Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BarCampKerala 6: An experience

So, another BarCamp just got over. I wasn't so sure I would be attending this one, and because of the same, I had registered very late. One advantage I had with this is that, the venue was Rajagiri College of Engineering, which is quite nearer, than Technopark or IIM-K.

As always, the sessions page showed about 13 sessions listed. But this being my 5th BarCamp, I knew most of them wouldn't turn up. So does the registered 160+ people.

I started early, thought against going alone. I invited @manikartha to come along with me, but he chose to wait for his friend. I reached Kakkanad, and by the time, I knew from the tweets that the sessions already started.

I walked into the hall (late) listening to Praseed Pai's session. After listening to him for 2-3 times, I've become a fan of him. Although most of his talks are full of maths and goes above everyone's head. His passion, and the effort he has put into grokking deep into dark corners of the subjects is simply impressive.

Only this time, he chose not to talk about maths or programming or complier design, but rather "Biases and Fallacies of Human Race". It was mostly, maths probability and lots of equations and abbreviations, but I enjoyed nonetheless. Simply, by listening to the way he explains the practical methods of utilizing probability into real life, is inspiring. If there was only one such teacher in my college who taught/explained the applications of such theorems, I'd have been a rank holder in Operations Research.

Kenney talked about "Voice Based Blood Search", a proposal to implement a voice based blood bank sourcing programme. Not only did he talk big, but he had already implemented it in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. I appreciate his effort of setting up a PoC implementation, so as to convince the audience it is possible, and that its not just talks.

Secondly, Kenney presented "TEN: Technology Evangelists Network". People in Kochi know that BarCamp is a venue which is attented by all people across Kerala. But we Kochiites have various events almost every week: ILUG meet, Cochin tweetup, Cochin Bloggers meet, and lately OWASP meeting. Kenney's argument was that, most of the meetings are attentend by, and lead by "drop-outs", he suggested these "drop-outs" have a better chance of entrepreneurship that college-educated candidates. (Correct me if I'm wrong, that's the idea I got). Kenney also compared Stanford dropouts, and MIT whizes who actually haven't completed their courses. This session invited a lot of heated debates. I believe the audience was left with to conclude the success ratio of drop-out/college-educated entrepreneurs.

Next Rajesh Venugopal (@Raj241071) was back with his sad stories of cultural status quo of Kerela, our wasted adherence to unnecessary religious ceremonies. I already disagreed with most of his points at BarCampKerala 5. True, there are some time-wasting cultural ceremonies, but that is what defines a civilization. If we were like Americans, simply pursuing job/career/entrepreneurship we would reach somewhere sans happiness.

But his slides on Young Kerala initiative back then interested me a lot. I agree with him fully on ignorance and disregard shown by Baby Boomers to Gen-Y. He also dragged us through his sorrow-filled entrepreneurial start-up life, bulleted points full of what set-backs he had to face, how he had revelations at various intervals of life. But his hard-earned experience from life would sure be of some leading light to some who steps into the shoes of an entrepreneur.

Rajesh's talks, coupled with Kenney's ideas, makes me say organisations should hire young people who are capable of accomplishing things successfully with passion, rather than having some hi-fi college degree and a bag full of certifications. But anyway, though I disagree with Rajesh in his attitude to so-called "unnecessary" ceremonies prevalent in our state, I'm going to join his Young Kerala group in Facebook, today, ASAP.

Arun Basil Lal, rushed to stage next, after having a restless time trying to woo gaallzz. His first talk was about a Mind Mapping software, the same old thing presented at BarCampKerala 4 at IIM-K. I'm sure Vishnu Gopal would have hated mind maps. At least, he hated it back then. He tore one off in stage, back at IIM-K.

Next, Arun proceeded to show a todo manager. He also took great care to insult Mac users, much to the agitation of @missy07. I don't know if Arun have used Macs, but if he has, he wouldn't be so enthusiastic about insulting them. Arun also talked about the origins of BarCamp, which is actually 'forbidden' in BarCamp rulebook. He mispronounced O'Reilly media as "oh-reality media" (which I'm sure anal geeks would take offense to). Also, foo was not just a short form for "Friends of O'Reilly", it was much more of a backronym of the metasyntatic variable 'foo'. Since FOOCamp was invitation only (from Tim O'Reilly), other interested people decided to create a open-to-all camp, and they chose the next metasyntatic variable used in geekdom — 'bar'.

Anand got on stage to talk about Carpooling. But by the time I returned back from the wash room, his talk was over. Sad, I couldn't listen to it.

After lunch, @manikartha, @vishnupsp etc. roamed around the campus hunting for 'colours'. ;-)

Post-lunch, we got into the hall as Manu Zacharia was going on through his "Ethical Hacking" presentation. Now, I always have this hostile attitude towards the word "Ethical Hacking" and anyone who uses it. I was once bummed buying a book by the so-called leading "ethical hacker" of India — Ankit Fadia. Don't buy his books, please. I was conned. Why I am hostile is that, within the hacker community there's a prevailing qusetion, "What's so unethical about hacking?".

But Manu handled his talks very neatly. Much better than I anticipated. He sure is someone who knows what he is talking about. The only other person I have seen with so much prowess is Jayakrishnan, from Xtend Technologies. Manu skimmed through the usual security related topics like SQL injection, the money matter, stealing credit card numbers, etc.

He also talked a lot about certifications, the importance, various available ones etc. I'm only sad that he too is an MVP. Why do all industry experts have this M$ certification in their pocket? ALso, watching his talk made me regret not going for the first OWASP meet. Binny had invited me for it, but I thought some other personal appointment was better. Now I really regret.

I am also not very sure he fielded my questions about Fadia and various loosely scattered certifications very well. I wanted to know why the media is not bringing out the fad behind Fadia. Manu seemed to be defending Fadia. No idea why. And once again, I despise the term "Ethical Hacking". Pen testing (for "penetration testing") seems to be a much more unambiguous term.

Manu also listed out the common vuln analysis tools like Nessus, Nmap, NetCat, SATAN/SAINT/SANTA, etc. (wannabe hackers please download them :-p). He also talked about his BackTrack like distro — Matriux. I'm definitely interested. Let me jump into it during my free time.

Manu had to field a LOOT of questions. I'm sure many people haven't still got their chance to ask what they wanted to clarify. And I also want to know if Arun Basil Lal managed to crack into his GF's Orkut account :-p (JK, don't hate me, Arun).

Next was Muneef's attempt to simplify Drupal 101. Since I was outside the hall meeting/talking to various guys, I couldn't listen to it properly. I met Hiran Venugopal outside. He's with SMC. I've been wanting to meet someone active from SMC to ask a few doubts. But we had to cut short our talks as Hiran was called off to answer some queries on TrueType font hinting.

Post lunch sessions, as always were devoid of the bubbly girls you see around at all BarCamp's inaugural sessions. They flock in, talk/giggle with their open laptops, check mails, scrap each other, have lunch and and leave the hall. I remember asking one girl sitting near me (seeing she was punching something fast on her mobile) "Are you on twitter?". She gave me a stare, gathered her bag, and left immediately, muttering "no". O_o

I then sat with Praseed Pai where I attempted to leak out maximum wealth of knowledge out of him. I always wish I loved maths, but sadly I hate it. Seeing people like Pai who mastered it all on his own, is a motivational feeling.

Lastly, Sameer from ILUG talked briefly about ILUG, and showed us the Open Movie — Big Buck Bunny. Pai all this time, was wondering about the math behind open source compositing, shader algorithms, and unease-of-use of Blender UI.

Binny spoke about his "hello script" method of learning programming languages. I like his method, but as he correctly pointed out, won't work with languages of different paradigms like Haskell, OCaml, or Scheme.

Praseed then decided to quiz us showing pics of famous personalities of computing. I'm sure, we can remember the name, but forgets the name when his photo is shown. After a long talk by Binny on Python, I found it difficult to recall the name of Guido van Rossum, when his photo was shown. So bad, my brain, bad bad! Later, as the BarCamp wound up, some of us stood in the verandah discussing various random stuff. This was quite an informal talk, but we enjoyed a lot. I could also meet @crazyjibin with whom I've only interacted on twitter.

I left the venue with @albins, who was kind enough to offer me a lift to Kakkanad junction.

This was a very interesting BarCamp, quite unlike the boring one at IIM-K. Thanks to organisers, and fellow BarCampers. Photos: here. Video (thanks to @karmadude): here.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Which Superhero are you?

Your results: You are Green Lantern
Green Lantern
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Hot-headed. You have strong will power and a good imagination.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Friday, January 30, 2009

When teens turn against their parents

What would you do when your parents usually revoke your permissions, as a result of your possible mis-behaviour? Well, some guys (and gals) thought of the worst possible retaliation against their parents.

A 16-year old girl went after her parents weilding two kitchen knives, after they revoked her cell-phone privileges.  Her parents suspected she had been stealing money to re-charge her pre-paid connection.  The parents locked themselves up from the girl, and she held them hostage for about 10 minutes. Wow!

Another 15-year old ran away from his home after his X-box 360 were confiscated by his parents. This boy went missing, and search was intensified.  He was too much into playng "Call of Duty 4:  Modern Warfare", and his parents thought that was affecting his grades. Even Micro$oft offered about a million Indian Rupees (C$ 25,000) as prize money for any information regarding this missing boy. But sadly, after a month-long search, his body was found a few kilometers from his home. How depressing!

A 17-year old guy was denied a chance to play "Halo 3". And he wenched his revenge on his parents.  He went and got his dad's 9mm pistol, and shot dead his mother, and turned against his father (who only had bullet injury). The last thing his dad remember this guy asked, coming to his room was, "Would you guys close your eyes? I have a surprise for you". The boy was convitcted, he got a life-term, without parole.  And his plea turned down. Humph!

And another funny incident where two 30-year old brothers, fighting and almost killing each other, for a PS/2 controller. The brothers allegedly got into a fist fight, which led one brother strangling the other. The one being choked pulled out a knife and stabbed the other in the chest. Crazy "kids" eh? (The MSNBC link seem to be down, you can read it from Google cache here).

What can we make of all this out bursts of Gen-Y? That parents are being too stringent and strict? Or that Gen-Y takes virtual world to be 'real' than the real world? Or that they better prefer to be left alone, than be controlled by their parents? Or violent games are to be blamed? Who is the real culprit here?

What would you, as a parent, do if you come across such an addictive situation? I'd be happy to see your opinions.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Men-Women Differences

Hahaha... (c'mon, laugh with me!) :-D

BarCampKerala4: Turned out to be BoreCamp

BarCamp is supposed to be a gathering of geeks, enthusiasts and other techno aficionados. Never have I thought it would call in suits (or 'suitlings'). BarCampKerala4 was organised at IIM-K. An odd choice for a geek gathering. Here's my experience of the day as well as of the camp.

I woke up late that day. The train was at 6:45am, but I was awoken by my room mate at 6am. I quickly grabbed my dress from the hanger and was running towards the junction, with my laptop bag and by backpack in 2 mins. I got an auto, luckily, from Thevara to South Railway station. Binny and Venkat arrived in about 5 mins after I reached the station.

On train we met Alby and Abhilash, both en route to BCK4. We had a pleasant start, discussing various issues ranging from the pros/cons of RH certification, CentOS as a server OS, the unsung powers of Debian, KDE vs. GNOME, the scary life of Chinese netizens, the possible horrors awaiting Indian counterparts because of IT Act Amendment Bill and its big brother — Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

It was a great day, with beautiful scenery on the outside and cheery moods inside coupled with anticipation of meeting more like-minded geeks, before things started to go wrong.

Nearing Farooq, I believe, our train stopped suddenly, with people jumping down and peering under the train. We initially suspected the train had run over someone, but then, there's no need to halt the train if that be the case. We went on to inspect and found that the rail had broken and pilot had pulled on the brakes fearing derailing (I still wonder how he came to know of it).

We kinda KNEW it then that day is going to be not as great as we thought, and the software Gods were not pleased with us. We somehow landed at Kozhikode station, and firstly booked the return ticket back for 5:45pm train.

I met one Mr. Midhun Zachariah from SMS, CUSAT, whom our team (Akhilesh and myself) defeated for DC Quiz Book Fair quiz competition at Railway station. They were the runner-up or so, but Akhilesh and yours truly got to inaugurate that competition that day. Anyway.

Well, we walked till the bus stand, and hoped into a bus that announced, “we're leaving right now, we're leaving right now” — except that even after 3 buses left, the bus that we sat weren't budging. :'(

Before the fourth one left, we jumped out and hoped into another bus that had its engine running. I kept tweeting about my status, via mobile, but sometimes that damn place couldn't get E-GPRS connection. We reached IIM just in time for lunch. People were moving towards the mess-hall, and we didn't want to be left out or be late for lunch.

I came to know 2–3 sessions were already over, with interesting topics like Web2.0 something-something and the like. Lunch wasn't that bad, and we moved to an amphitheatre-like classroom (typical for MBAs).

The 1st thing I did was whip out my lappy (which the previous day, I had painstakingly updated to Ubuntu Intrepid) and try and connect to Net. Weep! No Wi-Fi. Or worse, no open APs. Somebody from my back commented that an AP named “Elena” had a WEP key “acces”. No luck there too. ☹

Some guy is blazers was talking big about ‘mind maps’ and its profound effect making things simpler (WTF?!). Next was Vishnu Gopal's session on tech start-up — “Start-ups: make money or die trying” (or something similar). By this time, I started hating that guy in the centre who was taking over the stage and was showing some form of contempt to ‘tech-talks’. But Vishnu give a nice answer to that guy. He showed how techies react to so-called mind-maps; he tore the paper in four and threw it to the floor (followed by applause, while IIM students aghast). We (Venkat, Binny and me) tried changing our positions too, in the amphitheatre.

Finding no luck with getting net connection, I was nearly loosing my cool. Oh c'mon, this is BarCamp, and the essential things for a BarCamp is 1) space for all to sit, 2) free (unrestricted) Wi-Fi, 3) free beer (although, the latter is not observed in ‘this’ of the world.

Another interesting session was Anand's (of TheAnand.com fame) regarding Wordpress and blogging. Well, that made me think seriously about blogging (readers might notice that I opted a new theme for this blog, and it was inspired by his talk). The coat-guy interrupted, “wait, this is free? You mean you can freely download it? No cost? Wow!”. I _really_ hated that guy now. I could see Anand had a weird expression on his face.

Don't get me wrong, I too am an MBA. But I'm more of a geek at heart. I know both the sides, and how each side think. I specifically have contempt for those who display their ‘suit’ behaviour.

We decided to get out earlier, lest we miss our train. But once we got out, we found more of other BarCampers standing outside, who couldn't take the bullshit going on inside (which had progressed to food sale, and its market penetration — great topic for a BarCamp, eh?). We (the one's who had jumped out for breathing space talked for 5–10 minutes discussing various techie stuff, not to waste all the time and money we spent in trying to come to this place. I found out that one guy from Amritha Engg. college who was getting bored had been flooding some random TCP port (5225 he said I guess) he found using Wireshark. I now know why my Pidgin showed “SSL handshake failed” message and I couldn't get into GTalk. Grr!Binny diving, possibly to run away from IIM ;-)

We skipped tea and hurried down (2kms down to IIM main-gate). We found out, after reaching the bus-stop that due to some on-going Muslim League convention, all the traffic had been re-directed off form some other place. No bus through this road, not even an auto.

We had to walk a long way before we could find an auto that could take us to some intermediate stop by which buses were going. But as (un)luck would have it, our auto got stuck in between a traffic jam, and we just had 15–20 minutes before our train left the station.

Somehow managed to reach and hop into a KSRTC bus, we hoped to catch the next train which was leaving by 7:00pm. We got off after a not-so-short journey. But had to walk a loong way before we could reach the railway station. Suffice to say we reached there just in about 1 minute (or was it 30 seconds) to time. We had to find a general compartment, as we did not have any reservation.

The train only had one, and it was tightly packed.

We somehow wriggled our way through. And I tell you, it was very hard. And then we came to know that the train had stop *not* at South railway station, from where we boarded, but only on North railway station. But throughout the way, we discussed great many things which made us not to notice the limited space we were standing on, and the horrible stench of the toilet, near which we were standing.

We reached North after 12:00am. I decided to go to Venkat's place to spend the night. We all were very tired, but above all that, we were disappointed at the turn of events. So the goodbyes were shortened into wave of hands, and we all went out on our ways.

It was a BoreCamp in reality. Hijacked by suits, with horrible attitude. I would never attend any other BarCamp organised in or near the vincinity of an IIM.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Tech's Worst Nightmare

There's a thread in Slashdot about the IT Act (Ammendemnt) Bill, 2006, recently passed by our own govt.

From the looks of it, it is going to be worser than DMCA or anything the yankees have come up with their brain-deadness. There are already provisions to:

  • Intercept "person-to-person" communication
  • Provision of blocking certain websites (although, how dare a handful decide what are we supposed to view online?)
  • DMCA like measures, which can whisk you off no matter you upload 'undesirable' contets to servers hosted 'outside' India's borders.
  • Liability of P2P transfers.

This would also mean that:

  • You may not mail jokes, not even forward one.
  • You may not surf Bollywood news.
  • You can't watch p0rn -- big no no.

Hahaha... what's this? Utopia? I have always felt that India needs something like EFF to protect the Electronic Privacy of Netizens. Too few of my friends got me. I still think we have time to create one. There are numerous ones to protect 'women', why don't we form one to protect Netizen's rights?

Why do you fail to see that these sort of stupid laws prevent us even from blogging? Isn't that considered as transmission of undesirable (at least to some people) electronic data?  You can't criticize.. ugh!

I had great respect for my govt., that it wouldn't take brain-dead laws like Aussies, or the EU, or like Yankees. I lost that respect. I hate the law makers now.

I opt for an EFF-India wing. I don't like to be spied upon. For any matters, whatsoever.

The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time

Its an old post, but still fun to read.