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Tue, 21 Mar 2006:

The organization of FOSS @ NITC surprised me, compared to what I'd seen at other similar conferences. Compared to what went on at GNUnify, these guys are a lot more decentralized in organization and had quite a feel of a student run tech fest. I hardly saw any faculty running around, except for Amarjeet. The faculty was more of facilitiating the event rather than running the event and their pulls on the event was not quite obvious, if any. Quite heartening indeed from my point of view.

When we stopped the narrative last, I'd just reached NIT. We were put up in an AC room in the guesthouse on campus, with carpeting. After a cold bath and basic dressing, we headed out into the canteen for breakfast. Sadly, no appams or idiyappams were on the menu. After a strong coffee inside, we headed out towards the auditorium which was already fairly packed.

Fox2mike was delayed at the station and Pradeepto got the first slot of the day for the mere fact that he'd got there the day before. While pradeepto was trying to teach these kids how to use Qt and KDevelop, I was sitting outside with Premshree and his cousin building pnet on a borrowed laptop. It wasn't a very warm day, but the humidity was uncomfortable for someone from Bangalore. Despite the fact that I was sweating like a pig, I got the builds and presentation functional before I actually walked into the hall to talk.

My presentation had barely any technical content at all. It was basically about the history of dotgnu and how a few basic things in it are built. All that mixed with a few of the interesting incidents that all FOSS projects invariable end up having. People from various places just helping and keeping the project ahead of the curve - that kind of thing.

After that, we sort of hung around the corridors while fox2mike was preaching gentoo from up on the stage. I think except for a few ya maga or something like that at ti22, the rest of it was all in English. Out in the corridor, we got to see premshree talk to his cousin in malayalam. To put it mildly, if I hadn't laughed I'd have choked.

There were students from everywhere - I even found a group who had come all the way up from Trivandrum to attend this event. During lunch, I met a couple of CS students from my college. The point to be noted is that Trivandrum is further away from Calicut than Bangalore is.

After all that, we were treated with bluesmoon's Creative Commons talk. It basically had the flickr creative commons movie and a few walkthroughs in the creativecommons.org. Of course, the moves were amusing if not outrightly funny.

After that, there was a delay while the quake demos were being setup. We spent that time doing a sort of BoF with questions and a bit of interactive demo'ing. We did a bunch of stuff that was basically eyecandy, but made a good impact with the crowd. Shreyas demo'd out his collection of firefox extensions, including the one that makes those tabs come out in pretty colours. Bluesmoon played around with some of his javascript code and dragged around a few divs in a few pages. We all did our extra bit demos till the next presentation was ready.

Basically, that's where the first day at the conference ended. Then we all rushed off to the beach to see the sunset and basically loosen up. And loosen up I did. I'll write about it later, so let's head onto the next day of the conference.

day 2: I woke up late on Sunday and reached the conference centre late. Premshree had already finished his talks and Kalyan's talk was in progress when I walked in. Quite near to where I was sitting, I found a guy from chengannur engineering college trying to break through the cyber-roam security system in the crowd. He has got a fair idea of how MAC address spoofing works now.

Coming back to Kallu's demos, I have never talked on stage about exploiting any system, especially among a crowd of enthusiastic kids. I've sort of tried to stay away from the l33t h4x0r image as far as possible. Considering that was how I came into the world of FOSS, it maybe ironic that I do not actually want these new kids on the block to take that path. The temptation to stray is too high and the opportunities to exploit are higher than it was in 1999. You can happily talk about buffer overflows and cracking binaries, but actually breaking a website when you're in the same legal jurisdiction is just stupid. I'm afraid some kids might actually try some of these tricks, despite being told Kids, don't try this at home. I don't want the guilt of having spoiled some kid's career because he tried to copy my stunts online. So what Kalyan showed at NITC, viz breaking rediff.com's payment system, sort of left me uneasy. But as someone remarked rather sarcastically, if everyone wrote secure code, Kallu would be out of business.

Fox2mike was breaking the college's keyword restriction on the keyword babes using ssh and there were people who were quite interested in knowing how. My answer to all of them is man ssh has enough info - read, learn, understand and use.

We were planning to demo Kororaa which is a live CD based on Gentoo which includes XGL and all associated eye candy. To download that, we went to the college CS labs - there were Fedora login screens as far as you could see. And then the debian workshop started.

And finally, it was time for the day's last talk - Shreyas' FOSS foundry. That was basically a sort of rush through of why you should be helping FOSS and why people aren't already. He made the mistake of asking the audience what he should do and I am almost reflexively replied Dance. Anyway, his talk was basically about Something, something and everything, not to forget the zen of something something. Basically, the idea was to show these kids what they could actually do to get started - report bugs, write docs etc. After all, if it isn't fun, it isn't worth doing.

We borrowed one of the student's souped up boxes and went through a bunch of reboot cycles of Kororaa with increasing amounts of RAM till it worked smoothly. We basically stripped all nearby machines of their RAM to get this one box upto smoking fast and silk smooth operation. On that, we demo'd XGL and all the compiz features we could. It took quite some effort to actually drag ti22 away from the box to give the rest of the audience a chance to even try the basic bits.

After that and a quick awards ceremony we all split up and went on our seperate ways. Our bus was at 9:15 and it was only 5:40 at that point. We spent the rest of the time playing basketball and watching the sunset. We had dinner (idiyappams and ishtu) and headed out on the bus.

People who go to conferences to talk are the ones who shouldn't.

posted at: 12:23 | path: /conferences | permalink | Tags: ,