harvesting.

using GPS without license – jail for 7 years.

Just to add/clear up from last blog post amateur rocketry, while it can reach the height of 32000 ft., cruising altitude of most Civilian Commercial Airplanes, In United States and Europe the amateur rocketry community do co-ordinate with the local authorities to know which is good time to fly the rockets, even though rocket hitting a Commercial Airline is rare and less risk-prone than Bird-hits which is more dangerous for Commercial Airline Pilots.

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Science Day 2016 at GMRT, Khodad and learning.

Hi all,
First things, first. I haven’t been blogging for number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is basically I need a place to put up the photos and for that I need to pay. Most of the free sites where you are able to upload pictures have a limit like 1 GB or something while at the same time privacy, copyrights are both issues at least on the free sites so it’s demotivating to blog without pictures.
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Gitstats – the easiest way to see stats.

Hi all,
This will be a shortish take on an application called gitstats which I found few months back.

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Are Indian FOSS communities closed-source ?

Hi all,
This will hopefully be a short read as how Indian communities specially product-based communities are opaque in functioning.
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Dramas and a buggy world

This post would be about a few bugs that I was able to get help and get them fixed, and some which are in process and some which may take a long time to resolve.
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The debian/watch file.

Hi all,
This would be a sort of longish blog post which attempts to share what the debian/watch file is and how it’s important in the debian ecosystem.
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Case of a potato, food park, potato chips ,the humble wada-pav and the farmer.

This would be a shortish blog post about the politics behind the humble potato and what I have seen around me.
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Cppcheck for better QA in Debian, sources, deborphan

This would be somewhat a longish post about how to find c programs in Debian to how to use cppcheck on them to find problems and report them upstream
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