Debutsav 2014 Experiences – Day 1

This again will be a tell-all from a perspective of an organizer of Debutsav 2014 with some left-over notes of Day 0 as well.

Before, we start, couple of things which I should have shared at the beginning. During the journey back and forth, I completed ‘Inheritance’ Book 4 by Christopher Paolini. It’s the culmination or closure on the 4 book-set which starts from Eragon. It’s a sort of teenage medieval fantasy book about courage, bravado, magic and dragons. It’s a weighty 800+ pages book and yet a page-turner if you get turned on by a whole universe of fantasy characters and their troubles.


The other thing I missed was apart from the Speaker’s meet, I also had all the volunteers meet and see if they had any queries for the next day. As the number of participants had dramatically shrunk (due to internal issues within the University), it was going to become difficult to have participants at all talks and it was thought by the volunteer body to not have the students of Amrita presenting during Debutsav. This was vehemently opposed by me (as Praveen had not yet reached the venue) as one of the reasons of changing the name from minidebconf to Debutsav is to give students the chance to share their presentations and the work they had done so far. A bit of discussion and back and forth and it was decided that the students presentations would be included as well. One other important query was to ask the outside students if they wanted to have basics or have advanced sessions. A better way would have been to make some sort of form or something which tells us, the organizers who know basics well and who needs basic guidance as well. This is something we have struggled with before with no clear answers till date.

Cut to Day 1 and it started with an early morning bed tea made at the Guest house premises and served by Mr. Anup Kumar (student, Speaker and official photographer for the event). You can see quite a few photographs of the event on his Facebook account After tea and having a quick bath, as were early up, me, Priyanka, Anup, KK and Ishaan decided to use the opportunity to explore the environs around the Amrita Campus. It was humid in the early morning, still-born air and a faint coat of mist.

Bridge near the Amrita Campus
Bridge near the Amrita Campus

We went for a boat-ride (cost Rupees 5/- per head) and then went over the bridge to look around.I was in deja-vu of so many places, the humidity and still-born air reminded me of Mumbai while the green environment reminded me of places like Ganpatiphule among others. Anyways, we proceeded to have a sort of lazy breakfast in the Campus itself as the breakfast was the time to meet all the Speakers, some who I knew from before and some new faces as well. At around 10:00 hrs. we proceeded to the auditorium and the official presentation started. The keynote presentation by Krishankant a.k.a. KK was impeccable and we broke up at around 11:30 a.m. to my relief.

Just before my session, I had nudged Priyanka to share about scrollback which had been integrated on the debutsav site just the day before. To put it simply, scrollback is trying to do what IRC did to Usenet. For people like me/us who have been using IRC as long as we know computing, we are used to slightly dated UI’s as content is king, but for the new user who has been feeded with things like Whatsapp and other fun one-to-one or one-to-many mobile and web apps. IRC too needs a boost-up. I did make sure that the source of was available and was under a copyleft license, the venerable GNU Affero License or simply AGPL. I don’t want to talk about scrollback much as otherwise it will turn into a scrollback session, simply put it is an interesting tool which can be used especially in user-generated content communities as well as for engaging community sites. I do wish scrollback best of wishes with the venture and hope they will collaborate with us in the future as well for upcoming Debutsav’s and showcase community sites where scrollback is being implemented and used as well as share and show some of the quick interesting code examples (site integration or some other things) which will make it fun and interesting to both users and programmers alike.

Yours truly sharing about localization of Debian which is pathetic on Indian front.
Yours truly sharing about localization of Debian which is pathetic on Indian front.

A quick coffee-break and it was my turn to share a bit about Debian’s amazing history. I shared a few notes in the historical perspective as well as shared a bit about how packages enter into Debian. As I was still recovering from my train-lag and coping with the still-air, humidity and a mysterious cold inherited during the train journey, I detected a hint of wheeziness in my voice during the presentation. Whether it was evident or not during is unknown to me. As I wanted the students to share their presentations, kept my presentation short as knew most of the things I wanted to cover can also be covered during the Packaging session as well. So with couple of queries/questions I wrapped up the session early.

There has been one idea of an interesting statistic in my mind for quite sometime now. With every release something close to 10000 NEW binary packages enter into the archive in something like 2 years, this is after something like 1000-2000 packages are not in the archive because of lack of maintainers.So something like 10-12k packages which from a user perspective is mind-boggling. It is close to 56-57 packages in a day. At least this is what I have observed as changes between Debian Squeeze and Debian Wheezy and from Debian Wheezy to Debian Jessie. I do wish there were a proper resource which would either keep track of the Packages which are in incoming and then settle in Debian testing and those which are deleted from the Debian archive due to lack of Debian Maintainers. A graph or two or an info-graphic of the same would be very helpful not just to us in the future but perhaps more mini-debconfs as well.

Note :- My understanding of the binary packages may be a bit flawed as this is a based on personal observations, numbers from various sites and so on, if so would be glad to be corrected. If somebody has already collated, crunched the numbers and has displayed a graph, an info-graphic of the same would be glad to know and link to the same.

After my presentation, it was time for Praveen to take the dias. The idea was to ask people’s perspectives as to why they contribute to FOSS and why they do it.


Praveen starting Debian contributions
Praveen starting Debian contributions

It was quite a longish session as there were so many FOSS contributors who had contributed and shared some ideas as to why they do it, and some how they also go about it. People from the volunteer body, the Speaker list and everybody responded enthusiastically. Praveen made some Debian references but didn’t go much deep as we had more than used the time which had been allocated for the talk/presentation. We just needed more time and didn’t have enough of it to go around. This session did foretell us a bit that the outside students were a bit clueless about FOSS and not as advanced as they claimed to be from the blank faces we saw on some of the faces of the students. I wish we had some more time to do a bit more ice-breaking with the students and really understand what they knew and what they are looking for but as the agenda had been pre-decided there was not much we could change at the last moment, just try to ask them leading questions and see if they know somethings. Anyways, after an hour and a half or perhaps a bit more, Praveen closed the Debian contribution session.

After a coffee break it was time for the evening Debian-Diaspora session. Before Praveen started I shared the Debian life-cycle of a package in more detail with help of two flex info-graphs.

Praveen shared various links to Debian-Diaspora workings. See , and and then left to take a bath and freshen up as he was tired from the goings on for the day and it was left to me and the volunteers to walk the students through the walk-through :). Before going further let me share the setup the students had done at their end and the sources.list they had made.

a. They had made a Debian-testing snapshot, I had shared as a probable snapshot they could use. It didn’t make sense to have debian wheezy as only bug-fixes are made for it. Also had been thinking that Praveen would probably take some small C program to package before venturing into the world of Debian-Diaspora. But that was not to be. Some time later, came to know that some people had been getting segmentation fault (something that shouldn’t happen) only to realize later the source of it.

b. The sources list :-

deb stable main contrib non-free
deb wheezy-updates main contrib non-free
deb wheezy/updates main contrib non-free

The moment I came to realize that I understood what the issue/source of the segmentation fault was and immediately asked one of the volunteers to change to :-

deb testing main contrib non-free
deb jessie-updates main contrib non-free
deb jessie/updates main contrib non-free

I also shared with the volunteers that this line :-

#apt-get install -t wheezy-backports redis-server

be changed with this line :-

#apt-get install redis-server

The note about the curl issue which appears as a note in the diaspora for Debian Wheezy place is not needed as the one in Jessie is good enough :-

$ curl --version
curl 7.38.0 (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu) libcurl/7.38.0 OpenSSL/1.0.1j zlib/1.2.8 libidn/1.29 libssh2/1.4.3 librtmp/2.3
Protocols: dict file ftp ftps gopher http https imap imaps ldap ldaps pop3 pop3s rtmp rtsp scp sftp smtp smtps telnet tftp

I hadn’t bought my testing box there as thought Praveen would be doing this all. Soon it was around 23:00 hrs. and the girls/women students had to get back to their bunk rooms. After 15-20 mins to half an hour after doing a bit more work and chatting with the students to get feedback from them and to see if something they didn’t understand, winded up by 00:00 hrs and came back to the guest house. As the whole SMC team/gang was there, it was opportune for me to try and get some sense of where SMC has been for this year and last and ideas for ahead. Sharing about SMC is simple, it’s a body whose activities includes typography, font work and localization as well. I was in the room for about an hr. after which the discussion was full-on Malayalam (most probably discussing ideas for the future) and it was my cue to get whatever sleep I could get as I knew that Day 2 would also be a handful.

Hence, day 1 was behind me 🙂 . Day 2 is still to come.

Notes :-

a. The photos are courtesy Priyanka Nag (Evangelist at scrollback, Mozilla Rep. and a friend), and Anup Kumar (student, a Mozilla contributor, photographer and a friend.) . I have asked both of them to share the photos are under CC-SA-3.0 Unported license but that’s upto them.

b. Thanks to for sponsoring my travel to and fro for the event.

c. Thanks to the various sponsors, C-DAC , ICFOSS, NIXI for making the event happen. It wouldn’t have happened without your generous support.

d. Thanks to Mr. Vipin (although we couldn’t meet), Mr. Bipin, Miss Aishwarya (both staff at Amrita) and the whole volunteer team at Amrita, they also played a huge-role in making sure that we were fed, on-time and generally didn’t make a nuisance of ourselves (at least I hope so 🙂 ) .

Hopefully, will be able to share Day 2 of the Utsav in a day or two 🙂

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