This post attempts to share/capture the goings on that went in Pune’s 1st Mini Debian Conference #MiniDebconfIndia as well as share thoughts, ideas and experience gained therein.
First of all this post is without pics. at the moment. Would be updating the post with pics. and all once I get them.
The said conference was jointly organized by PLUG, COFSUG and Lokayat jointly. The conference reminded me a bit of Freed.in as well as gnunify.org (two similar FOSS events but both grander in scale and size as well). While it would be unfair to compare this one with either of them due to the scale, budgets and popularity of the events it still is a good start. Would have to say that GNUnify has been pretty strong the last couple of years but then they have a bevy of sponsors. For this Debconf though, CDAC was the sole sponsor.
Little bit info. about the organizers before we get to the main event.
1. PLUG :- Pune Linux Users Group known more popularly as (PLUG) has been the driving force for uptake in FOSS since the early 90’s. It did see a dip in activities in the early 2000 but now has been a stable contributor to GNU/Linux. The agenda of the group has been to promote and propagate more GNU/Linux technologies then free software per se. PLUG meets once a month the first Saturday of the month.
2. COFSUG :- COEP Free Software Users Group (COFSUG) is a year/2 year old User Group founded and run by students of COEP (College of Engineering, Pune) . The idea of the group is based on the principles of free software and free culture and to promote, propagate,discuss all technical as well as non-technical issues on the subject. COFSUG has classes/meets every week-end and discusses things important to them.
3. Lokayat :- Lokayat describes itself as
a self-funded activist group that works on a range of social issues to organize and unite people to raise a voice against all kinds of injustice that grips our society today.
If one reads the website and meets the people therein, its a left-leaning organization and is pretty near to left-leaning organizations which are popular in Latin American countries. It also reminds me of the recent Boston Tea Party which is founded in U.S.
Now as far as the day goes, the schedule of the event given, the registration should have started at 9:30 a.m. The planning of the event was undertaken with an audience of around 100-120 students/professionals in mind but they were overwhelmed when something like 150+ students/professionals came in. The participation list on the wiki itself lists something close to 200 odd students/professionals. Quite a few people registered on the venue itself as well. While I didn’t bring a lappy, was helping couple of guys.
The experience was that due to the huge crowd and something like 60-70 odd laptops it strained their network resources (5 Wi-Fi networks put into service and still got something like a pesky 5 Kbps or something). Also tried using the Ubuntu mirror to get some updates but wasn’t able to get anywhere. The volunteers although they tried their best weren’t really upto the task as support was being asked from almost all the sides. A part of issues may have been lot of students who just put up Debian and Ubuntu and really don’t have clues to proper ways of setting up the system and hence getting networking was also iffy. Understandable as this was their first official FOSS event (they had previously hosted/organized SFD 2009 which I have blogged about as well.) There were also issues getting people registered and some people had to pay for their food as well 😦 In one sense this was all too familiar as we (Indians) are used to being overwhelmed especially in events and more times than not under-funded.
The actual event/proceedings started a bit late at around 10:30 a.m. with introduction of the Guests mainly Dr. M Sasikumar, Director, Corporate R&D, CDAC India and his team from CDAC and Director, COEP. This was followed by an address by Dr. Sasikumar who shared a bit of history about his organization as well as a bit about the ‘Open Source’ philosophy. While for first-timers it is ok I found it somewhat ironical and a bit sad that nobody objected or tried to correct Dr. Sasikumar on stressing the ‘Free Software philosophy’ rather than ‘Open Source’ . This I stress as its was a Debian Event not a Ubuntu event. One may say its just semantics those who believe in the more puritanical sense should have objected to the same IMHO.
The Director, COEP also gave a brief welcome address expressing his enthusiasm, happiness and surprise at the huge turnout. The Director shared that if he would have known at the beginning that such a huge turnout would be there, he would have made sure that we had access to the Main Auditorium Hall (which has a seating capacity of around 1000 odd people). The Seminar Hall where the MiniDefcon was held was bursting at it seams as it could hold a limited 150-180 odd people at one time. He also motivated students to be more sharing in real life as well.
After the introductions it was time for the Techies to take over the stage. Praveen along with Onkar started his presentation and gave a bit of history about the Debian project. It was fun to see Developers from both the projects, Praveen who’s now a Debian Maintainer and Onkar who’s a Ubuntu Developer sharing the same stage. Although I think this presentation should have been done by the College Students or couple of students themselves so they understood what its all about. Frankly speaking, Praveen’s talents were wasted in this whole session which should have better used and more focused for the next session which was also led by him. Seriously,if it had been given by a COFSUG student/somebody local they would have been more chances for people who have come from Chennai,Bangalore & Hyderabad to pepper it with interesting anecdotes and stuff like that. The main topics he shared/talked about was the the Debian Social Contract and the DFSG (Debian Free Software Guidelines). He also shared a bit about what goes on to make free software and non-free software. He also talked a bit about the Firmware as well but would have been better if he had elaborated on the same. I was hoping that somebody would showcase Coreboot but this was not to be. Frankly, been hoping to have a AM3+ motherboard which has Coreboot natively but haven’t found anything moving in that direction. 😦
Also I have to say that while I was impressed by Praveen’s zeal, enthusiasm and patience over the two days I saw him and do see a great mentor in making as a mass speaker he leaves a lot to be desired. I do expect and hope a lot more from him and hope he goes on to take few dedicated developers in his wings and India benefits from having more Debian Developers and Maintainers.
Anyways, during his talk tea was also served (for time-saving purposes) and a 5 minute recess was given after his talk ended.
Then Kartik Mistry and Vikram Vincent took the floor of the house and shared a bit about the Debian BTS (Bug Tracking System) as well as the Debian PTS (Package Tracking System) . The talk/presentation was also supported by Praveen who contributed to some of the finer points on some of the issues and sort of took over the topic. While Kartik followed the same sort of conservative approach Vikram was refreshing as he used the stage/presentation area and used himself to refresh people. He peppered his talk using anecdotes and funny incidents to keep the audience interested during his presentation. His presentation was about the localization efforts happening in Debian and where do they stand. Couple of specific questions on issues concerning localization made the talk more interactive in nature. One of the questions though I did leave out was how actually do people build consensus if a word is controversial or they are other alternatives. A good link or place where such words/phrases are put up for voting would have been a good place for people to start contributing. He also opened up a .po file. Overall his presentation was well received.
After the presentation, lunch break was announced and like tribals on war path everybody descended on the place which was serving lunch. I interacted there with Pavithran and I shared a bit about having a web calendaring app. which shows FOSS/LUG activities either from India or from all over the world. Two tech calendars which I know are Upcoming and Eventful . While upcoming supports the ICalendar format so can be integrated with Google Calendar but can’t say the same about Eventful. Also both the sites lack il8n (internalization) and hence many local events are missing. The Holy grail actually should be the goal to publish events once on your webpage and these calendars should be able to pull such kind of events from there instead of somebody going to such sites and putting stuff there. It might not make for more events but it definitely would make whatever events published have more chance at success. Also a flag making an event private or public would do good. I am no developer but it would make for a cool cloud project/web app. From RSVP and what not, one could do lot of post-event analysis and really make a bundle.
Anyways, post lunch Kartik started with the process of reporting and understanding the bug reporting system. He shared couple of bugs about couple of projects he was maintaining and what could be done about those. It took him quite a while as he had wicd and seemed to have problems working it. I had always been a little curious about this package as its supposed to be the answer if people have NetworkManager woes. After quite some time, I think he used somebody else’s lappy and started discussing about the bug process. His presentation/talk alongwith the buggy wicd stuff lasted for about an hour, hour and a half at the end of which I moved on from there to other work and home commitments. What I gathered the next day was that the workshop continued till late at night ending something like 22:00. That’s it about Day 0 from me.
While I was posting this post I saw quite a number of people have also posted blog posts on the topic so here’s a list of all that I could find .
http://kartikm.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/minidebconfindia2010/ – Kartik Mistry (cannot understand as everything is in Gujarati and don’t know the language)
That’s about it for day 1. All the photos are courtesy Pavithran . You can see the whole album at FOSS Community.