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Mon, 29 Jan 2007:

Back in boring old Bangalore. And it is a mess - a bigger mess than usual, when placed against the clinical sterility of Singapore or the warmth of coastal Sydney. Due to the power cut in Bangalore last week, my machine had been powered down and I suspect a couple of the misbehaving machines have had data losses. And APC seems to be acting up on some dual CPU machines. There seems to be a whole Heisenberg & Schrodinger effect to the whole bug - waiting for me to be on vacation before actually exploding into tiny bits. The last time APC had serious issues, I was somewhere in Ladakh.

But generally put, I'm back ! Got a lot of things to blog about, an even larger number of photos to upload. But before all that, I got me some code to write !

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land;
it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.
                      -- G.K. Chesterton

posted at: 21:51 | path: /travels | permalink | Tags: ,

Fri, 19 Jan 2007:

As I sat around in the keynote today, listening to Kathy Sierra go on and on about users, bits of Jono Bacon's and Zonker's talks popped up. You could classify projects as belonging to three categories - scratch your own itch, benign neglect and user centric. Most library and system developers tend to belong to the middle category, where their users are actually developers and the project waddles along according to the core dev's plans.

What that keynote actually did for me was to rationalize the use of some emotional play into a proper strategy targetting users rather than consider that an insult to their intelligence (or rationality). Well, I'd rather term it more generally as acceptance of their sensitivity and essential humanity, now. The three talks combined have given me a bit of things to think about, about the mistakes I've made over the past couple of years in handling dotgnu. Until we threw up the Southern Summer of Code, the project was literally stuck in a rut.

The talk dealt with the suck zone of doing anything, which makes a lot of sense to me. The hardest part to do is the first few bits, which everybody knows. But what was hammered in was the message of hope and of course, pride. The concept of levels and a set path upward for someone who comes in is pretty good, especially for a slightly large community - sort of mirroring Jono's breaking and entering a community comments (well, he didn't say that - but that's sort of what he meant, I think).

Happiness is a compile away !: The other thing that she talked about was about flow and meaning. I can pretty much relate to the first, which I prefer to call deep hack. And to conclude, a bunch of jokes - ending it with a high note after the heart pullers (like the puppy and the baby photos) in the middle. I absolutely loved Chris Blizzard as Volverine - a good movie that was ... oh, wait.

PS: Btw, as for "Goldilocks likes it just right", that's what she said (watch the video, if you don't believe me).

"This isn't right. This isn't even wrong."
        -- Wolfgang Pauli

posted at: 17:54 | path: /conferences | permalink | Tags: , ,

Thu, 18 Jan 2007:

I've said this before and let me say this again - we need to let people play around with stuff. The freedom, stability and all the other advantages of F/OSS do not appeal to the layman - you've got to get him interested by other means, if only to start with. And IMHO that's exactly what LCA Open Day did.

There were people of all ages, sizes and interests around. And quite a lot of interesting stuff, even for seen'em all folks like me. For instance, there was this cool motion detection and tracking tool, projected onto a huge screen. I realized what it was when I walked in and saw a few stars move exactly like I did. As I stepped back, those exploded and were replaced by others tracking the other folks coming in. Perfect eye-candy which can keep people interested in the show (which it really was). But what really caught my eye was the MythTV demos, running on some sw33t spankin' hardware.

I think it can be called a total success in terms of attendance and crowd pulling ability. But it sort of pokes fun of my previous post about LCA not being an evangelism event - I don't mind, really.

The problem of leadership is inevitably: Who will play God?
                                              -- Maud'Dib, Dune

posted at: 17:44 | path: /conferences | permalink | Tags: , ,

I've been asked this question a couple of times today. Whenever I mention that I've flown in from Bangalore to attend this conference, someone does ask again - What brings you here ?. Considering the loopy hoops I've had to jump through to get here - in fact, not having an apartment to go back to in Bangalore - I've asked myself that question more than a few times.

Why LCA ?: There are a lot of conferences around the world. Some of them are commercial, or rather of a more corporate flavour - which basically covers a fair bit of them. Then there are conferences focussed on evangelism, which I'm not really into, can't sit around teaching people stuff. And then there are those organized for users, like our grand old install fests. But in between all these, right there in the sweet spot of developer heaven is LCA - developer stuff and literally nothing else.

Why this year ?: Now, that's a really interesting question. I had to think a lot about that. First up, last year had been awesome - I was totally transformed when I went back to India. I was sort of in a pit, in a lot of ways, somewhat like this year. But that whole week at Dunedin sort of put the spirit back in me and I came back raring to code out all 8"sorts of things - which I did, even slayed that bug from hell.

But three days into the conference, I'm still not even at level zero. It is the little things isn't it ? The laptop I had borrowed from yahoo has a crap hdd and is randomly destroying bits of my data - photos mostly. Basically a b0rked bit of hardware is an irresistable challenge and wasted a fair bit of my time.

And the other fun thing was meeting new people. Except this year, half the people I met were people I already knew from last year. Being split up into multiple hostels doesn't help that and neither does the lack of a common room in New College.

I've still got two days left to go and probably the cricket match on saturday. All of which and the rest of the week of not coding should push me out of this coding lull (no code since mid-nov, zOMG).

*fingers crossed* ...

When in doubt, mumble;
When in trouble, delegate;
When in charge, ponder.
                -- James H. Boren

posted at: 13:44 | path: /conferences | permalink | Tags: , ,

Wed, 17 Jan 2007:

If you wanted to get high in Sydney, there's no other place to go other than the Sydney Tower - and I did on monday evening. The tower is located in downtown Sydney and we took a bus there. The tower itself is bang in the middle of a lot of buildings, which sort of destroy the effect from the ground, but after we got to the top, the tower dwarfs them and clears up the entire skyline for 360 degrees. Since we ended up a little late, we were just in time to see the city lights go up all around us.

After coming down from the tower, we headed out to Hyde park which is just below the tower. Hyde park is named after the one in London and has a beautiful fountain and full of greenery. There were opposums roaming the grounds and had a sanctuary feel to it in the midst of the city.

Eventually, I ended up at the hostel, continuing to bitch about the lack of WiFi there.

I used to get high on life but lately I've built up a resistance.

posted at: 16:14 | path: /travels | permalink | Tags: , ,

Tue, 16 Jan 2007:

First up, this blog has been delayed. The wifi network at the conference hostels weren't up yesterday and I had better things to do than write blog entries in the pavilion.

GOODMORNING FREEDOM LOVERS: Every morning, for all of last week, sometime around morning sydney time (which is 3:30 AM for me), jdub arrives on #linux.conf.au with this message of freedom, love and well, morning.

Only Speakers can heckle: Jdub went into the introduction full on. Starting from the photos of the team - who have managed to juggle with a colossal budget of 500,000 AUD. And with some embarassing pictures, we headed on to tackle the other special things about this LCA - which have nothing to do with each other.

What if distros were sofas ?: And then it got into a bit of distro bashing - with debian and gentoo taking the brunt of it. Debian got a couch without a back, which doesn't give (*wait for it*) much support, but if we as a community all sit together and lean back, we can support each other. And well, gentoo got an IKEA chair.

Embedded miniconf: I attended the Qtopia greephone talk, firstly because Rhysw works on that and partly because I wanted to see how QCop stuff works. The talk was interesting and they actually managed to get the demo off coding live.

Slacked off most of afternoon and headed off downtown in the evening - more on that later.

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.

posted at: 14:22 | path: /conferences | permalink | Tags: , ,

Mon, 15 Jan 2007:

I ended up in Sydney on saturday night, with the flight arriving on time. Shehjar and Hal picked me up from the airport and for the night I crashed out at Shejhar's place. I got myself a good night's sleep and woke up late on Sunday.

First up, I went to the New College hostel to dump all my stuff. The hostel has a prison cell feel to it, with white brick walls and my room had a window facing Anzac Parade. Was quite eager to get out of there and headed out immediately to the nearby Coogee beach.

And it was a sunny day, a very very sunny day. After reaching the beach, found it to be really crowded (being a sunday afternoon, not surprised). Went up to the cliffs for a few moments of solitude, sat around up there in the shade till about 6 PM. Went down to the beach, for a quick dip (can never resist beaches).

Went back to New College in the hopes of finding someone headed to the Rocks. But the hostel is not quite geared up to be a social gathering place, unlike the sofa pit we had in Unicol hostel last year. Eventually, got on a bus to Circular Quay, alone.

After nearly an hour of being lost in George Street, I ended up at the restaurant - but being vegetarian and a non-drinker, German food is not quite my thing. And I showed up there quite late in the evening, eventually got back to New College.

But my room was too near the road and the vehicles woke me up way earlier than I would have otherwise - so LCA was a few naps away.

Love the sea? I dote upon it -- from the beach.

posted at: 17:44 | path: /travels | permalink | Tags: , , ,

Sat, 13 Jan 2007:

I got my tickets to Sydney confirmed on Thursday evening, for an extra 200 USD, making it a round 1400 USD. Right now I'm sitting in the lobby of Changi airport, literally chained to the power plug by an office laptop with a b0rked battery. It must've been the lack of sleep, jet lag and the location in combination, but I found myself reminscing about my trip last year (without the aid of my blog).

No, it isn't the talks that I remember about the conference - well, with the possible exception of the Damian Conway keynote. Other than the thrill of my first foreign excursion, the conference didn't quite have the sterility of the average technical conference - wasn't a single lecture in what I attended.

But the people were more interesting than the talks. And I think the 24x5 nature of the conference, because of the hostels, plays a big part in encouraging interaction. And when such a large number of interesting people are thrown together, stuff's bound to happen.

And then there are the conversations - I remember one which started off about Women & FOSS (remember D00d3tt3z on ILUG-d ?), which turned into a discussion comparing unicycle hockey with unicycle polo.

Not to forget the pranks, jokes and cricket.

As someone said - couple more sleeps till lca '07.

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

posted at: 05:44 | path: /conferences | permalink | Tags: , , ,

Fri, 12 Jan 2007:

As I headed back from the dentist in an auto, I was surprised to feel that my purse (in my backpocket) was vibrating. Totally puzzled, I took out my purse and just couldn't explain why an auto should vibrate. Somewhere nearer to Brigade Road, I realized that the Hello Moto which kept repeating was actually from a couple of cellphones lying between the seats.

When I flipped open the phone, there were 31 missed calls from someone. I was still not able to speak clearly and eventually picked up the phone after reaching office. First line off the phone - can you come to Forum ?. Then, apparently the girl realized that she should probably try to get the phone without inconvenincing me.

To cut a long story short, She came to my office. I gave her the phone and asked her to buy me coffee for all my trouble - after all, the two phones together were well worth over 40k.

Good deed for the day - done and Done !

I hope you're not pretending to be evil while secretly being good.
That would be dishonest.

posted at: 03:40 | path: /misc | permalink | Tags: ,

Wed, 10 Jan 2007:

Linux.conf.au 2007 kicks off on monday, but even now, I'm not exactly sure whether I'll be attending or not. Initially, I'd written off the conference as out of my grasp. But some recent events have convinced me that life's just too short to say maybe next year and give up.

But having decided I was going, my economic woes remained - I just couldn't afford to do the trip, not on my salary. The flight ticket and conference fee together would eatup this entire quarter's take home pay and then there's that simple need of mortality - food (whether I travelled or not).

No Homers Club: So, I vacated my house in Bangalore. The house advance refund and a bit more would pay for my tickets to Sydney and back. For a couple of weeks, I slept in office. For the first couple of days, crashed on the sofas - I'm used to doing that. There is an air-conditioned room with two beds upstairs and pretty soon, I was a resident Yahoo!. Except for the early mornings, the office had everything I needed - hot water showers, coffee, bandwidth and a pool table. And most of December was spent in Kerala. And recently, thanks to some very good friends, I've been sleeping in real beds.

Credit where 'tis due: Credit might be the axle grease of the economy, but it feels really bad to borrow from friends. But I owe about 40k INR to my friends - which is what is really keeping me afloat right now. In the past, I'd have borrowed from my parents - but now, I cannot bring myself to ask. The long and short of it is that, I'm running on empty.

And then visas. I got my visas without any hassles and they're with me right now. But, tickets - that's another story altogether. My Bangalore to Sydney tickets are waitlisted for the last nine days and there is about 48 hours left before I've got to report for the flight.

Last year's trip also went down to the wire - with that visa arriving around 4+ hours before the check-in. But I wasn't truly in control last time and I'd have dismissed it as fate, if I'd missed that flight.

But this time, if I don't end up going ... I'm not going to sit around.

Lack of money is the root of all evil.
                -- George Bernard Shaw

posted at: 18:42 | path: /conferences | permalink | Tags: , ,

Tue, 09 Jan 2007:

As I walked into my room on Friday, I was planning to sit down and rewrite a fair bit of code in apc codebase. But my hard-disks had other plans for me. Both my 80 gig boot drive and my 200 gig sata drive had conked out, overheated in the middle of winter. The smaller drive had my /home and uncomitted work of about four months. The codebase had its cvs repository on the sata disk, which was thankfully working, though freezing up randomly. After a few hours of trying to copy out the cvsroot with a live CD, I tried to debug with smartctl on the dying drive.

bash# smartctl -d ata -l selftest /dev/sda

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num  Test_Description  Status            hours   LBA
# 1  Short offline     read failure 90%   2160   288074266
# 2  Extended offline  read failure 90%   2155   290472493
# 3  Short offline     read failure 90%   2155   290472493

bash# smartctl -d ata -A /dev/sda

5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct  Pre-fail  Always  41253

Basically a large number of sectors were bad and even an e2fsck couldn't complete on the disk without hitting the damaged sectors. After a lot of patient fiddling with debugfs, I managed to recover about 2/3rds of my cvsroot - but a fat lot of good that does. But in the process, I learned about a large number of tools available for data recovery, like badblock_guess, which reminds me of my b0rk-copy hacks. But as I said, I got a fair amount of data out of the second disk - but the first one was a total goner, not even spinning up on power-on.

Eventually, I went out, bought a couple of disks to replace these - 160 and 320 gigs, which are both SMART compatible. But to prevent the overheating from recurring, I tried to write my own alerts using inotify to warn me whenever the temperature exceeds limits. But as it turns out somebody has already done it and done it well - sensors-applet + hddtemp.

And this time, I'll be burning backups - I swear !

The primary cause of failure in electrical appliances is an expired warranty.
                     -- Dave Barry

posted at: 02:45 | path: /hardware | permalink | Tags: , ,