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Science Day at GMRT, Khodad 2017

The whole team posing at the end of day 2

The above picture is the blend of the two communities from foss community and mozilla India. And unless you were there you wouldn’t know who is from which community which is what FOSS is all about. But as always I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Akshat, who works at NCRA as a programmer, the standing guy on the left shared with me in January this year that this year too, we should have two stalls, foss community and mozilla India stalls next to each other. While we had the banners, we were missing stickers and flyers. Funds were and are always an issue and this year too, it would have been emptier if we didn’t get some money saved from last year minidebconf 2016 that we had in Mumbai. Our major expenses included printing stickers, stationery and flyers which came to around INR 5000/- and couple of LCD TV monitors which came for around INR 2k/- as rent. All the labour was voluntary in nature, but both me and Akshat easily spending upto 100 hours before the event. Next year, we want to raise to around INR 10-15k so we can buy 1 or 2 LCD monitors and we don’t have to think for funds for next couple of years. How will we do that I have no idea atm.

Printing leaflets

Me and Akshat did all the printing and stationery runs and hence had not been using my lappy for about 3-4 days.

Come to the evening before the event and the laptop would not start. Coincidentally, or not few months or even last at last year’s Debconf people had commented on IBM/Lenovo’s obsession with proprietary power cords and adaptors. I hadn’t given it much thought but when I got no power even after putting it on AC power for 3-4 hours, I looked up on the web and saw that the power cord and power adaptors were all different even in T440 and even that under existing models. In fact I couldn’t find mine hence sharing it via pictures below.

thinkpad power cord male

thinkpad power adaptor female

I knew/suspected that thinkpads would be rare where I was going, it would be rarer still to find the exact power cord and I was unsure whether it was the power cord at fault or adaptor or whatever goes for SMPS in laptop or memory or motherboard/CPU itself. I did look up the documentation at support.lenovo.com and was surprised at the extensive documentation that Lenovo has for remote troubleshooting.

I did the usual take out the battery, put it back in, twiddle with the little hole in the bottom of the laptop, trying to switch on without the battery on AC mains, trying to switch on with battery power only but nothing worked. Couple of hours had gone by and with a resigned thought went to bed, convincing myself that anyways it’s good I am not taking the lappy as it is extra-dusty there and who needs a dead laptop anyways.

Update – After the event was over, I did contact Lenovo support and within a week, with one visit from a service engineer, he was able to identify that it was a faulty cable which was at fault and not the the other things which I was afraid of. Another week gone by and lenovo replaced the cable. Going by service standards that I have seen of other companies, Lenovo deserves a gold star here for the prompt service they provided. I probably would end up subscribing to their extended 2-year warranty service when my existing 3 year warranty is about to be over.

Next day, woke up early morning, two students from COEP hostel were volunteering and we made our way to NCRA, Pune University Campus. Ironically, though we were under the impression that we would be the late arrivals, it turned out we were the early birds. 5-10 minutes passed by and soon enough we were joined by Aniket and we played catch-up for a while. We hadn’t met each other for a while so it was good to catch-up. Then slowly other people starting coming in and around 07:10-07:15 we started for GMRT, Khodad.

Now I had been curious as had been hearing for years that the Pune-Nashik NH-50 highway would be concreted and widened to six-lane highways but the experience was below par. Came back and realized the proposal has now been pushed back to 2020.

From the mozilla team, only Aniket was with us, the rest of the group was coming straight from Nashik. Interestingly, all the six people who came, came on bikes which depending upon how you look at it was either brave or stupid. Travelling on bikes on Indian highways you either have to be brave or stupid or both, we have more than enough ‘accidents’ due to quality of road construction, road design, lane-changing drivers and many other issues. This is probably not the place for it hence will use some other blog post to rant about that.

We reached around 10:00 hrs. IST and hung around till lunch as Akshat had all the marketing material, monitors etc. The only thing we had were couple of lappies and couple of SBC’s, an RPI 3 and a BBB.

Aarti Kashyap sharing something about SBC

Our find for the event was Aarti Kashyap who you can see above. She is a third-year student at COEP and one of the rare people who chose to interact with hardware rather than software. From last several years, we had been trying, successfully and unsuccessfully to get more Indian women and girls interested into technology. It is a vicious circle as till a girl/woman doesn’t volunteer we are unable to share our knowledge to the extent we can which leads them to not have much interest in FOSS or even technology in general.

While there are groups are djangogirls, Pyladies and railgirls and even Outreachy which tries to motivate getting girls into computing but it’s a long road ahead.

We are short of both funds and ideas as to how to motivate more girls to get into computing and then to get into playing with hardware. I don’t know where to start and end for whoever wants to play with hardware. From SBC’s, routers to blade servers the sky is the limit. Again this probably isn’t the place for it, hence probably we can chew it on more at some other blog post.

This year, we had a lowish turnout due to the fact that the 12th board exams 1st paper was on the day we had opened. So instead of 20-25k, we probably had 5-7k fewer people pass through. There were two-three things that we were showing, we were showing Debian on one of the systems, we were showing the output from the SBC’s on the other monitor but the glare kept hitting the monitors.

While the organizers had done exemplary work over last year. They had taped the carpets on the ground so there was hardly any dust moving around. However, I wished the organizers had taken the pains to have two cloth roofs over our head instead of just one, the other roof head could be say 2 feet up, this would have done two things –

a. It probably would have cooled the place a bit more as –

b. We could get diffused sunlight which would have lessened the glare and reflection the LCD’s kept throwing back. At times we also got people to come to our side as can be seen in Aarti’s photo as can be seen above.

If these improvements can be made for next year, this would result in everybody in our ‘Pandal’ would benefit, not just us and mozilla. This would be benefiting around 10-15 organizations which were within the same temporary structure.

Of course, it depends very much on the budget they are able to have and people who are executing, we can just advise.

The other thing which had been missing last year and this year is writing about Single Board Computers in Marathi. If we are to promote them as something to replace a computer or something for a younger brother/sister to learn computing upon at a lower cost, we need leaflets written in their language to be more effective. And this needs to be in the language and mannerisms that people in that region understand. India, as probably people might have experienced is a dialect-prone country. Which means every 2-5 kms, the way the language is spoken is different from anywhere else. The Marathi spoken by somebody who has lived in Ravivar Peth for his whole life and a person who has lived in say Kothrud are different. The same goes from any place and this place, Khodad, Narayangaon would have its own dialect, its own mini-codespeak.

Just to share, we did have one in English but it would have been a vast improvement if we could do it in the local language. Maybe we can discuss about this and ask for help from people.

Outside, Looking in

Mozillians helping FOSS community and vice-versa

What had been interesting about the whole journey were the new people who were bringing all their passion and creativity to the fore. From the mozilla community, we had Akshay who is supposed to be a wizard on graphics, animation, editing anything to do with the visual medium. He shared some of the work he had done and also shared a bit about how blender works with people who wanted to learn about that.

Mayur, whom you see in the picture pointing out something about FOSS and this was the culture that we strove to have. I know and love and hate the browser but haven’t been able to fathom the recklessness that Mozilla has been doing the last few years, which has just been having one mis-adventure after another.

For instance, mozstumbler was an effort which I thought would go places. From what little I understood, it served/serves as a user-friendly interface to a potential user while still sharing all the data with OSM . They (Mozilla) seems/seemed to have a fatalistic take as it provided initial funding but then never fully committing to the project.

Later, at night we had the whole ‘free software’ and ‘open-source’ sharings where I tried to emphasize that without free software, the term ‘open-source’ would not have come into existence. We talked and talked and somewhere around 02:00 I slept, the next day was an extension of the first day itself where we ribbed each other good-naturedly and still shared whatever we could share with each other.

I do hope that we continue this tradition for great many years to come and engage with more and more people every passing year.

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Different strokes

Delhi Metro - courtesy wikipedia.org

Statutory warning – It’s a long read.

I start by sharing I regret, I did not hold onto the Budget and Economics 101 blog post for one more day. I had been holding/thinking on to it for almost couple of weeks before posting, if I had just waited a day more, I would have been able to share an Indian Express story . While I thought that the work for the budget starts around 3 months before the budget, I came to learn from that article that it takes 6 months. As can be seen in the article, it is somewhat of a wasted opportunity, part of it probably due to the Government (irrespective of any political party, dynasty etc.) mismanagement.

What has not been stated in the article is what I had shared earlier, reading between the lines, it seems that the Government isn’t able to trust what it hears from its advisers and man on the street. Unlike Chanakya and many wise people before him who are credited with advising about good governance, that a good king is one who goes out in disguise, learns how his/er subjects are surviving, seeing what ills them and taking or even not taking corrective steps after seeing the problem from various angles. Of course it’s easier said then done, though lot of Indian kings did try and ran successful provinces. There were also some who were more interested in gambling, women and threw/frittered away their kingdoms.

The 6-month things while not being said in the Express article is probably more about checking and re-checking figures and sources to make sure they are able to read whatever pattern the various Big Businesses, Industry, Social Welfare schemes and people are saying I guess. And unless mass digitalization as well as overhaul of procedures, Right to Information (RTI) happens, don’t see any improvement in the way the information is collected, interpreted and shared with the public at large.

It would also require people who are able to figure out how things work sharing the inferences (right or wrong) through various media so there is discussion about figures and policy-making. Such researchers and their findings are sadly missing in Indian public discourses and only found in glossy coffee table books :(.

One of the most basic question for instance is, How much of any policy should be based on facts and figures and how much giving fillip to products and services needed in short to medium term ?

Also how much morality should play a part in Public Policy ?

Surprisingly, or probably not, most Indian budgets are populist by nature with some scientific basis but most of the times there is no dialog about how the FM came to some conclusion or Policy-making. I am guessing a huge part of that has also to do with basic illiteracy as well as Economic and Financial Illiteracy.

Just to share a well-known world-over example, one of the policies where the Government of India has been somewhat lethargic is wired broadband penetration. As have shared umpteen times, while superficially broadband penetration is happening, most of the penetration is the unreliable and more expensive mobile broadband penetration.

While this may come as a shock to many of the users of technology, BSNL, a Government company who provides broadband for almost 70-80% of the ADSL wired broadband subscribers gives 50:1 contention ratio to its customers.

One can now understand the pathetic speeds along with very old copper wiring (20 odd years) on which the network is running. The idea/idiom of running network using duct-tape seems pretty apt in here 😦

Now, the Government couple of years ago introduced FFTH Fiber-to-the-home but because the charges are so high, it’s not going anywhere. The Government could say 10% discount in your Income Tax rates if you get FFTH. This would force people to get FFTH and would also force BSNL to clean up its act. It has been documented that a percentage increase in broadband equals a similar percentage rise in GDP.

Having higher speeds of broadband would mean better quality of streaming video as well as all sorts of remote teaching and sharing of ideas which will give a lot of fillip to all sorts of IT peripherals in short, medium and long-term as well. Not to mention, all the software that will be invented/coded to take benefit of all that speed.

Although, realistically speaking I am cynical that the Government would bring something like this 😦

Moving on –

Behind a truck - Courtesy TheEconomist.com

Another interesting story which I had shared was a bit about World History

Now the Economist sort of confirmed how things are in Pakistan. What is and was interesting that the article is made by a politically left-leaning magazine which is for globalization, business among other things .

So, there seem to be only three options, either I and the magazine are correct or we both are reading it wrong.

The third and last option is that the United States realize that Pakistan can no longer be trusted as Pakistan is siding more and more with Chinese and Russians, hence the article. Atlhough it seems a somewhat far-fetched idea as I don’t see the magazine getting any brownie points with President Trump. Unless, ‘The Economist’ becomes more hawkish, more right-wingish due to the new establishment.

I can’t claim to have any major political understanding or expertise but it does seem that Pakistan is losing friends. Even UAE have been cautiously building bridges with us. Now how this will play out in the medium to long-term depends much on the personal equations of the two heads of state, happenings in geopolitics around the world and the two countries, decisions they take, it is a welcome opportunity as far they (the Saudis) have funds they want to invest and India can use those investments to make new infrastructure.

Now, I need a bit of help of Java and VCS (Version control system) experts . There is a small game project called Mars-Sim. I asked probably a few more questions than I should have and the result was that I was made a member of the game team even though I had shared with them that I’m a non-coder.

I think such a game is important as it’s foss. Both the game itself is foss as well as its build-tools with a basic wiki. Such a game would be useful not only to Debian but all free software distributions.

Journeying into the game

Unfortunately, the game as it is currently, doesn’t work with openjdk8 but private conversations with the devs. have shared they will work on getting it to work on OpenJDK 9 which though is sometime away.

Now as it is a game, I knew it would have multiple multimedia assets. It took me quite sometime to figure out where most of the multimedia assets are.

I was shocked to find that there aren’t any tool/s in Debian as well a GNU/Linux to know about types of content is there inside a directory and its sub-directories.

I framed it in a query and found a script as an answer . I renamed the script to file-extension-information.sh (for lack of imagination of better name).

After that, I downloaded a snapshot of the head of the project from https://sourceforge.net/p/mars-sim/code/HEAD/tree/ where it shows a link to download the snapshot.

https://sourceforge.net/code-snapshots/svn/m/ma/mars-sim/code/mars-sim-code-3847-trunk.zip

unzipped it and then ran the script on it –

[$] bash file-extension-information.sh mars-sim-code-3846-trunk
theme: 1770
dtd: 31915
py: 10815
project: 5627
JPG: 762476
fxml: 59490
vm: 876
dat: 15841044
java: 13052271
store: 1343
gitignore: 8
jpg: 3473416
md: 5156
lua: 57
gz: 1447
desktop: 281
wav: 83278
1: 2340
css: 323739
frag: 471
svg: 8948591
launch: 9404
index: 11520
iml: 27186
png: 3268773
json: 1217
ttf: 2861016
vert: 712
ogg: 12394801
prefs: 11541
properties: 186731
gradle: 611
classpath: 8538
pro: 687
groovy: 2711
form: 5780
txt: 50274
xml: 794365
js: 1465072
dll: 2268672
html: 1676452
gif: 38399
sum: 23040
(none): 1124
jsx: 32070

It gave me some idea of what sort of file were under the repository. I do wish the script defaulted to showing file-sizes in KB if not MB to better assess how the directory is made up but not a big loss .

The above listing told me that at the very least theme, JPG, dat, wav, png, ogg and lastly gif files.

For lack of better tools and to get an overview of where those multimedia assets used ncdu –

┌─[shirish@debian] - [~/games/mars-sim-code-3846-trunk] - [10210]
└─[$] ncdu mars-sim/

--- /home/shirish/games/mars-sim-code-3846-trunk/mars-sim --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
46.2 MiB [##########] /mars-sim-ui
15.2 MiB [### ] /mars-sim-mapdata
8.3 MiB [# ] /mars-sim-core
2.1 MiB [ ] /mars-sim-service
500.0 KiB [ ] /mars-sim-main
188.0 KiB [ ] /mars-sim-android
72.0 KiB [ ] /mars-sim-network
16.0 KiB [ ] pom.xml
12.0 KiB [ ] /.settings
4.0 KiB [ ] mars-sim.store
4.0 KiB [ ] mars-sim.iml
4.0 KiB [ ] .project

I found that all the media is distributed randomly and posted a ticket about it. As I’m not even a java newbie, could somebody look at mokun’s comment and help out please ?

On the same project, there has been talk of migrating to github.com

Now whatever little I know of git, it makes a copy of the whole repository under .git/ folder/directory so having multimedia assets under git is a bad, bad idea, as each multimedia binary format file would be unique and no possibility of diff. between two binary files even though they may be the same file with some addition or subtraction from earlier version.

I did file a question but am unhappy with the answers given. Can anybody give some definitive answers if they have been able to do how I am proposing , if yes, how did they go about it ?

And lastly –

Immigrants of the United States in 2000 by country of birth

America was founded by immigrants. Everybody knows the story about American Indians, the originals of the land were over-powered by the European settlers. So any claim, then and now that immigration did not help United States is just a lie.

This came due to a conversation on #debconf by andrewsh –

[18:37:06] I’d be more than happy myself to apply for an US tourist not transit visa when I really need it, as a transit visa isn’t really useful, is just as costly as a tourist visa, and nearly as difficult to get as a tourist visa
[18:37:40] I’m not entirely sure I wish to transit through the US in its Trumplandia incarnation either
[18:38:07] likely to be more difficult and unfun

FWIW I am in complete agreement with Andrew’s assessment of how it might be with foreigners. It has been on my mind and thoughts for quite some time although andrewsh put it eloquently.

But as always I’m getting ahead of myself.

The conversation is because debconf this year would be in Canada. For many a cheap flight, one of the likely layovers/stopover can be the United States.

I actually would have gone one step further, even if it was cheap transit visa, it would equally be unfun as it would discriminate.

About couple of years back, a friend of mine while explaining what “visa” is, put it rather succinctly –

the visa officer looks at only 3 things –

a. Your financial position – something which tells that you can take care of your financial needs if things go south –

b. You are not looking to settle there unlawfully

c. You are not a criminal.

While costs do matter, what is disturbing more is the form of extremism being displayed therein. While Indians from the South Asian continent in US have been largely successful, love to be in peace (one-off incidents do and will happen anywhere) if I had to take a transit or tourist visa in this atmosphere, it would leave a bad taste in the mouth.

When one of my best friends is a Muslim, 20% of the population in India is made of Muslims and 99% of the time both of us co-exist in peace I simply can’t take any alternative ideology. Even in Freakonomics 2.0 the authors when they shared that it’s less than 0.1 percent of Muslims who are engaged in terrorist activities, if they were even 1 percent than all the world’s armed forces couldn’t fight them and couldn’t keep anyone safe. Which simply means that 99.99% of even all Muslims are good.

This resonates strongly with me for number of reasons. One of my uncles in early to late 80’s had an opportunity for work to visit Russia for official work. He went there and there were Secret Police after him all the time. While he didn’t know it, I later read it, that it was SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) when all and any foreigners came visiting the country, and not just foreigners, they had spies for their own citizens. Russka a book I read several years ago explained the paranoia beautifully.

While U.S. in those days was a more welcoming place for him.

I am thankful as well as find it strange that Canada and States have such different visa procedures. While Canada would simply look at the above things, probably discreetly inquire about you if you have been a bad boy/girl in any way and then make a decision which is fine. For United States, even for a transit visa I probably would have to go to Interview where my world view would probably be in conflict with the current American world view.

Interestingly, while I was looking at conversations on the web and one thing that is missing there is that nobody has talked about intelligence community. What Mr. Trump is saying in not so many words is that our intelligence even with all the e-mails we monitor and everything we do, we still can’t catch you. It almost seems like giving a back-handed compliment to the extremists saying you do a better job than our intelligence community.

This doesn’t mean that States doesn’t have interesting things to give to the world, Star Trek conventions, Grand Canyon (which probably would require me more than a month or more to explore even a little part), NASA, Intel, AMD, SpaceX, CES (when it’s held) and LPC (Linux Plumber’s conference where whose who come to think of roadmap for GNU/Linux). What I wouldn’t give to be a fly in the wall when LPC, CES happens in the States.

What I actually found very interesting is that in the current Canadian Government, if what I read and heard is true, then Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada made 50 of his cabinet female. Just like in the article, studies even in Indian parliament have shown that when women are in power, questions about social justice, equality, common good get asked and policies made. If I do get the opportunity to be part of debconf, I would like to see, hear, watch, learn how the women cabinet is doing things. I am assuming that reporting and analysis standards of whatever decisions are more transparent and more people are engaged in the political process to know what their elected representatives are doing.

Mountain biking in British Columbia, Canada - source wikipedia.org

One another interesting point I came to know is that Canada is home to bicycling paths. While I stopped bicycling years ago 😦 as it has been becoming more and more dangerous to bicycle here in Pune as there is no demarcation for cyclists, I am sure lot of Canadians must be using this opportunity fully.

Lastly, on the debconf preparation stage, things have started becoming a bit more urgent and hectic. From a monthly IRC meet, it has now become a weekly meet. Both the wiki and the website are slowly taking up shape. http://deb.li/dc17kbp is a nice way to know/see progress of the activities happening .

One important decision that would be taken today is where people would stay during debconf. There are options between on-site and two places around the venue, one 1.9 km around, the other 5 km. mark. Each has its own good and bad points. It would be interesting to see which place gets selected and why.

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