Experiences in the community

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PC desktop build, Intel, spectre issues etc.

This is and would be a longish one.

I have been using desktop computers for around couple of decades now. My first two systems were an Intel Pentium III and then a Pentium Dual-core, the first one on kobian/mercury motherboard. The motherboards were actually called Mercury and was a brand which was later sold to Kobian which kept the brand-name. The motherboards and the CPU/processor used to be cheap. One could set up a decentish low-end system with display for around INR 40k/- which seemed to be decent as a country we had just come out of non-alignment movement and also chose to come out of isolationist tendencies (technology and otherwise as well). Most middle-class income families got their first taste of computers after y2k. There were quite a few y2k incomes which prompted the Government to lose duties further.

One of the highlights during 1991 when satellite TV came was shown by CNN (probably CNN International) was the coming down of the Berlin Wall. There were many of us who were completely ignorant of world politics or what is/was happening in other parts of the world.

Computer systems at those times were considered a luxury item and duties were sky-high ( between 1992-2001). The launch of Mars Pathfinder, its subsequent successful landing on the Martian surface also catapulted people’s imagination about PCs and micro-processors.

I can still recall the excitement that was among young people of my age first seeing the liftoff from Cape Canaveral and then later the processed images of Spirits cameras showing images of a desolate desert-type land. We also witnessed the beginnings of ‘International Space Station‘ (ISS) .

Me and few of my friends had drunk lot of Carl Sagan and many other sci-fi coolaids/stories. Star Trek, the movies and the universal values held/shared by them was a major influence to all our lives.

People came to know about citizen based science or projects/distributed science projects, y2k fear appeared to be unfounded all these factors and probably a few more prompted the Government of India to reduce duties on motherboards, processors, components as well as taking Computers out of the restricted list which lead to competition and finally the common man being able to dream of a system sooner than later. Y2K also kick-started the beginnings of Indian software industry which is the bread and butter of many a middle class men-women who are in the service industry using technology directly or indirectly.

In 2002 I bought my first system, an Intel Pentium III, i810 chipset (integrated graphics) with 256 MB of SDRAM which was supposed to be sufficient for the tasks it was being used for, Some light gaming, some web-mails, seeing movies,etc running on a mercury board. I don’t remember the code-name partly because the code-names are/were really weird and partly because it is just too long ago. I remember using Windows ’98 and trying to install one of the early GNU/Linux variants on that machine. Ir memory serves right, you had to flick a jumper (like a switch) to use the extended memory.

I do not know/remember what happened but I think somewhere in a year or two in that time-frame Mercury India filed for bankruptcy and the name, manufacturing was sold to Kobian. After Kobian took over the ownership, it said it would neither honor the 3/5 year warranty or even repairs on the motherboards Mercury had sold, it created a lot of bad will against the company and relegated itself to the bottom of the pile for both experienced and new system-builders. Also mercury motherboards weren’t reputed/known to have a long life although the one I had gave me quite a decent life.

The next machine I purchased was a Pentium Dual-core, (around 2009/2010) LGA a Williamnette which had out-of-order execution, the bug meltdown which is making news nowadays has history this far back. I think I bought it in 45nm which was a huge jump from the previous version although still secure in the mATX package. Again the board was from mercury. (Intel 845 chipset, DDR2 2 GB RAM and SATA came to stay).

So meltdown has been in existence for 10-12 odd years and is in everything which either uses Intel or ARM processors.

As you can probably make-out most systems came stretched out 2-3 years later than when they were launched in American or/and European markets. Also business or tourism travel was neither so easy, smooth or transparent as is today. All of which added to delay in getting new products in India.

Sadly, the Indian market is similar to other countries where Intel is used in more than 90% machines. I know of few institutions (though pretty much rare) who insisted and got AMD solutions.

That was the time when gigabyte came onto the scene which formed the basis of the Wolfdale-3M 45nm system which was in the same price range as the earlier models, and offered a weeny tiny bit of additional graphics performance.To the best of my knowledge, it was perhaps the first motherboard which had solid state capacitors being offered/put in a budget motherboard. The mobo-processor bundle used to be in the range of INR 7/8k excluding RAM. cabinet etc, I had a Philips 17″ CRT display which ran a good decade or so, so just had to get the new cabinet, motherboard, CPU, RAM and was good to go.

Few months later at a hardware exhibition held in the city I was invited to an Asus party which was just putting a toe-hold in the Indian market. I went to the do, enjoyed myself. They had a small competition where they asked some questions and asked if people had queries. To my surprise, I found that most people who were there were hardware vendors and for one reason or the other they chose to remain silent. Hence I got an AMD Asus board. This is different from winning another Gigabyte motherboard which I also won in the same year in another competition as well in the same time-frame. Both were mid-range motherboards (ATX build).

As I had just bought a Gigabyte (mATX) motherboard and had made the build, I had to give both the motherboards away, one to a friend and one to my uncle and both were pleased with the AMD-based mobos which they somehow paired with AMD processors. At that time AMD had one-upped Intel in both graphics and even bare computing especially at the middle level and they were striving to push into new markets.

Apart from the initial system bought, most of my systems when being changed were in the INR 20-25k/- budget including all and any accessories I bought later.

The only real expensive parts I purchased have been external hdd ( 1 TB WD passport) and then a Viewsonic 17″ LCD which together sent me back by around INR 10k/- but both seem to give me adequate performance (both have outlived the warranty years) with the monitor being used almost 24×7 over 6 years or so, of course over GNU/Linux specifically Debian. Both have been extremely well value for the money.

As I had been exposed to both the motherboards I had been following those and other motherboards as well. What was and has been interesting to observe what Asus did later was to focus more on the high-end gaming market while Gigabyte continued to dilute it energy both in the mid and high-end motherboards.

Cut to 2017 and had seen quite a few reports –

http://www.pcstats.com/NewsView.cfm?NewsID=131618

http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20170904PD207.html

http://www.guru3d.com/news-story/asus-has-the-largest-high-end-intel-motherboard-share.html

All of which points to the fact that Asus had cornered a large percentage of the market and specifically the gaming market . While there are no formal numbers as both Asus and Gigabyte choose to releases only APAC numbers rather than a country-wide split which would have made for some interesting reading.

Just so that people do not presume anything, there are about 4-5 motherboard vendors in the Indian market. There is Asus at the top (I believe) followed by Gigabyte, Intel at a distant 3rd place (because it’s too expensive). There are also pockets of Asrock and MSI and I know of people who follow them religiously although their mobos are supposed to be somewhat pensive than the two above. Asus and Gigabyte do try to fight out with each other but each has its core competency I believe with Asus being used by heavy gamers, overclockers more than Gigabyte.

Anyway come October 2017 and my main desktop died and am left as they say up the creek without the paddle. I didn’t even have Net access for about 3 weeks due to BSNL or PMC’s foolishness and then later small riots breaking out due to Koregaon Bhima conflict.

This led to a situation where I had to buy/build a system with oldish/half knowledge. I was open to having an AMD system but both datacare and even Rashi peripherals, Pune both of whom used to deal in AMD systems shared they had stopped dealing in AMD stuff sometime back. While datacare had AMD mobos, getting processors were an issue. Both the vendors are near to my home so if I buy from them getting support becomes an non-issue. I could have gone out of my way to get an AMD processor but getting support could have been an issue as would have had to travel and I do not know the vendors enough. Hence fell back to the Intel platform.

I asked around quite a few PC retailers and distributors around and found the Asus Prime Z270-P was the only mid-range motherboard available at that time. I did come to know a bit later of other motherboards in the z270 series but most vendors didn’t/don’t stock them as there is capital, interest and stock cost.

History – Historically, there has also been huge time lag in getting motherboards, processors etc. between worldwide announcements, and then announcements of sale in India and actually getting hands-on to the newest motherboards and processors as seen above. This had led to quite a bit of frustration to many a users. I have known of many a soul visiting Lamington Road, Mumbai to get the latest motherboard, processor. Even to-date this system flourishes as Mumbai has an International Airport and there is always a demand and people willing to pay a premium for the newest processor/motherboard even before any reviews are in.

I was highly surprised to know recently that Prime Z370-P motherboards are already selling (just 3 months late) with the Intel 8th generation processors although these are still as samples rather than a torrent some of the other motherboard-combo might be.

At the end I bought an Intel I7400 chip and an Asus Prime Z270-P motherboard with 2400 mhz Corsair 8 GB and a 4 TB WD Green (5400) HDD with a Circle 545 cabinet and (with the almost criminal 400 Watts SMPS). Later came to know that it’s not really even 400 Watts, but around 20-25% less . The whole package costed me north of INR 50k/- with still need to spend on a better SMPS (probably a Cosair or Coolermaster 80 600/650 SMPS) with a few accessories I still need to complete the system.

I will be changing the PSU most probably next week.

Circle SMPS Picture

Asus motherboard, i7400 and RAM

Disclosure – The neatness you see is not me. I was unsure if I would be able to put the heatsink on the CPU properly as that is the most sensitive part while building a system. A bent pin on the CPU could play havoc as well as void the warranty on the CPU or motherboard or both. The new thing I saw were the knobs that can be seen on the heatsink fan is something which I hadn’t seen before. The vendor did the fixing of the processor on the mobo for me as well as tied up the remaining power cables without asking for which I am and was grateful and would definitely provide him with more business as and when I need components.

Future – While it’s ok for now, I’m still using a pretty old 2 speaker setup which I hope to upgrade to either a 2.1/3.1 speaker setup, have full 64 GB 2400 Mhz Kingston Razor/G.Skill/Corsair memory, an M.2 512 MB SSD .

If I do get the Taiwan Debconf bursary I do hope to buy some or all of the above plus a Samsung or some other Android/Replicant/Librem smartphone. I have been also looking for a vastly simplified smartphone for my mum with big letters and everything but that has been a failure to find in the Indian market. Of course this all depends if I do get the bursary and even after the bursary if Global warranty and currency exchange works out in my favor vis-a-vis what I would have to pay in India.

Apart from above, Taiwan is supposed to be a pretty good source to get graphic novels, manga comics, lots of RPG games for very cheap prices with covers and hand-drawn material etc. All of this is based upon few friend’s anecdotal experiences so dunno if all of that would still hold true if I manage to be there.

There are also quite a few chip foundries and maybe during debconf could have visit to one of them if possible. It would be rewarding if the visit was to any 45nm or lower chip foundry as India is still stuck at 65nm range till date.

I would be sharing about my experience about the board, the CPU, the expectations I had from the Intel chip and the somewhat disappointing experience of using Debian on the new board in the next post, not necessarily Debian’s fault but the free software ecosystem being at fault here.

Feel free to point out any mistakes you find, grammatically or even otherwise. The blog post has been in the works for over couple of weeks so its possible for mistakes to creep in.

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Choiceless choice – A brother’s predicament

There were 4 cousins. 3 girls and one boy. The girls were sisters (born to the same mother) while the cousin was a paternal cousin. The three girls doted on the brother as the brother they didn’t have and he adored the three of them as the sisters he never had. They would often get into fights, arguments, trouble all at the same time.

The brother was closest to the eldest sister as she was nearer to his age. They would often talk about school, bunking, movies and would really listen to each other’s viewpoints.

Few years later, both the sister and the brother went through the adolescence and the brother shifted slightly apart. He was a single mom’s son and had no knowledge or understanding of the body changes that were happening to him. He was beginning to be attracted to girls and women in a sexual way and he knew his cousin sister was beautiful and didn’t want to do any wrong action, wrong behavior etc.

They did meet but it was somewhat of a strained relationship now. Few months later, the sister asked and told to the brother about a guy who was pestering her, looked decent, had asked for her hand in marriage and asked what he should do. How should she know if the boy/guy was earning something or not.

The brother had no answers. Just few months before, he had gone to attend a maternal cousin’s marriage and had experienced first-hand how much fear and insecurity the girl’s family is till the time the engagement doesn’t happen. He happens to overhear his sister trying to figure out her would-be-huband’s morality by talking on the phone s an imposter (to figure out his character.) The sister’s mother comes to know of this and the young cousin brother is plied with cold-drinks, his blackmail till the engagement does not happen.

The effect of this experience had thought the blackmailing brother that it is a very sensitive matter, not to be taken lightly.

He didn’t want to upset his sister, tried to see if a solution came to his head but nothing came. He could go to the R.T.O. (Road Transport Operator) and see if he can get to know if the bike was in the guy’s name but he neither knew how to bribe an official or agent nor he knew what the expenses of such kind of info. would be

He could try to go to the detective in the next lane but again the expenses involved and the whether the detective was good and would be discreet enough bothered him.

He had also seen a few hindi romantic movies so in his immature mind, he thought perhaps she was making a good choice. It is told that women are better judge of men/people.

Few months later, the sister told she married the guy but was still living at her father’s as they were trying to find accommodation.

Few weeks later she asked to borrow money from the brother. The brother hadn’t started working and whatever little money he got as pocket money would go for movies, sometimes junk food and travel around the city.

She also asked him if there was a way she could stay at his place. He declined as he was partly still attracted to her (even though nothing happened) and partly he knew there would be problems at home. Also he knew that her father could be easily provoked.

Few weeks later, he came to know his sister committed suicide.

This happened around 1992-’93 . It is 2018 now.

The brother feels guilty that he couldn’t help his sister when she needed him the most. He didn’t marry but can’t get rid of the guilt.

Was there something the brother could have done ?

The sister hadn’t graduated before marrying and the brother was in his last year of graduation.

Of course, now you can’t land a job unless you have done 2-3 professional courses and have some internships under your belt.

Talking with elders was no-no as the sister’s parents were not close to her. The brother didn’t know how to talk to his mother as she was a working woman and again that bit of emotional connect which should have been there was missing (the brother came to know later it was because the mother thought that the son could be taken away from her any time so she didn’t want to be in pain.)

While this happened so many years back, it could still happen in 2018, I guess.

RequestPolicy Continued

Dear Friends,

First up, I saw a news item about Indian fake e-visa portal. As it is/was Sunday, I decided to see if there indeed is such a mess. I dug out torbrowser-bundle (tbb), checked the IP it was giving me (some Canadian IP starting from (216.xxx.xx.xx) typed in ‘Indian visa application’ and used duckduckgo.com to see which result cropped up first.

I deliberately used tbb as I wanted to ensure it wasn’t coming from an Indian IP where the chances of Indian e-visa portal being fake should be negligible. Scamsters would surely be knowledgable to differ between IPs coming from India and from some IP from some other country.

The first result duckduckgo.com gave was https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html

I then proceeded to download whois on my new system (more on that in another blog post

$ sudo aptitude install whois

and proceeded to see if it’s the genuine thing or not and this is the information I got –

$ whois indianvisaonline.gov.in
Access to .IN WHOIS information is provided to assist persons in determining the contents of a domain name registration record in the .IN registry database. The data in this record is provided by .IN Registry for informational purposes only, and .IN does not guarantee its accuracy. This service is intended only for query-based access. You agree that you will use this data only for lawful purposes and that, under no circumstances will you use this data to: (a) allow, enable, or otherwise support the transmission by e-mail, telephone, or facsimile of mass unsolicited, commercial advertising or solicitations to entities other than the data recipient's own existing customers; or (b) enable high volume, automated, electronic processes that send queries or data to the systems of Registry Operator, a Registrar, or Afilias except as reasonably necessary to register domain names or modify existing registrations. All rights reserved. .IN reserves the right to modify these terms at any time. By submitting this query, you agree to abide by this policy.

Domain ID:D4126837-AFIN
Domain Name:INDIANVISAONLINE.GOV.IN
Created On:01-Apr-2010 12:10:51 UTC
Last Updated On:18-Apr-2017 22:32:00 UTC
Expiration Date:01-Apr-2018 12:10:51 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:National Informatics Centre (R12-AFIN)
Status:OK
Reason:
Registrant ID:dXN4emZQYOGwXU6C
Registrant Name:Director Immigration and Citizenship
Registrant Organization:Ministry of Home Affairs
Registrant Street1:NDCC-II building
Registrant Street2:Jaisingh Road
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:New Delhi
Registrant State/Province:Delhi
Registrant Postal Code:110001
Registrant Country:IN
Registrant Phone:+91.23438035
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:+91.23438035
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:dsmmp-mha@nic.in
Admin ID:dXN4emZQYOvxoltA
Admin Name:Director Immigration and Citizenship
Admin Organization:Ministry of Home Affairs
Admin Street1:NDCC-II building
Admin Street2:Jaisingh Road
Admin Street3:
Admin City:New Delhi
Admin State/Province:Delhi
Admin Postal Code:110001
Admin Country:IN
Admin Phone:+91.23438035
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX:+91.23438035
Admin FAX Ext.:
Admin Email:dsmmp-mha@nic.in
Tech ID:jiqNEMLSJPA8a6wT
Tech Name:Rakesh Kumar
Tech Organization:National Informatics Centre
Tech Street1:National Data Centre
Tech Street2:Shashtri Park
Tech Street3:
Tech City:New Delhi
Tech State/Province:Delhi
Tech Postal Code:110053
Tech Country:IN
Tech Phone:+91.24305154
Tech Phone Ext.:
Tech FAX:
Tech FAX Ext.:
Tech Email:nsrawat@nic.in
Name Server:NS1.NIC.IN
Name Server:NS2.NIC.IN
Name Server:NS7.NIC.IN
Name Server:NS10.NIC.IN
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
DNSSEC:Unsigned

It seems to be a legitimate site as almost all information seems to be legit. I know for a fact, that all or 99% of all Indian government websites are done by NIC or National Institute of Computing. The only thing which rankled me was that DNSSEC was unsigned but then haven’t seen NIC being as pro-active about web-security as they should be as they handle many government sensitive internal and external websites.

I did send an email for them imploring them to use the new security feature.

To be doubly sure, one could also use an add-on like showip add it your firefox profile and using any of the web services obtain the IP Address of the website.

For instance, the same website which we are investigating gives 164.100.129.113

Doing a whois of 164.100.129.113 tells that NICNET has got/purchased a whole range of addresses i.e. 164.100.0.0 – 164.100.255.255 which is 65025 addresses which it uses.

One can see NIC’s wikipedia page to understand the scope it works under.

So from both accounts, it is safe to assume that the web-site and page is legit.

Well, that’s about it for the site. While this is and should be trivial to most Debian users, it might or might not be to all web users but it is one way in which you can find if a site is legitimate.

Few weeks back, I read Colin’s blog post about Kitten Block which also was put on p.d.o.

So let me share RequestPolicy Continued –

Requestpolicy Continued Mozilla Add-on

This is a continuation of RequestPolicy which was abandoned (upstream) by the original developer and resides in the Debian repo.

http://tracker.debian.org/xul-ext-requestpolicy

I did file a ticket stating both the name-change and where the new watch file should point at 870607

What it does is similar to what Adblock/Kitten Block does + more. It basically restricts any third-party domain from having permission to show to you. It is very similar to another add-on called u-block origin .

I liked RPC as it’s known because it hardly has any learning curve.

You install the add-on, see which third-party domains you need and just allow them. For instance, many websites nowadays fonts.googleapis.com, ajax.googleapis.com is used by many sites, pictures or pictography content is usually looked after by either cloudflare or cloudfront.

One of the big third parties that you would encounter of-course is google.com and gstatic.net. Lot of people use gstatic and its brethren for spam protection but they come with cost of user-identifibility and also the controversial crowdsourced image recognition.

It is a good add-on which does remind you of competing offerings elsewhere but also a stark reminder of how much google has penetrated and to what levels within sites.

I use tor-browser and RPC as my browsing is distraction-free as loads of sites have nowadays moved to huge bandwidth consuming animated ads etc. While I’m on a slow non-metered (eat/surf all you want) kind of service, for those using metered (x bytes for y price including upload and download) the above is also a god-send..

On the upstream side, they do need help both with development and testing the build. While I’m not sure, I think the maintainer didn’t reply or do anything for my bug as he knew that Web-Exensions are around the corner. Upstream has said he hopes to have a new build compatible with web extensions by the end of February 2018.

On the debian side of things, I have filed 870607 but know it probably will be acted once the port to web-extensions has been completed and some testing done so might take time.

The VR Show

One of the things If I had got the visa on time for Debconf 15 (Germany) apart from the conference itself was the attention on VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) . I had heard the hype so much for so many years that I wanted to experience and did know that with Debianities who might be perhaps a bit better in crystal-gazing and would have perhaps more of an idea as I had then. The only VR which I knew about was from Hollywood movies and some VR videos but that doesn’t tell you anything. Also while movie like Chota-Chetan and others clicked they were far lesser immersive than true VR has to be.

I was glad that it didn’t happen after the fact as in 2016 while going to the South African Debconf I experienced VR at Qatar Airport in a Samsung showroom. I was quite surprised as how heavy the headset was and also surprised by how little content they had. Something which has been hyped for 20 odd years had not much to show for it. I was also able to trick the VR equipment as the eye/motion tracking was not good enough so if you put shook the head fast enough it couldn’t keep up with you.

I shared the above as I was invited to another VR conference by a web-programmer/designer friend Mahendra couple of months ago here in Pune itself . We attended the conference and were showcased quite a few success stories. One of the stories which was liked by the geek in me was framastore’s 360 Mars VR Experience on a bus the link shows how the framastore developers mapped Mars or part of Mars on Washington D.C. streets and how kids were able to experience how it would feel to be on Mars without knowing any of the risks the astronauts or the pioneers would have to face if we do get the money, the equipment and the technology to send people to Mars. In reality we are still decades from making such a trip keeping people safe to Mars and back or to have Mars for the rest of their life.

If my understanding is correct, the gravity of Mars is half of earth and once people settle there they or their exoskeleton would no longer be able to support Earth’s gravity, at least a generation who is born on Mars.

An interesting take on how things might turn out is shown in ‘The Expanse

But this is taking away from the topic at hand. While I saw the newer generation VR headsets there are still a bit ways off. It would be interesting once the headset becomes similar to eye-glasses and you do not have to either be tethered to a power unit or need to lug a heavy backpack full of dangerous lithium-ion battery. The chemistry for battery or some sort of self-powered unit would need to be much more safer, lighter.

While being in the conference and seeing the various scenarios being played out between potential developers and marketeers, it crossed my mind that people were not at all thinking of safe-guarding users privacy. Right from what games or choices you make to your biometric and other body sensitive information which has a high chance of being misused by companies and individuals.

There were also questions about how Sony and other developers are asking insane amounts for use of their SDK to develop content while it should be free as games and any content is going to enhance the marketability of their own ecosystem. For both the above questions (privacy and security asked by me) and SDK-related questions asked by some of the potential developers were not really answered.

At the end, they also showed AR or Augmented Reality which to my mind has much more potential to be used for reskilling and upskilling of young populations such as India and other young populous countries. It was interesting to note that both China and the U.S. are inching towards the older demographics while India would relatively be a still young country till another 20-30 odd years. Most of the other young countries (by median age) seem to be in the African continent and I believe (might be a myth) is that they are young because most of the countries are still tribal-like and they still are perhaps a lot of civil wars for resources.

I was underwhelmed by what they displayed in Augmented Reality, part of which I do understand that there may be lot many people or companies working on their IP and hence didn’t want to share or show or show a very rough work so their idea doesn’t get stolen.

I was also hoping somebody would take about motion-sickness or motion displacement similar to what people feel when they are train-lagged or jet-lagged. I am surprised that wikipedia still doesn’t have an article on train-lag as millions of Indians go through the process every year. The one which is most pronounced on Indian Railways is Motion being felt but not seen.

There are both challenges and opportunities provided by VR and AR but until costs come down both in terms of complexity, support and costs (for both the deployer and the user) it would remain a distant dream.

There are scores of ideas that could be used or done. For instance, the whole of North India is one big palace in the sense that there are palaces built by Kings and queens which have their own myth and lore over centuries. A story-teller could use a modern story and use say something like Chota Imambara or/and Bara Imambara where there have been lots of stories of people getting lost in the alleyways.

Such sort of lore, myths and mysteries are all over India. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are just two of the epics which tell how grand the tales could be spun. The History of Indus Valley Civilization till date and the modern contestations to it are others which come to my mind.

Even the humble Panchtantra can be re-born and retold to generations who have forgotten it. I can’t express it much better as the variety of stories and contrasts to offer as bolokids does as well as SRK did in opening of IFFI. Even something like Khakee which is based on true incidents and a real-life inspector could be retold in so many ways. Even Mukti Bhavan which I saw few months ago, coincidentally before I became ill tells of stories which have complex stories and each person or persons have their own rich background which on VR could be much more explored.

Even titles such as the ever-famous Harry Potter or even the ever-beguiling RAMA could be shared and retooled for generations to come. The Shiva Trilogy is another one which comes to my mind which could be retold as well. There was another RAMA trilogy by the same author and another competing one which comes out in 2018 by an author called PJ Annan

We would need to work out the complexities of both hardware, bandwidth and the technologies but stories or content waiting to be developed is aplenty.

Once upon a time I had the opportunity to work, develop and understand make-believe walk-throughs (2-d blueprints animated/bought to life and shown to investors/clients) for potential home owners in a society (this was in the hey-days and heavy days of growth circa around y2k ) , it was 2d or 2.5 d environment, tools were lot more complex and I was the most inept person as I had no idea of what camera positioning and what source of light meant.

Apart from the gimmickry that was shown, I thought it would have been interesting if people had shared both the creative and the budget constraints while working in immersive technologies and bringing something good enough for the client. There was some discussion in a ham-handed way but not enough as there was considerable interest from youngsters to try this new medium but many lacked both the opportunities, knowledge, the equipment and the software stack to make it a reality.

Lastly, as far as the literature I have just shared bits and pieces of just the Indian English literature. There are 16 recognized Indian languages and all of them have a vibrant literature scene. Just to take an example, Bengal has been a bed-rock of new Bengali Detective stories all the time. I think I had shared the history of Bengali Crime fiction sometime back as well but nevertheless here it is again.

So apart from games, galleries, 3-d visual interactive visual novels with alternative endings could make for some interesting immersive experiences provided we are able to shed the costs and the technical challenges to make it a reality.

24×7 shopping in Maharashtra, Learning and Economics

Dear Friends,

My broadband connectivity (ADSL) by BSNL was down for a month and a bit more hence couldn’t post any blogs. In account of road-work there had been digging and numerous accounts of stealing thick copper cables which can be resold to different people and even melted to extract copper. Optical fiber for communication prices have dropped tremendously , the only expensive and tricky part is splicing and termination of the strands. There is a lobby which has clout and incentives to continue with this outdated and outmoded technology, which is why it continues, although this take discussion from the main topic.

I could have cheated and made a blog post in bits and pieces, something I hope to do this week-end but there has been some encouraging news and views which prompted me to post this blog post –

Mumbai 24/7: Shop, dine and play all night long in the city from today
and
Hotels And Restaurants In Maharashtra To Remain Open 24×7

One of the motives apart from being part of Debconf itself which is a valuable incentive to learn new things, is to see Taiwan shopping 24×7, it is the night market bit that the Taiwan team has shared, something I looked up and was a bit hooked up when I saw what’s it all about.

Of course if things go my way would probably would have to do bit more of research than what I have shared above.

The real meat (figure of speech) of today’s announcements was a discussion on CNBC Awaaz

Posted the youtube link above of the discussion – is in Hindi, the crux of the discussion while was about Mumbai (while I live in Pune, about 250-300 kms. in the neighboring city) the implications are for all those places which have restaurants. small kirana stores which had been facing lot of competition from e-tailers. One of the things being envisaged are places to eat and shop at unearthly hours at discounted rates which will drive people interested in such products and services. Also lot of retail services which depend upon such services are also reckoned to grow bringing more stability and multiplier effects to the Indian economy. Maharashtra ( one of the 29 States/Provinces in India) has been a bit contributor to the Indian economy over decades but hasn’t had its share of investment vis-a-vis what it gives to the national exchequer in terms of various fees and taxes. There are figures and beliefs which both support the argument. I haven’t shared as the blog post would still balloon up without adding anything but if needed can still share it in comments.

It was also shared that it would increase tourism but that got mixed reviews that it might not unless and until liquor timings, licenses are loosened up a bit.

I would contend though that there should be substantial increase and flexibility in domestic tourism and businesses as people would be able to make amicable plans for both parties ( a giver and a receiver.)

If one were to specifically talk about Mumbai, both Marine Drive, Grandstand as well as some other places in Colaba and elsewhere have been/were open all night. But with this shift of policy the civic infrastructure which already was in deficit might increase more as it comes under more pressure while law and order would need to be more beefed up and adequately trained, both of which are under strain as well. What was shared this policy would also end the lower-rank corruption by police officials who used to ask for protection money if shops were even a little late in closing up.

There is also a possibility that traffic congestion might be in night as well but it may reflect into a bit less traffic congestion in the day-time. Again all of this is a bit of imagination, conjecture at this point in time. People like me who can’t stand Mumbai’s humidity in the day-time would find a bit more excuse to be there at night if more budget restaurants were to be open late at night.

Also it is not a blanket thing for everybody, there are restrictions on shops in residential areas which might be expected to be relaxed a bit once things happen in the open. One well-known name which cropped up was the ubiquitous 7-11 stores. There would certainly be lot of interest if such convenience stores opened up all across the city/state.

I am excited to see if this happens.

Although, this has happened in India years ago, just it was ‘illegal’ and now it is ‘legal’. When I was in my college, around 1993 – 1994 I had shared also in 2016 Debconf the net/web had just started in India and I was lucky to be able to see/view the net using a service called NIIT Computerdrome.

Just to be explicit, NIIT is and was a premium offering for students who wanted to learn about programming and various MS-Windows technologies as there were already signs that IT (Information Technology) would be a disruptive force. Although nowadays they have also moved into management and administration courses as local IT industry has yet to grow up and lot of H1B-Visas under scanner.

It was a fancy name for what is now known as a cyber-cafe but we used to get net access at discounted rates. Now this place was about 4-5 kms. from my place so I had to be really careful in planning, figuring out as I had to buy coupons which had an expiry date and everything.

Couple of years later, came to know of a service much closer to home, in the basement of a place called Sagar Arcade. Now for those of us who were addicted to web access either for porn, or net technologies, or net gaming, IRC, Video chatting all used to throng there. At that time, NIIT had an 8 Mbps leased line which was a big deal and still is.

While wholesale bulk bandwidth rates have hit rock-bottom, last-mile connectivity still seems to be an issue. Because of Reliance Jio’s aggressive pitches some of the retail bandwidth rates have softened up but still have miles to go before I could say we have adequate bandwidth. Dropped calls (on mobile and landline) are still an issue while bandwidth tapering off every now and then seems to be endemic behavior in both public and private sector ISPs (Internet Service Provider) most of which are Tier-3 ISPs, the only tier-1 ISP Indian ISP I know is Tatas, see this FAQ as well –

World’s largest wholly owned submarine fibre network – more than 500,000 km of subsea fibre, and more than 210,000 km of terrestrial fibre
Only Tier-1 provider that is in the top five in five continents – by internet routes
Over 24% of the world’s internet routes are on Tata Communications’ network
400+ PoPs reach more than 240 countries and territories
44 data centres and co-location centres with over one million sq. ft. of space
7600 petabytes of internet traffic travels over the Tata Communications’ internet backbone each month
15+ terabits/s of international bandwidth lit capacity

– From Tata Communications FAQ .

but came to know they are merging their end-user business with Airtel (another Tier-3 ISP) while their under-sea fibre optic cable business(see above) will still remain with them but this again is taking outside the current topic.

Back to topic on hand –

I am guessing that there was practically no work being done after hours so NIIT might have in-turn leased some of the capacity to the cyber-cafe.

The cybercafe owner had two rates, normal rates which were comparable to any other cyber-cafes and night rates which were half or one-fourth (happy hours) which extended from 2300 hrs – 0500 hours. In order to indulge into net curiosity/net addiction me and few of my friends used to go there. Few days/couple of weeks later a chinese take-away and then a juice/tea/coffee shop came to serve the cybercafe customers.

This whole setup was illegal as according to laws of the time, no commercial establishment (only exceptions being Railway stations, Police Stations, Hopitals, some specific Petrol Pumps and Medicine dispensations shops were allowed to remain open 24×7 ) But even in the case of Medicine shops and Petrol Pumps there were very few who had got permission (looking back might have a combo for Business/Political patronage to it which were not apparent when I was a teenager.) I also came to know much much later that what we were doing was illegal as in using a commercial establishment after hours even though it was in connivance with the owner. see The Bombay Shop Act, 1948.

Comically, the Bombay Shop Act which has now been superseded by the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act 2017 has never been in the syllabus of Commerce Students even when we were graduating with Business Administration as one of the optional subjects. The Act and surrounding topics should have been there in the books and creative discussions and consultations with students being taken up. This was in 1994, a full 46 years after the Act came into being.

But as has been shared on this blog before, this is a dream which seems shall not be realized at least in the immediate future.

While reading today’s newspaper I came across this editorial which also opens up a window what the elitist institutions have shrunk in their collective responsibility. While it only talks about social sciences, another article for students of UPSC Mains which was shared by a student friend of mine. It actually took me back to the term Dismal Science as I came across the term and understood the implications years ago.

While it is too early to state/predict whether it would change things in Pune and Maharashtra as a whole, but am hopeful as it would generate both direct and indirect employment. After years of jobless inflationary growth it would be welcome departure especially as youngsters without adequate job skills are joining the unemployed in millions.

I need to speak up now X – Economics

Dear all,

This would be a longish blog post (as most of mine are) compiled over days but as there is so short a time and so much to share.

I had previously thought to share beautiful photographs of Ganesh mandals taking out the procession at time of immersion of the idol or the last day of Durga Puja recent events around do not make my mood to share photos at this point in time. I may share some of them in a future blog post or two .

Before going further, I would like to offer my sympathies and condolences to people hurt and dislocated in Hurricane Irma , the 2017 Central Mexico Earthquake and lastly the most recent Las Vegas shooting as well as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico . I am somewhat nonplussed as to why Americans always want to name, especially hurricanes which destroy people’s lives and livelihood built over generations and why most of the hurricanes are named after women. A look at weather.com site unveiled the answer to the mystery.

Ironically (or not) I saw some of the best science coverage about Earthquakes or anything scientific reporting and analysis after a long time in mainstream newspapers in India.

On another note, I don’t understand or even expect to understand why the gunman did what he did 2 days back. Country music AFAIK is one of the most chilled-out kind of music, in some ways very similar to classical Indian singing although they are worlds apart in style of singing, renditions, artists, the way they emote etc. I seriously wish that the gunman had not been shot but caught and reasons were sought about what he did, he did. While this is certainly armchair thinking as was not at the scene of crime, but if a Mumbai Police constable could do it around a decade ago armed only with a lathi could do it, why couldn’t the American cops who probably are trained in innumerable ways to subdue people without killing them, did. While investigations are on, I suspect if he were caught just like Ajmal Kasab was caught then lot of revelations might have come up. From what is known, the gentleman was upwardly mobile i.e. he was white, rich and apparently had no reason to have beef with anybody especially a crowd swaying to some nice music, all of which makes absolutely no sense.

Indian Economy ‘Slowdown’

Anyways, back to one of the main reasons of writing this blog post. Few days back, an ex-finance Minister of India Yashwant Sinha wrote what was felt by probably millions of Indians, an Indian Express article called ‘I need to speak up now

While there have been many, many arguments made since then by various people. A simple search of ‘I need to speak up’ would lead to lead to many a result besides the one I have shared above. The only exception I have with the article is the line “Forty leading companies of the country are already facing bankruptcy proceedings. Many more are likely to follow suit.” I would not bore you but you ask any entrepreneur trying to set up shop in India i.e. ones who actually go through the processes of getting all the licenses for setting up even a small businesses as to the numerous hurdles they have to overcome and laid-back corrupt bureaucracy which they have to overcome. I could have interviewed some of my friends who had the conviction and the courage to set up shop and spent more than half a decade getting all the necessary licenses and approval to set up but it probably would be too specific for one industry or the other and would lead to the same result.

Co-incidentally, a new restaurant, leaf opened in my vicinity few weeks before. From the looks it looked like a high-brow, high-priced restaurant hence like many others I did not venture in. After a few days, they introduced south-Indian delicacies like Masala Dosa, Uttapam at prices similar to other restaurants around. So I ventured in and bought some south Indian food to consume between mum and me.

Few days later, I became friends with the owner/franchisee and I suggested (in a friendly tone) that why he doesn’t make it like a CCD play where many people including yours truly use the service to share, strategize and meet with clients.

The CCD joints usually serve coffee and snacks (which are over-priced but still run out pretty fast) but people come as they have chilled-out atmosphere and Wi-Fi access which people need for their smartphones, although the Wi-Fi part may soon become redundant With Reliance Jio making a big play.

I also shared why he doesn’t add more variety and time (the south Indian items are time-limited) as I see/saw many empty chairs there.

Anyways, the shop-owner/franchisee shared his gross costs including salary, stocking, electricity, rent and it doesn’t pan out to be serving Rs.80/- dish (roughly a 1US dollar and 25 cents) then serving INR Rs. 400/- a dish (around 6 $USD). One round of INR 400/- + dishes make his costs for the day, around 12 tables were there. It’s when they have two full rounds of dishes costing INR 400/- or more that he actually has profits and he is predicting loss for at least 6 months to a year before he makes a rebound. He needs steady customers rather than just walk-ins that will make his business work/click. Currently his family is bearing the costs. He didn’t mention the taxes although I know apart from GST there are still some local body taxes that they will have to pay and comply with.

There are a multitude of problems for shutting a shop legally as well as they have to again renavigate the bureaucracy for the same. I have seen more than a few retailers downing their shutters for 6-8 months and then either sell it to new management, let go of the lease or simply sell the property to a competitor. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is probably the first proper exit policy for large companies. So the 40 odd companies that Mr. Sinha were talking about were probably sick for a long time.

In India, there is also an additional shame of being a failed entrepreneur unlike in the west where Entrepreneurs start on their next venture. As seen from Retailing In India only 3.3% of the population or at the most 4% of the population is directly or indirectly linked with the retail trade. Most of the economy still derives its wealth from the agrarian sector which is still reeling under the pressure from demonetization which happened last year. Al jazeera surprisingly portrayed a truer picture of the effects demonetization had on common citizen than many Indian newspapers did at the time. Because of the South African Debconf, I had to resort to debit cards and hence was able to escape standing in long lines in which many an old and women perished.

It is only yesterday that the Government has acknowledged which many prominent Indians have been saying for months now, that we are in a ‘slowdown‘. Be aware of the terms being used for effect by the Prime Minister. There are two articles which outlines the troubles India is in atm. The only bright spot has been e-commerce which so far has eluded GST although the Govt. has claimed regulations to put it in check.

Indian Education System

Interestingly, Ravish Kumar has started a series on NDTV where he is showcasing how Indian education sector, especially public colleges have been left to teachers on contract basis, see the first four episodes on NDTV channel starting with the first one I have shared as a hyperlink. I apologize as the series is in Hindi as the channel is meant for Indians and is mostly limited to Northern areas of the Country (mostly) although he has been honest that it is because they lack resources to tackle the amount of information flowing to them. Ravish started the series with sharing information about the U.S. where the things are similar with some teachers needing to sleep in cars because of high-cost of living to some needing to turn to sex-work . I was shocked when I read the guardian article, that is no way to treat our teachers.I went on to read ‘How the American University was Killed‘ following the breadcrumbs along the way. Reading that it seems Indians have been following the American system playbook from the 1980’s itself. The article talks about HMO as well and that seems to have followed here as well with my own experience of hospital fees and drugs which I had to entail a few weeks/month ago.

Few years ago, when me and some of my friends had the teaching bug and we started teaching in a nearby municipal school, couple of teachers had shared that they were doing 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. I don’t know about others in my group, at least I was cynical because I thought all the teachers were permanent and they make good money only to realize now that the person was probably speaking the truth. When you have to do three jobs to make ends meet from where do you bring the passion to teach young people and that too outside the syllabus ?

Also, with this new knowledge in hindsight, I take back all my comments I made last year and the year before for the pathetic education being put up by the State. With teachers being paid pathetically/underpaid and almost 60% teachers being ad-hoc/adjunct teachers they have to find ways to have some sense of security. Most teachers are bachelors as they are poor and cannot offer any security (either male or female) and for women, after marriage it actually makes no sense for them to continue in this profession. I salute all the professors who are ad-hoc in nature and probably will never get a permanent position in their life.

I think in some way, thanx to him, that the government has chosen to give 7th pay commisson salary to teachers. While the numbers may appear be large, there are a lot of questions as to how many people will actually get paid. There needs to be lot of vacancies which need to be filled quickly but don’t see any solution in the next 2-3 years as well. The Government has taken a position to use/re-hire retired teachers rather than have new young teachers as an unwritten policy. In this Digital India context how are retired teachers supposed to understand and then pass on digital concepts is beyond me when at few teacher trainings I have seen they lack even the most basic knowledge that I learnt at least a decade or two ago, the difference is that vast. I just don’t know what to say to that. My own experience with my own mother who had pretty good education in her time and probably would have made a fine business-woman if she knew that she will have a child that she would have to raise by herself alone (along with maternal grand-parents) is testimonial to the fact how hard it is for older people to grasp technology and here I’m talking just using the interface as a consumer rather than a producer or someone in-between who has the idea of how companies and governments profit from whatever data is shared one way or the other.

After watching the series/episodes and discussing the issue with my mother it was revealed that both her and my late maternal grandfather were on casual/ad-hoc basis till 20-25 years in their service in the defense sector. If Ravish were to do a series on the defense sector he probably would find the same thing there. To add to that, the defense sector is a vital component to a country’s security. If 60% of the defense staff in all defense establishments have temporary staff how do you ensure the loyalty of the people working therein. That brings to my mind ‘Ignorance is bliss’.

Software development and deployment

There is another worry that all are skirting around, the present dispensation/government’s mantra is ‘minimum government-maximum governance’ with digital technologies having all solutions which is leading to massive unemployment. Also from most of the stories/incidents I read in the newspapers, mainstream media and elsewhere it seems most software deployments done in India are done without having any system of internal checks and balances. There is no ‘lintian‘ for software to be implemented. Contracts seem to be given to big companies and there is no mention of what prerequisites or conditions were laid down by the Government for software development and deployment and if any checks were done to ensure that the software being developed was in according to government specifications or not. Ideally this should all be in public domain so that questions can be asked and responsibility fixed if things go haywire, as currently they do not.

Software issues

As my health been not that great, I have been taking a bit more time and depth while filing bugs. #877638 is a good example. I suspect though that part of the problem might be that mate has moved to gtk3 while guake still has gtk-2 bindings. I also reported the issue upstream both in mate-panel as well as guake . I haven’t received any response from either or/and upstreams .

I also have been fiddling around with gdb to better understand the tool so I can exploit/use this tool in a better way. There are some commands within the gdb interface which seem to be interesting and hopefully I’ll try how the commands perform over days, weeks to a month. I hope we see more action on the mate-panel/guake bug as well as move of guake to gtk+3 but that what seemingly seemed like wait for eternity seems to have done by somebody in last couple of days. As shared in the ticket there are lots of things still to do but it seems the heavy lifting has been done but seems merging will be tricky as two developers have been trying to update to gtk+3 although aichingm seems to have a leg up with his 3! branch.

Another interesting thing I saw is the below picture.

Firefox is out of date on wordpress.com

The firefox version I was using to test the site/wordpress-wp-admin was Mozilla Firefox 52.4.0 which AFAIK is a pretty recentish one and people using Debian stretch would probably be using the same version (firefox stable/LTS) rather than the more recent versions. I went to the link it linked to and it gave no indication as to why it thought my browser is out-of-date and what functionality was/is missing. I have found that wordpress support has declined quite a bit and people don’t seem to use the forums as much as they used to before.

I also filed a few bugs for qalculate. #877716 where a supposedly transitional package removes the actual application, #877717 as the software has moved its repo. to github.com as well as tickets and other things in process and lastly #877733. I had been searching for a calculator which can do currency calculations on the fly (say for e.g. doing personal budgeting for Taiwan debconf) without needing to manually enter the conversion rates and losing something in the middle. While the current version has support for some limited currencies, the new versions promise more as other people probably have more diverse needs for currency conversions (people who do long or short on oil, stocks overseas is just one example, I am sure there are many others) than simplistic mine.

Android, Android marketplace and gaming addiction.

This would be a longish piece so please bear and play with tea, coffee, beer or anything stronger that you desire while reading below 🙂

I had bought an Android phone, a Samsung J5 just before going to debconf 2016. It was more for being in-trend rather than really using it. The one which I shared is the upgraded version (recentish) the one I have is 2 GB for which I had paid around double of what the list price was. The only reason I bought the model is that it had ‘removable battery’ at the price point I was willing to pay. I did see that Samsung has the same ham-handed issues with audio as previous Nokia devices use to, the speakers and microphone probably the cheapest you can get on the market. Nokia was same too, at least on the lower-end of the market, while Oppo has loud ringtones and loud music, perfect for those who are a bit hard of hearing (as yours truly is).

I had been pleasantly surprised by the quality of photos Samsung J5 was churning even though I’m less than average shooter, never been really into it so was a sort of wake-up call for where camera sensor technology is advancing. And of course with newer phones the kind of detail it can capture is mesmerizing to say the least, although wide-angle shots still would take some time to get right I guess.

If memory serves me right, sometime back Laura Arjona Reina (who handles part of debian-publicity and part of debian-women among other responsibilities) shared a blog post on p.d.o. where she had shared the troubles she had while exporting data from the phone. While she shared that and I lack the time or the energy to try and find it ( the entry is really bookmarkable, at least that specific blog post).

What was interesting though that I had gone few years ago to Bangalore, there is an organization which I like and admire CIS great for researchers. Anyways they had done a project getting between 10-20 phones from the market made of Chinese origin (almost all mobiles sold in India, the fabrication of CPU and APU etc. are done in China/Taiwan and then assembled here). Here what is done at the most is assembly which for all political purposes is called ‘manufacturing’ . All the mobiles kept quite a bit of info. on the device even after you wiped them clean/put some other ROM on them. The CIS site is more than a bit cluttered otherwise would have shared the direct link. I do hope to send an e-mail to CIS and hopefully they will respond with the report and will share that here as and when. It would be interesting to know if after people flash a custom rom if the status quo is the same as it was before. I do suspect it would be the former as flashing ROMs on phones is still a bit of specialized subject at least here in India with even an average phone costing a month or two’s salary or more and the idea of bricking the phone scares most people (including yours truly).

Anyways, for a long time I was on bed and had the phone. I used 2 games from the android marketplace which both mum and I enjoy and enjoyed. Those are Real jigsaw and Jigsaw puzzle HD . The permissions dialog which Real jigsaw among other games has is horrible and part of me freaks that all such apps. have unrestricted access to my storage area. Ideally, what Android should have done is either partition or give functionality to the user to have private space for their photos and whatever media they have and the rest of the area is like a public park. If anybody has any thoughts on partitioning on Android phone would like to hear that.

One game though which really hooked mumma and me is ‘The Island Experiment‘ . It reminded me of my younger days when gaming addiction was not treated as a disease but thankfully now is . I would call myself somewhat of a ‘functional addict’ as in do my every day things, work etc. but do dream about the game as to what it will show me next. A part of it is the game is web-based (which means it needs constant internet connection) and web access is somewhat pricey, although with Reliance Jio an upcoming data network operator having bundles of money and promising the moon, network issues at least on low-bandwidth game which I and mum are playing hopefully will not have any issues. I haven’t used tshark or any such tool to analyze the traffic but I guess it probably just sends short messages of number of clicks in a time period and things like that, all the rest (I guess) is happening on the mobile itself. I know at sometime I probably will try to put a custom rom on it but which one is the question as there are so many and also which is most compatible with my device. It seems I would have to do lot of homework before I can make any choices.

Couple of months back, a friend of mine Akshat who has been using Android for few years enabled Developer Options which I didn’t know about till he shared that info. with me. I do hope people do check Akshat’s repo. as he has made/has quite a few useful scripts, especially if you are into digital photography. I have shared with him gimp scripting few days back so along with imagemagick you might see him doing some rough scripts in it. Of course, if people use it and give feedback he might clean the scripts a bit so it gives useful error messages and gives statement like ‘gimp is not installed on your system, please install it or ask for specific version’ but as it works in free software it is somewhat directly proportional to the number of users, bugs and users behind it.

A good example of what I mean is youtube-dl . I filed 873853 where I shared the upstream ticket. Apparently YouTube again changed few days back and while upstream has fixed it, the youtube-dl maintainer probably needs to find time and get the new version up. Apparently the issues lies in –

[$] dpkg -L youtube-dl | grep youtube.py
/usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/youtube_dl/extractor/youtube.py

Hopefully somebody does the needful.

Btw, I find f-droid extremely useful and especially osmand but sadly both of them are not shared or talked about by people 😦

The reason I shared about Developer Options in Android is that few days back I noticed that the phone wonks off and has unpredictable behaviour such as not letting me browse the web, do additions or deletions using the google play store and alike . Things came to a head when few days back I saw a fibre-optic splicing operation being carried by some workers near my home by the state operator which elated me and wanted to shoot the video for it but the battery died/there was no power even though I hadn’t used it much. I have deliberately shared the hindi version which tells how that knowledge is now coming to the masses. I had seen fibre-optic splicing more than a decade and a half back at some net conference where it was going to be in your neighbourhood soonish, hopefully it will happen soon 🙂

I had my suspicions for quite sometime all the issues with the phone were not due to proper charging. During course of my investigation, found out that in Developer Options there is an option called USB Configuration and changing that from the default MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) (which is basically used to put or take movies, music or any file from the phone to the computer or vice-versa improved much better behaviour on my android phone. But this caused an unexpected side-effect, I got pretty aggressive polling of the phone by the computer even after saying I do not want to share the phone details with the computer. This I filed as 874216 . The phone and I am guessing most Samsung phones today come with an adaptor with a USB male socket which goes in to the phone’s usb port. There is the classical port for electricity but like most people heavily rely on usb charging even for deep fully powered down phone for full charging.

One interesting project which I saw which came in Debian some days back is dummydroid. I did file a bug about it . I do hope that either the maintainer gives some more documentation. I am sure many people might use and add to the resource if the documentation was/is there. I did take a look at the package and the profile seems to be like an xml pair kind of database. Having more profiles shouldn’t be hard if we knew what info. needs to be added and how do we find that info.

Lastly, I am slowly transferring all the above knowledge to my mum as well, although in small doses. She, just like me has and had problems coming from resistive touchscreen to capacitive touchscreen. You can call me wrong but resistive touchscreen seemed to be superior and not as error-prone or liable to commit mistakes as is possible in capacitive touchscreens. There may be a setting to higher/lower the threshold for touching which I have not been able to find as of yet.

Hope somebody finds something useful in there. I do hope that Debian does become a replacement to be used on such mobiles but then they would have to duplicate/also have some sort of mainstream content with editors to help people find stuff, something that Debian is not so good at currently. Also I’m not sure Synaptic is good fit as a mobile store.

Composers are not given due recognition

Update – Some youtube links are not viewable or even seen on planet.debian.org. Seems p.d.o. tries its best to remove external links, sorry for the breakage.

Beware – some youtube-links would be shared in this entry, sorry couldn’t find a better/easier media platform to work with. If anyone knows any other platform or wants to suggest, feel free to either mail me or let me know in comments.

I want to start today’s sharing with a picture of Ganesha I saw today. It is and was public art hence sharing it without an issue.

Sketch of Ganesha/Ganapati

This is starting of festivities time in India and Ganesha or Ganpati is looked up as a good omen in India.

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi would be starting on the 25th of August and is a sight to behold. Just like Rio has its carnival, Ganesh Chaturthi is also a carnival. We also have parades where people come with Pandals (or temporary structures)

The mythology says he has a sweet tooth (hence lot of distribution of sweets, especially modak) and anything which might be troubling people, he creates solutions for them.

Here is one video of how people celebrate his immersion in India. This is from my home-town few years ago, every year the madness and the celebrations are becoming more and more. People from far off come to see how we celebrate and see how different people make their Pandals. While some are with music, others are with social messages. Usually people start going to see these structures after dusk and return home way after midnight or early morning. I hope to do this endeavour after many years. One is drunk from hearing all sorts of different kids of music, decoration, messages, a feast and a strain to all the senses.

Ganesha immersion celebrations – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjWfpGUryho

If one is interested one can find more info. at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganesh_Chaturthi

After quite a bit of time, I wrote an article about various foss internships which I knew besides GSOC over the years. I finally penned them down at https://itsfoss.com/best-open-source-internships/

Interestingly, I was amazed to see that all FOSS U.S. projects (outside of GSOC) are for students who are either living or studying in U.S. and have a student work visa (which from private discussions I came to know is lot harder to get nowadays than before). Except for the National Science Foundation (NSF) which probably has U.S. defence relations and hence they might be sensitive, I fail to understand other institutes preferences for only getting people from the U.S. and hence having a lesser talent pool of people. This also affects the growth of the projects themselves. Just think how limited Debian would have been if it had decided to only have people from only any one community develop it. Dunno if this is due to the present President Trump or these policies had been there before. It would be nice and interesting if people in the know can share.

What has also been interesting to watch is Mr. Trump blaming low-cost manufacturing centres like India and China when as far as I recall, lot of manufacturing, specifically auto-mobiles manufacturing was shifted out of the U.S. to Ireland and other places years before which are relatively high-cost places (at least compared to India). I *believe* the change was as early as in 1980’s itself where India was insulated and had a limited market for everything (similar to Russian communism as shown in popular media but not so bad.)

Interestingly, it took almost a month for the perl 2.56 to make the transition smoothly. It took quite a bit of time for all the components to work together and be installable.

Also saw this few days back http://fortune.com/2017/04/12/auto-industry-decline/

While Tesla is expensive even by American standards the idea of lesser parts, lesser complexity and hence lower costs to use, maintain is good. I do hope that he and his team or any of the competitors do overcome the significant challenges. Any significant improvement in battery technology is bound to have huge impact in almost everything that is used in 21st century.

Two recent articles tell me the future may become present very quickly.

https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2017/Q2/instantly-rechargeable-battery-could-change-the-future-of-electric-and-hybrid-automobiles.html

Toyota could finally start mass producing electric cars thanks to China

I do hope to see EV being prevalent before the next decade is over otherwise we don’t have any hope due to climate change.

As for my health, I am much better than before. Just to share some stats, before my “illness” for lack of better word, I was 120 kgs. , when I was kept in the hospital for about 2-2.5 weeks I came down to 95 kgs. and now back upto 108 kgs. Do go for exercising every other day and trying to get back the strength, stamina and increasing a bit of both. Doctors have given me another 4-5 months after which a brain scan will reveal if there are any remaining blood clots in the brain or not.

Lastly, while it has become somewhat of a sensitive issue to love Muslims or to talk about their work in any field in the current political climate, there are 4-5 music pieces I listen whenever I can, especially before going to bed. While almost all the pieces have been sung and written by Muslims, sadly I don’t know who the composers of these beautiful songs are.

While it is much easier to get the names of the singer and the lyricist, one of the more important roles in my view is the composer or/and music arranger. Without them, the songs would not have the same haunting quality that the songs have. While I have been lucky to find the names of the composer/music arranger for the pieces below but this is not the case if and when the songs comes on television. I do remember in old times at least on Radio they used to mention about who has given the music as well, dunno in modern times.

I am sharing the songs, and hopefully will also share the translations if I find on the web, please see the lyrics. The numbering is for convenience only and am torn in these 4-5 songs which is the best. Just to share these are all sufi love songs except the last one which I am sharing.

1.

Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehqN6oTpmb8

Translation with video of song – http://www.bollynook.com/en/lyrics/6443/aaj-din-chadheya/

While there probably are stories with each song, I was lucky to find the story about this one. The lyrics of the song are actually a love lost Punjabi poet who writes in the memory of his beloved to which he could not marry and he pens those when standing in line for his liquor. The story goes on that he marries a girl later in life who bears a resemblance to his beloved whom he couldn’t forget till his dying day.

2.

Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTC_2c83qn0

The same song has been sung by different people and I love them all the more for it.

Another video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G7Qg4LJ7WE

Another video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOsvNuR3m5Y

Translation – http://www.bollynook.com/en/lyrics/10703/o-re-piya/

3.

Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG7Kms_YA5Q

The translation – http://www.filmyquotes.com/songs/885

The translation of the song is a bit crude but then translations are supposed to be crude 😦

Anyways, the above song is what would be called a perfect Sufi song. I hope people enjoy the longing and the silence which follows this piece.

Another classic one

4.

Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ube5XhN_lpM

English translation – http://www.ardhamy.com/song/aye-dil-e-naadan

While the song is from the movie Razia Sultana and was a flop as the movie was about Race and controversial then as it probably would be now. As seen in the other songs of the same genre, it has strands of longing, loneliness as seen of the above.

5.

Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv242qOnHJA

This one is not a sufi song but I love all the women and the girls and the way they enhanced the song. I dunno how much they must have practised as it’s a very fast and peppy song and doesn’t give time to the singer to breathe except for that one section which has a bit of Carnatic music.

At the very end I would like to share http://www.globalrhythm.net/ I have found some interesting sounds on the site. Hope the site enriches you as well. FWIW I have no links with the site except as somebody who likes to diversify his music listening.

Lastly, for a long period of time, I had been hearing the criticism, especially for FOSS games that they don’t have AAA quality assets. Recently I came across a game called Starship Theory (sadly its only for MS-Windows)

Game video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imaL2pjNURg

You look at the game and see the number of videos the guy has made. What FOSS game developers can learn from this, you don’t need high-end 2.5/3d models, clipart will do but need depth in gameplay which can make FOSS games be popular and also earn a pretty bundle. I do hope some FOSS game upstream developers take note and use that game’s inspiration to bring more depth.

That doesn’t mean games like 0ad are not liked by people but it takes huge amount of time and resources.

0ad video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHx5XBtypcQ

Hope you have a good time with all the ideas, anecdotes and videos I shared above.

Debian 9 release party at Co-hive

Dear all, This would be a biggish one so please have a chai/coffee or something stronger as it would take a while.

I would start with attempt at some alcohol humor. While some people know that I have had a series of convulsive epileptic seizure I had shared bits about it in another post as well. Recovery is going through allopathic medicines as well as physiotherapy which I go to every alternate day.

One of the exercises that I do in physiotherapy sessions is walk cross-legged on a line. While doing it today, it occurred to me that this is the same test that a Police inspector would do if they caught you drinking or are suspected of drunk driving. While some in the police force have now also have breath analyzer machines to determine alcohol content in the breath and body (and ways to deceive it are also there) the above exercise is still an integral part of examination. Now few of my friends who do drink have and had made expertise of walking on a line, while I due to this neurological disorder still have issues of walking on a line. So while I don’t think of a drinking party in the near future (6 months at least), if I ever do get caught with a friend who is drunk (by association I would also be a suspect) by a policeman who doesn’t have a breath analyzer machine, I could be in a lot of trouble. In addition if I tell him I have a neurological disorder I am bound to land up in a cell as he will think I’m trying to make a fool of him. If you are able to picturize the situation, I’m sure you will get a couple of laughs.

Now coming to the release party, I was a bit apprehensive. It’s been quite a while I had faced an audience and just coming out of illness didn’t know how well or ill-prepared I would be for the session. I had forsaken/given up exercising two days earlier before the event as I wanted to have loose body, loose limbs all over. I also took a mild sedative (1mg) the day before just so I will have a fit night sleep and be able to focus all my energies on the big day. (I don’t recommend sedatives unless the doctor prescribes) and I did have a doctor prescription so was able to have a nice sleep. I didn’t do any Debian study as I hoped my somewhat long experience with both Ubuntu and Debian should help me.

On the d-day, I had asked dhanesh (the organizer of the event) to accompany me from home to venue and back as I was unsure of the journey as it was around 9-10 kms. from my place and while I had been to the venue about couple of years back, I had just a mild remembrance of the place.

Anyways, Dhanesh compiled with my request and together we reached the venue before the appointed 1500 hrs. As it was a Sunday I was unsure as how many people would turn up as people usually like to cozy up on a Sunday.

Around 1530 hrs everybody showed up

The whole group

It included couple of co-organizers with most people being newbies so while I had thought of showing how to contribute via reporting bugs or putting up patches, had to set that aside and explain how things work in free software and open-source world. We didn’t get into the debate of free vs open-source or free/open-source/open-core as that would have been counter-productive and probably confusing for newbies.

We did however share the debian tree structure

debian-tree-structure-discussion

I was stumped by /var and /proc . I hadn’t taken my lappy as it is expensive (a lenovo thinkpad I love very dearly) and I was unsure if I would be able to take care of it (weight wise). Dhanesh had told me that he had Debian on his lappy + zsh both of which are my favourites.

While back at home I realized /var has been relegated to having apache/server logs and stuff like that, I do recall (vaguely) a thread on debian-devel about removing /var although that discussion went nowhere.

One of the bugs that we hit early on is that nobody had enough space on their hdd to have Debian comfortably. It took a while to get an external hdd and push some of the content from somebody’s lappy to the external drive to have space for the installation.

I did share the /. /home, optional swap while Dhanesh helped by sharing about having a separate /boot partition as well which I had forgotten. I can’t even begin to remember the number of times having a separate /boot partition has helped me in all of my systems.

That done, we did try to install/show Debian 9 without network but were hit with #866629 so wasn’t able to complete the installation. We had got the latest 9.0.1 as I had seen Steve’s message about issues with the live images but even then we were hit with the above bug. As shared in the bug history, it might be a good idea to have the last couple of RC’s (Release Candidate releases) as pre-release parties so people have a chance to report bugs and get them fixed. It was also nice to see Praveen raising the seriousness of the bug shared above.

The next day I also filed #866971 as I had mistaken the release to be a regular release and not the live instance. I have pushed my rationale and hope the right thing happens.

As installation takes a bit of time, we used the time to share about Google’s Summer of Code and absence of Debian from GSoC this year. I should have directed them to an itfoss article I wrote sometime ago and also shared that Debian is also looking to having a similar apprenticeship within Debian itself. There were questions about why Debian would like to take the administrative overhead, my response was that it probably had to do with Debian wanting more control over the process. While Debian has had some great luck getting all number of seats that it asks for in GSoC, the ball is always in Google’s court. Having that uncertainty off would be beneficial to Debian both in short-term as well as long-term. One interesting stat that was shared with me was that something akin to 89 students from India had been selected this year to GSoC even with the lower stipend and that is a far cry from the 10-15 students who are able to complete GSoC every year. Let’s see what happens this year.

One of the interesting fact/gossip I shared with them is that Google uses a modified/forked Debian internally which it probably would never release ever.

There were quite a few queries about GSoC which resulted into how contributions are made and how git had become the master of all VCS (Version Control Systems). While I do have pet bugs about git (the biggest one being for places/countries having not big bandwidth git fails many a times while cloning). I *think* the bug has been reported enough times but haven’t seen any improvements yet. There is a need of a solution like wget and wget -c so git just works even under the most trying circumstances (bandwidth wise)

We also shared what a repo is and Dhanesh helpfully did a git shortlog to show people how commits are commented. It was from his official work so he couldn’t show anything apart from the shortlog.

I also shared how non-technical people can help with regard to documentation, artwork but didn’t get into any concrete examples although wiki.debian.org would have been a good start. I also don’t know if it’s a fact or not but it seems/seemed that moinmoin (the current wiki solution used by debian) seems to have got sectional edit feature which I used sometime back. If moinmoin has got this feature then it is on par with mediawiki, although do know that mediawiki has lot more features going for it.

Dhanesh did manage to install a Debian 8.0.7 (while 8.8.0 was the last release) which might have been better. The debian-installer (d-i) looks the same even though I know there are improvements with respect to UEFI and many updated components.

There are and were many bugs which I wanted to share but didn’t know if it was the right forum or not, for e.g. #597176 which probably needs improvements in other libraries along with the JPEG 2000 support #604859 all of which I’m subscribed to.

We also had a talk about code documentation and code readability, python (as almost everything in Debian is based on python) I had actually wanted to show metrics.debian.net but had seen it was down the day before and again checked to see it is down now as well, hence reported it, will hopefully come on Debian BTS some time soonish. The idea was to share that Debian does have/uses other programming languages as well and is only limited by people interested in a specific language and be willing to package and maintain packages in that specific programming language.

As Dhanesh was part of Firefox OS and a Campus Ambassador we did discuss what went wrong in Firefox OS deployment and Firefox as a whole, specifically between the community and Mozilla the Corporation.

In this there were lots that was lot that I wasn’t able to share as had become tired otherwise would have shared that ncurses debian-installer interface although bit ugly to look at is still good as it has speech for visually differently abled people as well as people with poor sight.

There is and was lots to share about Debian but was conscious that I might over-burden the audience and my stamina was also stretched.

We also shared about automated builds bud didn’t show either travis.debian.net or jeankins.debian.net

We also had a small discussion about Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and how the outlook for people coming in Computer Science looks today.

One thing I forgot to share we did do the cake-cutting together

Dhanesh-Shirish cutting cake together

Dhanesh is on the left while I’m on the right.

We did have a cute 3-4 year old boy as our guest as well bud didn’t get good pictures of him.

Lastly, the Debian cake itself

Debian 9 cake

We also talked about the kernel and subsystem maintainers and how Linus is the overlord.

Look forward to comments. I am hoping Dhanesh might recollect some points that I might have missed/forgotten.

Update 07/07/17 – All programming languages stats. can be seen here

Dreams don’t cost a penny, mumma’s boy :)

This one I promise will be short 🙂

After the last two updates, I thought it was time for something positive to share. While I’m doing the hard work (of physiotherapy which is gruelling), the only luxury I have nowadays is of falling on to dreams which are also rare. The dream I’m going to share is totally unrealistic as my mum hates travel but I’m sure many sons and daughters would identify with it. Almost all travel outside of relatives is because I dragged her onto it.

In the dream, I am going to a Debconf, get bursary and the conference is being held somewhere in Europe, maybe Paris (2019 probably) 🙂 . I reach and attend the conference, present and generally have a great time sharing and learning from my peers. As we all do in these uncertain times, I too phone home every couple of days ensuring her that I’m well and in best of health. The weather is mild like it was in South Africa and this time I had come packed with woollens so all was well.

Just the day before the conference is to end, I call up mum and she tells about a specific hotel/hostel which I should check out. I am somewhat surprised that she knows of a specific hotel/hostel in a specific place but I accede to her request. I go there to find a small, quiet, quaint bed & breakfast place (dunno if Paris has such kind of places), something which my mum would like. Intuitively, I ask at the reception to look in the register. After seeing my passport, he too accedes to my request and shows me the logbook of all visitors registering to come in the last few days (for some reason privacy is not a concern then) . I am surprised to find my mother’s name in the register and she had turned up just a day or two before.

I again request the reception to be able to go to room abcd without being announced and have some sort of key (like for maintenance or laundry as an excuse) . The reception calls the manager and after looking copy of mother’s passport and mine they somehow accede to the request with help located nearby just in case something goes wrong.

I disguise my voice and announce as either Room service or Maintenance and we are both surprised and elated to see each other. After talking a while, I go back to the reception and register myself as her guest.

The next week is a whirlwind as I come to know of hop-on, hop-off buses similar service in Paris as was in South Africa. I buy a small booklet and we go through all the museums. the vineyards or whatever it is that Paris has to offer. IIRC there is also a lock and key on a famous bridge. We also do that. She is constantly surprised at the different activities the city shows her and the mother-son bond becomes much better.

I had shared the same dream with her and she laughed. In reality, she is happy and comfortable in the confines of her home.

Still I hope some mother-daughter, son-father, son-mother or any combination of parent, sibling takes this entry and enrich each other by travelling together.

Seizures, Vigo and bi-pedal motion

Dear all, an update is in order. While talking to physiotherapist couple of days before, came to know the correct term to what was I experiencing. I had experienced convulsive ‘seizure‘ , spasms being a part of it. Reading the wikipedia entry and the associated links/entries it seems I am and was very very lucky.

The hospital or any hospital is a very bad bad place. I have seen all horror movies which people say are disturbing but have never been disturbed as much as I was in hospital. I couldn’t help but hear people’s screams and saw so many cases which turned critical. At times it was not easy to remain positive but dunno from where there was a will to live which pushed me and is still pushing me.

One of the things that was painful for a long time were the almost constant stream of injections that were injected in me. It was almost an afterthought that the nurse put a Vigo in me.

Similar to the Vigo injected in me.

While the above medical device is similar, mine had a cross, the needle was much shorter and is injected into the vein. After that all injections are injected into that including common liquid which is salt,water and something commonly given to patients to stabilize first. I am not remembering the name atm.

I also had a urine bag which was attached to my penis in a non-invasive manner. Both my grandfather and grandma used to cry when things went wrong while I didn’t feel any pain but when the urine bag was disattached and attached again, so seems things have improved there.

I was also very conscious of getting bed sores as both my grandpa and grandma had them when in hospital. As I had no strength I had to beg. plead do everything to make sure that every few hours I was turned from one side to other. I also had an air bag which is supposed to alleviate or relief this condition.

Constant physiotherapy every day for a while slowly increased my strength and slowly both the vigo and feeding tube put inside my throat was removed.

I have no remembrance as to when they had put the feeding tube as it was all rubber and felt bad when it came out.

Further physiotherapy helped me crawl till the top of the bed, the bed was around 6 feet in length and and more than enough so I could turn both sides without falling over.

Few days later I found I could also sit up using my legs as a lever and that gave confidence to the doctors to remove the air bed so I could crawl more easily.

Couple of more days later I stood on my feet for the first time and it was like I had lead legs. Each step was painful but the sense and feeling of independence won over whatever pain was there.

I had to endure wet wipes from nurses and ward boys in place of a shower everyday and while they were respectful always it felt humiliating.

The first time I had a bath after 2 weeks or something, every part of my body cried and I felt like a weakling. I had thought I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the physiotherapy session which was soon after but after the session was back to feeling normal.

For a while I was doing the penguin waddle which while painful was also had humor in it. I did think of shooting the penguin waddle but decided against it as I was half-naked most of the time ( the hospital clothes never fit me properly)

Cut to today and I was able to climb up and down the stairs on my own and circled my own block, slowly but was able to do it on my own by myself.

While I always had a sense of wonderment for bi-pedal motion as well as all other means of transport, found much more respect of walking. I live near a fast food eating joint so I see lot of youngsters posing in different ways with their legs to show interest to their mates. And this I know happens both on the conscious and sub-conscious levels. To be able to see and discern that also put a sense of wonder in nature’s creations.

All in all, I’m probabl6y around 40% independent and still 60% interdependent. I know I have to be patient with myself and those around me and explain to others what I’m going through.

For e.g. I still tend to spill things and still can’t touch-type much.

So, the road is long, I can only pray and hope best wishes for anybody who is my condition and do pray that nobody goes through what I went through, especiallly not children.

I am also hoping that things like DxtER and range of non-invasive treatments make their way into India and the developing world at large.

Anybody who is overweight and is either disgusted or doesn’t like the gym route, would recommend doing sessions with a physiotherapist that you can trust. You have to trust that her judgement will push you a bit more and not more that the gains you make are toppled over.

I still get dizziness spells while doing therapy but will to break it as I know dizziness doesn’t help me.

I hope my writings give strength and understanding to either somebody who is going through it, or relatives or/and caregivers so they know the mental status of the person who’s going through it.

Till later and sorry it became so long.

Update – I forgot to share this inspirational story from my city which I shared with a friend days ago. Add to that, she is from my city. What it doesn’t share is that Triund is a magical place. I had visited once with a friend who had elf ears (he had put on elf ears) and it is kind of place which alchemist talks about, a place where imagination does turn wild and there is magic in the air.

nerve expanding, spasms and no muscle control

This is for all parents and people who might be going through the same.

I’m comfortable with sharing part of the story and not all at this point of time, as I get better I would share more details.

About 2 and a half week back. suddenly at night I started having spasms . I was basically hitting myself, mainly the arms . In an effort to comfort me & prevent me from falling down from the bed, my mum put me on the floor with a blanket underneath and over me. In my state of fear and confusion, I pushed myself underneath the bed from where it was impossible for her to retrieve as I’m obese. I pleaded with her whole night to get am ambulance which irritated her a lot. She also knew that getting an ambulance was easy, getting people to transport me from first floor to the ambulance would need people which is not easy to get in dead of night. I didn’t want to call friends as all of them live pretty far off and have their own lives.

Then at 5 a.m. mother relented and asked for an ambulance from a reputed hospital which is close by. It took half an hour for the ambulance to arrive for reasons unknown. Seeing the look of terror on my face and seeing my body structure, he knew he needed more men. Meanwhile, mother also contacted my neighbour above who also came down and went to fetch more men. About half an hour later or more, around 6-7 Samaritans came and with the help of them I was transported to the ambulance.

Meanwhile I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Reaching the hospital, apparently the doctors had a debate as they felt the case could become complicated. And every hospital tries to have less number of deaths just like every police station tries to have less crime records.

I was referred to a second hospital with which they had collaboration saying they had better facilities and better equipment and could deal with any eventuality. The doctors shared my case history and when the hospital agreed, my mother, a doctor and the ambulance driver took me to the second hospital. So another half an hour or so I landed in the second hospital. There I was admitted. stripped, put in hospital dress. gave a urine bag , an RT which somehow they inserted through my mouth to my stomach which I have no recollection of. It must have been painful and irritating as it was while it was taken out, but again have no memory. They also inserted a knob like thing just above my left wrist as they saw/found out that it was not easy to find my vein. I felt a lot of shame but knew that this was necessary.

The first day nothing happened, the second day spasms happened again where I alerted the nurse and she in turn alerted the doctors, one of whom took a video and shared on telephone with the senior doctor under whose care I was that I was alert the whole time. Much, much later I came to know that the fact that I was conscious through the whole time changed the doctor’s opinion that I could be treated through medicine alone and wouldn’t need an operation.

Although I’m curious, I haven’t pressured the doctors to share that video as I’m still in recovery mode and the doctors have told me 3-6 months for recovery depending on how much physiotherapy I do, body’s own healing powers, medicines and plain old luck.

I am stopping here as it’s too tiring for me now to continue. I am curious how the scene would have unfolded in a first class country, especially the golden hour.

If there are any questions from either parents or people going through the same/similar journey please write and share I do intend to put at least couple of follow-ups and perhaps more as and when I become more ‘normal’

Till later.

Advice for people registering for debconf

Let me start by sharing the nice offer I got from Qatar airways today –

Qatar airways discount offer

Unfortunately it doesn’t work for me as the offer ends way before the conference will happen. I am guessing this is slack time for Qatar airways hence they are introduced this offer. I would have gladly taken this up if it was there in July end, August mid-week but guess that’s when international tourist season might start :(.

Now onto other business, while I’m glad of the response generated by my blog post about Debconf which was published about a week back I am in much the same boat as everybody else so connecting with me wouldn’t be beneficial at all. While I know the rough criteria that is used to evaluate applications, everybody has a fair chance. While I have shared some advice/insight for new people making proposals and a somewhat longer version in a mail the best way IMO is to take lots of care during the registration process.

Think of the registration process as making a GSOC application, rework and reiterate the application as many times as possible till you yourself are not satisfied with the application although May 10th is the cut-off date for bursary applications.

Having shared that, Debconf and Debian likes to have varied crowd, hence both fresh people who may be curious and have shown a slant of contributing towards free software has as much as a chance as seasoned Debian Developers.

From the numbers shared, it seems something like 109 odd bursary requests till about 2 days back and while around 28-30 odd bursary requests would be fulfilled. So it’s a pretty unenvious position for the people who are going to be making the choices.

That does not mean one should lose hope as some people cancel their bursaries, the easiest being if the visa is denied then obviously the person whose visa is denied can’t travel, other reasons might be work/business plans changing, death in the family etc. everything and anything that life can throw on you. Usually then the bursary moves on the next person on the list.

Even if you are not selected this year, don’t lose heart and try again next year. The beautiful thing about Debconf is each time the circumstances differ, for e.g. next year in Taiwan the accommodation is free from the University so it’s possible that more people would be there in Debconf18.

One contribution that people can easily do/make and doesn’t need a lot of Unix skills is the Debian SSO documentation , you could do in the Debian wiki or if mediawiki is your tea then the Debconf wiki is also welcoming which uses mediawiki. The current documentation is text-based, it would be an improvement if we have the same thing with help of pictures showing how you get the certificate and add it to your favourite browser. Let somebody who is new try it, if nobody steps up say in a week, then will do that documentation myself.

So best of luck on your applications and hopefully we will all meet either in Debconf17 or Debconf18. Till later.

India and the Agricultural Economy

Indian farmer ploughing a field in traditional style - Wikimedia commons

I was in two minds when I read Ritesh’s blog post about the Indian Economy. I was angry with Ritesh as he seemed to selectively take facts and present it rather than taking it whole. Even if he had searched even a little bit, he would have got much more better material and everybody would have been the gainer.

I have to also admit, I feel very much like a hypocrite as I have never slaved in a farm so my understanding and conclusions are a mix of media and limited interaction with farmers some years ago. There is also lots of local customs and politics that come into the picture and it’s not as straight-forward as Ritesh thinks. What he has failed to share/account for is the far worse bad and stressed debts for the industry so just saying farm loan waivers are bad without sharing any of the context makes it seem much more worse. This is when our Current Chief Economic Adviser states about loan waivers to corporates “You need to be able to forgive those debts because this is how capitalism works. People make mistakes, those have to be forgiven to some extent”

Let me start though with words from a book I read sometime back –

“On —– a peasant uprising erupted in —— . The farmers were angry with high interest rates, high taxes, high inflation and low-government prices for their crops. The system had let them into debt, and debt had meant foreclosure and loss of their fields to the land barons. ”

I intentionally have made a fill in the blanks as both the dates and places was true in India 100 years back and even today, the only difference between the two is the absence of taxes. Many people would think I’m talking about Champaran whose tale while well-known in India is sadly a stub-class article in wikipedia 😦 with quite a few citation needed tags as well 😦 but is also true today as will be seen below.

Interestingly, there is/was a remark by some unknown person who said ‘gora sahab gays, bhura sahab aaya’ meaning the white officer has gone, in his place the brown officer has come. The evidence of this is very much in the Telegraph Act and the story about its usage and its place in Indian politics

Surprisingly, sadly and coincidentally, the quote minus the dates and place didn’t happen in India but also in Cambodia. The above quote has been taken from ‘for the sake of all living things‘ by John M. Del Vecchio. The quote itself appears in the first 10 odd pages (historical summation) of the somewhat 1200 odd pages book. I actually got an old edition which tops out at 900 pages so probably some more updated input/news isn’t available but it still packs a powerful wallop. I want to dedicate a separate blog post for the book itself so will not say more on that book and what it shares.

`Sadly and coincidentally, there were news reports yesterday itself of farmers agitating for better prices just yesterday.

Some of the interesting work if you want to understand the farmer’s indebtedness is to study the ‘Income, Expenditure, Productive Assets and Indebtedness of Agricultural Households in India‘ done by NSSO.

Again, one does not need to read the whole report, there were some of the analysis shared by the Hindu here and here. This was also echoed by Logical Indian

It really boggles the mind to know than an average farming household earns around INR 200 per day. Even if you take a family of four people that comes to INR 50/- per person. Most rural joint families at the very least have 3-4 kids at the very least. Sadly Agricultural incomes do not keep sync even with the inflation index as there is no fair minimum age and wage for the Indian farmer, the concept does not exist for her(im) 😦 . Just me and mum going onto a restaurant and having one dish each easily can run anywhere between INR 200~250 easily . Cooking in the house is the same if you add/input the labor (which is usually not calculated) used to make lunch/dinner.

There was the idea that contract farming might be a solution but even that was corrupted by Multi-national companies such as Pepsi and others that the Government is showing movement to have a “model contracting law” . There are loads of stories on downtoearth magazine which deals with the above and all sorts of issues the farmer faces.

I should talk about Maharashtra and even here there was/has been an irrigation scam with figures given from 35k to 70k crores or 350 to 700 billion INR . The latest finding by the PAC has been shared here.

I will cut the blog post short as I find the whole thing personally very depressing. As far as local customs go this was from one of the farmers interaction some years ago where me and some other friends had gone across a village and came to know that all of them grew the same crop with some minor variances. When asked why is it so, while many said its fate, one of the elderly gentleman shared an experience where a farmer had planted some other thing. The gentleman prospered while the other villagers were suffering from glut of whatever they produced. Knowing he prospered, the other villagers damaged his crops and all sorts of unlucky things started happening for the farmer. In the end he realized his best bet is to follow the ways of the other villagers, at least they would be in peace.

What I have shared isn’t either unique or even unknown, even Toronto Star of Canada reported on the issue some years ago.

At the end of it all, the story is one of no education and limited skill-set and I don’t see it changing any time soon. There are some who are earning big figures, but majority of the farmers will always be in the red

An outing

I am part of a writer’s meetup but haven’t been able to go to one of the meetups in the recent months/days due to schedule on my end. So this is my attempt for ‘short story’ entry with two probable endings.

The story is dedicated to the CRPF Jawans who just died in the Sukma Encounter .

What's your story

The Outing

It was just like any other day. I, along with the Principal, a teacher, a driver and a cleaner/attendant was taking approximately 55 students of Nandurbar Tribal Girls High School, Nandurbar to Bharwani Girls High School to inter-mingle with the students there. The idea was to exchange life-stories, play with each other and generally have a good time.

As the last few days I had been furiously working cajoling and getting permission slips from fathers and mothers for the trip, I was dead tired as hadn’t had enough sleep the last few days. Also as it is summer and no electricity meant you somehow just survived it.

The distance between the two places is approximately 200 kms. .On a good motorable road the distance could be covered in two, two and half hours. For those new to such places, both places are inaccessible and it’s not just like they are, they are 7,000 + villages which lack proper roads since independence. Anyways, while officially the route should take around 4 ~ 5 hours, it’s more like 6 odd hours. These places do not have good communication facilities and the only way to figure out things is to have and share landmarks with each other. I had shared the landmarks, told him from where we needed to divert from the main road in order to be at Bharwani. I had also instructed him to wake me up when we reach the diversion and slumbered on to dreamland.

Come 14:00 hrs. and I’m awakened by a rude jolt and find myself in an unfamiliar forest road. The girls, the principal, the driver and his attendant just had lunch and hence were full of merry. The driver and attendant were singing some of the local songs, many of which had double-entendres or double-meaning lines. The girls were pink but as many of them also knew the local songs, some of them had also joined. Not wanting to sound alarmist although the back of my neck was telling me we were in the wrong place, I had my lunch and gently enquired with the driver as to why he hadn’t woken me up at the diversion and from where he diverted. Asking him gently and persistently came to know that he had turned at some wrong place. As this was the hinterland with possibility of wild animals, naxalities and all kinds of anti-social elements, I knew we could easily land ourselves in full-blown crisis mode. I asked the driver to park in a shaded place and asked all the men to come down and shared that we have somehow landed in some wrong place. I asked the driver and attendant as to our reserves of petrol and was told that at least there we were good, we had enough to drive for 4-5 hours but no more. As there are no petrol pumps in such places, you had to have reserve fuel when taking a journey such as this. The driver or the attendant, one of the two told me that they had read a sign just sometime ago of a ‘dak bungalow’ or a government rest house sometime ago but they hadn’t seen one till yet. I asked all the people present as to what they think we should do, some wanted to go back, some wanted to go further to the dak bungalow and some wanted to stay there itself, all the three options were not to my liking. In such places, the sun goes down very quickly and I knew that the sun will go down at around 17:00 hrs. hence we needed to be at a place where we could rest as well as defend if need be and a bus seemed to be a very vulnerable place.

I knew we would quickly reach stalemate and this was something that I could not be part of. Hence, in the interest of taking a decision, I quietly shared that we should also involve the girls in the decision and let them have an equal say. While the others protested, I quickly explained the predicament and they realized that it’s the girls who are the most vulnerable. I asked the girls to dismount the bus, freshen themselves up and come to a nearby large shaded tree in a round group . Fifteen-twenty minutes later, they all came and sat themselves in a group. Meanwhile, they had grown curious as they had seen our interchange and were curious as to what was it all about. I quickly and quietly told them about our situation and shared the situation about our petrol, spare tires (we had only one), food and water (water we had some but we hadn’t planned for food) and shared the three options with downsides to each action –

1. Going back – We were two hours or more from the main road, getting back meant we would miss the daylight and it’s possible to miss the main road and end somewhere worse of. Also two hours of driving back meant that much lesser petrol. Hitting the highway/main road the chance could be slim and it was also no guarantee that we would be safer than where we were.

2. Going forward to the ‘Dak bungalow’ – Going forward meant that we would be going further into this unknown forest and the ‘Dak Bungalow’ sign was only seen by the driver or the attendant and we had no clue whether it was there or not or even if it was there, whether there would be correct people around (meaning government officials or/and the government caretaker/s).

3. Doing nothing – This also had the downside that we don’t know where we are, we might be in the middle of some wild animals route or worse humans

So laying down the three options, I asked the girls what they thought we should do. If they had any ideas, this was the time to share them. There were few suggestions but all of them half-formed and didn’t lead to any satisfactory solution. I saw 2-3 of the most shy girls talking animatedly with each other. I went to them and gently enquired what was the matter? It came to be known that 2 of the girls had also seen the sign-board for the ‘dak bungalow’ and quickly it was decided to move ahead towards the ‘dak bungalow’.

Now as we knew that we had only a single spare tire, it was also decided that each of the men take turns , get down and sort of walk a bit ahead of the bus. We couldn’t afford a break-down and also enforced a strict code for water usage. I also asked the girls to chat and blow off steam as having more pressure, nervousness would simply add to the situation rather than remedying it. The driver and attendant cottoned to the idea and again started some of the those songs targeting some of the girls which evoked some embarrassed laughter from the targeted girls as well as the other girls as well. We proceeded with the plan to try to reach this elusive ‘dak bungalow’ and our speed which was slow had become slower still. The idea was simple, the man who would walk would walk for around 100 metres, if everything was ok, he would whistle or shout and the bus would come in. The next 100 metres were done by the next person and in such way we were making sure that neither of the people were too tired or nervous and we were able to inch forward a bit as well. If there were any hurdles or any other issue he would shout in a particular manner, it was the job of the person who went ahead to warn us against any such eventuality. We just had couple of iron bars (which are/were used in case of a breakdown) and couple of hammers (all of which were part of bus repair kit) to defend ourselves and that is what we did.

Slowly, we inched forward and were able to make the ‘dak bungalow’ in a distance just as soon as the sun was setting. We were again at a cross-roads here, we didn’t know if the ‘dak bungalow’ had decent people and if we could trust them. The bus was still about 100-150 metres out and the wind flowing at cross so the only hope was that they hadn’t heard the bus and one of us should go and enquire if we could get food, drink, place to sleep or just use of the grounds and directions to get back tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, all of us (the men i.e.) had started getting splitting headaches as we were all under pressure and realized that we were in hands of fate. The job of being the interlocutor was quickly given to me. I asked the driver and the girls to get down and push the bus manually further away to a largish mango grove which we had passed sometime earlier. I got down, changed myself from shirt and pants, freshened myself a bit and changed to the only spare clothes I had, a dhoti, kurta and gamcha or gamucha as it’s known in various places. I also asked them to be patient as I had no idea of who would be there and it is possible that I may be away for quite sometime.

gamcha being used as a headscarf

After the transformation, I put up some dirt in my hair and on the dhoti and specks of dirt on the kurta. I was already tired with all the pressure so I didn’t need to act that part, my eyes had already become red with all sorts of foreboding. Asking them to be vigilant and silent and ensuring that all the men patrolled silently around the girls, I slowly made my way to the ‘dak bungalow’ . I slowly ventured towards the ‘dak bungalow’, went to the gate and shouted to ask if somebody was there. Not hearing an answer, I slowly unlocked the gate and went inside still, ask in a slightly louder voice if a chowkidar or somebody else was there. After a while, a voice came out asking who is there, I said I was a poor villager who had somehow forgotten the route and had no idea as to where I was. I wanted to have some water and some place where I could lie for few hours and tomorrow morning I would try to figure out where I had to go.

A little while later, a door opened and I saw a person, somewhat around my age coming with a tumbler filled with water and a bit of onion and bread. Thanking the gentleman earnestly, I proceeded to have a small bath with the tumbler of water, eating the onion and bread, thanking profusely for both the water as well as the onion and the bread. Through the conversation, I enquired whether they were any ‘sahabs’ or government people who were around. The chowkidar/caretaker replied there were indeed two-three people from the government who were staying but were presently had gone to a ‘daura’/ tour and would either come tonight or come tomorrow morning. He indicated towards his quarters which I could share with him or showed the car-shed either of which I could use to lay down.

The car-shed was built a little to the side of the main building and the chowkidar/caretaker’s quarters were not easily seen by it which worked for him as well as for me both ways. I Asked for a bit more bread, few onions and a bit of water in case I felt hungry at night, he asked me to wait and came with a bit of local bread, few onions, a plastic water bottle to spend the night with. I again thanked him profusely, told him my name and asked him to call him when the ‘bara sahab’ or government officer comes in. I would like to offer my thanks to the ‘bara sahab’ as well as offer my services for the night in lieu of being allowed to sleep in the verandah which would be more comfortable.

After an hour or so, as the night came in, I slipped from the car-shed, went back to the mango grove, shared the bread and the onions, the bread and the water bottle I had with me. I asked them to have only one onion in among 60 odd people at a time and try to savor the onions and the bread with them throughout the night as that might be the only food we may get at this point of time.

I also proceeded to tell them that the ‘dak bungalow’ is occupied and the ‘bara sahab’ (big man) might come tonight. Depending on whether he/they are likable or not, would try to share the troubles we are in or just somehow spend the night and try to go back tomorrow morning to the main road asking the caretaker for instructions.

I will leave the story here as there are two conclusions here. Because it is dedicated to a sad chain of events which happened recently, I am loath to put either of the endings here.

I ask people to share their views and hopefully we will have an ending soon, look forward to your comments, views.

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